My mom used to tell me, “If you will pick something, put your mind to it, and stick with it, you can do anything.”
I didn’t seem to have any trouble doing the first part. Before the age of 19 I had worked as a lifeguard, cashier at Knott’s Berry Farm, hostess, personal trainer, secretary, personal assistant, and manager of a health club. And when the time came for me to start thinking seriously about choosing a real career, I began choosing, and choosing, and choosing. First, I decided to go to college. Then, I went to beauty school. After beauty school, I became a real estate agent where I worked for several years. Next, I made a complete U-turn and decided to go to medical school, soon became a respiratory specialist on a trauma team at a local hospital.
Consequently, I accepted a great position with a well-known hospital I stayed on the E.R. trauma team and cycled through the rest of the hospital for the next few years. I then applied for a coveted position rehabilitating drowning victims and other people who had severe lung injuries. I remember my excitement when I received the call letting me know I got the job. About this time, I began to figure out my mom had great insight. I got pretty good at putting my mind to things but still had the problem of sticking with something long term.
I would eat and breathe the flavor of the moment and achieve my goals quickly. Eventually, I got bored and moved on to the next “big” thing.
Soon, I found myself married with a daughter and expecting another child. During the pregnancy I went into early labor and my doctor required me to be on heavy medication and stay on complete bed rest starting at the 24th week! Lying month after month sure gave me a lot of time to think!
After having my second child, I made the huge decision of not going back to work. Instead, I embraced the toughest and greatest job ever as a stay-at-home mom of two kids. (Amanda and Adam.) I remember how my parents thought I was crazy to give up such a great job, which surprisingly, still waited for me. God really worked on my heart while I was out of commission, and I believe the epiphany to dedicate my time and energy to being a full-time mom changed the path of my life forever. I realize now by helping out in the classrooms, cooking for my children, chaperoning field trips, parties, holiday festivities, and all contributed to my journey into ministry, specifically children’s ministry. I served for many years in a very small local church, did voice-overs for Christian radio, and led multiple studies for women, but all of a sudden I found my focus to be more on children. I started helping out in a “Mommy and Me” class, which then led to me to directing children’s productions and plays, and finally into leading a small children’s ministry within the church. At the same time, I became involved in educating young people on abortion and adoption, and a pregnant teen counselor.
Our family went to church regularly, attended Bible study, served every week, dotted all the I’s, and crossed all the T’s as far as organized religion went. I mean, we were growing spiritually, using our gifts, loving each other, and growing our family. We were very happy, very busy, and for the most part, felt lucky, fulfilled, and blessed. Then, unexpectedly, my precious mom died at the age of 59 while I administered CPR to her.
Life as I knew it changed forever.
My mom’s greatest desire in life was to have a house full of children, but sadly, she was never able to conceive. My parents waited ten long years for a baby. I weighed only four pounds when they adopted me. If you could imagine how excited they were to finally become parents, it would not be enough. If you could imagine how much they loved, spoiled, and cared for me, you could never imagine enough.
My parents taught me unconditional love at its most beautiful level.
They taught me good morals, character, honesty, and compassion. As my biggest cheerleaders they saw my potential, loved me unconditionally, and supported me through all of life’s ups and downs. I lived as an only child until about 4th grade when my mom and dad began fostering children. In a span of about three years, I had twenty-one foster brothers and sisters. There is no way to fully convey my childhood in a blog post, but suffice it to say, it was magical. Losing my mother, the way I did turned my world upside down.
After my mom’s death, nothing made any sense to me. I literally sat on our porch swing for hours upon hours swinging, grieving, and trying to make sense of what I knew about God, about heaven, and frankly, about anything.
Most of the time, I felt as though I knew absolutely nothing about absolutely everything.
I kept thinking about how my mom taught me everything except what to do when she died. It finally dawned on me that something in my life went seriously missing, and I felt I needed to know more about God. All of sudden, church felt mechanical—I needed to know at my core where my mom was. As a Christians; I loved Jesus; and I knew she was in heaven. My questions about heaven continued to surface.
All the clichés, “She is in a better place” or “She is with God now,” all just made me feel worse.
It is times like this when a bright light seems to shine into the crevices of what you thought you knew, what you believed, and even where you came from spiritually.
After all my years of studying, learning, and applying God’s Word, I felt so utterly empty. I knew some of the emptiness came from normal shock and grief. Even though God did give me peace and I never doubted His sovereignty, I still knew I needed more. I eventually came to three realizations:
I needed to know more about the Bible.
I needed to be able to help people who felt like I felt.
I needed to dedicate the rest of my life to something eternal.
I looked into a couple of Bible colleges, investigated a few ministry-type positions, and eventually took an assistant position leading a class for new believers at a local mega-church. I loved the job and soon our family ended up transferring to this church. After faithfully serving for a while, doing plays, and getting to know a few people, leadership asked me to lead a very small children’s ministry every Sunday evening for one hour. Even then I knew God had big plans for me, but I just wasn’t sure what they looked like. I had such a heart’s desire to work in ministry, but I believed I missed my chance. I had spent so much time pursuing all those different careers and never stuck with any of them. But after my mother’s death, I really wanted my life to count for something. I wanted to help and serve others, and I especially wanted to somehow make an eternal difference. I deeply desired to be in full-time ministry at this point, but knew I did not have the necessary education for a church to offer me a position as a full-time pastor. And with two small children, it seemed impossible to go back to school. So, even though it was just one hour a week, I jumped at the chance to lead a children’s ministry program.
So Began My Journey…
First, I decided to take some focused time and really seek to discover what kids needed, wanted, and would respond to. I not only searched for new, creative ideas but also for God’s desire for these kids whom He suddenly put in my care and on my heart. I began applying all the knowledge God gave me. The results were spectacular. The initial group of twenty-four kids turned into four hundred and twenty-six kids within twelve weeks! They screamed out their verses, got on their knees to pray, carried their Bibles, and prepared us for a revival we did not expect. What a pleasure and privilege to be a part of such a dynamic time in the life of a children’s ministry! While kids discovered the love of God, the volunteers in that service went from ten people who barely showed up to over fifty people waiting in line to serve! Eventually, this ministry saw upwards of fifteen hundred kids per week and had two hundred volunteers.
As God began to reveal my calling and my purpose in life, I anxiously sought Him every step of the journey and continue to do so even today.
After a few years of seeing tremendous growth, witnessing huge life change among thousands of kids, and working and serving harder than thought possible, the church asked me to step in as the Director of the Children’s Ministry. I finished my schooling and eventually became the Children’s Pastor. Soon after, I actually went back to school and received my Doctorate of Ministry. I published curriculum nationally and spoke all over. The children’s ministry at our church became a flagship program for people all around the country. To see God moving so obviously and so powerfully was a sight to behold!
I know my mom is proud. I finally picked something, put my mind to it, and stuck with it!
All of a sudden I saw how my various life events, jobs, and school experiences ushered me to this newfound destination.