Friday, January 12, 2018

A New Season and a Church Family Letter

Sharing what feels like a deeply personal "big announcement" in an age of social media can be a difficult challenge for me to navigate sometimes. So I'm sure those of you who know me won't be surprised that it's taking me a lot of words to share about what feels like the most difficult decision I've ever made. While many have known for several months, I've not mentioned anything about it online, so here goes... 

I've had the sense for quite a while that God has been leading me to step away from Fouts as far as church and ministry are concerned in the season ahead. After much prayer, seeking, and wrestling with God, I met with the elders in September to turn in my resignation, with my last Sunday set for January 21. Now that the actual day is drawing so close, the sadness and difficulty of it all are ramping up again, but I am still trusting that God is near and will keep showing the way. The calling to go has been insistent even though I have no idea where the next steps will lead. 

Fouts Christian Church and all the people there who have touched my life over the past 22+ years will always have such a special place in my heart, so I wanted to share this letter for all...
Dear Fouts family,  
I don’t even know how to start this letter that I’ve never wanted to write. It feels like it’s the only way I can begin to express my heart to all of you even though I know it will be completely inadequate. How could I possibly share how much you’ve meant to me for over 22 years and how deeply you will always be treasured?  
The first time Verlin and I came to Fouts at Louis’ invitation (our minister at the time), we never could have dreamed how dear you would become to both of us. We thought it would be just for a few weeks until some things settled down, but instead you became a home and a safe haven for us. What a precious gift for our new marriage to be lovingly embraced by people who never knew us before and only got to know us as a couple. I am certain that your love and acceptance for us greatly influenced the blessings of the wonderful 18 and a half years we were graced to be joined together as husband and wife. And all your comfort, encouragement, and support through his illness and after his passing were true lifelines for me, and I will forever be grateful. Over and over, you have shown what it means to carry one another’s burdens, and in doing so, you continually fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). I cannot begin to thank you enough, but I pray you will know my heart.  
I have loved every single way God has allowed me to serve here over the last two decades. Whether helping with the children, leading a Bible study, serving in clerical roles or in behind-the-scenes ways, I have counted it a true privilege to be involved in ministering in any way. But I have to say this most recent season has touched my heart even more deeply than I ever thought possible. Thank you for allowing me to grow into the role of leading with the worship ministry. It has so long been such a passion of my heart, even as my skills have been lacking or developing. Thank you for your patience, grace, encouragement, and hearts for worship. And a huge thank-you to the worship team for making it such a special joy… I love all of you!  
And to my junior high and Rooted students-- you have stolen my heart forever. I never knew I could love student ministry so much, too. But maybe I shouldn’t word it as loving student ministry, because truly I just love all of YOU! The ways you can laugh, have fun, goof off, and still be respectful to take in the purpose of why we’re here keep me inspired and on my toes while at the same time keeping me from taking myself too seriously, which you know I can be prone to do. And hey, some of you made it through AN ENTIRE YEAR AND A HALF of going through the whole Old Testament, so you should definitely be proud of yourselves! But I continue to pray and will write here as well (in case you haven’t heard it enough times) that you will see the story of Jesus in every book from beginning to end, and that you will know without a doubt that the God of the universe is ALWAYS making a way to be with His people. So as we take great delight in seeing you grow and mature, remember that you will always be His child, and at every moment are so dearly loved.  
So after writing all this and sharing how much I love this church and all of you and every way I’ve been graced to serve, why do I feel led to step down? The short answer is I really have no idea. Yet somehow I know it is God’s leading. (Or I guess if it’s not, He will find a way to lead me back!!)  
The long answer would include that there have been many stirrings in my spirit nudging me toward this direction for quite a long while, and though I could list several “reasons” in different directions, none of them are really adequate or actually explain the decision. I’ve thought to myself more than a few times, “It takes a whole lot of faith or a whole lot of crazy to leave when you don’t know where you’re going.” That’s pretty much how it feels right now. Or as a friend told me, maybe it’s a little of both!
Truthfully I still have more questions than answers even now. But over and over in many past seasons and now this one, I’ve kept coming back to the exhortation that when you have much you don’t know, pause to rehearse what you do. So this much I know: God is good. He will be good to me, to you, and to us. And He is faithful--oh, so faithful. He will never fail. And He will never forsake His own.  
So I look forward to what God will do even though I don’t know what it will look like. He always leads us in triumphal procession, so I will be excited to see glimpses of how He does that for you as well as for me. You will always, always be family to me. I hope you can feel that way toward me, too.  
I’ll love you forever.  
With lots of prayers and hugs in Christ, who loved us first,  
~ Ruth