I have a love-hate relationship with the “Memories” feature on Facebook.
There’s the hate side: “Did I really think that was a good outfit choice?” or “How was college
that long ago?” or “All the children need to stop growing up so fast!”
But there’s also the love side. Memories of family vacations or nights out with friends or encouraging ministry moments.
This past week, a photo popped up and, boy, did the memories ever flood in! I was reminded that three years ago I was in the midst of one of the most difficult seasons of my life. Those of you who were in service on Mother’s Day heard me share some of that story.
I was at a crossroads. I sensed God was calling me to a new ministry role, but wasn’t sure just yet what that was. I’d just gotten wind from a friend that her church in Texas was still accepting applicants for a new Children’s Pastor. I was prayerfully considering applying for the position, but didn’t want to act out of haste rather than out of the Holy Spirit’s leading.
My folks sensed I wasn’t doing well, and my mom decided to fly out for the weekend. It wound up being cheaper for Mama to fly into O’Hare than Indianapolis, which was fine with both of us since we love Chicago.
So, on a Saturday morning, I trekked out to pick Mama up. The airport wasn’t too crazy and we were able to duck out in a decent amount of time.
We stopped to shop a little and grab lunch. While we were out, I received a phone call from the Senior Pastor of the Texas church and he encouraged me to get my application in ASAP. I knew from the moment I talked with him that this indeed was where the Holy Spirit was leading and I needed to freshen up my résumé.
About an hour or so later, my sweet Mama started having some pretty severe abdominal pain and it only got worse. We ended up deciding to take her to the Emergency Room, since as far as we could tell every Urgent Care in the greater Chicago area closed at 3 p.m.
I’m glad we did because the hospital ended up admitting Mom overnight. Mom has a history of GI issues and so the hospital staff wasn’t messing around.
Let’s back up a few steps and make the story a little crazier. I was scheduled to baptize two elementary-aged girls the next morning at my church back in Indianapolis. After deliberating with Mama and – via phone – my dad back in Oregon, we decided I needed to drive back to Indianapolis so I could be present for their baptisms. Mama’s pain had radically subsided by this point and she was now comfortably resting in her room.
So, around 9:15 p.m. Chicago time, I hopped back in my car and drove the 3-hour trip to Indy. I arrived home at 2 a.m. Indiana time. I know it sounds crazy, but I did not want to miss this sacred moment with these sweet girls, who had invited me into their faith journeys by asking me to officiate their baptisms!
I rolled out of bed 7 a.m. Sunday morning, got ready and headed into church. I sat in our Early Childhood Center offices wrapping up a few final Sunday morning details when I heard a massive
BOOM and watched as all the electricity in the church suddenly shut off, the emergency lights flickered on, and the alarm system began beeping in discomfort.
A quick investigation showed that the transformer powering our church was smoking, falling victim to a squirrel … who, in a cruel twist, fell victim to an electrical surge.
After some deliberation, our staff decided it wasn’t safe to host services in a pitch-black building and we needed to cancel. It wasn’t an easy call, but we had no idea when power would be restored.
I’m going to be honest. My first thought was, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” These sweet girls had worked so diligently preparing their hearts for baptism. Their families had traveled in from out of town. Even I’d spent hours in the car to ensure I’d be back in time for the morning.
Enter the Hydro Rush.
What’s a Hydro Rush you ask? Well, it’s a massive backyard water toy – a pool base with a slide and a sprinkler soaker. It’s a great thing to set up if it is a 79-degree day in Indianapolis and you’ve got a ton of families coming over to celebrate your daughter’s baptism.
And – incidentally – it became a great thing in which to actually
do a baptism.
One of the girls’ moms had the brilliant idea to host a “Backyard Baptism” and invited the other family to be a part. After planning in the church parking lot, we decided to reconvene at this family’s house in an hour and a half.
I grabbed everything I could think of to help this baptism feel as true to form as it would have at the church – baptismal robes, the plush terry cloth robes we let folks wear afterwards, baptism certificates … loaded up my car and joined the family at their home.
What transpired next felt like a glimpse of Heaven right here on earth. The girls’ dads read their testimonies, my high school intern prayed over the girls, and I officiated the baptisms – right there in the Hydro Rush! The girls publicly declared their faith for Jesus in front of family and friends, in a pool of freezing cold hose water.
After the baptism, I headed
back to Chicago to pick my mom up from the hospital. We checked into a local hotel and, just before we called it a night, I submitted my application to Parkgate Community Church.
Friends, if someone had told me that weekend that three years from now I’d be living in Texas (as would my brother and his family), serving in a life-giving ministry role and engaged to be married, I’d have told them they were absolutely bonkers.
Even as I felt tangled in the thorns of life, experiencing a wide swath of emotion, God was at work pruning and shaping my life into something new, something I couldn’t even begin to imagine.
I don’t know where you’re at as you read this today – but I want to reassure you that whether you’re in the thorns or reaping the benefits of the harvest, God’s with you. And he isn’t stagnant – he’s a constant gardener, cultivating and caring for your life even if you can’t quite see the growth yet.
Who knows? Three years from today, you might find yourself looking at a Facebook memory and thinking, “Wow, God did all that while I wasn’t even looking!”
I leave you with the words of Philippians 1:6 from
The Living Bible translation: "And I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns."