November 17th served as our one year anniversary living in Colorado.
November 18th served as our one year anniversary of searching for a new church for our family.
Granted, the bar was high leaving our church in North Carolina. We had such a tremendous journey and unimaginable growth both individually and as a family within their community. But we were optimistic that we could find something that spoke to all of our needs and satisfied our Christian hunger, as well as a place we could serve and return the care that was bestowed on our family.
We visited close to 20 different churches in and around the Denver area. Many were great. Many had relatable messages, outstanding music, devoted Sunday schools and more. But I had been holding on... waiting for 'the feeling'. I thought between Michael and I one of us would surely get it. I prayed for that feeling that moves you on the inside.
I wondered if my expectations were too high.
Feeling defeated one particular Saturday, I sternly stated that I didn't want to go to a new church the following Sunday. My quest was over! I stood with my hands on my hips and made my declaration that I wasn't going to go.
My husband watched me patiently, likely stifling a laugh and waited for me.
Feeling like I needed to justify his silent rebuttal, I explained that it must be exasperating for our children to walk into a new parish every week, have a new teacher, find a new Sunday school without familiar faces or routines or toys. "They must think we are crazy to drag them all over this town in search of a church!" was all I could come up with.
My husband sighed and unearthed me with the following, "Okay Candace. Maybe you should sit out tomorrow if your heart is not in it. However, I think it is important for our children to hear the message, be aware of our choice and path and see their parents make a commitment to church, regardless of where it is."
Well, that really pissed me off.
He was not only right without being self-righteous, but he was letting me off the hook. So I did the only thing left to do. I walked away like a three year old to sulk.... and went to a new church the next morning as if the conversation never happened.
This particular week, we had selected a church about 10 miles from our rental home. It was in an area that we liked and we had been commenting for months that we should try it.
Arms crossed and deflated, I walked in with my melancholy attitude. Gradually, my stubbornness began to subside as I melted in the familiarity of the sanctuary. It was warm and tranquil. I loved the dramatic buttresses and architecture, traditional pews and daunting stained glass. (Well, you can't judge a book by it's cover, by I subconsciously began to soften).
I never like to skip ahead in the bulletin because secretly I am always hoping to be surprised by the hymn 'How Great Though Art'. It's like Christmas and reminds me of my Grandmother. (That would be the ultimate sign!).
But on this particular day I did skim the 'agenda' and noticed a baptism on the horizon.
I love baptisms. In our old church the ministers would parade the innocent child down the aisle and ask all those present to be accountable for this child, both as an individual and as a congregation. It united us and gave us enormous responsibility.
Patiently, I waited to see this denomination's baptism tradition.
For the first time in my life, I stared in awe at the pulpit as two women emerged with their baby, both beaming with pride, full of adoration and hope as they dedicated their infant to the church.
At this moment, I had tears streaming down my face and a smile so wide, they could see it back in North Carolina. My husband looked at me with an all-knowing glance that he knew we would return.
Coincidentally, 30 days later we purchased a home two blocks away and have been walking to this very church with our boys ever since.
While there are many similarities to our church in Charlotte, I'm beginning to see things differently through the eyes of our children - Nash, especially.
As the choir marches in song down the center aisle, their voices carry and bellow through the rafters like most traditional services. Unlike the others, the choir stops short of taking their seats up front in their designated areas and instead circles back down both sides of the congregation, building their song with ground swell of energy, as their voices embody the congregation as they circle us.
Truly, it is overwhelming. You feel connected and a part of something as they walk past, each with a distinct talent that makes the chorus uniform.
To see our son's eyes light up as they smile and nod to him. It's the first time I've seen Nash really engaged and eager to see what happens next.
Typically, Nash (5) will pick up his hymnal and begin mouthing the words like all of the adults. Then, he will turn to any hand that will take his and nearly shout, "Peace be with you." Recently, it's just "Peace." (I spend the next few minutes hoping it doesn't turn into 'Peace out, Sauerkraut!" But God Bless his enthusiasm).
This week, our sermon had a message about the Shepherds in the nativity. In all these years, I hadn't really thought of the shepherds 'lay people' until I heard this:
Today we give thanks for the shepherds among us, back-breaking laborers whom we overlook or rarely see, yet rely on for our very survival - the ones who have much to teach us about watching for God in the darkness.
I know our walk is unique to many - be weird, right? - but our journey has opened my soul to so many people that I may not have chosen as friends in another life. It has opened my eyes to so many providers: surgeons and nurses, therapists and doctors, social workers and baby-rockers. It has especially opened my arms to so many children and families that have so much love to give.
God bless the Shepherds.