Last week as I walked into church with my family, I saw my daughter Shelby make a beeline for an older lady who recently began attending service by herself. We introduced ourselves to her several weeks before and made sure in the following weeks to look for her and chat her up. This particular morning she was sitting right inside the door and, in her special way, Shelby greeted and hugged her. A few minutes later as our new friend made her way into the sanctuary, she passed us this note. It’s a little difficult to read so I will translate: To Shelby: Shelby I love you and every day we live I thank God for the privilege to know you and your parents. May God continue to bless us. Love you, Florence.
This Sunday-go-to-meeting Shelby greeted a sweet family of little people with hugs and high fives. They have always felt a kinship with her for being different. We then sat down to worship beside a friend I met in the chemotherapy treatment room two years ago. She now attends our church and sits with us every Sunday. As Shelby laid her head on Miss Jeanette’s shoulder and settled in for a long snuggle, Jeanette smiled and I cried. I barely held myself together as I contemplated how kind God is to give a severely developmentally challenged teenager such a sweet and important ministry.
As the drums and guitars of the praise music filled the room, I felt gratitude swell in my heart with the volume. And I thought about my own service in this body of believers. Over our 12 or so years of involvement, I’ve greeted at the door, written name tags, co-lead a life group, acted as web host for the online service and refilled the note cards in the backs of the pews. But the last couple of years I’ve struggled to find my niche. I longed to actually use gifts and talents God has given me as opposed to being a warm and willing body. I believed the chores I’d done before added value, but wanted more. I think I’ve documented here before that I am all but allergic to working with children. The times when I bit the bullet and stepped into a classroom, I may have broken out in hives. And yet it seemed I only ever heard about a need for more hands in the children and youth ministries. I attended meetings about a couple of other things, but nothing fit.
Without a place to serve and being “between” life groups, I started to feel pretty disconnected from church. I knew God wasn’t leading us to move on because our teen was, and is, sooooo plugged into the youth ministry and even serves in the children’s area faithfully (maybe I could learn something from her). And yet, for a time church was so painful for me that I asked my husband if we could come in late and slip out quickly so we wouldn’t have to talk to anyone!
But a few weeks ago, someone invited me into a weekly gathering of women. And we had an opportunity to share an extra vehicle with a family in need. Then the women’s minister introduced me to a young mom of a baby girl with special needs. She placed my hand in hers and said, “She wants someone who understands to walk with her.” And I am. Gladly. Then the youth minister called me to tell me that another mom is facing a health crisis. When he asked her how the church could come alongside her, she said, “You can tell Lauren.” And just like that I’m serving within the body – supporting other believers in a body I love. I may not be joining a ministry with a name and a budget, but I’m passionate about friendship and I’m getting to do friendship with intention. Purpose. Community. Church. For my daughter and for me. Just the way we are.
To be honest, a couple of years ago I struggled to feel like God was kind to me. A first for me, for sure. And my life is still far from perfect. In fact, we have so many loved ones facing hard, hard things right now that my daily prayers feel heavy. But the responsibility to love them well keeps me going. And though the world is broken, God is moving. And I’ll never get over the fact that He uses someone as messy and faithless as me. And He uses a 14 year old blonde haired beauty with a natural singing talent and a heart to invite. He also uses a retail manager who does EVERYTHING with the utmost integrity. And He uses a 19 year old who thinks like a two year old and wears her heart on her sleeve. It’s the kindest thing I’ve ever witnessed.
4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a]faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Romans 12:4-8 NIV
What a beautiful post, Lauren. Loved this: “And though the world is broken, God is moving.” So true!
Thank you, Laurie. Cried some tears writing this one.
Martha J Orlando says
Oh, yes, Lauren, God can use each and every one of us, as imperfect as we think we are. This is such a sweet testimony to that fact.
Thank you, Martha.
Stacey Pardoe says
Thanks for sharing these precious words, Lauren. I’m so thankful we serve a God who uses each of us . . . just as we are . . .
As am I Stacey. I really never will get over it.
Mari-Anna Stålnacke says
Thank you for sharing your struggles and all. God loves us just the way we are. Blessings to you and yours!
Thank you. Praying blessings for you as well.
Dr. Michelle Bengtson says
God has a way of meeting us right where we are.
He is so kind in that way.
What a beautiful story of how HE works!! <3
He is so kind. Thank you for being kind as well, Brooke.
This is beautiful, Lauren! Yes, we all have something to offer, though I have definitely had times when, like you, I felt disconnected from it all. I love that you and Shelby have found ways to use your gifts to bless others, and I love how God can use us even in our brokenness. Your FMF neighbour at #12.
So glad to know I”m not the only one. Thank you for visiting!
Natalie | Milk and Honey Faith says
This is so heartwarming Lauren and I can totally relate. You’ve really spoken to me today and my role within Church. Thank you 🙂
That means so much to me Natalie. Thank you.
Tammy L Kennington says
Your testimony is so touching and beautiful. Thank you for sharing with such vulnerability. I’m grateful God can use us even when we feel overlooked. Praying your new friends to minister to your heart as you are to theirs.
Peace and grace,
Thank you, Tammy. I am so very grateful.
Debbie Wilson says
Lauren, what a heart-warming post and dose of encouragement!
Thank you, Debbie.
Jennifer Smith says
Shelby is an inspiration and encouragement to me today! As a wanna-be wallflower, I too easily find it natural to come to church, sit and wait for others to find me. I’m often convicted about this but have a million excuses….but my church family needs me – just as it does every member. God wants each of us doing our unique part – no matter how small, large, seemingly insignificant, etc. Shelby challenged me:)
Thank you, Jennifer. Shelby is a constant inspiration to me too.
Trevor Calhoun says
I loved your post too. I know well the feelings of not knowing where you fit. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you, Trevor. I pray you have now found a niche or will soon.
Carrie @ Curly Crafty Mom says
Such a beautiful post. I am doing something new and out of my comfort zone tomorrow, I am joining a weekly morning bible group study! I’m excited to meet some new people. It isn’t at my home church, but the time and day worked out for me.
Saying a prayer that the new study group will be a great fit and provide you with friendship, encouragement and challenge!
Twicemicrowaved tea says
What a lovely and positive post . #globalblogging
Thank you. Hope you come back to visit!
Susan M Shipe says
Perfectly expressed, Laurie. Glad I ventured over today.
Thank you, Susan.
Kate Holmes says
Thanks for sharing this post – you have made me think a lot about many things in it and i will come back I am sure to read again. #AnythingGoes
Thank you, Kate. Look forward to having you back.
Patsy Burnette says
Church is such a lovely place to belong! I do not understand how people do life without it, how they say, “I am a Christian” but rarely meet with the family of God. Beautiful post, Lauren!
Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!
Yes, Patsy. Thank you.
Thank-you for sharing your testimony. God does hear the longings of our heart. May he continue to bless the friendships that come to you for the building up of faith!
Thank you for that prayer, Carol.
Maree Dee says
Lauren – God will use all of us right where we are, but we have to be willing. What a blessing you and your family are too many. Thank you for being the hand and feet. We sometimes get caught up in thinking our serving has to be BIg. But in reality our serving to one person is BIG, and that is what counts. Thank you for the encouragement today. Maree
“Our serving to one person is big.” Thank you, Maree. I will hold onto that.
Shelbee on the Edge says
Lauren, this is such a beautiful post and a very powerful message. I think we all struggle at times to find our purpose and how we can better serve for the good of others. Oftentimes, it does take something unexpected that is right before our eyes to show us the way. And just like that God places the answers right in your hands. I am so happy for you that you have found this blessing. And I love the title… Just the way we are…it really is exactly as we should be.
Thanks so much, Shelbee. It means a lot to me that you would take the time to read and connect!