Do you surprise yourself?

So here I am wandering around Old Town, even took the bus. Everything is familiar, routine, after all I’ve only been gone a little more than a year. Somewhere along the line I’ve acquired the ability to quickly acclimate to a new place and retain that sense of “this is my place” when I return.

I haven’t always been like this. For all too many years I resisted change; change paralyzed me. For the past 20 years change has been the dominant theme of my life. It’s not that change doesn’t bother me anymore but rather that it has become a way of life. I actually plan big changes now – next Spring I want to be living somewhere else, where I’m not sure yet and there is the possibility that it will only be the next stop on to yet another place. It doesn’t scare me or stress me.

What surprises me about me is that I learned to adapt to new places. They quickly became “my places” regardless of whether I liked them or not. Because I walk or take public transit I learn where all the “native” haunts are. Because I tend to talk to everyone and anyone I establish a superficial social presence. I become comfortable quickly. When I realize I have made these accommodations I am always surprised. The person who does this is not the person I think I am. I’m not sure I really know who she is.

When I return to visit places I have lived I fall back into whatever routine or persona I had there. If I stay for a few days I forget I am just visiting and I take on the routine of a resident.

I am sure that most people act and react this same way. I have met and admired these people but I don’t ever think of myself as being one of them. My actions and reactions surprise me. It’s a pleasant surprise but a surprise nonetheless.

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I Like Churches

Not the religion part but the warm feeling part. And not the big fancy churches with the stained glass windows and candles and decorations. The small plain churches where when you walk in you can feel the warmth, the love, the people. Have you ever been in a church like that?

I remember the church I grew up in, it was like that. Plain as plain can be. But warm and welcoming, a safe place, a cozy place. I remember the first time I went there and the Sunday school leader put her arm around me and said “I don’t think we have anyone else in this church named Grace”.

I remember refusing to be an angel in the Christmas play. I told the Sunday school lady “I’ve never seen an angel with black hair”. She later told my mother that she and looked and looked and could not find one picture of an angel with dark hair.

All through my teens I would spend quiet time in the sanctuary. It was a place to retreat to; to feel safe in. Churches were always open in those days, you could go in and sit whenever you had the need. Not so nowadays.

A few years ago I worked as a church secretary. Nice place, nice people. It reminded me of the church I grew up in with one stark exception. Behind the altar was a huge stained glass picture of Jesus of Nazareth. Sadly, it was very poorly done but the congregation was very proud of it. So whenever I sat in the church, just sat, you know, to feel cozy, I would face away from the altar. It isn’t a rich church, not in money, but the congregation is what we are told Christians are supposed to be. It’s their faith and love and compassion that make that building a church, not some, you should pardon the expression, godawful stained glass window.

If you go into a church and you don’t feel that vibe of warmth and love and safety then it’s just another building, nothing special about it at all.

I like churches. That little sentence flits through my brain a lot lately, just at odd moments, I hear it in my head, “I like churches”.

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