img_0019Today marks my 9th wedding anniversary.

Eight of those years Kevin and I have struggled with infertility.

I'm in awe that our marriage survived, even more in awe that it's thriving today.

I say this because like my fellow infertile couples know all too well-- there's a harsh push and pull that comes with the inability to have kids when you want to have kids. And when a season of infertility keeps going and going without end, it can be one of those life events that can lead you to end it all.

For in infertility, there's the leaning toward, "Is it your fault or mine?" And layers of hurt that fester below the surface . . .

There's the question of "Will you still love me if I can't give you what you want?" And there's the renegotiating of your relationship as potentially a childless couple . . .

And there's the devastation of hearing a doctor say again, "You aren't pregnant again." And figuring out how to go on living with a drained bank account and a heart full of a lot less hope. . .

These marriage moments are like sharp daggers to even the most committed couples. 

They were for us.

Though we started out with all the best of intentions on October 27, 2007 -- with promises made to one another and to God in front of all our family and friends and with shared faith to anchor us -- we still fell. We fell hard to the sentence of infertility.

(I'll spare you the raw details in this blog post. But if you want to read them, check out my memoir which is soon to be released, Birthed)

But we didn't break our vows because even on the darkest nights (really the darkest nights) we fought for each other. We surrounded ourselves with a community of people who taught us how to fight for each other.

And we never said, "If we get through this . . . " we always said, "When we get through this. . ."

I believe that no marriage is perfect. All marriages go through rocky patches where you might love each other, but you don't like being around each other. And all marriages experience huge speed bumps (like infertility was for us) that cause a re-evaluation of everything that you counted on as gospel.

But if you're willing to stick through it -- even when it's not easy, marriage can be such a gift to your life. It has been for Kevin and me.

I don't want to be one of those people who glosses over hard times with a fairy dusted paintbrush saying, "Oh, wasn't that wonderful? What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Because hear me say loud and clear -- infertility sucks!

But, I can tell you that like any difficult season, Kevin and I are a more deeply committed husband and wife because of infertility. We're more attuned parents to our daughter because of infertility. We've got a bigger vision of the children around the world that God wants us to parent because of infertility.

Infertility has given our marriage and home life something special that we could have gotten from no other experience.

I'm so grateful to be on this journey with you, Kevin Hagan. You are one amazing man. Cheers to nine years and more to come! I'm so glad to be your wife.

This week like many of you, I'm thinking much about the possibilities of 2016. What joy might be around the corner? What hope might I need to find? What love is yet to be?

But when I think back over 2015, I have to admit though, it has been a TOTAL surprise! But the best kind.

I started the year as the interim pastor of a congregation in Oklahoma. I loved every minute.

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Then, early in February, Kevin and I had the professional experience of the lifetime getting to attend the National Prayer Breakfast (and heard some prophetic preaching from the President). We also had meetings with Congressional leaders via our work with Feed the Children at the White House. So cool! 

On February 21st, I celebrated my birthday with these dear ones at a quiet party on top of the Devon Tower in OKC. My dear husband made this lovely surprise possible, a colliding of my worlds!

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In March, I enjoyed preaching a Lent series called "First Family" sticking close to the first 5 chapters of Genesis.  The sermon: "We are Clothed" was one of my favorites. Preacher friends: would highly recommend preaching through Genesis during Lent. There's some good stuff there.

Easter was a highlight as well. I led an Easter sunrise service with a fellow female pastor in the middle of Western Oklahoma. (Who would have thought it?) And then a couple hours later I preached one of those Easter sermons when I felt really proud when I was done. I wanted the congregation to know that Easter is a way of life, not just a day and I think they heard me.

2015-04-26 18.14.29April, sadly was a month of treasuring our last days as a resident in Oklahoma in beautiful scenery like this and saying a lot of "thank you's" to God for the gifts of the journey. Most of all, the word, "Beautiful and Terrible Things Happen" was on my mind-- one of my best blog posts of the year, I believe.

May was a month of rest and travel, saying goodbye (at least from our official duties) as President and First Lady of Feed the Children. I preached this sermon at the Dagoretti Children's Center in Nairobi, Kenya with tears in my eyes: "Why are the Hagans Leaving Feed the Children?" Proving yet again that I can't be in Kenya without having wet eyes.IMG_5345

But, as much as I was saying "goodbye" to Oklahoma friends in the move, I quickly found out it was more like "see you later." It's a beautiful thing when God gives you community all over the world!

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Once back in DC, God kept giving me places to preach. One of these places was at my home church, Martin Luther King, Jr. Christian in Reston.

Early in June, it was my beloved Pastor Jean's anniversary Sunday and  I boldly proclaimed, "How long will you grieve?" It was one of those sermons though that made people wonder if I'd lost my mind when I started and my soul sister, Amanda and I still laugh about it. 2015-06-14 13.33.16-2

One of my favorite memories of the summer included being the Baptist House chaplain at The Chautauqua Institute in New York. Not only was it a life changing week with a friend but it was the moment I heard a word of direction about starting something new.

A HUGE NEW PROJECT is in the works and I can't wait to tell you more about it in 2016!

2015 was also the year I got over my fear of riding a bike! Look out world . . .2015-07-03 18.16.45-1

In September, Kevin and I bought a new house and prepared to move across town. After living in two states for three years we were ready to slow down and be in ONE place. Though there were bumps along the way-- the house buying process is never for the faint at heart-- we made it through and soon were settled in (though of course we have tons of work to do in the future!).

I refreshed my commitment to writing in the fall-- trying to only BLOG when I had something really burning to say and re-submitted my book proposal for publication (fingers crossed for 2016!).

And as far as the blog goes, these were three of my most read posts:

"Staying in Your Own Lane"  (jealous anyone?) and  "It Gets Better" (a post about marriage) and "All of Life is a Gift" (after visit to Riverside Church in NYC).

This Advent season I was asked to preach at Springfield Christian Church in Springfield, VA for the whole month. I had fun with it! My favorite service was Christmas Eve-- a service in English and Spanish.  Yakelin, the ordained minister and translator I worked with was so full of the Spirit and made the experience one of my favorite of my life. We were so in sink with each other. It feel like a work of art to go back and forth between Spanish and English. I wanted to cry tears of joy when the sermon was over.

And now, we're celebrating the holidays with a beloved friend of ours from Kenya that we met in Nairobi 4 years ago. Sherlyne has brought our home so much joy and we love her very much.

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If there is anything I've learned in 2015 is to live in the moment, accept what is and cling to the good.

It could be SO easy for me to be anxious on a regular basis because so little about my life or ministry is planned or settled.

But, I hope as this post shows that when you follow God, things happen. Things you can't dream up happen! So it's only our job to hang on for the ride!

A friend of mine recently told me 'I'm his favorite circuit riding preacher." And I liked that. I can't wait to stay on the move in 2016. Coming to a town near you soon!

Choose Life: Deuteronomy 30:15-31:6

A sermon preached to staff and children at Feed the Children Kenya, May 6, 2015

When we wake up in the morning, no matter who we are or where we come from, we all have choices. For example: we can choose to eat the breakfast put before us or not eat anything at all.

Or, we can choose to put on long trousers if it is cold or a jacket if it is raining.

Or, we can choose say, “Thank you God for this day” with a smile on our face or we can say with a growl, “I want to go back to bed!”

Though every day life gives us a different set of experiences to deal with (that often times we can’t control)—we always have a choice in HOW we deal with them.

In our reading from the book of Deuteronomy, we hear this word about choices. Moses, the great leader of the children of Israel as they are making their great journey out of Egypt into freedom in the Promise Land, says to them this:

See, I have put in front of you today life and what is good, and death and what is bad.

Which is another way of saying, listen up everyone—in this life God has given you, you have choices.

You can choose what is good and enjoy all that life has to give you.

Or you can choose what is bad and not enjoy all life has to give you.

But the interesting part of this story is the context. There was a reason that Moses was giving this speech. And the reason was that Moses knows that his time as leader of the nation of Israel is coming to a close.

The problem was Moses didn't want to leave! He did not intend to step aside as their leader at this point. He believed he would make the entire journey with them into the new land. For many years, this was the goal that Moses and the people were working toward together. Moses had invested so much of his life and his family’s life in the work of helping the people follow after God’s best plans for them.

BUT then a day came when God told Moses that he wouldn't be the leader who saw the journey through. There would be another leader and his name would be Joshua.

If you could put yourself in Moses’ shoes for a moment, think about how you might feel if you got this news. What would you say to God in response?

If I were Moses, I think I might be angry. I might even say to God, “This is so unfair! After all that I have done for this group of people and ALL the dreams we dreamed up together, how come I have to step aside now?”

And all of these thoughts would be valid feelings.

Very few of us set out to commit our whole heart to a task and stop in the middle of it.

But Moses had to learn another way.

He had to be reminded who was in charge most of all.

It was not him. It was God.

And God asked Moses to lay aside his own desires, his own wishes and to choose the plans the he wanted to offer to the nation of Israel.

And in his parting words to them before Joshua takes over, he says just this.

Choose life! Choose God! Know that God is never going to leave you, though my time, as your leader will soon come to a close.

I want to tell you a story to maybe help you understand a bit more what I mean here. It’s a story that comes from one of the other countries where Feed the Children has programs and serves children every day, El Salvador.

Many years ago, in the 1970s a revolution began in this country. An oppressive group of military leaders took over the government, turning this once peaceful land into a state of confusion.

The poor people of El Salvador were afraid the little that they had would be taken away. Church leaders feared the government. And they did nothing to help those in need.

Yet there were some pastors and priests who stuck close to the message God’s love for all people and refused to stop speaking. They chose kindness. They chose compassion. They chose one another. The priest Oscar Romero was one of them.

All his life he had been just a normal priest—going about the daily work of caring for his church. Though he was later being promoted to the position of Archbishop, Oscar continued to preach the gospel each week and serve people communion.

Yet, there came a day when he could be silent. He knew that God had called him to speak out and protect the rights of the needy. He stood up for the poor in his community, even when he was advised not to!

And, Oscar Romero would eventually die for the choices he made. But, even in his death, pointed people to God.

Because Oscar learned, like Moses that the choosing God’s way means that ultimately our lives are not about us.

For no matter what we do and the positions we hold, even the certificates we might receive for the good we do, our lives ARE ALL about GOD.

Hear the words of this prayer inspired by Oscar’s life. I think it sums up well what Moses and Oscar’s life can teach us all:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts;
it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete,
which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us. . . .

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.. . .

We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders;
ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future that is not our own.

I have to tell you that this is one of my favorite prayers. And it’s one that Kevin and I have thought a lot about over the past several months as we knew our official time at Feed the Children was coming to an end.

For like Moses at first, we were unhappy, maybe even a little angry, that our time as your leaders would end. For as much as we loved you and felt a part of your family and were so thankful for our shared work—we wanted it to go on and on for several more years.

It’s like that with the good things in life, isn’t it? We want them to go on and on forever!

But last February the pathways of God became very clear to Kevin and me—that the choice God was asking us to make was to step aside. Feed the Children needed a new leader.

And we only had one choice—even as much as we complained and bargained with God and cried a little too— and that choice was to say yes to God’s wishes, not our own.

And like the prayer I just shared with you, this is what Kevin and I most know.

Feed the Children never belonged to us.

It always belonged to God.

For, Kevin and I were just co-workers with you, not your messiahs.

Jesus, my friends, has always been our leader!

And though the work of ensuring that no child goes to bed hungry is incomplete, the mission lives on.

And it lives on in you, until it lives on in somebody else.

For all of us accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the glory that is God’s work.

All our efforts in this life simply are foretelling a future that is not our own—but God’s!

So, when I think of all that is to come in the days for Feed the Children as you continue to do God’s work in this place, I only have two words for you.

Choose Life.

Choose the work that God has entrusted you to do in this place.

Choose to listen to promptings of the Holy Spirit. Do not get beaten down into pettiness or selfishness in this place.

Choose to put the children first in all you do—isn’t that what this beautiful new brand has taught us all?

And choose God, knowing that as you do our Lord will be faithful to lead you all the way.

Know that this is exactly what Kevin and I want most for our lives as we plant them back in our home in Washington DC. We want to choose life too! And like Moses once proclaimed, we declare it to you today as well:

Be strong and bold; have no fear because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.

So, this is not a goodbye, but until we see you again. May God continue to bless us all.

AMEN
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10712759_10152763079399168_7227613690826189916_nWhen people observe your life from afar, it's real easy to make assumptions. Social media helps us with this. We don't actually have to "know" people in real life to be Facebook friends or to have a Twitter relationship. And we can all comment . . . on everything.

The culture of "Christmas (brag) letters" used to only happen in December. But, now it happens daily. Just open your browser and you'll find somebody's accomplishments to be jealous of--

What you see in public is not always what you get. We all know this. But we all like believing the lie.

I've experienced this first hand as a pastor, but especially since 2012 when Kevin became the President of Feed the Children.

Since this time, more and more people have followed our work online. They've said nice things about our partnership. They've commented about how natural we look with all the children surrounding us. They've told us how jealous they are that we get to travel so frequently.IMG_1013

From the outside all has seemed rosey. Yet, this is the nature of leadership, especially in spotlight. Those who are leading you--  you don't know them, the way you do others beside you in the crowd.

And, yes, there are "rosey" things about our lives. We are thankful for the blessings, but . . .

There were days in the past couple of years, when I didn't know who was going to win: Feed the Children or our marriage.

You haven't seen the sleepless nights. You haven't seen the tears. You haven't borne witness to the "Oh my God!" moments where we couldn't bear to speak to one another a single word.

But as Kevin and I kept fighting for us and remembering to look one another in the eye with affection, the blinding light in this crazy public spotlight got easier to bear. We spoke aloud where our marriage began and Feed the Children ended. We negotiated everything, one moment at a time.

And step by step, we've found our way.

So, as Kevin and I approach our 7th wedding anniversary on October 27th, I am in a celebratory mood for all that has been, all that we've figured out together, and all that we've fought for. (I'm so glad we'll find ourselves together in the same state to mark the occasion).

Most of all, I'm proud of us.

Our union is by no means perfect, but it's solid. It's got a great foundation that has carried us through the dark times.

I admire and respect Kevin. He's the only person I'd willingly wonder aimlessly through the grocery store with (note: I hate wandering aimlessly through anything). I find his presence in my life to be so comforting when I run into something in a parking lot coming home with yet another dent in the car (he never yells at me). For there's no one who can talk me off a ledge like he can. There's nobody I'd rather ask after church today: "What did you think of my sermon?" And I believe in his own words, he'd say the same thing about me.

And for better or worse, our shared calling is to Feed the Children right now. But more than this, our partnership is about something greater and it comes from God.

Happy anniversary, Kevin! I love you. And you're looking younger all the time!

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On June 4th, Kevin celebrated his second anniversary as President and CEO of Feed the Children. It has been two years (gasp) since our lives as a family have been turned upside down by this opportunity to lead and serve. The people, the staff, the countries that have come into our hearts over the last two years have enriched our lives in ways more than one blog post can describe.

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I've met faces like this from Kenya. Christian and Elizabeth And these in the Philippines. 20121109-172058 And these African babies.

1425738_10152117196929809_1922494367_n And speak to groups of children like this in Hawaii. photo And this girl in Nicaragua. 10369733_10152436891899168_2655202626973822695_n

And been surrounded by children like these in Guatemala.

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The children of the world, are beautiful, you know. How can your heart not melt? And overflow with gratitude?

This call came to Kevin but I've gotten to tag along for the journey and do what I can to help.

I've gotten to volunteer my time alongside writers like these to help better tell the Feed the Children story. photo I've been able to host such saints of God-- who lead our international programs like these: image And I'm so thankful for these faces and the beautiful memories that have been a part of these two years.

photoAt a dinner party recently I was introduced to a group of people gathered around cocktails as "Kevin's wife."

Not Elizabeth (or Pastor Elizabeth like I used to be at the church).

Not even by my title at Feed The Children (yes, I have one. They've starting calling me the Ambassador of Social Advocacy).

But I was called Kevin's wife. And it took a few minutes for such words to settle in. Were they talking about me?

It's not that I don't enjoy being the wife of Kevin. Kevin Hagan is a wonderful man. One of the best decisions I ever made was to marry him. But to be called "Kevin's wife" as if I didn't have an identity of my own was a whole new ballgame.

I am in a phase where I go and what I do has a lot to do with my husband's schedule. I plan personal out-of-town trips through Kevin's assistant to make sure he isn't already booked. And everything about the our daily routines has something to do with Feed The Children-- when we travel, when we eat, and what we look forward to in the future.

It has been quite a transition for our household to function in this way! We were such simple people before.

If you know anything about me from these posts or from time spent in ministry together, you know how hard this transition has been for me. It is not one that either one of us expected when Kevin took the job as CEO of Feed The Children over a year ago.

I planned to stay pastoring in a local church.

I planned to live in one city, not two.

I planned to always contribute a sizable income to our household.

But, my plans are not the plans for now. Here I am in the life I never asked for supporting an organization that feed over 350,000 every school day Attachment-1internationally.

I am no longer a leader in an organization where I get to speak my mind as I choose. Rather I have to remember that everything I do and say is a reflection on Kevin.

I no longer get to assume that people are befriending me because they want to know me-- some people are simply "fake" kind because they want something from Kevin. (Though there are a few gems of people who have truly become friends in this journey).

I no longer get to deposit a paycheck into my bank account from my place of my employment. (Though I work for Feed The Children, I am not allowed to be paid).

This is what being the CEO's wife is all about these days.

I am a feminist. Really I am. There are so days when all of this inequality makes me angry. But, the more we struggled and wrestled with all sorts of vocational and geographical possibilities that would keep our marriage strong, this kind of non-traditional life is where we landed. There's so much work to do at Feed The Children in line with what I can offer.

And this season of life is not without its gifts.

Who would have thought that a way would be made for Kevin and I (with our very different personalities and interests) to serve together? Who would have thought that my background in religious studies would prove to be so helpful in Kevin's business ventures at non-profit with strong Christian values?

Who would have thought that we'd get to become surrogate parents to thousands of children around the world that daily depend on Feed The Children's services? Who would have thought we'd get to travel the world regularly and spend time with such children?

Who would have thought that I could have an avenue to build relationships with so many amazing saints around the world-- a much larger congregation than I could have ever imagined? Who would have thought that I'd get to preach and pray in places like Kenya and Honduras every year?

Being the CEO's wife-- it's me these days.

But in this "title" I need to say that I still have a voice.

Kevin belongs to me as much as I belong to him.

I still have my own strong opinions on most everything (just ask!).

I still believe in women's leadership in the church, though no church in Oklahoma will hire me (Sigh).

304305_10151240270714168_178293183_nI still work as hard as I did in official "full-time ministry," though I don't get paid.

I really don't like cocktail parties in the first place where this whole mess began.

Really, if you'd like to get to know me, I'd rather sit down with a cup of coffee with you-- human being to human being.

I hate the CEO glam. Really, I'd rather spend my time in one of our field programs in Kenya or Guatemala loving on babies and encouraging mothers, than networking at a party.

Most of all, I'd would love you to see my heart.

And if you did, I believe you'd see that I was nothing that extraordinary, just a person following my calling the best I can as I understand it.

I am very much just Elizabeth.

These days the life plan of our household never extends beyond two months ahead-- and this is if we are lucky.

Kevin and I take opportunities as they come. Kevin never knows when the next international crisis will hit that will need us to pick up and travel. I never know when an opportunity to help a friend or congregation out with preaching will come up either.

Though people often want to "know our schedule" I have to say we don't really have one! Kevin and I look at life with the most broad strokes of openness, strokes I could have never imagined embracing even a year ago.

So with this said, the last two weeks, our travels have taken us to Tennessee and Hawaii (with Kevin having a stop back at FTC headquarters in Oklahoma City in between).

I am traveling more and more with Kevin because:

1) It is great to actually see my husband

2) Writing projects are something I can do anywhere

3) I've started working in the PR/ Communications department of FTC alongside the Director for Social Engagement (i.e. I help with social media posts like those you find on Facebook and even more exciting projects in the works).

So- Nashville was stop one on this two-week tour. In the course of four days on the ground, we visited with the staff at the NEW LaVergne, TN FTC distribution center, distributed books to inner city kids at a Nashville school, assisted with a food distribution to 800 needy families at a Nashville church and attended a FTC fundraiser in Franklin, TN with celebrity guest such as Evander Holifield and Naomi Judd.

I was tweeting up a storm and also had the chance to catch up with my Nashville family while I was in town as well.

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Then the following Saturday, we make the trek across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. And no, it wasn't for a vacation and it wasn't a vacation.

I was invited to preach each day at the Hawaii Baptist Academy Christian Emphasis Week in the elementary school.

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The theme for the week was "Sticky Faith." Every day we look at Biblical characters who were known to have faith as described to us in Hebrews 11. Noah, Abraham and Moses were among the standouts. Each morning I lead in chapel and then had opportunities to roam around the campus and hang out with students participating in "sticky" activities that helped them make their faith their own.

By the end of the week I think most every student in the school could answer the question: "What is faith?" by saying, "Faith is believing in what we can't see."

I was delighted to work alongside such a great team including the Christian Minister of the school, Cindy Gaskins.

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On the last day of chapel, I was able to share more about our work with Feed The Children-- telling the Hawaiian children about other children in the world who are seeking to share God's love where they are as well.

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Meanwhile, Kevin spent time at this foundation-- learning more about their work with homeless children and sustainable agriculture. All experiences that could help him and his team strengthen the work of the domestic programs in the Mainland of the US.

After two weeks of travel, I was so glad to be home (the Oklahoma home that is) and have spent the last two days doing laundry.

It is a joy to me to see so many of the different plazas of the world and be able to still stand on them as a preacher and minister.

photoToday marks the one year anniversary of our family's involvement with the non-profit giant, Feed The Children. More than just a job for Kevin, it has been a calling to a way of life.

I've thought a lot about the fact that I would write this blog today. That today I would mark this passing of time as significant in our lives. That today I would say something nice about my husband. That today I would highlight some of the great work that this organization does on the ground to feed hungry children every day.

But, somehow none of these lead ins seems appropriate.

How to do you talk about the meteor hitting the foundation of everything we know kind of year?

How do you talk about being transported to a world you'd never thought you'd be in?

How do you talk about living a life suddenly that few of your friends understand?

How do you talk about the fact that faces of children from all over the world filled your Christmas Card photos?

Or the fact that when your mother calls her first question is, "What state (or country) are you in today?"

It has been a year!

It's been a year that has landed us with necessary dwellings two different cities.

It's been a year that has taken us to five different countries in the developing world for field visits.

It's been a year that led me to leave the traditional career I had for something on the edge of undefined.

It's been a year that has led us to some of the most exciting possibilities for our future than we could have ever imagined, truly.

It's been a year of much hurt, unsettling findings but then hope in the rubble too.

It's been a year that has re-made my husband's mission for his life with clearer vision than he's ever known.

It's been a year for me to seek out new mentors, as the role of being "Kevin's wife" in an organization like this has felt often times like entering a foreign land for my independent sentimentality self.

It's been a year that has called both of us to hold tight to the foundations of our own sense of vocational callings and marriage covenant-- "Yes, wherever you go, I will go."

It's been a year that has united our faces, cheek to cheek with some of the most precious children of this world-- who long most of all for someone just to see them. And we have.

It has been a year.

It's hard not to speak of how proud I am of my husband. Or of how proud I am of us-- Elizabeth and Kevin together-- two who keep fighting for the best for "us" in the midst of the best for "them." Or, how proud I am of myself for not taking cues from what certain folks want me to be, instead, listening to the voice I already have.

Oh, if the walls could talk you'd know that it has been quite a year, a really big year in the life of team Hagan on the Feed The Children train. But, it's a train we don't sit stopping in the direction of progress anytime soon. Together.

At the end of the day, no matter where in the world you are, there's one thing that always makes kids excited: the candy. Even the big kids like my husband . . .
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Dear Washington Plaza Church family-

I needed to write you one more letter. I love you. I don't just say that lightly. I really do love you.

It has become abundantly clear to me again this week that goodbyes are always hard. But they're especially hard when you're parting as we are, having loved each other well for several years now. I've believed in you (and still do) from the first moment I met your pastoral search committee in that office in Reston Interfaith. I knew that if the rest of the church was as awesome as the search comittee then we were going to have a lot of fun. And, fun we've had! Over these years, I have always wanted to brag about you to my friends-- telling them that in Washington Plaza I found the church I dreamed to be a part of as pastor in seminary.

I love how you blessed me over four years ago now when you saw a 28 year old female with no solo pastoring experience and called me with an unanimous vote to be your preacher on the plaza. I love that you saw in me what I most felt true about myself-- that I was a pastor and that God had made me for a time to be your pastor. I love how you've followed my lead, taken chances with me to try new things and asked really good questions when we've faced crucial decisions together. I love how you've never told me "no" to my growing passion for writing and ministering to folks outside the church. It is you, dear Washington Plaza, who has given me a chance to hear my own voice clearly-- the voice I believe will be what I need most in the chapter that lies ahead of me. I have you to thank for gracing me with this great gift!

I love how kindly you have welcomed me in your community, just as I was (church baggage and all) and most especially I love how you've welcomed Kevin. It's a hard road being married to a pastor, but just as you help me to grow up over the past several years, you've done the same for Kevin. You've given him opportunities to serve in the kitchen and cook for a crowd (his favorite!). You've ordained him as a deacon-- a milestone in his own journey. You've given him the spiritual community he needed to be at the point in his life to say "Yes!" to God's ministry for him at Feed The Children this year. You've loved him and cheered him on as much as you have me-- and I know you'll continue to do this in all that lies ahead for us.

I love how you welcome those in whom other churches simply would not. You welcome so lovingly folks who may not come to church dressed just so. You welcome folks who call themselves gay and Christian-- who just need to know that God loves them too. You welcome those who have been hurt by the church and just need to have a place to come and take deep breaths for awhile. You welcome those who have deep burdens on their hearts who just need a place in corporate worship to unload them in prayer. You welcome those who aren't sure they believe in Jesus-- but really want to-- and a safe place to ask their questions as they figure it all out. You welcome those who often take more than they give without grumbling or complaining about doing more of your share of the work.

I love how I've seen Jesus in you:

Times when you've showed up with hymnbooks at bedsides singing to those who are dying.

Times when you've gone with me to take communion to shut-ins who could no longer come to church.

Times when you've built community with each other outside of the confines of the building-- over glasses of wine, during breakfast meetings, at walks for the homeless in Reston, or in one another's homes.

Times when you've given your money or time to help the homeless or nearly homeless who show up at our doorsteps and are in need of a meal or a conversation.

Times when you've believed in second chances for those who have hurt you or those who have hurt our church.

Times when you've said to me, "My faith is growing to be more important to me all the time."

Times when you've shown up at a week night Bible study with eagerness to learn and listen to each other.

Times when you never said anything mean about my wet hair on Sunday mornings or continual search for my lost keys around the church or even why there were spelling errors in the bulletin.

I will forever cherish this time in my life as the time when I was YOUR pastor. Know that I'm cheering you on in all that lies ahead and will forever think of you with gratitude for how you've altered the direction of my life and Kevin's life too in so many lovely ways. I know you'll be just as good to the next person who leads you too. And, they'll be a lucky pastor just as I have been for these four years.

I love you!
Elizabeth

Friends-

Today is a purely personal post. It's a post of celebration and hope and excitement about the future as it relates to my family.

As many of you know, Kevin, my husband, accepted a position back in April to become the new President/ CEO of Feed the Children-- one of the largest domestic and international relief agencies. It's an organization for that helps ensure the 12 million children at risk of going hungry in the United States simply do not. It is an organization that in 2011 delivered over 104 million pounds of food and other life essentials to children in need and their families around the world. They do great work!

Considering Kevin's master's degree in international affairs, work experiences in large corporations and most recently as the Chief Operating Officer at a non-profit in DC, and his heart for using his leadership skills to fulfill his Christian calling of service-- he rose to become the perfect fit for this organization seeking a visionary and energetic new leader.

Today is Kevin's first official day on the job. He couldn't be more excited to get to work with Feed the Children! I know he will love his new job even with all of the new responsiblity it will bring.

Though the transition will be hard for us in the beginning, as I continue to work here in DC as a pastor and he spends a lot of time in Oklahoma City learning the business, I couldn't be more proud of him. I am cheering him and Feed the Children on and today, I'm asking you to do the same.

I know it would mean so much to Kevin (and to me too) if you took a moment this afternoon if you are a Facebook or Twitter user and post a comment of support for Kevin and his new work.  Let's let the great staff at Feed the Children know how wonderful their new leader is going to be for this organization.

Feed the Children on Facebook

Feed the Children on Twitter

Or, even better, consider making a donation in  celebration of Kevin's first day and all the good that you know he is going to do with this wonderful organization by clicking here. If you know Kevin, you know that your donation will be put to great use, especially in this organization that already has a four star rating with Charity Navigator.

Thanks so much for your support in this new adventure the journey,

Elizabeth

Guest commentator: Kevin Hagan

Narrative . . .

It’s a word that I venture to say is rarely used in American society.  However, since our arrival in Israel only 48 hours ago, it seems to be the word of the day – or two days, as the case may be.  Narrative it seems is the defining issue of the day.  The Jewish community has one and the Arab community has one; however, the difference between the two is monumental.    As someone who holds a Master’s Degree in International Affairs, I’ve spent my share of time over the years studying the conflicts of the world.  While I have to confess that my life’s path has taken me out of the arena, I did spend nearly a decade managing conflict resolutions programs in the US.  I thought that with my basic understanding of International Affairs and conflict management techniques that I would at least have a strong sense of the situation as I had learned it in school and through the media.  What I learned upon my arrival in Jerusalem shook everything I knew to the core.  Touring the old city and seeing the proximity of the Dome of the Rock (important to the Islamic faith) to the Western Wall (important to the Jewish faith) and then ultimately their relation to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (important to the Christian faith) – gave me pause to wonder – how on earth do we ever expect all these religious groups to get along when some of their most holy sites literally rest upon one another?

As the only non-clergy member of this group, I also have to confess that I was a little intimidated to be meeting with all the religious leaders that we have seen the last two days- remarkable Rabbis and Imams who want to do the hard work of peacemaking.   It seemed that after meeting with them that only one thing is standing in their way of being successful…..that narrative.     It was only after listening to the term “narrative” over and over that I realized that each group, the Jews and the Arabs, have a painful and powerful story to tell about how the actions of others have affected them, taken their families away from them, taken their land away from them, and taken their dignity.

Today, I experienced a profound understanding of the Jewish narrative as we toured the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.  I’ve visited Holocaust Museums before and have been to Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps, but this visit was different.  This was personal.  I walked through the museum today paying acute attention to Rabbi Rob and the grief that he was experiencing as we made our way through the museum.   It had a profound impact on me and gave me a much deeper sense of the Jewish narrative.   Tomorrow we attempt to experience the Palestinian narrative as we travel to a refugee camp and spend time in the West Bank.  My guess is that from everything I ‘ve heard thus far from the Palestinian perspective, that  it will also be a tough and profound experience which leaves me to wonder…..if I can be so affected by the narratives, how can the people who live in them every day rise above them?