As we packed up our whole house into a moving truck (which was no small feat, mind you! I was still packing boxes the morning of the move!), we were again overwhelmed by the care of those around us. Friends and family came to help, and we were soon driving the long road from Phoenix to Denver. Our best friends, Tyler and Lindsay Jenner, drove the moving van while Keith drove his car, and I drove the van with the boys. My only goal for the road trip was that no one would throw up. To my utter amazement, everyone was healthy the entire time! Just to be safe, though, we brought the puke bowl, and Toby was dubbed “the puke bowl coordinator,” meaning it was his job to get the bowl to the vomiting child in time. So glad he didn’t have to perform this all-important task. CJ was dubbed “gift coordinator” meaning he passed out the small gifts I had wrapped and packed for them every hour on the hour (this was 3 days after Christmas, and I just hit the dollar section of Target and got them little presents in a desperate attempt at bribing them to behave). Bo was dubbed the “snack coordinator” meaning every half hour on the half hour, he would pass out snacks. It was a good system. They watched an entire season of The Flintstones, and I still get this sick, exhausted, over-caffeinated feeling when I hear the theme music to the show. I think they call that PTSD.
ANYways, we safely made it to our little apartment in Thornton, CO. We pulled in and were met with a crowd of people who unloaded the moving truck in 20 min! Not only that, but they put everything where it belongs, and everywhere I looked, people were serving us. I looked in the kitchen and saw Tracy Payne stocking our fridge and pantry with groceries. I looked in the boys’ bedroom and saw Ted Payne, Tony Renfrow, and a group of guys putting the boys’ beds together. I opened the door to see Keek Hill bringing pizza in for everyone! Someone set a giant gift basket on our fireplace, that was stocked with warm fuzzy pj’s for the boys, warm socks for me, water bottles for all 5 of us, a French press to replace the one I had just told Carrie Breheny I had broken, and gift cards to Sprout’s, Starbuck’s, Target, and probably some other places I forgot! Somebody came up to me and said, “Are you Carrie?” I said yes, and he handed me a gift card to Pizza Hut. It was so overwhelming to be cared for so much, and such a vivid picture of what the church is called to be, a living body that builds itself up in love. In the three months that have passed since then, the generosity has not ceased. We have been given more meals, gifts, notes, babysitting offers, dinners out and people paying for our coffee at Starbuck’s than I can count! I know I’m doing a really bad job remembering all the people and gifts, but that just shows how generous the church has been… I can’t even remember everything they’ve lavished us with!
Not only have they been generous with providing for our practical needs, but they have been gracious with us as a family. There seems to be some stupid ridiculous lie in the general church culture that says The Pastor, The Pastor’s Wife, or The Pastor’s Kids are somehow on a pedestal and are not allowed to be sinful and screwed up like everyone else. I don’t know where this idea comes from, but it doesn’t come from the Bible! I have been extremely relieved to find that I am allowed to be a regular person in this church who is a sinner like everyone else, who needs the same Savior as everyone else, and our children are like everyone else’s children, who don’t act perfectly, and sometimes do crazy things or say crazy things and need the same Savior as every child in the church. People here love Jesus and truly believe that He is their Savior, not any other person. They believe that only Jesus has ever lived a perfect life, and don’t look to us to be perfect. This is such a relief, as I most definitely will disappoint you in a matter of 2.8 seconds if you are looking to me to be The Pastor’s Wife who, like Mary Poppins, is practically perfect in every way.
I got to see this modeled in our Gilbert church, pastors and pastors wives who considered themselves as nothing special, just regular members of the church, and now I get to see this in our new church, and it is so encouraging.
Also, this whole crazy/overwhelming/wonderful experience has grown my love not only of the church, but my love for the God who designed and loves his church. I have been going to church my entire life and have seen some crazy things I never thought imaginable. My faith in the church has been utterly shattered. I saw infuriating hypocrisy. I have seen the strongest, most devout people I thought I knew turn their backs on the very things they seemed to hold most dear. I have seen ugly, I have seen maddening, I have seen soul-crushing, I have seen heartbreaking, I have seen despicable. And really, if I’m honest, I don’t have to look far to see it. I see it in the mirror. I am just as capable of the very things I despise. There have been times I have wanted to just walk away from the whole church thing and spend Sunday mornings at Starbuck’s, sipping coffee and not having to endure awkward conversations with people I don’t want to talk to.
BUT, through all of the church stuff, God has taught me much about what an amazing mystery this all is! Isn’t it so like Him to do things the exact opposite we would imagine him to! The perfectly holy God, who is untainted by sin, would pursue a people who are so marred by sin, do such ugly things, who are so weak, broken and frail. And he would gather them all together as one collective body and call them his bride?! Amazingly, HE gets the glory in this, not us! We are not the church because we are better than everyone else. We are not the church because we play by the rules and are clean and moral. We are not even the church because we choose to spend our Sunday mornings together instead of on the golf course. We are the church because God has called us, saved us, cleansed us of our sin by his doing and not our own, and has adopted us as his sons and daughters, which means we are now brothers and sisters in his family, like it or not! Some of us are weird. Some of us are awkward. Some of us can be mean. Some of us have terrible voices when we sing together and distract everyone around us because we sing loudly off-key and sometimes even the wrong words (I am all of those things, btw). But because God has chosen us as his Bride, he is also sanctifying us, and one day there will be a gigantic Wedding Feast, where we will (finally!) be perfect, clothed in pure white! We will be one, united in perfect love, and our Father promises that he will be with us, and we will be his people, and he will be our God.
And it will have been worth it! It will have been worth all the overlooking offenses, forgiving, loving one another, taking interest in a conversation with someone we wouldn’t naturally “click” with. It will be worth every tear, every insult, every offense, every heartache, every rejection, every disappointment.
I don’t have faith in the church, and I hope the church doesn’t have faith in me. I have faith in a God who sent his Son for sinful, messy, screwballs like me, who is sanctifying his church, and who is our only hope to love one another until the day he returns and makes us perfect.
And? It has been worth it these last many years since God saved me and joined me to his church. It has been as painful… some of the most painful times of my life. It is sometimes as painful to the heart as childbirth is to the body, but that’s the best kind of pain, because it’s a pain that ends with life! When we are faithful to God’s plan for the church, and when we stick it out, there is joy on the other side!
So, again, thank you both Sovereign Grace Church in Gilbert, AZ, and Grace Community Church in Denver, CO. Thank you for your love and your generosity to us, and for being the church with us and loving the Savior with us! We are so happy to have been with SGC, and now GCC, and are so thankful for your love for the Savior and hope that we share in not us as a fallible group of sinners, but in a perfect Savior who will one day make all things right!