I am an introvert. I enjoy solitude and quiet. I love alone time. I think the sound of silence is glorious and lovely and good. I need time away from other people to reflect and recharge. I always have needed this time alone.
Time by myself prepares me to engage with other folks. It restores me so I am able to delight in the company of other people. It fortifies me so I can jump into my relationships with others with both feet. Which is awesome – because I think other people are so cool!
I have always known that in order to be a good – caring – compassionate human being – I need quiet time. I need to build time into each day when I can hear nothing but the sound of my own thoughts running through my mind. I need alone time. I need peace and quiet.
Because I have been a pastor for over 20 years now I have spent a lot of time in churches all by myself. I enjoy this. I find it peaceful and comforting. I like hanging out in empty churches. I enjoy puttering around Saint Stephen when it is just me and God there. I straighten the hymnals. I unload the dishwasher. I pray. I fill the paper towel dispensers and change the rolls of TP and run the vacuum. I may or may not talk to myself . . . I work in my office a lot of the time. I watch the way the light coming through the stained glass windows changes with the passing seasons. Quiet – empty church buildings are one of my happy places.
But frankly – honestly – bluntly – I have had more than enough time alone at Saint Stephen over the past 18 months. Seriously – I have had plenty of quiet time at church thank you very much. Even this introvert has had her fill of solitude and reflection!!!
I have been craving noise and mayhem and chaos and hustle and bustle and energy like only a gathering of young Lutherans can bring. I wanted to hear running feet and loud laughter and maybe – just maybe a door being shut a bit too loudly! I wanted Jell-O and lemonade and an amazingly awesome dessert designed by our very own Cheryl Markley! I was dreaming of the Fellowship Committee working together in the kitchen and Christian Education Committee hustling to keep up with all of the young Lutherans.
And that – my dear friends – is exactly what happened at Saint Stephen on Sunday evening! It was glorious.
Children and young human beings not genetically related to me came to church to hang out with me and the Christian Education Committee!
We ate supper together and talked and chatted and visited. It had been a while since some of us had seen each other. There were tales to tell and we all had some catching up to do. Supper was delicious and there was tons of Jell-O. Jell-O makes me happy. Jell-O is happy food. It must be all of those awesome colors that just seem to shout CELEBRATION TIME!
After supper we talked about the Parable of the Lost Sheep. Jesus is such a smart guy. Jesus knew exactly what it feels like when we feel lost and alone in the world and need to be reminded that we are never alone. God is always with us and will always love us no matter what. It is nice to know there is no place in this life that God won’t go with us.
Then we had a cool scavenger hunt all over the church looking for 10 lost sheep. These kids are brilliant. They found all 10 of my lost sheep really quickly.
Try out your Saint Stephen knowledge:
1) The place where Cheryl Markley spends most of her time when she is at church?
2) The place where we keep the Communion supplies.
3) The place where the acolytes and the deacons get ready for worship.
4) If you were feeling a bit peckish you should head to this place.
5) A huge crab hangs out in here!
6) The place where you will find Jesus and the 12 disciples sitting down for supper.
7) This helps us make a joyful noise unto the Lord during worship.
8) Place where you might like to hang your coat or jacket this winter.
9) The wall with all of the crosses on it.
10) Where you will find Saint Stephen’s very own electric chair!
Then we were all off to craft room to design our very own sheep.
Wow are the youth of Saint Stephen talented artists!
I have never – ever seen such a dazzling array of colorful sheep in my life.
The sheep and the artists who designed them were impressive!
After our lengthy theological discussion – our scavenger hunt – followed by our spectacular art projects – we were in serious need of refreshment. Thankfully Cheryl Markley and her flock of sheep cupcakes came to our rescue! The Markley family’s cupcakes were a huge hit. They tasted even better than they looked and they looked so very – very amazingly awesome and adorable (Will told me).
After being strengthened and fortified by their cupcakes the kids set off with Jeffrey to run and run and run and run while playing and laughing wildly and gleefully in the yard until their parents came to call and claim them.
While I got to hang out with the younger Lutherans inside – Jack and other Lutheran teens/young adults were outside embracing their inner artists.
It looked and sounded like they had a great time themselves. I saw beautifully tie dyed t-shirts – sweatshirts – masks – towels – arms – and legs too. Our kids have a real flare for color and design. I was impressed – dazzled even!
I heard laughter and saw smiles and even heard some chatting and conversation.
Sunday evening was amazing! It was noisy and busy and bustling and so much FUN! I had an absolute blast from the moment I walked into the church until Jack and I shut the lights off and made sure the doors were locked 5 hours later. I think I smiled behind my mask the entire time! I give thanks from the bottom of my heart for the blessing of our Saint Stephen church family and for the opportunity to gather together again.
And as I tucked my little guy into bed he looked at me and he said “I had so much fun at church this evening! Can we do it again REALLY SOON?!?”
“Yes! Will absolutely – I have already started planning it in my head!” was my reply. And it is true. Even now as I savor and delight in the joy that was Sunday evening – I am planning and plotting and preparing for our next adventure together.
Stay tuned . . .
You are all in my heart – thoughts and prayers.
In Christ and with Love –
PS: If your awesome – amazing child is blurry or not featured in many pictures I apologize – these people move fast – lightening fast. I did my best – but these people are difficult to photograph! I am better at butterflies and flowers and sunsets . . . and even kittens. All of them stay put longer than young Lutherans!