This weekend, I had a rare opportunity to return to the church where I grew up. Along with me, I brought my husband, daughter, and a grateful heart. As we turned off the interstate and onto the road of the church I felt as if I was a teen again riding with my best friends to youth group. When we pulled into the parking lot, I remembered pulling in all of those times in the church van returning from youth camp, retreats, and other events. We arrived a little bit early to do a sound check. I was blessed with the opportunity to provide the special music for the Sunday morning worship service. As I picked up the microphone, I felt like that five year old girl whose tights were too big holding the microphone and singing a solo for the first time, complete with my very own created choreography. I learned from a young age that He's got the whole world in His hands and wanted to sing about it while wearing lavender. After checking sound levels there was time before the worship service began, so I took my daughter on a trip down memory lane as we toured the church her mama was a part of for over 20 years. Everything was the same right down to the red carpet in the original sanctuary, white chairs in the Sunday school classrooms, and the double oven in the tiny church kitchen. As I meandered in and out of Sunday school classrooms, traced the tops of wooden pews, and gazed out of stained glass windows I shared with my daughter stories about my life growing up at the church. I showed her the nursery where I stayed as a baby, my favorite Sunday school classroom, and the wooden steps I used to play on for hours in my mom's office when I went to work with her during the summer where she served as the church secretary. I showed her the small sanctuary where I sang my first solo, sat with my youth group, and was baptized. When we went to worship together, there were so many precious familiar faces of men and women who knew me as a baby, child, and/or teen. We shared lots of hugs and memories and when it came time for me to step up on the sanctuary steps to lead worship through music, I remembered the other things that took place in that very spot. It was here where I preached my first sermon, led as a youth minister for the first time, and served my first communion. I began to sing, "Sweet hour of prayer...sweet hour of prayer...." As I sang out about God, I looked out at the faces in the room, and I expressed praise in my heart to the people that were there and those that used to be there. I thanked God for this sacred sanctuary and for the people I was blessed to be surrounded by that the Lord used to raise me into the woman I am today. I praised God for the people and experiences He used in this church to carry out His plans for my life. "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face." I wonder if you have a place, an experience or two, a group of people who you can take a moment to reflect upon this week that God used to shape and mold the person you are today. May you take a moment or two this week to reflect on these people and experiences. Give someone a phone call. Reread a Bible story or listen to a favorite sermon if possible. Look back at some photographs. Remember, treasure, re-experience, and praise God for it! "And the things of the earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace."
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