Thankfully we aren't.
We aren't even planning to move right away (in fact, we might be approaching record time, for our family, living in the same house!)
The word "homeless", however, evokes a host of feelings and mental images. In our years downtown, we spent plenty of time around those who truly were without a place to lay their heads. Their worldly possessions were few, their hope and their dignity far less.
Homeless. It's a word that has danced about in my head throughout the past few years. Not because we've been without a home, but because we've been without a church home.
I've told friends (on more than one occasion in the past few years) how I am convinced that I'd rather be without a home than without a church. Really! If you have never been part of a church family, maybe you just can't relate to that. If you have, perhaps you share my sentiment.
For 16 or 17 years we were intimately involved in Open Door Fellowship (downtown Denver), our world revolved around that body of believers, where we served and loved and lived. Where we struggled through years of infertility, where we later brought each of our newborns (when they were just days old) ~ and passed them around to excited friends, where we loved on the mentally ill and the drug addicted, where we served alongside the like-minded, where our daughter danced with passion and abandon during worship and our son tried out the drums after the service . . . where we lived life in community and wept and rejoiced. Where our family was embraced and we felt accepted and loved and fully alive.
When we moved to Castle Rock in 2008, we began looking for a church closer to our new home. It took a little while, but eventually we found a wonderful little church, "Generations", which we called home for nearly three years. We were part of a small group, Emily sang on the worship team, we felt connected, we made some neat friends, we served in meaningful ways.
Until the summer of 2012, when we moved to Jellystone. As much as 'the spirit was willing', it was very difficult for us to make it to church (consistently) that summer and fall. We returned in the winter, but several months later (on Easter Sunday) Generations held its last service and closed its doors. Our life & schedule at the campground from May-Oct makes attending church very, very difficult and looking for a new church home nearly impossible. In the off season, we had a little more freedom. We visited several churches and greatly enjoyed some of them . . . but we just never found one that "fit". Peak season returned at the campground and our search fell through the cracks once again. I prayed that somehow, at some point, God would weave us back into a church family again.
During those busy summer months, we participated in (or led) various devotional services at the campground. It was something. It was what we could manage. God was not disappointed (with us).
But I was.
An uneasiness was gnawing away at my insides, an uncomfortable reality, an unwelcome truth - we had ended up, much by default, raising our children outside of the church . . . without the benefit of an "extended (church) family" ~ who knew them, loved them, watched them grow and spoke truth, conviction and encouragement into their lives.
I wanted that for them.
I wanted that for us.
We had become an island unto ourselves. Doing okay, certainly not void of all Christian input or activity, but as a family ~ coming close to starving spiritually. That is NOT where I ever dreamed we'd end up, it was not the vision I had for our family . . . much like I imagine is the story of each tattered soul who stands behind a cardboard sign on the street corner. This is not what they ever dreamed they would become.
This past November, once our weekends were freed up a little, we began visiting churches again, intent on finally finding a place to call home. One Saturday night (about five months ago) as we were preparing to return to a church the kids and I had visited the previous week, I decided to do one more (internet) search. I happened upon a website (I'd actually been there once before, but had dismissed it for whatever reason). This time the words on that page struck a chord. The description reminded me of our "home church" in Denver. We made a last minute decision to visit Pathmakers the next morning, before returning to the 'other' church.
From the moment we walked through the doors, we felt at ease. Exuberant children greeted ours, friendly faces and open arms embraced us. Genuine people, Real. Raw. Relevant. Balanced. Servant leaders who refused to talk in titles or advertise (their) positions. Members of a body, working together, serving one another. Love.
We could be ourselves there. Our kids told us how much they enjoyed it. We returned the next week. . . and the following week. We prayed for strangers, we gushed over newborns. We had real conversations, We stood in the chilly winter air witnessing outdoor baptisms! We made dinner plans with Joe & Beth (and then re-scheduled them at the last minute . . . two or three times). We brought our injured puppy to church! (and no one condemned us). We participated in outreach events and youth events. We were offered opportunities to serve. Our kids have shared in that privilege too. They have a role and a purpose. Somewhere as the weeks ran together, we stopped feeling like visitors and began feeling like family. There are still plenty in the family we haven't met yet, we are looking forward to hearing their stories and getting to know them as the days unfold. For the first time in (too many) years, we are looking forward to finding a way to continue being part of this family THROUGHOUT the craziness and busyness of 'peak season'.
THAT is an answer to prayer!
We have seen God's faithfulness (once again)
We are no longer homeless.
We are home
. . . and home is a wonderful place.
(Oh . . . , and when we finally managed to have that dinner with Joe & Beth and the kids ~ it was genuine and fun and memorable. And, well, you'll just have to ask Joe how ~ um ~ dog poop made its mark on the evening smile emoticon I'm waiting for it to find its way into a sermon!)
Thank you, Pathmakers, for welcoming us into your family!
Thank you, Pathmakers, for welcoming us into your family!