Spiritual Legacy: God Provides (Again), Edition How He Got Me a Job

I’ve been seriously looking for a job since March, 2014 (unseriously for even longer…) If you’ve looked for a job recently, you know how fun it is.

My journey went something like this:

  • March, 2014: had small crisis that was more than likely going to require a lot of money to resolve. Decided I needed to get a job to remedy the situation. Scoured job search engines for approximately 2,039 hours, only to discover 93% of the links were broken, out dated, or bait and switches. The other 7% appeared legit but didn’t list locations or pay information. In order to become privy to the name of the company, I had to register, at which time they a) signed me up for 42 email lists that didn’t pertain whatsoever to my search criteria I had meticulously entered and b) gave me the name of the company and a way to submit an application which I would never hear back about ever from any of these companies.
  • April, 2014: reached the end of the internet. THE END. Still no job, although, several applications were sent, and, I’m sure, are still sitting in some dummy email account no human will ever check. God remedied our small crisis Himself in glorious fashion. Decided it would still be wise for me to get a job in case the crisis emerged again. Told people I was looking for a job in case anyone had a hook up. They did not.
  • May, 2014: felt discouraged.
  • June, 2014: quit looking for a job.
  • July, 2014-October, 2014: ate ice cream in large quantities.
  • November, 2014: enrolled in seminary because it’s more fun to SPEND money than to earn it.
  • December, 2014: remembered the reason for the season.
  • January, 2015: began aforementioned seminary degree.
  • February, 2015: remembered I was supposed to be looking for a job. Repeated the process from March, 2014.
  • March, 2015: felt discouraged. Told more people I was looking for a job in case anyone had a hook up. They all thought, “Seriously? It’s been like a year since you started looking. Frankly, we’re tired of hearing about it.” Ok, no one said that because my friends are too amazing, but I’m sure they thought it. I was tired of hearing about it…
  • April, 2015: began to feel more in need of a job than ever due to our perceived need to and leading from God to move out of our neighborhood. Repeated the process from March, 2014.
  • May, 2015: tired of making negative zero headway job hunting, I quit again and decided homelessness wouldn’t be so bad. Especially in Florida. Looked for beachfront RV resorts to accommodate our new lifestyle.
  • Late May, 2015: decided to trust God was hand-crafting a job for me and He would bring it when He was good and ready.
  • June 1st-ish, 2015: my mother-in-law saw a small need for help where she works and talked to her boss about it. He saw a much larger need and decided now was the time to create a new position. She suggested he interview me.
  • June 3rd, 2015: had the interview. Liked the employer, felt capable of meeting his needs, and was pleasantly surprised the job was going to meet ALL of my 34 needs in a job (more on that later) as well as 5 of my nit-picky preferences.
  • June 8th, 2015: was offered the position.
  • June 10th, 2015: started my job.

I tell you all that to say this: 1) job hunting on the internet is for the birds, and 2) God knows our needs and will meet them when He sees fit to meet them, whether you hit your head against the wall fruitlessly googling “ANY JOB THAT PAYS MONEY. ANY JOB AT ALL,” or not.

(To be fair, my husband found his current job, which is a perfect fit for him, on Craigslist. Like, the first time he entered a search term. It’s a super annoying story.)

Not only will God meet our needs when the timing is best to do so, He will do so in ways that far surpass what we’d “settle for” if job search engines really worked.

Listen to this ridiculous list of non-negotiables I had (as a result of the goals we have for our own family. It’s perfectly wonderful if you don’t have the same goals for your family. No judgment here. Don’t send me emails.):

  • 20 hours/wk. No more, no less. (I need two days each week to continue seminary, so I can only work 3.)
  • Work day over by 2:30p at least two of the three days I work. (I would work anywhere as long as I did not have to put my kids in aftercare. It’s important to me to pick them up from school and have the late afternoons with them the majority of the time.)
  • Flexibility to shift days I work around so I can be free to go on field trips and attend programs and parties and other tomfoolery at my kids’ school. (Again, I would work anywhere that would allow me to do this because my kids will only want me to come to school events for so long…)
  • At least $__/hr. (We knew what I had to make, minimum, in order for us to feel comfortable moving.)
  • 30 minute or less commute. (In the Memphis area, this is totally reasonable. Add in the fact that when my kids are out of school I have to drive them 25 minutes to the baby sitter before I can even start making my way to my office, this really translates to an hour commute, each way.)

Not only could I not find a job without these specifications, finding one with them seemed impossible. But I had to stick to my guns. While I was busy running into dead ends on the internet, it turns out God was doing what He’s always doing: sitting quietly in the background, arranging the puzzle pieces of the world, including my life, one at a time. And in the case of my job, it seems He was making a more beautiful picture than I could’ve guessed.

Not only was every single non-negotiable met or exceeded, God threw in very personal “extras” just to make me happy because He loves me.

  • I’m working for a ministry. (I had basically given up the idea of getting paid to do what I love – teach the Bible. And while I am not doing that directly in this job, the things I am doing enable others to disciple and evangelize more people all over the world, and I am excited to contribute in a supporting role.)
  • I’m doing work that actually interests me. (I am assisting this ministry in web development and internet marketing, among other things. I have heavily dabbled in these areas since 2008, sometimes for pay, but mostly for fun. The dabbling has led to a fairly proficient knowledge of some of these things, and now I get to use those skills for work. I’ll also get to learn new skills that excite the computer nerd in me. There has also been talk of allowing me to write.)
  • I get to work with several people I already know and love.
  • My primary office is housed in a gorgeous retreat center that’s a relaxing environment to work in.
  • Because I don’t work with clients directly most of the time, JEANS!
  • The coffee is not awful. In fact, it is palatable. (Who am I kidding, this should have been on the non-negotiable list…)

If any of you are still reading, I’ll end with this: see? See how God knows and cares and works everything for our good (Romans 8:28)? See how God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)? Sometimes we need to hear stories like mine to inspire us to really believe those scriptures when life gets hard and those scriptures don’t necessarily feel true.

He loves you. He’s for you. He’s got you.

Advertisements

Spiritual Legacy: God Guides

About a month ago I started having a symptom that commonsense told me I should have checked by a doctor. It wasn’t bothersome, but knowing it might be a bad sign, I called the doctor. And she told me to come in.

Of course, she was pretty nonchalant. She gave me the once over, ordered a couple of labs, ordered a couple of imaging tests, and told me the various possible causes of the symptom. Her best prediction: a small, no-big-deal benign tumor that would need to be removed surgically. But cancer wasn’t completely off the table.

I had to wait a couple of weeks to go get my scans done. As you’d expect, the first few days it was difficult to keep my mind from playing out each possible scenario. I didn’t feel worried; I just wanted to know. I researched all the possibilities until I reached the end of the Internet.

And then I stopped thinking about it all together.

Because there was nothing else to read up on. Because there was nothing else for me to learn. And because God is good to give us peace when we need it.

He’s also pretty good about giving us well-timed distractions. Some of those distractions weren’t fun, but He also gave us lots of good news in those weeks I was waiting to find out my fate… like settling that our daughters will go to an excellent school next year (which is another awesome story all together) and my best friend having her first baby boy 13 days early so I could spend some of my waiting time rejoicing over him (thanks, Heather!).

And before I knew it, it was test day.

I still wasn’t worried, but I was ready to find out what was going on inside my body.

I had the first scan and spoke with the doctor about it. She liked it. She didn’t see any cancer. But it was the lesser detailed of the two kinds of tests I was scheduled for, and given the particular symptom I was having, she was eager to get to the second scan.

I stared at the screen as the technician spent 30 minutes taking pictures of my insides and talking me through each variance we were seeing. (Which I totally appreciate.)  She said she wasn’t seeing any cancers nor the benign tumor she would expect to see with the symptom I was having. So, in essence, she was giving me the unofficial all-clear. It seemed to her that the symptom was just an incidental thing with no discernible nor worrisome cause.

I had two thoughts in that moment: that’s good, and did I just blow everything out of proportion by even going to the doctor in the first place? The tests were expensive – had I just wasted a lot of my family’s money over a little symptom that wasn’t even really bothering me?

I tried to reassure myself with some truth while the tech finished scanning me. No, I hadn’t overreacted. This symptom can be serious, which is exactly why my doctor ordered the tests. It just so happens that the symptom isn’t serious in my case. And while I’m on the subject, I didn’t order these tests – my doctor did. And she’s a real doctor who went to medical school; I just fancy myself a doctor on account of all the hours I’ve logged on WebMD. If a real doctor wanted these tests, I didn’t overreact…

The tech kept on making conversation while she scanned. Well, it wasn’t really conversation because “con” means “with” and she wasn’t talking with me so much as at me. It was more of a monologue, really, all about her 4 kids and how her husband wants 5 but she’s 43 now and she’s too old to have another baby but they started having babies a little later in life and her parents would always say to her, “When are you going to have a baby?” and then she had her first baby and 7 months later she got pregnant with her second baby which really surprised her because she was nursing but it happened and then the second and third babies were 20 months apart and the last two are 23 months apart and the oldest is a boy but the three youngest are all girls so sometimes she thinks about having another baby because they really would like another boy in the family but after the fourth baby her parents said, “Slow down!” and she said, “You better watch out, I might end up with 12!” because they know a lot of families with 9 and 10 children and her husband would just keep on having them if she would let him…

And then she paused.

Her silence, although refreshing, caught my attention. Her sociable banter changed to a more formal tone as she told me she saw something “abnormal”. She was very forthcoming and explained what she was seeing was a mass, and she knew that because it was slightly gray, indicating it was solid and not fluid-filled.

She finished her scan and had the doctor examine the pictures.

I laid on the table and waited for about 15 minutes in a cool, dimly lit room, for the doctor to come do some scans herself.

I wasn’t worried; but I was feeling a little thrown for a loop. We had just ruled out my having the kind of tumor everyone was expecting me to have. And now, 3 minutes later, all of our attention is being diverted to a totally different kind of tumor, one no one had any idea was there?

The doctor came in and started scanning me herself and confirmed what the tech had seen was a tumor – completely unrelated to the symptom I was having. The doctor gave me a crash course on tumors, what they look like on the scans, and when they are cause for concern.

She identified mine (with 98% certainty) as a fibroadenoma, a kind of benign tumor, and told me they are the most common kind of tumor in women my age. Given it’s smaller size, the recommended approach to dealing with it is to measure it every 4 months for 2 years to see if it grows. If it grows, it could be a sign that it isn’t a fibroadenoma after all but a different kind of tumor that could be cancerous. All that to say, it’s something we need to keep an eye on.

How unpredictable life is… we really aren’t in control of much. I had walked into that doctor’s office with a list of exactly three things she could have said to me: you have a certain kind of benign tumor, you have a malignant tumor, or you are healthy. She didn’t say any of those things. She went off the board, and I left with a diagnosis of a different kind of benign tumor in a place we weren’t even “supposed” to be examining.

As I drove home, I marveled. Because I knew God was behind all this – the minor symptom that didn’t really bother me? He put it there so my doctor would feel the need to order imaging tests. And those imaging tests were God’s way of guiding us to the real problem at hand – a tumor we never would have known existed without the tests. And if this “probably benign” tumor turns out to be cancerous, we will have caught it early, all because God revealed it to us.

God is so personally involved in everythingWe may feel thrown for a loop or caught of guard, but He never is. He is always skillfully guiding us through this life, orchestrating every detail of our lives for our good and His glory.

 

Spiritual Legacy: He Provides

I’ve never had a full-time job. As in, NEVER.

I guess that’s what happens when you marry an “established” man before you graduate college. Elian had a great job that met our needs. I finished my degree a year after we said, “I do,” working part-time along the way.

Once I graduated, our plan was to have children with whom I would stay home relatively soon. So hunting for a full-time gig was neither necessary nor wise at that point. I continued part-time work for a couple of years until I was 8.5 months pregnant with our first child. I took the last month of the pregnancy off and birthed an amazing little person in April, 2007, fully intending to stay home with her.

Lexi Baby

The more we thought about it, Elian and I came to the conclusion that my paltry part-time paycheck wasn’t so dispensable after all. I mean, we could make it, but it would be jeggings tight.

So we decided right after Lexi was born I would look for something part-time to give us some wiggle room. It helped both first-time grandmothers wanted nothing more than to babysit their little darling while I worked.

Summer started, and I had no idea what kind of work to look for. And, frankly, I wasn’t in the frame of mind to tackle a job search. Don’t get me wrong – my heart delighted in the gift of my precious daughter. I was completely and utterly in love with her.

But.

She wasn’t much of a sleeper and thought nursing was something she should do EVERY TWO HOURS FOR THREE MONTHS STRAIGHT. And, as any woman who has nursed a child will tell you, that equates to approximately 8 minutes of sleep each day for mommy. And that is a generous estimate. Add to that the mystery “colic” she had, which really means she was inconsolable for no apparent reason, and I was moments away from being committed.

Throw in a job search with the interviews and the “showering” and the whatnot, and all I could do was imagine my sarcastic response to a potential employer’s question like what are my “strengths” … I AM ALIVE AND SO IS MY CHILD. WINNING.

So, you see, I wasn’t feeling the whole work thing. I just wasn’t there physically or emotionally, and every time I looked at that little baby – 4 weeks old, then 6 weeks old, then 8 weeks old – I thought the same thing: she’s too little for me to leave her for work.

And yet. The financial wiggle room. It wasn’t there.

The days went on, and we continued to float along, wondering what we should do.

Then, mid-summerish, some friends came to visit us. At the time, they were our daughter’s appointed guardians if something were to happen to me and Elian. So they came into town to meet their possible future new addition. We visited a good long while, had some lunch, watched the baby’s every fascinating move.

Then they handed us an envelope. Obviously, I knew what it was – a congratulations-on-the-new-baby card. But it felt different in my hands.

It felt… thick.

It probably has a folded, hand-written note in it, I thought.

I pulled the card out and read the front. I don’t recall what it said, but I remember what happened next.

As I opened the card, $20 bills came falling out. More bills than I could count. My eyes filled with tears as the realization set in that many hundreds of dollars were sitting in front of me.

Overwhelmed, I searched our friends’ faces for an explanation. It went something like this, “We hope this small gift will help you be able to stay home just a little longer with Lexi.”

The Lord… through His people… I’m telling you… He provides.

I did stay home, worry-free, for several more months. As is the case with most colicky babies, once she turned three months old, all was right in the world. No more countless hours of crying. She slowed her roll and learned how to give me 3-4 hours between feedings, which meant my 8 minutes of sleep/day DOUBLED. I started to feel more human again. A part-time job fell in my lap. And I didn’t kill anyone.

The Lord… through His people… I’m telling you… He provides. 

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33)

Spiritual Legacy: My Second and Third Colleges

It’s been awhile since I wrote about my first year in college, but you may remember that I was somewhat dissatisfied with the college I chose to attend.  (The sarcasm, it is thick and heavy like the quilt your grandma made for cold winter nights in the cabin your grandpa made with his own two hands.  Or something.)

Halfway through the semester, I told my parents I was still certain I wanted to transfer.  My church in Memphis was affiliated with a small school, Crichton College, that had a Bible degree.  I didn’t know much about it except that a handful of people I respected were either going there or had graduated from there.  And that was enough of an incentive for me to want to check it out.

Deutsch: Logo der University of Memphis
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But my parents weren’t very excited about the idea.  They didn’t want me to transfer to another small, liberal arts school, only to decide I didn’t like it, as was the case with Lambuth.  They told me to pick a large state school, and be done with it.  I wasn’t thrilled, but because I was going to be living with my parents and still somewhat on their dime, I enrolled at the University of Memphis for my sophomore year.

My second college worked out better than my first.  For starters, my friend and I helped start a branch of Campus Crusade for Christ, so I got to be involved with some strong Christians right from the start.  Secondly, I was back at my home church and fully involved in the college group there.  It did my soul good to be in rich Christian fellowship again.

Academically, however, I was struggling at U of M.  They didn’t have a Bible degree.  They didn’t even have a Religious Studies degree.  So, in the name of getting a “useful” degree, I started on a business track.  And I hated it.  I was taking a bunch of brainless gen eds, of course, and the business courses were painfully boring.  I had zero interest in the corporate world.  By the end of sophomore year, I knew I had to make a change.  My sanity depended on it.

I started looking into Crichton College again, even though my parents were staunchly against a second transfer.  I had a full scholarship at U of M, but if I were to transfer to Crichton, I’d have to foot the hefty bill myself.  I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to do that, but I was desperate.

(image via prlog.org)

I applied to Crichton late in the summer of 2003.  It was a long shot given my applying so late in the game.  Admissions informed me the only way to get more than half of my tuition paid for was to participate in the honors program.  Extra classes, extra work, extra community service.

One week before classes started, the dean of the honors program called me for an interview.  As I entered his office, I noticed his college diploma on the wall.  Lambuth University.  Aye.

I took a deep breath, sat down, and told him my story.  He listened.  And God worked.  I left with a full scholarship.

The first week of school the admissions counselor I had been working with called me into her office.  When I got there, she began to tell me about her weekend.  “I was at church on Sunday, and every year before school starts, our small group prays for those of us who work in education.  I shared your story with my group, leaving out your name, of course, and, afterward, a Fed Ex pilot asked me, ‘Does this girl have enough money for books?’  I told him I wasn’t sure, and he told me to give you this.”  The counselor handed me an envelope.  I opened it to find $200 in cash.

Who carries that kind of cash to church?

Who gives that kind of cash to a complete stranger?

What kind of God prompts His follower to do such an outrageous thing?

The kind of God of whom it is said, “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

The two and a half years I spent at Crichton College were unquestionably the most formative years of my walk with the Lord.  While I grew immensely in my knowledge of Him, I grew even more in my experience of Him.  I wasn’t just surviving, trying to earn a degree that would benefit me in the future.  Every day had purpose, drawing me closer to Him.

Spiritual Legacy: My First College

As high school drew to a close, I knew two things about my future:

  1. I wanted to play soccer in college
  2. I wanted to study the Bible in college

I used my human intellect – not the power of prayer or the resources of godly people around me – to choose a college.  My lack of ability on the soccer field narrowed down the choices some.  I was not going to play at a high level; I needed a small school that didn’t require tryouts.  Turns out there are a lot of schools that fit that bill.  But when I added the second parameter – must have Bible degree available – the list got much shorter.

Unfortunately, as a new believer, I was unable to discern a good Bible program from a bad one.  I didn’t know what questions to ask or what standards to have.  I ended up choosing a little private school, Lambuth University, that was only an hour and half away from Memphis.  They paid half of my tuition and let me join the soccer team.  They were affiliated with a mainstream denomination, and they had a degree called “Religious Studies”.  This all sounded great to me.

I knew something was wrong my first week on campus.

Athletes moved in a week before the rest of the student body for summer workouts.  The talk on the field and around the cafeteria tables all centered on partying and sleeping around.  I kept quiet, confused as to why people who were not concerned with living for Christ would attend a Christian school on purpose…  I decided they were probably there for one of the reasons I was – they weren’t good enough athletes to play elsewhere.

I held out hope that the rest of the student body – the kids who weren’t forced to pick a small, Christian school just so they could play sports – would be different.  They weren’t.

Campus ministries were poorly attended.  The chapel was bare.  And very few people seemed to have a heartbeat for Christ.

I attended my Bible classes with great anticipation, eager to learn more about this book that was transforming me.  While my professors taught us what the Bible said, they also asserted they didn’t believe what was written in it.  They presented it as fiction or opinion, but never as truth.  Daily I’d leave those classes appalled at what I was hearing.  Universalism.  Mythicism.  Heresy.

The evil – and that isn’t too strong of a word – was thick in the air.  (Whenever anyone preaches a false doctrine and tries to pass it off as biblical, that is evil.)  I did my best to seek out other believers, but I failed.  I won’t say there weren’t any, but I never found any to connect with.  And knowing that I had a great church back home and a college group I would love being a part of didn’t help.  I wanted out.  I needed out.

I think the first time I spoke of transferring was in September.  But the soccer team needed me (in the loosest sense of the word – they only had 3 subs).  So I set my heart on transferring in December.  I talked to my parents about it, as they were paying the other half of my tuition.

I’m still not sure exactly why, but my dad wanted me to stay at Lambuth.  He wanted me to pick one school and stick with it.  Even though it was costing him $8k/yr.  Maybe part of the problem was I didn’t really know where else I wanted to go.  I just knew I didn’t want to stay at Lambuth.

My parents told me to at least finish my freshman year before making any decisions to transfer.  Maybe they thought I was just a little homesick and needed more time to get comfortable.  But that second semester was no better.  I knew when I went home for the summer that I’d never go back.

It’s been a decade since that year of my life, and I still look back on it as a dark time.  A lot of days (and nights) it was just me and my Bible, trying to make sense of why God had led me to “the desert”.  I might not ever know for sure, but having no friends, no car, no money, and no local church, at the very least, I learned to do life with “just” God.  I read the Bible every day and grew in my knowledge of it.  When my professors taught a theology that didn’t sound right, I learned how to figure out why it wasn’t right biblically.

My freshman year was a time of intense growth, albeit painful growth.  And maybe that was part of the lesson God was trying to teach me – growth isn’t always fun or easy, but, take heart, for I am with you.

Spiritual Legacy: A Passion is Born

As a former skeptic, when I became a believer in high school, I was insanely focused on knowing why I believed what I believed.  For my own sense of security, I needed to discover the facts behind the doctrine I was being taught at church.

So I dove into the Bible.  I read.  And I had questions.  Lots of questions.

God knew that would be the case, so He strategically placed some knowledgeable people in my life to help me understand what the Bible was saying and why it was saying it.

Remember that youth pastor, Darryl, that showed up the same day I did at Central Church?  We hit it off, and he discipled me my first year at Central.  That means he took the time to teach me about God one on one.  Because I was a senior in high school, that was the only year I got with Darryl.  And, you know by now, I don’t consider our paths crossing a coincidence.

My time learning from Darryl was crucial to solidifying my faith.  A lot of people make decisions to believe in Christ, but they fall by the wayside, never fully developing an understanding of the Bible or Christianity because no one is there to take them under their wing and teach them.  But the Lord was gracious to me and placed two such people in my life that year.

image via Tyndale.com

The other guy, Stephen, was the intern for our youth group.  He had a ton of Bible knowledge in part because his dad, a pastor, is a walking Bible.  But Stephen was also a college student studying Biblical Studies and Theology at the time, so he was game for any question I could throw at him.  We exchanged many book-long emails discussing the finer points of free will, predestination, and the meanings of words in the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts.  I learned a lot.  Perhaps the most important thing I learned was, as Josh McDowell says, “Never has an individual been called upon to commit intellectual suicide in trusting Christ as Savior and Lord” (More Than a Carpenter).

If my junior year of high school was the year I discovered Jesus, my senior year was the year I discovered my passion for the Bible.  And that passion would infiltrate the rest of my life.

Spiritual Legacy: Getting Over My Fear of Church

After I decided Jesus was legit, and after I started reading the Bible some, the next logical step was for me to start attending a church. (Logical to the believers around me, that is; the concept was lost on me for quite awhile).

But that idea terrified me.  So I spent the next 5 months refusing to go.  My friends would invite me, my stomach would knot up, and I would reject the offer, over and over again.

I was afraid of church.

I was afraid that all the other kids in the youth group would already know everything in the Bible.  I was afraid they’d been learning the stories from birth, and I’d stick out like a sore thumb.  I was scared I might be called on to read from the Bible or to answer a question about a Bible story, and I just couldn’t risk that kind of humiliation.

I was also afraid that when it came time to leave Sunday school and attend service that I’d have no one to sit with.  I imagined that all youth group kids went and sat with their perfect little families during the service.  I didn’t have a family to sit with, and I didn’t want to be any other family’s third wheel.

But God knew these fears would keep me from going to church.  So He eliminated them.

Not in some hocus pocus kind of way, but in a practical way.

When I grew brave enough to tell my friends why I was afraid of church, they were able to address my concerns. After many conversations, they finally convinced me that Sunday school was not an environment where everyone knew more than me about the Bible.  On the contrary, it was a non-threatening environment with 80+ kids, and I wouldn’t be expected to say a word.  Fear number one eliminated.

Also, turns out the group of kids that I had been hanging out with all went to church without their families.  (I don’t believe in coincidences.  God had this in His plan as He guided my parents to move me to Memphis instead of Alaska, to enroll me in the 8th grade instead of the 9th, and to put me in the Collierville school district instead of the Houston school district.)

My church friends either had parents that went to different churches, or they all went to the same church but didn’t sit together during the service.  Most of the youth group kids sat together, as opposed to with their individual families.  My friends didn’t even drive to the church with their parents; they drove themselves.   Fear number two eliminated.

I was really left without any valid reason to avoid church any longer.  In May, 2000, my friend, Jonathan, who “just happened” to live on my street, picked me up for my first day at church.  We drove across town and picked up Chris, and we headed to Central Church.

I was indescribably nervous (yet, here I am describing) as I walked into the Senior High area.  There were more kids than I could count, and there were adults hugging and shaking hands with each student as they entered the room.  It appeared that these kids and these adults had relationships….on purpose…and the kids liked it…how foreign to most teenagers.  And then it occurred to me, “Oh no, they are going to realize I am new.”  I didn’t want any attention drawn to me, so I tried to pretend like I’d been there before.  I played the part, shook their hands, smiled, and walked through the door.

Knowing these adults all these years later, I am certain that they were aware that it was my first time that day.  They care enough about people to notice that kind of thing.  But they didn’t make me feel new.  They didn’t ask me one hundred questions or make the mistake of saying, “I’ve never seen you here before!  What’s your story?!”  They let me come in, sit down, and take it all in.  Perfect.

When Sunday school began, three of my friends stood up in front with their acoustic guitars and led us in some songs.  I had no idea there were guitars at church!  I was excited.  Music consumed much of my life back then, so they were speaking my language.  I didn’t know any of the songs they were singing, but I liked them well enough.

After worship Don Gilbert stood in front of the youth group and introduced the new youth pastor, Darryl Lawler.  Darryl spoke for a few minutes, and I was immediately drawn to him.  His sincerity, his love, his joy.  In short, I was drawn to Jesus in Darryl.  It was fitting that Darryl and I were both there for the first time that Sunday.  He would become a key part of my spiritual growth that year.

After I survived Sunday school, my friends and I headed over to the sanctuary for service.  We walked into a massive worship center and sat down.  I watched as families filled the pews, thankful to be able to sit with my friends.  I don’t remember any particulars about the service, but, clearly, I survived that too.

That first visit to a church was a critical step in my spiritual formation.  I went back the next week.  And the next.  Eventually, I met my husband at that church, I was employed at that church, my kids were born at that church (not AT that church, but you know what I mean), my oldest goes to preschool at that church, and I now teach the Bible at that church.

Fear almost kept me from all of this.  Praise God He helped me overcome that fear by using just the right people at just the right time.