Sometimes Sunday mornings are difficult for me. I'm sure we have all been there - some of us more than others - but I would think that it is a problem not unknown to anyone. You wake up Sunday morning, and you REALLY don't want to get out of bed. It's been a long week and you just want to stay in, snuggled under the covers. I really think that Satan plays into this a lot - the bed just feels more comfortable on Sunday mornings, the air just seems a little "crisper" making you want to stay snuggled in, your head starts to hurt (or at least you think you can make it start to hurt, if you stay in bed long enough and then you will have a legitimate excuse not to get out of bed) - the last thing you want to do is get out of bed, get ready, and GO TO CHURCH.
Even when I feel like I'm committed to serving my Lord, I still feel this draw on Sunday mornings to not go to church. Even when I get up and go..sometimes it's forced - I go because I know I need to go, and when I get there, I'm blessed.
Today, something was different. I was up early and in the shower. I HATE, HATE, HATE rushing around on Sunday mornings getting everyone ready for church... it just adds to my bad attitude when I'd rather be in bed, or trying to tell myself that the headache I'm feeling coming on is really not a headache, but Satan keeping me at home. Today was different though..... I got up expecting something. I wasn't sure what, but I expected SOMETHING. I got up and got ready so I would not be rushed, marring my attitude of expectation.
I've grown to really love our church. It's not an instant "love" relationship for me with a church. Sure, I love the body of believers around me, I love the praise and worship music - but it takes me awhile to feel like I belong there. I finally feel like I belong. Cornerstone is "our" church now. I didn't know what I was "expecting" today - maybe some good preaching... our pastor was back from the Philippines and would be preaching today after being gone for two Sundays. Now the past two Sundays the preaching has been wonderful as well... so, I guess it wasn't that. Maybe I was just expecting to hear something encouraging. I definitely thought it was something that would benefit me - and it did - just not in the way I would have expected.
So, we get the kids in the car (all of them, including my semi-adopted son Christopher :) and head off to church. Since we were ready early, we didn't have to rush and were there early. We got our "normal" seats - we move around a bit, up a few rows or back a few, but are typically in the same general area - towards the front, middle section. We are always in that area. So, we get settled in our seats and the music starts - time to greet those around us. I don't usually like this time.... sounds like I'm not a "people person", I know, but it's not that - it's just extremely uncomfortable for me. The lights are still dim at this time, and I don't see the people around me well. They can be sitting there holding out their hand, and I completely miss it. Well today, I got up and boldly turned around (not like I was going to jump over the seat and tackle someone, but I typically don't "engage" others... I just wait for someone in front or beside me to shake hands). Again, it's not personal, it's just a difficult situation for me.
God had other plans for me today though, and turned me around. I shook hands with ONE - yes, ONE person today. And to that ONE person, my handshake meant something. It's amazing how God will turn your fears around, direct you, and use you to bless someone else when you had NO intention of doing it on your own.
So, I shook hands with this ONE person, and she introduced herself - her name was Cheryl. Don't ask me why, but I knew I would talk to her at the end of the service. In fact, I was kinda feeling uncomfortable about it all through the service, because while I knew I was going to talk to her, I didn't know what I would say.
So, the service ended. I gathered up my things, and as I went to say good-bye to her, she started talking before I could say anything (God must've known I had nothing to say, but blessed me in my obedience by having her open her mouth:) Anyway, Cheryl thanked me for greeting her this morning. It was their first visit to the church, and she said NO ONE ELSE had greeted them. Cheryl, her husband Mark and their children just moved to the area from Connecticut (one connection - I'll explain later) a month ago. I'm not sure how they found the church, but they decided to drive here this morning for the service. They commented on Anna and Sara (Cameron and Chris were not with us, they were in youth) and how Sara's eyes reminded them of their daughter. I told her how Sara was adopted (second connection) from Ethiopia and when we brought her home. As we chatted a bit, I explained to her how I was disappointed that I would not be in church the next few weeks to see them again, because I had to leave on Saturday to go to Florida to train with my new guide dog (third connection). So, here are the connections:
Connecticut - They are northerners!!! I love it when I hear a northern accent. Of-course they have the east coast accent, while I have the mid-west, but north is north and it was great to have some fellow Yankees in church! Plus, my mom and Denis are from Connecticut. I'll have to talk to them more about the area they moved here from.
Adoption - Cheryl and Mark have adopted children. They said that the little girl that they had fostered had eyes just like Sara Joy. At least one of their other children is adopted - I for the life of me can't remember which one.... maybe their two year old.
And the final connection - When I told Cheryl that I would not be at church for the next few weeks because I was going to Florida to get my guide dog, she got a smile on her face and said "Oh really". She said that her mother in law raised guide dogs! It sounded like she was a puppy raiser, but I'm not quite sure. Anyway, she said that her mother in law raised black lab puppies for Guiding Eyes. I'm not getting my dog through Guiding Eyes, but it was neat to have that connection.
I gave Cheryl my contact information and I really hope that she does indeed contact me. I really enjoyed talking to her.... in fact, we were talking so long that the next service started (with their greetings to one another - where I shook Cheryl's hand initially) while we were still standing there chatting. We had to scoot on out real quick.
Sometimes you don't know how God may use you. I don't know what would have happened if I would have had a "headache" or given into the temptation of staying snuggled under the covers, but I'm glad I'll never find out. It blessed me to see that God can use me to encourage others, even when I don't even know I'm being used... and in the meantime, He is planning a great blessing for me. God could have used anyone in that church to shake her hand and make Cheryl feel welcome - instead He used me. He took me out of my comfort zone - I don't do well "chatting" with strangers - and planned this great introduction between two people, who at first glance, have a whole lot in common. God does things like that :)
So, next time you (or I) are tempted to stay in bed on a Sunday morning rather than head on out to church - take a minute to think about what you might be missing.... you might be missing a blessing God has in store for you, and you also might miss being used by God to bless someone else.