It's amazing how your entire being can change so quickly.
I love vacation, but I hate it. It makes me sluggish. It puts me out of my routine. It makes me want more vacation days. It makes me lazy. It makes me eat more ice cream, cake, and fast food than is healthy.
About five months ago, we started a new contemporary Saturday night church service. Stephen and I are extremely blessed to be a part of the praise team. I consider myself doubly blessed because our pastor has allowed me to be the one in charge of choosing music for each service and adding scripture to the songs that are chosen, and I can go on and on and on (and on and on and on) about the scripture during the worship portion of the service. A year ago, I would have been excited to be on the praise team, but I would have felt a little awkward coming up with things to say about random scripture. But this year, at the end of 2012, I felt an excitement for my relationship with God that I'm not sure I've ever felt. Or perhaps not the most excited... the longest lasting excitement. That's probably more accurate. I've had plenty of spiritual excitement over the last five years (I got saved in 2007) but it was more like a rollercoaster. Excitement... bored with life... excitement... bored with life. I can honestly say I have been excited over my spiritual walk for a solid 7 or 8 months. By the time I was involved with the praise team, it was easy to find things to say about the scripture I read out loud, or the songs we're getting ready to sing to God!
2012 was a hard year, though. Last year while we were visiting our family in Georgia at Christmas, our preacher resigned suddenly. We went home amidst tons of changes in our church that threw us for a loop. Our associate pastor, Chad, stepped up to become our full-time pastor, and we've never looked back. But through that, there have been some really sad moments. Seeing some of my best friends leave the church. Some have returned and some haven't. Seeing people take things personally when (in my opinion) they really shouldn't have taken them so personally. Seeing friends of mine get dragged down by their friends outside of church, ultimately resulting in them leaving the church altogether. Seeing families split. Knowing some of the pain of some of the families now that I'm married to a deacon. Seeing people who are burdened by demons that they just won't own up to. Seeing people leave the church out of embarrassment.
And I have been really angry at some of these people. Or, I guess, not so much angry as an emotion I like to call, "Grow Up and Get Over Yourself."
There are people who have left our church and I have no clue why they don't come. Excuses are made, some great excuses and some lame excuses. I usually smile and nod when I hear these start flowing out of people's mouths, but really I'm just thinking, "Stop with the excuses - just get your rear end back to church because WE MISS YOU!" We don't CARE that your child got involved with police, we don't CARE that your marriage is rocky, we don't CARE that you missed two weeks and now it's just too hard to come back... just COME BACK.
But this year, I get it.
Every year, for probably 8? 10? years we have taken an extended vacation to see my Georgia family and Stephen's Georgia family at Christmas. We usually go down the morning after Christmas and stay until we feel like coming home (usually 7-8 days unless we can all convince Stephen to stay home from work a little longer!) And every year when we come back home, it takes a little while to get back into our routine. We go back to church and suddenly we've missed 5(ish) services, so we're behind on announcements, or someone new has joined the church, or someone's pregnant, or blah blah blah, we've missed something minor. But we get back in the groove really quickly.
But this year was kind of different. We came home early, just for the simple fact that we had our contemporary service on New Year's Eve. So we had to be home on the 31st for this service. Now, consider this. We last went to a church service on December 23. We had missed three church services from the time we left to the time we came home, and didn't go to church at all while we were at Georgia. And I'm going to be honest with you. By the time the 31st came around, and we were on our way to church that night, I didn't even feel like going.
It had only been one week. Eight days. And already I felt like it was too much work to go back to church and get back in the swing of things. I felt tired, and I felt lazy. And I just plain old didn't want to go. And that's when it hit me. Now I understand why you guys leave church and never come back.
It is so stinkin' easy.
It is so hard to go back when you've missed a few weeks. Shoot, throw in the fact that you have some personal drama going on that everyone may or may not know about, and you REALLY don't want to go back!
By the time we finished singing the first song, Open the Eyes of My Heart, I was ready to worship. By the time we sang the last song, Glorious Day, I was jumping out of my skin with worship. And by the time the first service was over, I was looking at Stephen with puppy dog eyes and a poochy lip. He just looked at me and said, "You don't want to go home, do you?" We had to relieve our babysitters (Oma and Opa) so we weren't staying for the whole midnight service. It's amazing what a couple of hours of church can do for your tired, lazy soul!
Car ride to church - "We really don't feel like going... wish this wasn't tonight..."
Car ride home - "We can't wait until our kids are old enough to stay the whole time and we won't have to miss anything!"
All this to say... I do get it. I only did my quiet time two days the whole time we were in Georgia. I was spending almost an hour every single day doing my devotions and then I go on vacation and suddenly I'm too busy, I'm running out of time... it's totally my fault. I just didn't MAKE the time. But by the time I got home and hadn't had that time with God that I was used to, and I hadn't had the church fellowship that I'm used to, and I didn't feel that connection like I did a week ago... it was really scary how quickly I got lazy.
I know people think we spend too much time at church. We go to prayer service at 9:30 on Sunday, then Sunday school at 10, then preaching at 11, then preaching again at 7 (we used to go to choir practice at 6 but decided it's too much on the kids), and then we do Wednesday nights from 6:45 to 8:30 with the youth group. Throw in a few sporadic get-togethers with families inside the church, a ladies group meeting, a deacon's meeting, and other random things that come up and we're at church an awful lot. But here's the thing - if I'm at church (or at least with other people from church), I'm not getting into trouble. I'm reminded of how I need to use my time. Y'all, if I'm not in church that frequently, I get so incredibly lazy. I quit reading my Bible. I quit praying for people. And then what happens is I snap at my children. I mouth off to my husband. I spend too much time on the computer. I forget what's important.
I don't really know how to end this blog post because I am pretty sure I veered off in several directions. Hope you gain something from my honesty, and maybe I'm not the only one who feels like this. :)
This year, get back in church. But don't do it for a resolution. Do it to make your life better. Not easier. Just better. Not tragedy-free. But more ready to take on whatever is thrown at you. Do it to make your family stronger. Your spiritual life stronger. To ensure that your kids have that foundation. To lead others to a relationship with God. Those are the plans we should have for 2013.