This is the day… Crystal and the kids come back home. Amen! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! Last Wednesday, the three of them flew to Midland, Texas, to spend Thanksgiving with her father. Although Crystal was born in Seattle, her formative years were spent in Midland. But she has not been back there in some time. So when her dad asked her to come, we thought this would be a good thing to do. We knew from that start that I would not be able to go with them. And we both were okay about that. But the past five days without Crystal and the kids have been absolutely miserable. Honestly, I haven’t been alone in this house this long since we moved here almost two years ago. And it was strange. I used to think that peace and quiet were good things. But I have discovered that sometimes quiet isn’t very peaceful. I haven’t had much social interaction these days, either. Some of my family and friends have asked me out. But I wasn’t really up to doing much of anything without Crystal. That may sound silly. But there’s a simple explanation. I love her. And I miss her and the kids. But the Charles clan should be reunited today. It will be kind of weird for us. I will be going to pick up Crystal, H.B. and Natalie from the airport, rather than the other way around. And I am proud to say that I have not made a mess of Crystal’s house, as she suspected I would. Now, the house is no cleaner than it was when she left. But it is definitely not any dirtier than it was when she left. I have dutifully cleaned up everything I messed up, sort of. I still have a little bit of straightening up to do before I head to the airport.

Yesterday was a great personal victory in that I actually taught my Sunday School class and preached the morning exposition. I had concluded Saturday evening that I wouldn’t do either. I made the appropriate phone calls, so that my posts would be covered. Then I went back to bed. Crystal and I talked for a while. And she encouraged me to go on and preach. I was ready. I just didn’t think I was up to it physically and emotionally. But I pressed through. In the words of H. Beecher Hicks, I am “preaching through a storm.” This end-of-the-year planning stuff usually takes it toll on me. But this year has been much more taxing than normal. And several transitions that have taken place in our congregation this year are burdens that I continue to carry. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that I have been pastoring most of this year with a broken heart. Now I am several days away from the celebration of 15 years as the pastor of MSMBC. It’s a special milestone. But these pastoral anniversary celebrations are quite traumatic for me. And this fifteenth year is a whammy. I can’t stop thinking about the fact that I have served this congregation all of my adult life. My life has been directly shaped by the happenings of this congregation since I was 17-years-old. And I can’t stop considering the fact that this congregation has seen me at both my best and worst, as I have been growing into manhood in front of them over these years. And I can’t help but wonder if I am beginning to wear out my welcome.

As I said, I am preaching through a storm. I have not gotten much office work done these past weeks. This is not a good thing, considering that I was supposed to complete 2006 planning these weeks. Basically, I have just been praying, studying, and getting myself ready to preach and teach. It’s been hard to concentrate on much else. Yesterday, I preached a message that I had been working on for several weeks. It’s an exposition of 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. I had various stylish titles for it. But I ended up simply calling it, “Don’t Be Discouraged.” This text had been on my schedule to preach for a few weeks now. But it was only the wise providence of God that navigated the circumstances, so that I would be meditating on this passage over these days. I definitely was not able to preach it last Sunday, even though that was the plan. I needed another week to work through it for myself. But I finally got it out yesterday. It was one of those strange experiences where I was consciously preaching to myself as I preached to the congregation. I hope the congregation received the message. I really, really hope the preacher received the message!

One more thing… Thanks to whoever sent the anonymous comment this weekend, which simply asserted, “It’s time to BLOG.” I got the message while I was checking my emails on my hand held. I was in a public place. But I busted up laughing. I was very amused by that comment. So a big shout-out to “Anonymous” for the good laugh. Hope you’re still reading.