Saturday, June 30, 2007

Memory Lane

Listening to Johnny Cash while I'm blogging. The music I listen to affects how I think and write. Before Cash, I was listening to Beethoven during my quiet time for an hour. And after I blog, I'm going for a walk. Not sure what to listen to, but bluegrass might be good. I'm in a bluegrass frame of mind.

I grew up in a small town, so you might say I'm a red neck girl at heart. My parents favored country western music on the radio, especially on weekends. In college, I chose a degree in the College of Ag at the land grant state university, instead of heading out to Seattle's U of W. The big city intimidated me. The wheat fields of the Palouse attracted me. After I was done with school, I was planning to settle down on a small farm, raise a huge garden, have my own chicken coop and lots of dogs. And lots of kids with a husband who liked to work as hard as I did, except when we went fishing or camping. That was my freshman year dream. Johnny Cash reminds me of way back when.

As I progressed spiritually in my early twenties, my freshman year dream was forgotten as I started to dream bigger. Perhaps missions? At that point, missions was a rural idea to me. I don't know where I got it, perhaps from reading about the missionaries to indigenous peoples, and meeting more than a few who were out in the field with SIM. And that was the direction I felt I might be headed until someone told me that a majority of missions are actually targeting large cities. People in rural areas are migrating away from subsistence farming to find work in metropolitan areas. Whoa.

As I was approaching my thirties, I found that my protected small town upbringing had fostered a narrow view of life. I started to pray that God would enlarge my perceptions of Him and of the world. I started to get restless. When God opened doors to Seattle, to my surprise I went. To my parents' surprise as well. At first, I had no plan except to see what God would do in providing a place to live, a church to worship Him in, women to live with, and a place to work. Work was going to be my place of ministry, somehow. Nothing in my collegiate ministry experience taught me how to do that. Collegiate ministry prepped me for collegiate ministry. But you can't do that forever after graduation, even though there were a lot of principles I took away from the experience to apply to my next step in life.

At first I tried to have a ministry through my church. It was going slowly, but surely. After awhile, I realized that everyone was older than I was and a lot more established in our singles group. But it was a good place to learn, and I found peer relationships and older single women who were good mentors at showing me how to have a ministry at work and at home. I was learning about myself through trying to minister in church, and I realized that it took a long time of serving and building relationships to get to the place of making disciples. It was slower than reaching out in college, but it was possible.

I found more open doors among the people I worked with everyday. At least once a week, I had the opportunity to share the Gospel, and everyday I had a chance to talk with someone about spiritual things. It was a blue collar setting, and one I found that I fit in very well into. I was well respected because of my work ethic, and I was praying that God would teach me to be as good a steward as Joseph. I was given more and more responsibility and found favor with the business owners without losing my touch among the production crew.

The production crew was mainly made up of women in their thirties, forties and fifties. I became their boss, but I treated them like older sisters or like my mom. This went over extremely well. The work was mind numbingly boring and repetitive as we prepped vegetables for processing, so we had lots of time to talk. The trick was to have discussions that were lively and thought provoking without being offensive or negative. The ladies had lives outside of work, and didn't like overtime. My boss realized that if he could talk me into coming in on a Saturday morning, a large contingent of the crew would be willing to volunteer to be with me. I didn't know why, it had to be God. And volunteering to bake my famous cookies. I baked a lot of cookies on Friday nights.

That's how I knew I had a ministry--God gave me an amazing cookie recipe and a bunch of women who liked to spend time with me. For awhile, I had a bible study during lunch breaks. But I prayed that God would use me in spontaneous and informal ways.

In the meantime, I was learning how to adapt to a big city lifestyle. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, and I actually enjoyed it. I didn't miss my idea of a farm at all. But I was willing to do whatever God wanted me to do, go wherever He wanted me to go. Even if it meant being single for a long time, and I started to settle into that reality and make plans to be a steward of my career. Right after that resolution and following through with plans to that effect, Dennis started to change from casual but consistent letter writing friend to courting me--I quit dating other guys. After acknowledging some feelings about each other, a month later Dennis announced that he was going to work in California--a complete reversal from his earlier statements that he wanted to find a job in Seattle.

So in two months, I went from lifelong spinster to being courted to being abandoned. Even though I thought Dennis knew how I felt about him, he really didn't. He thought that I wasn't as interested romantically, and anticipated having to take a lot more time to develop our relationship into something serious. Being in California didn't seem to be a problem to him to accomplish that, whereas I saw it as a huge problem. To me, it was over while to him, it was a beginning. It was a huge surprise to him later when he decided to investigate where my true feelings were before his move to California.

He found out that I hated California. And that I loved him. And you know, California wasn't all that bad. (Neither was Atlanta or Denver or Lansing, for that matter.) After we married, we were in the military lifestyle and ministry with women within that context and the church exploded for me. I still don't get it, how slow it was in Seattle compared with the fruitfulness in California. To me, it was one of many affirmations that I was where God wanted me to be.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your story and how God has directed your ministry through the years. Your obedience and willingness to share with others resulted in much fruit and faithfulness: a testimony to His faithfulness!


Althea said...

It helps to remember what God has done previously in my life.It helps me to trust Him now.

Mark Whalon's sermon yesterday (7/8) really got me thinking about how I need to be available to God and willing to serve Him by serving others.