Yesterday was my day 6. Today is my day 7. 7 days down, 23 more to go...and my Prayer of Jabez Challenge continues...
Yesterday our church had a Progressive Dinner. For some reason, I thought that it had something to do with Jesus and Christmas. Don't ask me why. I found out yesterday that the Progressive Dinner was created in our church as a way for the different Life Group members to meet each other. I attend Shepherd of the Hills in Woodland Hills, CA. There are other campuses in the Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley area. The main campus is located in Porter Ranch, CA.
My Husband and I began attending the church last February. What we didn't realize then, was that the church was going through a great deal of change. The pastor for our campus moved to another state; and once he left, several other families left the Woodland Hills campus.
I remember back in February when Marcus and I first began attending, there were two services. Both services were packed with people. I noticed that each Sunday the audience crowd would to get smaller and smaller, until finally I wondered, what the heck is going on here?
I had never been in the midst of anything like this before. I was raised 1st United Methodist in a small Texas town (Lubbock, Texas). As far back as I can remember, my church was small. I used to wish I went to a big church, because for me at that time, a bigger church meant more children to play with. In Austin, after I gave my life to Christ, we began attending Agape Christian Ministries. My Husband and I decided to join Agape in January 2009. That church was HUGE, and it only seemed to be growing.
I had never been a part of a church that was shrinking, nor did I want to be. From the beginning of our relationship, Marcus and I always did things our way. We now lead more surrendered lives and do our best to follow God's purpose and will for our lives. Honestly, the more I saw the church shrink, the more uncomfortable I became with being there. I'd pray and pray to God, asking Him to put Marcus and I in the church He wanted us to be in...expecting God to send us somewhere else.
We were even being "wooed" by another church around that time. For a brief moment, I thought God might be leading us there. The church was really big and seemed to be growing. There were also several people my age that attended, and their vibe felt very much like an inviting family...
The thing is, God wasn't leading us to that church, or any other one. As a matter of fact, rather than leading us away from Shepherd of the Hills, God seemed to continue pushing us further into it.
When we were having a hard time trying to find a place, one of the church members graciously opened up her home to us. Others rallied together to get us various apartment information. I couldn't believe how helpful these people were to us. Sure we'd become involved in one of their Life Groups. And I'd volunteered for the hospitality ministry a few times; but we weren't members.
When Marcus went back to Austin last summer to work, I was overwhelmed by the number of people in the church that told me, "If you need anything, let me (us) know." This wasn't the first time someone used that line with me. So I was like, "Thanks!" In my mind I was like, "I'll be fine. I'm an independent woman..." This was the first time, however, when a group of people actually said it and meant it. AND I didn't even always have to ask. I can't tell you how many times I got invited to dinner, or offered a ride. People constantly asked me if I needed a ride to get groceries or wash clothes, etc. I was overwhelmed by the amount of love they showed me.
I remember sitting in church without my husband during the summer and feeling a tug on my heart whenever the pastor made announcements about the campus needing help with Sunday morning set up. Stepping out of my comfort zone, I finally decided to volunteer my time, because by mid summer, I had plenty of it.
Then, someone on the technical team approached me later that month asking if I'd be willing to help them out. I was hesitant at first. I really didn't want the extra responsibility. I agreed that I'd help out "when I could", telling myself I'd do it for a little bit.
God had other plans. I actually continued working with the tech team for the remainder of the summer. When Marcus came back, I figured I'd step back and volunteer less. Again, God had other plans. Not only did He intend for me to continue volunteering my time every Sunday, He also had every intention of making sure Marcus was used in the church. Four and a half months later, we continue to volunteer every Sunday.
In September, Marcus and I found ourselves a difficult situation. Once again, circumstances forced us to search for another place to live in this city. One day after praying about the situation and asking God to provide a place for us, we received an email. Someone in our church ask if we were looking for a place to stay. Long story short, he gave us the home owner's number, and it ended up being the perfect place for us to live right now. Even better, he and his wife are our housemates!
Psalm 37:4-5 states, "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass." For a moment, I thought we belonged at another church. I thought we were at the wrong church. God knew exactly what He was doing sending us to that church. He knew exactly what we needed. I believed it was my heart's desire to be at another church; a church where God wouldn't require me to do as much. Where He'd be ok with me just worshipping and showing up Sunday morning for service and Wednesday nights for Life Group.
The thing is, God's desire is for us to be at Shepherd of the Hills Woodland Hills. And when we grow to love God, His desires for our lives become our desires as well. The closer we grow in relationship with Him, we learn that His desires for us are always better than anything we could ever imagine for ourselves.
Once again, God works in mysterious ways. I would have loved to finish my "Day 6" blog yesterday as yesterday was day 6. Thanks be to God that I've become content with doing things His way...no longer struggling to have control over my life and missing God's incredible blessings--most of the time anyway...
In waiting on God, I came to realize today that The Progressive Dinner last night was not only a time for me to stuff my face with tons of delicious foods. I came to realize that it really was about Jesus and Christmas. John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
There's so much in that verse. But the key part here, is that God so loved the world. God loved us so much, that He sent His one and only son, Jesus, into the world for us. Christmas is a time of celebration. Celebration of the Savior that came into the world with the purpose of dying for us on a cross so that we wouldn't perish into sin, but live a life free from sin and have eternity with God. What's a better way to celebrate Jesus than by fellow shipping with the ones we love?
Sitting around last night, eating and fellow shipping at each home, I felt something. I wasn't sure what it was until earlier today. It hit me right before I began writing this blog, actually. I felt love. Looking back on last night, I realized that those people of Shepherd of the Hills Woodland Hills have become my family. And I love them. I never thought I'd say that. But here I am. I love them. And I'm so thankful that I remained obedient to God by staying with my family, even though the beginning of the journey was tough for me.
2010 was a difficult year for Shepherd of the Hills Woodland Hills. They lost a dynamic leader along with several families and friends. Change is not always an easy thing. But this was obviously all part of God's plan. I don't know what happened, and it really doesn't matter. I do know that unknown to Marcus and I, we were a part of that plan. God always puts us exactly where we need to be when we need to be there.
I thought I knew what I wanted and needed. But God always knows our needs even when we think we do. God drew us into that church with His love...through the members of the Woodland Hills campus, God's love touched our lives in so many ways. He opened up several doors for us there, so that we could be involved in the growth of the church.
Today is day 7 of my Jabez challenge, and God gave me revelation about my day 6 blessing. Although we moved to LA for me to pursue my acting career, God blessed me with something even better: a loving family. I'm so thankful to God's continued grace in my life. And I look forward to His continued blessings, "indeed"!