Friday - Drove to my parents' house in central Illinois. Went to eat out at Perkins. Yummy! Had a very rough night's sleep. I slept on an air mattress with Lydia and Joshua.
Saturday - Drove to Northern Illinois to see my Grandma, Uncle, and Aunt. We ate lunch at Perkins, again - Yummy! We were able to see my Uncle in the hospital, where he has been sick/in recovery for two months now. It was a short visit, but a good visit. We spent a little more time with my Aunt and Grandma, then we drove home to my parents... after stopping off at Steak 'N Shake. (Do you get the idea that my family eats out a lot?) We slept much better Saturday night, as we were all exhausted.
Sunday - We went to church at the small, country church where Paul was formerly the pastor. I went into it with a lot of fear and trepidation, but came out with great joy! We were SO glad to see our old church family. Such precious friends we have there! These kind folks are not our peers, more like our parents/grandparents. They treat us like their own families! Joshua, who is now only 2 years old - and only one when we moved, remembered the woman who always held him during the service. She held him during church since he was newborn. Often the older children would sit with her as well. Yesterday, they ALL sat with Miss Velma, and had a great time exploring the recesses of her purse... and perhaps found some treats there as well.
We also got to eat lunch out with a couple that has never lost touch with us since we moved. They have always treated us as though we are there own children... even when we made some silly choices (like moving to Florida or Missouri, or joining up with a questionable faith group, going on crazy diets, etc). They know it all, they read our blog(s), and they still love us!
Every time we think about the church we left behind in IL we are struck with one pervading thought:
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. " By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34-35 (NASB - emphasis mine)These folks are real! They are real believers! How do I know it? Because they love with as few "conditions" as we humans are capable of having. Paul and I have been in groups where knowledge was the be all and end all of a person's faith. We have seen people who esteem doctrine over love. (We have been that type of people ourselves!) But, looking back over all we have been through, I pose this question...
What is doctrine if it does not end in love? Is it real doctrine at all, or just dogma?
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. Heb 10:23-25 (KJV - emphasis added)We are not told to encourage one another towards doctrinal perfection... but to love and good works.
Paul and I have been through SO much in the past 18 months since we moved from IL. There is a lot of "water under the bridge", and a lot of lessons learned. (At least, we hope we have learned them!) We would not have asked for the trials that we have been through, but we are thankful for them. I wrote a post last fall about how "broken" I was. I lamented moving away from that church. I later erased the post because the emotions I expressed were too raw. But, as I write today, I am no longer broken. I see why God had to take us through all that we have been through. I am grateful for the pain. And, I look forward to the future... hopefully with those same mistakes not repeated.
It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits , and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Heb 12:7-11 (NASB - emphasis mine)