|Image from robinwardillustration.com|
No, I am not buying a new house. (Although that would be so nice...)
I'm talking about a "church home".
First a little background.
I have been a wanderer in regards to churches. After I left the church at which I met Michael, it took me several years to get over some hurt I'd experienced there, and to even want to go to church again. At that point the Lord led me to a church that felt enough like my former church so that I immediately felt comfortable. I ended up attending there for several years and became involved in a fledgling singles ministry and the music ministry. It was what I needed at the time.
I wasn't dissatisfied with that church, but when Cottonwood opened in it's current location in 2008, I noticed that their services included Wednesday night. I had always loved Wednesday night church, and the church I was attending did not have a midweek service. So initially, I only walked into Cottonwood wanting a midweek service to attend.
My first visit to Cottonwood was a bit of an eyeopener. What I remember the most was that EVERYONE had their Bibles with them, and many even had notebooks, highlighters, and pens. The congregation was serious about God's Word, and so was Pastor Bayless. I was a little embarrassed because I hadn't taken my Bible to church since I was a kid, and I rarely read it. I don't really remember the topic of study that night, but whatever it was, I liked it.
The next time I went to church, I took my Bible! I couldn't believe how much I didn't know, and how much there was to know. I was hooked. My growing knowledge of God's Word and His nature really helped during our struggle with infertility, and eventually Michael's illness and death. It was Pastor Ray (from Cottonwood) who witnessed to Michael and led him to make a decision for Christ.
I love Cottonwood. I love the warmth of the people there. I love the pastors. I love the music. I love the teaching.
However, Cottonwood is a mega-church. It is very, very large. As I looked ahead, I was concerned that Michaela would be overwhelmed by the size of the Sunday School and youth groups, and that she wouldn't have a strong connection to the kids and leaders in those groups.
So earlier this year, we visited a couple of churches close to home. The first one was just too small, but the second one was just right - large, but not gigantic. It was the very same church where I had attended GriefShare after Michael passed. I liked that the pastor(s) taught from the Bible as much as Pastor Bayless did, and I liked that the Sunday School (even for three-year olds) included a Bible time. While the church facilities are older than the other churches I've attended in the past, it reminds me of the church I grew up in and I like that feeling. There are many opportunities for involvement that fit Michaela and me, and our schedules.
I signed up to volunteer at VBS this week in hopes that we'd both make some connections, and that the Lord would confirm that this is the right place for us to be. The people I've interacted with this week have been so welcoming and inclusive. This morning, I was reintroduced to a woman who had been in my GriefShare group back in 2010. I didn't recognize her (she's lost 80 pounds!), but she remembered me and my story. Everyone has been very gracious. Volunteering has helped me learn the campus, and not get lost in the hallways. Ha! That is a big part of feeling at home, though.
So, I'm happy to say that it appears that we have found our church home. I hope that we will both be spiritually led and fed, and that we'll develop some lasting friendships.