When people ask me where I am from (meaning geographically), I pause for a moment, trying to figure out how to explain where I belong. Then I begin-- “I was born in Mobile, Alabama and lived in Cleveland, Ohio and Dallas, Texas, but I spent most of my growing up years in Minnesota, first in a small town west of the Twin Cities and then in a suburb on the outskirts of Minneapolis.” It’s my standard answer, a rehearsed speech to shed light on why many cannot figure out where I am from based on my accent. When the next question is whether my dad was in the military, I quickly explain that he was in the ministry.
As a kid, I learned to adapt to transition, and while I didn’t love saying goodbye, I learned to value the adventure of new beginnings. Sometimes difficult circumstances in a church precipitated a move; sometimes it was just a longing for something more inside my dad--a desire to see new places, a hope for better career opportunities, and at times the simple need for change. In the midst of their story--one with hard places, strong joys, and lifelong relationships with those they encountered in each place--my parents instilled in me a love for Jesus and His Church.
When it came time for me to graduate high school, I decided to head off to an area of the United States where my family had not lived. Exchanging the 10,000 lakes of Minnesota for hundreds of years of history, I set off for New England where I attended Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. Just after my freshman year of college, my parents decided to move again; this time to much warmer climates. At the end of that school year, I flew home to a city I had never seen. Flying in a much smaller plane than I was used to taking from Boston to Minneapolis, I remember seeing the pine trees dotting the landscape against the contrast of the red Georgia clay. I still remember that moment when I stepped out of the plane for the first time in the Augusta airport. The 1950’s throwback architecture, the southern drawl with its own rhythm to match the pace of life, and the surrounding humidity reminded me I was beginning life again in a new place.
Eventually, I finished my time at Gordon, graduating with a degree in English and a minor in Secondary Education. Had anyone asked me back then, I would have said I was going to be a missional public school teacher until I retired. And, after my semester in Advanced Composition, writing was nowhere on the trajectory of calling I believe the Lord had set in front of me. Then again, after growing up as a pastor’s kid, I hadn’t planned on marrying someone in the ministry either.
But I did. And I love what we do.
When Scott and I talk about how the two of us ended up together, we see the beauty and humor of heaven in it. After all, I liked poetry, he only read non-fiction. I liked CCM artists (it was a long phase in my life), he would rock out to Mad at the World and One Bad Pig. Now there are days when only Stryper can adequately capture my mood, and every so often he quotes one of my favorite poets. Though it still makes its way into one of his sermon reference’s every now and then, I think he’s finally gotten over the fact I shook his hand after our first date (it’s a long story).
Most important, we loved--and still love--Jesus without reserve. And we love His Church.
After twenty plus years in ministry, we’ve had some incredible experiences, and some really painful ones. Ministry isn't easy. But as we’ve come to value being in the trenches with people, we’ve learned a few things:
The Church is complicated, messy and beautiful.
Only the power of the Holy Spirit can restore what has been broken.
Today, Scott and I live in a rural town (still in Georgia) where we get to love those around us and contend for spiritual revival. After spending more than twenty years in youth ministry, we planted InMotion Church in 2013. Church planting, like traditional ministry, isn’t painless or simple, but we consider it a privilege to invest our lives in the people of our community.
These days, I also spend my time writing. Unlike my initial plan, I actually spent more time in private K12 education than I did in the public school, but after the birth of our second child, I stepped aside from teaching for a season to be home with our children. This decision also afforded me the time to concentrate on completing a writing project I had started in a few years earlier. Who Calls Me Beautiful was published in 2004 and again in 2016 with an updated version. Even though I grew up in a home where Christian truth permeated our conversations and decisions, I struggled to understand my worth. It took me years to strip away the mask of an identity cultivated in achievements, high self-expectations and performance. The book is my journey to understand beauty from a biblical perspective.
When Discovery House Publishers approached me in December 2004 about writing a book for young women regarding their identity in Christ, the progression seemed natural. Designed by God was released in December of 2006. Recognizing my brokenness, as difficult as it was--and still is--taught me freedom. If I have learned anything in the journey, it’s that I am not alone. When I chose to be real, I found that healing comes by being transparent--first with God and then with each other. More recently, I have left the field of education (which I had returned to in 2009) to focus solely on ministry--in writing, speaking, and in working alongside Scott in church planting.
Though I haven’t moved around as much as I did in my earlier years, I still feel like home for me isn’t so much about a place as it is about people. A few months ago, an editor friend and I were exchanging ideas about a new book project I am currently working on. Responding to my thoughts about how to bring relational healing within a body of believers, he wrote, “I think that is what people are starving for. A community of people using their gifts together, and doing so in authenticity, not worried about what people think of their inner (i.e.. real) self. That's the place we'd all like to be.”
We’re all looking for a sense of home, not in a place, but a Person. It’s my hope that whatever I’m investing my life in brings others a little closer there.