Sunday morning, I sat in church alone.
That may not seem like a big deal, but consider the fact that I am usually sitting with my husband and his parents and we've been attending there regularly for nearly 15 years so on the rare occasions that they haven't been there I have sidled up to a friend. This Sunday, I dawdled a little too long at the coffee cart talking to a friend that was on her way out and entered the crowded sanctuary a few minutes AFTER the service had begun so I just grabbed a seat near the front by myself.
The service was lovely! All three of the men who typically rotate turns leading worship were playing guitar and singing accompanied by a few more of our most talented musicians and it was a beautiful sound! I actually stopped singing for a while just to focus on the amazing sound of the congregation singing together. Our pastor's niece shared a beautiful testimony about being thankful in the tough times that truly touched my heart. We enjoyed communion, some more great worship time and the Pastor Mark spoke. He also focused on the call to be thankful for the good AND the bad.
I was teary through most of the service, but I found I also had a perma-grin!!!
At the ripe age of 29..........plus, I have led a life that has been relatively.... how would you put it?......mild? No truly catastrophic moments, no life threatening illnesses; I did try to walk away from God a time or two but I never got very far.
Still I wouldn't say its been a turmoil-free existence. My marriage has certainly seen some rough and rocky road, my heart has been broken, my back has been broken, I have struggled with CJ's ADD issues and Mac's strong personality, I have lost dear friends to death .........and worse. I have failed in things I hoped to be great at, put off things I may never get to do, and realized I just couldn't do all I wanted.
But this year, I got a great gift. I have felt the joy of this gift coming in bits and pieces for, at least, the latter half of the year, but Sunday I really saw it for what it was. Ive read about it a thousand times, "I know the plans I have for you...", "To everything there is a purpose..." you get the theme. A thousand times I have told myself, through bitter tears, clenched teeth, weary, ragged breath, "God will use this pain for His greater purpose!" This year, He did. And may I say, my friends, it was so worth the wait!!!
This year, my husband and I were able to stand beside a couple we love dearly while their marriage was slipping into the hands of the enemy and offer support, encouragement and understanding that we would not have had to offer were it not for the bad times in our marriage. I was able to hold my six foot plus "little" brother who had just lost his baby boy and pray with him and offer comfort to him that I might not have had to offer if I hadn't known the heartache of being a mama in the good AND bad times.
Perhaps most importantly, I was able to forgive friends I not only thought I was incapable of forgiving, but thought forgiving them would make me weak and vulnerable. Because I was willing to forgive them, I learned the joy of living without bitterness, and I looked up from my pity party to see a swarm of friends who love me and have loved me and most of all a husband who is willing to give me everything God has asked of him.
I walked to the stage after Pastor Mark's sermon and I thanked him not for the day's sermon but because I realized that day, he is another person that God has put in my life and said, "Pay attention. Watch and wait for what I am going to do here. It will bring you great joy!
Stop and offer up thanks for ALL of the things God puts in your path, all of the things he refuses to move for you, and most especially those that trip us up when we try to go our own way. Nothing else will teach you the true beauty of God's Love in such an inspiring way!