I had my son around four years and six months ago. We moved to Irvine when he was about eight to nine months old. It was during that time I had started a new job and put Caleb into school for the first time. It was a hard transition for me more than him. He did fine in school and quickly got used to socialization with fellow friends, babe and teacher alike.
It was also during this time I decided to look for a church for us to go to as our first place. Before then, I had't really been apart of a church in years. I went to lots of places to visit, but there was no place that was my norm. In fact, the idea of being apart of a church gave me slight anxiety! I was not thrilled with the idea. I have been around countless churches all my life. I have seen a whole gamut of different ways of worship and denominations from Pentecostal teachings to liturgy, etc. I also attended a Christian university. Through some of these experiences, I have seen behavior from Christians which left sour tastes in my mouth. There was a good period of time where I didn't call myself a Christian anymore, partially because of how poorly represented I felt the name had become. It was disturbing to me to see people mistreated under the guise of Christianity. It was disturbing to me that people could be made to feel ostracized from a people who are meant and called to love one another, be it due to a difference in belief over sexual orientation, religion, lifestyle, etc. This disillusionment took place primarily in my college years. During that time, I left the Christian name and thought of myself as part of "The Way", which is what the first century believers of Jesus called themselves. I wasn't apart of any church, partially because I was finishing school and never found a fit.
By the time I had Caleb, I had worked through some of the disillusionment that I had experienced from the previous few years, and was back to being called a Christian again. I realized that it didn't help that I abandon the name because of bad examples. I decided I needed to try and live to be a good example, even though it is a hard thing to do. Saying that I am a Christian isn't a title or a religious affiliation, it is a lifestyle and heart change I must work to undergo and emulate. It is the lifestyle that desires to hold Jesus to its core. It is the environment I seek to live in and out of, and the model of life I seek to raise my son in. It is the center and stability of who I am.
So here I am. A Christian. And even now, I sometimes wince at the title because I know the damage done by this name. I also think it can sound exclusivist, which I believe is the opposite of what it should be. For me, being a Christian is loving Jesus and loving people. It is walking forward in allowing God to change our hearts and minds, while deepening our souls. Other fruits from this come out of the natural extension to the change this does to our hearts, minds and lives. He has done this for me. He continues to still. I am so very grateful for that.
All this to say, we found a church a few years ago. It took at least a year to call it "my church" instead of "the church I am going to". Caleb calls it his church too, which is pretty special. I set out in my search upon moving to Irvine to some nearby churches, Journey Christian Church being one of them. At first I thought it was a good place to try because it is so close to our home, that we might actually go. At that point, our needs were to go to a church environment that was safe and smaller in size and to meet us where we were at. While we visited other nearby churches, I had felt that Journey was the place we should go. It wasn't because it was closest. It's because it was what we needed. Now after a few short years there, I see more of why this was the place we needed to be. This is the place that brought us to church as a first time little family, single mama and son. It is the place that brought me back. It is the place where Caleb was dedicated. It was the place where I was able to finally able to say, "my church". It broke that barrier in me, and I began to go to there not just for Caleb, but for myself. Even when I didn't want to, Caleb did. So we went, and we communed with Jesus. And I never regretted it once. I still haven't. It is there, we met Jesus individually and together as a family. It is there we were connected to all kinds of gifted and welcoming people. I am truly grateful and appreciative of this. Our needs as a family for church may change and take us to a new places. But no matter what, our first home was Journey. And I can't help but think of the people we have met with in order for it to be a place I felt comfortable enough to call my own. So if you are a Journey member (past or present) and you are reading this, please let me extend a virtual hug to you. I thank you. I appreciate you. And I hope to see you soon.