Last month, I began to recount the journey God and I have been on the past 3+ years, the one which has led to this ministry, the Jesus Connection. This month I wrap up this grand story, but notice I do not say "conclude," for I know this is just the beginning. Only God sees the greater picture, (He is the One who created it, after all), but if what He has done so far is any indication of what remains, I know it will be good. In the meantime, let's finish our story from where we left off last time.
He took those short-sighted, small-thinking coloring pages of mine and like a loving Father, hung them on His proverbial fridge. Not to shame or disqualify me, but to say, “These are beautiful, My daughter, but I have something greater in mind.”
What is the greater? Well, He’s still showing me, but so far it includes:
Personal healing through a distorted self-respect, one which led to a misconstrued body image, disordered eating and excessive exercising. (Not a good combo, let me tell you.)
Restored and more fulfilling relationships with my family, who next to God, have been my rock. I pray I love them better now than when I was broken, and I am thankful for their patience, love and grace as I continue down the path of trying to love them as much and as well as they love me.
Revelation Wellness (part of the healing process) and becoming a Fitness Teacher Gospel Preacher. (Platoon 24, Agent of Change, at your service.)
Snap Fitness where I serve as a Revelation Fitness instructor and personal trainer, but most importantly, where God continues to refine me and has blessed me with several godly people and those spiritually hungry and searching for Him.
Local ministry partners and opportunities with the Darke County Pregnancy Help Center and Youth for Christ of the Miami Valley.
Substitute teaching at Greenville Elementary and loving it way more than I thought I would. (Five years ago, I never wanted kids of my own and wanted nothing to do with them, other than short intervals with my nephew.)
Disciple-making training and even greater, a support family with the Ignite Network, where we're all trying to make disciples the Jesus way where we live, work and play.
An amazing opportunity to serve with remarkable people on the Missionary Church Next Generation Task Force to help the denomination move forward in glorifying God and reaching the next generation of disciples.
Teach and learn from a group of kind, smart, beautiful girls in youth Sunday school. (Again with the kids. God knows our shortcomings.)
Witnessing a young woman be spiritually reborn and having her soul ignited with an ever-burning flame for our Savior and making Him known.
Everyday conversations turn into crucial and spiritual by the power and leading of the Holy Spirit, diverging from “water cooler talk” to matters of genuine curiosity, mutual discovery and eternal importance.
And of course, the people.
Time and space constrain me from mentioning them all by name, but God knows them. Oh, how He knows them. They are truly what make the above so life-giving. Besides God and my family, they are the why behind my calling. They are the fuel for my fire and the encouragement I so desperately need to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. With God at our head, they have discipled me, and I hope I have discipled some of them.
God has allowed me to watch Him move in and through them, all for their good and His glory. I have witnessed Him break down walls, loosen chains, soften hearts, ignite passions and mend relationships. What a privilege it has been to see them share their stories, realize their callings and step into an abundant life with Christ. He has forever changed them, and they have forever changed me. To see one of them be reborn into eternal life in God makes it all worth it, yet God has gone above and beyond. He truly is an amazing, wondrous, faithful, powerful God who extends us the incomprehensible blessing of knowing Him and watching Him be known.
Yet, the grandest of them all has been a deeper intimacy with, dependence on and hunger for God—all of which words cannot describe nor any number of pages provide adequate space to recount. He has held me, challenged me, enlightened me, disciplined me, carried me, surprised me, used me, loved me and so much more.
He exposed dark parts of me still in desperate need of His redeeming light (see Psalm 51:10). He captivated me in wonder at His grace, mercy, patience, righteousness, holiness, power, sovereignty and love as He displayed more of Himself through His Word (the Bible/Scripture). He opened my eyes to things, happenings and feelings in the unseen world of which I had previously been unaware or had chosen to look past. He revealed a hole within me that could only be filled with a relationship with the Holy Spirit, one I had neglected until He showed me a better way. This relationship alone has unveiled another level of wonder, awe and intimacy with not only the Spirit, but the Father and Jesus as well.
Just as He helped me see just how thirsty and impoverished I was before Him, He continues to show me how abundantly live-giving He is as the source of all things. He is the best bread, water and light of life. He is a Father, Redeemer and Counselor. It was His breath which breathed life into me, and and it is His that sustains me to this very day. He is the all and everything of life.
Just as He helped me see just how thirsty and impoverished I was before Him, He continues to show me how abundantly live-giving He is as the source of all things.
He has done and continues to do all these things with each day He gives me.
All of this is what washed over me as I drove down that familiar road, on my way to meet with a man who has been instrumental to this journey: Jeff Kephart, Regional Director of the East Central Region of the MC.
One of the many gifts God has brought through the Missionary Church (a significant statement from one who fought going to church as a child and never felt comfortable in one prior to Greenville Missionary), Jeff has been with me since the beginning of TJC.
Minutes away from another one of our trademark coffee meetings, I reflected on our first. The one where he allowed me to pour out my heart and unload all God had floating around in me and I was still trying to piece together, as if I could.
He kindly listened, gave me the encouragement I needed and bestowed his welcomed wisdom, as he continues to do, even now. Whether he knows it or not, God has used Jeff, as well as many others, as a catalyst for the greater work He is doing in and through me.
As I sat there and remembered our first meeting, I couldn’t help but smile at all God had done. There were times when I felt like I had failed or misheard God’s calling. It seemed like nothing was working and I didn’t know what would. Many times I burned myself out trying to do too much and saying “yes” to every opportunity, operating out of an orphan, scarcity mindset. I often wondered what, if any, difference I was making, but all the while God was at work.
For those who have been with me for much of this journey, you know some of what God has done, but words cannot convey it all. I’ve tried—and failed—to share it along the way, but sometimes the greater works were within, within me and my fellow saints. Other things have been such works of God, no human words or reason can explain or describe them. All I know is God has provided, created, led and worked in seen and unseen ways.
He has built bridges, torn down walls and mended cracks. He also isn’t done yet, something I knew going into this meeting but God made abundantly clear during it. (Probably because He knows observation is not my strong suit, so the more blatant, the better.)
I had expected God to move in this meeting because He always does when Jeff and I meet (as He does when any of His children gather with Him as their focus, see Matthew 18:20), but not like He actually did.
After the meeting, still stunned from what just transpired, God and I once again found ourselves talking while traveling on our favorite road, this time headed home. I had to laugh, it just burst out of me.
“What are You doing, God?”
What happened during this meeting? Jeff asked me to pray about two opportunities:
Speak at the ECR’s 2024 spring women’s conference (Oasis) and
Serve on the Reproduce Team for the ECR’s Ministry Advancement Team (MAT).
All I know is God has provided, created, led and worked in seen and unseen ways.
Oasis entails me sharing my story with 250+ women. And not just a vague part of my story, but one which is still much of a place of discomfort for me, even a tinge of shame: my story of distorted body image and the restrictive eating it caused (augmented by stress and anxiety). Not to mention, as an introvert, just the thought of talking to more than two people with whom I am not familiar makes me sweat and my heart pound.
For MAT, I’m still learning what it means (as well as wondering why Jeff, and God, wanted me), but I know it’s to serve alongside a group of godly men and leaders within the ECR to move our Region toward our purpose to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission by multiplying disciples, disciple-making movements and churches across Ohio.
Never would I have imagined any of this happening a year ago, let alone when I first heard those three words from God.
Why am I sharing this? Not to highlight any work or characteristic of mine, for both prove futile when I try to do things on my own; not to mention, any opportunity and worthwhile skill I have is because of God and were given to me by Him for His glory. I share this story not for personal acclaim, but to profess the goodness of God and His willingness and ability to fulfill His word.
When God says He works all things together for good, He can and does. When He says nothing is impossible for Him, it’s true; He cannot lie (see Numbers 23:19 and Hebrews 6:18). When He says His mercies are new every morning and He will never leave you, they are and He will not, not ever. When He says—and has proven countless times—that He uses the misfit, the broken, the sinful, the undesirable, the overlooked and the lost, He does. God is working, and He is working all things together for His good. He is drawing people to Himself and bringing His Kingdom to full fruition.
Truths such as these, moments such as the ones I’ve described and glories we have all beheld are what was not lost on me as I drove home on that holy highway. No, I did not (and do not) see or understand them all, but I know they are real. More real than anything we can see, hear, feel, touch, taste or think.
My, it has been a journey, but oh, how I long for it to continue. I want to feel just how awesome, good and powerful God is. His Kingdom come, His will be done.
“What are You doing, Papa? I want to see.”
English Standard Version Bible. (2001). Crossway Bibles.