5 years… 60 months… 1,826 days…

Life has the craziest way of speeding by and at the same time, slowing down to a glacial pace. One second it feels like no time has past and the next, like a million years have flown by in a single heartbeat.
That space. That time. Its speed (or lack of), is what I’ve been thinking about and living through the last few days.  Time has flown by and lots of life has happened the last 5 years and although I feel that I’m so far removed from THAT day…. the very next second; the feelings, the sights, the sounds, the people, the conversations… all the details – of February 10, 2014 – are as real in this moment as they were 1,826 days ago.

Pain. Loss. Grief. Death…
They all have a way of messing with you.  With your emotions. 
Your relationships. 
Your sleep. 
Your being. Your awareness. Your senses.
 You can try to ignore it or pretend those things are not there. Or you can CHAIRbe brave and even embrace all of them. You can look grief, pain and loss square in the eyes and even delve deep into its (actual and potential) impact on your life……. But even if you’ve done the very hard work… had the conversations, seen the professional counselor, talked (AND stayed silent)…. there are days, (like those ones of this week), where the pain is as real now as it was 5 years ago.

The affect of loss and grief is not only internal; it’s emotions and strong roller-coaster feelings – but it’s also external.  It’s a sensitivity to the emotional ups and downs – but it also has an affect on the skin surface. It’s tender to the touch and its felt tension on a muscular level.  Its affects are swings in reactions – with the ‘little things’ that feel off.  
It can take your breath away. And it can leave you crumbling.

I’ve learned that I can’t just brush these things off.
I MUST feel this. All of this.
I’ve learned that I must give myself space.
I must rest. I must breathe. I must be real with myself.
And above all else – I MUST lean into Jesus and allow HIM to show up even in the overwhelming pain.

He did not cause the pain!  But He is willing to be IN it with me……. and so, IF I pause long enough – to catch a breath and to intentionally rest – I can, and thankfully have, known He is with me! (in every moment – whether I feel or see Him or not!)

One of the most relieving songs in this season has been “Rescue” by Lauren Daigle. It’s been a great reminder that He hears my SOS. That HE will send rescue. He will send an ARMY to find me…. (and you)! That He will won’t stop marching to find me (or you) in the middle of the hardest of fights…..…..

He will (and has) rescued!!!  ….. Because that is WHO He IS!

“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you:
all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
That’s how much you mean to me!
That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
trade the creation just for you.
Do not be afraid—I am with you!
~~  Isaiah 43: 2-4 ~~ [Message]

Days are tough…. Nights are tough…
But I am deeply thankful:
… to know a God who seeks His children. Who brings comfort. And reminds me of His love, even when the pain is deep.
… for a community who surrounds me – and walks with me even from miles away.
… and for a husband, who stands with me, supporting me, when I have nothing left to give… who brings comfort even in times when I can’t even say (or don’t know) what I need and when I’m at a loss for words!

Grief. Loss. Pain. Death. It does have a lasting impact… but I will (choose) to lift my head — for the moment and seasons of sorrow will pass — and there will be joy again!

 

Lauren Casey Pfortsch Charles ~ February 10, 2014

John William Pfortsch ~ February 10, 2015

 

 

 

 

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Adventure… past & future!

The start of a new year always brings moments of reflections – of thinking through the last 365 days and wondering what the next 365 will hold.

This week, those thought once again floated in my head and heart. The last days and months have been truly incredible… they hold many memories which I will treasure always.

The months leading up to 2018 held much promise of a great year, and am thrilled to say – it came to be. I was engaged to the man of my dreams on my 39th birthday. (See previous post). We had talked about doing a secret wedding – something we could treasure for ourselves, before a large celebration with family and friends… and so we did – Yves and I got married in Arlington, VA – Tuesday, October 15th, perfectly one week before we headed to Nairobi, to spend time together, to visit with Yves family and to see all the grandeur of Kenya.

 

We returned back to our “normal” intercontinental relationship routine for the rest of 2018.  I was hoping to finish out my work and transition well from PA to Montreal, all the while planning and prepping for the wedding celebration of my dreams!  So for the 2 months (November and December) following our secret wedding, Yves visited PA once a month and I spent several days back in Montreal.  Our secret wedding wasn’t completely secret, family and some friends knew – but in all honestly it was fun to treasure (and truthfully took ALL THE STRESS off the wedding celebration planning!!)

And then Saturday, December 15th – our truly perfect (even in spite of rainy weather) –  WEDDING CELEBRATION happened!  It was a dream, from start to finish.

Great settings. Crazy-tasty food and beverages.  Amazing music by our dear friends and great DJ.  Surrounded by the dearest of friends, family… although many weren’t able to joi us.  And we pray that the love that Yves and I have for each other – and for our Father God, and the thankfulness for our story beginning together — so clearly displayed.

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Will remember that day of celebration forever!

And as I think back, I dream about our future, the months ahead seem filled with excitement and anticipation – and yet many unknowns.

As with any change or transition, there are uncertainties and a realization of loss and adjustment.  As I began planning my future with Yves, I realized in order for us to have life together, that meant I needed to end an amazing and lengthy chapter of life in Lancaster, PA and start something new in a new city! I’ve had the most amazing jobs over the years, but the people I’ve been able to support and work alongside the last 11 years have shaped me…. so saying goodbye and closing the chapter has been one filled with emotions!

So what’s ahead for this girl and her new (and very handsome) husband??

Yves and I have started the (potentially lengthy) process of paperwork and details of his screen shot 2019-01-06 at 2.18.58 pmimmigration to the USA! (We would so appreciate your prayers in the coming months as we work through all these details and fulfilling the requests of the US government!!)

In the meantime, I’ve moved to Montreal, Canada – December 31st and truly started this new season and chapter of life, with Yves, on the first of the new year!

I will be working part-time remotely in several different positions for some amazing organizations and fabulous people.  LCBC has asked that I remain on staff, in an interim Admin support role in Next Steps. I am excited to say that I’m back, as an assistant for John Zeswitz (who I previously worked for 7 years at LCBC) who is now part of Lancaster Bible College. I have also signed on as a Virtual Assistant for My Reliable Admin (feel free to check it out and let us know if I can assist you in anything!!) I’m excited to have work and to be connected to some truly great organizations and amazing people!

My 39 years on this planet so far have been incredible and I’m so excited to see what God has for us in the coming months!

Yves and I are overwhelmed by all the love and support we have shown the last months and days! We can’t put into words how much it means to us to have such an in credible community supporting and cheering us into our future!!! Whether you know it or not, you have been a huge part of our story so far and we can’t wait to share the next chapter with you – whether near or far.

Will keep you posted – but feel free to reach out anytime, or head north and come for a visit. We love you and would love to hear all that’s happening in your world!

All our love ~

Shauna & Yves Mukusa

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Safe, Predictable or Uncharted Territory?

I know I’ve been MIA from here for a while… not because I haven’t had anything to write, but because of wanting to be fully present in what was happening in my world personally.

The last few months of life have been the completely different than I had expected or have gotten accustomed to the past 20+ years. It’s interesting how we go through life, sometimes hoping for something different, but falling into the same routine of the same things everyday, and growing content, truly expecting nothing different.

And in that routine, I grew so sure of what I had… the consistency in professional world, family, friends, coming and going as I like… I know what this current life is…. Comfortable. Predictable; even in its Roller-coaster, up and downs…. it’s Known and I’ve lived with the attitude of “I know this and like it, maybe even love it….’ until… I was faced with a opportuty, a chance to explore a “yes” and along with that so much unknown.

It’s a new day. It’s time to step into a new season. A new chapter I very truly honestly didn’t dream, hope or expect would (or could) actually ever come.

 

I’ve seen God’s faithfulness more clearly these past months – even in though the years of doubt, pain, questions, frustrations, anger, hurt that felt so consuming. God has  exceeded my hopes, dreams and my prayers for a bright future!

 

When I was a young girl…. my dreams for a fairytale life filled with a fabulous relationship, dating, marriage, children, beautiful house, career, and happily ever-after….. were clearly laid out. I had the list of what my life (and specifically my man) would be like……..

But as the years passed, with no relationship ever meeting my ‘wants’ – and with disappointment and failed relationships ending – for a myriad of reasons…. that list slowly got cut, sliced, diced and went from the 20 bullet point things to only 2 – almost jokingly they were; 1) must be male and 2) must love Jesus.

I didn’t feel like my cutting the list was really about my “settling” – it was just time passing and shifted perspectives and those 2 things were really bottom line ‘needs’!

I had been on dating websites, been hanging out with “potentials” for so many years… and although I’m thankful for what I learned about myself, nothing ever came of those “hello’s’, text, first dates, even the several months of dating….

Until one day….

… little did I know that the man who said, “hello”, from a country away, who pursued me, even when I held him at arm’s length, who I challenged, I questioned and I hesitated in continuing the “yes” —- would be the one I would say the ultimate “Yes!!” to.

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Yves and I met in July… and even with 525 miles (or 800km) between us, our relationship has grown and an exciting new chapter began in our life narratives. This man has pursued me, cared for me, loved me, and has been fully engaged in all the roller-coaster emotions – that is my life. He’s made sacrifices of time and money, traveled to and from PA/Canada countless times, has brought clarity, confidence and so much joy to my world!!

And remember that list of things I wanted….. the one that went from 20 things to 2……. over the last months of spending time with Yves – it seems that the many things I had crossed off, things I didn’t think ‘needed’ have been beautifully added back, but in a more ‘divine’ handwriting.

I’m so thrilled about our future – it feels so very exciting and I (still) often pinch myself, questioning if this truly is my, our, reality – if that flame of HOPE, that I allowed to slowly dimish to a dimly lit ember, actually did become a reality?! We are excited and thrilled for the coming days, figuring out life in all its adventures; together!

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And even though the comfort and surety of my current reality, professionally, geographically, etc is potentially shifting, the surety of whom I’m walking into the next chapter of life with – outweighs all the unknowns and I can not wait.

I am truly thankful for God’s faithfulness and for allowing my faith to grow over the years and now, in this moment.  I’m overwheled by His kindness in reminding me that He actually does know what He’s doing and is still writing my amazingly-breathtakingly beautitful, unfolding life narrative!

Excited, and ready, to turn the page and see how the next chapters of this story unfolds!

Best version… of myself!

Honestly….. the last few weeks have been some dark times in my world.

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My days are filled with lots of life; work, tasks, to-do’s, conversations, being an adult (and all the resposibilities that come with that), it’s been an emotional roller-coaster, AND the non-stop thoughts and ongoing battles of truth and lies fighting to win in each moment in my headspace – has been a bit overwhelmingly exhausting.

My nights are filled with restlessness. Unsettledness. Dreams of past conversations and conversations I’ve never had – my subconsciousness – perhaps struggling to predict (or control) future moments, and the emotions that come with that…. whatever all that is – sleeping restlessly and waking unsettled has been beyond tiring.

During the day I so look forward to the night and sleep. At night, when I’m not sleeping, all I want is for the day.

 

We all have moments in life – perhaps similar to what I just described.  We live our days hoping (and oftentimes praying) for some relief from all those bits, singularly or combined. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t.  I am beginning to see the value of leaning in. Praying – talking to God – even when I don’t “feel” like it or when I don’t believe heaven even hears (or will actually do anything about it).

Pain is….. unpleasant. Loss is….. painful. Change is….. extremely tough – but ultimately I believe it is all for our good (and potential growth if I/we allow it to shape and affect us.)

None of those words (or what they encompass) are my favorite – but I can say;  as a result of all the things written in the lines and paragraphs before this……

I am better today, then I was yesterday (or the day before that) – I am the best version of myself – right now, in this moment!  

How is that even possible? I’ve asked that countless times in journal pages, in conversations, in counseling sessions. The answer – although there is much Uncertainty. Pain. Emotion. Exhaustion…. my pursuit of truth, my seeking God’s goodness and faithfulness in spite of feelings, my putting one foot in front of the other, my choice to get up, out of bed, no matter the emotion or physical state – to be a functioning human —- wins and I am able to say – I am and will be – ok!

I heard a song recently – which rocked my world.  It’s truth…. ‘you’re gonna be ok’ echos in my head and heart countless times throughout the day. I am moved (VERY often) – listening to its words. One of my favorite lines is;  ‘put one foot in front of the other – you’re gonna be ok!’

Listen:  You’re Gonna Be Ok – Brian & Jenn Johnson

Just like me…. you’re gonna be ok! Deep breath my friend… one foot in front of the other… and we’ll make it through it all – together!

~ much love, always!

 

Stories… journey… and my people

I know, I know… it’s been ages since I wrote! The last months have been full with wrapping up 2016, doing life, and figuring out some things in both personal and professional fronts. I haven’t posted – not because I haven’t written, but sometimes my writing is for me, my way of processing life and there’s sometimes value in keeping those between me, my journal pages and heaven.

I don’t often go back and reread my previous blog posts, but I’m sure I’ve written on the importance and value of community and having people around you – to support you, it’s core truth in my world and in recent weeks, I’ve seen that even more evident and hold even more firmly to that.

As I’ve written before, February is one of my least favorite months. There’s lots of emotions that swirl around these 28 days. The past three February’s I’ve lost someone; my Mom, my grandfather, and my cousin. They were all losses, causing grief both personally and within extended family. These days are always charged with emotions and unsettledness, and sadly this year has been no different. However – this year a new dimension of loss was added. I have not been openly posting or broadcasting a relationship I was in the last few months mostly due to wanting to give it space to become something (or not, as it turns out), but with any good thing, there is potential risk, and sadly you can’t always pick the expiration date of “good things”.

So all relationship ending – whether death, mutual agreement to walk away, choice or not – have an effect. And I am no different.

I can tell you the roller-coaster of emotion from this month, loss of my Mom, and the grief that will always be part of my life – of the things I’ll never share with her, the loss of extended family, and the loss of a relationship (that was good, sweet and tough all at the same time) is very present these days.

But……. I can say that although I would never wish suffering, grief, loss, pain or heartache on anyone – I can say I am thankful, as I have seen the most gloriously beautifully breathtaking care, love and support from heaven, practically played out through my people – my “tribe” – like never before.

These people have walked all types of seasons of life with me. Some good and happy. Some tough. Some for long seasons – years even. Some for just a few weeks or months… and the most amazing and beautiful thing about each one – is they support, care and love in their own way and that has met needs in me that I didn’t even knew were there.

I occasionally question my story, my journey, and its purpose. Why can’t it be ‘easier’? Why can’t I write MY own plot line, characters and of course happier endings? Why…. why…. why….

Just a few  potential “why’s” I’ve been thinking through this week…:

  • God shows up when we’re hurting in ways we never expect to see Him (or even look for Him to be)
  • We see the kindness and care of people in our world, might be close friends, family or just passing acquaintances, and that concern expressed allows us to see humanity in a new light
  • We feel relief that our hurt or pain our vulnerability (although oftentimes we’re scared to show) has been seen, not rejected – and has been embraced or even celebrated.
  • We feel alive, as pain is demonstration of awareness (although sometime wish we could just stop breathing…..)
  • and…. many more.

*I was reminded again this past weekend at LCBC Church that my story is PERFECT for what God is hoping to accomplish with it! (Check out the message here. Actually the whole Purpose Driven Life series was awesome – so worth catching up on!)

So….. those are my rambling thoughts, perspectives in this seasons. (They were perhaps infused with a delicious underscore of Moscato, but no less true.)

So to all those in my world….. thank you for overlooking my less-than-sunshiney demeanor. I so appreciate the conversations, the messages, smiles, check-ins, hello’s, the space, the prayers, the “just thinking of you”, the chocolate cake, the flowers and honestly – for just BEING YOU!!! I am overwhelmed (so very often) how God has been more than faithful in my life — and you are very much part of helping me SEE HIM in the sadness, pain – life!

Much love. Always.

Friday… (and here is it again)!

imageWhen I was younger, Friday was my favorite day of the week. It was a work day, so I felt accomplished and a valuable member of society, but then it was the night that kicked off the weekend – which most of the time meant friends, social moments, relaxing and fun.

But with age comes… Perspective. Responsibility. Exhaustion. Mental gymnastics….. Life.

And that Life has a way of changing, altering, hindering, freeing, pulling, pushing, ripping apart, putting back together, adding, subtracting, editing…. and oftentimes in areas we never wanted to be different. And as if that wasn’t enough, with each of those things, those moments oftentimes have physical, spiritual or mental adaptation that must accompany.

I used to think maturity was just a by-product of aging… But with each passing year, and with the countless interactions with humanity, I’m not convinced it’s solely the passing of time that brings maturity – I think it’s much more related to all the circumstances, the interactions and reactions to the things mentioned previously – the working to figure out the next step forward, while being intentional to let it shape you for the better, and not make you frustrated, sad, lonely or hopeless.

Yes – that all sounds so dramatic, but there are times when drama – and feeling the full gamete of circumstances either makes or breaks you.

So Friday’s (and the weekends) used to be my week’s highlights….. but the older I get, the more those few days have become less shiny.

I’ve had people comment on my “fullness of schedule”. They’ve mentioned how they envy my ability to go, do, be, anytime I want, with seemingly no limitations on my time, or expectations from anyone.

Yes, I’ll admit, there is definitely freedom that comes with singleness, but there are also emotions, thoughts and feelings that I would challenge most anyone who have not been in serious relationship or married before their mid-30’s – to feel, to sit in and truly experience. It can be gut-wrenchingly painful.

Please hear me… I’m not complaining about my life – I honestly LOVE it. I love what I get to do, who I am, the “freedom” I have, but those moments, where all those ‘limitless, free, no-one-demanding-my-time-and-attention-moments’, stare me squarely in the face, for what feels like the millionth Friday night, AND Saturday, AND Sunday without a hope that it’ll ever be different. There are times, in those moments where you question if you missed an obvious “directional sign” (that apparently everyone else and their brother got along the way), or the “this is your life-direction marker”…. smack me hard in the face (head and heart).

I think I used to love Fridays…. and weekends, because it was filled with non-stop things, people, activities that allowed me to be distracted – to feel, fun and good times, and didn’t allow space to feel, think or face growing up. Life was fun. Full. Distracted and I loved it. All of it.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered the value of intentional down-time, for lots of reason, BUT along with that, was also faced with reality of being alone with me! When the week is busy…. and evenings are full with after-work errands, groceries, catching up with occasional friends, again there’s not much space for emotions.

Adaptation, not only to your own life-circumstance is tough, but when it feels like everyone else’ statuses changed; weddings, babies, family, work, pets, etc/etc….. and everyone’s lives are “perfect” and progressing weigh tough on you, it takes effort to figure out how to be with yourself and be ok with it.

There are moments when I get it! But then there are moments when Friday rolls around (and here it is again)……. and a small bit of panic grips my head and heart……. What if I don’t have plans, make plans or be asked to join someone else’s plans….? Can I once again be ok – being face to face with ME and the countless ‘I am… but….” conversations.

Yes, I am complete…. but desire something more
Yes, I am content…. but still love the extended invite
I am confident…. but feel isolated in flying solo
I am fun…. but it is just better shared with others
I am loved….. but I want to love

There has been (and frequently still is), the desire to just fill time, watch movies or go shopping or just do anything – to avoid time with me, and it has been ok, and possibly the right choice. But there are other moments, when I choose to just be with me, to feel – even when it’s painful and not pretty, and I know after the moment as have passed, that I’ve moved a tiny smidge forward!

I obviously don’t have much of life figured out… but I’m hopeful that one day I’ll have moved a significantly marked distance forward. Life is a process….. thankful I’m still learning!
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So why write this? Great question. There’s part of me that always hesitates before I post. Am I too honest, too vulnerable…. maybe I am! But there’s always a little nudge to hit post, because maybe there’s someone else feels like this, but can’t find the words to express it, and this might just be the thing that helps move us all forward!

Was it worth it…?

It’s been awhile since I wrote…. I actually hadn’t intended to write now, but had a conversation this week that moved me then, and even now, it lingers. The comments, challenge, truth, emotion and encouragement are still tumbling around in my head – so what do I do? I write. 

So a friend shared a story of his extended family member. Some of the details may be off, but the impact was dead on. He described the adventures and some details of their big life – led the way they felt God designed. And in spite of much criticism and questions, even from family – regarding ministry, never marrying, lack of kids/grandkids….. the question was asked, ‘in the end, was it worth it?’

I sat there listening. Occasionally wondering what the story had to do with me, and why it had to be shared now, in the midst of a busy afternoon… But I’ll admit, I was intrigued by the story.

I was moved. 

Memorized. 

And all along, I sat waiting to hear the response to the question – because I have asked myself that same one, more times than I care to confess. 

“In the end, wIll it be worth it?’ 

The response shared with me was more vulnerable and honest than I expected. It’s not word, for word, but it’s impact is lasting. 

I DAILY feel some type of emotion, the full gamete of them all…. the joy of freedom of living my life, able to go, do, be… but there’s the full swing of emotions, the sorrow of soloness, not having someone to care for and be cared by………’ 

Then it was this statement that smacked me upside the head. 

However, I am not willing, and have not been willing, to compromise or MAKE something happen… just to live a life others want me to live. So yes, it has been worth it!

Can I (now) and in the end, say the same? 
Is it worth it? 

Is the life I have – worth it? 

The experiences (or lack) I’ve had?

The cultural (and occasional family) pressure to be somewhere different. To have a different – less time-consuming, less demanding job. To get the husband. Have the kids. Create the family…… And is it worth it….. when my all-too-frequent battle of – “what if I just tried harder……” stirs inside my heart. 

Will it be worth it? 

I keep going back to the statement…… “I’m not willing to compromise to make something happen…… just to live a life others want me to live…”

I’m not saying – hard work or putting oneself in good places, with the right people isn’t good – but there’s often a choice to not ‘make it happen’. I don’t want to manipulate or control – even if it’s something I want. I choose, to take the next moment – whatever it holds – believing God actually does have a plan for my life, and it is good…. AND that I’m IN it. Now. It is not a far-off plan… it’s here. now!

I won’t pretend that not ‘making it happen’ is sometimes the hardest thing… I’m great at details and accomplishing the task at hand, especially when it’s something I want… FYI, not making it happen is not sexy or easy…… but often it’s the ‘right’ choice. 

So…….. is the life I have, the one I get to live out every day, as it is – worth it? Sometimes the answer is a choice, (moment to moment…)… but YES, it is, and I’m convinced it will be totally worth it! 

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*Incredibly thankful that Jesus meets me, when I need it, where I need it, how I need – even when I don’t even know I needed it! #goodgoodFather