Today was pretty mind blowing...I'm trying to sort out what it all means for me and thought a little blogging might shed some light.
I have been looking for a new church home for some time now. I had a church that I loved with a group of friends that I had a great sense of accountability and fellowship with, but slowly each one started down new paths, which moved them due to jobs and location and brought them to new churches. After they were gone I felt really lonely.. I felt lonely because it is a church of about 4000. And when you don't know anyone in a group of people that large, it's actually even lonelier than being alone (when, actually, I don't usually feel lonely when I'm alone anymore...it's a welcome change.) So, I've been trying some new churches. Today I decided to try out one that happens to be 5 minutes from where I live. When I pulled up, it reminded me of some of the classic church buildings you see on the east coast- except sadly in need of a face lift. It just seemed old and dusty and in need of lots of TLC. There didn't seem to be a whole lot of people congregating for church, but I made my way to the entrance with Elijah tucked away, sleeping softly, in the Ergo carrier and Christian holding my hand. As I walked through the entrance, the very first person I saw was a young boy with Down syndrome sitting in a chair at the entrance, helping the greeter. I tried to keep my focus on the greeter, who wanted to hand me a packet about the church and explain everything in it...all I wanted to do was say hello to this boy. The man introduced me to him, "This is Ezra." (Although, I could tell by the man's mannerisms that Ezra was not his own.) The boy said, "Hi. Nice to meet you. Who is that? (pointing to Christian)" A few friendly people came up and introduced themselves and I kept wondering who his Mother was. One of the really nice women I was talking to began interacting with Ezra, and I said, "Is that your son?" She said, "Yes. I have five and Ezra is my youngest." I patted my little sleeping sack and said, "My little Elijah has an extra chromosome too." I think the word "awe" sums it up for me. Maybe even for her too. She said, "He has been such a blessing to us. ...Well, all of my kids have, but in some ways especially Ezra has because of the challenges we've overcome." That was about all we had time for as we seemed to be shuttling in to the sanctuary for the service. Just before I entered, a tall man appeared and introduced himself (turns out that he is Ezra's Father). We found seats, got comfortable with Christian still with us. (The church invites the children to stay with their parents during the music and then they are dismissed to Sunday School.) A tiny piano in the corner, played by an elderly woman with pure white hair, began tinkling out a tune. The interior of the church is architecturally a near copy cat of the small church that Charles attended as a child. Instead of rich, cared for dark woods of his east coast church, this church had pale wood pews and a pale wood altar. A slightly dusty, silk floral arrangement sat in front of the pulpit. The mauve carpeting and blinds matched, and a large screen was pulled down over where the stained glass was probably hidden beneath. Ezra's Father took his place behind the pulpit...it took me awhile to figure out that he was indeed, the church's pastor!! The first song began, and despite the fact that the words were projected in a dim, nearly invisible fashion on the screen, and the piano tinkling was a less than desirable accompaniment to the size of the room, it was one of my favorite contemporary Christian songs. My eyes started welling up a bit...God, what are you trying to tell me here? The second song took my breath away just a little more. It's another contemporary song that I've always loved, but never had the meaning it does now. It is called, "Days of Elijah". This might have been when I managed to just barely keep myself from going into the ugly cry. (You know the one I mean...) The whole time Christian danced in the pews, oblivious to the tears streaming down my face. When the children were excused to the Sunday school, I went with him to help him get situated. The pastor followed me out and said, "Jennifer- just wanted to let you know that there is a Cry Room if you need it at the front corner of the sanctuary." It took me a minute to realize he meant a Cry Room- in case the BABY started crying! (And not me!)
Christian joined the other three kids at church in Room 7 for their church school time. Ezra was there, who had recently turned 9, then there were sisters, Lorelei and Lizzie, who looked about 6 and 7 years old. The teacher started talking about all they were going to do today, and I thought, Oh boy! There's no way that Christian is going to sit patiently through all of that! But, I gave him a kiss and said, "I'll see you in a little bit sweetie," and turned to go. He lost it. He started crying, "Mommy no!! Don't go!! I want my Mommy!" Ugh. Heartstrings. I stopped, gave him a big hug, walked him back to the circle and said, "I'll be right back sweetie. You'll have a great time! Bye Bye!" He waved, and I headed out as his lip looked on the verge of quivering again. Deep breath. Gonna. have. to. get. used. to. this.
The rest of the service was a bit of a blur for me. My mind raced through the fact that I could walk into a church in my own neighborhood and the very first person I see shares something in common with my youngest son. What is their story? How did they find out? How has the journey been for them? I had to remind myself to focus on what the pastor was saying. The services came to a close and I quickly went to get Christian. He was thrilled to see me, and certainly wasn't scarred from the experience. The teacher talked about how they read bible verses and talked about a story and sang some songs, and I thought....Mmmm mmmm....He's three. The song part might have been the only thing he could sort of participate in, but he seemed happy enough. And he'd certainly seemed to form a little bond with Ezra, who was perfectly willing to match Christian's three year old, playful sensibilities. As we headed to the car, Ezra's Mom stopped me and gave me her number. I asked how Ezra's health was, and she told me he had open heart surgery when he was between 3 and 4 months old. Exactly Elijah's age now. Then she introduced me to one of the other white haired ladies, by saying that she had 2 children with Down syndrome that are in heaven now. Neither baby had lived longer than 6 months. She had 3 children. The first had Down syndrome and died as a baby, the second was typically developing and is 48 now, and the third, shockingly enough was another baby with Down syndrome, who also died before 6 months of age. She reiterated what I already knew...it is EXTREMELY rare to have more than one child with Down syndrome. All I could think as I drove away was how lucky we are that Elijah is so healthy and has no heart defects! So lucky. SO blessed.
Even though I didn't feel a strong connection to this church, it certainly gave me much to think about. It reminded me of the beauty of a small, simple church gathering together each week and lifting each other up in any way they can. It refreshed me in many ways. I left humming the chorus to "Days of Elijah":
Behold he comes, riding on a cloud
Shining like the sun, at the trumpet's call
So lift your voice, it's the year of jubilee
Out of Zion's Hill salvation comes...
I just love this tune. So, I sung it a few times on the way home and I could hear Christian in the back seat trying to imitate my words. So, I started trying to teach him, by letting him fill in the last word of each sentence. I sang, "Behold he comes, riding on a __________..."
"Shining like the _____..."
"Right!" "At the trumpet's ____"
We continued on... I said, "Let's sing it again now that you know it." (He had been getting the words right for about three choruses now.) So, I started:
"Behold he comes! Riding on the __________..."
...............................??!! Hil.a.ri.ous.!!!! We started laughing and couldn't stop. I'm certain Christian didn't even know exactly what was so funny, but the laughter was contagious! I said, "Well, sweetie, I guess in this day and age, it's quite possible that HE would ride in on a bus...it's a bit of a step down from a cloud, I suppose, but it would work!
And so, this dusty little church that I sat in, with it's kind, lovely people, might have been just a little bit like Jesus riding in on the bus. It's not glamorous, but it's real.