Before I get to the real point of this blog, let me first say…
Yesterday I ran into the wonderful Kimberly of consider it pureJOY in person, my friends — and I can’t help but laugh when I think of how people connect so well through writing. It is mind-boggling to reflect on the connections that are formed through this unique expression of words. What a blessing!
And now… onwards we go!
I went to Cedar Springs Presbyterian from the time I was born until I was 14 years old. Up to that point, I was heavily involved — Arts for Kids, VBS, youth group… I even went on a silent prayer retreat my seventh grade year. Mum had grown up at CSPC, and Dad was an usher and a deacon, so it was my church — our church — and I loved it.
On November 10th, 1999, Dad was in a car accident (I assume most of you know this story, but for those who don’t, here’s the short version). I was 8 years old, he was my best friend, and I didn’t know what to do. That next day, my daddy died.
In retrospect, I started to pull away from the church around that time — in small degrees, but it got more and more evident as time went by. Daddy was my favorite person in the world. And he was gone. Cedar Springs had been one of his favorite places on the planet, and everything reminded me of him… and it hurt. I became more and more cognizant of how much it hurt to be there as I grew older, and finally decided that I was leaving — end of story.
So I left. I joined Central United Methodist Church in Lenoir City and became one of the most involved youth in the church. I was Vice-President of CCYM, went through Chrysalis, and became as Methodist as a gal could get. And Central WAS my church home, for a while… but I wasn’t content. It still wasn’t home.
My freshman year of college, I decided to give Cokesbury a try — and because I had so many friends there (including my best friend at the time, Dani), it seemed the perfect fit. There wasn’t much in the way of college ministry, and I found it hard to get involved in the community — but I was so stubborn that I stuck it out for two years.
Enter summer of 2011. I was working as the intern at Holston Conference Youth Ministries and was incredibly involved in that aspect — but my church community was practically non-existent. It was with a heavy heart that I began to pray about (once again) changing churches.
I considered many different churches — but God kept drawing my attention back to Cedar Springs. Mom and Rikki were still attending there, both sides of the family were members, and there was just something about the leadership of the church that made it feel… authentic. Honest. Real.
I visited a few times over the summer with the thought that it would never actually work, but at least this way God might leave me alone to make my own decision — and then I fell in love. The teaching was solid. The missional focus of the church was incredible. The community (what I knew of it) was loving. It seemed to be everything that I needed… so I took the plunge and decided to switch churches AND join the choir, all in one fatal swoop.
The choir welcomed me with open arms. Within the first two weeks, I felt as though I had gained an entire alto-section of mothers, grandmothers, and sisters. Gene (my director) was not only an incredibly talented musician, but was also a man after God’s own heart whose love for God was evident ALL the time — not just when he was in church-mode. There was the Raff crew — a group of folks from the choir who went to Raffertys every Wednesday night post-rehearsal — who dragged me in headfirst… and I had a real community. It was overwhelming.
For the first time in a long, long time… I was home.
I consistently find myself coming home on Sundays and Wednesdays unable to stop thanking God for this community he has placed in my life. Funny how he does that — I never would have expected it, but God kept chasing until I came back… and I couldn’t ask for a more loving, welcoming, supportive community. There is no doubt in my mind that many of these people will remain in my life for longer than I’ll ever be able to remember.
God does funny things, doesn’t he? He kept me moving until he brought me back to where I belong. Grateful for a God who pursues and never gives up.
Blessed by my church family. Blessed my church. Blessed by my God.