I should have written this weeks ago. October always seems to come barreling in with such a push to savor all the moments that few are left savored. Instead, it bulldozes anything in its path in favor of all things pumpkin and leafy and football. Yet it still stands near the top of my list of favorite months.
September held special memories, though, that cannot be overlooked. I had the privilege of cheering on the Rome Braves to an SAL championship as the 2016 baseball season came to a close. What a bittersweet time as the Atlanta Braves closed the gates at Turner Field for the last time. The Ted holds such fond memories in this heart of mine, but I’m so excited for the days ahead at SunTrust Park.
As many of you know, I’ve recently started attending a different church. I have experienced the difficulties a Sunday morning encompasses when one is faced with getting out of bed to go somewhere new alone. It shouldn’t be so daunting to be in a room full of believers, whether or not you know them. I’ve never walked this sort of season before and I’m so thankful God has had me here, difficult though it may be. You see, I grew up going to church with my parents or with friends, and while in college I always had pals to go with on Sunday mornings regardless of where we went to church. As a post-collegiate single adult, that can be a daunting task if only because the enemy loves to use our perceived weaknesses and imperfections to keep us from pursuing Christ and community with His kingdom. I was blessed to be met this first Sunday at a new place by a friend of a friend, gracious and full of hospitality, that led me to the coffee and to seats with their family. It’s so interesting the things you notice on this side of things and here is my wisdom gleaned:
To churches as a whole: it’s not you, it’s us. We have crowd-fright quite often and simply fear being noticed as “the outsider” when really all we want is to belong. We don’t often want to be the loner, so we check our phones too often and rush through the entering and leaving to avoid the awkward. Truly, you are doing a good job, just bear with us.
To fellow believers seeking a new home: go. Your potential gain greatly outweighs the discomfort you will feel for a moment. And you’ll easily find that you were meant to be there, to experience what you experience, to learn what you learn, and to see what you see on a Sunday morning. It’s ingrained in the way your heart beats.
To my friends who just don’t do church: we’re sorry for greeting you too much from such a surface level and never following up with you later. We’re also sorry for not ever talking to you. We fear the awkward just like you, but that’s no excuse. We mean well, but we’re often terrible at putting it into action. We still value you. We still see you and want to know you.
To those of us now accustomed to the cadence of our own congregation: make hospitality your priority. Invite your new friends, but in such a way that they know you want them there. Be there for them through the whole process and introduce them to new folks. Make them comfortable the way you would if you were inviting them into your house. After all, it’s the same thing. Hospitality is at the heart of Jesus and the disciples and the early church we so fondly reference these days. They broke bread together, they met together daily, they picked each other up and sacrificed for the strengthening of the weakest among them. Live interrupted and live loved.
One of my favorite characteristics of this new place is their intermingling of hymns during worship. I’ve reached a place in working out my faith where it’s less in the volume and fullness of it all and more in the simplicity of the words. It’s less about consuming the newest worship and more about what my heart is speaking. It’s more about rest, more about shabbat and sabbath and stillness. It’s more in paying attention to the movements of the Spirit within and less in the movements around me. I had the pleasure of attending a sweet homecoming at a little church just north of here where congregants old and young told tales of God moving through His people. 2 Corinthians 4 says life and light are continually at work in us. What a legacy we leave, no matter what we do. Let us seek a life so full of Christ that we inherently leave a legacy worthy of the presence of Jesus. It doesn’t matter how many people you influence if you cannot see the one that needs what God has given you to speak.
September was also a time of goodbyes and closed chapters. I worked my last day at Chick-fil-A on September 30, surrounded by dozens of donuts (and I do mean dozens..at least 3 I think!). To say I have learned so much in the last ten months is the biggest understatement. I have learned about character and attitude, my own shortcomings and strengths, and what it takes to serve those around you in the midst of chaos. I have met incredible people, from customers who drive up to that window regularly for breakfast or lunch or six cups of ice on their way to work, to some of the sweetest folks I get to carry in my heart forever. I’m sure I said this in, say, February or March, but Alison, Christy, and Debbie have challenged my faith, and helped me grow in so many ways, and have laughed so hard with me over the silliest of all things like snapchat filters, tall tales, or arms piled high with parchment paper from sheets of cookies. There are memories of stuffing boxes, taking pictures, bagging orders, and seeing familiar faces that will never be forgotten. Oh, and that time we ran a 5k in tutus. I am endlessly thankful for these sisters and so many others and for this incredible season at CFA.
But, October brings cooler temperatures, celebrations of Martha, and a newness that can only be found in the last loveliest colors of the year. There is so much stillness on this horizon of mine, so much savoring, resting, and being. So much yoga, coffee, decorating, and steps as bold as my lipstick.
One more thing before I go. My dear friend Morgan is engaged! We met in Swaziland back in November of 2012 when I walked into the team house from a full day of travel to her Auburn sweatshirt and potato salad. We became fast friends and have kept in touch through my eleven months abroad, time when we were both in the States, and now. We cheer for different football teams, but still love each other a whole bunch. She’s been back in Swazi for a little over 2 years as a full-time missionary. During this time she met the love of her life and they are getting MARRIED!! How exciting, right?! Needless to say, I am beyond thrilled to stand with her IN AFRICA as she commits herself to the love of her life. If you’ve gotten this far, you know that means I’m going to Africa!!! I will be there for about 2 weeks in March, doing work with her ministry for the first week or so and celebrating her wedding before coming home. I know this is a bit of an unconventional mission trip, but I am so excited to go back to this country that made such a deep impression on my heart and hug these sweet folks again. It is such a tiny country in southern Africa, but it holds such a large part of my heart. If you’re interested in more details on the ministry we’ll be working with or how you can support them (or me!), shoot me an email, leave a comment, or find me on social media. I would LOVE to share photos and tell you this sweet story.
Enjoy October with all its flannel, apples, football, and fellowship, sweet friends. It is a month bursting with blessings and cherished memories.