Fish asked these questions. Of course, he asked the big question first, so I am going to answer in reverse order. Maybe someone will read the entire thing.... =o)
3. Do you collect anything? If you ask the husband, he'll tell you that I have a collection of collections. Currently I collect telephone insulators (but haven't added any in a while) and anything with the Last Supper on it. I am decorating my kitchen in the "Last Supper." A sort of subtle joke, as I don't cook much while I'm in school and a sort of statement about my feelings about communion. If I were to look for a favorite chapter of the Bible, it probably would be I Corinthians 11. Good stuff. Lots of conflict, then lots of comfort for me personally. (favorite verse is Roman 8:28, favorite book John in NT and Eccles in OT). What's your favorite?
2. Is there any stranger that you've encountered that has stayed in your memory forever and why? Several. But currently, I am still thinking about David. I haven't seen him in a while, but I still think about him.
1. When did you decide to become a pastor and how did you come to the decision? (If you have posted on this I may have missed it as I've been a fairly new reader here)
I cannot remember a time in my life when I was not a Christian. I was born in Atlanta in the mid-60's and was raised an Associate Reformed Presbyterian. I grew up in Georgia on a small farm. To this day, I feel strong attachments to the land.
My first brush with the holy occurred when I was very young – a child or about 4 years old, I was an angel in our church’s nativity play on Christmas eve The night of the performance was cold and dark. Our little church didn’t have a narthex -- we had a small vestibule. To get to the vestibule we had to leave the warmth and the light of our Sunday School room and enter into the cold and dark world outside. My father picked me up in his arms and carried me to the front door. We waited in the dark December night for our cue to enter into the sanctuary. When we entered, could feel from the congregation waves of warmth, of love, of reflective contemplation and of worship. There was the smell of the candles and fir, there was a warm glow from the dimmed overhead lights and the candles, there was the silent attention from the congregation and I felt worship. When I said “Glory to God in the Highest”, I glorified my God. We sang Silent Night and I cried from the beauty of it. I still cry at true worship.
I remember understanding the nature of sin and the forgiveness of God when I was 7 years old. I “piddled” in my mother’s makeup, dousing my self with her perfume and lighting a candle on her dresser. When I was discovered playing with fire and my mother’s things, my father showed his own fire. Spanked and sent to my own room, I hid in the closet. I realized that God could see me in my shame, even in the closet. I remembered the prayer my mother had taught me asking God to forgive my sins. I prayed that prayer and left my fear. I had reached the age of accountability. I realized that God could and would forgive me.
I graduated from High School rather early and started to go to the local commuter University in 1977. I went to college for 6 years and never really left home. I stayed at home, taking care of my Grandfather on the death of his wife, and taking care of my father when he retired from working for the county. The Baptist Student Union at the University became the center of my life. It was there that I realized that God loves me and that I am worthy of God’s unconditional love. I learned what unconditional love could be. It was a new experience in some ways. My experience of love through my parents felt always conditional to being the good and dutiful daughter, not deviating from the path they had set in front of me. This realization of God’s unconditional love was my third true epiphany. From this, I become more of the person God meant for me to be. Warmed by God’s love, I became bolder, eventually leading a Praise and Worship team at the BSU, traveling to different Baptist churches, nursing homes and other places to lead worship services. I started teaching a two year cycle of discipleship called Masterlife sponsored by the Baptist church. My experiences of God’s love transformed me. I felt called to the ministry In 1984, I told my parents that I was going to seminary. My father was adamantly against this. I was told that not only would they not pay, I would not have their support and would not live under their roof if I attended seminary. Not a naturally bold person, I began to doubt my calling. I doubted if I was called to service at all. I prayed, but my prayers tangled in emotions brought about by the response of my parents. If my parents felt this way, did God? That summer I drifted on -- taking a couple of classes in Graduate school, but my heart was not in my studies. I finally decided to get a job.
In the fall of 1984, I went to work at the local science center as a teacher. I slammed the door shut behind me, cutting off all of my old life and carrying nothing forward into my new life as a teacher. I severed ties with most of my friends from my church and college years. I purchased a new car -- candy apple red and turbo-charged. After a couple of years of excesses, I met and married a good man. We both were from Christian homes, but were not especially interested in pursuing a Christian lifestyle. We were conspicuous consumers. After 8 years of marriage, we had a baby. In 1995 my father died. In 1996 my mother moved and the year from hell began.
When my father died, my mother found out that she was going to have a hard time making ends meet. In January 1996 my mother moved herself and my aging grandmother into a new house closer to myself and my husband. She had not fully grieved my father and yet was taking on more burdens. She began to depend on me to help her. By this time, I was expecting my second child. I was disillusioned with my materialistic lifestyle, dissatisfied with my career, and unhappy with leaving my 2 year old to go to work. In March my sister moved into the new house with her small son, unhappy with her own marriage. In April I discovered a tumor in my right breast. I had already gone into pre-term labor, and could not have the tumor removed. Later that month, I helped my mother move my grandmother into a nursing home. My mother spiraled into a deeper depression. She found no joy in life and she leaned on me heavily. She entered the hospital at least twice with pneumonia. In May, my husband’s parents came and stayed with us for a couple of weeks to prepare for the baby. On Mother’s day, J’s mother (my husband’s grandmother) choked to death on a piece of meat that J had prepared. My first born child K witnessed this death and dreams about it still. On the day after the funeral, L was born.
L was a sick little baby. By her second day of life, L was jaundiced and we used Bili-lights with her to break up the toxins in her blood. By her fifth day of life, she was recovering, but I was in shock. That day my sister had called me from the local hospital and asked me to come pick her up. My mother and her husband committed her to the hospital for mood disorders. She begged me to check her out of the hospital. I felt helpless. I remember my prayers from that week were much different than my prayers before. That week I begged. I pleaded. I screamed. I asked for the world to be changed. Eventually exhausted, I prayed by holding and rocking my newborn child and asking for peace. The world was not changed, but I was. I surrendered control. I realized that I could do nothing. I made the decision to pray for God’s will to be done. I prayed not for understanding, but for acceptance. I remembered the story of Job and sat in my ashes, praying to God.
When I got home, I discovered that my mother was defrauded by her builder causing more financial stress. That summer, my sister was hospitalized for depression twice, as well as my mother. That summer, I discovered that my newborn could not be weaned. She came within a few ounces of a condition called “failure to thrive”. All this time, the tumor in my breast grew from the size of a pea to the size of a walnut. I decided to wait for surgery. I trusted that God could find a solution. I know I couldn’t. I prayed. In September, I had the surgery and a large amount of tissue removed. I had lost my job by now -- the school system had me on extended medical leave, but my time had run out. I was at home full time now with my daughters. In early October 1996, I developed a severe wound infection. The wound had to be left open and be dressed daily by visiting nurses for several months. It was during this time I recommitted my life to Jesus Christ. I look at that summer as the catalyst that led me back home. The events of that summer led me on a journey of re-discovery. My husband and I began to attend church regularly. I joined a Disciple I class and rediscovered the joy of studying the Word of God.
There is a quote from William Cullen Bryant that goes: “Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again; Th' eternal years of God are hers” (Battle-Field, 1837). I tried to crush the Spirit of Truth -- but it rose again in me. I remember the call I had in college. I tried to crush it out, but it sprung up from the ground. I remember the faith I had it college. It has changed. I have become more accepting of others. I am not so arrogant to think I can judge who will and who will not come before the throne of Grace.
I look at my life and see that I have a call to serve. Looking deeply and spending time in prayer, I feel that it is a true call. I am a good teacher and enjoy teaching. I counseled many students in my years at the science center, and I am good at it. I can speak in public. Once I considered the years teaching years that the locusts ate, but now see that they were not wasted but fruitful.
Also, the last two years I spent with my mother were well spent -- we had eventually agreed that she and my father were wrong in not encouraging me to attend seminary. She was willing to support me in my decision to apply to seminary. She and I talked a good deal about mortality and the end of life. When she died, she was prepared. I like to think that I helped her in this process. On the way to the hospital the last week of her life, we enumerated the blessings that have come about as a result of the year from hell. The rediscovery of my call is one of the blessings we enumerated.
That's it and thanks for listening! I would love to hear of your story, your faith journey.