In worship on Sunday, November 4th, we welcomed four of our members to offer their stories of gratitude to our church family, and share how this church has impacted their faith and their life. These moving testimonies will be shared separately over the coming days, and we hope they will inspire you to reflect on the ways our church has impacted your own faith and life.
I, too, stand here today with my heart full of gratitude for this church, for our members, and for our staff. Some of you may or may not know that I have had a pretty difficult past five years. I’m going to get a little bit personal with you all – but only because I feel it is important as it relates to the blessings of our church.
In the past five years…
My daughter was hospitalized seven times. Including an over 2-month stint in Denver, Colorado. She had severe struggles with anxiety and an eating disorder and we only learned around the 5th hospitalization that she was actually bi-polar and incorrect medications had been causing severe imbalances and complicating her situation.
I went through a divorce and soon had my three children living with me full-time.
My parent’s - who were faithful members of this congregation and lived locally - health failed for various reasons and then they passed away. They were – my A#! supporters.
My best friend died in a fatal car crash.
…And just when I thought 2018 might finally be a normal year - my youngest son produced the largest bone tumor that Children’s and the James hospital had ever seen.
To say I’ve had a rough time might be putting it mildly. This being said – I am always one to look on the bright side, turn the lemons into lemonade, seek the light, know that it could be worse … and trust that God is with my through it all.
I share this with all of you because I could not have gotten through all this or have the attitude that I do – without The First Presbyterian Church. This community surrounded my family with the powerful promise of God’s love in action with meals, rides, frequent flyer miles, visits to the house in times of crisis, hand holding by hospital beds, cards and hugs...many prayers.
Our staff… our amazing staff was also unflagging through my storms.
Janice – Who was with me daily as I learned news that my Dad’s appendicitis was actually the incurable appedicial cancer and he only had months to live. She helped me process the grave news and make critical decision about my Mom’s (who had Alzheimer’s) care. Later she served to be one of the few who visited my Mother regularly and for those of you who didn’t know Sally -she was not always easy to be with in her final years. I remain so grateful.
Joy – Who gives her heart and soul to her choir kids. Joy and I share many students and I hear first-hand not only of how she helps them learn about commitment and dedication but also is a listening ear and a supporter of all they do. Upon my father’s death knowing his steadfast dedication and love of this church and the angel choir rallied her group to sing at his funeral. A great gift to us all and I know he was smiling.
Ellen – Who has tenderly loved my children from baby to young-adulthood. Guided them all as they each taught Sunday school and did such things as organize helpers for our family to picking the boys up from school upon my father’s death to arriving with cards and a balloons for Scotty and hugs and a soothing presence for me when I was alone following Scotty’s surgery.
Trip - Who was a steady presence to my boys when I needed to be with my daughter in Denver and again during my divorce. Whose hand I was holding during prayer as my father took his last breath. Who visited my son following his surgery even when his own child was sick – to being such a cool pastor that at least one of my children may consider this as their call…
Karen - Finally Karen – I could give a whole sermon about my gratitude for this woman. Karen’s leadership makes this church what it is. She guides the staff, the lay leaders, and us all to use our hearts and hands and minds to bring Christ’s love into the world. On a personal level she was with me physically or in spirit through each and every trial of my past several years and has been a constant encourager of my daughter as she moved into great health and adulthood. She has inspired me to be strong but often, saw me at my weakest as I made extremely difficult decision about my life, about my kids, and about my parents.
This is just a slice of my story – but I feel important for all of you to realized that this type of outreach and care and vital support is happening every day! Our staff is walking beside someone in crisis all the time and helping them to make life-altering decisions, to trust in God/keep the faith and help them emerge still shining. My story – and the stories of my children have been shaped for the good by our incredible staff and congregation. Every day my heart is full of gratitude for the gift that we have here at First Presbyterian Church. Thank you all.