This story is going to be long, but it is worth the read if you like love stories.
Wilshire Baptist Church, the place I have been writing about ever since I found it in 2017. Wilshire came to me at the end of one of the worst storms (which has since been topped) of my family’s life. Wilshire is the transition place that became my safe haven after a long night of sorrow. I had been in the wilderness learning to rely on God alone when the house of the Lord felt unsafe. I am convinced now when you start seeking and finding deeper truths, your life will be upended. Be prepared for what follows when you give your prophetic yes to live into the way you know the world can be. But also, if you say yes and the storm does come (it will), there will be a new heaven too. Wilshire was the new heaven on earth for me at this moment.
I came to Wilshire raw from pain in 2017 but also on this brink of a major shift in me that was bringing me so much joy, and I could not stop talking about it. It got so bad, George sent me to seminary just to shut me up. 😉 I kid, I kid, but lets just go with that story because the other one is really messy. I deeply love that messy story, though. It cultivated healing and connection.
I found Wilshire, but Wilshire also found me. There was this synergy between us and we knew the sadness and the loss that felt dominate in our stories before was shifting to life and abundance.
I would not be in the world of faith, actively as a leader, without Wilshire. Wilshire saw something in me that I never even thought to imagine. No one gave me this imagination before. This will make Wilshire a majorly significant place in my life story forever. I am grateful. Wilshire reminds me joy truly does come in the morning (Psalm 30).
After joining Wilshire, which was on our second visit and unplanned, I met with George and Heather for coffee and conversation. I told them I had just read “Searching for Sunday” by Rachel Held Evans and I, too, had been searching for Sunday for over a year. RHE was still alive then. When they told me about Wilshire, they said everything I was longing for and more. I joined us on the spot without even consulting my family. Ha! No regrets. But you know what else is fun about this story? Timothy Peoples was preaching that day too. Who knew we came at the intersection of Wilshire history that was unknown at the time! For those who do not know, Timothy Peoples is the new head pastor of Wilshire Baptist now that George has retired. He is officially on Wilshire staff as of today, even though his first preaching assignment will not be until later this month.
Almost every single week I was at Wilshire I wrote a gratitude post following the service. So writing this post feels like one of the most normal things I have done in a long time. This is familiar. Just like what Kimberlyn said when we entered Sachse: “Familiarity!” Kim Mason even said this to me this morning: Seeing you at church feels so normal, but I know it is not now.
I was not sure I would be able to make it to Wilshire on this trip. It was questionable we were staying until the 1st, but Kimberlyn really wanted to stay and see one more friend before we left. Getting back down here once school and soccer start back up will not be easy. I had no reason to leave, so we stayed. Oh my gosh, I am so glad we did.
Since the second storm, and much much worse storm, I have been scared to go to places with a lot of people—Even if the people have loved me well and not given me any reason to doubt them. Trauma can cloud what is true. I learned this when I started seminary because I had unknown trauma at that time, and it was a long, hard and violent process healing from the wounds that were unknown then. Now I have wounds that I know, and because of that I am hyper-aware and I think critically (as often as I can—I still have my moments of lapse—I am human, after all). I have also been talking to a spiritual advisor. She told me if there is nothing that has happened to prevent me from going places, to keep showing up and just be myself. She told me who I am will attract people and it will be far more rewarding than staying home and not engaging the world again.
Friends, the hugs I got today were so sacred. I cried. I cried during the service too. The music spoke to me; the message spoke to me; and the people who were not there on my last day as an official member of Wilshire in August were there this time. This felt like a real good-bye, but also hello. I am a different person now. The second storm did not defeat me, close, but I found my way back to me—and I know myself even better this time.
Y’all, the work of healing works. Thank God I did all that healing work in seminary, in addition to learning the academics. I just survived almost the worst thing that I thought could happen to my family, and I am still on my feet and showing up to life with a heart full of love. Had I not had Wilshire and Perkins training, I would still be in the thick of healing right now. Now I am going back through my most recent story and finding out love was always the dominant narrative. That storm was just a blip (a significant one that will never be forgotten) in the story. This is what is real. I have no need to fear abandonment again because love will not abandon me; I learned that in the first storm. Now I know I will not abandon me; the second storm taught me this. What matters remains. Praise be to God.
I have more to say, but this is lone enough for one post.
I just read “Homecoming” by Dr. Thema a few days ago. She said life is a series of homecomings, over and over. Once we find home once, it won’t take as long each time we have to return again.
How divine is it that Dennis Smith said this to me this morning: Welcome Home.
Home is where love is.