This week I shared a bit more of my story on my church’s Spiritual Formation blog. You can follow the link to see the post, or read the text below.
This is my (Crazy) Story…Crazy for God
God is calling me to Ministry. I am not sure exactly what that means yet, but I know it is true. And I have been wrestling with it and resisting it for a while. I feel the pull in my heart, but my mind is not quite there yet. It doesn’t really make sense to me. I still feel so new to this faith. The whole thing seems a little crazy.
I did not grow up in church. I was baptized as a baby, and I remember attending one Sunday School class in first grade. And that’s about it. As a teenager, I attended some services with friends and with my grandparents. But I was always uncomfortable in an itchy dress, afraid I would sit or stand at the wrong time or say the wrong thing. I have lived a very secular life.
Sometime in my early 30s, after a conversation with friends about religion, I asked my husband, “What does it mean to be a Christian?”
And he answered, “Well for one thing, it means that you believe Jesus is the Son of God.”
And I remember thinking “What?! Seriously?! That’s really crazy! Do people really believe that?! Do you believe that?!”
My curiosity was piqued.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I was really sick and I had to quit my job. I did not have many friends locally other than work friends, so suddenly I was isolated. I was lonely and afraid. I felt like I was supposed to do it all on my own and I had no idea how to do that. And then I felt a Presence, an overwhelming sense of love and peace and strength, a hand on my shoulder saying, “I am here. You are not alone.”
That’s when I began my journey toward Christ.
When my oldest daughter was three years old, we started looking at Preschools. We checked out Creative Learning Center (CLC) here at FUMC Grapevine, but I was unsure. It was an older building; no computers in the classrooms; it was not bright and shiny like the competition. But my husband, Rick, knew it was right….because of the smell. Yes, the smell. It reminded him of his church and his Sunday School. And because of the teachers and the old buildings. It seemed a little crazy to me, but he knew. So we trusted. And it was good. It was very good.
Once we decided on CLC, we decided to check out the Worship Services here. We had wanted to find a church home, but never seemed to start the search. The first service we attended here was on Easter 2007. The head pastor, Ken Diehm, handed out orange bracelets that read, “Do all things without complaining.” (Philippians 2:14)
“What? All things?”, my mind exclaimed.
Again, I thought, “Wow! This Christian thing is really radical, because that is crazy!”
But Rev. Rick Mang played the guitar and Pastor Ken gave his amazing sermons and we kept coming. So the following Easter, a year later, I mentioned to Rick that maybe we should join the church. But he said he was not quite sure yet.
So I suggested, “Well, if we are not ready to join this church, maybe we should keep looking.”
He responded, “I don’t want to look at other churches. I like this church.”
And we joined.
In the meantime, not only was the Preschool great for my daughter, but it was great for me too. I was home with my youngest daughter, who was one, and I was still sick with a lot of food sensitivities and probably some undiagnosed depression. Pickup time was the only adult conversation and interaction I had all day. Those few minutes on the front lawn of the Preschool with other tired mamas were the highlight of my day. And then one day, a fellow mama mentioned the Bible Study class she took with Kenda Diehm, Ken’s wife. I was curious, but I did not own a Bible. So I went to Mardel and asked a lot of questions about the different versions and bought myself a cute pink women’s devotional Bible. I was ready.
I had never studied the Bible before. I had never even read the Bible before. Kenda was starting a study on Exodus, which was handy for me. I just had to read Genesis, one book, and I would be caught up. So I started reading. And I have to say, I was truly shocked to see that Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was really a story in the Bible. I had always heard the story, but I never knew that it was really scripture. Wow! Again, I thought, “This Christian thing is kind of crazy.”
The Creation story tripped me up a bit too. I had been raised on evolution and never considered another option. My aunt came to visit from a small town out of state and wanted to go to a “megachurch”, so we went to a service at one of the larger churches in the area. The sermon was about Creation, and I remember being shaken.
“Can’t we just ease into this a bit? Do we have to start with believing that God created the entire world? That seems like a big leap for a beginner. It’s a bit crazy.”
So another year goes by, and I’ve been in worship services listening to the Ministry Moments talk about needing Children’s Sunday School teachers. I had been volunteering at my daughter’s school and was really enjoying it. I was interested in working with the kids at church, but I didn’t have much biblical knowledge. (I was only through the first two books at this point!) But after two years of listening to the plea, I finally said, “Yes”. Again this seemed a bit crazy. How would I teach kids about the Bible when I knew so little about it? But the ad in the video said, “You just have to be willing.” Okay, I am willing.
I started ‘teaching’ my daughter’s Kindergarten class, but I had to demote myself to Preschool when it became glaringly obvious that the Kindergartners knew more than me. It was around Easter and we were playing a trivia game, but there were only questions, no answers. As teachers, we were supposed to know these ‘easy’ kindergarten facts. One of the questions was about the Garden of Gethsemane. I didn’t know the answer. I didn’t know what it was, and I certainly didn’t know how to pronounce it. Luckily, I was team-teaching with someone who knew the answers. So I demoted myself to Preschool the next fall, and taught my youngest daughter’s four year-old class every Sunday for a year. Consequently, most of what I know about the Bible I learned in Preschool Sunday School as a 40 year old.
As I read the stories and the lessons each week, 90% of the time it was the first time I had heard the story. I had to look up each one to learn who the author was and the context of the story. But in addition to learning Bible stories, I also learned that God was giving me the ability to see the message in a story or a situation. And God gave me the ability to explain that message so others could understand.
This was the beginning of my ministry. God equipped me to share biblical truths, in spite of my lack of knowledge and lack of experience. It was crazy.
I taught children’s Sunday School for a few more years. I also helped with Children’s Choir. I love helping children worship and praise God. I’ve helped with VBS. Again, I love helping children discover God and fall in love with Jesus.
And then recently, I’ve moved into Adult Ministry, which is much harder for me, much scarier. Kids are pretty forgiving, but that’s not always true with adults. Most of us want to be forgiving and full of grace but we are so busy and overscheduled and tired to truly be kind. We don’t really have time for inexperience. So I have been more guarded. I have been resistant to ‘Leading’ or ‘Teaching’ adults, not believing that I have anything of value to share, not wanting to waste their precious time.
But I still love helping others discover and draw closer to God. I love Spiritual Formation, which teaches us how to be quiet and listen; to create space in our lives and in our hearts for God to do amazing work.
And now I’m being called to this big scary thing. This crazy, radical thing. To create space in my life for God to mold me. To create space in my heart for God to do amazing work. To just say “Yes”. To follow.
My word last year was ‘Surrender’, but I was in denial for the first part of the year. I told everyone that my word was ‘Faith’, which is a much more gentle word. I knew it was to be ‘Open’ and ‘Trust’. So I’ve been praying and worshipping with my hands open, hoping that my heart will follow the example. Open to Receive, Open to Give, Open to Trust that God is big enough.
Mid-year I finally admitted to myself that my word was really ‘Surrender’. That’s a tough word. It’s a radical word. But it is what God calls us to do.
This year my word is ‘Confidence’. Confidence in God, Confidence in myself, Confidence in the work God has already done in me, Confidence in the work God will continue to do in me.
As I surrender to my call and gain confidence in God’s equipping, I will start Seminary in the fall at Brite Divinity School (TCU) so I can continue my crazy, radical journey toward Christ.
This is my crazy story, this is my crazy song, praising my Savior all the day long.
Dear Loving and Faithful God,
Nurturing Mother and Father,
Almighty Lord of Lords –
Thank you for being a radical God. Thank you for helping me follow You even when it seems crazy. Please continue to give me the confidence to surrender to Your will and Your path. And thank You for Your unending patience when I resist.
Please catch me when I fall, and guide me when I fly.
In Jesus holy name I pray,