Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Pictures

There's something tickling the back of my mind... something about place and home.  About transience and belonging.  About abiding in Christ no matter where I live...

If I ever get the tickle wrestled into articulation, no doubt it will appear here.  Meanwhile, the first stage of working it out looks like this.  Photographs.  Amateur ones.

These are the snapshots of a foreigner in Southern West Virginia who feels helpless to make this her home; whose anemic faith needs frequent assurances of God's providence in bringing her here; who wrote down this reluctant prayer: Give me a love for this place: a delight in its quirks, a humor concerning its faults, an eye for its beauties.

Graciously, He answers even reluctant prayers.

So these are also the pictures of one who, in certain quiet, grace-flooded moments, sees with true faith-eyes; who looks around and marks the mercies made new every morning, the skies declaring the glory, the mountains and hills breaking forth in shouts of joy, the trees clapping their hands—  And, paradoxically, the way this West Virginia beauty all foreshadows the New Creation and True Home brings peace and contentment in this place.

That probably made no sense, despite my nine—yes nine—revisions to this post in the last month.  Sigh.  All I'm really trying to say is: Here are some pictures of West Virginia.  : )
_ _ _
I have a need
For cool, verdant spaces

Beneath the trees,
Secret empty places...
(Mary Chapin Carpenter)

One of the hardest parts of moving—for an introvert, anyway—is finding new quiet spots.  I'm extremely thankful for the one above.
_ _ _



The flora of West Virginia is very different than Utah's, of course.  These new wildflowers are no substitute for whispering aspens and scarlet Indian paintbrush—but they are lovely, aren't they?  If you know their names, please teach me.
_ _ _


This color, though!  "Not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these."
_ _ _


I arrived in time to watch West Virginia's state flower burst into a riot of pinks and purples across the hills. "Rhododendron" comes from the Greek for "rose tree"; they are common in Asia and are the national flower of Nepal.  I was not surprised to discover that bit of trivia: these exotic blooms look the part.  I'm already anticipating next spring.
_ _ _


Yellow irises?  I had no idea such a delightful thing existed.  These reminded me of Wordsworth's ode to their cousin:
...A host of golden daffodils
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze...
_ _ _


The New River flows north.  I still can't get my head around that.  But I do find the coal mining history around the New River Gorge fascinating and heartbreaking.  The land was used hard and the people were used hard; may the wounds of both know God's healing.
_ _ _


Working at one's alma mater means that just about every spot on campus has years-old memories associated with it.  I walked up this hill to chapel approximately 250 times as a student.  The friends who walked beside me over a decade ago I have kept up with, for the most part.  They are spread hither and yon now.  Some have suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.  Most are laboring well, serving God and fellow man with a daily faithfulness that makes me glad to think of them as I walk around campus.
_ _ _
The pictures will keep coming.  I hope the words will, too.  Right now it's a struggle.  If you are a supporter of mine, know that I'm more grateful than ever for your faithful, giving heart despite my minimal communication in this season of transition.  I will be sending a prayer letter... soon.  Because the Creator of stunning rhododendrons and north-running rivers can be counted on to bring refreshment, peace, and creativity to an unsettled heart.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Buffer

After leaving Utah mid-March, I enjoyed about 3 weeks in the Midwest.  A friend wisely termed this my "buffer" between West and East.  I needed it.

The most relaxing days were in Minnesota, where my family was reunited for a rare photo.  I missed you, Grandpa.


Time spent with Grandma (and Aunt Carol, pictured): always precious.  I even got a bonus day with Grandma when 9 inches of snow suddenly made travel ill-advised.  We potted geraniums and watched March Madness and visited Grandpa's grave and reminisced.


Another highlight: visiting the country church where I grew up until age 11.  These dear people faithfully support me and several other missionaries.  Debbie and Darrin (below) made sure there was a plate of cookies after the worship service, and we had such good fellowship that Sunday school never even got started.  Thank you, High Forest Community Church.


After the Minnesota snowplows did their thing, I hopped in a Kia Soul (awful handling, nice sound system) and drove back to Kansas alone.  I visited Grace Bible Church in Garden City on Palm Sunday.  The picture below shows a young man sharing a worship song he had written in Burmese.  The tune?  "Take Me Home, Country Roads": the state song of West Virginia.  What are the chances?


It was a treat to be with supporters at Newton Bible Church for Good Friday, and then to be home at Hoisington Bible Church for Resurrection Sunday.  There was a thought-provoking play about the first Passover, and a brunch—oh! can these people cook—and a joyful service.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed.  That afternoon it was time for a photo op with the parental units.  Mom and I are both subconscious head-tippers, as you can see.


Have I mentioned how, in Kansas, the wind ALWAYS BLOWS?  Always.  Hence the hairdo.


The day after Easter I headed east.  <--That sentence makes me curious if the etymologies of those two words are related.  Wendell the White was riding awfully low under the weight of 2/3 of my earthly possessions.  (The other 1/3 had been mailed from Utah.)  The terrific thing was, if another sudden blizzard hit and I were stranded, I would have about 23 sets of clothes within reach, along with just about anything else you can imagine.  If worse came to worse, there were 7 years' financial documents that could be burned for heat.  Thankfully, no such extreme measures were needed.


I crossed eastern Kansas listening to these apropos lyrics:

Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made
Blue for the sky and the color green that fills these fields with praise.  -Rich Mullins, "The Color Green" 


Two short stops before I made it out of the state.  Breakfast with a supporter (thank you, Shirley!) and lunch with an old friend (below).  Sarah's friendship and her quiche and her two adorable boys were good medicine for a heavy heart leaving home again.


After that, it was straight to Mt. Vernon, Illinois and a night at the Motel 6.  And on Tuesday, April 7, Wendell and I drove the rest of the rainy way to West Virginia.

The life of a sojourner seems to include too many partings and leavings and drivings off with tears rolling down your cheeks.  But then there are also the graces along the way: quiche with a friend, and music that lifts the spirit, and $2 on the floor of a Missouri rest stop, and eager friends to unload the car when you finally arrive—friends who say, "I'm glad you're here.  I know it's not been easy.  I've been praying for you."  And also, "There's almond milk chilling in the fridge for you."

Monday, March 30, 2015

Sweet Sorrow

Hard as leaving Utah was, there was a sweetness to the days leading up to my move on March 13.

Due to a mild winter, I could be outdoors often savoring moments like these:

Last hike: Slate Canyon

Last peaceful sunset at Utah Lake

One last walk on a favorite stretch of road
_ _ _

And then there were the goodbyes.  Some were to new friends, like Melissa.

 Others were to long-time friends and teammates, like Char.

Each goodbye was a reminder of the unexpectedly rich fellowship I've enjoyed in Utah.  I don't remember having more than a passing moment of loneliness this last decade.  God-given friends like Lydia were the reason.
_ _ _

I was shown great kindness, grace, and generosity as I prepared to move.  One dear friend volunteered her day off and her truck to haul stuff to the thrift store.  Another made sure I had one more helping of lomo saltado at a favorite restaurant, and then came to my rescue for the final cleaning of my apartment.  My church hosted a farewell brunch, and Key Radio held an open house.  Listeners wrote lovely notes.  One even brought his ukulele and sang to me.  People presented me with gift cards and checks and snacks for my trip and a beautiful coffee table book featuring pictures of—what else?—Utah.

Shakespeare had it right: parting is such sweet sorrow.  As I type this two weeks later, on the cusp of a new adventure, it is the sweetness that I remember most.  I am grateful.
_ _ _

Good-by to the life I used to live,
And the world I used to know;
And kiss the hills for me, just once;
Now I am ready to go! 

- "Farewell" by Emily Dickinson

Friday, March 13, 2015

Rags and Shreds

Car driving away

How hard it is to escape from places. However carefully one goes they hold you... you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences... little rags and shreds of your very life. (Katherine Mansfield) 
Another rag, another shred,
Another goodbye said...
O come, thou World; come, thou Day,
When—heart made whole—I stay.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Walking by Faith... From Utah to West Virginia


We walk by faith, not by sight.

Nine years ago the Lord led me to ministry in Provo, Utah.  This period of my life has been abundantly blessed with meaningful work, deep relationships, spiritual growth...  How do I even begin to summarize my feelings as I look back on the past decade?  I love this place.  I love these people.  And I have acute gratitude for those whose prayers and gifts made it possible for me to serve here.

I certainly did not expect change; however, the Lord is now leading me to pursue a different aspect of ministry.  In short, I will resign from Biblical Ministries Worldwide at the end of March in order to join Appalachian Bible Fellowship in West Virginia.  If you're interested in the reasons and details, please read this letter I sent to my supporters.

I covet your prayers during this challenging transition.  Pray for my Utah teammates who will continue to labor here.  Pray that I make this move with grace and faith.  It is, quite simply, the hardest thing I've ever done.

Lord willing, I will depart on March 13, spend a couple weeks with family and supporters in the Midwest, and arrive in West Virginia around the first of April.

Let me know if you'd like to be one of the first to get a new prayer card (once it is actually made).  For that or any other level of partnership, you can communicate with me directly (karisa.clark [at] abc.edu) or print out a reply slip and send to:
Appalachian Bible Fellowship
161 College Dr.
Mt. Hope, WV  25880
Or, set up recurring gifts here.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Welcome

A warm welcome to the new home of my old blog.

A fresh look, a different theme, and a far better name than its predecessor.  It still may not be the best, but it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.  Glad you're here.

Remember to bookmark this new URL and update your RSS feed.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Holy Spirit, Editor in Chief

In our last Sunday evening service, Pastor led a study on prayer and pointed us to Romans 8:26-27:
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 
I was captivated by the idea that the Holy Spirit—God himself—intercedes for me when I don't know how to pray—or when I do pray but not according to the will of God.  It's like having the world's best editor who will kindly take my rough draft (at all hours of the day or night) and expertly rework it into a thing of beauty and truth.
_ _ _

Holy Spirit, Editor in Chief:
I yield my prayers to you.
Keep what can be salvaged—
More each time, I hope—
And change the rest.

When I demand instead of ask,
When I ask more than praise,
When I praise with trite speech,
Correct my prayers.

When I bring up the old guilts,
Long since forgiven,
Strike them through
With the blood-red flow of Calvary.

When I get the pronouns all wrong,
Replace the I's and Me's with You's.

Revise, refine, rework, reshape.

And in those moments
When doubt and searing pain
Have robbed me of all words,
Holy Spirit, be my Ghost Writer.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014

What a year.

My personal theme for 2014 was "Learn to labor and to wait" (a line from Longfellow).
I grew in both diligence and patience (Heb. 6:11-12).  Mostly just learned how much I need to learn.

New friendships; also some painful goodbyes.
Buried more friends than in any previous year.  Heaven seems sweeter now.

Recovered from my first surgery, not sure how I would pay for it...
And then got a happy, happy surprise that the majority of my bills would be covered.

Strategic planning at Key Radio... meetings, goals, lots of prayer, some failure, more prayer.

Heard Fernando Ortega and Ravi Zacharias in the Mormon Tabernacle, of all places.  (pictured)
Light shining in darkness.  Still pinching myself.

A part-time job that paid ridiculously high wages for two months.  More pinching.
Another job fell into my lap in the fall, just when I needed it most.

National Religious Broadcasters convention at the Opryland in Nashville...  (pictured)
Ate breakfast with Erwin Lutzer, sang hymns with Joni Eareckson Tada.  Pinch, pinch.

Two witnessing opportunities stand out: one in front of the MTC, the other over BBQ.
Still praying for both people.

The 25th anniversary of Provo Bible Church.  Soli deo gloria.

The world's largest scavenger hunt, right here in Provo.  Is it legal to have that much fun?

Held a workshop for children's ministries workers: a longtime goal.
Spent a day going door-to-door in a polygamist community.  Strange and heartbreaking.
Roughed it at Bible camp for a few days.  Shared my home with an intern for a month.

A supporting church sent a group to spend a July week with me.  Ain't nobody like Kansans.  (pictured)

A few refreshing days with my folks in the rugged majesty of Capitol Reef Nat'l Park.
Another few days at the missions conference of Appalachian Bible College: more refreshment.

Got an accountability partner and a new morning routine including memorization time.
Memorized Colossians 3 and Psalm 25.  All the paths of the Lord are lovingkindness and truth...


Three of the most spectacular Utah hikes I've ever done:
Mt. Timpanogos via Timpooneke  (pictured)
Y Mountain (the true, less-traversed summit)
Grand Wash Trail, Capitol Reef

Good reads included:
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom (for the 3rd time)

...And in all of this, the Father's goodness and grace and faithfulness proven each day.
An excerpt from my journal entry, March 2, 2014: