Sunday, September 17, 2006

Behold, all things are new...

On Saturday, I finished a journal. Filled the last page. Flipped back through the entirety of the volume and marveled at how much I've learned, grown, changed, and experienced in the past six weeks or so. My time in New York with my writing group. The beginning of baseball and softball season for the kids. A new year of homeschooling. Meeting up with a group of black homeschooling moms and listening with rapt attention to all the great ideas they have about field trips, the study of states and maps, and the study of African-American history. A painful, but necessary confrontation with my mother-in-law - things are better now. And me - I'm growing up. I'm growing deeper. I'm learning to accept the things and people I cannot change. To ignore the things and people I cannot change. And the wisdom to know the difference.

When one journal ends, I go into my closet, reach up to the high shelf and pull down a new one. Empty pages. Crisp pages. Waiting to be filled. Covered with commentary, questions, and answers. What will I learn? How will I be different when this one is finished? There's nothing quite as promising to me as the prospect of pouring out my thoughts, dreams, wishes, sorrows, and disappointments into a new journal.

Steve and I have decided to reinstate an old habit of ours: date night. Years and years and eons ago, we used to set aside Thursday nights as our date night. We'd put the kids to bed early, order something special from a restaurant, or I'd make a special dinner, crack open a fine bottle of white zinfandel, and settle in for an evening together. Television or a movie or a long conversation or other activities... It was a special time for us: neither of us planned anything else on Thursday nights. If we were invited someplace, we "had plans" and couldn't attend. If work threatened to run late, Steve would do all he could to wrap things up early.

But we fell out of that habit, let other things get in the way, and have consequently grown apart in many ways. Distant. Lately, I've felt somewhat isolated and lonely in our marriage. Sadly, we are not alone in this situation. Gladly, we are not resolved to stay in this situation. So last night, Mom came over to watch the kids, and Steve and I went out.

First stop was the South Park Mall. He doesn't especially like to shop for himself, but he's great at shopping for me. In Macy's he spotted a beautiful and colorful skirt I had walked past. He went to get me the correct size when the first one didn't fit. He found two others that I wouldn't have bought because I have skirts in very similar colors - but if he's buying, I'm trying. We went into several other stores, commented on the people we saw, the ridiculously large Polo horsemen that Ralph Lauren has begun to put in his shirts, and otherwise entertained ourselves at The High Holy Tabernacle of Consumerism of South Charlotte. I don't have the heart to tell him that most men don't like to shop as much as he does - at least not as long as he continues to be contented with keeping me in fine new skirts.

From there, we went to Miro, a favorite local restaurant. Where everybody knows our names. Well, at least the bartenders do. They know what we like to eat and drink. They welcome us with open arms every time we go; literally, the two young men who work behind the bar come out to where we are sitting and greet us personally. We have seen photos of their children, heard stories of home repairs, and tales of vacation follies. After being greeted and served, as we sat talking and enjoying our time together, Steve and I commented that even though we are resuming an old pattern from years ago, it feels new again.

Almost two years ago now, the pastor of our church resigned. It was a terribly sorrowful time for me as I appreciated his preaching style, his way of thinking, and the fact that he too kept a journal. He is a man who loves the Word of God and loves to share it with others. But all was not well within the church at the time, and he decided to leave Calvary Church and serve God elsewhere. After a time of searching and waiting, we welcomed a new pastor to our church this past January. Six months later, a new minister of worship and arts joined the church staff.

Tonight, I returned home from the evening service and realized that yet another thing in my life is new. Renewed, really. I love my church again.

Even as I wrote that last statement, I shuddered. It's not that I stopped loving my church. It's not that I stopped going to church. For me, going to church is not about hearing or watching or seeing a pastor. It's not about listening to a concert or choir. Church is not a spectator sport; at least it isn't for me.

Church is a place to meet with others who have made a similar commitment to love, know and serve God with our lives. We all stumble and fall. We all suffer with doubts, fears, illnesses, and the devastating loss of loved ones. The good news is that we get to bear one another's burdens, share one another's joys, and learn from each other as we learn from God's Word. We laugh together, cry together, share stories of the road, and together seek ways to become the people we have been called to be.

What is new for me now, tonight, is that there is renewed joy, gladness, community, and expectations of continued growth with the coming of these two new pastors. Will they mess up and let me down at some point? Undoubtedly. Will I do and say things that upset and offend them at some point? Most assuredly.

But here's the thing: just as I began a new journal today, just as Steve and I reinstated a former habit of time away and alone, I also get to begin a new chapter in the story of my spiritual life and reinstate the habit of smiling and offering a silent word of thanks to God every time I drive past the big pink church in South Charlotte.

(Check it out: If you follow the link to the Spanish congregation, you will sneak a peek at Pastor Jorge Prado, the Brazilian man who preaches in Spanish and whose Portu-Spanish utterances I translate into English. On the spot. On the pulpit. Sometimes, it seems, by the seat of my pants. And the tab that mentions the bi-monthly Saturday morning study for Spanish-speaking women, that is led by yours truly. Sometimes it feels like the blind leading the blind, but at least we are in it together. Learning together. Living, learning, and walking together on this life journey.)

A new start.
All things are new.
What's new with you?

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