I was sitting in the 2nd row after the service waiting until the men stacking chairs would get to me and then I would move. I was scrolling on my phone and I was waiting for my husband as I have done on any given Sunday in any number of places. He had preached that morning in this church we were starting to call home and while I was comfortable with that idea opening my heart to engaging people was still not something that felt safe. I loved that Tim was loved and respected and that his preaching ministry was welcomed and wanted and that was good enough for me. I was basically minding my own business until a cute little woman sat down next to me and asked to talk to me. I was a bit surprised she approached me at all since I know exactly how intimidating I can look when I am scrolling on my phone daring anyone to approach me, so I was intrigued by what she had to say. Lois Pittman is the women’s ministry director at our church (for you Bethanites she is Eunice Bruegman’s sister) and she started her conversation by describing a women’s event that occurred on a Saturday in the spring where women from the church were asked to speak instead of bringing in outside speakers.
I could feel my insides clenching, panic was rising and I knew what was coming next “I have been praying, Kim and I really feel like I am supposed to ask you to be one of our speakers, even though I don’t really know you.” She went on to explain that she had done some reconnaissance work to find out about me, I loved that! And apparently, I had passed the test. I didn’t tell her that teaching/preaching/speaking had always been a part of my vocational ministry life. I didn’t tell her I had been a women’s ministry director in a large church and that at one time I taught 2 or 3 times a week. I just smiled and listened. When she was finished, I asked her if I could pray about it and how soon would she need to know. We chatted for a bit and then she went on her way.
In my mind, I went back to the day I decided that I would never stand in another pulpit anywhere ever again, I was to broken, to disqualified by the blunt, angry questions and accusations I had hurled at God. And now this invitation from a women’s ministry director… it was a women’s ministry director who had lied, gossiped and tore my personhood to shreds in our last place of ministry supported by her intimate friendships. This was an invitation back to the Lion’s Den, a different den but still a den because it is always the shadows that haunt us never the new reality.
On the way, home I told Tim everything and he asked me what I was going to do and I said I didn’t know. I was going to pray about it. It was October and the event wasn’t until April and I had a couple of weeks or so before I needed to give her an answer. So, I prayed and then I called a girlfriend and asked her to meet because I needed her insight. She had been with me in the ugly and she knew all the wretchedness I had thought, felt and survived. I asked her if she thought I should do this and without hesitation she looked at me and said “Yes! It is time and you need to do this.” When someone knows all your ugly and they tell you should. Well that says a lot. So, I agreed to the invitation.
In March, I began to plan and prepare and remembered how much I enjoy the process, the prayer, the worry wretched fear that spurs you on and motivates you.The satisfaction when you feel you have prepared something that might touch another woman, encourage her, heal her or just make her feel she is not alone. It is a love/hate thing preparing to teach the word of God. To feel you are delivering the word for that day, to take seriously that preaching/teaching is not public speaking but it is a calling to represent the Lord to His body.
The spiritual battles that you face from the outside, the self-doubt and incrimination that you face from the inside it is a painful but exhilarating process and each person who steps into it has their own unique journey. But what I love most about the experience is the personal interaction I have with God as I walk through the process. In many ways, it is like leaping from a cliff fully expecting God to catch you and use you for His purpose. And praying like crazy you do not land flat on your face.
When I arrived that morning, I think I was holding my breath and just chanting in my head “Just breathe” and then suddenly Tina arrived and sat next to me with her sunny smile and loving disposition and letting me know that she believed in me. It is always easier to know that even if you do fall flat on your face you still have a fan who loves you anyways.
Before I knew it was time to step into the moment and there I was operating in something that was so natural to me it was like riding a bike but also something different a new depth, a new insight a new awareness that He was with me. I could feel connection happening in each session and I felt like I was doing what God had given me to do.
Sometimes you must be pushed into the deep end of the pool by a cute little woman who is taking her own risk on you. Sometimes someone else must tell you are ready. Sometimes you must do the thing you think you are no longer qualified to do. Sometimes you must do again the thing you think you cannot to know that God doesn’t revoke His calling or His gifting, that sometimes He holds it for us while we are being put back together.
A month later Lance and Tim were chatting and Lance asked Tim if I might want to speak on Mother’s Day, when Tim asked me I felt immediately that I would like to do that so some negotiating and teasing went on for a bit between Lance and I via Tim. I immediately had the idea and direction I thought I should go and the planning and preparation came easily and when I stepped onto the platform on Mother’s Day something magical happened I felt an ease and peace that was supernatural and everything I had prepared flowed from me and His anointing on my words felt almost tangible. When I sat down at the end I felt a freedom and sense of purpose that was somehow new but also very familiar. I opened my heart again to this calling and to this usefulness.
Some weeks later I felt like I was supposed to share with Lance that I was open to this again just see what God wanted. It was strange and crazy to even form the words much less say them out loud but that is exactly what I did and the response back to me was warm, generous and hopeful. A month later an invitation to Tim and I both to join the preaching team at Neighborhood Church brought both joy and terror. Saying yes to God is always both frightening and exhilarating, at least in my case.
On a Thursday afternoon, I found myself sitting in a board room with 3 pastors and me. The fun part for me was being out of my depth, I have never had the responsibility of preaching/teaching to a congregation on a weekly basis like these men have had to do. Long term sermon prep and evaluating the spiritual needs of the body and where God was directing the Shepherd to take the flock. Yes, I have always been my husband’s sounding board, his safest and truest confident and ministry partner in every way but this was me at the table of a church where my husband is not the lead pastor.
In my professional life, I am quite often the most experienced and knowledgeable person in the room, I am often asked to advise and give oversight to things that don’t even affect my department. My principal will often swing by my classroom to “run things by me.” I guess you would say I am the top of my game but that was not the case in this meeting, I was in a learning curve and I loved that. Having to listen, follow and sense to get my bearings, to learn to navigate something new felt so good. Developing and growing new spiritual and intellectual muscles is so life giving. Even if it makes you want to bite your nails.
When it came time for my first assignment, I do what I always do I pray and I think and as thoughts come to me I write them down in my journal, on note pads and sometimes on scratch paper in the middle of the night. Then I decide when I am going to sit down and put all of it together. I spent 2 days of my fall break working on my sermon building the nuance, depth and connection that I wanted it to have and choosing just the right personal stories that would teach the points I wanted to make. I guess I am more story teller than preacher and I am ok with that because Jesus taught everything with parables and stories. I liked what I had crafted and was looking forward to sharing it with our church.
The time between finishing my sermon and preaching it was interesting and riddled with some challenge. I lost my brand-new glasses in a way that still baffles me and they cannot be replaced until next year. I had experienced some very disappointing and hurtful news from someone close and I was nursing a bit of a broken heart. I had on the same day received some amazing life changing news that gave me unspeakable joy!
I had accidentally spilled coffee on my computer and destroyed it and there were some other minor crazy happenings. But through it all I just kept moving forward knowing that the timing of these challenges was not accidental but very strategic. I just kept trusting God.
When I took my seat in the sanctuary my husband was already leading worship and I just began to worship and think through my thoughts once again. And then suddenly it was time and as I walked to the platform a wave of fear hit me like a wall. And it did not leave. I had forgotten to take my phone to the platform which is important because knowing the time helps me gauge how detailed I can go, it anchors me. It was hot on the platform and my old glasses kept slipping around on my nose and so I would sometimes take them off to get relief but then I could not easily and strategically refer to my notes. Nothing was going as I has planned in my head, I sometimes forgot to add the deeper connections and tighter detail that I like. I could feel defeat just starting to take over my heart. But I persevered and I finished to the best of my ability turned things over to my husband to close in song and walked off the platform.
It did not feel like it had in May, I just wanted to sit down and curl into the fetal position, but as I turned to get into my seat someone stopped me and with tears in their eyes thanked me for what I had shared. There was something so visceral and real in this response that it helped calm my ragged emotions. When the service was over 1 or 2 others shared how meaningful what I had said was to them. I wanted to ask “Did you hear the same sermon I thought I shared” but I know how God works and sometimes people do hear things you don’t say. God is personal and He can speak to each of us in the room regardless of what the speaker says or does. I felt a little deflated most of the day but then it lifted that oppressive accusing feeling was gone and I felt lighter. I received a couple of FB posts and personal comments that helped me understand that regardless of my feelings God had taken my broken offering and used it the way He wanted it used.
When you step back into your calling after a trauma, it is hard. Fear is ever present and the desire to stop is so tempting. There have been many moments since that I have thought maybe I was wrong maybe I am not ready. But after spending time in my prayer journal I realize that this is a different level of something familiar and it will take time until I feel more confident about it, I realize that the last thing the enemy wants is for me is to be who I was created to be. The grace filled gift in it all is that my next assignment is very familiar and then I get some space before I try something out of my depth again. This is what learning to walk again looks like. Faltering steps forward and moments of falling on your fanny, but it doesn’t matter because God uses it all.
All of it…Our best…Our worst and everything in between when it is offered from a submitted heart and a desire to be in the very center of His will.
Here is the link if you wish to listen.