So at church today, I was given a little send off. I got a plaque, the kids and I all got t-shirts, though best of all we were prayed for.
On my way back to my seat I made some stupid joke about how I'd been to church and gotten the t-shirt (been there, done that, got the t-shirt)...but I realized something.
While the gifts were sweet, (I'm wearing the t-shirt now, and the plaque really is beautiful) and while I really do understand the gesture, they felt like parting gifts.
We've all seen the losers on Family Feud go home with the play-at-home game, while the winners leave with $12,682 in cash and prizes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Parting gifts are supposed to be a consolation prize. It's a way of saying "We're sorry you didn't win, but you won't leave with nothing here, take this lovely parting gift."
Every church I've been to holds the strangest collection of people you'll ever meet. And while there are usually some that I'm sorry to have known - and it's a miracle that I can say this - but... this church holds none of them. They were all right there, at the perfect time in my life for me to meet them. And I learned so much.
From Sister Duncan, I was given the opportunity to play for my mother. No, she's not my mother, but she sings all my mothers songs. Mom has alzheimers and has officially quit singing - so every time I got to play for her was a special treasure. Thank you.
From Sister Norma I learned about poise and grace. I wish I were half the woman she is - and yet she's the one thing my boisterous heart will probably never grow up to be. I'd swear she's regal. When she speaks, I listen. Because what she says is important. I'll never forget that kind of graciousness.
From Brother Grover I learned to appreciate that someone would walk all the way across the building just to hug me. He's a man that accepts people. And he somehow does it in a way that doesn't make you feel like he's accepting you despite something.
From him and his wife I was honored to watch a really beautiful marriage. While I'm sure it may have it's difficulties, I never once saw them. It is pleasant to watch.
From Johnny I learned the peaceful openness of sharing your past and your progress. He came to church one day not even all that long ago and found something of value and did not keep it to himself. Two people accepted Christ today because of that. He put me to shame. I'm so proud.
From Sister Moselle (yeah, I probably spelled her name wrong) she taught me the most incredible lesson on worship as she led us so many times with tears running down her face.
From another that I won't name, I learned forgiveness. I learned the hard way, but I did learn it. And I certainly didn't deserve it.
From Sister Cherry, I learned bull-headed determination. I know few people that deserve to sit down and cry as much as she does. And yet she rarely does. And when she does cry, she still just gets up, deals with her family and goes back to work. I'm impressed and overwhelmed by her at the same time. She's strong. The idea that she disapproves of my move eats me up. Her opinion is important. I doubt she realizes it. Only the changes wrought by the last 3 years are what allow me to not be ashamed or doubt my decisions just because of her approval.
From David and Liberty I learned something about what I can only briefly call "in-your-face-edness". These are the people who say they care about you, and yet don't stay in touch, yet somehow they are so bold in their care of you that you know that if you ever needed them, you could call them and they'd drain the river to get to you if necessary. They're over the top.
There are others I haven't listed still that have given so much to me.
And that's why, this morning, clutching my plaque and t-shirt I wondered why I was holding parting gifts. Didn't they know I'd won? Didn't they see the prizes, and the valuables I was walking away with today? Didn't they see I'd gained so much?
And so, probably for the first time ever, I wish they could read my blog. Every last one of them. I'd tack this post to the door of the church if I thought they would all see it. I wish they could hear my heart yelling "I WON!" And I wish they knew how they were responsible for so much of it. I wish they could see the change in my heart from 3 years ago. I wish they could see how grateful I am that they allowed me to play their piano, to teach their children, to talk to them, to sit under their teaching, and even the privilege to sit next to them as they talked to one another.