Tuesday, December 17, 2013


"When I saw you last night, I knew I had to give you a hug from your grandma, because its what she would have wanted to do," she said.

I almost cried. The night before, I had gone forward during the hymn of invitation during our fall revival meetings; it was an act of surrender during an otherwise tumultuous period of struggle. And now, here was my great aunt, reaching out to do what my grandmother, who died when I was four weeks old, could not do. 

It was a tremendous blessing. Her word's hit deep. 

"Its what she would have wanted..."

Eighteen years after her death, I still feel the effect of the desires of her heart. The woman who I never knew, yet has a continuing impact on my life through the family she nurtured, and the relationships she built. Throughout my childhood I've heard many stories, seen many pictures, and witnessed many of her attributes pointed out in my family. Genetically, she is a part of us: me, my cousins, aunts, and uncles. Each of us reflect her in some way and people are rarely shy about pointing it out. Some walk like her. Others have her laugh, her determination, or her "spunk." A few even cook and eat like her.

More importantly, I've been told numerous times of her love for people. As a family, she always wanted to do things together -- even if it meant twenty people in one game of scum. To those outside of the family, she was a walking companion, a Bible study leader, a caregiver, and a dear friend. Relationships were important to her. Recently, I was reminded of her response to her sons as they grew old enough to marry. Even when they dated girls who may not have been her first pick, she said, "Whom my sons love, I will love." 

In a way, it feels like I know her a little bit, and to my shock, the words of blessing and hug from my aunt opened up a longing in my heart that I never expected to feel, perhaps not unlike a small taste of the longing that an adopted child may feel.

I really want to know this grandma. I'm... missing something.

She has a place in our family. She has a place in my life. And for the time being, that place is empty. 

Her rich legacy remains and will continue to impact people. Her dreams, desires, aspirations, and prayers will mix with those of my other grandparents, and my parents, and redeemed by the grace of God, will someday become my legacy. 

She held me in the hospital after I was born, weeks before her death. I wonder, as she sat in that leathery green hospital chair, what her prayer was for me and my cousins. I will never know, but I would imagine it could have gone something like this:

"Father, give these children a heart for people. Make their waters run deep. Guide them to know Your heart. Catch their tears when they fall. Whatever comes, may there never be division, and may they always struggle together."

Grandma Ruthanne, your presence will always be missed. Your family has grown significantly, and in many ways moved on, but your impact on each of our lives is still present, and your place is still here. You would be delighted to know that you have a number of grandchildren in missions, and many who care deeply and compassionately for those around them. As a family, we have cried a lot of tears together, and some of us have grieved deep loss. But we are very much still struggling together, and being shaped into something beautiful. Thank you for the legacy you have left. We love you.

Grandma Rachel, you also pass on a legacy in our family. You have an unexpected but wonderful place among us, and you reflect something wonderful about the Father. Unselfishly, you married into a grieving family, and chose to take on their burden. To me, you reflect God's heart toward those who have been orphaned, and His tenderness toward those who have experienced loss. To many of us, you have been the only grandma we ever knew. Your care has not been in vain, neither will it be forgotten, nor will it lack impact. We love you.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

An Issue of Intimacy

"I long for a safe place where I can experience intimacy without fear; where I can allow my deepest tears to flow and be mutually felt. Is there a place like that? Ever? Will I ever know what it is like to have my vulnerability be met with perfect love?"

I recently wrote these words in my journal. After a time of being deeply cared for, I still felt much longing in my heart. Though there were many emotions playing inside of me, I still felt a deeper emptiness that called for something more, something beyond the friends, family, and many other blessings that surround me. I felt a need for something bigger than just what was immediately available, something greater than me.

As I continue to reflect on those words, my mind wanders back to the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve knew what it was like to be completely full. Seriously, they spent their evenings with God. They had complete, trusting intimacy with each other. Everything was just as it was meant to be, but it didn't last. The beautiful picture of what man was meant to be was soon shattered, and man lost the intimacy and connection that he was made for. I doubt I really have any comprehension of what was truly lost in those tragic moments.

I wonder what Adam and Eve felt on their first night out of the Garden. It must have been awful. Adam no longer had the direct presence of his Creator, and was faced with the responsibility of providing for his own survival. The person created to assist him and complete him was also distanced from him. For the first time, Adam knew isolation. While there was still a shattered reflection of what should have been, it just wasn't enough. Really, it must have seemed pretty hopeless.


There was a promise. Separation would not last forever. Perfect intimacy, without sin or separation would someday be restored.

Six thousand years later, give or take a few centuries, here I sit in my kitchen, feeling the separation, knowing the place where something should be that isn't. The twinge of fear when betrayal rears its ugly head, the ache in my chest when I miss someone, the disappointment felt as a friend passes by oblivious- all seem to touch that place where something should be, and just like Adam and Eve, I feel pretty hopeless. Fighting for relationships gets tiring. Confusion feels overwhelming. Muddled communication seems to be inescapable.


There is a promise, and its being fulfilled right now. The Child was born, the Lamb died, and Death is defeated. Now, right now, God is putting the finishing touches on His bride. The veil is being lowered, the music is starting, creation is anxiously awaiting the restoration of what should be. It won't be long until the separation is gone, the promise is complete, and God's Son has a bride. The longing and emptiness no longer speaks of what once was, but cries for what is to come.

And, as a significant side note, this is where Christmas gets real for me. The real longing and the tears, as well as the real promise that is being actively fulfilled in my life, are what Christmas is about to me.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Of Anabaptists and Jewelry Stores

If you've ever been allowed to see my room, and few are, it was probably tidy for the most part; not because I keep a tidy room, but because I knew you were coming and had likewise prepared for the occasion. If you happened to be in my room on more than one occasion, and are the least bit observant, you probably noticed that while almost everything seemed to have a place, there was a lingering pile of homeless odds and ends sitting on the hope chest in the dormer.

Last week, I purposed to sort through this loathsome-but-oh-so-ever-present-and-in-need-of-help eyesore. The first (and last) item I picked up as I rummaged through the stack was a rather odd find that I had completely forgotten: my wristwatch. It is a piece that I purchased some time ago during a faze in my life when I found shiny objects to be fascinating, but it can no longer be worn because it met  its demise in a rather infamous fall into Beaver Lake (yes, in Canada). I noticed, however, that it was still keeping time, and all that really needed attention was the band, which had broken.

So I embarked into the unknown, and went to a jeweler to have it repaired and cleaned.

Upon entering the store, I turned my watch over to the nearest clerk, who then asked for a few minutes to look at it. With little else to do, I began to browse, and the array was dazzling. At one point, I stopped at a display of what appeared to be engagement rings (how would I know), and peered at a particularly lovely adornment made of silver and studded with several precious stones. Out of curiosity I checked the price.

After regaining my composure, I stood pondering what could possibly possess a person that would cause them to feel good about wearing something of such value. In fact, I thought it would almost feel devaluing as a person to wear such a thing. Before I could continue, my thoughts were interrupted by the clerk, who told me the jeweler would need to take a look at my watch, and that I should return to pick it up in a week.

Several days later, I returned to my pondering, but hard as I tried, I could not find a way to justify buying such a ring. However, another thought occurred to me. Before looking at the ring, I had briefly examined a display of imported Swiss watches. They were impressive, and as I further reconstructed the scene in my mind, I suspect my thoughts were probably going something like this:

I bet men with impact wear those watches. They probably rarely feel out of control... in fact, they are probably widely admired for their impact. 

They have what it takes.

They matter.

I am slowly realizing how easy it is for me to create an image of what masculinity looks like. Be it watches, cars, pastimes, relational skill, intellect, friends or any other countless number of things, I can easily form a mold of what a man is, and before too long, I am trying to conform to that mold. The result is usually frustration and shame, and I lose sight of myself as a person, and as God's adopted son.

Then, my Loving Father, through the gentle but often painful process of conviction, reminds me of who He is, and who I am. He calls me to lay aside my images, molds, and idols. He calls me to no longer be conformed, but transformed.

Conformation is painful. It involves pressing, squeezing, and breaking something into a shape that it is unnatural to that thing. Transformation is entirely different. It is a change at the very core of a thing that makes into something entirely different.

The world conforms. Just take a look at society: its full of molds and shapes, and it hates what does not fit those shapes. So often I go right along with this kind of approach to life, and the consequences are definitely not the abundant life Jesus talked about.

However, today God is offering something entirely different than what this world embraces. He is offering to transform us into something new, into what we were meant to be. When we set aside our ideas of what we should be, and embrace God's ideas of who we are, we are set free to be fully alive, and it will not be an unnatural conformation, but rather a deep  transformation! This is where true masculinity happens, and where true femininity is grounded.

This is where I learn that I matter. Even without a Swiss watch. Control is traded for trust, and admiration is traded for the approval of my Father.

Transformation isn't easy. It means dying to myself, but in doing so I gain life.

Romans 12:1-2

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Who I Am (an introductory essay)

Greetings! My name is Austin Fahnestock. I live in Reinholds, Pennsylvania, have five siblings and, at the age of eighteen, I am the oldest in my family. There are a great many things I could say about myself, but I am going to name only the three things that I am most passionate about and that I see as most significant in any description of my person: my faith, my purpose, and the gifts that I have been given to accomplish that purpose.
            First and foremost in my life is my belief that God created man in His image, that man sinned and was cursed, and now exists in a fallen state, and that God, out of His incomprehensible love for us sent His son to die and redeem us to Him. It is from this belief that I know my value, that I know the value of others, that I am saved, and that I have life, and by God’s grace, life abundantly. He is the beginning and end of who I am. It is His truth that is changing me, and it is from Him that I receive my purpose.
            The purpose of my existence is to bring glory to God, to tell of His goodness, and to testify to His love and truth. In the everyday, this means that I seek to reflect Him in all of my encounters with other people; it means I am constantly seeking better relationships with God and others. A small, but important, piece of my purpose is my ambition of entering the field of counseling. I am especially passionate about men and women learning about and being set free from sexual bondage, and what it means to be men and women of God.
            Lastly, I would like to mention the gifts God has given me to bring glory to Him. First, God has given me the gift of music, which bears testament to me of who He is, and which I use to bear testament to others of Him. I play the piano and sing, and have a deep love of classical music. Also, God has given me a very sensitive spirit, and as such I am a very emotional person, who feels very deeply not only my own pain and joy, but also the pain and joy of others. I seek to use this in such a way that I can be a safe place for people to open up the painful areas of their lives, and ultimately experience God in those areas. Finally, I am a scholar. I love reading, studying, trying to wrap my mind around large concepts, and am enthusiastic about learning and understanding the world around me. God has given me my intellect, and I intend to use it for His glory.

            While there is a great deal more that could be said, I believe that I have given a brief, but accurate reflection of who I am. I look forward to the year ahead, and what I can learn to further God’s kingdom.