Earlier this week, my family celebrated Christmas together. The entire crew invaded my parent’s house on Friday night. Cozy and warm by the fire, we ate good food and played silly games. The kiddos ran around and tugged on our fingers, begging us to play one more round of hide and seek. We stayed up well into the night, laughing and chatting and telling stories, and in the morning, as we wiped the sleep out of our eyes, we gave gifts to each other.
This year, one of the gifts I received was rather unexpected. It was the kind that took my breath away and dug up memories and tears. My sister-in-law could hardly contain her excitement when she handed it to me. The gift itself is simple–a brown leather journal. But as I traced the writing on the cover, I was confronted with the deepest emotions that caught me off guard.
On the cover is a short piece written so very many years ago by my grandpa Berkey, the one who always asked what I was writing next, the one who always challenged me to pursue Jesus, the one who always encouraged me to keep writing, the one who has been gone for two Christmases now. At the top of the piece, is the reference Ephesians 3:16-21, and what follows are my grandpa’s reflections on these verses.
I wish you could see my Bible and my journal from the last three months in Thailand. You would see one passage highlighted and underlined over and over again. You would see page after page after page of thoughts and reflections and questions. You would see a woman completely wrecked by the kind of extravagant, illogical, and incredible love described in Ephesians 3:16-21. Day after day after day, these are the verse the Father has anchored my soul to.
My sister-in-law had no idea how deeply meaningful these verses are to me. She had no idea how much the Father has used these verses to completely change my mindset. Every time I reflect on this gift, I a mess, reaching for the tissues to wipe the tears and snot away (full disclosure, I am undone even now, wiping my eyes so I can see the screen).
I’m not in tears because of how much I miss my grandpa, although I miss him dearly. I’m not in tears because of these verses, although they are incredibly meaningful. I am in tears because of who my Father is.
I am undone by His deep love, by the little gifts that He showers on me that remind me of who He is. I am undone by His consistency especially in seasons of transition. I am undone by His love for the generations, by His audacious, unending, incredible love. I am undone that the same passage that has wrecked my life is one that my grandpa wrote about so many years ago. I’m undone that the Father uses our stories to impact each other.
I am undone that the Father puts us into families, imperfect and complicated and messy and altogether wonderful. I’m undone by my sister-in-law’s thoughtfulness, by the way she (and other family members) searched grandpa’s house to find something he wrote by hand (This was not an easy process). I am undone by her love for me.
And I am undone a simple signature at the bottom of the piece, “yours truly, Harold L. Berkey.” My sister-in-law told me she had to take my grandpa’s signature from an old love letter he wrote to my grandma, and this just seems fitting. My grandpa was not a perfect man, but he was a man who loved Jesus and loved others. He was a man who loved me deeply, a man who wanted me to pursue Jesus, a man who longed to see me have the courage to follow wherever Jesus led me.
In about a week, I will fly to Mae Sot. Jesus has planted the seed of an impossibly huge dream in my soul. It’s a dream that excites me and makes me a little nauseous. And while there is certainly nothing magical about this little leather journal, there is something rather remarkable about it. Because it’s a physical reminder of my Father’s deep, deep love.
More and more, I am learning that I desperately need reminders, some tangible and physical, the kind I can hold in my hands or hold tightly to my chest. And some of the reminders I need are more like a thought or a feeling, the kind that simply floods my soul and fills me with joy and hope and faith and love. I think we all need these reminders, because as much as we might hate to admit it, we are forgetful people, easily doubting and questioning and forgetting the true nature of our Father.
So on those days when life or the dream feels too big or too impossible or too scary, you may find me tracing the words etched onto the front of a simple journal, reminding my heart and mind and soul who my Father is.
“And I pray that he would unveil within you the unlimited riches of his glory and favor until supernatural strength floods your innermost being with his divine might and explosive power. Then, by constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life. Then you will be empowered to discover what every holy one experiences—the great magnitude of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How enduring and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God. Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you. Now we offer up to God all the glorious praise that rises from every church in every generation through Jesus Christ—and all that will yet be manifest through time and eternity. Amen!”