Man I love Sundays. Because it means I get to go to church. And if you knew me like some of you reading this know me - you'd know how funny that sounds. If you could go back and talk to me back in...oh...say...anywhere between 1986 and 2004 and tell me that someday I'd be totally stoked for church every Sunday, I'd probably ask you what you were smoking.
I may have mentioned that my step-2nd-cousin (and that's real) invited me to the Cambridge Vineyard (now the Greater Boston Vineyard) back in February of 2005. I almost said no but God poked me in the head and reminded me of all the years I talked about "someday" finding a church while never actually trying to find one. I went with a good friend - both of us ready to bolt at the first sign of weird. The first sign of weird ended up being Trish testifying in what would turn out to be a foreshadowing of her book (I'm just kidding about the weird - she was cute and perky - which to me was weird). But at the time she wasn't my favorite author - she was just some goofy Christian Pollyanna wife with whom I'd never have anything in common. Oh yes, because I was just way too cool. Thankfully, God cured me of that misconception and turned that church into my new family that gently got me turned looking in the right direction - straight at God in stead of all the stupidity surrounding me. It was the first church where I felt like people were completely imperfect and very open in admitting that. No one was better than anyone. They were all just trying to get to Jesus and had no problem inviting anyone along that was wanting to find him, too. That's probably a gross misrepresentation. But that's what I saw at the time. And that's what really pulled me in (not the free bagels and coffee).
Anyhoo, when I moved down to Austin in 2005, I was scared to leave my new church; my new faith. What if I couldn't find a good church? What if they were all a bunch of crazy bible-thumping, snake-handling, southern freaks? I knew that Boston church was rather an anomaly for the region. It was like finding a little patch of southern hospitality up in Boston. What are the odds of that? I prayed so hard for God to find me the right church. I was terrified I'd be the only brunette in the whole state. I wasn't sure I could attend a church full of former cheer leading, perfectly coiffed, bleach blond southern belles. I was sure my rough New England edges would chafe everyone down here. I knew God would find me a church. But I thought it would take two or more years of me jumping around from church to church. I was scared my new zeal would wane during that time and what if I just went back to being the same old crappy me. Yah - good thing I had so much faith in God, eh? I mean, finding me a good church - big order - what with him being the Creator Of All Things and all...
I tried one church when I was down there house hunting. It wasn't a fit. One failure to me meant I had proven my theory that I would never find the right church for me in Austin. (Again, refer to the last two sentences of the previous paragraph) When we finally moved down here, I was scared. What if I didn't meet other real God people. What if I just met judgemental fear mongers? What if what if what if?
I didn't give up. I started my two year quest for the perfect church. I found a small start up church in Austin. I didn't have much hope. But I dragged both my boys and readied myself for the ocean of makeup and perfect blond hair-do's. When I walked in, the first person I met was a gorgeous young blond woman. Great. But...no makeup. Hmmm. And she wasn't all pageant mom'd out. I told her I was visiting from the Cambridge Vineyard in Boston and she nearly jumped out of her skin, "I used to go there!" Get OUT. I mentally looked up and thought, "Ok God. I got it. Message received." She dragged me around the church introducing me to everyone. The 2nd person I met was the pastor. Which was surprising. The Boston church is so huge that if you meet the pastor, you pretty much got lucky. Most people at this new church were transplants from other states. There wasn't a perky pageant mom among them (and I know all pageant moms are not evil - it's just a mental hurtle I had to get over so humor me).
That was some time in October of 2005. Since then, the original head pastors (a married couple I still adore) moved to pastor a church in California. Our new head pastors (another married couple), Kenny and Michelle, turned out to be two of my most wonderful friends here. Our church has a new name as of this year - The Bridge Church of Austin. We have new people coming in. I teach once a month. I do the food service. I sing in the worship team. I go to a home group every other week. I try (not so well) to go to a worship home group every week to jam and hang with good friends. It seriously cracks me up. It is just so far from where I was a mere 3 or 4 years ago. My life has nearly fallen apart and I'm just so ridiculously happy, over all. A huge part of that is this church family that God has decided needs to be subjected to me. Ha!
The music director and his wife, Jason and Beth, are awesome. Beth was one of the cute perky ones that I had written off (as is my wont) as someone I'd never connect with. Poof! Instant best friend. She has been one of the most amazing supporters during my whole divorce. Both she and Jason have never withdrawn their friendship from my future ex, either. Neither have the head pastors. And Jason & Beth have produced what I hope is my future daughter-in-law (just kidding Jason!).
The youth pastors (yet another married team), Leslie and Nathan - they rock. Man, I'm typing this realizing I had done my snap judgement dismissal thing on more than half the church! What an idiot I was! Leslie and Nathan are rather quiet initially. Which of course terrifies me. So I probably assumed I annoyed them and just kind of steered clear. Their patience and compassion is immeasurable. Leslie and I have connected on a level that has surprised us both. I just think they are amazing.
That first woman I met? Not only is she gorgeous and blond and from California, but her name is Summer. Honestly. And she's amazingly gifted, funny, and understanding. I really should hate her. But I can't. Plus, she has an amazingly wonderful husband, Justin, who I have to adore because he went to MIT which gives us all our Boston connection. Plus, he's just super nice and laughs at my jokes.
The education director, Kendra, and her husband Jon (one of our lay pastors) are the bomb. Jon is a math teacher (which I would have been had I not bailed in my 3rd year of college). He and I also have almost the same collection of myth & fantasy books. Kendra is amazingly sweet, gorgeous and patient. She has worked the teacher's schedule around my wildly flailing emotional states over the last year. And if you could see their kids - good gravy! Honestly, the most adorable little beams of sunshine you've ever seen.
Another one of my friends who seems to just get me is Erin. She and her husband Brian have been huge supporters and just dote huge gobs of love and prayer over me. Erin - man - I don't have the words. She just gets a whole level of what I've been going through this past year. She has never once been shocked at any level of anger or language that comes out of me. She never judges. She is so amazingly sweet.
And some newcomers to my life in that church - they returned to this church this past year. I found out later they had been members a while back but had decided to go try other churches. Lucky for me, they returned. Deanne & Robert are awesome. He's on the worship team with me. And she is like a younger me - putting out that tough exterior - trying to hide the totally vulnerable mushy interior. Oh I get that. Yah, I get that.
There are tons more and I'd have to write a post about every single family there. But those were the players in my Sunday today.
So blah blah blah. Good grief I do go on!
What got me today is, well, I'm on the worship team. So that means I'm always singing after service. So when they offer prayer for people (the prayer team stands off to the side and you can go ask for prayer for anything from a ripped cuticle to my life is falling apart and my head wants to explode), I'm usually up there singing. When worship is over, I'm wrangling boys and breaking down the food service. Today was no different. Except my wonderful friend Kim already had the food service mostly broken down by the time I got over there. (She's another quiet one I figured I drove nuts. Wrong again.) Anyway, I was running around doing my whole crazy routine. And Robert grabs me and goes, "Come here. We have to pray for you." I was like, uh...ok? I thought it was really cool. He knows about my migraines. He knows the future ex left yesterday. He knows my stress levels. And he knew I would probably go get prayer if I wasn't running around with my head cut off.
So Robert drags me over and there are some of our most amazing prayer warriors - Herb & Georgia (one of the most beautiful faith filled couples who mean so much to me and my parents) and Robert's wife Deanne. So they put me in the middle and lay hands on me and just start praying for me. Just whatever came to their minds. Asking God to be a father to me - like a daddy to his little girl. Asking God to take the migraines away and for healing of my strep. Asking for wisdom for me as a single mom. Asking for strength. Praying protection over my boys. It was amazing. And then, as I'm standing there absorbing it all, I keep hearing more and more voices agreeing in prayer around me. More hands are on my back, my head, my arms. When we were finally done, I open my eyes and look around and I'm surrounded by so many people who were still there, looked over, saw people praying over me, knew my need, and joined in. That blows my mind. They are so LOVING. And CARING. It's not just something they do to look cool. Every single person that walked over there really wanted to add to the prayer. To the power of praying together as a church. For me. Me. Whew.
My church rocks. God didn't make me spend two years searching. He knew I needed a strong church family that would keep my renewed faith grounded. That would foster it. That would hold me accountable. That would lift me up and stand in the gap for me. That would ignore the rough facade I put out and just love the vulnerable idiot inside. Unconditionally. Real God people. These are what I call real Christians. Totally imperfect. And totally willing to admit that. Putting all their faith in Jesus.
God - bless every single one of the wonderful family members you've given me at this church. They are so awesome. They are being your arms around me. They are speaking your words in my ears. They are sharing your love with me. They are being so faithful in their efforts toward me and my family - bless them for that, God. Amen.