Sunday, May 21, 2006

What a great Sunday! I just had to share the joy with someone, and since my roommate isn't home yet, I'm turning to blog-land. I just came from a family gathering, one of several I've had today, and I can't stop smiling. I must be one of the most blessed people in the world. I get to spend Sundays surrounded by family from morning to night.

This morning I hit five red lights (at least) on the way to church, walked in right after the first song, and had a moment of panic: who was I going to sit with? My dear Jeremiah is gone and the Watsons are out of town, so I was worrying as I scanned the auditorium. Then I spotted my buddy Nate (one of the basses from Come As You Are, or as my parents know him, "big Nate who was a Sing Song host"), and walked up to say hello. He said, "Are you here with someone?" I shook my head and he said, "Good! 'Cause I was looking for you. Let's go sit together." That made my whole morning - how nice to be loved and waited for, on a morning when I wasn't expecting to be.

It was Senior Sunday at Highland and the soon-to-be high school graduates got showered with love from staff members, Huddle leaders, parents and friends - there were some great moments, including Erin Halstead's recognition of the people who have stood by these seniors all the way (Huddle leaders and families), and Stephen Powell's fallback when searching for a word: "Help me, somebody!" (For you non-Highland folk, that's a common phrase we hear when Jerry Taylor is preaching - and it always cracks us up!) Other highlights included singing "How Great is Our God" (I love that song SO MUCH), the senior slideshow, and Steven Moore taking the stage at the end to lead "Take the Lord With You."

Then it was off to Sojourners class, where I sat at "the English major table" with Drs. Dickson and Rankin, and listened to Paul Lakey talk about joy. Some beautiful thoughts were shared, including Jackie Halstead's comment that happiness is a wonderful thing until it becomes our idol, and a rare comment from quiet Kathy Cheatham: "Joy is inner contentment with Whose we are." Food for thought.

Bethany and I spent almost the ENTIRE afternoon packing, which I know does not sound like fun, but we enjoyed it - packing this weekend has been a great chance for us to hang out together. We tackled the kitchen - packed her china and her pots and pans and divided up the spices and tea, then threw out three garbage bags full of nonperishables past their expiration dates, stale cereals, and stuff we just didn't want. It was time! I feel as though I've a lot to do yet - though not nearly as much as she does - but it's going to get done. I am resolved. :)

A little after 5:00, I reached Gail and Calvin's house, which has been my home on Sunday nights for the past year. I walked into the same circle of love I witness every Sunday, with a few differences: I came alone; the Watsons are out of town; and Carlee and Jolee, whom we hardly ever see anymore, were there - both wearing pink and bouncing around the living room. (Jolee is six; Carlee turns 10 on Tuesday.) They are precious! - and it was wonderful to see them.

After a discussion on Hebrews 5 and 6, Calvin turned his attention to Mark and Beth Hadley, who are moving to Ruidoso this Friday so Mark can start a new youth ministry job. They are adorable - Beth is a kindergarten teacher with clear aqua-green eyes and the sweetest smile I've ever seen, and Mark is a teddy bear with a quirky sense of humor (don't get him started on Monty Python or the old Pink Panther movies, which I also love). Anyway, Calvin asked them to take charge of communion, and the way they chose to do it was so sweet.

We joined hands as we always do, and Mark offered up the prayer; then Beth took the bread and he took the juice (Jolee passed out the Dixie cups). They went around to every single person in the circle, telling us individually how much we had meant to them during their time in Abilene and at Lifeteam. Beth was crying before she was three people down - Mark commented later that he should have gone first, because Beth is cuter, and she always makes everyone cry. :)

Before they got to me, Calvin came and sat down next to me, and asked, "How are you?" He really meant it - people at Lifeteam always do. I guess I looked a little lonely tonight (and I was tired after packing all day), but I was able to open up to him a bit about the good-byes I'm in the middle of. Transitions are tough, and I'm swimming through several at the moment. He said, "Well, if you need anything this summer, don't hesitate to call" - which provided a perfect moment for me to ask his help when I move later this week. I really don't want to make my parents come back to town, but I HATE asking for help for myself - so I'd been putting off talking to Calvin. But the offer was there, so real, simple and sweet that I just had to respond. He'll be coming over later this week. Bless him. :)

Beth had been weeping for a while by the time she got to me, and as I teared up too, she knelt in front of me and began, "I know God is going to do awesome things through you. Your voice is've blessed me personally so much with the way you praise our God when you lead worship. And no matter what the Lord has in store for you and Jeremiah, I know He's going to do great things through both of you. We're going to miss you. This is His body, and it was broken for you. We love you."

Mark came next and poured me some grape juice, then said, "I think the first time we came to Lifeteam, you and Victoria were sitting over there in the beanbag together, just hanging out. And the more I got to know you, and when I finally put two and two together and saw that you and Jeremiah were together, I began thinking, 'This Katie girl is just awesome!' No matter what God reveals for both of you, I know He's going to use you in amazing ways. Thanks for all you've been to us."

What amazing gifts from people whom I've known such a short time. To know that I've blessed someone else is the greatest gift of all - especially when I wasn't aware of it at the time. Mark and Beth are so lovable; they invite love from others as they shower it onto people. Before we prayed for dinner, Mark thanked the group "for all you've been to us," and said, "We will take each of you with you when we go. And when we sit around tables with new friends, and as we do things some of them think are pretty weird - like share communion around the table with them in our home - all of you will be there. We will carry you in our hearts."

The dinner that followed was classic Lifeteam - a homemade smorgasbord of food, Ethan's baby noises (louder than usual tonight) as he ate his dinner, people running in and out of the backyard to play with the dogs, and the usual catching up on each other's lives. Julie was so excited about the strawberry Kool-Aid Gail had made, and everyone enjoyed Calvin's ribs, smoked over post oak wood and some wood from Bob's pecan trees. We asked about each other's jobs, kids, friends, plans for the next week or two; nearly everybody asked about Jeremiah, who is missed even though he's only been gone for three days. And we wound it all up with a huge sheet cake, copiously frosted - one half said "Aloha Mark and Beth!" and the other half said "Happy Birthday Carlee!" with 10 candles arranged in a smiley face. :)

After cake and lemon bars and more good talk, Bob put in a video from last year's Hawaii mission trip: Mark leading silly songs, and then his sock puppet, "Uncle Rico," whose favorite snack is peanut butter pizza and whose voice sounds suspiciously like Cookie Monster's. In the midst of the video, Julie asked me to come out to the car with her, saying she had something for me. It turned out to be a lovely card, with the message "The world is your oyster - congratulations!" and a sweet handwritten note from Julie, and three books - none of which I've read! Julie and I are both bookworms, and she gave me two of her favorites and one she hasn't read yet. And she and Tim invited me over for dinner on Tuesday. I think they want to make sure I'm well fed and happy this summer, as I grow anxious about next year and perhaps a bit lonely.

When we walked back inside the group was gathering around Mark and Beth, laying hands on them, and Calvin prayed for them. Afterward, Beth jumped up and said, "I want family pictures and then a group picture!" Tim and Julie let me be their honorary daughter - I might as well be anyway! - and then it took at least fifteen minutes to figure out the logistics of the group picture. But we got it done - hallelujah! - and the group hugged and chatted some more and gradually dispersed, with promises, as always, of "See you soon."

I love these people. Almost every week last summer (the ones I spent in Abilene), I was on the phone to Jeremiah chattering away about how wonderful they are. How they hug me and feed me and ask, "How are you?" and really mean it; how they bring their kids and their lives and their joys and griefs to Lifeteam and share them, honestly and faithfully. How I have four surrogate pairs of moms and dads - Donagheys, Butchers, Danleys and Watsons - and friends in Brad and Summer, Mark and Beth, and the high school girls. Once Jeremiah came back to Abilene I couldn't wait to bring him to Lifeteam with me. He's a little reserved until he gets to know people, so it took him a while to warm up, but now he's family to them - and they are family to him too.

Every Christian - no, every person - should be this blessed. Most people have one family that they count as their own; if they're lucky, they have two or three. I have so many that my heart has expanded so it can hold them all. My blood family, my Oxford family, my Ground Floor family. My Come As You Are family, my A Cappella family, my Highland family, and my Lifeteam family. How did I become a part of so many? How did I wind up with so many people who love me? I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, in countless contexts, and I am reminded of it all the time. How great is the love the Father has lavished on me - through so many groups of His people, who love me and love me and love me no matter what.


Blogger Beverly said...

Oh my goodness, precious.I too know the amazing blessing of a precious small group. This morning was amazing and my buddy Stephen Powell cracked the place up..I loved it!! would you like to go with me, Candy and maybe Jeans to meet up with Scott. We are going to meet him halfway from Austin, eat with him then head back. We decided on Goldthwaite as the meeting place. We would leave around two on Wednesday...let me know..

10:24 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

That's not a request Bev's making, Katie - It's a freakin' demand ;-) I'd love it if you could come too!!!

11:01 PM  
Blogger Jeremiah said...

Katie, it was great to read how exciting your day was, but it was infinitely better to get to hear how great it was. I love you a lot!

1:05 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Yes Katie, you can be our daughter anytime. We love you and yes, we are worried about you being lonely and taken care of this summer...we will help out with whatever we can. We love you.

8:50 AM  
Blogger pawatson said...

Katie, it was a blessing to read about Sunday. We were so torn about not being able to be there, but I know we were right where we needed to be. It was hard to miss out on Mark & Beth's last Sunday, their blessing, and the joy of having Jolee and Carlee back. We will be gone again this Sunday morning, but should be back in time for Lifeteam. Hope someone can round up those two girls again. You always will be a part of our family. You see how it works - a wedding on Saturday evening, and then with Josh's family on Sunday. Joy and sorrow. Laughter and tears. Thank God for family. We love you.

6:56 PM  

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