Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Journey of Finding a New Church Home

If you were a reader of my blog while I was pregnant, than you know it was a trying time for me as I was immensely sick. THE ENTIRE TIME. It was both physically and emotionally very taxing on me. I spent nearly every single day in bed with a plastic tupperware bowl next to my bed. Me and that bowl came face to face every morning, every afternoon, every night, and every hour in-between. One time I even ended up at ER. Needless to say, I wasn’t social during my pregnancy. There was no going out and enjoying the beautiful weather. No leisurely strolls through the mall. No taking in lunch with friends. And I wasn’t up for company coming over to the house either. All they would do was watch me hurl. More than not wanting to be seen in that state, I just couldn’t do much else than simply lay in bed. I even kept phone calls with friends to a minimum because some days I barely had strength to even talk. I lost twenty pounds the first five months of my pregnancy because I just couldn’t keep anything down. Getting dressed to go to a Doctor’s appointment required so much effort and hours of advance “mental prepping”. I was always car sick too, so even if I popped a zofran pill {which provided only temporary relief, if any at all}, I was still extremely queasy from the car ride. My entire pregnancy, I never attended church. Well, maybe once.

Truth be told, I started disconnecting from our church before I even got pregnant. There was a turning point for me that made me want to detach from a mega church and return to the familiarity of attending a smaller one in which you felt that you were a part of a family, not a part of the masses. Before I married my husband, he was very active in that church and it was an internal struggle for me to even mention the thought of maybe checking out other churches. But I did. And I was surprised at how receptive he was. He started attending our former church when he was a teenager because that was the church that his Aunt and Uncle went to, and naturally, because he lived with them, he went where they went. While although it wasn’t a church that he chose on his own, he grew in the Lord there and I didn’t know if he was ready to move on from there. I didn’t want him to do it just for me. So we both individually prayed about it, sought the Lord’s guidance and direction, and also discussed it with a couple who were our accountability partners during our courtship. Had we had felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit telling us to stay planted where we were, we would have…but we both felt that our season of being a member there was coming to an end.

And then I got pregnant. And the sickness overcame me. And our church attendance became non-existent. While I would like to tell you that although I wasn’t sitting in a chair in church every Sunday morning, that I still filled my spiritual tank by reading the bible, partaking in daily devotionals, and reading books that were full of spiritual substance, I wasn’t. My relationship with the Lord went stale. My conviction to stay in His word diminished. And while although I would really want to seek Him in amazing times of prayer and worship {even if it was just in the confines of my own home}, I didn’t do it very much. Still, the presence of the Lord never left me and His spirit was always nudging me to press through. But most days I just didn’t. I could see myself becoming less and less of the Christian that I used to be. I wanted to snap out of it. I wanted to truly be the child of God that I was called to be, and have my actions show what my heart was yearning to outwardly express. But day in and day out, I took the easier route. I stayed in bed. I didn’t pick up the bible. And I didn’t actively seek out a new church to try out and possibly join. Pregnancy whipped my butt.

After I had Ilah, and was done recuperating from my c-section, I was able to return to church. But which church? Dele and I would sit in bed and continually talk about the importance of being planted somewhere and not wanting to go too long without being in church, but the weeks and months continued to pass. I just didn’t know where to start.

Church shopping. Oh man. Even with the internet, word of mouth, and various forms of advertising, it’s so hard to find the right one. I was fortunate to have grown up in wonderful churches. My parents were involved in ministry, they went on marriage retreats, were involved in home bible groups, I went to bible camps, we had church picnics, and the congregation identified with one another as family. The pastor and his wife were personable, they interacted with their “church family” and as a child, I could run up to him and give him a hug. You could bring your child into the service with you, if that’s what you wished, and they could fall asleep under the seats, at your feet, and no one would look at you unkindly. You never felt forced to take them to a classroom, because they were unwanted in the main sanctuary {long before I had a baby, that enforcement just grated my nerves. I understand the possibility of a crying baby disrupting people around them, but I have never seen a parent not get up to remove the crying infant immediately. There are various reasons why a parent may want their child to stay close to them, and I don’t think they should have to adhere to the churches “no children in the main sanctuary” philosophy if it makes them, and their child, uneasy}. My mom will tell you that the church days I grew up in were the good ‘ol days. And I have to agree. And I want to raise our child/ren in that similar type of atmosphere. I want our child/ren to look back and have similar wonderful memories of church to cherish like I did, instead of feeling as though while they went to church, they never real felt connected there. I believe in structure, but I also believe in times of flexibility.

Dele and I utilized google and started visiting some new churches that matched our beliefs and the things that we were looking for in a church home. Unfortunately, none were the right fit. And we visited quite a few. We would always pray before going in, that the Lord would open up our heart to be receptive not only to the message, but also to the prospect of this being our new church home. We were so disappointed when, time and time again, we left a church knowing it wasn’t the perfect match for us. We continued to look for that one church that we could root ourselves in and call home.

And then…

Last October Dele visited a church near our home. He went solo because I was down and out with just having had a root canal that had me in so much pain and discomfort. He came home so excited and couldn’t wait for me to go and check it out with him. He said it was a small church, but that the people were diverse, and were so friendly and warm, and the Pastor personally greeted him after service. Based on how Dele was talking, I could see that this place really made an impression on him. A few weeks later, we left the baby with my mom and we returned to that church. And indeed it was small. Very small. But every church has a beginning and clearly we would be a part of this churches beginning and honestly, it was kinda exciting. This church is actually a branch of a larger church in a city in Atlanta {a little less than an hour from us}, so they are connected to Pastors, with a big vision, who oversee a larger congregation. This dynamic essentially gives us a smaller church atmosphere, but access to a large church who has events, conferences, various ministries to get involved in, and many groups to join. Each time we visited this church, we always left with a good feeling. We were always greeted by several people, including the Pastor and his wife, who made it a priority to say hello each and every time they saw us. They even extended an open invitation to lunch anytime our schedule permitted. Being as the building is new, they are still getting the space together, {which makes for such an exciting time when a Pastor sees his vision come to fruition}; carpet has yet to be laid in the children’s rooms, which is the one thing that has made it difficult for us to be consistent in attending this church for the past few months. It’s been so chilly here in Atlanta and we don’t want to put Ilah in a cold room for an hour and a half where she will have to sit on an uncarpeted floor {the Pastors wife was so sweet to recently email me to let me know that they were getting a quote for carpet and that it would be installed soon! Yay!}. My mom is always available to watch Ilah for us on Sundays but I don’t want her to have to do it every single Sunday so for now, we go to church every few weeks. Looking forward to that carpet being installed ; )

Although we are still open to visiting other churches, we believe that we may have found one that is a great match for us. There are so many areas that Dele and I can plug into together, or separately {some of the groups: New Moms Connect, Time with Friends, Games with the Girls, Guys Movies, Couples Traveling, etc}. We’re both looking forward to forming new friendships and being hands on in ministry again. I am excited to see how the Lord will transform our lives this year – what He will do in us and through us. We are looking forward to continuing to grow in His ways!


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