I had one blog entry all ready to write, about a church here in town, when I was about to head to my home town to visit my mother. She had some house issues to settle, and I looked forward to visiting with her, just us. I figured I'd be fixing some things, and perhaps helping her make some hard decisions about her elderly dog. Surely I'd have time to write, and I could wrap up a church visit while I was there.
It was to be a 6-day visit. I left one day shy of a month.
Mom was much more ill than I could have imagined. The cooler was kind of a non-issue, taken care of in a stopgap way as I convinced her to go to urgent care, then the doctor, then the Emergency Room. Rehabilitation followed.
My year finished up with some unexpected visits.
To the church where I first met Jesus, El Camino. Some parts of it haven't changed a lot since I was a child, despite several new buildings and initiatives. I sat next to friends and prayed for Mom, who I already knew was not feeling well at all. She fell twice that night, and was unable to get to her feet.
To the church where I found comfort on Saturdays while my husband was away and we lived "at home" for a year, Pantano Christian Church. I checked three times to make sure it was even the same church at all; everything felt different. The pastor came and talked with me a bit before service, and I appreciated his warm welcome and friendly attitude...but even if I moved back home this would not be my church. It felt dark and club-like, instead of airy and filled with light as I'd remembered. At that point, she was already in the hospital.
To the chapel at St. Joseph's hospital. I sat in the hushed silence, alone but not lonely, and breathed out prayer for Mom and her doctors and for anyone who needed it in that space. Mom was already feeling better by that time, but I knew she couldn't go back to the house where I'd grown up. Big changes were coming...was I strong enough to help her make those choices?
To the chapel in Villa Maria, where we sang hymns and people in wheelchairs rattled tambourines. Mom's face lit up at the chance to sing, though her strength was not back quite yet. I felt hope, and comfort.
To the small, unobtrusive chapel in the Atlanta airport, as I tried to build my business and rebuild my heart after an intensely difficult month. There were three gentleman, boys really, saying afternoon prayers. I've never known silence so utter. Once I was home, we planned to help Mom move.
At the end of two months, we had moved my mother into a wonderful new apartment, and said farewell to so many memories that my heart is still healing. I know she, too, was wounded by the summer and I wish I knew how to help her through. She lost her home, her beloved pet over whom I whispered prayer and love as she breathed her last. I lost my childhood, and the sense of comfort that is brought by being able to "go home".
Once home for good, I could only think of one church where I wanted to be. One place that knew my name, knew my story, and welcomed with open arms anyone who came to visit. I think anyone reading this blog knows by now that I'm talking about the Triple 7 Baptist church - and perhaps everyone else knew before I did.
I wanted a large, busy church. I have somehow ended up in a mobile home in the middle of what seems like nowhere to this city girl.
I wanted boisterous, bouncy music. And lots and lots of it. I sit in church and hold a sweet blue Baptist hymnal that comforts me.
I wanted modern - I somehow have old-fashioned values shared over breakfast rolls and coffee.
At the beginning of this year, my list was long and my desires were plenty. And then I was told, "You're staying, of course," to a birthday luncheon for a man I've begun to count as family. If my heart is hurting, if my heart is happy, I think of this church first and I want to share with them my news. I pray for them, and I know they pray for me.
In the end, it didn't matter what I wanted in a church. It didn't matter what I thought I needed. God knew my heart, as He always has, and He found a connection and a place for me. He found me that second family that I had imagined would take years to create.
In the end, I thought I'd pick a church from the many that I'd visit. I thought I'd read over my blog posts and remember the pluses and the minuses and the wonderful and sometimes bizarre moments of this year.
In the end, I thought I'd choose. But in the end, my church has chosen me.