Through a series of unrequested events our family changed houses of worship recently.
For many reasons, I cannot go into details regarding our departure. However, I DO want to share with you some of the unexpected blessings of our new beginning.
Our new pastor has been ministering in the same church for *wait for it* 38...yes, I typed that correctly...thirty-eight years! That is just unheard of these days! The true blessing of this is there are so many people in this church who have known him so deeply for so long, we have no doubt that he truly is a man who loves God with all of his heart, mind, soul, and strength!
What's more is he also truly loves people. All people. With a "1st Corinthians" type love. He gives of himself constantly. I've never seen a congregation have more respect for a leader than this church has for our pastor.
We've been in so many churches in so many different places that we can truly appreciate how rare a find this is! I keep thinking I need to pinch myself so I'll wake up from this great dream I'm in!
For the first time in so many years, when I was at church Wednesday night, I exhaled and felt the tension release from my shoulders. I was at church...and I was relaxed! Is this a possible combination?
In addition to actually feeling like we have a pastor with genuine integrity, we have a good thing going with the choir, the musicians and our sound guys! It just seems like there was an instant connection with everybody.
I am not naive enough to think they all voted for us and everything will always be this happy-go-lucky, BUT I will say, it sure is nice to be embraced by a body of believers. It sure is nice to feel instantly comfortable with people you've just met. It sure is nice to feel like we're home.
Even our children have weathered the transition easily. We are suffering withdrawals from Nana and Papa because we got used to seeing them 5 or 6 times a week at church. And we also miss the friends we made in our last Sunday School class. They were a true blessing to us. But overall, the change to our new church has been for the best.
Maybe it can best be summarized by the statement of promise our pastor pronounced over us during our first night there. He told Steven he wanted to "interview" us. Being new, we didn't realize that we would be interviewed in front of the whole group of Wednesday night church-goers! We were the latest in the line-up of church members to be interviewed...evidently a new person was questioned every week as a way for the body to truly get to know about one another. The following is a copy of the e-mail I sent to the pastor the morning after our interview:
"Our lives have been relatively insane since about 2007, but this past year has been one of the hardest for our family. I'm sure you are unaware of this, but this past Sunday, March 7th, was not only Steven's last Sunday at Eastern Hills, it was also the one year anniversary of his best friend's death. Sam was 29 and died very unexpectedly of a massive heart attack. He and Steven had been more like brothers than friends since they met in junior high school.
Another thing you are unaware of is that my parents divorced in 2007 after almost 35 years of marriage. When that happened, I was so angry and so deeply hurt I let myself become unsure of almost everything about God. Healing has been a slower process than I would like, and has been far more intense than I would have ever bargained for.
I tell you these two things for a reason, and I preface the purpose of this letter by telling you a few other seemingly mismatched details as well...
Last March, for the first time in 2 years (since the divorce), I was able to tell God, "I love You." I was finally able to pray out loud again. This came about three weeks after Sam's death. I believe God used something Rev. Neal Hughes said at Sam's graveside service as a catalyst for this "chunk" of healing...
Neal's words were not overly profound in and of themselves, but they fell on fertile ground in my heart. He read Isaiah 40:31...a verse I'd heard hundreds of times before. His words were so simple. They went something like this:
'There are times in our lives when we are soaring with God and it's wonderful! But then something changes and you're not quite soaring, but you can still run with Him and things are good. And sometimes you're tired and weak. But He gives you the strength to walk...to walk and not faint.'
Those words have stuck with me throughout everything that's happened in the last year. And I truly believe that small bit of truth Neal shared that day ministered more healing and hope to my soul than anything else had in years.
Last night Steven and I were having a heart to heart. He was sharing how difficult this past week has been for him...so MANY changes have taken place in such a short amount of time- not just with churches, but personally and at his school. We were talking about how easy it is to lose faith in Him when you face such hardships in life...especially when you keep getting slammed with things you have absolutely no control over.
I shared Neal's message with him. I told him it was what Neal preached at Sam's funeral. And I told him that even though we have been beaten down, we are still walking. I told him one day we would soar with God again, but for now, He is giving us the strength to just keep on walking...and I believe God understands where we are, and He knew way back when He had this verse written that sometimes walking IS our absolute best that we have to give. But one day, we WILL soar again!
Tonight, after our interviews, I almost lost it right there in front of everybody!! I was almost a sobbing, bawling heap, because you said, '...we know you have roots...we want to give you wings...we want you to soar!'
In my phraseology, is that a God-thing or what?!!"
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Through a series of unrequested events our family changed houses of worship recently.
Posted by Sheri at 1:16 AM
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Most of you never had the privilege of meeting Blueberry Senior before he expired on Monday, September 7th, 2009 (Actually, he may have expired a few days earlier. We're really unsure. But judging from his appearance he was either Cajun fried or had been lying "in state" a couple of days before we found him!) He was a good fish. He never jumped out of the tank. He always tried to be entertaining, and he never, not one time, complained about eating only dried blood worms for every meal. Beloved pet of Master Thomas Sessions of Montgomery, Alabama. He will live on in our hearts, though his body may be in the sewer, for years to come. He is survived by his aquarium rocks and special plastic tube-thing in which he slept.
R. I. P.
July 31st-September 7th
I can't believe I'm saying this, but I am one of those mothers. You know the kind...the ones who try to spare their kids from reality until they are "old enough" to handle it. Yep, that's me!
Upon climbing into bed Monday night Thomas reported that something was wrong with his fish. I asked him how he knew.
"We-e-ellll," in the slowest, most drawn-out southern he could muster, "he's not moving."
"Is he on the bottom or the top of the tank?"
"Okay. Well, I'll check on him in a minute. You go ahead and get into the bed and go to sleep."
I waited until he looked like he might be comatose, then tiptoed over to his bookshelf where I discovered the deceased. I gently lifted the body and it's tomb and slowly turned to exit, praying that I would not trip or step on any deadly legos or micro-machine airplanes. Successfully entering the kitchen, I dumped the remains, cleaned the crud, and grabbed my purse and keys.
You see, just a few days ago, my son captured a caterpillar (no, nothing that moves and is smaller than him is safe) and put it in his butterfly cage. We took great care to feed the caterpillar grass, tomatoes fresh from the vine, enough water to thrive, but, alas, the little fella just decided he'd go on to meet his Maker instead of forming a cocoon. When we found him fully involved in rigor mortis, my sweet little boy dropped his head and buried his face in his tiny hands...tears streaming down his face. He was mourning the worm!
And Blueberry was his fish! Blueberry had been around much longer than the worm. He'd slept next to him every night. Thomas fed him and took care of him. He proudly introduced him to our company. Every day he would announce from his bedroom just how cute Blueberry was! Thomas and Blueberry were tight! If saying goodbye to the worm was that bad, we were DEFINITELY NOT going to be saying, "Sayonara," to the fish!
Praise the Lord, Petco was still open! I looked through about 35 Crowntail Betas that night until I found the one that most closely resembled Blueberry...Senior. Thankfully, no Petco employee was feeling helpful. I really did not wish to reveal my impending deceitfulness to the teenagers working the night shift. I made my purchase, drove home, replaced the fish, and repositioned the tank without even dirtying up my superhero mask or cape!
The next day Thomas informed me that I should clean Blueberry's tank more often because it made him feel GOOD! He was swimming in circles and jumping through hula-hoops...well, maybe that last part is a little bit exaggerated! ;)
Blueberry (Junior) has made the transition from the pet store pancana of betas to treasured family pet and resides in the former home of the esteemed Blueberry Senior atop the bookshelf in Thomas' bedroom.
So please, dear friends, if you stop by my house, please refer to our piscatory friend by his first name only so as not to upset the locals! And, in case you're wondering, the moral of this story is never say what you will never do for the love of your child because I have indeed become one of those parents!!!
Posted by Sheri at 11:40 PM
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
This was Rachael's second time to ice skate and Thomas' first time. Overall, I was pretty impressed with them both! They did a lot better than I would be able to do!
Posted by Sheri at 10:39 AM
Saturday, July 11, 2009
I looked in disbelief. I was pretty sure I saw what I thought I was seeing. But maybe I should ask someone else just in case.
"Steven," I whispered, "Do you see that?"
"What?" He said much too loudly.
I was afraid the sheer volume of his voice would cause the scene to vanish before he could validate its certain absurdity.
"Oh!" He exclaimed.
And then we both sat in silence for a few moments taking in the oddity.
Thomas finally peered over the edge of the examination table to check out the object of our attention. Being thoroughly 4 and thoroughly impressed, he hopped up and grabbed it before we could stop him.
We were at the Children's Hospital waiting to see if the doctor could fix a mild internal defect Thomas was born with. He had already been through so much that day. His little body had endured some really traumatic testing, and this was the first sign of excitement he'd shown the whole time we'd been waiting for results. But I have to admit, I wish we'd been a little bit faster and snapped a picture of this before it was too late.
When we arrived that morning Thomas was given a comic book, some coloring sheets and a small package of crayons. He clung to them all day even though he wasn't very interested in playing. While he was resting on top of the table, he accidentally kicked off one crayon- I believe it was orange.
It fell down and landed perpendicular to the floor- NOT on its side and NOT on the big end. The thing was standing on its drawing tip. A brand new, unused crayon had fallen off a table and, without bouncing, landed on its tiny end and STAYED!!!!
Orange stuck its landing without so much as a wobble! I expected it to throw up its waxy arms in salute to the judges' table and wave to the television cameras as it made its way to the Olympic platform to claim its gold medal. I mean, WOW! This crayon could do it all!
Luckily Steven and Thomas were there to keep me from re-enacting this whole Olympic Fanfare scene. Otherwise, they may have sent me to another hospital in Birmingham...one with doors that lock behind you. I digress.
I've meant to blog about this crayon incident before...I've meant to just TELL people about the crayon before. But I've forgotten. And as far as I know, this is the first time I've talked about it to anyone except Steven. But I had an epiphany-type moment earlier this week with God having to do with the crayon...much like the moment when God spoke to me (in my heart, not audibly) through my bagel at Judson- but that will need to be for another post.
It doesn't matter if you are the pink crayon or the cornflower blue crayon; if you are from the kid's meal package of four or the classroom pack of 800; it doesn't matter if you are Rose Art or Crayola- there will come a time in your existence when you are hurtling through the air so fast and furiously there will seem to be absolutely nothing you can do to stop it. Some crayons may have taken this plunge on their own, but most have been kicked off the table without a choice. The detriment befalling them will occur no matter what they do.
So what do we do?
When life-altering situations arise and we are powerless...
When we are asked to bear hurts that seem impossible...
When you know God is capable of healing but He chooses not to...
Life happens. We can't stop the pain of it. So what will you choose instead?
I want to be like Orange. I want to choose to stand straight and tall even in the hardest position possible. I want to look over at God's judgment seat with my hands raised up in victory! And I want to feel His arms around me when He, like Thomas, looks down from the examination table and snatches me up because He's too excited about me to leave me there! And I will know He is impressed with me because HE made me just the way He wanted me...the exact shade, the perfect balance of waxiness and pigment, large and washable or a glittery Twistable! And the best part is, all I had to do was choose to be what He made me and stand up for Him.
In closing, I will share one last thing that probably sums up what I'm saying better than anything else:
When Steven's best friend died unexpectedly earlier this year, Neal Hughes, a dear friend and worker with the North American Mission Board, came back home to preach at the funeral. He read Isaiah 40:31, "But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." He talked about how glorious it is when you feel like you're flying with God. But then sometimes when you just can't fly, HE still gives you the strength to run. And then, if you just can't run, He still gives you the strength to walk without fainting if we but WAIT on Him.
This year we, as a family unit, have known pain, hurt, betrayal and trials the likes of which we have never experienced before. I know many of you will say the same about your own situations. And so many times, I have not had the strength to even keep walking. But, I STAND. And, in the name of Jesus, I WILL STAND.
And, every time I see a box of crayons, I will be reminded to just keep on STANDING!
"Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, TO STAND." Ephesians 6:13
Posted by Sheri at 10:20 PM
Friday, June 5, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
Posted by Sheri at 7:27 AM