Thursday night I went shopping with Mary Kay (the neighbor I met from California). We had a nice time and had a lot to talk about. I was home and in bed by two. Jeff worked on Friday, so the kids played outside with neighbors and I decorated the house for Christmas. It is hard to decorate and not know where to put anything, but I think I like it. The Christmas tree made it, even though the movers threw it a few times. I got rid of a ton of outside decorations since we don't have room for them in the garage. So, less is more, is my approach for the outside. It looks nice.
Today was a visit to church #4. Elevation Church in Matthews - about 15 minutes away from us. This church has been recommended to us by a few people back in Evansville. Lysa TurKeurst evidently attends this church. And when Jeff and I were on the pastor search committee at CFC we had to listen to sermons of pastors online of different churches. Ironically this church was one of the ones assigned to our group. We did not care for it then. Seemed like they all have an overzealous love for their pastor and his vision for the church. It is one of the fastest growing churches in the country. 5 locations in the Charlotte area I believe. And they tell about all of that on their website. So, we had the impression that it was kind of 'cult-like' - isn't that a horrible assumption to make!! We were judging without experiencing it ourselves. Anyway, we thought we needed to give it a try because of the recommendations from those we trust back home. We left this morning after experiencing the service and looked at each other. "I think I need to eat my words," I said to Jeff. "Me too," he said. It was really cool. We really can't find much to complain about. It is different than what we are used to, but it was ok with us - a good different. When we were there this morning it was really a wonderful worship experience. The music was loud, yes - set up like a concert with lights and stuff. But then the pastor had us sing a song that just had the words "I am grateful. I am grateful for what You've done." over and over, then he had us raise one hand then the other while we sang. It was nice. Then he gave his sermon - the most engaging one yet for both of us - on God's favor. So many good points. Lots of scripture. Lots of examples. The short version:
How do we walk in / receive the favor God already has for us?
1. Expect - frame your world with favor. Ask "How is God going to bring success and greatness out of this?" - it is not an entitlement mentality - we KNOW the end of this story. We don't lose.
2. Recognize - open your eyes to opportunity. Greatness can walk right past us but we are thinking about something else - something silly or insignificant. Even in our setbacks recognize His favor - it might be a set up for success.
3. Respond - give yourself to obedience. Obedience positions us to receive His favor (spending time in His presence, having faith that He will do what He says He will do, confession of sin, serving God, running with a purpose.)
No matter what your circumstances, open your eyes!!! He is giving you favor. And be grateful. We ended by singing "I am grateful" some more. I was not in awe of the pastor - who many times said it was not about him, but what God is doing through him - I thought he was fantastic though! I can see how/why everyone likes him. We came from a church where everyone likes certain pastors though...so is that wrong/how does it get wrong? I don't know. The kids both liked this church a lot too in their separate areas. I also liked the fact that they reported on how much and where money was being used over the past month and it was all in the Charlotte area. I liked that. I do not see where they have anything for the kids though past 5th grade, so that is something we will probably consider. We have one more church to visit next week. Then we will go to a few that we liked for a few weeks in a row to see what we need to do. I am praying that God places us in the right church - how important this choice is since we are here without family - these people will be our family.
We had a call a bit ago that our house was being shown to someone for the second time! That hasn't happened yet that I know of. Praying praying praying. But knowing and resting that it will be ok.
The season of thankfulness. I am so grateful this year for what He has done for us. I am so grateful that He prepared our hearts through past experiences and past growth for what He had for us to do (and WHERE He had for us to do it!) - as if He would just throw us out there to the wolves without preparation! I am grateful for what He has done in me - the work, the change, the healing. I just look back over the past 5-7 years of my life and am utterly amazed at how changed I am. I am so content with who I am at this stage of my life...and He is the One who shaped me into who I am. It is not of my own doing. And I am still SO far from where I need to be - don't get me wrong. The progress I have made, did not come through willpower. I was unable. But He is able. He brought me out of a pit and placed me on a rock, gave me blessings through mentors and wise friends, insight and revelation, and tools from His Word such as the knowledge of who I am according to Him, why I am loved, and what He has asked of me. He reminded me that I need not be alone because He is always in me, helping me be more like Him and less like me. He forgave me for always striving to be in everyone's good graces and and being addicted to pleasing others in order to feel loved. He released me from the bondage of self depreciating thoughts and actions and negativity. He taught me that just because so-and-so says I am this-or-that, it does not define me and he/she does not have control over me. I am free. Free of negativity. Free of addictions to people. Free of a need for a friend to fill that emptiness in me. He is the only One who can do that. The devil knows how to get me though, just like he does you. And during times when I am tired, hungry, sick, sad, away from His Word, or pms'ing these weaknesses make a reappearance! Sigh! The difference in me now is - I can 'shake it off' instead of being bound in obsession for long periods of time. Yes, I have down days, and sometimes weeks. But, no, I am not who I was...by any means...and for this, I am grateful. With change comes some loss...and unfortunately I am mourning some losses right now. But I know that He is leading me. I am waiting in expectation for the favor that He has in store for me and my family here and know that He will heal my heart. I am grateful.