My Life Happened in that Room

Pastor Olen Griffing, founder and pastor of Shady Grove Church, and his wife Syble

Last Friday night, I said good-bye to a room. Strange, but that’s what I did. The missionaries of our church enjoyed a Jewish Sabbath celebration in the hospitality room of our old church building. Since the old church has been sold–and we are now situating in a new building–this Sabbath celebration was our “Last Supper” in that room.

Why so melancholy about a room? 

The major events of my life happened in that room: our wedding shower and reception, our baby shower for Julia, Wayne’s graduation celebration when he became a Ph.D., and our going-away party when the church sent us to the mission field. Those events are significant to us and a few others, but they are just the tip of the iceberg for the goings-on in that room over the last three decades plus.

The hospitality room served as the backdrop to the community of Shady Grove Church. It was sort of the church family room–the only thing missing was a roaring fire. We gathered there almost weekly for some kind of function, prayer meeting, planning meeting, or meal.

The Lord shook our lives in that room. We shook the heavens. We shook the gates of hell. And we held each other when the world shook us.

It was the warmth and happiness of that room that bubbled up in my heart when we lived on the mission field for seven years. In lonely, dark moments, I would remember the monthly church-staff meetings in the hospitality room that came with business, planning, a delicious lunch, and raucous laughter. We told stories on each other, and often we laughed until we cried.

We did skits in that room. We had costume parties and held competitions. The school academy held dinners and plays, and we raised money that took us to far and near places. We ate delicious meals and some crummy meals too. We did serious business with God. We shed tears and confessed sins. We hugged and hurt and healed and hoped in that room.

Each new member of the church passed through that room for a special dinner and prayer upon completion of “First Principles.” They were prayed for and encouraged in the work of the Lord in the house of the Lord and beyond.

Wayne served as an elder for about ten years with a group of wonderful men under the direction of an outstanding founder and senior pastor, and we used that room for the elders’ Christmas parties. The elders had an oral archive “book” of stories on each other. We rehearsed the funny stories of each others’ lives in that room. We sometimes begged the best story tellers to tell us the stories of our lives over and over.

Sometimes we gathered in that room for prayer and experienced glorious visitations of the Holy Spirit, with prophetic direction for each of our lives. Sometimes other pastors or church leaders came there and gave us new insight into Scripture or helped us link arms with others to make our outreaches more significant.

We have had meals after funerals in that room. I remember when two elders died, and we watched their wives move in rote through the actions of their lives on the day of the funerals. We gathered afterward in that room and comforted them and each other. Others have died, and we mourned there as a community.

My life happened in that room.

Our lives happened in that room. In that room, I came to realize that I am not alone. God has joined me by covenant to a wonderful, God-fearing community of believers. We are sharing our lives. Sometimes, we hit hard places and hurt each other. The pain has been deep. Sometimes a few of us have been called away to serve the Lord somewhere else. The pain was deep then too. Sometimes we felt alone in that room, like no one understood us or our calling. Sometimes we asked forgiveness of one another in that place. But we always stuck it out.

Scripture admonishes us to “forget the past,” and “press on to the things that lie ahead.” That is what our community is doing. We are in a new building. And it seems stiff like a new pair of shoes that need to be broken in. We don’t have a lot of memories in the new place yet, but we will.

Honestly, it surprised me just how emotional I felt about saying good-bye to the hospitality room. It is part of the “letting go” of the comfortable to embrace the new. The new will grow comfortable too, in time. In fact, the new will be glorious and exceed the old; but the first steps are hard and painful.

I am so glad that most of the same faces of our community are still around to cheer each other on into the uncertainty of the new rooms of tomorrow. I know these new rooms will be where my daughter will live out the important steps of her life, with her generation cheering her on as a champion in Christ.

The new rooms that we step into now are about the next generation. They will fill them with their own stories and prayers and laughter, and we will fade into the memories of the past.

There will be a glorious day when all of us who have shared the moments of our lives in one special room will step over to a new heavenly room. I am remembering the words of Jesus, “I go to prepare a place for you.” In that room above, we will share our lives in the same wonderful way. Only Jesus will join us there in a new way. We will see Him as He is, the person who brought us together in the first place.


50 thoughts on “My Life Happened in that Room

  1. Bonnie,
    You said it all! Olen and I read it together and of course, wept together. Thank God for all those memories. I might add, some of the first memories are in that room when I was Headmaster of Shady Grove Christian Academy and that room was THE Academy. I watched my Dad and Uncle build the cubicles for the school in that room. What glorious memories!!!!!!!! I join you in being suprised at feelings I have concerning that room. It’s seems harder for me than leaving the Sanctuary, for some reason. Thanks!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Syble,

    I agree the sanctuary is really precious and holds amazing memories, but the hospitality room is where we lived!

    Thank to you and Olen!

    Bonnie

  3. I was so tenderly moved reading your “log of life” lived in the Hospitality Room, Bonnie. Twenty five years of our lives were lived out at SGC and we too experienced a lot of living in that room. I’m glad you stirred our memories to think back at the wonderful life we shared there. It is a treasure chest of precious memories. God has been so faithful to us all and we cherish the wonderful friends that we made there.
    Blessings on you all!
    Hilda

  4. Bonnie, the tears came fast as I read this! Our live have truly been touched and entwined in this room. Thank you for expressing the memories that are so dear to each of us!!! Judy

  5. amen, i am reading it and weeping. you pretty much nailed it. i think i met you and wayne in that room in oct. 91 at my first principles presbytery. i remember you two sittin at my table. so many significant events and life changing words were spoken in that room and happy fellowships, wedding receptions, high school graduations, plays, women’s meeting s and fellowships. i always loved that room. it was so warm and inviting and just felt comforted being in there for any reason. i could feel the presence of God in that room, just as i could in the sanctuary. it’s like saying good bye to a dear and beloved old friend. it was very touching and moving and i am missing it already. will have to stop by this week and pay my final respects before it goes.
    T

  6. Bonnie,
    I found myself teary-eyed as I got to the last paragraph. Not because of what it said. I couldn’t even read it through the mist. But because it was the last paragraph and I knew I would have to grapple with the lump in my throat.

  7. You expressed my heart in your memories. We had some wonderful times in that room. Womens meetings, staff meetings, new life, and saying goodby to friends. Ron and I drove by the 1829 building today and we said goodby, but like you said we will make new memories and they will be as precious as the old.
    I praise the Lord for what is to come!
    Because of a Cross, Marhta

  8. Bonnie,
    I sent you a picture of one of my memories in the hospitality room (regular e-mail). Remember when the big window was a door? Metal chairs and filing cabinets were the decor along with a world map on the wall. Not exactly the prettiest room for a wedding reception, but I wouldn’t have had it any other place! I remember women’s bible study on Thursdays. We would pray afterwards while we had a few hours of childcare. I lived for Thursdays! Oh my goodness, the things we women talked about in that room! When we moved away in ’89 the ladies held hands and sang “Friends are friends forever” over me. I was gone for 9 years and never could hear that song without crying. Oh my; I can’t begin to recount all the other wonderful memories in that room. Although the last are worth mentioning….feeding the homeless and praying over them after Sunday service. Now that was awesome. I can’t deal with saying goodby….so….I’m just going to hang on to the memories as if they are still in the present.

  9. Lisa, I loved looking at the picture you sent. Wow! What a blast from the past. Thanks for leaving your comment and joining in on the cry.

    Bonnie

  10. Judy,

    Thanks for the comment, Judy. I am so happy that you were able to get to the building and have a time of letting go. It has been quite a ride for all of us.

    Bonnie

  11. How sweet to cherish dear memories. We have some dear ones too. Bon you help us all to not only remember but savor the past and open the book of treasure and handle its pages with delicate fingers. It is the depth and meaning of love and honor.
    It was a sweet kiss goodbye to precious times of community and deep friendship. Now we do move on with expectation of new settings and new memories in the glorious making for Shady Grove. What a precious family, the community of saints at Shady Grove Church. We feel honored to be a small part of it. Love the feeling of warm nostalgia. It means so much to everyone.

  12. I didn’t think it would hit me so until I started reading the other comments. But I to have lived my life in that room. Its where I first learned to run a rather poor quality video camera, where Warren lead voice lessons and complimented me on my mouth shapes, and looking back that is the first time I remember someone making me feel special because they wanted to. It was the childerns church room where I accepted Jesus as Lord of my life, and learned the books of the bible for some prize soon forgotten. That room held so many memories I couldn’t begin to fill them all in here, but my first Father/Son Bar-B-Que, Wedding functions for me and friends. Trying to listen to someone speaking in that room when the kids upstairs were having worship (and dancing as we couldn’t help but do).

    Lord what this little room was used for day by day
    You have made it special, all along the way
    to meet the needs of loving those
    to whom you sent it’s way,
    You shared the joys and the tears
    we lived in as we stayed.

    May the rooms of tomorrow be better
    than the past
    may we share the memories we make
    and shape our love to last
    while we won’t forget our history
    we will walk in different doors
    we will let our lives be a tapestry
    as those who’ve gone before.

    I bless this home of tomorrow
    I thank you for the last
    I pray that I will be a part
    to bring this all to pass.

    in Memory of a Room, but more importantly the people I shared my life in with it.

    Randy

  13. I was so glad to read your description of saying goodbye to the Hospitality Room and the 1829 property. I guess for me there was a vicarious sense of closure. I don’t know how I will feel the next time I am back in Texas and I drive by the building. As I reflect on what you wrote, I think it is probably better I am not there. The 1829 property is the ONLY church I have ever known. As I too got misty reading your farewell, I realized I was thankful I didn’t have to say goodbye in person.
    One funny memory I have involves when the Youth Room was above the Hospitality Room. On Sunday nights we would have exuberant worship services upstairs with lots of dancing. Whenever we did that the doors and ceiling of the Hospitality Room would sway. I found it kind of exciting to see the passion of the young people having that kind of physical effect on a room.
    blessings, margaret

  14. Emma,

    Thanks for your beautiful words about memory. It is important.

    Your kids left last night. We enjoyed them so much. You should be a proud mother.

    Love,
    Bonnie

  15. Randy,

    Wow, you’r a writer. Keep writing and expressing your thoughts. They were great.

    You and your family have been around for many years. I know you have a wealth and treasure of memories in that room.

    Well, the best is yet to be.

    Bonnie

  16. Martha,

    You raised your family in that room!

    I like what you wrote at the end, “Because of the cross.”

    How true,
    Bonnie

  17. Margaret,

    It was great to see Rocky this week. I know he had his own time of “good-bye.” We missed you.

    You will say good-bye in your own way, even though you are far away. In many ways, you are still near. That is what community is all about.

    We miss you,
    Bonnie

  18. I was moved, as were so many others, by your blog. The week we knew the old building was sold I told friends that this is bittersweet for me. I came to this corner when I was 17 years old and I will turn 46 at the end of this month. My entire adult life has been centered around this corner! I attended SGCA in the hospitality room and after I graduated my wedding reception was held in the hospitality room. Graduation ceremonies for both of my children from 6th grade First Principles, Zach and Liz’s wedding shower, these are a few things I can add to the staff meetings, dance team meetings and countless parties and fellowships.

    I comfort myself with the thought of the wonderful “happenings” yet to come in the new building. My grandson’s dedication, possibly my daughter’s wedding and all of the other memories I will make with my Shady Grove family in our new home.

    Blessings,
    Kari

  19. Kari,

    It really is bittersweet, but the joy is that it has been Jesus who has brought us together, and He will keep us together, no matter what room we meet in!

    Lots of love to you and your family,
    Bonnie

  20. Its like we are moving as one big family….

    bittersweet indeed…good times and bad, tears of joy and tears of sorrow, and yet together as one we move forward….

  21. Bonnie,

    This is one of my formative rooms as well. 6th grade first principles, SGCA graduation, Lifewalk grad, and the Wedding shower (and reception down the hall in the gym!).

    A room whose memory immediately starts a slideshow in my heart and mind. A singular object I can point at and say, “that’s community!”

    I’m glad we can carry it with us wherever we go. After all, a room is just a room- a backdrop to the true treasure of people and events.

    Yet… I cant help but wonder if the “new” room will have red carpet?

    Jeremy

  22. The Sanctuary is where we met with HIM – the Hospitality room where the overflow of meeting with HIM extending to our loving each other … thank you Bonnie for immoratalizing the spirit and the fruit of of relationships birthed in that room. One of God’s greatest gift to me – Shady Grove family!

  23. Levi and Candiss,

    Levi, I have many, many memories of you and your whole family in that room. Did you know on my wedding day, during our reception, that Ambre followed me around and hung onto my wedding train? It was so cute.

    We love both of you,
    Bonnie

  24. Bonnie,
    Thank you for putting into words what we all felt about the Hospitality Room! I can’t tell you how many wonderful memories me and my family have there! This has truely been a year of letting go for me and this is one more goodbye I must say!

  25. Debra,

    I understand how this has been a year of letting go for you and Bill.

    Isn’t wonderful to know you are not alone?

    Bonnie

  26. After all the years of having youth upstairs in the YR, teens dancing plus the weight of the 4 pool tables, I am suprised the Hospitality room still survives. It was always a fear of mine on sunday mornings during our Student Discipleship/ Elevate times, that we would be dancing one moment & then next be sitting on someones lap down stairs!

    From the 3 years while I was on staff, one of the sounds I loved hearing came on tuesdays. That was the day the elders met in the Hospitality room each week to worship pray & do what ever the elders did. I LOVED hearing their voices rise up in worship!

    I AM very excited to see where will shall now all go as a FULL church body. Nothing left behind to hold us back, but so that we cann ALL press forward!!!!

  27. If only those walls could talk! The first time I saw this little room, it seemed so LARGE! I’ll never forget stepping into that space… wooden framing all around. Dad proudly explained that “this will be the Fellowship Hall, and over there will be the kitchen!”. I thought, “this room will be way too big for a Fellowship Hall, we’ll be like b-bs in a barrel in here!” Little did I know…

    Soon the sheetrock was hung (I helped), the walls painted for the first time (I helped). And the life of Shady Grove would begin to unfold in that big… little room. I could probably write for days all that I experienced there, but how ’bout a highlight or two.

    First, my entire high school experience happened in that room. It was there that, as seniors, Kari and I successfully taped a “kick me” sign on the backside of one of our teachers without her detection… To this day I feel bad for the two boys that got in trouble for it. :/ Of course, Kari and I thought it was a scream! (Sorry Kari, I let the cat out of the bag.)

    The room never was quite the same after they took the bi-folding door down that cut the space in two. Our school colors of green and yellow seemed so much more appropriate than the next layer of paint that was applied. 15 years went by, several more layers of paint and wallpaper, but I’ll never forget the love I encountered when I stepped into that room for the first timel just after I got my heart right with God. It was such a warm, welcoming, room. One full of love, compassion and acceptance.

    There must be other rooms somewhere in this world that has had the same kind of activities take place in them, but there will never be another room quite like OUR Hospitality Room.

    A Fellowship Hall? Yes, but oh, so, so much more.

  28. Mark,

    Thanks for your great comment. I just love reading each one’s experiences there. I agree with you, there was such love in that room.

    Thanks for stopping by. Maybe we will see you at Thanksgiving time.

    Bonnie

  29. Bonnie,
    I can’t write for the tears streaming down my cheeks!! How beautifully you express with words the depth of your heart!
    I’m thankful to have been a part of the activities in this very special room through the years…parting has been bittersweet for sure, but I carry away wonderful memories that I shall cherish always. Yes, it has been a year of letting go for many of us and this is just another. The most significant is the fact that Jesus and the people remain and they are what made the Hospitality Room all that it was. Thank you, Jesus, for the Body at Shady Grove!! As long as there is life, there will be memories in the making.
    What a gift you are, Bonnie!
    Loving memories!!
    Linda

  30. Crazy how memories in that room flood my mind after reading this blog. I remember learning sign language in that room. Practicing something for “family night”(probably dance) I remember many wedding and baby showers in that room. Bobby’s and my wedding shower was in there as well as our rehearsal dinner. So many memories. Well, kinda sad that the church is moving, but God is faithful and I’m certain He will bless you in the new building. Thank you Mrs. Wilkes, such a moving blog.

  31. Thanks for sharing such warm thoughts. As I read each comment, memories came rushing in and I too found myself with the bittersweet feelings that come with change. I remember Sunday School with the Eubanks’ and Sixth Grade First Principles-Brad and I now TEACH that class-my how time flies! Wedding showers, banquets, drama gatherings. I love those old memories but look forward to all the new ones that God has in store for us. Thanks so much, Bonnie, for putting into words what so many of us feel in our hearts.

  32. Bonnie,
    I found myself fighting back the tears as I read your blog this morning. Since I am at work I just couldn’t let go……my makeup would be everywhere, and I greet clients on my job. 🙂 I remember when Dennis and I first met and I begin to attend church with Dennis at Shady Grove in 1998. As I continued reading, I began to recall during that time times in which we joined others in the hospitality room for special events. My recollection of the events, specifically, are somewhat foggy. I remember being so very nerveous meeting new people I didn’t know. I had been a member of the church I was attending for 12 years before Dennis and I met and talk about stepping out of a comfort zone. 🙂 One of those times in the room I remember a really nice table set up with punch bowl and finger foods. Infact seems like everytime I remember being in that room there was food. 🙂 I remember being received in by Olen and Syble, you and Wayne, Gary, Robert and Debbie, Keith and Pat just to name a few with a wonderful warm welcome. I remember thinking, these people are the real deal! My nerves were soon calmed by the total acceptance I felt from everyone in the room. As I read your blog I was reminded of just how very special that room really was and is to a lot of us. Dennis and I spent the first few months of our relationship getting to know each other attending church and events at Shady Grove. Standing or sitting in that very room chatting and getting to know each other little by little. Never realizing that one day we would become husband and wife and some of those special people would attend our wedding ceremony. What a special time in our life of which all of you and the room played a very important part. What a blessing to look back and recall such special memories that took place IN THAT ROOM.
    Hugs,
    Diana

  33. Bonnie, I just happened upon this sight as I was surfing this morning. My wife and I had the awesome opportunity to spend five years at SGC and I well remember where we study First Principles. (I have all of the material at my fingertips still) We have been gone now for 17 years but those “First Principles” have remained and blessed us greatly. Dianne and I have 13 children, we had our 7th while attending there, and in 2007 we were blessed with two grandsons. When I think of SGC it’s almost always as I consider the sweetness of God’s presence. There is where I learned through Olen, the preciousness of ascending the holy hill and dwelling with Him. I don’t know where I would be today if it hadn’t been for the impact of that wonderful congregation and the leaders. Thanks for the memories.

  34. Wow, I know exactly what you are talking about. We married and moved to Texas and attended Shady Grove from 1987-1988, and even though we moved, Shady Grove has never left my heart. I know the power of the Holy Spirit that is there. Our daughters–born long after we left–felt the power when they entered the church. And, by the way, we helped Gary R. build a sidewalk one Saturday. We attended the 1st Principles. And oh the praise and worship still pulls the deep places in my heart. How I found this…it was God. Anyway thanks for writing about the memories.

  35. pastor Olin,
    arlie whitlow here. I traveled one night with you and I don’t remember where we were but I went with you in your car. that has been a long time ago. maybe 30 yeras ago. We just had Paul Cole here today for our men’s meeting and we were talking about you and remembering your great gift to the church. I pastor the community church in Ashburn va. you can grab the web site at thecommunitychurchorg. Glad to hear that you are bzck at the church and maybe we can get together again some day. arlie whitlow

  36. On our 25th anniversary, Donna and I renewed our wedding vows with a wedding in the hospitality room. Gary Benjamin performed the ceremony. Great room, great memories. Tim Austin

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