As I write this update, the countdown has begun for my wife’s return to Los Angeles after 3 weeks with her family in India. While I have always prided myself on being an independent loner, I have discovered in this brief separation that I have become incapable of functioning fully without my most faithful friend and partner. During my time of solitude, I found a new level of appreciation of the advent season. I found strength in celebrating the one responsible for this season, whose good news of salvation continues to stir within my heart fresh anointing and heights of joy. On the top of our little Christmas tree this year, sits a new angel ornament, a gift from 2 thoughtful friends this year, reaching its arms up towards the sky as a sign of courage. The angel of courage is symbolic of the calling upon our lives this past year.
I am amazed at how much can take place in just one year! It was only this year that I became the lead pastor of Kairos Westwood and got to watch lives transformed by the saving grace of a loving God while Angel began her full time nursing program at Westcoast University in North Hollywood. As a couple we experienced physical sickness, family deaths, heartbreak, and the loss or moving away of friends dear to our hearts. In the midst of it all, we joined hands feeling strength from one another and stood with our faces to the wind learning that courage often demands a step of faith.
Our challenges seemed to reach its height in the fall. The unemployment rate and lack of tithing in our community forced my stipend to be cut in half. Drastic changes and sacrifices would have to be made in our lifestyle and we felt the freedom to press forward knowing that our needs has and will always be met by our great provider. In difficult times we were moved by opportune moments which so profoundly reminded us of the existence and presence of God.
We were driving back along the coast from San Francisco the day after thanksgiving when we both felt drawn to the view along the coastal highway. Naturally we pulled over and stepped out to take in the majesty of creation. The sun was setting beyond the sea and golden meadows. We stood on the dry desert ground and watched the waves rippling by the brewing storm in the distance. And all the while our gaze moved upwards to the rays of sun beckoning us to look upward. Within minutes, the camera was set on a timer to graze the Caleb Family Christmas card.
The dreaded phone call came 2 hours later as we drove in the rain, to deliver the news that Angel’s father had passed away in India after his painful battle with diabetes and organ failure. Nothing can prepare us for the loss of a parent. Angel was not able to get to India in time for the burial. Over the next week, we dealt with illness, grief, and packing as we closed in at the last possible minute on a smaller and less expensive apartment. It was at our most helpless state that we stepped back and watched the provision of our creator through the help of our friends and community. Money was sent by generous friends to purchase a ticket for Angel to be with her family in India, home cooked meals arrived at our doorstep so that we would gain our strength, and boxes were packed by ladies in our community because we lacked the ability to finish in time for our move.
On December 1st, our friends from all walks of life in LA showed up in the rain to move our belongings into our new apartment. We were speechless by the love of our community reminding us that we are loved and valued and that we are exactly where we need to be at the present time. Angel boarded the plane to India the following week and I spent Christmas surrounded by my dear friends in LA who welcome me with open arms.
On Christmas night, Angel called from India and the phone was passed around at our apartment by the most diverse group- A precious couple who recently moved to LA and were celebrating their first Christmas here, an older woman with no family who has long since adopted Angel and I as her children, a friend whose hectic work schedule forced her to be apart from her traveling husband this Christmas, and a destitute woman who has rarely experienced love and acceptance on Christmas. It was a nice of comfort and music. If we have the courage to look outside ourselves, we find that we are never really alone. Every story, every adventure builds character in us preparing us for the best that is yet to come…