BY ALEXANDRA, GRACE ATTENDER
Dear Grace Church,
I wanted to share with you a bit of how Grace Church has impacted me in the past couple of years. When I first moved to Indianapolis, I was without a church home. I was in a relationship, and I tried to repair it by finding a church we both could attend to reestablish our foundation in Christ. We never could agree on a church because of our religious backgrounds, but I always felt a longing to try Grace. I'm from a small town, and my home church is a small country church. I didn't understand why I thought this huge ""airport hanger"" of a church (as my roommate called it) would be a good fit for me. Wouldn't I get lost in the shuffle?
After the three year relationship ended, my roommates and I went the following Sunday. That first service I attended left me in tears. I hadn't heard a message speak to me so personally in years. Even though I was up in the very back left corner of the sanctuary, I did not feel alone or isolated. Instead I felt comforted and drawn to learn more.
There wasn't a Sunday I didn't miss after that day in 2014, thanks in part to the messages being available online/via podcast. I attended a Welcome Reception, joined a small group, attended the Prayer , enjoyed Les Mis, and was blessed to hear Kara Tippetts speak. I would call my mom after every event just to tell her about what I was learning and how much the church was helping me in grow in my relationship with Christ. I really started to connect at Grace. Then I had my most unexpected curveball thrown at my life.
In August 2015, I became sick. At first it was just food-poisoning like symptoms, but that soon turned to dizziness, extreme fatigue, and the feeling like I would pass out when I stood up. All are not very good feelings when you're on your feet every day teaching kiddos. Eventually things became so bad I couldn't drive to work, and I was taken to the ER twice from my job. This was the beginning of my chronic illness. I'd like to say that things quickly got better, but they didn't. Things got worse. I thought I could fix it by sheer will, by prayer, by medication. After multiple tests and trips to specialists, I learned that this is probably an illness that I will have for the rest of my life. My doctor encouraged me that I would improve with hard work. So when I left his office in February 2016, I had a renewed determination not just for healing my body but for also renewing my soul.
Throughout this initial journey of developing my illness and receiving a diagnosis, I naturally had a lot of questions for God. Why is this happening? What am I to do with this experience? Why would God take me away from my passion, stop my life in its tracks? Because of Grace, I found hope when I was very much in a hopeless place. I would never have heard of Kara Tippetts without you, but because I did I was welcomed to a world of a person who had endured hard hand in hand with God. I devoured her blog and her books, finding comfort in her words. (I wrote about a particularly strong point of connection on my personal blog here.) I continued to stay connected to Grace via sermons and would spend those hours upon hours I couldn't leave my bed praying and growing in my faith.
Nearly a year later I still have many of the same questions for God that I did initially, but I don't feel hopeless. I feel comforted in knowing my God has the answers and is right here with me. Which brings me to my main point (I'm sorry it has taken me so long to get here). When I attended the Christmas Eve services this year, I was nervous to even walk in the door. When I tried to do the same last year, I had to leave within 15 minutes of the service starting because my symptoms were suddenly brought on with extremity. Would I be able to make it through the service? I have improved physically in leaps and bounds, but I had a plan for all possible outcomes. As it turns out, I was able to stay until the church lit candles for Silent Night. I loved every moment of the service, and cried throughout because I had not felt such joy in a long time. The Holy Spirit was truly moving in this place. Dave Rod has much to do with my joy that evening. His messages are always my favorite. He's always challenging with a flair of fun. That night though, I learned that he, too, has a chronic illness- invisible like mine. Every mention of chronic illness he made, my mom looked at me and said, ""Did you know that? Does he know you're here?"" The answer was no to both questions, but it didn't matter. It only solidified what I knew to be true all along - Grace Church is a place to begin experiencing the Holy Spirit at work, and I must be a part of it. His closing prayer left me feeling the Holy Spirit wrap around me, telling me to continue my connection with Grace no matter what.
So I guess what I wanted you to know in all of this is that I'm grateful for all of the hard work that you all put into making such experiences possible for people like me. I'm sure this year will get rocky, there are always valleys we must go through. I'm glad that no matter what comes my way that I have Grace Church to turn to and for leadership that bends to the Holy Spirit and leads me to do the same.
God bless you in this new year, and I hope to be able to join you in person this year.