So, the picture above is from the Christmas music at church this past year. It's our "cardboard testimony" and if you don't know what that is, look up cardboard testimonies on YouTube, turn your music up, get your tissue out and worship! I just wanted to use this picture to show how God has worked in my life over the past 4 1/2 years. This morning as we were waiting for our "Sunday Lunch Crew" to get their kids and meet us, I had several people stop to talk to me. By the time we got in the car both Donnie and I were laughing about how at one time I wanted to be an anonymous person in the crowd at church, and how instead, we've met so many people, that it's hard to walk down a hall without someone stopping you just to talk!
Here's the story... You see, I grew up at Ridgeway Baptist Church. First baby to be dedicated on that campus actually, so to say most everyone knew me is a big understatement. I was in GA's, children's choir, youth choir, adult choir, worked in the nursery, ran children's church, very active in the youth group, on youth council, tons of people from the church came to our wedding because they "felt like family" get the picture? So, everything I knew about church was to get involved. In my lifetime my dad was the chairman of deacons, my grandfather was on the pastor search committee, my dad was on a pastor search committee, my mom taught Sunday School, as did her dad, my Nana was very active in WMU, and my Mimi ran the pre-school...everyone worked in Vacation Bible School, summer safari was a way of life for our family, and sometimes we even came up to church on the weekends when dad was church treasurer... see, active? So I just thought that was how church was supposed to be....honestly, I did. So, after Donnie and I got married and my home church went through some changes, we decided to start visiting other churches. It was with a heavy heart, and much emotion that I called to tell my family that after many visits, we felt "at home" at Germantown Baptist Church. I knew my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles probably secretly wanted us not to find anywhere we liked and come "home" to RBC, but for whatever reason (GOD) GBC was where we felt we worshiped the best.
I can remember the months we visited before actually joining. We would come in and attend worship, listen to the preaching and then leave. One particular Sunday on the way out to the car I even made the comment "this is so great to be anonymous in a church!" I knew that no one really knew me, I wasn't "Ray and Carolyn's daughter", I wasn't "Vadine and Raymond or Ace and Demetra's granddaughter," I wasn't "Amy and Emily's big sister," heck, at that point no one even know we were the Blairs, or Don and Kim, so I knew I wouldn't be asked to do anything, and I thought that in and of itself, was awesome! So Donnie and I continued to visit, and after a few months decided to join the church. When we went to the counseling room, the guy counseling us asked if we were involved in a Sunday School class. I remember saying no, and then rambling about Donnie traveling, etc., but that was about it. So for the next few months we continued to go to church, still slightly anonymous (some people I went to Briarcrest with went to that church, and as Donnie says I can't go anywhere without knowing someone) and it felt great...kind of. I felt like something was missing. Maybe it was the intimacy of learning God's word in a smaller group. Maybe it was the friendship developed with other couples in your season of life. Maybe it was that I was not doing what God asks of us, whatever it was, it made me feel empty inside. So, one Sunday as we sat worshipping, the nursery coordinator paraded some kids on stage and said that they didn't have a teacher, and that they would have to sit on stage the rest of the service. Of course this was a ploy, but it sure pulled at my heartstrings, and before I knew it I signed up to be a teacher in the 18 month old class. First I taught during the Sunday school hour by myself, but after a few weeks, Donnie decided he might want to teach with me. We met some great kids, who had wonderful parents! Little by little those parents started inviting us to do stuff with their class. They told me about a Wednesday night Bible Study they had, and how I was more than welcome to come. So, off I went to meet these "new girls." Week after week my friendships with them deepened, and while I got to know them better, their husbands started inviting Donnie to stuff with all the men. Before we knew it we were fully immersed with this group, and were loving every minute of it! The next "semester" we decided not to teach anymore, but instead to go to the Sunday school class. The first Sunday we got to church to go to Sunday school, we went right to the Carney class. These are the people whose children we had been watching for a year, so it just seemed right!
Fast forward to 2010. We've been in this same class for the past 4 years. Those parents have become our friends, and our life as "pew sitters" ended oh, about 4 years ago. Since then we have both joined the choir (picture above), continued to work with the nursery crew as needed, become the social "chairpeople" for our class, I'm on the First Impressions committee, and about to co-lead a bible study this summer. Donnie had the opportunity to lead a guitar group on Wednesday night, and to get involved in some of the men's ministry stuff. I guess sometimes God has to just thump you on the back of the head and say "I did not command you to be a "pew sitter" but to continually work to grow My kingdom!" The best part of our experience is getting to grow friendships and relationships with such neat people! There are no words to describe the love I have for those "parents" who to us were relative strangers just 4 1/2 years ago. We've been blessed to be able to sit in a class and cry, laugh, and pray with each other. To know that if someone called in need, one of use would go without asking any questions. To come up with a "Sunday lunch crew" who, when we haven't been able to go out for a while, all jumped at the chance to go today and squeeze around a small table just to get to spend time together. To know that God has touched the heart of 3 very special men, and we know that no matter which was is teaching any given Sunday, the word will be brought to us! To know our life as "pew sitters" ended, and our life as "pew fillers" is just beginning.
Lastly, when we sit at home and talk about our blessings..you, our friends are among the richest and greatest blessings that God has given us! You know that one, or all of us may be gripey when our blood sugar gets low. You know that Donnie will ALWAYS have something to share in Sunday school, and that I will usually fumble up the announcement for the next social event. You know that I'm OCD, and Donnie is laid back, but you love us just the same! You know who you are....and you know, you are LOVED!