A puddle in a pew

A girl, a rock, the vast expanse of water that goes on for as far as the eye can see. Here I see God. Here is where I can listen and hear the whispers in the waves and the laughter of children lilting over the windy shore, see Him in the moss-clinging rocks and the millions of brilliant stones cast upon the shore just because. Just for Him. All this beauty. And just for us. A whole world created just for the glory of God.

If I were being perfectly honest, this will always be my church. My family is where I first found God and it is where I meet Him most authentically daily. It is where I work out my faith on my knees, and it where I feel the thrill of Him most often.

Katy receives her 4th grade Bible during "Children's Church", when all the children of the church go to the altar and worship for 10 minutes in front of the congregation, then receive the blessing of the congregation before dismissing to Sunday School.
But for my children, Sunday after Sunday spent at home with family as church was not enough. Pain fades so much faster when you're a child. I was still in the middle of a mental breakdown after our expulsion from the evangelical church when our kids started begging to go back. We found a "hospital church" for a while - a church in our hometown that specifically ministers to people recovering from abuse, broken hearts, and faith crises. There, in the dark of the worship hall, I could hide my panic attacks and hear a few words or stanzas of comfort while my children came back to life in the Sunday School rooms brightly lit and colorfully painted.

The children added their names to the Church's "heart" during Family Worship this Sunday.
Then there came a time when God winked, and we went to hear Handel's Messiah at Christmas at a church we'd never heard of, a Protestant mainline church we normally would never attend, and suddenly, we were home. Under the huge oak beams 150 years old, with the warmth of the pipe organ filling the rafters, and a choir singing hymns I remembered viscerally from my youth, every sinew in my body that was trained to be taut as wire in church relaxed. I was in a puddle in a pew.

There are moments, still, when I am overwhelmed. I live in fear of being discovered. I don't want to be anything but a face in the pew. The children, on the other hand, want to be in everything. Youth choir. The pageants and dramas. Vacation Bible school. Family worship meetings. Ministries to the elderly.

I am happy for them, these little girls in their blue choir robes. Part of me weeps for the fact that I never experienced this rich heritage as a child. Part of me shudders in fear that this blossoming hope they have for church will be crushed someday. I pray that they can be like thousands of people I've brushed shoulders with over the years - people who've been at the same church for 60 years and never missed a beat. I can't imagine that kind of life, that kind of fortune. But I dream of it for my children...pray for it.

That someday, their children, and then grandchildren, will be dressed in these same blue choir robes. That maybe, finally, we've started a new tradition that will last for a few generations.

I am excited to announce the publication of an anthology on Finding Church: Stories of Leaving, Switching and Reforming, edited by Jeremy Myers. I contributed a chapter on leaving church in the age of social media. The book is available for pre-order through the publisher here, and will be available via Amazon and other major booksellers December 1.