This past weekend I had the honor of being in a dear friend of mines wedding on the beautiful island of St. Simons, Georgia. I was excited about celebrating my friends. I was excited about the beach. I was excited about returning to the low country. I was excited about an extended weekend to celebrate my birthday. I was excited. What I wasn't expecting was a weekend that reminded me of where I came from.
You see, I once was a Youth Minister in the small town of Richmond Hill, Ga. In the early days of ministry there, my Senior Pastor loved me and blessed me to get away to a retreat 3 times a year for 2-3 days at a time. These retreats were through a ministry called the Gathering Place and most of our retreats were held on St. Simons. These retreats were for the simple purpose of not teaching us how to do youth ministry better, but to love on us and pour into us.
Upon arriving at the Rehearsal Dinner on Friday night I was greeted by faces that I have not seen in over three years. My heart melted upon seeing their smiles. More were seen at the wedding on Saturday. It was a surprise blessing from my beloved Jesus. To see the hugs. To hear the "It's good to see you's." Melt. My. Heart.
It goes without saying that my five years in ministry in Richmond Hill were not easy. Not easy--yet ones I wouldn't change for anything--for they have made me who I am today. They are the years that Jesus had to show up for me--because it would be a disaster if He didn't. They are the years that I learned to call Jesus my Beloved. They are years that I learned how important community was--and I was given it on that small, beautiful island of St. Simons.
So this is to say thank you to those beautiful smiles and hugs I received this weekend. You, my friends, were the community that held up my chin when times were hard. You, my friends, are the ones who spoke life into me. You, my friends, are the ones that when I see you now, I am full of gratitude and realize how big of a gift you are to me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for not just loving me....but loving me well.
And thank you to Bill. My Senior Pastor that saw how important it was to send me away a few times a year. I am blessed by you.
"If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself; you are doing well." James 2:8