11 years ago this month I made an incredibly good decision. I think it was the best decision I could have made in my first week or so of landing in Sheffield. I sat my bottom in the Conference Centre at St Thomas’ Church Philadelphia and decided it was going to be my home.
I was a very young naive 18 year old in the throes of discovering life without my parents and the freedom of being a university student away from home. I made quite a plethora of mistakes in those first months but luckily I made the great decision to be part of Philly.
I could list so many reasons why Philly was a great choice back then, and the many ways the church has blessed me over the last 11 years. Honestly, I think there’s too many to count.
Looking back there’s been ups and downs, some real lows and times where I’ve been pretty fed up with the church. But I’m not holding onto those now, there will always be failings and tough times. No church or leader is perfect.
NOW it is time for my heart to be THANKFUL for all that’s been invested in me during my time in Sheffield and at Philly.
So, to name only a few, I am thankful…
…for the community, depth of relationship and the sharing of real life that I experienced when I stepped into Philly. It blew me away – I had real friends and we knew about each other (properly!) and cared about each other even when we messed up.
… for the discovery of the Holy Spirit and who Jesus was! For real!
…that I was introduced to the gifts of the spirit – things I’d not glimpsed before and I was told that they were for everyone – even me!!
…that my whole identity was flipped on its head – I began to discover who I was in Jesus and I was shown how to walk that out in faith.
…that I was encouraged to lead – something I didn’t even really know was in me. With that came the pleasure of serving and leading some amazing people who have supported and cheered me on as I’ve led them, whether I’ve done a good job or not!
And perhaps right now the thing I am most grateful and thankful for are those who have led and shepherded me. I’ve had some truly amazing leaders and mentors over the last 11 years – and not only did they love and encourage me but they were bold enough to challenge me. At first, as a student, it was pretty surprising and I didn’t like it so much! Now, it’s just normal life, to expect challenge and embrace it, to repent and believe, because it’s how we change and become more like Jesus, it’s what being a disciple is all about.
I was challenged to face the tough stuff, change my attitudes and repent of the stuff keeping me from Jesus and holding me back. Time and again I was dusted off, brushed down and set back on my way and encouraged to step into more of what Jesus had for me. You know, it’s been painful at times and there’s been many tears but consequently I’m so much more FREE.
So thank you, church, for loving and encouraging and challenging me. As Rich and I left Sheffield a week ago I was so aware of what I was leaving behind – a home, a safe place, a place we cherish and so many people we believe in and love dearly. But I also was very aware of what we were taking with us. And after 11 years of investment from some amazing people and the joy and privilege of leading, making mistakes, seeing victories, being challenged and learning so much, we are blessed to be taking so much with us in our hearts.
And now, I can’t wait to see what happens next and I look forward with anticipation as we invest in a new place, a new home, new relationships, as we make more mistakes, take on more challenge and continue to embrace life with the knowledge that we carry so much with us.
Thank you, Sheffield.
Posted by Lizzie