One of my favorite parts of writing is your voices. Your friendships mean so much. Your insights are always so wise. Thank you for coming by About Proximity.

I write here on Mondays to offer encouragement about immersing ourselves in the work of renewal around the world. I want to offer the hope I cling to, the hope that has made all the difference to my life. When I am placing myself in proximity of others, all else fades to the background. Our lives have greater meaning. Everyone can make a difference.

I live in West Michigan with my husband, daughter, and son. We love hiking and going to Lake Michigan in all seasons.


My Story to About Proximity: 

I grew up in a small town near the shore of Lake Michigan. Through my parents work, I often found myself exposed to marginalized people. My parents offered an open door to those in need. I developed a longing and a hope to make a difference in the lives of others. There I have witnessed the transforming and life-giving hope of Christ in my own life.

My own voice has been quieted for over a decade. I have struggled with asking for help.

Growing up in the church, later to become the wife of a pastor, I tried to hold close all I felt inside. Though, I believe often unintentional, the church can find unkindness. The hours of the night I exhausted in worry. I searched for a God I had once felt so close too. I felt a flat plane, alone in my mind. So very not perfect.

I lived small, frightened to make mistakes.

I wrote this passage from The Message in my journal.  As I felt darker inside, I ceased writing, which I have always most loved to do.

2 Corinthians 6: 11-13 “I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter into this spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feels comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small but you’re living in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively.”

On a family vacation in Northern Minnesota, my son, then a one year old, woke at dawn each morning with the calling loons.  To not wake the relatives, we would walk in quiet up a winding forest path. Deer would stare at us in close distance.  In that quiet, I felt a flicker of breath return. I did not act on that feeling of life, but I thought of it often.

When I returned home, I spent a year dreaming about a house that continually revealed new rooms.

I never told, anyone, how I felt. Dear girlfriends opened up their lives to me. These friends enfolded me, just as I was. I realized how hidden I had been. Veiled in places of solitude I carved for myself. Only, these places of solitude were dark, lonely, and full of worry. I did not sleep, worrying that I might not have been kind enough, that someone might not like me. I finally found courage to tell my husband.  I need help. I’m not making it. He did for me what I could not do for myself and made me an appointment.

I struggle with anxiety and depression. I thought I might stop breathing the first time I accepted help. Medication, along with dependence on God, corrected my imbalance. I share this to give others the courage to ask for help, there is no shame in admitting our weaknesses, actually it helps make us stronger.

My compulsion to worry in a way that paralyzed me, subsided.

Dark places turned to vivid color. I felt as though I was breathing again.

God was still with me, he was not ashamed of me.

I have a dream. I have butterfly wings and am trying with all my strength to squeeze through a crack of light. I break free and am soaring over landscape. I come to broken earth, a small shack with coal pressed up the wall inside. A little girl comes to me, recognizes me. I sit there looking at her, wings brushing the dirt.  There is deep recognition between her and I, we will always be a part of one another.

Shortly after I came upon this passage from The Message:

Psalm 18:19 He stood me up in an open field; I stood there saved-surprised to be loved.

I am so thankful to stand on new ground. I write from a place of deep humility. I am utterly imperfect and still God loves me. The one thing that has kept me going has been putting myself in the proximity of others. Not just serving, but being transformed, changed, and reminded of Christ’s love through people.


  1. Janyre
    May 18, 2016 @ 12:49 pm

    This is gorgeous. I love the imagery. I’m working to make friends with my shadow too. She is not only my greatest weakness, but I’ve learned she is also my greatest strength. Because of her, I’m forced to go to the One who is stronger than I. It is at my breaking points, those points of darkness, that He steps in and makes me strong.


    • lisavanengen@gmail.com
      May 19, 2016 @ 12:14 am

      Love this Janyre. It’s so true, right, our greatest weakness and greatest strength.


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