I always thought that our testimony would be about staying. We served at New Life Church for 10 years before we left and went to Church of the Highlands. After 18 months, God called us back to New Life. We were serving under a different pastor, but with many of the same people we had known for years. I truly thought we would live the rest of our days there, living life through change and trial, triumph and new beginnings...staying. I thought many people can come and go, but we stay steady. We would be the ones that stayed.
Now we are here, on our 4th "assignment". We're in a totally new church, with completely new people, new lead pastors. Brad has a long history here. For me, however, this is completely new.
I first heard of Jesus' saving grace at New Life 18 1/2 years ago. All of my early, formative years as a new Christian were there...under the same teaching, same pastors, for 10 years. The first time we left I felt somewhat lost. Orphaned. Like I couldn't find my people. Of course, this went away over time. Now in this transition, I have not felt so much lost but just different...there are differences between the way I'm used to doing things, or the way I've seen things done and the way they do things.
It isn't about good versus bad. It isn't about sin versus holy. It isn't about what is Biblical. It's about patterns. Habits. And every church has them. House rules.
When Brad and I married, we began creating our Parsley-House rules. We didn't know we were doing it at the time, but we began this process of combining how he grew up with how I grew up. What should family dinner time look like? What about date nights? How would we manage our money? What would nights at home look like? Now, the result is a somewhat balanced representation of each of our upbringings.
We rarely miss church, we sing loud and eat sausage balls on Christmas morning. We eat strawberry shortcake with homemade biscuits versus spongecake...things the Parsleys do.
We eat my mom's fruit salad and Thanksgiving stuffing. We do holidays big and have a high priority on traditions and family vacations...things the Gilmores do.
These have now been adopted as our own and come naturally to our children. We also have little things we've created on our own like sleepover nights between siblings, kitchen dance parties, and "how was your day" (a game we play at the dinner table). They are our Parsley-House traditions.
Our family is a beautiful blend of our extended families and new traditions. Things we were brought up with and things that we have learned and created on our own.
So it is with our relationship with Christ.
I have years of New Life in me. Much of the way I worship, am strong in trial, pray for the lost, desire to reach the unreached...is rooted deep in me. It began and grew at New Life.
(My Savior Lives Live Recording, New Life Worship, 2006)
(Prayer Service, New Life Church, 2005)
(our last day with Highlands Worship, 2008)
I also have New Life 2.0 in me. It was during these years that I learned what Biblical rest is. I learned that it is important to work hard, to expend much of what I have, and then to recharge. I learned what prophetic worship is. It was during this time that I learned much of what I now believe about international missions and how to partner effectively with Christians in other nations.
(Strong God Live Recording, New Life Worship, 2013)
And now we are here. I have brought all of what is in me...pieces of each house. I also have strengths and desires that are learned simply from my relationship with Jesus. And I am learning from this house. I am learning so much about leadership and excellence and welcoming diversity. It is just beginning here.
I am so thankful for the Body of Christ. I'm so thankful for the privilege to see many different expressions and traditions and ways of doing things. I'm thankful that we've been a part of four thriving churches. We (the global church) have such a diverse culture. And it is beautiful. Each house has it's own expressions, it's own traditions, it's own "norm." We can spend our time complaining and criticizing...trying to make everyone fit into our box of what we think church should be. Or we can be thankful and appreciate and learn. We can smile knowing that we are all reaching for the same goal. We can be unified and grace-filled. We can strive to see each other the way that Jesus sees us...as one beautiful house with many facets.
It is then that they become we.