Move: Finding Church (A One Word 365 Update)

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Time just flies.  It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a year since our move to Virginia was set into motion.  A year of unknowns and questions about whether we were doing the right thing.  Were we scarring our children by making them move away from their friends and further away from family?  After all, they were 2 and 5 when we moved to South Carolina so it was pretty much all they knew.  Concerns about ourselves – could we start over in another place?  Weighed against all the worries and concerns was the soul-deep conviction that moving was something God was calling us to do.  Security is not to be found in places, things, even people – our only security is in Him.  Sometimes I think He likes to shake things up.  After all, if we get too comfortable it’s very easy to buy into the illusion that we have life all under control. Complacency is not consistent with faith, in my opinion.

One of our first priorities once we moved was finding a church.  Our church in SC was a dynamic, outward-focused church body led by a passionate man of God.  We knew that we were not going to find a carbon copy of Lifesong Church here in our new town but we were sure (hopeful?) that we could find one with a mission and vision that resonated with us.  With daughters ages 10 and 13, it was vitally important that our kids get involved, something that had never happened during our years in SC.  While it is not the fault of the “church” as a whole, when we moved away after 7 years, neither of my children had a single church friend. I can’t explain it or put my finger on the exact reason why, but there it is. So high on the “desired qualities” list was a church where our daughters were, if not excited, at least willing to go.  The teen years are hard enough even with strong family support – we wanted our children to have other Godly adults around them who could mentor them along the way.

We also wanted a place where we could serve in the body, and not just a place where people went to be served.  We believe in small groups and the part they play in a healthy church body. We didn’t want a clique or a closed group or a place that required you to dress “just so”. We wanted a church who was community-minded.  That sounds kind of like a wish list, which I guess it is. There’s no perfect church because they’re all full of imperfect people, right?

We visited several churches before we found one that both girls were excited about. Coincidentally, Jon and I felt it was the right place for our family.  In fact, God confirmed it for us in lots of little ways.

Our teenager has jumped right in with both feet, which is totally out of character for her.  She’s already active in the youth group, sings in the youth praise band, and just came back from her first youth retreat, where she wrote a worship song in response to the message she heard. The leader of the youth praise band is going to help her figure out the chords so they can set it to music  Y’all.  My heart is spilling over that my little girl is hearing/feeling God stirring in her heart.  And she’s responding with music. I can’t even.

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Our younger girl is attending Sunday School, which hasn’t happened in yearsYears.  She’s not complaining about going to church anymore.  She’s made friends there that she looks forward to seeing.

The preaching is straight from the Word. The pastors are speaking the Truth in love and it is obvious that God is moving in that place.

But can I be honest here?  It’s scary, y’all.  These people at our new church all know each other.  This is a church that broke away from a larger church body over theological issues and a crisis like that tends to bond people. I’ve stepped out in faith, pulse pounding in my throat, walking into various church functions with a smile on my face and terror in my heart. I’m an introvert and I’m shy (those don’t necessarily go together, despite what you may think) and between the two of them I’d just rather stay home and read a book, thank you very much. All the middle school (or junior high, if you’re my age) feels are back:  do they like me? Did I say something stupid? And I going to say something stupid? What am I supposed to say? And then sometimes I get so focused on NOT acting shy that I go too far the other way by getting all loud and talky.

And tonight I’m doing it again, that stepping out with heart pounding and smile pasted on my face.  I’m going to my first choir rehearsal and I don’t know if I will know anyone there, but I’m still going. I never thought I’d sing in a choir or worship team ever again.  I truly thought that time in my life was over, until last Sunday when they asked for volunteers and I felt that little voice whisper, “Go.” So I am, trusting that He’s got it all covered.  Next Monday I’m going to a new ladies’ Bible study group and I’ll be nervous all over again but I’ll go, trusting that it’s going to get easier.  It will, right?

Sometimes I get weary of the “new” and I wish for just one situation where I feel at home.  The stores are different (no Publix, BiLo or Ingles, but there IS Kroger).  The gas stations are different (there’s no QT!), the restaurants are different (no Zaxby’s, or Krystal, among others).  I hear no Southern accent here except for mine.  I’m not kidding: people ask me where I’m from.  It would be nice to escape to a friend’s house where I’ve been there so often it feels comfortable and familiar or at least a store that I know like the back of my hand.  I’m getting there.  We do have some friends.  We’re making connections and memories here and I know in a few years I will read this entry and smile and shake my head at the 2014 version of me that had no idea what blessings God had in store.  I know this as well as I know my own name. But there are days when I feel old and I remember that when they were my age my grandparents and parents were settled into life in a town they had lived in nearly their whole lives, and here I am, the one who left her home state for another one and now lives somewhere else entirely. I feel so unsettled some days.

But I digress.

Here’s the thing:  these people at our new church? They’re people just like me and each one has a story. I don’t know theirs and they don’t know mine but if I stay home curled up on the couch with my book, tempting as that may be, we’ll never get the chance to share.  Who knows? Maybe something in their story will resonate with me or something in mine will touch them.  Well, God knows, and I have to believe that He puts me (and us) into the situations of His choosing so that He can use me.  Nothing is wasted in His world.

So I look ahead and I move forward knowing that God is putting people in our lives that we need and who need us, and sometimes the two are even folded up into the same person.  And I’m eager to see what lies ahead in the life of this church, and in our lives as part of this church. God has great plans for us here.  I just know it.

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Five Minute Friday: Hold

Lately it seems the only time I write is Friday, when I link up with brave writers all over the world to write for five minutes, just five, on the same one word prompt.  Hopefully it’s just a season and soon I’ll be back here spilling my guts and asking tough questions much more frequently.  Anyway, if you want to play along with the FMF crowd, check out Kate’s blog here.

Mark Schultz sings a great song about raising children called “Roots and Wings”.  There’s a line in it that says, “it’s only for a moment you were mine to hold” and I’ve heard it reverberating in my head the past few months.  It seems like only yesterday my girls were babies and now none of them are even remotely babyish.  As I get older time appears to speed up.  Those days that felt endless with a grumpy teething baby and napping and diapers and mess after mess, well they take on a soft glow when I look back at them now.

My oldest is grown with a not-so-little one of her own.  I look at her and can still see the face of my first and so adored baby girl.

My middle one is on the cusp of becoming a young lady.  It pains me yet brings me such joy to watch her growing up.  One day she was lining up 75 My Little Ponies and sorting them by color, and now look at her:

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My baby…well, just don’t call her “baby” within her hearing.  She may be double digits but she’s still on the small side, and she still needs me.  A lot.  Sometimes I chafe against all that neediness, but then I think about how I’m going to miss it when it goes, as it inevitably will.  What will I do when I’m not actively, daily mothering?  What will I be?

And while I want to hold on to all three of them with both hands, it’s my job to let them go.  I’ve done it once.  You’d think that might make it easier but it really doesn’t, because now i know what letting go means.  We hold them for a moment and then we let them fly.

Five Minute Friday: Ready

It seems like forever since I joined up with my FMF pals!  Between getting the kids back in school and trying to find a new rhythm to life, writing has slid further and further down my to-do list and that’s just not right.  So today I’m stepping in and stepping up to write from the heart, for five minutes, without polishing, editing and all that other overthinking.  Want to play along?  Go to Kate’s blog for all the details.

I don’t like change and I am a careful person who likes to think through the details and all the eventualities before making a big move.  When we moved here to Virginia three months ago (has it really been only three months?  Seems like years.) I kept a notebook.  It had diagrams of all the rooms in our new house so I could decide how to place furniture, lists of things to pack, all my notes on doctors (apparently we require a lot of professional care), and information on schools and activities for my kids.  It was a great help and I still consult it regularly.

I think this cautiousness is born of my need for control, which is related to my frustrated perfectionism.  This is something I struggle with constantly.  I’m always giving things to God and then snatching them back like He’s untrustworthy or something.  And yet time and time again He has proven to me that He alone should be in control of my life and that He can be trusted.  He created me and He knows me – who better to direct my life?

But even with all my careful planning I still wasn’t ready when the day came to move.  I’m not sure I ever would be completely ready.  There were still so many preparations yet to be done.  But you know, sometimes you just have to jump off the diving board, ready or not, because if you wait until you feel ready your feet will remain stuck there.  Just like kids playing Hide and Seek, life keeps coming, ready or not.  There are so many things I would never have done if I had waited until I felt ready:  have my first child, get married, adopt, buy a house, take a job, leave a job, and on and on.  But here’s where the trust comes in:  God is there and He’s my soft place to land.  I know He’s got my whole life in His hands and I don’t have to wait until I’m completely ready because He’s always and forever ready.  He fills in my empty spaces and bridges the gaps so I don’t have to have it all together before I take that first step.  Sometimes He just wants me to trust Him enough to jump – ready or not.