I did not grow up going to church besides the occasional visit on Easter or with a friend, VBS at a few churches most summers and two trips to Falls Creek. It wasn't until my senior year of high school when I went with my two best friends on a random Sunday (and I'm pretty sure it was because two of the three of us felt guilty for something). After church we had lunch at El Chico and ran into our music teacher (my, now, dear friend Lisa) and she said we should come to youth choir at the Methodist church (Crystal regularly went and Heather and I are not going to be winning any talent shows with our singing ability). We went, then we went to youth afterwards. I had been to youth there a few times with Crystal, whose early high school boyfriend was a member. Clearly I loved youth choir because it was Lisa and it never failed, any time I showed up at youth it was some super serious event usually involving the lights being off and candles. That night was the exact same, specifically a feet washing thing. I spent the evening in a room with one of my childhood guy friends talking about God and life and faith and stuff. We were seventeen.
From that night I went to choir and youth every week (if we had perfect choir attendance we were going to see Jekyll and Hyde in Dallas two months later!). We had our first performance at church a few weeks later. We sang a song called "Beyond the Open Door." Until I got to this point in the post I had not heard that song since that day, but I wanted to include a video, so I looked it up and through the marvel that is the internet found it and listened to it again and it was a really, really, really, really fitting song to be the first song I sang in church.
We stayed for most of the service before heading out to Crystal's church. I really enjoyed the service. Kind of surprising for someone who didn't go to church. So the next week instead of going with Heather and Crystal to the Baptist church I went to Sunday school and church at the Methodist church. Don't get me wrong I had a ton of friends there and was making more every week, so it wasn't the craziest thing ever and my friend Katy's dad was the pastor. On the sign in book it asks if you are interested in becoming a member and one week I checked yes. I got a call from the associate pastor and little did I know everything was all kinds of set up for me to join! Before the conversation was over I learned that Katy had already offered to sponsor me! I think it was the next week I joined the church and was baptized (by sprinkling, because one of my issues with the Baptist church my whole life was the submersion process in baptism...it scared the living daylights out of me and I wanted nothing to do with it. To be honest it still freaks me out to think about).
So now I was a full blown Methodist. The summer was spent with all my new (and old) friends at FUMC Ardmore, then going to Chrysalis (which is a story for another post) and some stuff after that and then I headed to college. It was a given that I would go to the Wesley Foundation (United Methodist student center) and I did. I made a lot of friends and got involved very quickly in a Christian sorority, two Bible studies, the freshman group and freshman leadership.
I won't go into all the memories and events from Wesley. There were a lot of friends made and even more lessons learned. I graduated college in 2004 and didn't really have a church home. I had on and off gone with my friend Sarah to a new church in Norman, but it didn't completely stick. In September I started dating a guy at home, so I was all about going home to church any time I could. I love my home church and I still do. The friends that I had in youth morphed into adult friends and I loved seeing them every week. Most were in the choir and I enjoyed going to performances and was very sad that I was in Norman and they were in Ardmore. It was this amazing little group and I so wanted to be a part of it full time and not just part time. At that moment in time I truly thought that I would marry this guy and life would be complete, with me in Ardmore and being a part of that group.
God had other plans. Some stuff happened within that group of friends and then we broke up, again, in May and I started dating someone else, in Norman. When that happened I wanted nothing to do with Ardmore. All the activities that the ex and I had shared interest in were immediately out of my life. I wanted nothing to do with them. I wanted to start this new life in Norman, where I knew my home would be.
My boyfriend and I tried to find a church. We would get into a church mood and try to find something that we agreed on (he was Baptist, me Methodist), but it would last a few weeks and we would stop going for this reason or that reason. I tried, a lot, but nothing ever stuck. That was the first year. Another problem is that I am stubborn. I wanted to go to a Methodist church because I love it. I love the doctrine and the way the conference is set up and the camps and the liturgy and the hymns and everything about it. Hindsight is 20/20 and I probably should have been a little more open minded, but I wasn't.
After we got engaged I met this very nice girl at work and asked why she had moved to Norman (Moore) from Tishomingo. She explained that her husband was asked to start a church, a United Methodist church. Well hot dog! Here was something that we could be a part of from the beginning. Apparently my stubbornness had rubbed off on the fiance and he wasn't having it, however I ended up on the mailing list for "new Moore church" (which is what CrossTimbers was before it was CrossTimbers). Jennifer had applied for several jobs and was offered one a few weeks into her job with me that worked better with her desire to get her Masters, so she left. We were friends on facebook though so we kept in contact, plus I was getting all the church emails.
The next six months were not the best of my life, but they are a very important part of it. If you have been reading my blog for any time you know that we broke up 41 days before the wedding, leaving me sad and broken. At some point during that six months I had watched Fireproof (Christian movie with Kirk Cameron and really bad acting, but a really good story). In the movie the premise is based on a relationship that is in crisis and likely to end in divorce. The main character is challenged to do the Love Dare, a relationship exercise that lasts 40 days and is based on 1 Corinthians 13.
When I woke up the morning after the break up I just KNEW that God wanted me to do the Love Dare. After all it was exactly 40 days until the wedding, so it made perfect sense. I knew that God was a key component that was missing from that relationship and I figured this was His way of telling me that and showing me how to fix it (oh and I am a fixer). So I started it. What came out of it was not us getting back together, but a huge change in me.
Shortly after the break up I messaged Jennifer with what had happened and asking if CrossTimbers (had a name by then!) had anything going on. There was one small group meeting and it wasn't anything I was interested in (again, hindsight is 20/20 and I SO should have jumped on board that one, but oh well, I still needed some time and to learn a few lessons). That was the middle of May. The first Sunday in August was my birthday and it was not a good day, at all. It also happened to be the second to last Sunday that CrossTimbers was meeting in the school where they had been conducting services. They had a building! She invited me to the last Sunday.
The day before that last Sunday the women's group, Breathe, was meeting. Some stuff happened that day that signaled I needed a change. We were supposed to RSVP to the pastor, so I did. Now this is a HUGE thing for me. I HATE calling people. And I really hate calling people I don't know. I don't really like talking on the phone to people I do know. So I called Chris, who probably thought I was nuts at the moment, and who told Jennifer that her friend Wendy from her first Norman job was coming to Breathe that night.
The plan was to make tshirts at one of the girl's houses. Dinner was provided, but we were asked to bring dessert. I whipped up some no bake cookies, because really who doesn't like them? I found the house and drove around until I saw Jennifer's car pull up (I also hate going in places where I don't know people). I met Jennifer in the yard and walked in with her. Well it turns out that I loved the girls. The guys met up with us at the end of the night and they seemed okay too.
The next morning I walked into the school, in a dress, and sat down next to one of the girls I met the night before, whose husband played the drums. Then in walked Valerie and Ashley (JJ's parents) and they came and sat with me. If you ever need someone to make new people feel welcome Valerie is the person. She just loves making new friends. I looked around and noticed I was pretty much the only one in a dress (except, thank God, for Brittany). Then the music started. I have already mentioned drums, there were also electric guitars, not an organ in sight. A bit about me, at that moment, I was NOT a fan of contemporary worship. I like it, but NOT for Sunday morning. Clearly I couldn't just get up and walk out and I was so disappointed because I really liked all the girls I met the night before. I was in a pickle. I just didn't think I could handle this contemporary church, what to do, what to do?
Then Chris did his sermon. It was the second Sunday of the text message sermon series. We got our phones out and looked though our texts and what they said about us and who we were talking to. Well if THAT didn't make me question things then I don't know what would (some of the people I was talking to at the time I should NOT have been talking to). I was so intrigued by his sermon. At the end of service I told Jennifer that exact thing: that at the beginning I didn't think there was any way I could handle contemporary and I fully planned to thank them for their time and never walk back through the doors, but then Chris did his sermon and I was hooked.
If you want to hear what I really thought check out this video from Annual Conference 2010.
When a church meets in a school it means that everything starts in a couple of trailers, is unloaded each Sunday morning, set up, then torn down, and put back in the trailers. Well this Sunday was different because it was going to be torn down, loaded up and then taken to the new building. I didn't have anything better to do so I helped them load up and move to the new building. On my way over I called my friend Mary and told her that I had gone to this new church and I really liked it, but I wasn't going to get super, over involved (because I have a tendency to do that).
I helped unload and was pretty excited about the next Sunday. So....I wasn't going to get over involved? Sunday number two of Wendy at CrossTimbers I talked to Jennifer about starting a prayer card ministry (something my friends and I did at Wesley in college).
Yeah you can pretty much say that was history. I didn't have a prayer of not getting super, over involved. It's just who I am. Oh well. When it comes down to it I do love it. It is very rare for a sermon to be preached that doesn't hit me in some way. I can't count how many times I left church thinking about a sermon and driving and bawling for hours after. Or crying through a song during communion. There is something very, very special about that place. I love the people and the service (I got over my hatred of contemporary service and you can read about that here) and absolutely everything about it. It is an amazing community of amazing people, most of whom are family now. I know that if something happens in the middle of the night I can call Chris bawling and he will be there (though I generally schedule my meltdowns a bit better than that ;)). I have people that call just to check on me and worry about me. I have amazing people that have let me into their families when I really need that.
We come together in joy celebrating weddings and new babies. We are there for each other when things aren't going so well. We come together to support each other. We are learning and growing with this little church.
Today I got a call that rocked my world. It left me in shock and sadness. It is the kind of thing that makes you really question what on earth God is thinking. Yesterday I was struck with the sadness of poor little Jamesie and this one isn't any better. It is another child taken entirely too early.
Through the last two years I have grown immensely in my faith. I may have questioned God's intentions when my wedding was cancelled, but I am completely confident that it was the right thing. I know that everything had to happen exactly the way that it did in order to get me to my ultimate calling. I know my purpose in life. I know what I am meant to do. I am only 29 (at least for a few more weeks) and I know exactly what I was put on this earth to do. If everything hadn't happened the exact way that it did then I wouldn't be here.
I know that these two families that are grieving right now will eventually understand God's plan and why it had to happen the way that it did. I know that and I fully believe that. But even as strong as I am and as much faith as I have I don't understand this. I don't understand why people get so sick and I really don't understand when they are just innocent children. I don't get it. I probably never will. My heart absolutely aches for these families. I don't have any comprehension of how they are handling things right now because it is so far outside of my realm of reality.
Yesterday my sweet friend Karen Chaffin (an Ardmore FUMC friend and mom of two of my high school friends) posted this on her facebook:
I've never forgotten being told that God doesn't give you the ticket for the train until it's time to take a ride. Grace is given as grace is needed. Lysa TerKeurst posted: I am not equipped to handle what others have—both good and bad. I am, on the other hand, completely equipped to handle what I’ve been given. And the more time I spend being thankful for my life, the less I look around wishing for something else.I cannot imagine a post that could be any more true for what I am feeling right now. I cannot imagine going through the things that these families are going through and I pray that I will never have to, I'm strong, but I don't think there is any way I could ever be that strong. I am aching for people that I don't know and for events that did not directly affect me and I am handling it horribly.
When I have to step up to do things in these situations it is very rare for anyone to see how it is affecting me. I don't cry at funerals. I am the strong one. I have been known to tell people that if they need someone to go to a funeral with them then call me. Death doesn't bother me. Well it bothers me, of course, but I can handle it very well. I have always understood death. Long before developmentally and psychologically I was supposed to. That's how I've always been. Need a meal? I'll cook it. Need a lunch planned? I'm your girl. Need someone to hold your hand while you cry? That's me. I am afraid my track record for this is about to be broken. Honestly I don't know what is going to happen in the next few weeks and I don't know how I will handle it. I fully believe God doesn't give us anything that we can't handle (though sometimes I really wish He didn't trust me so much), but this may be a true test to my faith and my ability to keep it together.
Please say a prayer for these two sweet families. I apologize for not giving details, but it is not my place to do so at this time. You can say a prayer and I promise God knows all the details. Selfishly I also ask that you say a prayer for me in some situations that I will face over the next few weeks. Pray that I am able to be strong for the people that need me.
I just read the most recent post on Jamesie's blog and cannot stop crying. I cannot imagine what they are going through. I can literally feel my heart breaking for them. I want to feel lucky for everything I have in my life, but I am so overcome with emotion for the people that I know are hurting right now that even that is hard to do. Usually when I write it is to release emotion and when I go back and read it I can see how far I have come and it makes me happy. This post is different. This one is full of grief and sadness and emotions that I don't even really understand. I pray for a miracle. That is still possible for one family. Medical science says it is impossible, but nothing is impossible with God. For the other family I pray for peace and healing. I pray that all that know or have been touched by both situations will know peace and comfort. I'm not really to a stopping point, but it is getting very hard to see the computer screen through the tears, so I will end with this:
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.