The Things We Keep

Feb 5, 2019

No matter what, the Lord is good to us. [Psalm 129:4]

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about legacy. It could be that I’m having my midlife crisis early, but I sense it’s actually something much more wondrous.

Within the last 2 years the birth of my nieces, both of them such sweet promises fulfilled for our families, has directed my heart like a fresh wind towards the next generation. Every interaction I share with those little girls serves as a reminder to me that there are more — so many more coming in after me who will go further ahead of me.

I started publishing my writing and sharing our journey on Haven Hill not just for those who are currently doing life beside us but for those coming in behind us who will go beyond us. I wanted an easy-to-find archive of our stories for the next generation to discover. My dream is to encourage them and to spur them on so they go so much farther than we ever could. I want them to know that even though life can be so hard at times, the overarching headline over each of our lives is goodness because there is a God who is always so very good to us [check out: Romans 8, yes the whole chapter!].

It’s changed the way I think about social media and the kind of content I choose to fill my newsfeeds. I know, I know, social media is just a highlight reel, but so are my grandmother’s scrapbooks and my great-grandmother’s letters. They aren’t any less precious or authentic to me. I know between the lines of their documentation there were very hard days, difficult decisions, and many opportunities to give up, but the sweet memories they have highlighted remind me that the goodness of God remains the headline over our lives. It’s what they chose to keep from all the life they lived that gets handed down to me.

And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The Lord Is My Banner. [Exodus 17:15]

Yesterday, February 4, was a headline day for our family. 25 years ago, Bruce’s parents arrived in the United States from South Africa with their three young children (aged 5 and under) and a couple of suitcases.

His dad was my age (31), and his mom was twenty-something.

I’d like to think of myself as somewhat courageous but I’m thinking a transatlantic flight with 3 young kids might be my limit. Never mind dealing with the feeling of landing on a new continent that’s supposed to now be home while all that is well-known is 8,000 miles away. This was before cell phones and Facebook made staying connected with loved ones who lived a world away easy. There was no Instagram to throw up a #wanderlust post so friends could cheer you on in your adventure. There was no Google to search away your unfamiliarity. There was barely internet (by the way, I had to Google that last fact to verify it).

The van Zyl/Webber (aka: van Webber) siblings hosted a dinner party last night to celebrate our family’s 25th USA Anniversary. Mom and Dad VZ shared their story of moving to the US, which included cancelled flights, unexpected delays, and landing here in the middle of one of Atlanta’s coldest winters — and that was just the journey here. There were also many lonely days of reorienting their entire lives in a new country, the holidays without family, the cultural mixups and embarrassing moments, and, of course, the temptation to question if they had made the right decision.

They came here because they believed God called them to a new home. It was a God-ordained adventure, a dream to be explored — still, it was hard.

What stood out to me last night during all the reminiscing together was how the hard days and painful circumstances, though a very real part of our family’s journey, have never been the headline over us. In fact, it was often said during last night’s retelling, “God was so good to us.” We cherish His goodness by dwelling on it, telling of it, and expecting it in every area of our lives.

Every gift God freely gives us is good and perfect, streaming down from the Father of lights, who shines from the heavens with no hidden shadow or darkness and is never subject to change. [James 1:17]

I love so many things about my family, all of my families — the ones I have through blood, love, and spirit. The one thing I treasure the most about us is what we’ve chosen to keep. The overwhelming theme of our story will always be focused on this truth — God is good. This doesn’t happen by ignoring the hard facts of life, it happens by applying this truth to every fact we face.

He’s faithful.

He’s present.

He’s trustworthy.

He’s generous.

He redeems.

He restores.

He loves you and me so very deeply.

You get to choose your headline. You’ll have a lot of opportunity to choose something other than goodness, but you decide the things you’ll keep. What will you dwell on? What will you highlight? What will you turn over to the next generation to carry on?

What will you choose to let hang over your head like a banner? A dark cloud of pain or a glory cloud of promise? I’ve chosen the latter.

Moving into the next 25 years, whenever I sense God calling me on an adventure, I am going to remind myself of Mom and Dad VZ’s tenacious obedience when they made that big move. I won’t use their experience as a scale of difficulty to compare my own calling to, but instead, I’ll use it to remind myself of the massive impact that is set into motion when we say “yes” to God.

I’ll think about Bruce and I meeting, falling in love, and joining our lives together.

I’ll think about Bruce’s siblings and their spouses who have become as close as blood to me, and how our lives and ministries have only become stronger together.

I’ll think about my niece.

I’ll think about the marriages and families that have been strengthen and saved by our parent’s friendship and counsel.

I’ll think about the dark day I no longer wanted to lead, and how Dad VZ pulled me away from jumping off the cliff of self-doubt with his encouragement and wisdom.

I’ll think about the heartbreaking season I almost turned my back on the Church, and how Mom VZ loved me back to passionately pursuing unity and community.

I’ll think about how these parents I’ve claimed as my own for almost a decade take the time every day to pray together for all of us kids, our family across the ocean, and our friends throughout the world. Though there are many days I feel their prayers so strongly, I know I’ll never quite understand the full force and depth of them this side of heaven.

I’ll think about how they could have said “no” to coming here, and what that could have looked like 25 years later.

God calls all of us to adventure with Him, and while the details of the adventure will look different for each of us, we’re all given the same freedom to say “yes” or “no” to His invitation. Perhaps, the “yes” feels like a big fat “no” to all that is comfortable and seemingly good for you in the moment. But, maybe 25 or so years later, the next generation will be enhanced — will even exist — because of your “yes.” There will be hard days, but I pray the headline over your life will always read: “God is Good to Me.”

There will be times during our adventures when the only familiar thing will be God Himself. It may not be comfortable. It may not be ideal. It may not be what we would have chosen for ourselves. But we are still promised tremendous peace and joy all along the way because peace doesn’t come through finding comfort or ease, it comes through trusting and following where the Prince of Peace leads.

To anyone reading this (whether it’s in 2019 or 2044), I want you to know that when you say “yes” to God, He becomes your Keeper. God has chosen to keep you, and His peace, joy, goodness — those are the things you can always keep.

No matter what your facing right now, here’s a headline for you today:

God will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in Him. [Isaiah 26:3]

P.S. This marks our last official party in Valleycrest. To every friend who has joined in on a celebration in this home with us, thank you for the amazing memories. A special shout out to all the early adopters who came to our very first party before we were even fully unpacked— The #Vantastic Christmas Cocktail Party 2014 — when we forgot to switch our gas account over to our new place and we lost heat the day of the party. Bless you for not missing a beat (or the heat). See you on The Hill.

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