“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” –The Velveteen Rabbit
Every Monday afternoon, my TLC girls and I have a “house meeting”. Because I’m possibly the least meeting oriented person on this planet, our meeting essentially consists of us all cozying up on the living room couches with a cup of tea and our favorite blanket. We talk about everything from practical items like the chore chart and groceries, to prayer requests and where we’ve seen God move in our hearts and lives that week.
The reality of these meetings is that they’ve been some of the most mundane moments with my students thus far—a heartbreaking reality check for someone who loves nothing more than chatting about Jesus over hot beverages.
More often than not, I ask questions and then sit smiling– like Dora the Explorer, awaiting an answer that more than likely isn’t coming.
“How can we pray for each other this week?” …Crickets. (Sometimes an awkward smile, if I’m lucky.)
I generally wait a few moments, offer a prayer request of my own… and then wait some more… until the silence becomes unbearable.
“Where have you seen God work in your life this week?” I trudge on. No response.
“Or maybe, would one of you risk sharing what you’ve learned in Bible this week?” Not. A. Dang. Thing.
That is essentially how our first two weeks around here went…
At every meal and house meeting, I felt like I was stuck playing the world’s worst game of 20 Questions with a mildly captive audience. (Captive being the key word here, since I think my students realized that they were gonna have to interact with me if they wanted me to feed them.)
It was rough.
“If someone other than me doesn’t start talking in this house soon, I think I’m gonna lose it! I’m gonna throw myself off a bridge or something.” I vented to my best friend in Denver last weekend.
“Well, lucky for you, you live in a village and there probably aren’t bridges for a few hundred miles.” Eyeroll. Thanks, Kitty.
It was with this salty attitude that I began my day on Monday. I’m not gonna lie—I was whole-heartedly dreading our house meeting that evening. Just the thought of another round of 20 Questions made me want to keel over. It felt like this job was going to be the death of me.
I sent my girls off to work with a smile early Monday afternoon. As soon as they walked out the door, I proceeded to dramatically put my face down on the dining room table and tried to resist the urge to slam my forehead into it. Realizing that I drastically needed an attitude adjustment (and to pray through my cranky heart), I shoved the little Velveteen Rabbit notecard that a friend from home gave me in my hoodie pocket, laced up my sneakers, and I went for a run.
I ran down the airplane runway, through the creek that bounds our village, and took off through the woods grumbling and grousing at God the whole way. (Yes, family members, I had my bear spray with me… Everyone can calm down.)
What the actual HECK, Lord?! Why did you bring me all this way just to put me in a completely silent house? What are you doing?! Is this real life? I could be perfectly ignored by teenagers in Denver AND not be 2,500 miles away from home (AND ice cream). This just can’t be reality here.
The trail wore thin and spit me out on the banks of the Tanalian River. Mildly pissed, I plopped down on the rocks, threw my shoes behind me, and took out the little white notecard from my pocket. As the frigid river water rushed over my feet, I read and re-read the ending of the Velveteen Rabbit.
“I am making all things new.”
As I read the words on the notecard in my hand, Revelation 21:5 rang in the back of my mind—likely because I had just included this verse in my teaching of the story of Joseph last week in Bible class. I sat and thought back to how God had turned Joseph being sold into slavery into the beautiful salvation of an entire nation. Joseph had real struggles, yet God redeemed his pain and made a new plan for generations to come.
In the strangest of ways, God used the story of Joseph to remind me that the pain and loss in the story of the Velveteen Rabbit was turned into something beautiful and new too. When the little saggy, eyeless rabbit had been thrown to the burn pile after scarlet fever ravaged his best friend’s home, the fairy turned him into a new creation—a Real rabbit.
I sat for a few seconds and considered the sweetness of the children’s story that I’ve grown to love— the beautiful redemption of becoming Real because of Love…
My emotional daze wore off quickly as a four-wheeler blazed out of the trees behind me and scared me back into reality. “Buhhhhh, I know…” I sighed under my breath while tugging my socks and shoes back onto my damp feet. “I know You are making all things new, God. I know You’re making my students and I more ‘Real’ this year, but I am literally out here in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness talking to myself like a nut, begging You for some freaking depth here. All I want is to have a decent conversation about You with my girls. Is that too much to ask?”
(I don’t know what I was expecting as an answer to that one, but no divinely audible answer came. Neither did a mystery writing in the clouds like it seems to in the movies… And so, I returned the notecard back to my pocket and took off down the trail home.)
Still mentally fried, I barreled into the house just before four o’clock. I gathered my girls in our living room and as we all settled in with blankets and tea, I pulled the card out of my pocket yet again.
In true Kacy word-vomit fashion, I abandoned the loose agenda I had for our meeting and somehow ended up telling the story of the Velveteen Rabbit instead. “We’re all becoming Real.” I choked out at the end of the story. “I know the process and the vulnerability really hurts sometimes… Shoot. I’m exhausted and just feel like I could cry most of the time lately, but I know that God is doing things in your lives and I would really REALLY love it if you would be willing to risk sharing some of that with me. Because just like we learned in Bible last week, God really is making all things new… and that is something to celebrate…”
My word-vomit trailed off and I sat staring awkwardly around the room about to cry out of mental exhaustion. Just as I was anticipating yet another painfully silent gathering, a quiet voice came from the sofa to my right.
“Uhm. Can we pray for my family? They’re really hurting right now…”
And by-George, at four-something Monday afternoon, God answered weeks and weeks of desperate prayers for interaction with my girls. That afternoon the silence was broken in the Elisha house (along with the floodgates that held back my girls’ tears). Never in my life have I been so thankful to talk about alcoholism, suicide, brokenness, death, and Jesus. It was beautiful.
As one of my girls closed our house meeting in prayer about an hour and a half later, I stared down at that silly notecard yet again and laughed under my breath.
We’re all “becoming” in this house; God is making us all more Real, day by day. He is returning voices to the voiceless. He is beginning to set captives free in very real ways.
Even on the days when my eyes feel like they’re going to fall out like the Velveteen Rabbit’s from excessive crying, or when my not-so-old joints feel loose, and I feel shabby and under-fluffed from lack of sleep, I am learning to count my girls burdens as blessings because they are learning to trust Jesus and I with them simultaneously.
He truly is making all of us here at the Tanalian Leadership Center New and Real in Him. And just like the story goes, “Once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
“And a heard a loud Voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also He said, write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'”