Monday, September 18, 2006

The Wonder Of It All

It's really a wonder that Emma Kate and I ever became roommates. We were only acquaintances, really, until our sophomore year when we were both elected to offices in our sorority (EK had a "real" office because she was pledge trainer; I had a comparatively "fake" office because I was essentially just in charge of writing thank you notes) and required to move in the Chi O house as a result. For whatever reason, EK immediately decided that I was a Friend For Life, and she has never let go of me since we moved our matching floral comforters into our room on a cold January day. We may not be sisters, but we're definitely SISTAHS - and I know that we'll walk through the rest of our lives together. No doubt about it.

It's even more of a wonder that David and I joined Brook Hills. We were only being polite, really, when we agreed to visit with our neighbors, and I'll never forget David's reaction to that first service we attended: "Well, at least they didn't bring out the snakes" (keep in mind that we're from hearty Methodist and Episcopalian stock). There were drums and guitars and not a choir robe in sight, but we found ourselves, inexplicably, going back again and again. We looked for every possible reason why it couldn't possibly be the church for us: it was too big, it was too loud, it was too contemporary, it was too Baptist. But it was also a place where the Bible was preached faithfully every single week - and we were learning and growing like never before. Eventually, we accepted the fact that Brook Hills was nowhere we would've pictured ourselves but exactly where God wanted us. So we stayed - and aside from Alex, it's the best thing we've ever done.

And then there's that day in the park that, in retrospect, is pretty wondrous in and of itself. One Saturday about a year and a half ago, when Alex had been SUCH A PILL on the way home from the grocery store that I decided that he needed to run in some wide open spaces, I looked to my right, saw the sign for the park, and slammed on my brakes at the last minute so that I could make the turn. I wheeled into the parking lot, got Alex out of the car and took some pictures while he ran around. Look! Here's one! Photographic evidence!

I thought for just a second that Alex and I had the whole place to ourselves until I saw a familiar-looking guy pushing a stroller in our direction - and after a few minutes I realized that Stroller Guy in the park was actually one of the Preacher Guys from our church. Specifically, it was Kevin, who I'd never met before, and since neither of us is what you would call "shy," we introduced ourselves and chatted for about an hour while our boys played on the playground. I've mentioned before that our conversation set some ministry wheels in motion, and I'm forever grateful for that - but that "chance" meeting was really about so much more, stuff we never could've imagined at the time.

For the next year David and I listened to Emma Kate and Brad as they began to talk and pray about the possibility of a new work in Tupelo. Back here in Alabama, Kevin, Traci and their kids became increasingly special to our family. And one day - I don't know why - I burned one of Kevin's sermons to a CD, put it in an envelope, and sent it to EK and Brad. It's funny to me that, unbeknownst to him, Kevin made his first trip to Tupelo embedded in a little four inch CD, and that virtual visit made a pretty big impression on some people he'd never met.

By May of this year, EK and Brad were a part of a small group that was meeting regularly to pray about God's direction for a new church. EK mentioned that they'd love to hear the story about how my church got started, so my friend Sandra graciously invited "the Tupelo crew" to her house for lunch one Sunday so that they could hear the history of Brook Hills from some of the founding members. I had to leave church early that Sunday to help get lunch ready, so I missed the end of the service. When Emma Kate walked in Sandra's door about an hour later, she looked me square in the eye and said, "Hey. Kevin prayed."

I said something to the effect that yeah, he's a preacher and preachers are apt to do that thing you call praying - and EK grabbed my arms and said, "No. You don't understand. Kevin prayed."

When I saw the tears in her eyes, I knew, just as sure as she was standing there, that Kevin was, in her heart, the man for their church in Tupelo. I'll never forget that afternoon.

A couple of weeks later, Kevin and Traci came over to our house for dinner. EK and Brad made a special trip so that they could be here, too - and that was the first time that their two families "officially" met. It was magical, as you can tell.

Okay. So I sort of slacked on the pictures for that night. But you get the idea.

And wonder of wonders, about two and a half months later, Kevin accepted the call to be the new pastor at The Church at Trace Crossing, a new church plant in Tupelo.

So yesterday - seventeen years after a couple of blonde-haired girls with extensive hairbow collections moved into the Chi O house, eighteen months after a frazzled mama ran into a preacher daddy in a park, four months after a group of believers from Tupelo heard a twenty nine year old guy in Birmingham pray a prayer that touched them way down deep in their souls - our sweet friends Kevin, Traci, Emma Kate, and Brad stood before our church with the rest of their faith family (look how many there are already!), and Kevin said something I hope I never forget:

"The Church at Brook Hills, meet The Church at Trace Crossing."

I look at that picture, and my eyes fill with tears.

The way God connects seemingly unrelated threads of our lives - and then uses those threads to create a beautiful, unexpected tapestry, something far more than we could've imagined - well, it blows me away.

"Many, O LORD my God,
are the wonders you have done.
The things you planned for us
no one can recount to you;
were I to speak and tell of them,
they would be too many to declare."
- Psalm 40:5


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