There's this little white building with a proud white steeple - way up in God's Country - which can be seen for miles around from the highest point in Hodgdon... that played a hugely pivotal role in my life during all of my growing up years, and that still to this day is very near and dear to my heart.
See the steeple - far far away?
Every single Sunday - barring sickness or death - my two brothers and I crammed into the backseat of our little family car, and our family headed across our small town of Hodgdon over to the other, equally small little town of East Hodgdon, where we would meet up with the rest of the Quint's and the Smith's, the Duff's and the Foster's and everyone else in between who was related to all of the rest of us in some way or another.

And it was in this tiny little building, with tons of friends and cousins, and with a church "family" that watched me grow up from the time I was a baby until the day I moved away as a "Mrs."... and who loved me no matter what.... where I learned so very many things.

There's something pretty special about a place where there are so many families with three generations represented.  There's something very sweet about seeing a grandbaby being bounced on his Grampy's lap during the middle of the service so that the baby's Mama can actually get something out of what the pastor is saying, and there's something pretty cool about watching little cousins all lined up together in the same pew -- literally growing up together in the church.
God bless church potluck suppers...
....There's also something really embarrassing about having the Mama's - mid service - split up said cousins and make them return to their rightful owners because they can't stop the snorting belly laughs or the note passing during the pastor's message.

(I speak not from experience, but from being an innocent onlooker.  Ahem.  Right, Jodi?....)

It was there, though - in that little building, and with those precious people - where I witnessed and observed faithfulness being modeled.  It was there where I learned what I really and truly believe - and why I believe it.  It was during those years and in that building where I learned to love Jesus and where I learned to not just read His Word - but to live and practice it, as well.  And it was from those people where I learned that family extends far beyond "blood," and of what it honestly means to be the Hands and Feet of Jesus.

This is the "family" that - while some of the older generation teased me about my wild and crazy hair and ear lobe piercings..... also openly welcomed and accepted my edgy, but truly-searching-for-Jesus, new boyfriend....who not only sported an earring himself, but who also had some pretty wild and crazy hair.

And this is the "family" that closely walked with me when he took his life four years later...

This is the "family" that supported me and prayed for me when I flew clear across the world having never been on an airplane before...and who loved me and listened to my follow-up presentation that went way, way, way overtime upon my return home.

This is the "family" that not only threw me my bridal shower, but who also gave me showers for my first...and for my last wee baby...fourteen years later.

And it was in this building where I learned loyalty and love...and where it was shown by the people within those four walls, that "you can always come home."

Here I saw modeled the same truths that were being modeled at home...
I learned what a strong marriage looks like.
I learned what it looks like for an older woman to be an example to the younger.
I learned what it means to be faithful in little, and what it means to be faithful in much.
And I saw parents loving their children well.

This is a rich, rich heritage.
And this is a legacy that my three small boys get to be a part of whenever we return back home for a visit.

And while I firmly believe that Jesus can't be contained to any building...and that any "church" is only as healthy as its' people...because that's what the church is in the first place...

And while I know that it takes a bunch of different styles...and songs...and set-ups to make the world go round...  Goodness knows, we ourselves have been a part of several different venues - missional house church, big and small traditional churches, and more edgy contemporary ones...

I also, and equally as firmly believe that it's the people inside that make the difference.
And it's the love and the "walking alongside" that stays with others forever.
It's the acceptance and the grace...and sometimes the "tough love" shown when needed...
And it's the "family" that extends far beyond the borders of blood that truly creates the definition of a "church."

And while I know and love so many friends who believe that God is irrelevant and that church is no longer necessary in this day and age...I also know that you can't judge God by His kids.  And while no-one is perfect, and while some of His kids have scarred others for life by both their words and by their judgmental actions...there are also some of God's kids - and many who reside here in this sweet, small building - who have solidified in this woman's heart the very real relevance of God Himself and of my very great need for Him each and every day of life.

So, while everyone's "Journey with Jesus" looks different...
While each person's "style" and "preference" may sport a different flavor than what someone else may like...
While some may have tried this whole church "gig," and sadly may have gotten badly burned in the process by some well-meaning "saint"...

I am so very thankful to be able to say that my growing up years, and my rich heritage in that sweet little Hodgdon building on the White Settlement Road way up North in God's Country, helped shape and mold me into the woman that I am today.

And it taught me the deep, wild love of a Father God.
It solidified and and confirmed to me what my parents modeled and taught me at home.
And it showed me authenticity.

God is good.
He is real.
And He can be trusted.
There is more to life than these fleeting years on Earth.
And may He find us faithful.
May we choose to a part of His Story...and may we be accurate reflections of Him and of who He really is....

For these truths taught to me - and for so very many more - I will remain forever thankful.
May people always be able to say that they can see Jesus in God's kids who came out of that little white building...

*   *   *   *   *   *
Written in honor of my sweet little church family who is celebrating "up Home" tonight.
Wishing I could be there with you all...


Jodi said...

I'm certain I have no idea what you're talking about......you weren't the one who had to get up in the middle of church and go back to sit with your parents because you had been naughty!!

Life With My Boys..... said...

One of all time FAVORITE church memories. That...and stealing animal crackers from the church nursery. And your little stick people drawings that made me snot out my nose... And putting about six hymn books under your butt for when you'd sit back down from singing. Good times...

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