Let's review. Over the course of a decade I have:
- served as a Youth Director for a Presbyterian church
- led recreational events for Vacation Bible School
- organized national and international mission trips
- written devotionals for monthly church newsletters
- taught Sunday School classes and led year-long Bible studies
- walked labyrinths
- attended a slumber party with orphan girls in the Dominican Republic
- mixed concrete with a shovel to help build a wall around a home in Brazil
- gutted homes in post-Katrina New Orleans
- performed a liturgical dance in front of a thousand people at a Music & Worship Conference
- taught 5th grade to refugee children
- "read" to at-risk youth in Spanish and Portuguese
- been a Small Group Leader for a group of 25 teenagers at week long retreat
- volunteered at local soup kitchens, nursing homes, and Salvation Army
- served communion to hundreds of adults at a retreat
- cooked numerous dinners for the homeless at Hospitality House
- acted as Mary in the live nativity scene
- served as lay reader multiple times
- installed siding on a post-Katrina house
- organized weekly games, science experiments, and crafts for homeless children
I have been broken and healed by God over and over throughout my life. There are times I have turned away from Christ and many more times when I have turned towards Him.
Growing up in a Christian home, it wasn’t until the age of 11 when my father died that I began to question my relationship with Christ. My father’s unexpected death caused me to doubt everything I was taught about a God of love and grace. I was left asking the hard questions at a young age.
In the years that followed, God opened doors of opportunity for me to grow in my faith. Two years after my dad’s passing, I attended my first Montreat Youth Conference. I had not been involved in a youth group at the time, but at the last moment I was invited to attend by a friend. Her simple invitation ended up igniting a new and passionate relationship with Christ. My Small Group Leader at Montreat led a devotional on a verse from Proverbs 3 that quickly became my mantra.Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
That scripture was exactly what I needed at that moment. From that point forward, I recited this verse with each obstacle I faced, which caused a dramatic shift in my beliefs. I learned that it’s not my job to understand why things happen. As a Christian, my job is to surrender to God and allow Him to guide me.
My high school and college years were spent immersing myself among strong faith-based communities. My beliefs were challenged and strengthened through work as a Youth Director, participating in a year-long Disciple Bible study, and serving my neighbors through mission trips to New Orleans, California, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic. When my mother passed away my senior year of college, I had established a strong faith and community of believers to hold me up. Rather than separate myself from God, I turned to Him for comfort and peace.
In recent years, I have felt closest to God while pregnant. The ability to conceive a child, feel their movements, and hear that precious heart beating within my own body is truly a miracle. Only God could design a woman’s body to create life. Having a natural childbirth with my son allowed me to experience a unique part of creation. Becoming a mother comes with the momentous responsibility of teaching my child to love God, through both my words and actions.
After months of being on a spiritual high as a new mother, my faith completely shattered with the devastating news that my next pregnancy ended in miscarriage. In that unforgettable moment in which the doctor informed me there was no longer a heartbeat, Proverbs 3 could not console me. How could I trust in a God that would allow my child to die? Why should I rely on Him to guide me when I’ve been led to yet another loss? If God could bring Lazarus from the dead, why couldn’t he keep my child alive? I felt betrayed and abandoned.
But I was never alone. Though I was bitter and angry in the months that followed, God never left my side. He was constantly present through loved ones and strangers. God spoke to me through the voices of my sisters. God held me through the hands of nurses in the operating room. God continued to reach out to me through conversations with friends, support from family, and the members of Newell. And through my personal devastation, I became a light and comfort to others who experienced similar losses in the subsequent months.
As Christians, we are told that we will have suffering in this world (John 16:33). We were given free will and can make the choice to either run towards or away from God. As you all know, I have since given birth to three more miracles and I am constantly in awe of the wondrous works God is creating in my life. I cannot predict what the future holds. I know I will have my shares of joys and heartaches. There will be unanswered questions. I simply pray for the wisdom and strength to always seek God’s guidance and mercy.