Sometimes, I am so sad when I hear pastors recount "horror stories" about events and people they have experienced and encountered in their ministry years. I have a hard time relating. Don't get me wrong - it can be emotionally draining. It's not always easy and fun and there have been significant bumps and bruises in the 16 years we've been in pastoral ministry. But those pale in comparison to the rest.
Aaron and I have the honor and humbling privilege of serving as pastors of the most amazing people in the Metro Detroit area (at the very least... and quite possibly the world). We get to share in the deepest, most intimate times of peoples' lives as we walk beside them on their spiritual journeys in this corporeal world.
I know those sound like professional and perhaps even rehearsed trite words.
But when it comes to these people, the English language fails me. So, I'll share some stories. Hopefully you can get an idea of how loved I feel by these folks. These are the true stories of the ways people of Freedom Christian have made me feel loved and appreciated in simply this last calendar year… (the bulk of the 16 years of stories could fill volumes)…
Let me begin with a person I will call "A."
Shortly after my mother passed away, "A" reached out to me with a gift that could never have a monetary value placed on it. My mother and "A" were friends - sewing buddies. "A" knew that my mother frequently sewed special items for me and for my daughters (who were very young when their grandmother passed away.)
"A" offered to each year sew something special for my girls…something that my mother would have made them. Together we chose to go the route of matching Christmas Pajamas. I am crying as I type this because the love and care with which she crafts these gifts is so evident - from the beginning stages of taking my girls measurements a month in advance (because she realized early on that I was useless when it came to that…she would never be so cruel to say so, but I know the truth - after the first year I took their measurements and relayed them to her at which time she kindly said, "I'll bring my tape measure next week and just double check. I want to make sure they'll fit." ha ha!), to the little "extra gift" (a hand embroidered pillow with their names, matching PJs for their American Girl dolls, a little toiletry bag) that she places in the gift box or bag.
And just last night, an unattended Christmas gift bag sat on my kitchen table. "What's this?" I asked as I began to pull out the tissue paper. "Wait!" Aaron tried to stop me…but then gave up because he was too excited to prevent me from seeing what it was. Another handcrafted gift from "A" to me. This picture doesn't fully capture the loving details: the vintage book with the yellowed pages that was carefully selected from a secondhand bookstore - "The Great Quotations" beautiful words spoken by influential people of years gone by (she knows I love words); the obvious hours it took to painstakingly fold the pages into the (CORRECT!) spelling of my name; the antiquing technique performed on the folded pages to make the name pop to life. It's probably one of the coolest and most unique gifts I've ever received:
And then there's "L."
Last summer my husband was out of town for several long stretches of time (conferences and missions trips). Between working outside of the home, shuttling to and from childcare providers, doing the normal church stuff (plus extra because it was our annual community serve week), my girls were subsisting on a diet of butter cheese noodles and canned green beans.
One day, out of the blue, "L" texted me to inform me that she'd be bringing dinner to us that evening. Several hours later we ate like kings. Bowls of delicious homemade chicken noodle soup and dishes of gourmet gelato satiated our appetites. But what touched me were the kindness of the words she had written in the card: "We know that Pastor Aaron is out of town this week and how crazy it can be to manage things…so we just wanted to make things a little easier for you…"
Wow. "Thoughtful" isn't even close to what that was.
Back in March, our church hosted the statewide Women In Ministry Retreat. I had a team of women from Freedom who totally killed it by bending over backward to make that retreat the most amazing thing ever. At the end of the weekend, I had pastor's wives approach me in tears telling me how blessed I was to have a group of women who would take time out of their schedules to serve a group of pastor's wives that they didn't even know. They were in tears because they don't experience that in their churches. You ladies rocked!
And guess what I'm doing today in approximately a half hour after probably the craziest 6 months of my life (I feel like I say that every 6 months…I guess it just keeps getting crazier)? An anonymous note showed up in my mailbox this week:
I could go on and on with countless stories about how people pray for me when I'm sick…or offer encouragement when I'm going through hard times…or just sit and talk to me about life…or deliver the perfect gift to me each Christmas Eve…or send me private messages of stupid memes that they know will amuse me…or send me anonymous cards using the word "skullduggery" because they know I'll think that's funny...or buy me TARDIS Christmas ornaments for my tree…or randomly deliver Sweetwater Donuts to my door...or babysit my kids for free…or take my kids shopping on their birthdays…or overhear that my clothes dryer was on the fritz years ago and bless me in an unimaginable way…or gather a group of guys together to help move us into a new house…or overwhelm us with love and support beyond our wildest dreams as we welcomed our first child into the world after 5 years and a not so easy road…or giving me the room and the grace to grieve…
And so today, people of Freedom Christian, I brag about you.
Church people are awesome. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.