The Blogger Herself

The Blogger Herself

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Hills, Rivers, and Churches.

Dear Family and Friends:
I’ve never been more nervous to write a blog post.  While I hope everyone reads this post, the people I most desire to read it are 2 groups of people.  I will tell you more about that in a minute.  First for my own peace of mind and because I want to make sure God directs my words, I will be opening up with a verse I have made personal prayer in this post.
 May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to You,
Lord, My Rock and My Redeemer. PS. 19:14

In 1987ish which was a long time ago.  My mom, my brother and I began attending and became part of Brainerd Hills Baptist Church after we relocated to Chattanooga TN, and moved in with my grandparents were I’ve lived for the past 31 years.  I’ve loved church, for as long as I can recall.  I loved being in Mrs. Anne Medley’s 4 year old Sunday school class which I still remember.  I loved how my Grandfather carried me to the back of the church to greet the Pastor most Sundays.  I first heard the Gospel at BHBC BHBC is a loving church filled with people who love me and who I love very much.  This BHBC Family has loved me and supported me through surgeries, grief, loss, depression, service, awkward youth years and needs of every sort. Without the support of this family I can’t be at all certain that I would have accepted Christ, when I did.  I developed a foundation rooted upon the Gospel, and a lot of that is because of people like Wilma, Fowler, Mr. Clyde who gave out candy at church.  I met friends in GA’S who I continue to respect and memories that will be forever etched in my heart.  During middle, school and high my passion for Christ grew because of people like Sarah Haren and Lisa Crawford.  The church supported me in my work with Choices by in spirit and funding.  My last 2 years of high school in BHBC youth was the time in life that I believe I really started to build friendships with people my own age   The staff @ BHBC has pastored and loved me well. I can’t begin the hundreds of people who have invested in my life or my family. Why then did I begin to become involved with a different church called Two Rivers 4 months ago?
To answer that question I must go back.  3 years ago, a friend invited me to Two Rivers church Chattanooga on Sundays when my family was out of town, and I enjoyed it, so I went from time to time, especially early after mom died, because I could get through a service without balling my eyes out missing my mom thinking of a memory with her as BHBC had always been such a big part of our relationship and our lives.   Two Rivers Church plant originated from Two Rivers in Knoxville. Over the course of months I began to spend time in groups with that friend and some of the people she was connected to, and I was not looking for anything more than this.   
One of the first times I went to 2RC mom was very sick, and I simply went because life was a mess, and so was I, I think my family had to go out of town that week as mom’s health got worse I became desperate to escape the house at times, just to get away from the helplessness feelings I had on her rough days.  While I was home I kept myself busy doing things that needed to be done.  The last thing I needed to do was drop the ball on the things mom actually needed me to do.  I was only emotional with her a couple of times with her and family when things got bad.  Nothing bothers my sweet family more than when I show distressing emotions, I figure because they love me so much, it hurts them.  Anyway I went to Two Rivers that Sunday the summer before the spring which she died.  The sermon was on Psalm 23, and how we sometimes we think we can hide where we are from God, but how he is the caring Shepherd who carries us!  I didn’t know when, but during that Sermon, God gave me an awareness that though she would have better days ahead at times, her time on earth was going to be shorter than any of us wanted.  As I prayed that day during the prayer time, I let go, of everything I hid behind that smile, I asked God that question, you know the one “good Christians” like Job never ask.  I said God, if you know where I am, and you are good then why are hurting her and all of us, by not sparing her from this.  He didn’t answer my question, but He did promise to carry me and invited me to trust him.   Even then I had no intention of going Two Rivers regularly.  BHBC was the only church I had ever known, and at that point I had every notion to be at BHBC until my dying breath.    I continued to be part of BHBC coming to every event I could.  Quite honestly, I liked Two Rivers, but at that time didn’t see myself there.  It was about as much of a culture shock as people not serving sweet tea up north.  In case you’re wondering that is a big deal.  It was pretty far outside my comfort zone at the time too.  I wore my Baptist heritage like a merit of honor, and though there is nothing wrong with that in and of itself, and we should take joy and be confident in our convictions and commitment, In my case I  had become prideful secretly, and inwardly judged and made some pretty false and sinful assumptions about Two Rivers church early on.  I did not see it then, but God was slowly pulling me away from BHBC as I had become safe, complacent, and comfortable in my place and role in my own heart. It was simply though my mouth praised God, my heart was not right, and though no one would have known, behind the closed doors of my heart, when I was alone with God-I knew I was bowing to my personal idol of performance. My heart was far from God, and that had nothing to do with either church.  One day during my time of “visiting” Two Rivers, I sensed God asking me if I would follow Him even if He asked me to follow HIM to Two River’s church. That was two years ago surely, I heard him wrong?  Nothing in the service, even referenced membership, and I wasn’t totally sure it was even an option.   No Lord I can’t, BHBC has been too good to me.  My family is there.  No one will understand.  It will be a betrayal to so many, and I love them.  I pushed it out of my heart, but the harder I tried, and the more I prayed God affirmed through his word, prayer, and counsel from unbiased parties from outside both churches that in fact God was leading me, and was calling me to a new season at Two Rivers Church Chattanooga to serve and be challenged, and yes even loved. To be honest I expected that it would never work out for more than a few weeks, but my confidence and clarity in my resolve to obey and trust God was maybe for the first time in my life greater than my fear of failure and rejection. I prayed for God to show me, and He did.  The last Sunday I was at BHBC before I took the walk of Faith to begin exploring Two Rivers further I could not get the courage to go to Sunday school, so I stayed in the sanctuary, and prayed.  I prayed for both churches, I prayed for my family, I prayed for myself, because I knew the road would not be easy.  I also asked for a sign and that same day God provided, not one but 2 unexpected events.  It was at that point, I knew the next step was to meet with Two Rivers Pastor, and simply tell him how I had to come to that point, and that my greatest concern was finding transportation.  I fully expected him to say well we can pray about that, and the conversation would end there.   He didn’t pressure me at all, and in fact even said I can’t tell you what to do, but he did seem confident where God leads He will provide a way.  My primary concern was not a deal breaker?  The next obstacle scared me far worse than the first, and I did that a week later. I kept it a secret from family until after the meeting, and decided I need to tell my Aunt and Uncle first before I told the rest of her crew and my grandmother. I kept it a secret until that point, because I’m a people pleaser and I knew at that the minute I sensed disapproval at all from anyone, I would began to back pedal and not follow through on what God had made completely clear.  I knew to do so was a direct act of disobedience.  I also knew this was one of those turning point times in life, I would have regret if I did not move ahead.  I almost threw up twice on the way to their house to tell them. The only thing that kept me from doing that was the chic-fila I ate on the way.  Deep down I knew they would have concerns and be sad, but I also knew they would love and support me as they always had.  Plus I needed their help to tell my grandmother as I knew it would be very hard for her.  I accepted Christ at BHBC, I was baptized, and did most everything with my family.  Pretty much anything I did without them, in the past had failed and I wasn’t sure then, this would be any different. My mom and family had always been my safety net and our family did everything together.  Through this whole process I’ve learned not to take my family and their love and support for granted.  Everyone survived and I have grown so much in the past 5 months.  Questions I feel I need to answer:  Do I miss BHBC?  Yes, I miss and love so many in The Body.  Why didn’t you tell more people personally?  I was simply taking one step of faith at a time, and wasn’t sure how everything would turn out, though I knew God would be faithful.   Do you regret anything?  The only regret I have is not being more open and honest with my family and BHBC and trusting God to help us adjust.  I’m sure it is awkward and unfair answering questions they never should have had to, and I sincerely apologize for   hurt I have caused to my family or BHBC in this process, my goal here is not to defend, but to share my heart.  I have not done this perfectly by any means.
Was I mad about something?  I was not and I am not.  I have nothing but love, respect gratitude for BHBC.  You have loved and served me and lived the Gospel to me, and given more than I will ever deserve. I love the staff and the BHBC FAMILY that has not changed.  That part of this the was agony
Is this about preferences or truly obeying God?   Richard Mason, who by the way will always be referred to by me as Pastor no matter where I am. All these years growing up at BHBC, He taught me worship and church never was and never will be about me.  Worship is about God.  Church is about God.  Anything other than exalting God and Christ is not worship, it is a futile self-centered pursuit    
Will I come back?  It would be arrogant of me to say I know what God has planned or that I can predict my own future, but BHBC will always part of my life. Only God knows what the future holds, and I have committed this to him   I hope Lord willing to be at every cousin’s baptism or Children’s musical, and as long as the doors are open to me you will see me from to time.  In fact on November 5th I plan to attend Dr. Richard Mason’s final service as senior pastor of BHBC.   I have said it before and I will say it again, there is none that models a sincere Pastor’s heart better than Richard and Dianne Mason, well I mean other than Jesus of course.  At the present time, I am confident and blessed to say that Two Rivers church for a lack of a better term is where God has called me, and I am choosing to embrace this journey fully, and though the journey is scary and painful at times, it has been one of the most fulfilling and stretching journey’s I have ever been part of, and I am in this season fully committed to it, and them.
What would I like to say to BHBC?  I love you and I thank you with all of my heart for everything you have given me, both individually and as a body.  I wish I could write a letter to each person who has touched my life. 
Will I join Two Rivers at some point?  That is likely the direction I expect, as I’m already serving in some capacities.
What will happen to Sanctity of Human Life Sunday at BHBC, if/when I do?  I strongly suspect this effort will likely move forward, and I am happy to provide any helpful information if desired.  I am not irreplaceable and the effort is much larger than any contribution God allowed me to have.
Am I finding my place at Two Rivers Church?  The truth is, I found my place at Two Rivers Church  two years before I ever said yes to the Lord about being there.  There were many tears of agony prior to surrender, but I knew. I cannot thank them for embracing, me, loving me respecting me, and giving my place at the table in the mission God has entrusted to them.
How do I get there?  Primarily 3 amazing families in the church, who have so sacrificially served me.  Megahan Murdock put her yes on the table first.  She and husband Bryan have extended the priceless gift of their friendship to me.  Meaghan and I went to high school together and without even knowing that she reached out offering help no strings attached.  A lady by the name of Susan House, I met at “Random” at work by the way there is no random with God.  I have fallen in love with their whole family, they remind of everything I love about my own family, and I kind of feel adopted by them. The staff of Two Rivers Church has been caring and supportive.  I am sure secretly they may wonder if there are in over their head with all that I come with, but they have been nothing short of totally supportive, and have not at any point placed any expectations on me, that I have not asked for They did not pursue anything from me they just loved where I was for who I was.  They have allowed me to ask questions, allowed me to risk, and already helped me grow spiritually, but practically too.  The mission and vision of Two Rivers church Chattanooga awakened my heart, in new ways to the same Gospel I’ve known since childhood and challenged me to serve in ways, I never thought God would allow.   Two Rivers is big on discipleship, and the gospel transforming lives of both the both redeemed, the searching, and the lost.  At some point in life I’ve been all three of these. 
What do I fear most concerning BHBC?  I fear my new season being viewed as personal rejection of BHBC, this is not true, and it never will be.  What do I miss most?  Multigenerational relationships and hearing my cousin Brady worship in church.
What do I fear most concerning Two Rivers? That they may find I’m not worth their investment. 
If you have read this post completely, and still care, you truly are amazing as this is the only post I’ll ever post which is four pages .If you have read it, truly love me beyond comprehension.  Thank you!  Walking by Faith not by sight.

  TJ Ellis.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Awesome, brave post from an awesome, exceptionally brave woman. I am so proud of you TJ. I am blessed to know you.

T.J. Ellis said...

Thank you so much Anonymous I think I know who you are and I appreciate it very much :-)

Anonymous said...

TJ, what a brave post, I can learn so much from you! One of these days when I am home I want to meet you in real life! I know you have prayed for me through my husbands illness and death, for that I am so grateful! You are an inspiration!
Sandra Stauddy