Friday, November 1, 2013

31 Days of Mississippi Goodbyes: A Church That We Love More Than Ever



Well, it's the last day of October. I actually have one more post, which works out perfectly since I missed one day earlier this month.

This is the most unexpected hard goodbye. I explained a bit on my NYC blog (and some of this post comes directly from that post), but our church has changed a lot in the past few months. I'm not saying that this wouldn't have been a hard goodbye this time last year, but it is much harder now that our church is functioning and flourishing the way it is now, the way I believe God intended it to.

Our church has brought us so much- we experienced spiritual highs and lows, watched our children be baptized (and with Annie start to understand the basics of our faith), and formed amazing life giving friendships.

That said, a special thing happened recently.  I want to be careful how I say this, because like I said we've been blessed so much by so many relationships, but...our church went through a time of intense dryness over the past few years. I think there were several factors, but it became a cyclical thing and one thing lead to another and vice versa. 

Peyton was/is over Adult Discipleship and over those years, he saw little fruit from his efforts, I think in large part because of the lack of support he received. And it really took a toll on him.  It was disheartening to see him so discouraged at times. There were times we even considered that we might should be worshiping at a different place. But ultimately, we felt God leading us to stay. And there WERE times, at least for me, of great confirmation of this- Sunday nights, my Wednesday mom's group, and just various interactions with people dear to us. 

Anyway, fast forward to this Summer. Appointments went out and our church received two new pastors. It was a time of transition, but it went so well. Change is always hard for me and I adored our old associate pastor so much, so I didn't exactly look forward to it. But, it's been such a blessing. Both our new pastors are men of great integrity and they are both really genuine. Also, they both came into their roles and almost immediately jumped into community life with a level of strong transparency. I think all those things really helped our church grow as a body, and where needed, heal as a body. Additionally, they are both incredibly passionate about their faith. 

One of my favorite things our new senior pastor, Brother Mitchell does this "Welcome! To! The! House! Of! The! Lord!" greeting. He comes in from the back, walks about half way down the aisle and happy-hollers at us about being filled with the light of Christ and shining it into the world. I will never, ever take for granted having a pastor who is passionate for the Gospel and enthusiastic about service to Christ and the world. 

He's also really active in involving children. Last time we had a baptism, he invited all the kids up front and when Annie put her bread in her mouth and then remembered to dip at communion he was so gracious. He and our associate pastor both sit down on the floor during the children's sermon. Of course, that blesses my heart. 

On Wednesday nights we are basically talking about story/community/authentic relationships. Could this be more ME? The other night Brother Mitchell told us his "story" start to finish. I was so amazed by the power his transparency had. He let us in, and I felt like I knew him better than any pastor I've ever known and we've known him less than six months. In the interest of full disclosure it doesn't hurt that he basically has a little mini pep rally every time Graves says his name. When your kid took the long route to come by his words, people that celebrate them with you = special people. [And I'm pretty sure he doesn't know about the long route, he's just that kinda guy.]

And Peyton has already formed a sort of special connection with Owen, our associate pastor. They are both "thinkers", both sort of analytical  and while all our pastors have been (or were being in the case of our last associate) seminary trained, Owen is by far the most "academic" pastor we've had. Of course, that is the kind of spiritual leader that really encourages Peyton in his faith. It's just awesome, the way things have been happening. I'd even go so far as to say (and I do NOT say this kind of thing flippantly) that there's a spirit of revival in the air. I leave the place in tears as often as not and I can see it in other people's faces. Even the music seems different. I honestly didn't expect this to be something I'd miss so much, but I think it may be one of the things I miss the most. It's hard to leave something you just found when it's something you've been longing for and praying over for years. 

I sobbed one Wednesday night when Brother Mitchell was teaching our group. Just thinking about a dream come true that we're now leaving. After class, he came up to me. He said "I'm going to hug you while I say this...." (um, huge...physical touch is a big deal to me; I'm a BIG hugger and I hate when it weirds people out, I love when I find people who are like me). And then he went on to tell me about how we were going to learn about communicating and sharing stories and those were things that would help us have a powerful witness in New York. And I was instantly reminded that this is what God has called us to, in a sense, in this season. Here's another thing, if I'm struggling with something (moving, mothering, marriage, anything) it helps immensely when someone 1) validates my emotions and then 2) affirms the calling on my life. I appreciated it so much. 

Peyton and I desperately wanted to see our church in the place it is now and the place the Holy Spirit is daily making it. We weren't optimistic we'd see it before our move. Now that it's come to fruition, it's incredibly difficult to let go of.

Of course, the positive-the brights side-the silver lining-the half full glass, is exactly what our sweet pastor told me. Our life journey is inseparably entwined with our faith journey. We will see God in a new way through this and hopefully share His love with others along our path.



To see a list of previous posts in the series, click here.

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