Sunday morning was so sweet. Everyone seemed so glad to see each other, there was such a feeling of family. Michael preached on the angels coming to the shepherds, some of the most insignificant people in the social circles of that time. It wasn't the lowliness of the shepherds that was so interesting. It was the fact that Jesus was born in a stable with the animals because He came to be our Lamb. Our sacrificial Lamb. The Lamb of God. Now He is my Great Shepherd. Isn't it amazing how God did everything He could to show us Jesus? Michael encouraged us to think about what the priorities really are in our lives. To focus on what really is important, instead of things that really don't matter.
At the end of the service 16 year old Jordan came up to be baptized. As he climbed into the horse trough, his two soldier brothers got on each side to help baptize their baby brother. Jordan's back was toward me, Michael was standing by Jordan's brother to help get him down into the water, and I could see through all those manly arms and shoulders to his daddy standing at the other end of the trough. He was standing with tears in his eyes, with his daughter standing between him and his precious wife. Two years ago when this daddy came to church, he sat by himself. Every Sunday when we would all "get up to stretch our legs and give somebody a hug" he would remind me to pray for his wife and kids. Any time he was there he would remind us. God was hearing those prayers. Last year he and his wife were baptized together. So sweet. Every baptism is sweet to me because I know most of the stories that brought them to that point. This one was extra sweet because I saw a praying daddy see another of his prayers answered. I was overwhelmed with the emotion of it all.
We got done with everything and I was getting ready to go home to start the beans so we would have something to dip our cornbread in at the party we were having at the church that night. I went looking for Michael to tell him I was leaving and saw him talking to one of the men of our church. Another man had tried to pick a fight with this man and things got heated. I waited until they were done and drove by where Michael was standing. He leaned in the passenger side window and told me things were okay. I wish I could describe the look on his face. It was a mixture of peace, strength, and responsibility. Many times on a Sunday morning we get to hear of awful things that people are going through, then he will go in to lead us to worship our Lord. After being up most of the night in prayer and study he has to wonder, after a fight in the parking lot, if anyone hears. Maybe that is why he has me. Because I wonder. His face showed no discouragement at all leaning in my window. It was ME who was discouraged. After such a sweet morning and sweet message, someone has to go try to mess things up. As I rolled that window up the tears rolled down my cheeks. Those kind of tears you can't stop once they start. You just have to let 'em go. Once again, overwhelming emotion.
After they stopped, I had such a grateful heart. The kind of grateful heart where you actually feel like your heart is bigger than it really is. I realized that the look on Michael's face was BELONGING. He is where he belongs doing the things God has given him to do. That is where the look of strength and peace came from. I was grateful God called us to this church where the people air their laundry, speak their minds, and love passionately. I was grateful we are not at a place where you have to wonder what is really going on in people's hearts. Here, I know how to pray. There is no guessing.
I was in the kitchen at the party later on that evening and told Wendi to listen. You could hear the Alan Jackson CD playing Christmas songs, the dominoes clanking together, the youth in a corner playing cards, people laughing all over the room, and the little ones playing up on the stage. It was sweet. That night the family we have here overwhelmed us again with a gift of love that we never knew was coming. We belong here because God put us here.
It was SUPPOSED to be Michael who preached that sermon, baptized Jordan, and talked through an altercation that morning. It was SUPPOSED to be Michael who listened at the Christmas party to a sweet, tearful lady tell of an unpleasant diagnosis a few days before; and hear that night of the same type of diagnosis for another one of our precious widows. He was the one who was SUPPOSED to get the call the following morning to meet the ambulance at the hospital because one of our sweet sisters in the Lord did not wake up. He is the one who will stay here to make sure she gets the homegoing celebration she deserves this weekend while the girls and I make a trip to Tulsa to see Kyle graduate the academy. The look on his face was BELONGING because he is right where he is SUPPOSED to be. I love him more than I ever have.