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I pull up to an outpatient medical clinic and park my car. My headlights assign themselves to the front door where there are massive signs about COVID, screening, and how certainly you cannot go anywhere if you dare to feel sick for a minute. Meanwhile, I know many people who are sick right now, many more who got sick in the last few days. The pandemic is still screaming, welcome to a life of screening.
I dig for my mask, and then sit inside my car and stare at the windshield. It’s hot. My car air conditioner is broken. I am both sweating and trembling. I am afraid to go inside. It is odd how physical spaces hold old traumas, as if they are somehow doing us a favor by preserving them like jam. I would rather find the jar empty and washed, but alas, I must face it. This clinic hosted my strenuous medical care for the last two years. This team saw me through a tragic miscarriage after years of loss and infertility. That flat-line of a heart beat on the 12-week ultrasound still torments me at times. We named that baby, Eliad Leo. Then, they caught my tender courage over a year later when I showed up pregnant with Aimee, and celebrated each shocking appointment that everything looked good, “no signs of disease.” And then, they watched me exit out of these very doors, in tears, when fluid was identified on her lung. I was admitted to the hospital that afternoon.
That day was the last day that I was here.
The last day I saw these people.
The last day before the epic multi-month labor and delivery of Aimee Star began.
I find myself afraid to go into the building as if it will somehow arrest me and pull me backwards in my story. In reality, I have nothing to be afraid of today. It’s a simple postpartum visit. Someone will look at my C-section incision, tell me to keep drinking water as I breastfeed, and then congratulate me on my baby - with a smile I cannot see because of their mask.
Inside I check in. I step on a scale that tells me I still have baby fat, and then walk through empty halls to an isolated room. I had a baby during COVID, lived in and through multiple hospitalizations during the pandemic. It’s still all – weird. The emptiness. The fear. The masks. The distancing. The tension. The deafening silence. Weird have learned to dodge and validate distance with people. Now we do it with muscle memory, and applaud each other for it, which is its own spreading disease.
My favorite nurse on the team finds me in my patient room, she beats the doctor to me, as she always has. She exceeds every doctor. I want to hug her, but resist. She took care of me through a lot of loss the last two years. Sometimes nurses are our primary caregivers, present in moments of our lives that no one else will ever enter into with us. I find out from her that this team has been wondering for months what happened to me. It did not cross my mind to report back to this office after being thrust into medical care in another city. Oh…, I think to myself as I look into her searching eyes, I have so much good news to share with every one of you! Call them in!
The pictures of a smiley 4-month old Aimee Star Luse cause us all to erupt in joy. My dear friend who took the pictures has no idea how much these pictures are giving and will give, to so many people, for so long. This is a miracle in my story, and these people know it better than anyone. They wore the gloves, they caught the blood, they held my hands, and they let me dream again.
This seed of promise.
This star of hope.
This bright interruption –
Is most welcomed.
I sit quietly and choose not to mention much of anything symptomatically about my postpartum journey. I already know that even the most bizarre symptoms in the world are “normal” when you are pregnant. You can vomit for months, and people look at you with googly-eyed excitement. Or, you can swing violently in moods, lose half your hair, suffer sleeplessness, body adjustments and an overhaul on life postpartum and people grin and congratulate you on your baby. It’s all part of the process.
The womb carries life –
To labor it out –
To deliver it whole –
To nurture it to grow.
Let’s all thank God, despite the very real challenges, that I made it postpartum this time.
And, with a beautiful little girl. Thriving. Is this real?
A happy moment in the back of an outpatient medical clinic ensues. We let our eyes smile where our mouths are hidden, and rejoice. Everyone seems thirsty for a reason to sink into gratitude. I take their hands and we go there, together. I assure them that all of the shaking, the shock, the trauma, the fear, and uncertainties -
All of the laboring over months of unexpected crisis -
Was unto something –
For something –
A birthing -
Of new life.
Later in the week, a friend sends me a poem about our world.
The smokey sun.
The missing gatherings.
The disintegrated jobs.
And, I get to thinking … Will we make it to postpartum? And to those who do, what we will be left holding? What in the world is the world birthing? Labor and delivery is full of pain. Full. You breathe between contractions, and that’s about it. But, the life that emerges is full of beauty. Full. And it’s all brand new.
Our world is birthing something right now through very real waves of loss. We are carrying, we are laboring, and we are delivering – in places we did not ask to be. I’m living it as I’m living it. We are living it. Everything is changing through labor and delivery. Perhaps someday we will return together to our old quarters, as I did this week, and find out that all the suffering brought us into a brand-new life. And for that new life, we will thank God.
There will be a postpartum landing.
If I can land, you can land,
Hold on, friends.
Don’t forget to breathe between contractions.
New life is coming!
It will come.
Reflection Question: What new thing do you think God is birthing in your life right now? Reflect on this statement as it relates to your story, "Behold, I make all things new."
I first met Mitch Luse in the basement of an old academic building at Temple University in Philadelphia. He was leading worship for a campus ministry. I was in the back corner watching the room unravel in the presence of God. He was young, bachelor-life skinny, and slouched over his guitar. His hair was a wild brown curly mane, and his eyes were wide and deep, like Aimee’s. The sound that he filled the room with was soaked in something that I lived for, intimacy with God. I wanted to know him.
I proceeded to position myself to know Mitch at school, in cunning ways that I have rarely admitted to anyone. I dropped and added classes to “run into” Mitch Luse. I stood by water fountains for prolonged periods of time until he passed by. I joined a 7am prayer meeting multiple days a week which involved a subway commute that wrangled me up in dark cold mornings. I engaged in a campus ministry that I otherwise had little interest in. At the time, it was all for “other reasons.” Looking back, it was all for him.
Mitch and I started dating in March of 2006. I was on my last leg of my undergraduate studies. He was one year behind me in school. We both spent that summer abroad in different nations. I served with The Salvation Army in Kenya/Ghana, and then flew from there to work in translation at an Institute in Tver, Russia. Meanwhile, Mitch was studying Arabic at a language institute in Yemen. Our dating life that summer was an adventure navigated through remote internet cafes in different nations, often the only expat in the room, praying earnestly that the chat box would open and work. When the chat box disappeared suddenly, and the clunky computer shut down, I was always sure that the next thing he was going to say was, "I love you," and most likely I missed it.
I remember so clearly standing in a perilous line at the post office in Russia, successfully receiving one letter from him. It was postmarked from Yemen. Can you imagine the look that they gave me getting mail from Yemen? The rest of his letters to me disappeared. I never got them. We both felt that if our relationship survived and deepened after that summer, it was likely something of substance that we would be in it for a long time. Long story (for another time!) short … it was and is something of substance. Two years later we were married. Twelve years later he is releasing a book on marriage.
My wedding day hosted profound peace in my soul, like water that lacks a single ruffle. My spirit was thoroughly confident that, this is right. The Presence of God and a passion of prayer has always been at the heart of our relationship. We hosted countless prayer meetings over the years, worked together to cultivate community wherever we lived, and navigated through some of life’s greatest challenges together. “For better, for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health...” We were faced with all of that within six months of our wedding day.
Our marriage is not perfect, and neither are we. We struggle, we fight, we drift into friendship amnesia about why we like each other. But, we are best friends with the most secure commitment to each other. We have strengths as a couple that we have fought hard through real suffering to cultivate in our marriage. Not least among these is that in our marriage, we both take up space. We have a diehard commitment to co-reigning, co-leading, and supporting one another’s purpose. And that is the topic of Mitch’s book.
I would not be where or who I am without the propeller of a man in my life named Mitch Luse. He is the strongest wind source of momentum in my wild and ever evolving story. He is faithful and steady, proven both dependable and pure through raging seas. This man will grab the mast in a storm, save the whole ship, and never once expect or solicit credit for it. Over the years, he has sacrificed extensively, given generously, and served me with striking kindness in the both the ugliness of my grief-stricken heart, and the glory of my God-given successes.
When my personal significance hosted nothing more than carrying groceries up a lonely staircase, he would shout after me about how I was a revivalist, prophetic, and a world-changer. Mitch was my one donor to return to ministry school, and there catch a flame that would propel an entire community forward for years. Mitch funded the birth of ConnectUp alone through long days at a job he did not enjoy while I put my hands to the ministry plow. He was our first, and for a long time only, partner. ConnectUp now hosts healing for the brokenhearted, hundreds every year. This man fought for our connection when our lives were screaming to disconnect through the pain of losing a child. This man tolerated countless people at events and conferences over the years who approached him with, “Where is Katie?” “Can I talk to Katie? “Are you Katie’s husband?” overlooking the gem before them that is so much more than “Katie” will ever be. Oh … and the most prevalent one, “This is Mitch, Katie’s husband.” Which ... is why “Joseph, the husband of Mary” that he writes about in his book is so significant to him. Through all of this and more, Mitch chose to let his insecurities be confronted and die to celebrate that his wife could thrive, succeed, run far and fast - while remaining in relationship with him.
He has never talked about any of this … until now.
The 5:25 Call is Mitch’s journey pressed into ink, and a bold call to husbands everywhere to consider what it really means before God to take up the call of husbandry. I am humbled to tears by the authenticity of what this book is about. Mitch lives the call that he is making to the world. It is his call to make. God spoke to Mitch years ago to write this book. It is his costly obedience, it's content has soaked inside of him for a long time. As is the case with any creative endeavor approached by a spouse, we have journeyed through the birthing of this together, and the labor pains from concept to print are real. The writing, producing, designing, and somehow by the grace of God funding is such a process. We handed the manuscript back and forth many times, challenging each other to be forthright with the world about what we know.
I would not say that ours is a model marriage, or that we have somehow arrived through releasing a book on marriage (please no crazy expectations!). But, I will say with confidence that Mitch Luse has a message about marriage that I believe is for the whole world. The book is outstanding and practical. It hosts discussion questions for small groups, and a prayer guide for personal transformation. If you want to have an encounter with God through it, you will.
It is for men and women,
single and married,
young and old.
It is for the thriving and the hurting,
The married and the divorced,
The confident, and the insecure.
It is for everyone.
The 5:25 Call is an invitation for men to take up the brilliance of their divine call by becoming living propellers of God’s daughters around the world. It is also a megaphone of validation for women to take up space, stop forfeiting authority, and be the gift that we are to the world. This is the 5:25 Call which is based on Ephesians 5:25 … "husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her."
You do not want to miss this book. It is available for a discounted rate right now as a pre-order! Books will ship when they become available, no later than 10/17/20.
Buy it now!
To Mitch Luse, it is your turn to shine!
p.s. Read other endorsements on The 5:25 Call from people like Dr. Mike Hutchings of Global Awakening, Colonel Janet Munn of The Salvation Army Social Justice Commission, Pastor John Leach of Life Center, Associate Evangelist Justin Allen, Pastor Kevin Pitts, Author Phill Olson, and Lt. Tabitha Swires!
Solitude is the space where I face myself,
The place where myself is faced,
A case for authenticity.
Solitude is the space where I hear from God,
The place where God hears from me,
A case for divine friendship.
Solitude is the space that confronts my masks,
The place where my masks are removed,
A case for vulnerability.
Solitude is the space that calls me inward,
The place that releases me outward,
A case for renewal.
When I run from solitude, hide from it, dodge it, last less than ten minutes inside of its embrace before wiggling out to clothe myself again in noise - I am also hiding from, running from, dodging, and outright resisting in my life… authenticity, divine friendship, vulnerability and renewal. Solitude is not me plus one other person. It is not me plus my phone. It is not me plus some external noise. Solitude is nothing more than me and God.
Ever so scary.
Ever so wonderful.
Ever so necessary.
Friends, be brave.
Reflection: Do you resist being alone? What are you afraid will happen if you face yourself? I suggest engaging 15 minutes of solitude today. Carve out the space and time for it. You are much more beautiful in this season than you realize. You will not see that until you stop and face yourself. The Father is jealous for time alone with you. Solitude. Let me know how it goes! <3
I sit down to spend time with God after a whirlwind of emotional days. My head hangs low. I am ashamed. External pressures have pressed my connection with God out the door. I let it happen. Here I am, daring to return to Him. Shame does not want me to not return to God yet. It wants me to suffer for longer from a distance, somehow convincing me that vulnerability with God is too much work and I will likely be rejected by Him, so I might as well just reject myself. In reality, shame has an agenda for me that I never return to God. Distance, more distance, and then divorce … is what partnership with shame wants to lead me to in relation to God.
As I stare at the wet ground wondering if I should lift my chin to my Maker, I hear the Holy Spirit, Why are you wasting time? I just want to be with you.
At the sound of His voice, I am thrust back into a memory of when I learned this truth inwardly for the first time. I was directing the Jesus Theater at a Salvation Army Camp. The building we were in was moist, its’ wooden floors creaked with risk. The unsealed windows held history of being framed witnesses to divine workings over the years. A cast of twelve stood before me in a space taped out on the floor. Together we were journeying through the story of Christ, and finding ourselves alive within it.
We came to the moment during the crucifixion scene where the Father turns His face away from His Son, Jesus. I stopped directing and stood in resolved resistance. I could not place the scene, because I hated that moment. It felt to me like a confirmation of my worst fear, that the Father would turn His face away from me, that in fact He already had. I grimaced and stared at the cast. They knew from working with me for days that something was transpiring inside. We would wait for the Holy Spirit to have the next word. I found myself facing a large internal mountain that I hoped I would never have to face head on. Head on. Here I was. It was that moment in my life when I had no idea where the Father was and the worst thing that could happen – happened – to me.
My cast and I stood for a long time awkwardly, like we do, committed to authenticity before anyone makes another move. No one can tell a story effectively that he/she does not believe from the heart, thus the reason why so many messages fall lifeless and flat upon delivery. We would wait and find a way to engage our hearts, that’s how we work.
I stood and stared at my actors.
They stared back at me, waiting.
I looked them in the eyes.
They looked me in the eyes.
We began to drill down together.
Daring to face that moment.
Each – our own.
Our own moment when He felt absent.
We said nothing.
We waited for longer.
I physically stepped back and looked at the half-created scene of bodies waiting for direction.
What is this moment, God?
As clear as I bell I heard the Holy Spirit speak. His response sunk into my spirit and has served as a compass for me ever since. He spoke to me, Jesus took rejection from the Father so that you would never have to experience it. The Father’s face is always towards you. Come home.
Friends, we all are like “sheep that have gone astray” and do not deserve the Father’s acceptance. But in that rehearsal, I finally understood that Jesus took rejection from the Father that we deserved so that you and I could have the bliss of living with confidence in the Father’s love. The Father’s face is always towards us in acceptance. What a gift! You and I dismiss the sacrifice of Jesus when we insist that we need to be punished by shame before returning to God.
So … why are you wasting time? He just wants to be with you.
Reflection Question: When is the last time that you honestly faced God with a wide open heart? Can you return to that place with Him? Bend a knee. Lift your weary head. It's time to see His face again, and Him yours.
Katie Luse is a speaker and writer who is passionate about navigating life with eyes on a hunt for beauty.