Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Small Town Life

When we casually visited Grace Church of Richfield, almost 7 years ago now, we were completely unsuspecting of God's mercy and grace that would flow to us from this body over the coming years. We were totally burned out on church hunting, clueless about what we wanted to find in a church, and probably even a little apathetic. We knew that we longed for a church body, but I have no idea why, since we had never experienced "body life" then the way we have now. We hung around for a few months because we liked the music and had a few friends there, and slowly those months turned into years. It wasn't long before I had a gut feeling that this was "our church," where we would grow and serve. It took Eric a little longer to shake off his apathy and cynicism, but he is 100% on board now too, despite his natural bent towards individualism.

Now days, the church is called Sovereign Grace Fellowship, isn't a part of Richfield at all, has abandoned the four walls of our old church building for a middle school, has at least 50% different membership (as far as I could guess), and provides endless opportunity for reveling in the gospel of Jesus Christ, one on on or in a crowd. I actually drafted this post almost two months ago when I felt waves of sentimentality and an urgency to thank God for this blessing. Over the last few months, there have been many more moments when I thought, "that should be added to that post," and if the past is any indication of the future, there will certainly be many more opportunities to be thankful for our local chapter of the Body of Christ.

I could do a lengthy series, full of lengthy posts describing why we are so blessed to be part of SGF, but this post is simply going to highlight some of the everyday moments that have come our way recently.

This post all started after we held a garage sale here a few months ago. I was leery of doing another garage sale, since they are usually TONS of work, and you probably won't make much money. Still, it's money you didn't have before, and there were several people who wanted to pitch in, so the work load would be lighter. Here's how the day went.

1. Hannah showed up at 7 am (as I was considering getting out of bed) to help set up. I was feeling awfully prego and achy, but she charged ahead hauling tables, boxes, clothing racks, etc. from the garage to the front yard. Then she graciously offered to bring Eric's cousin to the airport for me. Then she drove around the neighborhood posting signs for the sale. Then she watched the sale while I fed and clothed my children. Then she.... you get the idea. The entire day she worked like a horse to keep us going and to make the sale a success. As a single gal with no kids to chase after, she was a real blessing to the rest of us collaborating (and really busy) moms.
Here is Hannah reading a book to Eva as they watched the sale.

2. Next, Bethany (and Hazel and Sylvi) showed up. Bethany had done tons of work earlier in the week to help me get the sale ready, so I told her to take her time on Thursday morning. But she and her two very small children arrived bright and early! Bethany is the closest thing to a sister without really being a sister that I know of. And our girls are practically like cousins. With all that familiarity, there are a few catches. Like Hazel and Hope fighting like cats and dogs together or playing the "games" that they aren't allowed to play, but always try to play together. Throw them into the chaos of a bustling garage sale, and you've got a wild scene on your hands. Still, Bethany is calm and always eager to help, often overlooking the less attractive qualities in all of the Patenaudes.

3. Shortly after "opening", another dear friend showed up. Terri (and Isaac and Claire) drove 20 minutes, just to see the fun and show their support. Eva and Isaac are the match for Hope and Hazel in the making war department, so immediately we had a few disagreements to work out. And Terri is the match for Bethany in the being patient and making peace department. I am genuinely going to miss Terri's laid back attitude and willingness to brave Eva and Isaac's unpredictable tangles when they move to Florida!

4. Moments later, our neighbor (from a few blocks away) Linda arrived to scope out the sale. She didn't stay long after her purchases, but I was blessed that she remembered our event. For the record, she did not bring with her Julia and Megan who would've really sent the kid circus to new heights!

5. While all the above friends were still gathered, up rolled Luke, Jen, and Malachi. The garage sale was their surprise last stop on the way to South Dakota for a few weeks. They were actually moving out of their apartment, so they unloaded a huge quantity of food from their fridge and freezer (which we all happily divided up) and a 6 pack of dark beer (which a few of the harried moms immediately enjoyed... never mind that it was 10 am). They ended up staying until noon- playing, laughing, browsing, purchasing, and making lunch. Then they departed, leaving one of their cars with us to store for a while. As a one-car-family, it has been a blessing to have their ride available to us all summer.

6. Kristie arrived to socialize and shop (she's a REAL girl!). Being that she was a poor grad student at the time, and since I've been the recipient of many hand-me-downs from her and her sister, we insisted that she didn't pay for the nice stack of clothes she left with. Although I can't remember clearly now, I'm sure she helped us out in some way... that's just her style!

7. For the remainder of the day, the children played happily. Then we spread them around the house for afternoon naps. Sarah and Baby Will came around to help out, followed by my sister (who really is my sister:). The kids in bed, the sale slowing down, I think this was portion of the day with the most captivating and curious conversations...
Hope is reclaiming the Boppy pillow that I was happy to sell!

8. At the end of the day (and each of the following garage sale days), I had tons of help to clean up. Although I was tired at the end of the day, it is true that "many hands make light work!" Everyone was so hardworking that it was a blessing to host a big 'ol garage sale! During the day, as the friends and family trickled through, it felt as though I lived in a small, happy town. And that unique privilege was afforded us by the nature of our small town church in a big city!
That evening, Eric and I headed to a small group meeting. Though we've been in this small group for a long time now, the room was filled with unfamiliar faces (in fact, at least one person that I had never met before). I'm sure it won't be long until this "new" group feels like family! As we sat around the Wetzel's living room singing with the strumming guitar, I was struck by the fact that I already felt at home in this group, despite the many new members. We've said "goodbye" to a lot of very dear small-groupies lately, and although that is sad, the Holy Spirit has already united us to the Body of Christ that we are just starting to get to know. The words we were singing resonated with me in a distinct way- the cross makes all this possible. Christ's sacrifice on the cross purchasing the Church, his bride. That's what makes this beautiful fellowship conceivable in a not-so-beautiful world. We sang

Thank you for the Cross, for the blood that sets us free
thank you thank you for your love has saved us
you have rescued us
bought us with your blood
thank you for the cross

thank you

small groupies gathered at our camping trip in late May.


A most recent event- over the 4th of July weekend, I came down with a yucky stomach virus. Although I didn't throw up at all (it mostly exited the other end), I was absolutely wiped out after a two days of laying around and doing NOTHING. For the entire weekend, Eric did all the housework, cooking, and childcare- the girls really enjoyed their diet of mc Donald's, frozen pizza, cold cereal, hot dogs, Doritos, and popsicles! I really appreciated Eric serving me so much, but by Sunday night we knew that he needed to go back to work on Monday and I was in no condition to keep up with the girls. Really, it is amazing how much worse a small illness can be when you're pregnant!

Enter Kristie (again). She very willingly dropped everything on Monday to come over and take care of the girls. As a Physician's Assistant, she had a few concerns to work out regarding my condition :), but she happily took the girls to a lake, a park, and out for lunch so that I could sleep all day! The girls had tons of fun, and our whole family was served by me having a day of recuperation. Again, we felt the loving arms of our body of believers that day.

This post is getting really, really long (and I'm tired of coming back to writing it day after day!). I just want to record for future reference how deeply we feel God's blessing on our lives in this season. I could easily add to these details the many other memories. He is so good to provide friends, fellowship, and even family through the body of believers he has planted us in. Thanks be to God!


Erin said...

yes- it's a high and huge blessing you have that the best and only great God (ever!) provides. Love the tribute to Him!

Alicia O. & the gang said...

First great post. Second...who has a Sylvi? I have never heard of another child named that old is she????