This past Sunday I attended the church my sister belongs to. It’s an Episcopalian church much like the one we grew up in. The building was absolutely gorgeous with beautiful stone and wood structure and the most amazing stained glass windows especially those at the altar. The altar itself was lovely. I really enjoyed the priest, he wasn’t so serious he that he would be unapproachable, yet serious enough that you knew he meant what he said especially during his sermon.
I couldn’t help but compare “my” church to this one. We don’t have a fancy altar nor do we have stained glass windows. I wouldn’t even say we have a traditional altar per se, it’s more of a stage where the musicians and singers are set up and the Pastor speaks. High on the end wall hangs a simple cross. When I first started attending my church I was taken aback by all the musicians and singers on the “altar”. But I quickly got over it once the music and singing started. We sing contemporary Christian songs with older hymns thrown in here and there such as “That Rugged Cross” and “Amazing Grace” there are more (I am a friend of God) but I’m not so familiar with them to name them so quickly. I love our music worship time. To sing and worship our Lord in language that comes so easily to the tongue…it’s something that is wonderful and heartfelt.
The Episcopalian church has a formality to it. Stand, sing, sit, kneel, stand, sing again, sit, communion, etc…I’m sure there’s a particular order I’m just not used to it anymore. In my church we stand to sing and worship the Lord, we also stand in respect to reading a passage of the bible. It’s usually the passage the Pastor is going to preach on. Then we sit and our Pastor will preach for about 45 minutes to an hour, I’m guesstimating that time frame, I’ve never officially timed our Pastor. I really enjoy listening to and taking notes on our Pastor’s sermon. I like to go back and read what I’ve written and reminisce on the sermon and how it made me feel and how close to the Lord I felt. How much I felt in my heart that the Lord was speaking to me.
It was interesting to go back and attend an Episcopal church after attending my church for the past 8 years. I do prefer my church and our style of worship. To me it seems more heartfelt. I remember I tried to return to the Episcopal church I grew up in. But I left feeling empty, spiritually unfed. And they offered nothing for my children, barely a Sunday school and no youth groups or activities. My church has “kids church” every Sunday that my 9 year old attends and youth groups for middle and high schools. I love it. My older girls attended youth group and grew so much in their walk with the Lord because of those groups and their leaders.
I’m not bashing the Episcopal church I simply can’t help but compare what I have now to other worship styles. Especially after attending service so recently. I realize every church has their own style and customs, some dating back years and years. This post is not to disrespect any church that does things differently than mine does.
I haven’t been to church in about 4 weeks. And I won’t be able to attend my church this Sunday due to a family obligation. I miss my church. I miss hearing the preaching of the Gospel. It’s funny because years ago I never gave it a second thought that I didn’t go to church. I used to look at people sideways who made church a priority in their lives. Now I am one of “those” people.
I’ve been enjoying the small group I’m co-leading. Although I have to admit the way the bible study book we’ve been using “Unlocking the Treasure: A Bible Study for Moms Entrusted With Special Needs Children” by Bev Rooseboom, sometimes brings me back to a time in my life with Thomas that wasn’t all that rosy. When I was looked at like there was something wrong with me and not him. Not that I wanted anything wrong with Thomas I just wanted someone to see what I saw and get him and us the help we so desperately needed. The book also makes me realize just how loved I am by God and how awesome that love is.
The women in the group have truly blessed me with their presence and experiences. We have one woman who attends accompanied by her neighbor. The neighbor is an active member of my church. She doesn’t have a special needs child but her perspective of the Lord and surrendering to Him and trusting Him is something that I thoroughly enjoy. We are blessed to have her attend the study even though she doesn’t have experience with special needs children, she has valuable experience walking with the Lord and we’re fortunate that she loves to share that part of her life with us and she does so with such joy that it’s infectious. Everyone should have a “Jan” in their life or at least in their bible study group.
Missing church makes me realize how grounded I feel when I’m there. How I’m reminded of what my Savior has done for me and every sinner in the world. How good our God is, how perfect and just He is. How He is a part of every single moment in our lives. And there isn’t anything that happens, “good” or “bad” without His finger prints all over it. I remember when I was going though a bad time depression wise and a woman I consider my Mentor put her hand on my shoulder and said she sees God’s fingerprints all over me. I can’t tell you the comfort that statement gave me. I wasn’t in control at that time but God was. He was there every step of the way even when I convinced myself he wasn’t. God is so good.
So my Alyssa will be graduating high school next week. Incredible… because as most parents we still remember her when she was a much younger child and the silly, funny things she would do. I’m amazed at how fast time flies by and even more amazed at how not so fast the minutes and hours and days go when waiting for things to happen. Like waiting on the IRS to send us information pertinent to Alyssa receiving her financial aid packet. The time has flown now that we are a week from graduation but time seems to have stood still in regard to the IRS getting our information to us.
The milestones for Alyssa have been nothing less than remarkable. She was stunning at her prom, as were her friends. All the makeup and hair up do’s were simply gorgeous on all of them. Although at that age all the girls could have worn a paper sack dress and still have been beyond beautiful. They went to the beach for the weekend after the prom and from what I can tell it was pretty uneventful. For that I’m so, so thankful.
This past Friday at our church high school youth group meeting they had a special event honoring the graduating seniors. It was great, the youth leader set things up as if he were interviewing each senior on the Tonight Show. Asking them what impacted them the most about youth group, what had their parents taught them that stood out the most, etc… It was really nice and some of them were so funny telling stories that made us all laugh out loud. Afterwards all the seniors were prayed over, it was so moving.
As for the group home placement and Thomas, I guess no news is good news. Tommy and I met with the agency’s nurse and psychologist last week and we liked them both. I’m thinking the last thing for the agency to do is screen Thomas to ensure he is appropriate for their group home. Its the hurry up and wait issue that bugs me. I’m not a good “waiter” for lack of a better word. At the meeting we discussed Thomas returning to the former school he attended before he went to residential. He would stay there a year until he turned 21 and then attend a day/vocational program. I’m thrilled with that plan as Thomas could then “graduate” from that school. Of course a CSE (committee on special education) meeting would have to be held to change Thomas’ placement and I doubt the board of ed will deny moving my son from expensive residential school to less expensive public day school. I just want all the pieces to fall into place…now. But I know things will happen in God’s time and his time is always perfect.
Things are moving along albeit slowly but that’s okay. Slow and steady is fine for both Tommy and me. I’ve learned that an agency here had requested Thomas’ “packet” from his current school and it was quickly emailed off. I still have phone calls to make, Thomas is in need of a “Medicaid service coordinator” or MSC for short. This person will help greatly in setting up services for him when he comes to live in a group home. Thomas has had MSC’s in the past when he lived at home. So we’re familiar with their role. Tommy and I are also meeting with the group home’s nurse and psychologist this week. I’m looking forward to this meeting.
I have something amusing to write about. The person from the state who was previously pressuring me to accept group home placement in other boroughs *except* for the one we live on is now totally on board for Thomas to live here. On this borough. Really? The other day this person said to me, “You’ve been away from your son long enough, you need him to live near you now…” It was all I could do to not reply in a sarcastic manner but I knew I just couldn’t. Instead I exclaimed my agreement with them, “Oh yes, exactly!”
I’m so grateful to my church family for praying with us for the group home placement to happen. People I didn’t even realize were praying for us are doing so. The power of prayer is real and I’m honored with this wonderful group of people. It’s amazing how the Lord works, He is worthy to be praised! When I look back at my journey with Thomas it’s the times I know that God was with me that mean the most. He is always with me but the distinct times I know God was blatantly, no argument, hands down, definitely answering my prayers mean so much; how do you put it into words or explain it to someone? You can’t. You have to believe.
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10) is one of my favorite Bible verses. In looking up this verse I learned that “Be still” is to stop frantic activity, to cease and to look to the Lord for help.In this life I lead now, I can see no other way to face a problem. Acknowledging that God is all knowing, everywhere and all powerful; trusting Him and His plan; that we understand who He is. When I am still and surrender to God I know I can find peace.
Bunnies, chocolate, jelly beans, those darn delicious Cabury mini eggs…all things that spark recognition of the Easter holiday. But what about the “real” meaning of Easter? By real I mean seriously the real reason we celebrate. Jesus Christ was risen from the dead that Sunday morning and what a glorious day that must have been. I can only imagine how the apostles felt to see their Jesus again after a crucifixion fit for a criminal. How He was stripped of his clothing and beaten, given a literal crown of thorns. Jesus then took upon himself all the sins of the world. I love Romans 5:8, “You are loved more than you will ever know by someone who died to know you” So powerful.
It wasn’t too long ago that I brushed off the real meaning of Easter. It was just another “holiday” to get through. We (meaning my husband and kids and I) didn’t go to church. We didn’t really have a home church. I tried to go back to the Episcopalian church I grew up in but they offered nothing for my kids, no Sunday school, no bible study, no kids activities. And to be honest I finally left “the church” I was feeling frustrated and empty. I went back when I was pregnant with Samantha to the Episcopalian church but I felt empty when I arrived home afterwards. So after Samantha was baptized as a baby I stopped going. I did what I felt I had to do to ensure she would be “safe” if God forbid something happened to her, that she would go to heaven because she was baptized. I didn’t know that that was so far from enough.
I didn’t know we had to accept Christ as our Savior to be saved. I know all about Jesus I thought. Yes I knew of him but I didn’t have a relationship with Him I didn’t truly know him and wasn’t thankful for what He did for me. My kids didn’t know enough about Jesus to accept him as their Savior. It was only when we started going to our now home church about 8 years ago did my kids become exposed to the wonderful Gospel. The good news. That Jesus died for our sins and we were saved once we opened our hearts to Him and accepted the free gift of grace. I was baptized again this time by my choice on June 27, 2011. In front of the whole congregation I publicly let it be known that I am now a follower of Jesus Christ. It was wonderful and something I wholeheartedly recommend to any Christian; be baptized (again).
So Easter has come and gone. We celebrated our Lord’s resurrection with joy. And what a joyous reason to celebrate.
Since I started co-leading this small group/bible study for Mom’s of special needs children, I’ve had the distinct pleasure and honor of watching the church move. Watching other members of the group support and help each other. It is truly the hands and feet of our Lord in motion. And I am blessed to be a witness to it. I didn’t know what to expect when we began meeting for this small group. I didn’t know if everyone would get along or if anyone would be judgmental. Thanks be to God we all do get along and empathize and pray for each other; and no judgement.
I worry I don’t have the “right” words to say, I’m pretty quiet and I’m an active listener during the meetings. I guess that is the role The Lord wants me in. But there are times where I want the Holy Spirit to come upon me and give me words that will make an impact. I’m thinking my presence is enough of an impact. At this time anyway. My co-leader is quite gifted in knowing what to say and how to say it. She was amazing last night and I’m so thankful the Lord put us together to lead this group.
I prayed this morning for God’s help and support and strength in being a part of this ministry. Apart from Him I am nothing and I need His strength to be able to minister to this group of wonderful women.
Pastor John is our new pastor. Today was the second time he preached, last week they cancelled church due to the snow storm we were clobbered with. I’m really enjoying him He’s just so good to put it plain and simple. Pastor John is preaching from the book of Phillipians. We’re just at the beginning and its already been enlightening.
Pastor spoke of 3 things we shouldn’t forget: To never forget who helped you on your journey, to never forget who controls your journey and to remember the ultimate purpose of our journey. He packed so much into one sermon it’s difficult to summarize.
In never forgetting who helped you on your journey Pastor John spoke of the Apostle Paul never forgetting those who helped him and supported him, especially when he was in prison in Rome.
When he spoke of never forgetting the one who controls your journey, Pastor said something so profound. The God is omnipotent, nothing is beyond Him and the next thing which resonated with me so strong: “The proof of God’s goodness in not in our circumstances”. It reminded me of when I wrote my blog post titled “Blame” where I’m quick to blame God for my circumstances. Pastor John also said that God didn’t save you to make you happy-He saved you to His glory through you, as you serve his body which is the local church.
The 3rd thing we aren’t to forget is to remember the ultimate purpose of our journey. That love is a choice not an event. Love is an action and pastor spoke of the many times in the bible we are commanded to love. He stressed that love is a choice.
Another phrase that resonated with me that pastor John said is, “When God is through with you he will either kill you or come get you”. I loved that. It means if we’re still here, living that God still has a purpose for you, He’s not done with you yet. That hit me as I often wonder what is God’s purpose for me? What is his purpose for giving me a special needs son? What is his purpose for allowing me to go through clinical depression? As I stand on the edge of starting this small group/bible study I’m starting to see that maybe I’m here to encourage? I don’t know yet for sure~but since I’m still here God isn’t finished with me yet and for that I’m glad and I look forward to Him using me for His glory.