Today I thought I would do something different, I umm-ed and ahh-ed a little about sharing as it's a little different from my usual posts, but this my space, a space to share my families story. A space to look back on. I have not been here much lately, and this is why. Over the past couple of years I have been doing something called a "Period of Discernment" or POD in short. Esentially it is a mentoring program designed to give insight into ministry within the church. I have mentioned it here and there I think on the blog. It is also the first step to ordination, though it doesn't have to be if you discern otherwise. This is why I have been a bit quiet lately. Work, study and tidying up my POD paperwork, which has come to an end. One of the things I needed to do was a reflection. So I thought I would share it here, as part of our story, my story. I'n not sure where it will end up, but thats the good part about journey's isn't it?
I’m not really sure when I first felt called to ministry. A couple of ministers in my life hinted they felt I should consider exploring it a number of years ago. But to me it seemed like an absurd idea. Ministers were wise and gentle. Always kind, and patient. They were all kinds of things I wasn’t. I was sarcastic, a little cynical, opinionated, feisty…..I was a good nurse, who adored my patients. I was their advocate, their carer. I intended on becoming a midwife.
But over time, this idea of ministry continued to niggle at me and stir me. I came to a point in time where it was necessary for me to go back to work to keep my Nursing Registration. But in my heart of hearts I had come to know God was calling me elsewhere. I wasn’t sure exactly what it would look like, or perhaps I wasn’t ready to acknowledge it out of the fear of how utterly ridiculous the prospect of me going into ministry was. But I did know this; that in my heart of hearts that God was telling me to walk away from my nursing and to trust in him. Every time I pondered not leaving nursing because the alternative seemed ridiculous, a feeling of utter shame and disobedience would wash over me. I could feel God say firmly say “NO”. I still felt called to help people heal, but the avenue had changed. I knew God was calling me to help people heal through helping them know Him, his grace and the forgiveness of Jesus. So, I made the difficult decision to leave my nursing behind me. I knew if I didn’t make a clear cut from it, I would never walk into the unknown.
A while later I entered my POD. I was given an amazing mentor. I knew as after our first meeting that this was right for me. She was wise, gentle, encouraging and didn’t miss a thing.
My POD has been an interesting period. One full of change I wasn’t expecting when I embarked upon it. I decided early on to use this experience to say “yes” to as much as I possibly could in ministry, even the things that terrified me.
But life has many dimensions and things are not always smooth sailing. We own a country General Store and Post Office, and the winter after I started my POD business was rough. It had dropped significantly, finances were too tight for comfort. My husband was incredibly stressed, which is unlike him. After much prayer, we decided to sell our home in town and move out to the country and buy a little old rundown cottage to renovate near our business. This decision allowed us to buy in cash, reducing debit and financial pressure substantially. We were trying to batten down the hatches for what could possibly be a difficult economic time.
My mentor and I talked extensively about what God was calling us to do in our new town. I talked about wanting to build families and community, perhaps start a play group or something for mothers. I wanted to help care for them, to encourage the women, to walk with them in the often difficult and lonely time of early childhood. As a mother of three little boys, supporting other mothers is a passion of mine. We live in a time where mothers today often feel socially isolated, families live apart, PND is on the rise. When we support a mother in a strong, caring community, we help an entire family. I had also started helping my mentor with a program run for youth on the edge, which I love. We even brought a coffee machine into our shop with a table and chairs, and a couch and a basket of toys as to encourage families to sit and rest so I could build relationships and hopefully build some kind of families ministry from there if there was intrest. I knew there would never be a chance of paid ministry in the town, as our local minister only works one day a week between three congregations, but that was fine.
Not even two weeks after moving into the little old cottage the devastating Pinery Bushfires came through. My husband was in an accident and got caught in the fire front as it swung around. By the grace of God the only thing we lost was the 4WD which was a write off. After the event the stages of recovery were a surreal experience. In 2010 we went through the Stockport floods. I remember I was 34 weeks pregnant with our second child. We lost nearly everything we owned and were displaced from our home. I knew God was preparing me for something through these events. I was being stripped back, exposed, bare. But each time I was reminded of the verse “I will not leave you nor forsake you”. He was teaching me to trust in him. Wholly and fully. Each time he brought amazing people who could help shape me, guide me, pick me up and dust me off, who would help lighten the load so I could do what I needed to do for my family.
As time passed, our 3 boys settled in. We found our feet among the move, the fire and renovations. Our business improved and grew and has remained strong ever since. The local Rev and I got in contact and we talked about the local church. The church had essentially closed down its Sunday service a year or two prior. Instead they now met once a month in people’s homes for a simple service/fellowship style night over dinner. We met up and discussed the potential for a families ministry in town. My old Rev was very supportive throughout this period of transition in guiding me, in giving advice, in mentoring me. My new Rev gave me the encouragement, support and green light to see if I could start a families ministry. I got in contact with a couple of local families and not long later we met up over a shared dinner. We decided to meet monthly, on the opposite fortnight of the other homegroup. I also started attending their homegroup to get to know the oldies better, which I greatly enjoyed.
Sometime in amongst this I officially left my old church with their blessings. I knew God was calling me elsewhere, but it had been a formative place for me in my christian walk and they were like my family. They had stood by me while I took my first wobbly ministry steps and gave me opportunities to try different things, they were there as I unpacked my old hurts, learned about this sometimes messy and complex thing called “church”, sat with me as I began to heal, forgave me as I made mistakes and loved me unconditionally.
About 6 months after the Pinery Fire I was surprised to get invited to apply for a job to help in the Pinery Fire Recovery effort. To help women and children come together in community to help them recover. My role is technically “Pinery Fire Recovery Project Officer”, but I simply call myself a Chaplain who works with women and children. This came as a huge affirmation to me, and I felt incredibly humbled and blessed to be able to work within this role. Suddenly I could clearly see the path that God had been laying for me, what he had been shaping me for. Since this point my certainty about my call has depend and clarified immensely. I love my work, and the people it allows me to work with.
Back in our new town, our little families group was going well. Over time we decided to combine both the “old” and the “new” groups. Which worked beautifully under the Rev's gentle guidance. We now all meet fortnightly, in the church hall as we outgrew meeting in the home. We usually get around 25-30 people who attend, our biggest night we had 40 just a couple of weeks ago which was a delightful blessing! Our group ranges in age from 1-90. We have a healthy childrens ministry usually between 9-14 kids and we meet over a shared meal, scripture, prayer and children activities. We try to include something for all ages, and it is a wonderful time of togetherness, sharing of faith and worship. It’s sometimes messy and chaotic, but there is a deep sense of love, acceptance, realness and community.
My POD journey has been rich, diverse and full of change, it has taken me the best part of two years. I have explored so much. Preaching, worship leading, going back to study at college, working with youth, families, children, community work. I have been blessed to be a part of a Church that has come back to life. To see the healing hand of God, to see Him work and be present in the seemingly impossible. It has been challenging, it has shaped me, it has brought me to tears, it has filled me to the brim with joy and wonder. It has helped me to trust in God so deeply, to feel his peace and presence even among the chaos. This journey has shown me Gods call on my life, in every possible way. He has taken me on a path I never intended to go. A path that uses every piece of me. I often feel inadequate at the task at hand, like what I have is simply no where near enough. But God has shown me time and time again, that HE is enough. And through Him all things are possible, if only we can first trust in Him.
If your still reading after all that I'm impressed! A long post today, as it was part of a report, but you know what they say, reuse/recycle - ha! ;)