I finally got back to church this past Sunday. I was excited to go … I really missed it … I love my church, Lifepoint Church in Wilmington, NC. Lynn loved it too. This was my first time in church since Lynn left this world 38 days prior. It was a very emotional experience … as I expected it would be. But I was prepared … I had a pocket full of Kleenex :).
I wasn’t so organized that Sunday morning and I got a late start. Church starts at 0930 … I left the house at 0928 … good thing it’s less than a ten-minute drive … but nonetheless I was going to be late. They start every service with the worship band playing 3 to 4 songs. Lynn and I both loved the music there. And here I am … running late … I was going to miss a significant amount of my favorite part of the service. Lynn would’ve been beside herself … she was always on me about getting out of the house on time so that we could get there early, get a good seat, enjoy the music, and soak in the message.
So, anyway I had to go, I had to get to church … late or not. I arrived after the short drive … go inside and the worship band is on the last song of the four-song set. It’s a beautiful song by Elevation Worship called “Do it Again”. This song is one of my favs … it really is an inspiring song. You should check it out … I really like the ten-minute live version that you can find on YouTube. As I walk through the lobby and into the main hall where the service is being held, the first person I see is Roger. Roger is on the Dream Team … a group of church members who volunteer to help in various capacities … he’s one of the lead ushers. It was good to see him … Roger and I had gotten acquainted as I too served with the Dream Team as usher. When Roger saw me, he just looked into my eyes and said he had no words and just gave me a big old bear hug … it felt good.
Now the service is jam packed with hundreds of people. But the very next person I recognize is Sharon. Now it’s a small miracle that I spotted Sharon because she’s just this little bitty lady. She was with her wonderful husband John sitting in one of the back rows. She gave me a great big hug and invited me to sit with them … and I did. Now Sharon may be tiny but she’s a ray of sunshine. She’s got such a big heart and a beautiful smile … she just beams. Now as some of you know … Lynn use to volunteer making and serving food to the homeless and needy at Vigilant Hope (vigilanthope.com) … a modern missions organization. She really enjoyed doing it. This is the place where she earned the name … “The Fancy Dessert Lady”. Well this little ray of sunshine, Sharon, was the one who got Lynn involved with Vigilant Hope. Sharon had been cooking and serving for this cause for some time. One day, Lynn and Sharon were chatting after a service and Sharon mentioned her work with Vigilant Hope and how much she loved it. She also noted how much work it was as she was essentially a “team of one” for the nights that she was responsible for providing the meals and how she could use some help. Lynn right then and there said … “I’d love to help with the cooking, Sharon”. So, for the one Thursday a month when they had cooking duties they would plan the meals and divide up the workload. Lynn really got into it … she’d team with Sharon to make all sorts of different entrees … tacos, hot dog and hamburger roasts, chicken dinners, chili, etc.. Now Lynn being the loving, caring person that she was didn’t stop there. After serving a time or two … she became concerned that folks who participated in the dinners weren’t getting enough fresh green vegetables. So, she started making amazing, huge green salads. Now the folks who attended loved Lynn’s cooking and even appreciated the salads … but what they loved most of all were the desserts she’d make. They just loved when it was a Thursday that Lynn was there … they were just so happy when … the “Fancy Dessert Lady” was in the house.
It was very emotional for me to be back in church … to be back without Lynn. I was moved by the music and by the message that day … and I shed a lot of tears. The message was a good one … as they all are at our church. But given my circumstances it was a hard message to reconcile. The essence of that Sunday’s message was … 1) you can try to explain and rationalize all you want but accepting Christ simply comes down to just having faith, 2) faith must be accompanied by action … doing God’s work … or it’s dead, and 3) fight … you must fight against adversity, you must fight against evil, you must fight to maintain your faith. For me at this point in time, it’s hard for me to reconcile this message … because Lynn and I did all of that. She even more so than I given all the adversity she faced physically and mentally over the years … but she did all three … yet she’s gone.
So, the service ends and I stay back to chat with Sharon and John. As we’re chatting a man comes up and shakes John’s hand and hugs Sharon and walks away. John tells me the guy’s name … Frank. And we carry on with our discussion. Sharon mentions to me that she and John bought two new serving tables for Vigilant Hope … in honor of Lynn. She was working on getting a small plaque to attach to each table to commemorate Lynn … the “Fancy Dessert Lady”. I thanked Sharon for that and let her know how sweet of a gesture that was. I also mentioned to Sharon that if there was any support needed for Vigilant Hope that I could provide to let me know.
No sooner than I get those words out of my mouth … I see this look on Sharon’s face. One thing I should’ve mentioned earlier about Sharon … although she’s this little ray of sunshine … she’s also a very driven, direct, and tenacious lady. So, Sharon says … “well seeing you mentioned it, let me ask you this … and it’s ok if you say you can’t. That man who came up to us a minute ago, Frank … he’s a regular at Vigilant Hope … and he adored Lynn. Every time he’d come he’d give her a big hug.”
Sharon goes on to explain that Frank is a recovering alcoholic. He just finished a stint in rehab and he’s been sober for months now. Frank’s been homeless but currently he’s staying at WoodSpring Suites … an extended stay type of hotel. He went there straight from rehab. He’s there because he’s waiting for his apartment to be ready at a new place … Good Shepherd Center – SECU Lakeside Reserve. This is a 4.3-acre parcel of property in Wilmington on which 40 units of permanent supportive housing will be built for homeless seniors, veterans, and persons with disabilities (goodshepherdwilmington.org). Frank’s a veteran and gets social security that will cover his rent at this new place. The problem is the new place won’t be ready for a couple of weeks and Frank doesn’t have the money to extend his stay at WoodSpring Suites. So, the issue is … if he can’t keep his room at WoodSpring Suites … he’ll be back on the street in a dangerous environment that could trigger him to fall back off the wagon. Sharon further goes on to tell me that she and John have been trying to pull together some financial support to allow Frank to stay in the hotel until his apartment is ready. She tells me it’s $419 plus tax a week. I said … “he knew Lynn”. Sharon … “yep, he adored her … hugged her every time … and just loved her cooking”. I said … “done, I got this”.
So, yes miracles do happen. God bless you Frank. You too have an Angel looking out for you!