It’s been a while since I’ve written. I just couldn’t get in the right mood or I didn’t feel like I had the right story. Though my family and I recently made an unexpected and unplanned-for move away from the state filled with our family and friends, there was some novelty about the whole adventure that took me by surprise…in a good way.
However, now we’ve been here a few months and the novelty has worn off. The reality of my life as it is and not as it was is painfully obvious at times. My immediate family and I are kind of out here on our own. We have some distant family connections, but that doesn’t mean an automatic replacement for the family we left. We’ve gotten to know people in our neighborhood and my workplace, but they don’t just take the spot of those people who were some of the most important in my life.
We are really strangers in this place and I have no idea what our purpose is. It’s not clear at this time. I do believe there is a purpose, but I recognize it could be years before it makes sense. I feel like I’m in God’s remedial class. I’m with the people who don’t get it even after the lesson has been taught time and time again. Fortunately, as much as I fail the final test, He lets me back in the door and is patient with me over and over again.
Among the many areas I’m a little heart-broken about is not having connection to a church family. You do not realize the impact of that setting until you don’t have it any longer. As regular church attenders we find ourselves judging what each church we try doesn’t have vs. what it does. I believe my family and I have tried close to 10 churches since we’ve moved. We’ve gone places both in and out of our denomination. We find something wrong with each and every place. My husband tends to evaluate on how long the service lasts and what the building looks like. I don’t care about the service time, but I want the place to “feel” right- whatever that means. We both typically agree that the Pastor’s delivery has to hit us right. We even let our 10 year old have a voice in the matter. It does please me to say that this is an important area for us. I feel my soul is closer to God in a church–not a building, but a church community.
One place we thought we really liked delivered its weekly message via a satellite connection because the membership was so large they had different sites worshipping at the same time. We finally admitted it wasn’t happening for us.
The next forerunner has two different preachers. We heard one who we really liked, and then every other time we went it was the other one who we didn’t care for at all.
Today we went back to a place we’ve tried three different times. We’ve had different reviews for each visit. It’s the one closest to our home and it happens to be our denomination. It’s not perfect, but our chances of being on time for the service are much better than the places that are twenty minutes away. Additionally, we got to thinking as we find a place for our 10 year old to be involved it will be nice that she would know others who might also go to school with her. I must also admit, I was envisioning having to shuttle her back and forth for events and thinking I’d like about a 5 mile radius if possible.
Off to the service for which we were late by the way. I’ve got to keep working on that. We came in about the time they were giving a blessing to all the kindergarteners starting school this week. A group of adorable five year olds came forward wearing their back packs and holding the hands of their parents. The Pastor and the Youth Minister talked to the kids, blessed their backpacks and gave the parents a sheet of Bible verses that could be cut and reviewed with the child each day as they went off to school or came home. It made so much sense to me and was adorable to boot. Only puppies could have amped that up further.
However, the part that touched my heart the most was when the high school graduates were called forward with their parents. Each family brought a blanket with them and at the appropriate time the blanket was placed on the shoulders of their child. It was blessed with the reminder that God’s love is wrapped around the child no matter where they are. The Pastor talked about how the parents and the church had been a part of their lives and would never leave them. Three different officiants took a part of the blessing and each one got choked up when they spoke.The best was when the youth minister started to get teary and said he didn’t even have any children.
My tears of joy and empathy flowed too. I didn’t know a single kid up there, nor their parents. However, I could relate to the feelings of being a parent. I could relate to the feelings of being an aunt to my nieces and nephews and feeling the same way. I could relate to the deep friendships I have and how important the children of those people are to me. It made me realize how truly serious the words are that we say at a Baptism even when we are not the parents–we will help these children grow in the love of Jesus Christ. Today I realized I wanted that for all those around me and especially for those I personally love. I don’t want to see a single one with hurt feelings, or walking through loss, or believing their life is so terrible they can’t live on this earth anymore.
I want them to grab their blanket and wrap up tightly knowing they are surrounded by love even in places where they hardly know anyone’s name, where they still don’t know directions to common places, where they are missing their family and friends terribly. I’m not a graduate of anything this year, but I’m going to wrap a blanket around myself tonight and remember God’s promises to me. When my tears come I will wipe them away with that blanket. When my child is hurting I will hold her with that blanket. When I just don’t get it I will tug at that blanket and wear myself out trying to make sense. Then I will seek the comfort and peace The Blanket brings to me recognizing I’m wrapped in it forever and the only way out is if I make that choice. I don’t think I ever will, but even if I do, the amazing part is The Blanket will always be there to give His warmth again. The Blanket will never leave me or you. It will never let go.