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Posts Tagged ‘community’

Known

Yesterday I made a new friend whom we’ll call Dinah. We just clicked (I have a feeling she’s a clicker, because I can be a little less clicktastic). She’s also a self-proclaimed blogaholic, so if she’s reading, hello!  As for the rest of you, if you read regularly, you’ll know that I’ve made a LOT of new friends in the last six weeks or so. It’s been an amazing thing, this.

I’ve actually been really skeptical of the new church because people have just seemed to accept me so quickly and easily. Frankly, it’s weird. I don’t know what to say except that I just seem to fit here. We’ve been at the church for about three months now. I’ve already joined a small group, gone on a girls’ night out, had solo time with a friend, volunteered at our food pantry, and been really, really honest about my stuff with pretty much everyone.

I’ve always feared being known. Being exposed is pretty much every mammal’s fear; that’s why cats freak out if you touch their bellies and people cry in yoga positions like camel — there’s an innate terror at the thought of being revealed. But today Jesus told me something pretty amazing. He said that being known is actually my safety. See, when I’m isolated, the lies I’ve believed my whole life twist in on themselves, growing deeper roots and gaining power. When I risk being known, I grow ever more safe because people know me well enough to speak the truth, call me on my crap, and hold me accountable. It’s hard. It’s good.

A couple of months ago, a friend was leaving our old church. I asked a couple of mutual friends why he was leaving, and one of them said rather snidely, “Ask him if you want to know.” My fear what that he would think I was gossiping about him, so I went and told him about the interaction and asked his forgiveness, because I truly didn’t want him to think I was trying to harm him by asking. And do you know what he said to me?

“I know heather, and that’s not you.” He KNOWS me, and he KNOWS that I’m not a gossip. Had I slunk away, as I’m wont to do, he would never have been able to act as God’s mouthpiece for me at a time when I needed it desperately. He saw me, spoke truth to me, and set me free. It was precious.

So being known, hmm. I’m still a little wary of this process because it feels like I’m on a bullet train heading straight into the heart of community. Community is, as Dinah said, messy sometimes. Indeed, and I’m so grateful. It is well.

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Koinonia

I was prepared for today. The Not-So-Casual Observer and I spent a few counseling sessions digging up roots, role-playing, and praying, all in an effort to get me to a safe place to tackle seeing my old church friends and family today. It was wonderful. And it was sad. But when it’s all said and done, Jesus moved mountains for me today.

A casual friend got married this afternoon, and I was her makeup artist. I feel strongly about being with a bride until all her photos are taken after a huge snafu a few years ago, meaning I don’t typically leave until after the ceremony at most weddings. This time, however, that meant seeing people who were my spiritual parents and friends who aren’t, practically speaking, in my life anymore. And frankly, there’s only so much you can do to prepare yourself for facing that much fear and hurt and exposure again.

But I did it. I was scared when my former spiritual father, whom I’ll call The Spur, walked up to me, but he embraced me and we talked for a few moments. I was able to articulate that I missed him, and that I hadn’t come around for the last year because I didn’t feel welcome. And while his response left something to be desired in the sensitivity department, it seemed genuine enough. Later, I had an opportunity to talk with his wife, Red, and though the conversation was casual, she mentioned that she still had a picture of my kids on her refrigerator.

That meant something to me because I feel as though pretty much everyone who left just forgot that I existed, that I was once part of their group, and indeed a consistent and committed part for almost five years. I feel like no one cared that I wasn’t there anymore when I was still broken and bleeding from the loss of pretty much everyone who was important outside of my family.

I hear the familiar, decades-old echo, “No one loves you enough to stick around. They will move on and forget about you, never giving you a second thought.” My father abandoned me. My mother wasn’t emotionally available in any capacity. I was pretty much left to fend for myself for as long as I can remember. And here I was again, still carrying around all of that stuff, just thirty years older and with different people.

Perhaps the strongest realization I had today was that I miss being in community. I miss the deep sense of knowing that I belong in a group, having refrigerator rights, being with people who love me, my kids, people who want God’s highest for me. I haven’t had that for a while now, and it’s a gaping hole. It makes sense, then, that God would want us in a church called Community.

For the first time today, I was able to put my finger on an emotion called “hurt” (The NSCO will be so proud; I’ve been failing at that for months now). I can say that it hurt to no longer be part of a family, and trace that back to the hurt of not being part of my family of origin. Hallelujah.

A few weeks ago, NSCO told me that seeing those people again was a gift. I believed her, but I didn’t know how it would play out. So glad she had more faith in me and our Jesus than I had in myself.

Feeling: grateful, tired, proud, and hopeful.

 

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Wow, what a day. The time change, a pre-dawn run, and a new church combined to make today feel epic on many levels. And of course, there was the green Saab.

What, I haven’t talked about the green Saab here? I can’t believe it, but the search function doesn’t lie. 🙂 For the last few years, I see this acid green Saab convertible from time to time. It’s always going somewhere other than I am (that is, it’s turning when I’m going straight, or going the opposite direction), and I saw it two weeks ago Wednesday, the day before God spoke to us about a new church.

And finally, I realized what the green Saab means. It means change is coming. It’s a different direction. Guess what we saw on the way home from church today? Sitting in a church parking lot, no less. I about cried.

So, the church itself. Well, it’s small. Much smaller than I’m accustomed to, since there are two services. There were about 50 people there this morning, 2/3 less than a normal morning at the Atlanta Vineyard.  I was getting all antsy and bummed out but then had a moment to reflect and repent. God is calling us away from our home church. If He’s taking us somewhere new, into a “land of our anointing,” there’s no better place to be.

Yeah, this is going to hurt. A lot. I struggle with letting people know me, and I’m not big on trust. I guess I’ve got some work to do in a church who puts “community” in its name.

I don’t know if there were less people than usual this morning because of the time change, but one thing that bothered me was that the people there didn’t seem like worshipers in the sense that I’m accustomed to. They sang, but there were no hands lifted, no dancing, no one on their knees. And that freaks me out a little, after being in my church for so long. I thought, “I can’t be in a church where people aren’t free to worship.”

But you know what happens when you think like that? It leaves a little niggling space for God to speak to you. Like when He said, “Maybe that’s what YOU bring. Maybe there’s freedom for others in YOUR worship.”

Humbled, and hopeful. Maybe there is freedom for others through my risk.

I (largely) get past my discomfort when the pastor starts his message. Right off the bat, he starts talking about Moses and the holy ground he was standing on. OK, you’ve got my attention. The message was about community, being DEEP in community, BELONGING in community. I was rapt.

Near the end, he started talking about the storehouse, the food pantry the church offers to the community. Now, if you know me IRL, you know that food is my passion. I love to feed people. I love teaching people to eat healthy, inexpensive food. I have a vision for this food pantry, and we’re not even 100% sure that this is our church!

So where does that leave us? Well, I’m not sure. The Music Man and I both sense that we’re home. The children love their classes already. I’m afraid I’m being a bit like Gideon asking God for one more confirmation before we know for sure. I need either that, or for Him to speak with certainty to my soul that we’re supposed to step out on faith here. Either way, I’m more confident than ever that we’re supposed to leave AVC and find a new home.

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Wow, it has been a packed week! Three birthdays to prepare for (my Joyful One is turning THREE tomorrow!), the baby isn’t letting me sleep (nearly delusional from deprivation), and the usual busyness of life seems to be overtaking me. And y’all know about counseling, which is already kicking my butt. Things are just a bit tough all around. Not bad, just complicated.

Anyhow, on Thursday God woke me up at 3:21 am. I prayed, I sang worship songs to myself, I watched my baby’s sweet face and murmured mama love to her for three hours. Somewhere in that time, God spoke that we were about to leave our church, the ONLY church I’ve belonged to as a believer. He showed me a picture of deep roots, gnarled together, knit tight. Community.

My first thought? “Um, no.” Seriously, I thought I was losing it because I’ve been just so sleep deprived. Not wanting to miss what God might choose to speak to me, I asked the Music Man to be listening for anything the Lord may want to tell him during the day.

He came home and said, “I feel like I’m supposed to ask you if we’re changing churches.” Gulp. Well, ok then. We were in agreement, but felt we needed to wait for one more confirmation because it is such a hey-uge decision. It came first thing Sunday morning.

We discussed a list of possible churches, and the top of the list is another Vineyard church, just 30 miles closer (each way) to our home. On paper, this close Vineyard looks perfect. There’s just one leeetle issue, and that’s that the “new” possible church is the church the Not-So-Casual-Observer belongs to. So she and I will have to have a chat to discuss what that would look like.

After church, I went into a meeting with the women’s ministry team and was absolutely blown away by what I heard. Ransomed Grace just came out and asked if I had anything to say to the team. I told them what God was saying to the Music Man and I, and time stopped as I awaited her answer.

She said, “Well, the reason I’m not upset (I was crying by this point) is that God’s already told me that it’s time for your family to live in community. And I think you’re supposed to stay in the Vineyard. Community. Vineyard.”

Did I mention that the church we’re most considering is called the Vineyard Community Church? I see God’s fingerprints all over this situation. I’m giving up my leadership position, my teaching, essentially all my service, but I have perfect peace.

I’m so sad, but feel like this mourning is a good thing. I’m feeling something, and that’s better than I was doing when I started counseling four months ago.

We went to talk with our pastor today, because we feel strongly that we should not leave our current church without his blessing. I want to be sent out, for there to be no question that we’re following God’s call. I want my old pastor and my new pastor to be able to have a chat about where we fit into church life. I feel like I finally understand why the Bible says “A good name is better to be chosen than great riches.” I care so much about maintaining my good name, and want to be bridge builders within these two churches.

After talking with Johnny, the plan is to do a week on and a week off at a new place, then talk with him about how we feel after we’ve gotten the lay of the land. This is sacred ground here, and I want this to go exactly the way God wants it to.

We’re so excited, even though this comes at great expense. Please pray that God would help us know that we’re home the minute we walk in the door, and that our kids would transition seamlessly.

It’s time for a new adventure!

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