I’ve written some here
and on social media about my kind of wacky and unique postpartum experience. It was rough times, and it was late September of 2015, that things started to calm down a bit and I started to reemerge from that season. My eczema had cleared up significantly, our marriage was strengthening, my anxiety and depression were improving and we were on the up and up. We had been attending a local church for several years and had a solid small group of other couples, but we had undeniably been feeling God pulling at us to move to a different church. Some seasons were ending in areas that we had served in, we were new parents and the time felt right for a change. Our small group was gearing up to start a new year and we felt like it was good to pull out of the group before starting a new year even before knowing where we were headed church-wise. It was kind of a fast decision, but one we both strongly felt God was guiding us to make. So, we made a list of churches in the area to visit put them in iCal for the next few Sundays and started the vetting process over again. We both had visited Elevation Church in Charlotte a few times and were longtime followers of their worship music and sermons from Pastor Steven Furtick (I actually blogged
about this sermon a few months before Lincoln was born, and this sermon about fear
and being brave changed my life a few months later) but having just come from a big multi-site church with many locations, I was pretty skeptical. I felt I wanted less flashy lights, big production on Sundays and just a quieter experience overall. Honestly, I was pretty not excited about finding a church. I felt like no matter what church we went to I was always disappointed in the people, and I think on some level I was just going along for the ride because I felt like I should, not because I felt like I was going to get anything from God.
During my postpartum season, I had listened to almost every single podcast that Elevation Church put out, so I am not sure why I was so hesitant to visit in real life. We weren’t even first time visitors, we had been to the Raleigh location a few times when we were off from serving at our old church, and we even left Lincoln in the nursery there for the first time ever when he was just a few months old (also, we were there on Christmas Eve a few days before he was born when my labor started). Looking back it was so clear that this is where God was sending us to be a part, I don’t know why I didn’t see it sooner.
I think we visited on September 19th, on the way out of the worship experience Marshall was like “I want to go here for a while” and I agreed (again, not totally on board but he seemed convinced so I went with it). We signed up for E101 the next week to learn more about the church (except thats where you sign up to serve– we had no idea) and then I found an eGroup that met on Friday mornings at Jubala (hellooooo my favorite coffee place!) and that’s where I met Jonelle.
I thought her eGroup had been meeting forever, but it turns out I invited myself to the first meeting ever. My first impression was what an answer to something that I had really been longing for but not really said anything about to God, or anyone else. I had an overwhelmingly large and supportive community of moms already. Our previous small group, local friends, my sister… I had a ton and I was kind of mommed out. I was growing tired of spending time with other moms, conversations completely dominated by nap schedules, breastfeeding woes and nighttime baby sleep. I was craving real
conversation, about what was going on in my life and in theirs, things they really struggled with (not related to baby sleep) and coming out of one of the hardest seasons of my life, I was just really lonely. Sitting around the table was women in a variety of life stages and it was glorious. Jonelle is a mom of girls that are teenagers (and now with one in college
) and of the other women some were moms of elementary, middle or high school kids, some were single, some were college girls themselves and it was just as my heart had desired.
Another thing that literally took my breath away for a second, was the fact that out of a group of maybe 10 ladies, I was one of I think three that were white. After the UMC shooting in Charleston, Pastor Steven preached an unforgettable message titled “It’s In Your Hands
” about racism that changed everything for me. I’ve had black friends, Hispanic friends, Asian friends, Muslim friends throughout my lifetime, but at that current season in my life literally everyone I knew and interacted with on a regular basis was white– just like me, and just like Lincoln. My heart was not comfortable when I realized that. In the sermon he talked about that it is OUR JOB
to raise the next generation without the racism of our previous generations. It ends with us. It changed everything for me. Our neighbors were black and we didn’t even know their names and had lived beside them for years. Our church was majority white, our small group was 100% white. Every kid that we were friends with at the time was white. How could I teach my child that other people maybe different colors but are the same as us– loved, chosen, wanted, and valued by God– if we literally never interacted with anyone that looked different from us? I couldn’t imagine waiting until he was in kindergarten for him to meet a diverse group of people. Diverse
immediately skyrocketed to the top of my list when we decided to look for a new church. So, when I got to eGroup and I looked around the table I knew that God was with me there, and this is where the future was for us. Our big mighty God that created all the things shows up in the tiniest of details in our prayers, hearts and thoughts and it is the greatest. He wants great things for us, for us to do great things and it is never too late to get started.
So, back to Jonelle. We hit it off immediately, and after talking to her some the following Sunday at church we discovered that we both had been dabbling in the paleo and autoimmune paleo diet (literally I had not met any actual person in real life at that point that had either heard of it, or wasn’t a total skeptical about the whole “gluten free craze”) for a variety of conditions, one of which was eyelid eczema that I really thought I was the only one in the world that had that! Talk about a me too!
moment. The more we got to know each other, the more it became clear that we were family through and through. This woman is so special to me! And being in her eGroup was such a gift and the doorway to what would become a seemingly endless stream of blessings flowing from this church into our lives as sermons, people, serving opportunities, the stories we get to witness and be part of.. it’s unreal how we see God moving literally on a daily basis through connections we’ve made at this church. As Lincoln got older it got more difficult to get to eGroup (and to stay the entirety of the time) but I still consider myself to be a part and I honestly doubt I’ll ever leave…
This woman’s beauty is breathtaking inside and out, I am beyond grateful that we get to share in this season together! We met one chilly day at Sola in Raleigh for some fun headshots for blog things to come for her (she’s an avid and talented writer, in addition to all the other things that she rocks at….) and it was a total blast standing on stuff and climbing around the tables like we were the only people in there (we weren’t). Thankful barely covers it. So thankful for this family.