Well, I planned to post something Sunday night after the Miss America pageant, but then I got sidetracked by sitting cross-legged on the floor and playing cups.
Apparently anything is still possible in America, y’all.
Honestly, it took me a good hour to wind down from the pageant, and I don’t know when Twitter has tickled me more. I thought Kaye Lani Rae Rafko’s hula dance was memorable back in the late 80s, but the cup talent really just beat all.
That’s saying something considering that there was also a ventriloquist in the top 8.
I have to say, though, that not even a surprising Miss America result could put a damper on our weekend, which was delightful all the way around. I was out late Thursday night at a NEEDTOBREATHE concert, and all I could think when my alarm went off early Friday morning was, “THIS IS WHEN I AM REMINDED THAT I AM NO LONGER 27.” I was worn out, but the concert was so worth it. The Oh Hello’s were everything I thought they would be and more, and when they finished their set (do you like the hip lingo? the next thing you know I’ll be talking about when their new album drops.) I felt so inordinately proud of them that I was totally teary-eyed.
This is what happens when you’re in your 40s and enjoy the musical stylings of some folks who are at least 20 years younger than you are. There are a lot of maternal feelings.
And all I know to say about NEEDTOBREATHE is that they essentially led us in a two-hour worship service. Absolutely beautiful. Sweet mercy they’re talented.
Anyway, I had a speaking thing early Friday morning, then work, so by the time I picked up Alex Friday afternoon, I was flat-out loopy from the tired. Somehow, though, I managed to stay awake until approximately 9:30 Friday night, at which point I practically face-planted myself on the bed and slept without moving until 5 Saturday morning, when Hazel decided that there had been enough sleeping, thank you.
About mid-morning I willed myself to go to the grocery store. I don’t know if y’all realize this – because apparently I forgot for most of last week – but the grocery store is a place that has food that you can buy and then take home so that you can prepare meals for your family. WHAT A CONCEPT. So I bought some of the food that Publix had available that morning, and I brought it all home, and then I cooked for three whole days in a row.
I may have to print myself a certificate of achievement.
Sunday was our pastor’s last Sunday at our church, and it was the sweetest morning. We typically go to the 9:00 service, but Sunday we also stayed for a little bit of the 11:00 because one of Alex’s buddies was being baptized. While we were waiting for that second service to start, we were hanging out in the back corner of the church with some other families who were there for the same reason, and I realized that my view of our church was different than it normally is. We almost always sit in the same row in the same section, so something about standing in a different part of our sanctuary – which is pretty big – caught my attention and made me think.
It was almost 13 years ago when David and I stepped in our church for the first time. It was nowhere we ever thought we’d visit, much less join, so we walked into that sanctuary with some trepidation and more than a few reservations – and we thought it would more than likely be our first and only Sunday there.
Much to our surprise, though, we visited the next Sunday. And the next. And the next. Eventually we started to call it “our” church. So not too long after Alex was born, we decided to become members – and nobody was more surprised than David and I were. We grew up together in the same Methodist church, then joined the Episcopal church after we married, so every once in awhile we’d look at each other on the way to Brook Hills and say, “Are we really BAPTISTS?” Then we’d laugh. Because even though it was not necessarily the church we’d expected to be a part of, we knew that we were exactly where we were supposed to be.
Church life, as y’all know, can be complicated. There have been times over the last 13 years when I was so involved that I could’ve told you the extension numbers of most of the ministry assistants, and there have been times when I was so unplugged that I’ve sat in the middle of a sanctuary of 1,500 people and felt just as lonely as I could be. I’ve been challenged at our church, I’ve been broken there, I’ve been encouraged there, and to be really honest there have been a few times when I’ve been ticked off there. It’s been a place where David and I have grown in our faith and in our relationship with each other, but we’ve also sat through our fair share of Sunday mornings where the music started and the tension between the two of us was so thick that you’d need a stick of dynamite to blast through it.
Over eight years ago a young whippersnapper named David Platt began serving as our interim pastor. He promptly grabbed hold of all my well-established notions of what church was supposed to be and flipped them upside down. Honestly, there were times I’d leave church flat-out mad because he wasn’t telling me what I wanted to hear. One Sunday I was so unnerved that I marched right up to one of our associate pastors and said, “I mean, I GET what this new guy is saying, but I AM A MAMA WITH A TWO YEAR-OLD. What does he want me to do? Go to AFRICA or something?”
The associate pastor just laughed. And a little over a year later, when I was the mama of a three year-old, I went on my first trip with Compassion. To Africa. Because God is funny like that.
(This is where I could totally go off on a tangent about how I know our pastor is most associated with being “radical,” but the area where his leadership has impacted me more than any other is worship. And while it wasn’t a super comfortable lesson, it’s been such a good one and something that I hope / pray will continue to ripple in my heart.)
(End of tangent.)
Sunday morning we were standing in that back corner of church, and that meant that I got to see all manner of folks walk into the sanctuary. I didn’t know all of them by any stretch, but there were a lot of familiar faces: one of our associate pastor’s wives, Alex’s 4th grade teacher, his 5th grade teacher, the mom of a guy that I taught eight or nine years ago, a friend from choir (back in the day when I used to sing in the choir), a former staff member who kept the nursery during Wednesday night church way back when, and a couple of “mama friends” whose boys are Alex’s buddies.
So the music started and all of us who were there for baptisms were standing against the back windows, and I happened to be in a spot where I could see most of the sanctuary, which was full to overflowing. Alex asked if he could go stand with a friend of his, and after he found his spot and started singing, I watched those two boys stand shoulder to shoulder. They’re at least a foot taller than they were a couple of years ago – closer to being teenagers than little kids – and I thought about how many Sundays they’ve run up and down the hallways and the stairs in that place, how many trips they made out to the playground when they were younger.
It’s the only church they’ve ever known.
And as they walked down the aisle for the baptism about ten minutes later – as they found a few more of their buddies and watched their friend C share his testimony – it occurred to me that while our church is about 20 times bigger than the one where David and I grew up, Alex is just as at home in that big ole sanctuary as we were in the much smaller one with the wooden pews and the stained glass windows.
That would have been impossible for me to imagine 13 years ago.
David and I didn’t have the foggiest idea what we were doing when we first walked through the doors at our church. We were just a young married couple who knew that there was a whole lot we didn’t know, and we wanted to learn. We didn’t ever dream we’d be there this long, but God has used the people in that place – the ones we know and sometimes even the ones we don’t – to change us.
And now? To see that happening in Alex’s life, too? To see that happening in the lives of his friends?
It’s a mighty sweet thing.
And I am just all kinds of grateful.