Ministry. What is ministry? In my humble opinion it is a fancy word for doing life with people. Anyone can have ministry, in any season of life, and it usually in my experience tends to go both ways. My personal ministry has ebbed & flowed over the last decade from teenagers to toddlers, to now toddlers and teenagers. What a refining ride it is!Ten years ago I graduated from college in Raleigh, North Carolina from NCSU where I led Young Life at Apex High School. As a recent high school grad and freshman at Meredith College I started the process of becoming a Young Life leader and for the first time in my life quickly learned that life wasn’t all about me and what I wanted. I was given the vision that I could actually have a higher purpose than waking up every morning aimless. I could indeed mentor the girls just a few years behind me since I had just recently walked in their shoes. I will never forget the first time I went on the high school’s campus as a new YL leader. I was nervous, wondering what they would think of me, a college student who just finally got out of high school returning by choice. Clearly they would wonder what my deal was.
Fast forward 5 years when I left Raleigh, married to my best friend who I dated for the same amount of time, with a bunch of new friendships that started at that very high school with initially awkward hellos. Soon Ben & I went off to our new assigned location of Hickory, NC as newlywed YL staff, both expectant and anxious about all the Lord would do in our new season of ministry together. We bought our first house, started YL at a new high school, and even found out were due with our first baby! I was a couple of years into grad school in Charlotte working on my Masters in Counseling when our world turned a bit upside down. This was in 2008, just after the economy took a downward spiral. Ministry was slow, finances became tight, marriage got tough, and bringing home a tiny bundle felt a bit overwhelming. In an effort to ease the area’s staff load, focus on finishing school before baby, and to take a breather from high school ministry, I shifted roles in YL. It wasn’t long after this that Ben also had to step off staff for a year and work for a church. We began to name this season our ‘desert experience’. We were wandering in many ways, but also had a deep peace we couldn’t explain. We were longing for the promised land, which to us at the time meant being back on staff, in the only normal we had known. We both felt disoriented and as if our whole framework of ministry had slipped away out of our grasp. So we waited.
I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 when I think about this point of our marriage & ministry. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
So we had a season where we both stepped off staff for a season, and though it may have been short, it served a vital role in the longevity of our future ministry with Young Life. Within a year, through much self-reflection and spiritual direction, it become evident that we were indeed called to go back on YL staff as a family. Our first baby boy Grady was toddling around and became my main form of ministry as Ben loved on both us & high schoolers in our area through our church and YL. We were relearning how to do life together in a new season where our daily ministry looked different, when we felt the call to find a new area to interview when one came available. In 2010, we moved to Lake Norman for Ben to join the YL staff team and to continue growing our family. I graduated from seminary, passed the counseling exam, and fully embraced the ministry of motherhood. Currently in 2016 we have 3 little ones, 10 years of staff behind us, and I have stepped back into volunteer leading at Hough High School. We are yet again learning what it looks like to do ministry now as a family, in a new even fuller season of life! It is messy y’all! & so far I can honestly say it feels like we are just where we are supposed to be.
Looking back over the timeline of our ministry so far it feels like a long, full decade of messy, yet glorious relationships. I would not erase any part of our journey, except maybe the house buying part that we finally short sold 3 years after moving, weeks before our 3rd baby was born! What a wild ride, like I mentioned before! I count it an honor to be entering a new season now of building relationships with underclassman girls at Hough. I have the gift now of seeing what all happens over years of ministry and the fruit that comes over time. My heart is expectant and giddy for all I will learn in the humbling dependence it requires to let the Lord guide me through loving others right where they are. Remember earlier I said it’s two way! The whole process and experience teaches me so much about our Maker. This is where the peace is found: trusting in our Creator who made us & that He loves us all enough that He would have our best interest in mind, even when our own illusions of control fall apart. Believing that He will provide for our daily needs, in sometimes mind-blowing ways, & walking in that HOPE! & all the while getting to BE with beautiful, beloved daughters of our King.