When I first meet Pastor Vic he asked where I was from. “Washington Court House, Ohio,” I’d replied, prepared to explain the usual answers. No, the whole town is not a courthouse. No, we didn’t live in a courthouse. Yes, that was it’s whole name or you can just say “Court House” and we’d know what you meant.
Instead, he said “Really? I sang at a small church there once.” He couldn’t remember the name of the church and after suggesting a few without him finding anything that stuck out, I closed up the conversation and moved on with my kids off to the rest of my Sunday.
We had that same conversation a few more times after that. The last time he shared it, he said the name of the pastor that he’d been invited by, a name I knew from the church history of our church back in Ohio. This pastor in this new church I was attending, had come and sang in my church in the middle of nowhere Ohio. My church.
This has remained as the first moment where I really began to see just how sweetly the story that God has written over this move and this chapter in our lives. One could call it a coincidence. And maybe that’s all it is. Maybe I search too much for meaning in meaningless things. Regardless, this was one of those moments where I feel the breath of God on my ear as He leans in and softly says, “I see you there, Sarah. I have had plans for you for a long time. I know what I’m doing. You can trust me.”
There have been many of those moments over the past few years, where I have seen the words on my pages and recognize the handwriting.
This morning I climbed in the car with two friend to go call on a third who is laid up with a bum ankle. I questioned the direction we were taking and tried to convince them of a right turn when they went left. Set comfortably in the backseat, it didn’t take but a moment to figure out I didn’t have the wheel in my hands, so to just relax and see how we’d get where we were going.
We rolled past JMU and bounced over train tracks as their chatter turned towards the old days in the history of our church. They indicated that the church was really close to us, we could drive past it if I liked. Oh, I liked.
“Rose…” I began to say and felt like I was about to mispronounce the street name, and then flying past my mind’s eye was Rose Ave, part of my Ohio church, a dear ministry which I just nod “right on” when I think of it. “Roosevelt Street,” I said. There was this moment of connection between the two places, as if one had passed the other and waved at a familiar face across the street.
To the right we turned. “Where is it?” I asked, anxious to see just exactly what sort of building housed this family before I joined it. “Right there, behind that tree.” As we pulled past this heavy laden apple tree, there the old church stood. They allowed me to step out and snap a picture. Back in the van I climbed and we continued on our way.
As we rounded the block, I showed them where I lived my senior year of college. “You lived right by the church!” Oh…I did. I lived right by the church, not more than two blocks away. I had no idea.
We continued our morning through stories brought about by familiar locations, our planned visit, through biscuits and coffee, pugs and cats and a lot of laughter. I looked at these three other women with me and was simply satisfied that I had found these people. I knew I had to look at that picture when I left their company, to consider the different direction we’d traveled that morning, to revisit that moment where Rose Ave recognized Roosevelt Street in my brain, to put my eyes back on that corner.
I opened Instagram and posted the picture. This building that I looked at saw the growth that demanded a much larger space, saw the hand of God and saw the brokenness of man meet. This building realistically looks like it could be housed on Rose Ave in Ohio and fit naturally there, less polished, evidencing additions built within limitations of space, worn by time, in the heart of a neighborhood that is reminiscent of Rose Ave’s neighborhood.
When I came to this church it was a long time before I could understand why this church, why these people. They didn’t look like what I imagined myself serving. They didn’t match my image of where I should be called. This morning looking at the roots of the family tree my church is built out of….the history of my church….the foundation of my church…I recognized that this place, these people, they have some Rose Ave in them.
Then there was a whisper, a breath on my ear, “Zoom in.” And I did.
There on the street sign on that corner…Roosevelt St. meets Ohio Ave.
The air slipped out of my mouth. I heard Pastor Vic telling me about his coming here from Ohio where he’d lived and about how he’d been to my tiny town in Ohio decades ago to sing one Sunday. Ohio to Roosevelt.
I thought about how just around the corner from where I lived in college was a story being written for me, about how I had no Ohio in my life yet, and that it would take nearly 10 years in Ohio to even begin to make me into who He could use at this church and how He brought us here. Ohio to Port Road.
Then I recognized the handwriting and heard the whisper as it was read to me, “”I see you there, Sarah. I have had plans for you for a long time. I know what I’m doing. You can trust me.”