Sunday, January 11, 2015

Church is Where I Go, but Not For Long!

So you know what's harder than pointing out what someone else is doing wrong?  Taking a long look in the mirror and realizing that most things are a two way street. I'm really good at pointing out where others may have shortcomings.  The good news is I can usually take a minute, grab some perspective, and find out where I'm blowing it too. 

A couple of days ago I posted a blog called Church is Where I Go, and it talked about all of the reasons our "new church" has been a challenge. A lot of what I said was spot on and I stand by it but in my times of self pity, it's easy to get wrapped up in whats going wrong, when the truth is, I hold just as much, if not more, responsibility for not making it home. 

When we moved here, Indy was home. Our church was our family. Our neighbors were our family. Sure, our old church was incredible about jumping in and forcing us to be included in the church family but looking at the other side of the coin, shows me some different parts too. 

When we came to TN, I missed Indy and missed our friends there. I missed our gigantic support system, I missed having help when times were hard, I missed having people check in with me, and I missed the comfort those things offered.  We got sick when we first moved  and there was no one to bring us food or check on us, we didn't have anyone to take the healthy kid out of the houseful of sicklings, and there was no one needing a baby fix who waded through the germs and played with Kip so I could rest. We didn't have those people because we'd just moved here and didn't know anyone yet. We probably didn't have those people in the first two months we were in Indy either, but I didn't see it that way. 

Another key difference is that we moved to Indy in the middle of summer. That's when everyone breathes a sigh of relief. Everyone is in a little better mood and has a little less stress. We moved to TN in the end of October.  Right when things are getting chaotic in most families. The weather is starting to cool off so people want to stay indoors, school is in session so everyone is busy with homework and extra curricular activities, and the pace is just a little more hectic.   

I pointed out all of the things my new church family had and hadn't done, but here's my list of things I neglected to do. 

I haven't joined a bible study 
I haven't joined the women's ministry or asked if there's a spot on the team. 
I haven't forced myself out of my comfort zone to talk to new people. 
I haven't asked anyone out for lunch/dinner/coffee. 
I haven't coordinated a play date for my kids. 
I haven't asked where I can fit in. 
I haven't made the effort!

Sure, when going to a new church, it's easier if the existing members do all of the heavy lifting for you but if they don't, it's not an excuse to curl up and be sad.  

The new church loves. They embrace each other, they honor God's word, and the love all of God's children. There are open and honest conversations in the classes. There is preaching that will knock your socks off and fire you up for Jesus!  The congregation sings!  They love singing and I love that they love it so much. There have been several times that I've sang in church and at the end of the song, I felt like I should clap because it was so good, and at the new church, they do it!  They are sinners and they love sinners. They are genuine!  

There is no better example of the people I'm describing than Mike and Melanie. Naturally we love them, they're wildcats, but more importantly, they exhibit all of those great qualities that have kept us coming back to our church. They've really been an anchor in an uncertain time for me. When I said I was leaving the church, they supported me. When I told them we were coming back, they celebrated with us. I'm so thankful for that, and I know they are definitely part of God's plan!

So yes, we've had a rocky start.  And yes, our church probably could've done better, but I definitely could have done better, and I WILL.  We will begin doing life with our church family. We will become engrained in the congregation. Everyone might as well make the best of it, because they're stuck with us now!  And if they don't believe it, they can ask Mike and Melanie, or even our old congregation who couldn't even get rid of us through a move!  Love you and miss you Indy!  Love you and am thankful to be where I'm at TN!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Shameless Plug for a Dear Friend

I've been lucky enough to have some incredible friends in my life. 

Friends who let me move in with them, and their brand new husband, just months after the wedding and have stuck with me through thick and thin ever since.  Joy and Dee are my sisters, forever, and there's no discussion about that, it's fact. 

A friend who, when I was  suffering from hypoglycemia (in high school) and couldn't eat sugar but wanted ice cream more than my next breath, would sneak a DQ blizzard into my parents house and stay with me while I ate it, just in case it killed me!  (Yeah, Cori, you)

A friend who I can share a toast with and watch trash tv with, once a week from 600 miles away! (Here's looking at you Shawn!) 

Friends and neighbors who supported me when I was diagnosed with cancer. They never flinched, just rolled with all of the crazy emotions. They laid in bed with me when I couldn't get up, they kept my kids happy and busy, Gina even dropped my baby!  I cried with Anita. Angela brought projects to keep me busy. Gina and Colleen were there for everything.

Friends who took me in and included me in (almost) everything when we moved to TN. There was that one party...Andy, that you left me out of. Andy and Laura made TN home when I didn't know if it ever would be. They invited me to parties, introduced me to their friends and family and I'm so thankful to have them as half of the Richwaters. No surprise that such awesome people have such awesome friends and family, and I'm super thankful to be included in that list now!  (I'm on both lists Andy, deal with it. I'm family now!)

There are friends who sell you a house and then take you in as part of the family. We bought our house from "a businessman who wouldn't put up with nonsense" as our realtor put it and then we met these incredible people who have  an awesome family that I love!  I won't discount that he's a businessman, but he and His wife are some of the kindest people I've ever known. I didn't know people like them still existed. They are made from the same stuff my grandparents were made of, and so are their daughters. I prayed for good neighbors and God delivered abundantly. Their entire family is full of great people made up of good stuff!

And then there's Jeff. Oh Jeff. He and Jeremy were always friendly at church, and they'd invite us to things but it took awhile for me to warm up to Jeff. Somehow, through some bigger plan, he became one of my best friends. 

Recently, in a group text, this was said. 

And that sums us up. 

When I had surgery on my knee, Jeff came over, cooked a meal, set off my fire alarm, and CLEANED UP after himself. (Take note, Kelly, he CAN do it!). 

Our friendship has hit hard spots, for sure, but we've gotten through them. Most recently, I yelled at him in my garage for 15 minutes and he just rolled with it. The biggest hiccup in our friendship is probably what solidified it the most. I'm not going to rehash that painful time but I have to tell a little about it. 

Jeff and I hadn't spoken in awhile because of the circumstances at the time. I'd talked to one of my favorite Christian mentors, Ms Dawn, about it and and we'd prayed together, it stayed on my heart but I knew it was in God's hands. 

A few days passed and I was driving down 106th street when a song by Tenth Avenue North came on the radio. The song is called "Losing" and I still tear up when I read the lyrics. I also suggest that anyone reading this read them!  

At the time those lyrics were so pertinent to our situation that I stopped in my tracks, I knew God was using this song to touch my heart!  I pulled my car over and sent Jeff a text basically saying that Keith and I still loved him and valued our friendship with him and if he wanted to love us back, we were in. 

We got together shortly after that. We had some horribly uncomfortable, emotional talks, that Keith still laughs about, because they made me so anxious and the rest is history. We've been a three person Wolfpack ever since. 

There's not a lot of frill in our friendship, it's true grit. We are silly, we are goofy, and we are real. So, recently, when I commented on Facebook that I'd written a new post, Jeff called me out and said it'd be better if it mentioned him by name, so, here it is Witherboo! 

I can't call out each of my dear friendships but I do value them all. And honestly, I'm sitting here debating on publishing this because there are so many incredible people I didn't mention. Like Jen and Jason, or Mark and Tracy, and Courtney and Tim, Richard and Karen, Danielle, my mother in law, Chad, and the list goes on and on, and I am so blessed to have such a long list!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Church is Where I Go

Our lives have changed since moving to Tennesee, some awesome changes and some less than awesome changes. One of the less than awesome changes is church...we are still struggling to find our "fit" in church and that's exhausting. 

Our family used to be extremely active in our past church.  Church was very much a part of our daily lives. It wasn't uncommon for us to be at the building 3-4 times during the week and it was more than common for us to see someone from our church family almost daily. We truly did life together. 

Now, church is "where I go."  It used to be a big part of who I was and what I did, but we haven't connected well and the familiarity is gone. 

*Church was where my primary relationships were. 
*Church was where my kid's friends were. 
*Church was where my husband's friend base was.  
*Church was where I was comfortable and at home. 
*Church was something I loved doing. 

Now, church is where I go, I have very few relationships there. I'm not comfortable when I go in because I don't like large crowds of strangers, and that's what it is now and I feel guilty admitting this, but I don't love doing it. I love God, I love Jesus, I love the preaching and singing but without the relationships it's hard. 

In a nutshell, I miss it. We are trying, so hard, to engrain ourselves but it's a slow, painful process. 

In our old church we did life together. Within weeks of moving to Indiana we had people who would drop in and say hi, just because we were new. We had multiple offers of babysitting while we unpacked or got settled. None of which I took because I'm entirely too overprotective for that, but the offers were genuine.  (Makes me laugh to think of me rejecting Sherry's offer!  She's practically family now!) We had play dates for our kids set up immediately, sometimes before I could even catch my breath.  

Living here and our "new church" (it's been over a year) makes me sad. My daughters haven't been invited to even one play date, no one from church has dropped by to welcome us to TN, there've been no outlandish babysitting offers from practical strangers for me to decline, none of the men have asked Keith to join them for golf, or coffee, or whatever men do. Only once have the other moms invited me out for anything, and that makes me sad. What's more troubling is that when I've spoken about this to other members, they've agreed with me, that their relationships aren't at church either, and that's disturbing. This is our family and we have no idea what they're up to!  I say that with near panic!  We NEED each other, whether we admit it or not! 

We've even left the church for an extended period of time and explored other options.  Exploring is fun!  I've always gone to the church of Christ and really, only ever visited baptist churches with my grandparents so to see the variety out there is incredible! One thing I know, I'm not terribly charismatic and I'm also not overly conservative. There were some very uncomfortable moments that led to those discoveries!  Let's just say that when I break a sweat, dancing for Jesus on a Sunday morning, I'm probably in the wrong place. And head coverings?  Well...have you seen how big my hair is?  If you haven't, trust me, it's big!  Circus tent big, not bigger handkerchief big...

What rings true for us, is that the church we are at is where we believe God wants us. God has called us back there and it's where we are desperately trying to dig in. My prayer is that once this horrible flu season is over, we can shake things up and start doing life with our local Christian family.  Whether they like it or not!

We are definitely on the right path and are slowly building meaningful relationships, but the emphasis is on slowly!  If God wants us here, and I truly believe he does, you'd better believe we are going to do it big!