Sunday, April 1, 2012

Coming home!

So this time I am branching out without Laura, and going back to my old roots....a Southern Baptist church.  After a very rough week on an emotional rollercoaster I wasn't sure if church would help me or bring back the tears.  But, it felt like a good place to go after the week I had!

The church I would be attending was Grove Avenue Baptist with my friend Gina.  It would also be televised so I felt the need to take some time and put my best face forward.  You always want to be prepared for a little camera time, and somehow I tend to find myself in that position (who am I kidding...I might kind of seek it out).  I knew that Gina would be taking the opposite approach, having attended a Zumba class with her last week and while my urge was to barrell towards the front, hers was to stay firmly in the back.  In fact, she was not pleased we weren't all the way in the back!  So, when we arrived at Grove I wasn't surprised that we beelined for the balcony.  Slightly sad that might  mean no camera time, I quickly reminded myself that was not my purpose....I am on a church journey here!  And I have some good memories of the balcony at my old church - my family and I went through a phase where that was our spot!  As I grabbed my cell phone to put it on vibrate I saw a text from my mom.  She was taping the service to see if she would see me on tv - and you all wonder where I get it from?  I told her I was in the balcony, but she still felt like there was a chance.

This being Palm Sunday it wasn't the usual service.  There was tons of music and some taped segments from the pastor (he was in Asia).  But, surprisingly, I still didn't get the traditional hymns...I thought this would be a sure thing here!!!  I saw "The Old Rugged Cross" on the program and got pumped as I know this one (almost by heart!), but it was just a musical interlude during the offertory.  I decided to sing it loudly myself as a solo (April Fool's!!!). 

This made me wonder.....maybe my old church has totally changed and is like this too.  I mean, I haven't been since the 90's.  And I think I can speak for all of us as I think of my flat iron free hair, high waisted jeans and love of baggy ensembles that change from that era is not a bad thing.  Church has progressed along too.  Like when I had asked Gina where the organ was, she told me that no one knows how to play the organ anymore.  I felt like church was one of those things that stayed just the same, but this exploration of different churches is proving that theory very wrong!

What was familiar, and very much enjoyed - the big choir, the loud singing, the friendliness.  I got my hand grasped with a cheerful good morning several times as I made my way in and out.  I felt really good being there.  My mind was totally taken off my problems of the week.  And, I felt the need to pay my respects - I have felt so supported by my family and friends over the last several days with people saying that I have been in their prayers.  And, I really felt that! 

After church finished we went and got Gina's children and headed out.  Her daughter told me it was April Fool's Day before she tried several Aprils Fools jokes on me.  It was a clear day with the sun shining when she said "Look it's snowing outside!" to which Gina and I acted shocked "It is??" "Oh my gosh!" before she yelled out "April Fool's".  I then heard her whisper to her brother "They totally fell for that one".  Kids can always keep you smiling!

Ran some errands, doing stuff around the house, the phone rang and saw it was my mom.  "Amy, your dad and I saw you on tv!".  Family can always keep you smiling too :)

Happy Palm Sunday!!!!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A place called Hope

So, back to our church finding adventure!  I know it has been awhile but when you are doing this with a fellow nurse, and you both have to work weekend time, it is very tricky to find a date that works for the both of you, plus the person's church you are attending!  Which led us to choosing a Sunday that turned out to be when we spring forward.  A day when I usually purposely make zero plans until the afternoon so that I am only minimally affected by the time change.  I am SO not a morning person (my definition of morning - anytime before noon).  Growing up the Sunday wake up consisted of my Dad coming into my room and first turning off my fan (have to sleep with it).  Me - annoyed but still able to cling to sleep. Then turning on my lights and throwing up the shades.  Me - angry, but pulling the covers up over my head to darken things back up. Then he would come back cheerfully singing "It's time to get up! It's time to get up".  Me - glaring under my covers that I have pulled over my head and giving meaning to the term "spitting fire".  I guess I don't need to mention he IS a morning person???

So, this Sunday the church I am attending is called Hope which explains the title of my blog this week.  I also feel like this might be the title of a Bill Clinton autobiography which I assure you is pure coincidence.  I have nothing in common with Bill except a love of McDonald's and Diet Coke...although I do feel kind of fond of out of office Bill.....just me?  Anyway, Hope is a church that two friends I work with attend and both love.  So, the expectations are set way high.  I know I will like all the churches I plan to go to as I have friends at all of them, but this church it goes double!  Kristin was able to attend with Laura and I this Sunday, sadly Nicole was not (that pesky work issue again).  We planned to meet for the 11am service.  Kristin offered to drive (aka chauffeur) me, but felt her car might be too messy.  To which I quickly assured her that I have been driven in a car with a dirty diaper in it and hopped out of a car where a beer bottle popped out with me and had no problem with it (don't worry I won't name names :))

The church was packed to the point that a police officer works Patterson Ave. to ensure people can get in and out of the parking light smoothly, which was great.  I do confess I had encountered this same police officer doing this same thing when I was the one being stopped on my way home and did not find it so great then, but I didn't realize it was a church at the time.  Besides, this time it was benefitting me so I was down with it (just kidding....kind of).  Walking in there were kids and people everywhere.  Kristin commented that there weren't alot of people here today.....what???  This place was hopping!  We waited for Laura in the lobby and then took our seats.  Everyone was very friendly and a good thing we went to sit down pretty quickly because about ten minutes later there were no seats to be found. 

Once again there was a full band set up and they broke out into some great tunes.  Didn't recognize them, but sounded awesome!  Gone are the loud organ sounds and piano of my youth (and getting a little crazy for my church was adding in some brass and a string quartet).  I will say I have been feeling a little nostalgic for the traditional hymns - nothing gets you in the spirit like a little How Great Thou Art or Amazing Grace, right?  But, this music is infectious and easy to sing along too (they put the words up on a screen)  Also, while following along with the words I saw "Child 213" flash on the bottom of the screen. I learned at my last church outing parents are given an assigned number for their child and this means they need to go get them from the church nursery. I envision a full on tantrum being played out and the parents inwardly groaning as they see their number on the screen.  For some reason it always gives me a little laugh (sorry).

The pastor was David Dwight and I like him instantly.  He talked about running in a 5K yesterday and having trouble keeping up with his wife, so when his wife kept urging him to pick up the pace he said "But, honey I am trying to walk with Jesus".  Loved that!  He also added in the bible Jesus is always walking, never running.  Good point!  I was looking foward to hearing what he had to say!

The sermon was called "The Exchange" and talked about how if you have ever experienced any mistreatment, exhaustion , betrayal, grief, etc Jesus experienced it all, takes it all on, and carries it for you.  Uh oh.  Is this going to be a downer?  It sounds like it.  I know the bible isn't all happiness and light, but it's a sunny day, I am feeling good, we have sprung about a little upbeat topic?  My worst fears were realized as a picture of a lonely man looking out over the water on a dark gloomy day flashes on the screen and David asked "Have you ever felt like this?"  I thought to myself, no I haven't.....I feel very lucky that I have never felt that sad, and I very much feel for those that have...I guess I will just listen and be grateful I haven't been there.  But, then a connection!  I remembered I HAD been there in a way and not too long ago either....

Hurricane Irene!  No power, complete darkness, silence.  Feeling so sad and depressed.  For over a week!  Richmonders know what I mean.  Wanting to be excited when your friends power came back, but secretly jealous yours was still out.  Feeling like there were two gangs - those with power and those without - and acting like you didn't want to be in the with power gang so as not to appear desperate, but secretly wanting nothing more.  My friend Hayes and I were two of the last to get ours back and I remember us telling each other that we would be honestly happy for one another when the other would get it, but we hoped we would get it at the same time because there might be some jealousy.  I remember when Hayes texted me she got hers - she later told me she knew she had to tell me because we had pledged we would, but she worried how to word it so as not to plunge me into the pit of despair (my words, not hers).  And, upon receiving this text, I remember being happy for her but then curling into the fetal position and bawling.  But, there was another part of this experience that I had totally forgotten about that David's sermon reminded me of - during this week of no tv, no internet, no music I do remember praying a lot.  I am not going to lie, the prayer often started with "Dear God, please let me have power" but I prayed about a lot of other things too - really important meaningful things to me like the troops, family, the babies I take care of at work.  Unfortunately, I had gotten out of the habit of nightly prayer a long time ago.  In those moments when I prayed I felt so much compassion for others. I thought this is terrible, but there are so many people in this world that have gone through and are going through so much worse and would probably trade places with me in a heartbeat.  I always felt during these times that my prayers were being heard and I wasn't alone.

With that identification of a bit of a dark period, I recognized and got what David was saying, and absolutely loved the message. He also stated that the pain and grief you experience in life can make you a more beautiful person and a better friend to Jesus.  He acknowledged that the congregation probably was wondering  - wasn't there another option for a sermon topic?  But, such a great message with some positivity to it in a way....

So, two churches attended and two churches where I learned and enjoyed my experience.  I thought it was going to be hard to find a church I liked, not hard to find one I didn't.  Not a bad problem to have, right?

Happy Sunday everyone :)

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Laura, Amy,Katrina, and Eric

Presbyterian born and raise, Quaker Memorial is my home always. I was a member of that church for 23 years and, like Amy, I was there every Sunday. They are my family. Moving to Richmond and working night shift did not encourage me to find a new church. It wasn't until I was married (at Quaker) and had my son did the importance of church creep back into my mind. My husband was also raised in a church, Methodist but as he became a teenager grew away from his church. Being the over protective mother, I am uneasy with taking my son around to different churches to "find" what I liked. Leaving him with people I do not know would only make the experience painful. So I was delighted when Amy and I all of a sudden had a talk about finding a church. So many wonderful people we work with have a home church they love. So what a delight to go out with a friend in search of a home church. As you can see Amy and I had the same "list" of requirements. All kidding aside, I think we both are stuck in our home church and are afraid to venture to see what is out there.
Our first visit today was with a wonderful couple. I remember their wedding was one of the most moving I have ever attended. What an inspiration these 2 are and a breath of fresh air from the "norm". I have to say the same for their church. Commonwealth Chapel was nothing like the quiet Presbyterian service I am use to. Greeted by a full on band I was a little nervous, but what a delight. Like Amy, I did not know many of the songs, but found myself singing along. It was hard not to move to the music. Then came the moment that can usually make or break a church, the minister. Brandon Samuel stepped on stage and delivered a fun and entertaining sermon. #1 on my list for a church, capture my attention and make the sermon something I can relate to, boy did he deliver. Before I knew it the 1 1/2 service was over and I could not believe it.
I am looking forward to testing the waters at the many different churches we have lined up this year. I hope we can fit them all in! :)

Until next time, Laura

The sermon on self centered living felt like it was created just for me! Oh wait, is that self centered?

The time had come. Our first church outing was here! We would be attending Commonwealth Chapel with our dear friends Katrina and Eric Young. I really admire them for their faith and their genuine interest and support in our quest to find a church. I knew this would be a great start!

In the weeks prior one of my main concerns was.....what will I wear??? Now, of course there were other thoughts (where is my bible? How early will I need to get up?) but I was having a true church fashion emergency. Growing up I had a steady rotation of Jessica McClintock dresses I wore to church. As I looked through my four closets (yes, four!) I realized I don't have a lot of dresses appropriate for church. I don't think wearing the shiny one shoulder hot pink dress would make the first impression I was looking for. Nor did I think the congregation would appreciate my sequined party dress. And I knew wearing my blue BCBG dress, which I was wearing when a friend and I were approached and told "if you've got it, flaunt it" would be a big N-O. My closet was screaming "let's party", when what I was going for was "let's pray". After much digging, I finally found something that would work. It wasn't the cutest or most comfortable dress I owned but it would do, and in the meantime I would send an email to my J.Crew personal shopper that instead of outfits for trips, I need dresses for church!

Texting with Katrina prior to the service, she assured me the dress was casual. Also that the seats were plastic and that the service was over an hour (I guess people did pay attention to that first blog that I posted with our "criteria"). Laura picked me up and we headed over to Eric and Katrina's house, where we then made our way to Commonwealth Chapel at The National. I actually had never been to The National, so I had no idea what to expect. As we grabbed our seats, the second thing I noticed (the first being how extremely tall I feel next to Tiny Lane aka Laura) was there was a full on rock band set up on the stage. And this was not left over from the previous nights concert, this was for church! As they started to sing, I quickly got into it - they were amazing! I don't know if it was the setting or the drums, but if I owned a lighter I think I would have had the urge to pull it out and hold it up...Maybe break out a little air guitar? Don't worry, I didn't :) Since I was unfamiliar with the songs I really paid attention to the lyrics and realized I wasn't going to miss my trusty hymns as much as I thought I would.

Next, came the message. This was the true test. As a natural born daydreamer I have found this ability to be both a blessing and a curse. Many a church service I have attended with the honest intention to pay attention, only for my mind to wander off to other topics before I even realized it did. Next thing you know, church is over and I have spent 30 minutes thinking about where i should go on vacation next. This message was based on some verses from the book of Haggai. Have you heard of this book? I have to admit, it was not familiar at all. To quote the program "Haggai is a call to the people to exchange their self centered living for a life centered on the glory of God". Wait a minute - did they know I was coming? Because I believe this message was written just for me! What is going on? Oops, that sounds self centered. But seriously I truly related....the pastor was saying the focus doesn't need to be all about you, that living for Gods glory frees us from having to be the center of the universe. Before I knew it, the sermon was over and I had payed attention the entire time. Not only that, I felt I had understood and learned something. Upon meeting the pastor, I wanted to tell him that he had done what no one else had done before him, had me involved in the message from start to finish. Instead I told him, while looking at an adorable infant dressed in a fuzzy bear snowsuit, that I would totally wear that as an adult as I was so cold.

Hopefully the next message I listen to will include how to prioritize the thoughts you share....

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Would you call this high maintenance?

It all started with a conversation at work with my friends Laura and Gina. Laura (my fellow blogger)and I had been talking about going back to church for some time. We both had grown up in the church, and felt the need to get back in the church going groove. I was raised southern baptist and had lived in the church every Sunday from am to pm from the time I was a a baby all through high school. I didn't know anything else....until I hit college! The belief in God never wavered, but church attendance came to a screeching halt (until I came home for breaks that is!). My one attempt to attend in college involved going to a Catholic church with a friend within walking distance of my dorm. Upon entering, I was asked if I wanted to present the gifts. Of course! I was so excited, envisioning myself handing out beautifully wrapped presents to church members. Only to find out later, in a very awkward moment, that was not what they meant......

So, that brings me to today...I have become one of THOSE people. The ones that only attend church on Easter and Christmas. The ones that sit in the back. The ones that hope their lack of church attendance will not be exposed!!! At least on Easter and Christmas when I am there...

Laura and I decided it would be one of our resolutions. Along with losing weight (my old stand by) we would try out different churches together in the hopes of finding one that connected. We told everyone at work. "You are going to get spiritual AND skinny?" our friend Sybil asked when we told her. Yes! Yes! It sounds so simple right? Start going to church. We know why it's important to go, why we want to go, and the real reason to go. But as I remembered a conversation from the break room last month, I knew it would not be that went something like this -

Me - I do not want to have to worry about parking. I don't want to have to take a shuttle or walk far.

Laura - I am not looking for companionship. I have enough friends! I just want to go to church and listen.

Me - agreed! I would like someone to notice I am new though. Maybe say a quick hello, welcome...but no more than that!

Laura - I do not want people talking to me during the service saying "peace" and shaking my hand. That makes me uncomfortable.

Me - me too! I do not like that! I am also not a fan of prayer benches. It is hard for me to cross my legs.

Laura - I also like a padded pew. I don't want to have to get up and take communion. I would like to remain seated and not share a cup.

Me - yes, and I need to be able to come in late without people giving me a dirty look. The sermon needs to be very interesting...otherwise I will daydream and write notes.

Laura - yes, don't just read scripture. Read it and then turn it into a story I can relate to. I want my hymns in a hymnal only. I do not want a program insert or loose paper. I need to see the notes.

Me - the sermon needs to be timely. An hour at the most.

Our friend Gina, who witnessed this whole convo, asked us if we were sure we were ready for church. "Sounds like God has his work cut out for him!". Some might think it sounds high maintenance, but we look at it as an important decision, and we might as well have some criteria going in. Of course, I know there is a bigger picture than all those small things...and if you find that, those little things won't matter, right?

Well, all except the padded pew ;)