Thursday, February 19, 2015

My other love

Valentines came and went on the weekend and while I'm not a big celebrator of that holiday in a romantic way (though of course a card and thoughtfulness from my sweet love always goes a long way), I am a big celebrator of Valentines Day and love in general. Growing up my parents always made this day a big treat - we had a nice dinner and we got little gifts. It was a time to celebrate family. With my grandpa's passing on Friday this weekend was all about family - and it felt so appropriately timed. My family is pretty wonderful and I am so thankful for time with them. 

As I reflect on the people I love there is one other big consistent love in my life that needs mentioning. In the past I've mentioned my love for the two churches I grew up in, but lately I have been reminded of the love I have for the church community I am currently in. Just last night I was telling someone my "love story" with our church and realized that I have been a part of this church family since February of 2006. Which means that it's been 9 years this month! That's crazy!! And I'm not sure I've told our love story here. 

Late January of 2006 God won my heart. I had been fighting it on and off but knew I couldn't or didn't want to stay away from him. I was afraid to try and fail, but had this tiny hope that maybe it could be amazing to be in love with God and actually know what it felt like to be loved by Him. I broke up with my boyfriend and started to look for churches where I lived, which was a struggle. None of them were right. It was like going on blind dates with a bunch of guys who were great for other people, but not for me. My sister was already going to church in Vancouver and a big part of my draw back to Christianity and God was her relationship with God and her church, so as January turned to February I took a trip over to Vancouver to see my sister and visit her church and church community. I was nervous and excited. 

My sister met me at the ferry and we talked the whole way in to town - she had to work that night though so she dropped me off at my Aunt's house before she left for work. There was an event that night for the women of the church I was going to go to with my Aunt. This was scary to me. First of all the event was called "Sisters" and that seemed kind of lame to me. Second of all, I had no idea what the age range would be there and could only imagine a room filled with people my Aunt's age (fast forward to now and many of my Aunt's friends are now women I love and enjoy so much, but 22 year old Tara had no such knowledge yet). Thirdly, I didn't want to be seen as some project person that people needed to talk to since my Uncle was the pastor of the church or because my sister was a member there. Lastly, I felt big (I was in the middle of trying to lose the weight I gained before coming to know God - turns out late nights, binge drinking and eating mostly fried foods add weight like nothing else) and untrendy and Vancouver is full of trendy thin people. 

This event was being held in one of the church ladies homes - the Penners. When I walked in I immediately could hear laughter and the sounds of many women. Once I finally got to the top of the stairs I noticed that the mix of people in the room ranged from college aged to 60+. There were many women my age laughing and talking together. I went into the kitchen and immediately two girls came up to me and started talking to me - not because I was the pastors niece or Jenna's sister, they didn't know those things - but because they were friendly. This, I liked. Moments in they did discover that I was Jenna's sister and they, of course, knew her and were very excited to meet her sister. But I got to see a glimpse of their friendliness with no family relationships to draw on. They were sincere from the start. As the evening progressed so many young women my age came up to talk to me - it was like a party. But like a super fun party where no one was drunk and everyone was nice. I began to understand how my sister might have fallen in love with this church community. These people were genuine and funny! 

The theme for the night was laughter. Eventually we all gathered in the living room and different women told hilarious stories that had us howling - I just found an old blog entry from after that night which said that I'd laughed so hard it hurt - I'd gotten a headache from all the laughter. Totally worth it. This marks the first time (of many) that I heard Arlene tell her famous "waking a dead guy" story, which is still one of my favorites. When the story telling was over people kept coming over to talk to me. I felt so loved and welcomed. At the end of the night I headed back to my sisters house - we stayed up late talking and laughing and I was so thankful for how well she'd loved me over the years and that she was willing to share her community with me. 

Sunday I spent the day with some old friends, and with the family and eventually we all ended up at church. It was my first time going and see that church in a new light. You see, this wasn't the first time I'd been to their church. Over the years at family gatherings I'd been to church with the Mitchell's or my sister many times - since I was a kid even. It's like when your parents try to set you up on a blind date and it just doesn't click, but then years later you see that guy again and BAM, NOW you notice him. I had seen the church and experienced it but this time I noticed it. I was intrigued by it. I loved the time of worship from the start - and realized how powerful my uncle's preaching was. His words encouraged and lit something in my soul for God that I hadn't yet experienced. Not only was church this amazing spiritual experience but it felt comfortable as well. I can not even remember how many of the women came up to talk to me at church but that is only because it was such a big number! They'd met me on Saturday night and rushed over to greet me again. They didn't let the fact that I was just visiting stop them from reaching out. They weren't so afraid to overwhelm me that they hung back. They saw me and they immediately reached out to me. This spoke to my heart deeply. When I'd tried churches in Victoria the weekend earlier I'd felt awkward and alone - here I felt included and enjoyed. What a difference that makes. 

After church I joined Jenna back at her house - she was living in a house with a bunch of women from the church. A bunch of the guy and girls from church were there and we all played Scattergories. It was such a fun night. I loved watching the relationship between the guys and the girls, so healthy! I loved watching the joy they all had in relationship. That joy is even more amazing to me now, 9 years later. I've since heard the stories behind those people - the stories between them as well. There was conflict, there was drama, there were hurts, as with any group of young people. But there was also faith and friendship and joy. There was real love and it was attractive.

I headed home on Monday with my head spinning. You know those moments where you're falling in love? You count the minutes until you're together again? or the time until you can see them? You orchestrate meetings just to get a glimpse of them? Those moments that take your breath away that this person might like you too? The glimmer of hope that this beautiful person sees you as something desirable? As I left Vancouver and headed back to Victoria that is how I felt for this church community. I couldn't wait to be back and find out if this was something real! If this was a people who could love me and I could love back. 

Over the next two months I came over for the weekend most every weekend - I got off work Saturday and was there by Saturday night, joining in whatever I could. I set up coffee dates with new friends and spent Sundays and Mondays connecting with these people. I couldn't get enough of them and they seemed to feel the same way. Simultaneously I'd decided to quit my job in Victoria to go back to school in May - finally I was sensing where I should go and where God might be leading me. I'd been wandering aimlessly before that. My Aunt invited me to come live with them for the month of April before school started so that I could enjoy the Vancouver life and that month stretched on just as the weekends did. It was such a gift to live with the Mitchell's for that month. I loved it. I got to go to church each week, and join in all the activities, not just the ones on Saturday or Sunday! I made wonderful friendships and healthy choices. I'd meet up with Lexi (who lived in my Aunt's basement) at 6am for walks around the Langara loop, and join up with Sarah for volleyball and ball hockey in the evenings with the young people of the church. I spent a couple weeks volunteering at the church office, which ended up being a great way to meet people and to get to know the community well. Basically I jumped into Vancouver church life hard and it was there to sweep me off my feet. I'd never felt community like this before. It was, at that point, one of the best months of my life and I was so thankful for it. 

In May I headed over to Nanaimo to finish my last year and a half of schooling. I spent that time visiting Vancouver a bit but knowing I needed to try to invest in a church in Nanaimo while I was there. I learned a lot in that year. The church I went to is a great church and there were some really wonderful people there. I knew it wasn't MY church but it was a great church. 

And finally it was September of 2007, I'd graduated and was finally moving over to Vancouver to be with my church, my love. Oh the joy, the excitement.I moved in with a girlfriend, Lyndsay, from church and got a job through one of the other church members. Right away, with my best friend Emily, I was swept up into life there as if I had always been there. That year I fell deeper in love with God and with this church family. I ended up spending two years working in ministry at that church shortly afterwards which opened up many doors and led me in new directions. 

Last night I went to our semi-regular women's prayer night. It was at the Penners - the same place I first attended a sisters night 9 years ago. Of the 14 women there last night, 8 of the women in attendance were a part of the church (and most likely at that first sisters night - I can specifically recall 6 of them from that night) when I first came to visit, and the other 6 are all women I have met since then and have loved getting to know. New or longstanding, these women feel like family. As we worshiped together and prayed together and talked together I felt my heart be encouraged. God was clearly with us, and we were clearly with Him. 

Since my first experience at Every Nation Vancouver I have seen this church grow and change. The church it is now hardly resembles the church it was then. People have come and gone. Friendships have changed. And yet it is the same church. It is the community that I fell in love with and continue to be in love with. This is the place that I have been rooted in as I've figure out with God who He has made me to be and all that He has for me. This is the community I get to lead and serve in. The community that supports me and loves me and likes me! This is the church where I met and married my husband Paul and this is the church where we will raise our children together. This church, this imperfect changing collection of people, is one of the greatest loves of my life. I count it among my greatest blessings - that God would give me this people to be with. 
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

No comments:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...