I went to a small Bible school lost in the cornfields of Ohio, Cedarville University. A loose thread, faded in some spots and busily wandering into a work I thought I was creating. I sewed myself into the fabric of Cedarville with big dreams, high expectations, and a busy schedule.
Each spring Cedarville hosts a Missions conference capturing what's going on around the world, inspiring students to join God's work and casting vision for what is possible. At the end of the conference they ask anyone who feels called to the mission field to come forward so that we could pray over them.
Every year my best friend and shanigan plotter, Sarah Anderson, would go forward. She knew clearly she was called to the mission field, her thread had direction. And each year, I watched her with admiration. She was obedient to God’s call on her life, a calling into which she knitted herself quite seamlessly. I sat in the pew, applauding for those going forward, happy to pray for their work, but resisting that any part of my heart might be inclined to ministry lifestyle. Almost convincing myself that full time ministry would never be a possibility for me.
I think had a twisted sense of ministry. I had a warped sense of responding to Jesus’ tender calling in my life. I believed my mission field would be my co-workers as a highly esteemed professional. I was more committed to discovering a career that would profit financially and challenge me intellectually for the rest of my adult life.
This wasn't a bad endeavor, and I continued toward that goal, dismissing a strong desire for deep relationships and passion for others to encounter the radical love of Jesus. My thread plotted a course through fabric that looked rich, but was superficial, harsh, and created a wrinkled grain.
I'd love to say I'm not resistant to God's movement. I’m like Gideon: asking for a wet fleece then a dry fleece; I’m Moses, arguing that I don’t speak well; Esther defending that I’m a lowly servant; and I’m Jonah, jumping into a boat to distance myself from Ninevah. I’ve resisted what God’s power through me can do, and recently I’ve felt that tension again.
When I began volunteering with Young Life five years ago, I was resistant. I felt that it was too much of a time commitment and didn’t want my volunteering to get in the way of my career. But slowly God began transforming my heart and I started seeing the miracle of life transformation happen right in front of me. Pieces of my thread began to move into a pattern, and I was hooked. Since then, my heart has dramatically changed, and God hasn’t just revealed the work he does in those around me, but now I even see how he’s radically changing me!!
I’ve been on part time Young Life staff working with the Young Life College ministry in Anchorage Alaska for almost three years. Our regional director approached me and my colleague, Mark Adams, to see if we would be willing to transition into new roles. He asked if I would be willing to come on full time Young Life staff with a vision for the entire city of Anchorage, seeing students have the chance to encounter Jesus.
Once again, I was resistant. Once again I was sitting in the pew, limiting what God could do, and asking that he would call anyone else but me. "Please, please, please provide someone else! Please keep the thread of my life predictable and where I want it to go", I begged.
I was asked to pray about the position. In the next week I began to pray, but I prayed with the expectancy that my heart would stay the same. I prayed believing the position and offer wasn’t for me. I prayed that the thread of my life would weave into the tapestry where I thought it should go.
But over the course of two weeks my heart began to change. I was astonished by the vision and passion God gave me for students in our city. My excitement grew, and the strands of my heart began to move in a God direction.
There is one calling Jesus has given ALL of us, to go and make disciples. It also means being a disciple (Matt. 28:19). It means tying our life to others and doing relationship that looks like Jesus, inviting, challenging, and seeing the kingdom come. It's a lifestyle that rejects fear and is steeped in love, while witnessing the kingdom tapestry woven together.
Part of my passion for giving students access to my life is because I've been given access to others doing real, raw, practical relationship with Jesus.
These are the ribbons woven through my story; crafted by a masterful storyteller who takes tangled, broken, frayed threads to create something I couldn't have begun to imagine:
These dangling lines are Holly, Jana, and Becky, believing in an awkward high school girl who always felt insecure. They were Jesus, saying I was worth the time, I was worth the relationship.
A thread moves where Elaine opened her home and fed the mouths and hearts of college students. Providing a haven for a lonely college girl who felt isolated from family and friends.
Kirsten, showing me how to use my gifts to lead graciously.
Then Jessica's encouragement and push to do what seems daunting.
A brilliant thread making its way where Sarah is, always plunging in with honesty and brave vulnerability, loving with fierce abandon and freedom. Her strand moves alongside mine, even at a distance, and I'm so grateful for her friendship, her story, and where our cords entwine.
The shuttle moves and Gwen is walking with me through life's most profound milestones, celebrating with me and crying with me.
Hope is fiercely fighting for my heart and surprising me with her passion, a sweet thread whose strength is astonishing and makes me cry with gratitude for her Jesus fury.
The surprising threads of Anna, a sister who becomes a deep friend speaking truth and seeking more of Jesus.
Annie, balanced and brilliantly honest, a fun design of confidence and deep trust, moving deeply into the frabric of Jesus, she is a rich color of bravery and love.
Caroline, Amy, Hannah, and Alana build a house full of laughter. Girls from Alabama and South Dakota press into Jesus, each a breathtaking expression of who God is, with big hearts wide open to the movement of the creator's hands.
The seams deepen and become strong in the depth of Sue's authentic wrestling (more of an impact than she realizes), offering the hope to worship in my repentance.
Audrey, a strand flowing freely, living authentically, and willing to live in response.
Alexa and Hannah, two blondes falling in deeper love with Jesus; revealing how to love Jesus and others. Even when seams start to tear and fray they reach out to the weaver.
Erin moves in with vision, grace, and delicate artistry. Her heart and my heart for our crafstman and others to know him begins to braid together to form an unexpected pattern of goodness only Jesus can create.
What's breathtaking about this tapestry of countless lives is that it's the one God crafts me into. And even more astonishing is when he begins to take the threads of my life into another, he devastates my heart with the truth he is weaving there. I've been given so much by giving strands of my life away, when I arrogantly thought others would be gaining.
He takes strands I wouldn't expect, the ones I would've thrown out or neglected, and starts to move them, strengthen their cord, their bonds; I start crying when I think of the work he's done and is doing.
It's Rochelle showing me how to humbly love my friends. Katie demonstrating that God's been crafting this story all along, and how all things are possible with him. Alexis' faithfulness and encouragement of her friends, and me. Kylie showing up with courageous vulnerability. Corrine breaking through with brave honesty, demonstrating grace in her pursuit of Jesus. Brittany wanting more, more of Jesus, more relationship, more community, more than what she's tasted.
For years I've been trying to guard my heart, guard access to my life, and keep everything in its place with the design that I've planned and plotted.
And so, despite my initial resistance, I've decided to accept the full time position with Young Life and thus this vision for every student in Anchorage, Alaska to have the chance to hear the gospel. Surrendering the strands of my life and heart for God to weave, sew, untangle, and create as He sees fit. Which is hard.
During this season of transitioning our vision and dreams for Anchorage and our college students, Mark and I feel strongly that our calling to disciple college students has not changed. Our vision has just grown. Over the course of the summer, we have the challenge to raise $20,000 in annual support, that's about $1500.00 a month.
Additionally, we have the dream of seeing two part-time college student staff placed in every school in Anchorage at $1,000 a month. That’s $24,000 a year to have a committed Young Life staff person in each school.
God has uniquely positioned our ministry with college students to pioneer ministry in our city, and I get to witness the work he is doing. I am privileged to watch the master merge strands together, weaving together a tapestry of lives that are unexpected, surprising, but all crediting who he is as the God of the impossible.
I would love to tell you more about the work I get to do with Young Life. Please let me know if you would like to receive more updates on our ministry or would like to pray about investing and joining in the work we are doing.