I ran into a woman named Sam Sunday night.
I left my little usual section of the sanctuary, front stage right, and hiked up to the top levels of the auditorium. Expecting to be alone, my plans were quickly ruined. She spotted me before I could her, and stopped me abruptly with a hug. I was excited to see her and delighted to be interrupted. It was her that over a year ago walked into the lobby of our church seeking a little help with food and shelter. She and her two kids, Piper and Gavin, had been on the run from her abusive ex-husband. He is a military vet who struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder---Sam says he is nothing like the man she married anymore. A story all too common. His PTSD became so severe he could no longer care for their three precious lives. The abuse became so bad she had to run.
Which lead them here.
They were a few months homeless and living in their car. All she wanted was some money for food and gas. I was the favored one You chose to walk down to the lobby that day and meet with her. What an honor it has been to watch what You've done in her life in such a short time. Thank You for choosing me to be a part of her story---a part of Your story. Of course, Sam received far more than what she expected to when she stumbled in through our church doors. She received a second chance --- a new hope --- grace unending that, little did she know at the time, would sustain her through many trials and set-backs to come that year.
She received You.
That day sparked a friendship that has evolved and grown over the past year and a half. She would come in once a month or every other month requesting to see only me. Each time she came beat down and needing spiritual encouragement, prayer, and a reminder that You are present, You are near, and that You love her. More often than not I sat there thinking, "Lord, how can I, someone who knows so little about the struggles she is facing---so far from her reality---how could I possibly be of any comfort to her? How can I be anything she needs right now?" And each time you released me of my anxiety, "Just be available. Just listen. I will do the rest." So, I would sit with her, listen, talk, laugh, run around with her two little ones, and always pray with her. She became stronger, she grew, she fought the fight, she knocked down doors everyone said would never open for her. She persevered, showed up to church, committed to bringing her family to the House of God. She took a small step of faith with You and I've witnessed You faithfully establish stability back in her life. What a beautiful process of which to be a part.
But truly the most stunning thing to watch was her desire, passion, and drive to help others along the way. With every step she took, she pulled someone else up with her. With every need You met for her, she gave and met the need of someone else. She is always on the look out for those who needed to experience love in different ways and she is always willing to give freely. And now here she stands, with safe housing, a job, and a new relationship.
Jesus, You did that.
Standing at the top of the auditorium, me with Piper in my arms and Sam holding her dog (another story, another time), we found ourselves caught up chatting. It was amazing to talk to her and see her still here. Her very presence was encouraging to me. Just to connect with her again was uplifting. We were louder than we should have been, annoying the gentleman that was sitting in front of us--who so kindly leaned over and said "hey, sorry...you're just...a little..yeah. A little loud."---we were so obviously out of place and untimely to those around us. We were attracting the skeptical eyes of our safety team and I could feel the glances on my back. But I didn't care. Sam and I had church there together in that ten minutes. We experienced the joy of catching the eye of an old friend and reconnecting---we experienced relationship. We experienced actually being the Church instead of just taking up another seat.
Jesus, Your timing is so precise. Never a second too late or early. And this moment proved to be my Sunday's best.
It was as if You were cupping my face in Your hands, eyes locked on mine, while telling me: "Alexa, this is what ministry is. Go back to this. There is a whole world that needs to experience My love and presence. You are my ambassador. You are My mouthpiece. Don't get caught up in movements or culture or conferences or events or books or office work---all those things are needed, and necessary in their place and time. But they aren't the most important thing. I AM. My presence. My love. My hope. My mission. People knowing Me is most important. People coming back to Me is what I'm after---I'm after their hearts. I'm after their souls. I want to breath life into their dead bones again. I want to revive their spirits. I want to stir up a passion in them for life and for Me---I want to inspire them more than this world ever could. My people should be the most full of joy, the most motivated, the most passionate, the most alive, the most secure, the most fruitful. Come back to Me and My mission. Sam's story is what My Church was purposed to produce over and over and over again in every seemingly impossible way. And the best part? I'm no where near done yet. Go back to this."
The flower pictured was a gift from Sam's 5 year old daughter, Piper. When she saw me, her pure heart hurried over to her seat where the cluster of pink petals lay and sprung back over to me saying, "I've missed you!! Here's a flower..it's for you."
She will never know the impact of her gift, and I will never forget it.
So. What was your Sunday's Best?
Alexa | Joy