Mary Beth Foust shares a reflection about her family’s Epiphany star words from 2016. Mary Beth and Caleb and their daughter, Ava, worshipped with us during a season of transition. The Foust family relocated to High Point, NC where Caleb serves as a youth minister and Mary Beth works at the local university.
“And darkness covered the land.” Well, at least that is what it felt like. The little piece of land in Glen Allen, Virginia that we called ours simply seemed dark. Never mind it was a marshy, wooded area and our house had little to no windows to let in the light, the circumstances of our lives simply seemed dark. We finally sort of landed at Tabernacle for a brief window during that time, September-February. We needed to simply be at church. We needed to walk in the doors without crying; to be angry at the ministers without the ministers taking it personally. To believe in the institution of church we loved so dearly. We wanted to participate but not have to be known too deeply, because it just hurt too much.
Ava girl was loved on in the nursery and nurtured even then in ways that won’t bear fruit for years. Caleb was allowed to be angry and I held my hymnal in worship so that I could cling to the words and promises I knew lay deep in my soul…somewhere. We moved through our season as the church moved through hers. Our first Sundays, a large tree was taking root and growing in the sanctuary. It seemed like God was preparing to remind us Fousts where it was that our roots came from, how it was we grew and where our branches and trees sprouted. We participated in Thanksgiving dinner feasts and delivered Christmas baskets with Ava in tow. We waited in anticipation during Advent, celebrated Christmas and landed in Epiphany, a season of light. And yet, we still weren’t finding the light in our lives.
That Epiphany Sunday Caleb and I both lead in worship. My reading was about stars as that Sunday we would receive a metallic paper star with a word written on it. After I read, we both semi-trudged down the aisle. I walked past Tracy Hartman, a mentor and teacher in ministry, and she handed me, my star (face down of course, for it was God’s word to me, not hers). As I returned to my pew I wondered what it could mean—I wondered what Caleb’s would read. Affirmation and Obedience. Okay God. Whatever.
As the weeks would pass after that Sunday, new opportunities would begin to grow under the icy surface. Roots and blooms growing that we would not and still cannot fully comprehend. Caleb interviewed for a position at a small church in Mechanicsville (after we graciously caught the tummy bug with half the congregation of Tab). So, our Sundays and Wednesdays were re-arranged. It became increasingly difficult for me to make the trip downtown to Tabernacle by myself and work through the schedules of Sundays and Wednesdays alone, and to be honest, I missed my partner and confidant in ministry. But, that part-time position allowed Caleb to dip his feet just deep enough into the shallow end of ministry to know where his soul fit was. It was and is in the church. In that season in January, Epiphany time, I started a new job in the city. I loved it—but I knew it was not a permanent place. In February, my dad was hospitalized and didn’t leave the hospital without a 7-bypass surgery. All the while, we were surrounded in prayer and loved by sweet Tabernacle.
After the spirit began stirring in both of us, we realized we needed to make a change and we began to see the light again. Not only the light of candles, but the weight of burdens begin lifted, lighter weight to carry, little by little. An opportunity in High Point, NC of all places began to bubble and we pursued, somewhat at a distance, somewhat at the ready. After visiting with the congregation (and a unanimous yes from the search team) we knew that our stars were guiding us away from the land in Glen Allen. We moved with excitement—it’s not as hard to leave when you don’t have much left. And as we did—we pulled out our stars. Affirmation and Obedience. Okay God. Whatever.
As I prepared for my exit interview, I made notes of my helpful suggestions I would share with the CEO (yep, she conducted the interview, stellar woman and organization). I didn’t really think I had much to offer and that it might be a simple goodbye and thank you for a job-well-done-in-a-short-time kind of meeting. But she offered me words of affirmation. She encouraged me, as did my own manager, to not settle moving forward in a new position. To seek management and to rest in the assurance that I had the skills (and the references) to pursue this possibility. I hadn’t believed that about myself since I was forced to leave my ministry job in Virginia.
Looking back now, I can see and claim those two stars as God’s guiding lights in our darkness. It is no small coincidence that Tracy gave me that word, as her words of affirmation have long been in my ears, but I couldn’t allow myself to hear them. I had no idea if I would find any work in High Point, but God had bigger plans that I could see. Affirmation and Obedience. Okay God.
Here we are, the beginning of a new year, leaning in to the anticipation of Advent and tip-toeing our way toward Epiphany. This year, we will not trudge to the front, instead we will be star gazing (and sharing the starlit sky with our congregation) for more stars to guide us. But this year, the light of the stars illumines the darkness and the darkness Can. Not. Overcome it.