JEXIT Stop 3 – A Whole Lot of Love

My plan for what was to be my last day in Atlanta, a Sunday, was to go to church then get myself off to the airport.  That’s not exactly what happened.

After our day of culture, I finally slept like a log on Saturday night.  Unfortunately, I didn’t fall asleep until just about midnight so when my alarm woke me up at 6:45 am, it was way before I was ready to be up.  Church, which was about 30 minutes away, would begin at 9 am and I needed to get ready, have breakfast, and close up my luggage before I headed out.  I think I could easily have slept for another 2 hours but I groaned myself out of bed and got a move on because this was important to me.

I was ready to go just before 8 am and I considered walking to one of the nearby coffee shops for my daily dose but I decided to forego that and head out to church.  Although I would be very early, I wanted to make sure that I could get on the church’s wifi so that when it was time for me to return to my hotel, I could order my Uber.  In other words, I wanted to test the system and come up with an alternate plan if necessary.  I figured that I could find a coffee shop nearby at best, or at worst try to make it through the morning without coffee.

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My very good church latte…it’s a total coincidence that their logo is the initial of my last name and that the sleeve lined up to read this way…totally!

Turns out, I made a great decision to go without visiting one of the neighbourhood cafes.  Unbeknown to me, since my last time there two years ago, the church had opened a cafe on the premises!  Yay!  It was really cute, too.  A properly set up, real cafe so that churchgoers can have breakfast there if they want, or just quietly sip their beverage of choice before or after church.  There are cafe tables but also nice seating areas and at one of those was where I had my latte while I got myself connected to the wifi and confirmed that I could order my Uber back to my hotel after church.

Let me pause here to explain why I went to this church and what it means to me.

If I lived in Atlanta, I would be a member of this church.  I first went there with Spiritual Mentor #2 quite a few years ago while I was visiting the area on vacation.  The pastor teaches the unerring word of God, he and his family seem to actually abide by God’s word, and the church’s programmes minster to just about every need that its large population of congregants could ever have.  I have never been to that church and not felt touched and convicted by the word as it is preached.  Not once.  Always convicted but never condemned.  This is why this church’s sermons are one of the tools that I have been using to pastor myself over this past year, and even before.

The senior pastor was not on the speaking roster for the Sunday that I attended (he was speaking at another location) but one of the associate pastors spoke and his word was just as good and just as edifying.  He spoke about covenants and by the time he was done, I had a new level of appreciation and respect for what that really is.

But what really made my day that Sunday was not my delight in finding that the church now has a cafe, and it wasn’t the pretty good latte, or even the worship service. Although I reveled in all of those (especially the worship), what really made my day was an unexpected wave of love that came my way.

Spiritual Mentor #2 and her entire family were at the same service that day.  They arrived just as it was starting and we all sat together.  Afterwards, when I had a chance to properly greet her husband after two years of not laying eyes on him, he wrapped me up in hug that was pure love.  In all that time we had not communicated, but I felt his love for me in that one gesture and it moved me to tears, which I just managed to hold back in that moment (but not while I’m writing this).  After we released each other, we linked arms (and my heart melted again), fell right back into our old sibling-style routine of ribbing each other, and I felt those two years melt away as if they had never been.  But that wasn’t all.

A few minutes later, her young son joined us from children’s church.  We had also not seen each other for two years and he was so shocked to see me (we hadn’t seen each other in the previous days and he didn’t expect to see me at church) that his jaw actually dropped, then a gigantic grin bloomed on his beautiful face and threw his arms around my waist.  I was just as happy to see him because he (and his brother and sister) have always had a special place in my heart.  He and I shared a million kisses and hugs, even while he chastised his mother for not including him in our girls’ day out the day before.  Those moments with him were hilarious and precious to me.

Eventually, it was time to go so we had more rounds of hugs and kisses, then I ordered my Uber and returned to my hotel.  I got some lunch to go from a gourmet pizza place across the street – prosciutto and pomegranate flatbread with baby spinach, topped with balsamic vinaigrette – intending to eat it at the airport but when I got back to my room and opened the box, it looked so delicious that I had to try it.  I ended up devouring the whole thing right then and there.

A few minutes later, it was time to order my Uber and head to the airport for my next JEXIT stop.

Or was it?

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