UNEXPECTED GOD: TAKING A FRESH BREATH IN MICHIGAN

Storyteller: Breathing in New Air in Grand Rapids, MI

As I’ve been sharing recently, Andrew and I have been on a deep journey with God over the past six months of seeking God, begging Him to show up, praying and trusting in His promises, and waiting – oh so much waiting! – for Him to reveal His plan to us. The main catalyst that woke us up and helped us see that something need to change was a family vacation at the end of December 2015, but a secondary event awoke a deeper passion and desire for me as well.

For the 2015 – 2016 school year, I was asked to create the media presentations for Fuller’s weekly chapel. Fuller Theological Seminary is where I attend graduate school and spend a lot of time anyways and I have been creating the media presentations for worship services (basically a majority of what you see up on the screen during church) for many years. These two facts made the answer an easy “yes!” The chapels themselves were joyous occasions, making new friends and being exposed to different worshipping traditions.

IMG_5309On the plane ride into the Grand Rapids Airport.

Fuller’s chapel program was also invited to attend Calvin College’s Worship Symposium in January 2016 in Grand Rapids, MI. They were slotted to lead during two of the smaller worship services and I, being an extended part of the team, was invited to come along and run media for the services. While I was initially excited to travel someplace new and get to know the team better, I had no idea what God had in store for me.

IMG_5313Doing some homework in the conference center of Calvin College.

One of the biggest and simplest ways I think God gets our attention is by changing our environment. Maybe it’s the intensity of an overseas missions trip, the slowing down of a special vacation, or even the shocking layoff or change of employment, something changes and (hopefully) our attention turns to God. For me, it was a change in pace, a change in location, and a change of surrounding relationships that caused me to see God’s call in new light. I had grown so tired and weary and burnout from what life had been throwing at me for the previous year. I was worn out (and in ways, still am) from four years of a graduate program, working a never-ending ministry position, and living in at an unsustainable pace.

IMG_5317Running ProPresenter from the back sound booth for one of the worship services.

The trip to Grand Rapids invited me to be surrounded by a new group of people who were so passionate about their career, their calling, and what God was up to. It’s easy to get stuck in your routine, day in and day out, comfortable with your tasks and to do lists. The chapel team went out each night, exploring the town, laughing and sharing stories, having real conversations about meaningful aspects of life. Plus, there’s just something about colder weather that makes me feel so alive!

IMG_5339Jenn Graffius (Director of Chapel), myself, and Rosa Candida (chapel intern) loving the snow.

One of the most powerful moments of the trip was getting to reconnect with a professor I had at APU, a professor who still saw the best and strongest and biggest gifts within me. We met for breakfast on our last morning in Michigan to chat and catch up. What began as a simple meal to share life led to moment after moment, word after word of incredible encouragement, storytelling, and this previous professor of mine calling out skills he saw in me four years previous and knew was still in me. It was like a breathe of fresh air into dry bones, a great source of encouragement into a discouraging situation.

IMG_5343Myself and Eric Mathis, former professor from APU

Sometimes, when things are tough and emotions and anxieties are high, you just need to take a warm bath with a glass of wine and put in a little hustle to get things done. Other times, you need an adventure, a new experience, and some reminders from people who actually know you pretty well of who and how you are called to be, given permission to live as you truly are instead of pretending to be someone you are not.

So, thank you, Grand Rapids for emboldening me. Thank you chapel friends and worshippers, mentors and peers for speaking life into those relationships. Thank you, God, for using a new place and cold weather with fireplaces and good people to break chains of lies and discouragement and complacency in my life.

 

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