Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Gratitude Project - Day 7

This morning, I woke up to a nice, warm, quiet house. I am so thankful that my sweet mama and daddy took the kids for the weekend, so Brient and I could have some time alone together. We have had a full weekend of shopping and eating out - something we rarely get to do together!

And as I walked down my hall to the front of my house, I noticed how warm and cozy it is. A few days ago, Brient climbed up on the roof with a "borrowed" chimney sweep, and cleaned our chimney himself. He saved us about $50 by tackling that job on his own. And now, I have a lovely fire going in my living room. It is warm, and it smells so good! I am very thankful that we bought that insert (used, of course) when we moved into this house 7 years ago.

But mostly what I am thankful for this morning is for my church. In a little while, Brient and I will pack up all our things and head to Liberty Grove Church of God, where we will spend some time with a room full of great kids, as we teach them all about God's love! I never would have dreamed that one day we would be where we are now.

Several years ago, we were going to another church across town. It was a great church, the preacher could preach a wonderful sermon, the people were nice, and, most importantly, there was a GREAT children's program. Thanks to Jerry and Rindy, my kids were taught each week about God in a fun, interactive way that they could completely understand! I LOVED IT! I loved listening to them on the drive home tell me all about what they learned. They couldn't take turns talking, because they were so excited about all they had been taught, and they kept interrupting each other. So I would sit listening to 2 stories at the same time, and I loved it! I loved their enthusiasm!

But what I loved most about the children's program (for me, at that time in my life), was the fact that I could send them back to Jerry and Rindy, and I could sit and listen to the sermon without doing anything else in the church. Of course, I was always taking care of Little Sister during the sermon, because she would scream her head off if I tried to leave her in the nursery. But, for the most part, I was able to go to church and be a pew warmer. And I liked it that way.

Two years ago, that church announced that they would be moving their location to a bigger building, because the church had grown and couldn't hold the people anymore in their present location. Everyone was excited! But for us, that meant stretching our already long drive to church into an even longer drive. It would make our commute change from 30 minutes to 40 or 45 minutes. Several factors made us stop and rethink if we should continue going to this church. The price of gas, at that time, was outrageous, and I also had Little Sister who was always ready for a nap after church. I was also expecting Baby Girl then, and was getting quite worn out from the drive every week. And if Brient had to work on a Sunday morning, I would just stay home with the kids, because it was too difficult to get them all there. I mean, all I was doing was taking the oldest 2 for their class, and I would sit outside with Little Sister and not even hear the message, because she wouldn't be quiet or go in the nursery. It just wasn't worth the drive anymore after the church moved. So we began our search for a new church.

For several months, we visited many different churches. Some were nice, but were still a far drive. There were a few we liked, but they were a little too big for us, and I didn't feel comfortable leaving my kids alone with people I didn't know in such a big place. And then, there were a few churches who we simply didn't agree with, so we left! But finally, FINALLY, God brought us to where we are now.

From the time we walked in the doors of Liberty Grove, we could tell God was telling us, "Stop here." We had this overwhelming feeling, both Brient and I, that this is where we were supposed to be. This is where we belonged. The people were wonderful, and it really did feel like they were family. Every time we came to church, it felt as though we were going to a family reunion! I just couldn't get enough of seeing these people.

The pastor and his wife were unlike any others that we have met - EVER. For starters, they're average people who work hard, just like us. They have kids, just like us. And they hang out with average folks, just like us. And the people that attend Liberty Grove are actually FRIENDS with each other, and they spend time together during the week, and they even hang out together on the weekends. They don't just talk on Sunday mornings, and then forget about church the rest of the week.

And yay hooray, Baby Girl LOVED Cindy, my sweet friend who kept the nursery! I could actually sit in the service and know she was OK. And even more of a yay hooray, Little Sister would actually go to toddler church. I was finally in a place where everyone was happy, and I could listen to the sermon! And, since Liberty Grove is only 10 minutes from my house, I could still go to church even if Brient was out of town working!

Not long after we decided to put down roots with this church family, God started leading us in a new direction. One of the things I really missed about my old church was the lively children's program that they were involved in each week. God spoke to Brient and told him, "You do it." WHAT??!! Brient isn't a children's leader! He's a great dad, and a fun guy, but there was no way he was ready for that! But wouldn't you know, right after that, God spoke to me and said, "You help him." Darn it!

God called me to children's ministry years ago, while I was still a teenager. I have worked with kids off and on for years. But I have always tried to get out of my "calling," because I just really didn't want to do it. It takes time, you have to work hard, and I had other things to do. I have, over the years, acted much like Jonah, as he tried to run from the job God had laid before him. 

We spent the next few months arguing with God about how bad of a choice the two of us were for this job. I had my own kids now and really didn't care about getting involved with other people's kids again. I was happy just dealing with my own kids. And anyway, I really just wanted someone else to do the lively program that I was used to, so I could sit and be a pew warmer at this church and just listen to the sermon! Children's ministry is WORK, and I really was just too tired to tackle it! I had four kids by now, and I homeschooled 2 of them. When did I have time to do this?! And Brient! Well, he was barely even home, because his job was always calling him off somewhere else in the state, and I barely even had time to see him! When did he have time to do this?! But God never wavered. He kept speaking to us saying, "You do it."

Finally, when we couldn't argue with Him anymore, I just threw my hands up and said, "God, I have no idea how You think this is going to work. I have no idea how to make this work! But if you want us to do this, FINE! You figure out a way to make it happen." I was pretty ugly to God, and I am so thankful He didn't hold that against me! (Yeah, I had to ask forgiveness for that one.) And you know what, He DID figure out a way. Actually, He already had the way planned. He just needed Brient and I to say "yes," and then let Him work.

God doesn't need any of us to do His work. He IS, after all, God, and He could do anything He wanted without us. We are nothing. But God loves to take "nothing" and make a great "something" out of it! God CHOOSES to use us, but we have to be willing to let Him. And let me tell you, there is no better feeling in the world than when you say "yes" to God and then let Him use you for His purpose.

Over this last year, God has shown me so many things about Himself through this children's ministry. He has shown me how to pray when I need something, or when I feel like I've hit a brick wall and don't know which way to go from here. He has shown me that I CANNOT do anything - ANYTHING - on my own. He has shown me that He is willing to wait for me as I throw my little temper tantrum, and then, after I give up, ask forgiveness, and look to Him, He picks up right where we left off. He has shown me how to take a leap of faith. He has shown me that He doesn't need pew warmers. And He has shown me how He can work all things together for good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

God used my old church's move to uproot Brient and I, and to bring us to the place we are now. If they had not moved, we would probably still be going there warming a pew and "sending" our kids to children's church. God took something that I saw as "bad" and worked it together for good.

So now on Sunday mornings, Brient and I are leading the same children's program that Jerry and Rindy led, and, not only do my kids get to enjoy it, but, all of the kids of Liberty Grove get to have fun with us while we learn about God and his great, great love!

I am so very, very thankful that God knows what we need better than we know ourselves! Brient and I were talking just the other day, and we both agreed that, from this point on in our lives, if we were not in some way involved in children's ministry, we would feel like something was missing. We would feel empty. We have embraced the calling God has put on our lives, and we are so happy now. You are ALWAYS happiest when you are right in the middle of God's will.

So in just a little while, I will load up all my "stuff," and get ready to head to church to do the job God has called us to do. I am ready and excited about pouring God's love into a great bunch of kids!

I am so thankful that God called me to join in His work, and I am so very, VERY thankful that He didn't give up on me when I tried to say "no."

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“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” ~Dr. Suess