i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart) …
e. e. cummings
Thanks to Sarah Thebarge, author of The Invisible Girls, for encouraging me to ask this question: “What stories do I carry with me in my heart today?”
Here’s one of them that I’ve told many times but have never written down. Thanks to my friend Grace Hughey for encouraging me to share this one with you.
Church home. One of the most important parts of a successful relocation. And I couldn’t find one. I’d been living in the Chicago suburbs for two years, visited several churches, even attended one for six months. But it just wasn’t the right one.
I kept praying and kept seeking God’s direction. I kept making a list of churches in my area and kept visiting them.
A sunny Sunday in May. I rose early that morning. Actually, I hadn’t slept much during the night. I was playing the waiting game, and I was losing. In just a couple of days, I would receive the results from some medical tests. And I knew in the core of my being that those results weren’t going to be good.
I consulted my list of churches I still wanted to visit and chose the one on Kedzie Avenue. This was before GPS was popular. I wrote down the address, got ready, and began driving to that church.
As I was driving, I noticed a street sign. Halsted Street. What was I doing on Halsted Street? I didn’t know how I had gotten there and wasn’t even sure where I was. The clock said 8:55, and I knew I wasn’t going to make it to the 9:00 service I had been aiming for.
I looked to my right and saw a church I’d never seen before. The sign in front said: “How to Deal with Worry, Worship Services 9 and 10:30.” I saw two reasons to turn into the parking lot, so I did.
As soon as I walked into Living Springs Community Church in Glenwood, Illinois, I knew that was the church God had prepared for me. People of color and white people welcomed me. The worship, prayer, and preaching fed my soul on a deep, deep level. The list of ministries filled the back page of the bulletin.
I was home.
Later that week, I was diagnosed with cancer. Imagine not having a church home when you’re dealing with cancer. God knew just the right place and just the right time to give me just what I needed.
That was 7½ years ago. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of learning, growing, serving, and praising God with my church family at Living Springs. This is the church I had dreamed of finding at some time in my life. God knew just what time that would be.
If you don’t have a church home right now, please find one. Please open your heart and life to your brothers and sisters in Christ. Please let them love and care for you as you love and care for them.
Your church won’t be perfect. Families never are. But being part of the family of God in a local church is a piece of heaven on earth.
I experienced that once again this past Sunday when our worship leader asked all of us to hold hands while we sang and worshiped God. I looked down the row and saw silver hair, black hair, blonde hair, brown skin, white skin, black skin. Smooth hands, wrinkled hands, weathered hands. I saw hands that weren’t afraid to touch with fingers intertwined. We sang together, our individual voices uniting in praise to our God. The God we share and serve together.
As Pastor Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church says: “The local church is the hope of the world.” Be a hope-giver to our world. God has given you gifts to use for the purpose of blessing and serving others. Church is the place to do just that.
“God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself” (Ephesians 1:22-23).
Laura Warfel is a widow, writer, and follower of Jesus Christ. Her greatest joy is to bring others along with her on her faith journey. In 2015, because of the encouragement of the Launch Out Conference and Jon Acuff, she launched More Than A Widow on Facebook and Twitter. Today she blogs, tweets, and posts to help widows (and those who know them) find encouragement, hope, and resources for the journey. Her goal is to help all widows live beyond the label and live as more than a widow.
Copyright © 2016 by Laura Warfel