I choose sadness a lot of the time. I think it’s because I’m really good at throwing myself pity parties; lots and lots of empty brownie pans and a very used copy of “My Best Friend’s Wedding” can attest to this. This is not a good habit, obviously, but something really neat has happened during the times I laid on the floor and cried with a pillow over my face (y’all, I’m a catch): God kept moving forward anyway. God still set really really good and beautiful things into motion.
It’s very much like when I went skiing for the first time. January of 2011 my brother invited me up to West Virginia with him to go skiing. This would not only be my first time skiing, but also my first time ever seeing snow (florida cracker, over here). The place we went to ended up not having any bunny hills – great for every other person there who knew what they were doing, terrible for the tall gangly florida girl wearing a blue hat covered in snowflakes. Suffice it to say it did not go well. After hours and hours of falling and getting tangled up in my skies I did what every other emotionally unstable female would do: I sat in the snow and I cried. My brother had spent that whole first day with me, despite being a fantastic skier himself, and when the afternoon peaked at this pathetic moment he didn’t agree that maybe skiing wasn’t the best thing for me – he dragged me down the mountain. Figuratively, not literally.
God has done the same thing with me here. He hasn’t gotten annoyed with me or irritated at my sadness, he’s kept saying “come on, we have other things to do. I some really neat things for you.”
SOME NEAT THINGS I WOULDN’T HAVE BLAMED GOD FOR NOT GIVING ME, DUE TO MY BAD ATTITUDE:
1. I have this friend in Tampa who really loves excel spreadsheets and making her own yogurt. I haven’t known her long because she only moved to Tampa a handful of months ago but it’s impressive how quickly she has taken up residence in the inner circle of my heart and soul. I believe one reason she has reached out to me so so tenderly is because she is well versed in all of the emotions that come hand in hand with moving. She is the person who validates my sadness. She tells me I’m allowed to be kind to myself. She is holding my excitement for me until I’m fully able to hold it myself. And recently, she mailed me the seemingly simplest of objects that filled my heart to the brim. A mug from the church I’ve called home for over three years, empathetic handwritten words, a dishtowel full of sentimental value (it’s the little things). It is quite clear that God timed our friendship perfectly. I was angry to leave so soon after her arrival (in fact she was on the CON column for moving) but if I hadn’t met her in this season I would be struggling. I know God is a loving God because he provided me a friend who is experiencing the same changes only a few steps ahead of me and because of that.. I can breathe.
2. I found a church that I love. I knew coming up here that my biggest struggle would be leaving Watermark. And I knew my initial reaction would be to try to find a church exactly like Watermark. That isn’t really fair, though, is it? No community is the same. And no community is perfect, especially not the one I had in Tampa. So, I had to be very purposeful in keeping myself from simply trying to find a Watermark-wannabe. And wow, I definitely went to some that resembled Watermark in NO WAY WHATSOEVER. I heard some good teaching, saw a lot of worship sessions I detested, and made small talk with lots and lots of people before God brought me to Christ City. I know God is a kind God because he brought me to a church that reminded me of Watermark, even though I knew that couldn’t be my rating scale. They’re not identical of course, but the feeling of peace I had upon entering was oh so reminiscent of that feeling of comfort I had every Sunday in Tampa (and they both have minimal, slightly dim lighting which of course isn’t a deal breaker but hey – I like minimal lighting) . I confessed to a new friend over lunch this past Sunday that immediately this feeling was conflicting. Of course it felt so wonderful and so restful to be in a church that gave me peace, but in the same moment I was very heavyhearted. How could I be at peace when my friends were over 800 miles away from me? Well, because God isn’t present merely in Tampa. There are no replacements for the friends I have currently said goodbye to, but there are beautiful people to love in their own right here in Memphis.
3. Proof of that can be found in this past weekend: I was invited to head out to Moscow, TN (who even knew such a place existed) to stay at a big beautiful house surrounded by beautiful fields and beautiful trees and a beautiful lake. There we would stay up late laughing, talk about God and the unique ways we know Him, make s’mores, lay in the grass, and drink sweet tea. It was Saturday night when the beauty of the situation hit me. I was lying in the grass stargazing with new friends resting on either side of me. I know God is a big God because as we ooh’d and aah’d at every shooting star we saw I had the thought: here I am in Tennessee with people I didn’t even know existed two weeks ago… and God knew the entire time I was in Tampa that I’d one day be here, laughing with and learning from these unique and interesting individuals. Stuck on the earth by gravity, looking up at stars that may have burned out ages ago.
4. I know God is a God who cares about little things because I was invited to join a book club. I kid you not, I’ve always wanted to be in a book club. Admittedly it’s as much for the conversation, wine, and laughter as it is for the books themselves. And that’s exactly what I found waiting for me when I arrived that first night, cookies in hand: delicious wine and equally delicious conversation. We have started reading “Bread & Wine” by Shuana Niequist. Basically it’s a collection of essays she’s written about food… but it’s a lot more interesting than that may make it sound. Every little essay makes my heart feel warm and fuzzy as I recall beautiful moments had around different dinner tables with different friends. The title itself makes me think of a specific evening I had while studying abroad in Paris: myself and four other ladies traveled via metro to the Eiffel tower (as all americans do) with wine, brie cheese, and fresh bread in hand. We lounged and laughed and shared with one another as one of the world’s most famous landmarks sparkled in the background.
That God led me to a wonderful church, to friends who love being outside, to girls who enjoy wine and reading is really humbling when I think about how angry I was about moving. No parent would reward their child with lovely gifts after a myriad of tantrums. And yet.