Yesterday, I went to church with my mom and grandmother. It was her 90th birthday, and since she rarely makes it to church here lately, my mom thought it would be a treat to pick her up and take her. She was so surprised and delighted to see that myself and Madalyn were along for the ride. And it was the first time in a few years that I had been in the building where I went to church during my high school years and the many years following.
I sat there before the service started looking around at the building itself and the many familiar faces that surrounded me. When I moved away five years ago, it seemed like I had moved away from my past. At first, I was homesick. But as the months went by and we began to make memories here, it was almost a relief - I wasn't surrounded by old memories and people that knew me as a child. I became a little more anonymous when I moved away, revealing only what I wanted to reveal about myself to others as I felt comfortable. But when I am back in Montgomery, sometimes I feel so exposed. Not during every trip, but usually ones like yesterday where I go places or see people that I hadn't seen in years.
I sat on the newly recovered pews in the auditorium of the church and thought about that building. It's the building where I met the boy that would take me out on my first car date. I remember being so excited at the thought of him liking me - not so much because of who he was, but because a boy finally seemed to really like me and the excitement of going out on a real date was immeasurable. It's the building where our school chorus came on a school day and recorded some of our songs for a tape to distribute. I had so much fun that day as it was the same day I got to go to a local elementary school with some of the cast of the play and do a couple of scenes from that year's spring play.
I remember so many youth events in that building... movie nights, pizza, preparing for our summer mission trip to do VBS for a small church. I remember a high school friend and I skipping church one night and going over to the playground at the municipal park adjacent to the church property and sitting on the swings and talking. It's the building where I passed notes scribbled on the attendance cards (which look exactly the same today as they did fifteen years ago).
It's the building where I witnessed my dearest friend receive her engagement ring that still wears above her wedding band some eleven years later. And it's the same building I walked down the middle aisle - confused, conflicted, and uncertain, dressed in candlelight silk, veil flowing.
It's the building where I walked down the side aisle one Sunday, begging for prayers and encouragement after my painful divorce.
Yesterday, it was the building I sat alongside both my grandmothers, my mother, my father and my innocent baby girl. All these emotions rushed through me the whole time... no one in that building could tell what I was thinking. I am certain no one knew - all the pain I was reliving inside. All the faces I kept remembering. All the moments in my life I have been able to push out of my mind for these past five years... it was really hard to be there yesterday. Really hard to be back in that building.
I don't know why it bothered me so much yesterday. Maybe because I hadn't been there in so long. Maybe because I was just in such a sentimental mood with it being my grandmother's 90th birthday. Maybe simply because the evil spirit that moves freely about in this world wanted me to be distracted from all the good that was going on around me. Maybe all of the above... but by the end of the service, I had focused in more on what that day held - a broad smile across two aged women's faces, two women I love and admire more than I can say. The miracle of my mother, the embodiment of God's healing power. My father, a pillar of strength through it all. And my precious baby girl... the innocent big brown eyes just like her mother's, her life a fresh white page before her. And I am just so grateful to have had them all beside me yesterday. So very grateful.