In the Spring of 1988, our home church, Lakeside, hosted a picnic at Oak Mountain State Park. The previous February, Dad nearly lost his life to encephalitis… which he followed up with a blood clot that traveled from his heart to his lung. Most people don’t survive one of those but Dad wasn’t most people.
That first night in the hospital our friends and family from all over the state of Alabama hopped in their cars and showed up to be with Mom and pray for Dad. The doctor came into the waiting room to talk with Mom only to find it filled with people. He asked her if they were all family and she said, “By blood or Spirit!” You, Church, showed up.
Over the next weeks, you mobilized. Hundreds joined Mom in prayer for Dad’s life. My grandparents moved in with us so my brother, Adam, and I could continue to go to school. Sunday school, Super Club, deacon families and Sunday morning preschool teachers alike kept a steady line of homemade and hand-delivered meals at our front door. Our kitchen smelled of spaghetti, vegetable soup, and pot roast for three months solid.
We were filled-to-the-brim with love and lasagna.
When our pastor, Bro. Mike, came to the mic at the picnic the following Spring asking for testimonies, I sat in my chair and thought, Well, Dad’s gonna say something, for sure.
I remember him being one of the first people up out of his seat racing to get to that microphone. He shared how grateful he was to God for saving his life and thanked His church for taking care of him and our family so well during those months.
It was the first time I remember my dad thanking you, precious Church, for being exactly who God calls His Bride to be.
Devoted to one another.
Bearing each other’s burdens
Outdoing one another in honor.
Loving in deed and truth.
Over the last thirty years, you have continued to love and care for our family. Grandparents were sick or needed long-term care before passing on. Kids went to college, got married, and had babies of their own. We faced years of infertility and we know you prayed us through every day of that. Dad managed to find his way to another round of encephalitis and beat it that time too. Again, he’s not most people. His health challenges continued to mount, especially the last several years. And through it all, you were with us.
Not only our church home in Birmingham but our previous church family at Dalraida in Montgomery. My grandparents churches in Millbrook and Prattville. The churches Chris and I attended in Brunswick, Oklahoma City, Arlington, Flower Mound, and Mansfield. My brother and sister-in-law’s church in Tuscaloosa. My in-laws church in Hoover. My sister and brother-in-law’s church in Birmingham.
Everywhere you, our family and friends went, the prayers and concerns for Dad and Mom followed.
Let’s then consider this our very own gathering for a virtual church picnic. Seated together in our lawn chairs sipping lemonade and sweet tea, reflecting on another, and final, miraculous healing in my dad’s life. I want to do now what he and Mom did hundreds of times after he first stepped up to that microphone in 1988.
I want to thank you, Church.
For every spaghetti and pot roast you ever brought over to feed us, homemade or otherwise, thank you.
For every load of laundry you washed and floor you swept and trash can you rolled to the street because we were gone, thank you.
For every ride you gave to kids or adults, thank you.
For every bouquet of flowers you sent to hospital rooms and our home, thank you.
For every trip to the mailbox to pick up our mail and hold it until we got home, thank you.
For every every project handled or email you answered while we were away, thank you.
For every text message of kindness and concern, thank you.
For every gluten-free dessert or bag of crackers or specially ordered meal where you personally checked to make sure the bread was absolutely not in the to go order, thank you.
For every light bulb you stopped by to change or household fix-it project you took on when Dad no longer could, thank you.
For every comment on our social media posts sharing how much you loved us and were praying, thank you.
For every care package of snacks, waters, blankets, Diet Dr Pepper (oh, how well you know us), and notecards with pens for jotting down questions for the doctors or comments from the doctors, thank you.
For every like or heart or crying emoji because sometimes words don’t need to be said to know how much you care, thank you.
For every ounce of gas and miles you put on your vehicles driving sometimes hours and occasionally minutes to get to us, thank you.
For every day you sat next to us in the waiting room, beside the hospital bed, at your kitchen table on the phone with us, or beside us on the pew that first Sunday back, thank you.
For every one of the times you cried with us and for us whether from exhaustion or empathy or just plain because no one cries alone in your presence, thank you.
For every stroke of your pen or pencil as you wrote down our names on your prayer list and every time you typed our names into your prayer email chain, thank you.
For every single solitary second you prayed for us, whether it was grand with “shalls” and “Father” every other word or simple pleas of “please” and “come,” thank you.
For every moment when you said yes to serving, loving, and going into spiritual battle with us in prayer, thank you.
Thank you for being the hands and feet, cooks and drivers, prayer warriors and hand holders of Jesus in our lives.
Church, we are so very grateful for you.