Today was Laity Sunday at First United Methodist Church. Our worship leader, David Goins, asked me to be one of the speakers. I accepted, then procrastinated planning my remarks until last night. Here\’s what I said, in case you weren\’t there to hear it yourself!
Two years ago, I was diagnosed with Crohn\’s disease. For those of you who aren\’t familiar with Crohn\’s, it is an autoimmune disease that attacks the gastrointestinal system. It isn\’t a very glamorous disease- and certainly not a convenient one. At that time, my boys had just turned two and Audrey was almost four. As a teacher, a wife, and a mother, I needed all of my strength to get through my busy days.
But I didn\’t get a choice in my diagnosis, and Crohn\’s it was. In a way, it was comforting to finally know what was causing the bizarre symptoms I\’d been coping with for years. And while Crohn\’s isn\’t curable, it is manageable, so I began treatment to get my symptoms under control.
About that same time, I was also faced with a sort of spiritual crisis. I guess a life threatening illness will do that to you! While I had complete faith that I would eventually be healed, I was lacking in the emotional strength to get through on a day to day basis. I prayed. My friends and family prayed. I was on every prayer list at every church around. I would write Bible verses on post-its and stick them all over my desk at work so that I was constantly reminded of the greatness of God\’s power.
I especially liked Jeremiah 29:11-14. \”For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.\”
The thing was, no matter how hard I looked, I just couldn\’t find Him. After Audrey was born, John and I decided to move to Frankfort, which meant leaving our church in Lexington. We had a hard time getting settled in a church here and as a result, my spiritual life had deteriorated. At the time of my illness, we were active in a church, but it felt more like I was just going through the motions rather than engaging in a real relationship with God. I knew something was missing, but I didn\’t realize that the answer was right under my nose.
I came in and out of this building every day to bring my kids to First Care. I was friendly with other parents who happened to attend the Good News at Nine service. They continually showed concern for me, invited me to church, kept me updated on things that were happening here, and just made me feel loved. John knew how spiritually restless I was and we had many conversations about what we were looking for in a church home. We wanted a place with people who had servants\’ hearts. A place where things were happening, where we could be active and engaged. A place that was exciting. Church had become a chore for me, an obligation to check off my to-do list, and I knew it could be so much more.
We agreed to give First Church a try and we were instantly surrounded by a loving and supportive church family. We started coming regularly, plugged into a Sunday School class, and I joined the HOPE circle. I found the joy that had been lacking in my spiritual life. And, while I was still very ill, I began to find that I was growing stronger though the support of the people here. One Sunday, I was sharing that I was pretty sure I needed surgery, but I was out of sick leave time and I was going to try to put surgery off until school was out. Everyone in my Sunday School class began offering to donate sick time or do whatever was needed to help me out. When I did have surgery, they brought me meals, visited me, and prayed for me.
The past two years have brought many challenges and changes in my life. My Crohn\’s is now in remission and I feel better than I have in years, both physically and spiritually. I am grateful everyday that I continued to seek the Lord and that I found him here in this church and in the hearts of the people in our Good News at Nine family.