Derek and I decided about 6 years ago we wanted to have a baby. It was almost three years before we got pregnant. By this time, I had pretty much given up. It wasn't a great time for me. So when we found out we were pregnant we were over the moon. We told family and close friends and the people at our church. Actually more people knew than I wanted. This pregnancy lasted nine weeks. We were devastated. I knew this was something that happened to many, many people, but I was mad. Mad at God most of all. Why would he give us this great gift only to take it away? I never wanted to set foot in church again. The only problem was, I was part of the team in charge of the elementary school ministry. I had to go back. I hated even walking into the building. What could I give to these kids when I wanted nothing to do with God? How could I teach kids to love God when I was so very angry with him? On top of these feelings, I felt guilty for feeling them. What would people think? Would I be judged for thinking them? Walking into the building that morning was one of the most difficult days ever. Most people knew what happened and I just didn't want to deal with it. I wanted to get the day over with. What could I possibly get out of being there? My heart was closed off and I wasn't ready for it to open up again. But from the moment we opened the doors we were welcomed with nothing but love and acceptance. Love for me, Derek, and our baby. What blew me away was the acceptance. I was accepted where I was. Not liking, let alone loving God. I was told it was okay, He could handle my anger. That no matter how mad I was, God could take it. I was told that it was okay for the kids to see me upset. The kids loved me and wanted and needed me there, no matter what. The one thing I was told was I could not stop coming to church. If I kept coming, it would get better. Derek and I had attend this church since we were married. But walking out that day was the first day I truly felt I belonged. We were hurting, and they were there. No matter what. This little church taught me that I would not be judged, but instead I would be accepted where I was. It didn't matter where. I was loved.
Today our church said good-bye to a fellow member. When this man started attending our church he was homeless and an alcoholic. I remember him sitting in the front row every week dancing. It was obvious he loved our music. Bob being at our church changed it for the better. He was the first homeless person to call Redemption home, but certainly not the last. Over the years Bob decided to quit drinking. He became a fixture at church. It will be strange not seeing him there every week. As I sat at his memorial service today I was struck by how many people were affected by Bob. He changed by coming to our little church. But he also changed so many people. He was loved. He was accepted. He was most certainly not judged.
The number of homeless at our church has grown. A lot. Our church has changed because of this. For the better, in my opinion. I must admit I do not know most of these people. Not because they are homeless. But because they are strangers. Being around people I do not know is not something I am comfortable with. I struggle finding the right words to say unless I know the person well. I get how this may come off as me being snobby, or just not nice. When in reality I just don't know what to say so I stand back. I want to break out of this for a number of reasons but the most important is my children. If they see me stand back they probably will too. I know I can't change what their personality will be, but I can help them feel comfortable in certain situations. Being around the people at church seems like a great place to start. I love watching Annika on Sunday mornings. Actually, watching all of the children. They have no idea who is homeless and who is not. They just want to go to church, have a doughnut, have some fun, and possibly learn something. And they don't care who they are sitting next too. They are just happy to be there. I know at some point Annika and Asher will know there is a difference. I just hope that before that happens I can teach them that the difference doesn't matter. I just hope I can teach them to love and accept.
It seems that is what our church does. Loves and accepts. Without judgement. What a wonderful place to call home.