Joyful music spills outside into the hallways and parking lot of a shopping center in Fort Walton Beach, FL as I enter this large cozy room. The lights are dim in here so it takes me a second to spot Michael on the other side of the room. I followed him inside the building but got distracted hugging people in the hallway… you know, those friends that ask how you are doing and actually mean it? Chairs line the large room facing the stage where familiar loving faces gather to sing praise. I take my spot next to Michael and look around as loud, passionate voices sing all around me over the base, guitar, drum, and piano on stage. The place is packed with people. Some familiar faces of friends I love smile back at me as I glance over to them. My sweet friends George and Pearl stand with their arms raised in the front row, eyes closed as they pour worship from their hearts.
I see some new faces too & make a mental note to introduce myself later. My heart leaps with joy that they found themselves here today. I have an expectation here this morning. To meet with God… the same way I meet with Him during the week, but in a corporate setting with my brothers and sisters. I pray they would meet with Him too… that they wouldn’t be distracted by nuances or imperfections with the worship team or message. I’m not here to check a box on my religion checklist. I’m here to experience my Father in the most powerful way possible… together with my church family and body of believers. I’m not here to feel good about myself, to compare myself to others, or to perform. I’m here to be. To be His. To experience Him. Relishing in this moment, I feel overwhelmed with the feeling and confirmation of….. HOME.
My people. My place. The presence of my Father, God. I feel complete here surrounded by so many souls that I’ve had the privilege to grow close with over the last 4 years. My heart bursts with outpour of praise… peace that surpasses understanding drenches my soul. The worries, fears, doubts, feelings of discontent, the lies, distractions, and craziness of the world slip away from my thoughts.
“Home” means different things to different people. For me, home is not constricted to one physical place… I’ve found the most profound feelings of home overwhelm me during the most mundane moments:
- My dear friend Jonna and I have had many a long, deep passionate conversation about hopes, dreams, and God’s character over a bowl of queso shouting over Mexican music. Home.
- My small group family sharing meals, prayers, and intentional conversations over sunsets at the beach. Home.
- Mike and I painting the house or going for a walk with Zoey in the neighborhood while discussing our deepest of struggles and fears. Home.
- Zoey and I floating in the bayou on the paddle board at sunrise, watching dolphins swim around us… basking in God’s creation. Home.
- Watching the super bowl, eating Cheetos and oreo ice cream churros, and drinking sprite… surrounded by people that I have grown to love, our family. Home.
- Doggie dates with my friend Kaitlyn on the back patio.. laughing as the pups wrestle right under our feet. Home.
- Getting outside with my hands in the dirt. Watching God grow things from tiny seeds into vegetables that we can eat. Home.
- Calling my friend Nicci in tears, because I’m discouraged and just need to hear truth. Home.
- Sunday morning Starbucks dates with my friend Chantel as we walk through the hard stuff together. Home.
I find God’s love in these places….
Deep down in my soul I have gone from broken and lost without a purpose, living in shame of past mistakes, searching for temporary happiness… to renewed, eternally loved, secure, confident, filled with everlasting fulfillment and empowered to rest in the grace and love of a Father who is so caring and loving and powerful. My heart aches with the desire for those around me to experience this too.
As I settle into worship, close my eyes, posture myself to breath and give Him the glory, I think back.
There was a time in my life that I questioned the purpose of the “corporate” church. I argued about whether or not we need community to be “Christians”. Sure, you can follow Jesus alone. But it’s a heck of a lot easier to get lost that way. And that is not the way God intended it to be. Today I praise Him for giving me these people and these experiences that reveal His love… for bringing the Kingdom of God to earth in the mundane. My heart and soul long for Him and his mercy, grace, and presence. He is my HOME.