Music comes through the door and lightly shakes me awake. It is 6:20am and my body aches from a busy weekend and too many late nights in a row.
But I smile because I have all these joyful memories from the past couple of days and I think to myself that I can’t wait to write. This is progress, not a swimming to the surface but a gentle floating upward of surrender.
A surrender to Jesus and His healing and a surrender to acceptance. It takes time to recover. It takes time to feel better in my heart, mind, body, soul and strength. It takes work but not striving.
The medicine to my soul this weekend was community.
And community is what moves my heart to write this morning so early.
I’m blessed in community and have always been. Beginning with the community of a large and very loving family. A family that will loan you anything, celebrate every baby you have (even while shaking their heads at the NUMBER of babies you have!), dance at your wedding, laugh with you, cry with you and just be present with you. These are the people who show up at the hospital and wait until you’re okay. They are the ones who remember your kids’ birthdays and your birthdays and who say, “Remember when…” a lot. They are my first community.
And then I think about when my older kids were small and I had this handful of amazing friends that I did life in the motherhood trenches with every single day. These women are still my friends and I still love them. We got each other through those hard years of figuring out how to raise kids well, of learning how to be wives and those years that we were still growing up.
I’m in the midst of good community even now. We saw it when I was in the hospital, when I was recovering, when Nora was still in the hospital. Such an outpouring of love and service to our family and we are still reeling with gratitude.
Yesterday we celebrated a family that we love. A family that, more than a decade and a half ago, moved from Texas to Virginia to plant a church. A church that changed my life forever. A church that taught me worlds about community. That family now, all these years later, is moving from Virginia to Texas to plant a church. We gathered to bless and to celebrate and it was glorious to be in the midst of that community again.
I was a young mother of three. They were six, four and not quite two when we came to Hope Community Church. Mercy, I knew almost nothing about living for Jesus. I knew almost nothing about being real. And I really didn’t know that God really, really loved me right where I was, just as I was. I had spent a lot of time trying to redeem myself…a lot of time trying to work my way into His good graces. At Hope I learned that love set me free for real and I was living in His good graces. Twelve years I was there, twelve years of an action packed life. We walked through much together- a hurricane, a very sick sister, a divorce, a remarriage, babies, hard times and good times. It was in the midst of this community that I learned what it felt like to be fully accepted, to be delighted in, to be appreciated and used (in the good way). I fell in love with a million sweet babies. I served in a million different places: restoration ministry, Shadrach’s coffeehouse, children’s ministry, first contact, women’s ministry, house of prayer, a writing group, community groups. I came to deeply value family and children. I learned that God had tooled my heart to serve children, to teach them. I learned that God made me to sing. I learned that God wanted to use me to pray for others, to hear their deepest hearts and respond. I learned that I am hopeless at organization and administration work. I learned to not shy away from my gifts and talents but to use them for His glory. I learned the importance of drawing others in. I learned humility when I fell down, when I stumbled and when this community helped me stand up again.
What a good, good gift.
Those days gone by…the good, the bad, the glorious and the ugly. I wouldn’t trade them.
And it was good to be in the midst of that community yesterday.
What I want to say to you today is this: Never underestimate the value of community. The value of drawing near in a group. When you’re right in the middle of your every day, day to day, crazy life…you might not realize what you’re learning. You might not even notice how He’s shaping you, how He’s using your community to change you.
God has been faithful to me, faithful to keep me rooted in family and friends. Community is part of how He has loved me well. Blessing me with people who love well, people who are real, people who are doing their best to figure it all out.
And oh, I’m going to miss those nine precious people we celebrated yesterday. They were and are vital to my community, to my family and to my heart. How grateful I am that I’ll spend eternity with them…and in the meantime, how grateful I am for facebook and iphones and texting and facetime.
I love you, Hales. So grateful for your presence in my life these last fourteen years. So looking forward to what’s to come.