About a year ago Craig & I had just made the decision to not move off to seminary but to stay in Oxford while Craig took his new position at Regents. Up to that point we had visited around at some churches but had not gotten involved in any. For a couple reasons. But mostly, the thought of getting involved in a church was really difficult on me because I was missing my home church, Grace Evan, in Memphis terribly. Grace Evan had meant so much to me and had brought so many amazing people in my life. Every single one of my friendships with my 17 (yes 17) bridesmaids had started in that church. It was at Grace Evan where the Lord called me into ministry and I spent 4 wonderful years (1 as a volunteer and 3 as a staff member) serving in the youth group. When I joined the staff of Grace Evan, I never knew how much of an impact it would have on my life. Fellow staff members became my best friends and the covenant family became like real family to me. Grace Evan was a place of intimacy with Christ, love & comfort of a family - basically HOME for me. Needless to say, I could not wrap my heart around the idea of attending another church and especially ever joining another church. I was battling with the fear we all know too well. The fear tells us "God is not big enough to bring something into my life since I can't see the possibility of it" I was convinced that he could not have another "Grace Evan" for me and so why bother even looking? What little faith I had in these dark months.
When we decided to stay in Oxford, my sweet husband helped me gain enough desire to look back over the churches we had visited and choose one to visit on a more regular basis. I was hesitant but we decided together that Christ Presbyterian Church seemed to be a good choice. Still battling my fear, I thought, "how could a small town church provide me with all the wonderful things my church in Memphis did?" I also thought things like, "is this small church going to have places where I can serve in ways that I had before?" "will there be women who will take me in and love me the way the women at my other church did?"
Again, what little faith I had. And what a selfish attitude I had.
We began visiting in January of 2010. By April we had landed in an amazing fellowship group. The couple who leads our group, Lee & Susan Tyner, have been wonderful to us! He is an elder at the church and she is our Women's & Children's Director. The other couples in this group have become sweet brothers and sisters in Christ. The group welcomed us in immediately and have made us feel so loved. In the summer I volunteered to work VBS and Craig went on the summer youth RYM trip as a leader - we both felt our hearts opening and desiring to serve there. By the fall, we were enjoying our new found love for the church, the people and the uniqueness that is Christ Pres. We had made many wonderful friends and built sweet relationships with so many great couples and families - who always made us feel so welcomed. We never felt like "the new couple" which I think shows how great the character of the people are. We truly feel that we have made true lasting friendships! One in particular I have to mention is Kyle & Jessie Routh. Kyle is the youth minister and his sweet wife Jessie and I actually both attended RUF at the University of Memphis but just missed each other. Kyle and Craig have become great friends as have Jessie and I! They have a sweet one year old named Parker - we love him! We were so touched by Kyle & Jessie's reaction to our pregnancy news. We are so grateful for their friendship and look so forward to growing closer and living life with them over the years.
A year ago I thought that joining another church and finding a home there meant I was "replacing" what Grace Evan meant to me. I have since learned that no church will ever replace Grace Evan, but that doesn't mean that I can't love another church and find a home there too - just in a different way. When I was moving away from Memphis I spoke with my pastor about this fear and he said to me, "Missy, Grace Evan is your first love and so of course you will never forget your first love and no one expects you to - but that doesn't mean there is no room for another love". Grace Evan will always mean the word to me and hold a sweet place in my heart - but my sweet Lord has provided so much love in my heart for Christ Pres and I can't wait to grow and learn there in ways that I could never had imagined!
Last month on January 23rd Craig & I JOINED Christ Pres - one year after we began visiting! We could not be more happy. We feel so blessed that the Lord brought us to this place!
Craig & I right after joining!