My vocational story is that I had worked as an artist most of my adult life. My husband and I owned and operated a stained glass studio in Southern California in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Our youngest son worked along with us for much of that time. What great learning experiences I encountered! Then when we moved to Humboldt County I painted regularly for a dozen years – had my work in galleries, sold paintings, and gave some private and group art lessons. Then as we became involved with my then young daughter’s Christian private school and began work on a Biblical Counseling degree, I experienced a call into ministry. I began teaching the Bible in my daughter’s school and within a short amount of time a few others and I founded an elementary Christian school where I taught Jr. Highers. It was a tough assignment, but a great one. How I loved those kids! And then an opportunity opened at my church and I stepped into ministry there and through the next thirteen and a half years worked in various capacities and it has an incredible ride. I could write volumes, and perhaps someday I will. What a privilege to share with individuals the deepest parts of life and to have the experience of being able to share the hope found in God’s Word.
But make no mistake, the compassion that has surfaced in my life came about as a result of personal pain. The privilege of studying the Bible through a Bible school and seminary was an amazing, sometimes exhilarating and an intellectually stimulating experience. Being immersed with “book learning” while being in ministry was “on the job training” intensified! It was good, it was very good. Walking with others through their deep times of pain and adversity through the counseling relationship was an incredible trust and a privilege. How grateful I am for each experience and for the honor of getting to know many people in a deeply significant way! But the times that really grew me as a human being and as one who ministers came about through my own personal heartaches. Each person’s story is intricately woven with the story of others. We are impacted in a great way by not only our own decisions but the decisions of others. As Celebrate Recovery would term it, there are “hurts, hang-ups and habits” that impacted my life that were formerly foreign to me. I was caused to deal with situations that never in a million years would I have thought possible. Many nights I paced my home crying out prayers and clinging to God’s promises that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.
When I first started the study of Biblical Counseling I was advised – if you really want to help people through the rough waters of life – become a pastor. Because in the ministry of the church one has opportunity to know families for years – to have a depth of relationship – to know others well. It is in the context of this church ministry that I eventually became a counseling director and for thirteen and a half years, I had the privilege of such a ministry. Another admonition of becoming a Biblical Counselor went like this: if you are going to walk with people through their troubles, know that you will suffer. It wasn’t that the suffering was a result of those meetings. It is that God prepares people to minister to others and develops compassion through suffering. Jesus suffered. We will suffer. When I first learned this I really had no idea what it would mean. But looking back I can say it is true, and a lot did happen and I can in retrospect be thankful. For every hurt, every time I thought I was at the end of my emotional rope – every trying circumstance prepared me to understand people more. And that was worth it all. I would not want to go through these things again. But neither would I want to miss the life lessons I learned having lived through them.
And now I am on the edge of a new chapter in my life. I recently gave notice and stepped down from my church director position. I know not what is ahead exactly. But I know God’s story within me continues just as it does in each of us who has asked Christ to come into our heart and be our Lord, Savior and guide.
A verse that moved me this morning is, “So my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” I Corinthians 15:58
These words are true no matter what our life’s vocation, because “every job is a Christian job, for a Christian”. At the present I am restarting my career as an artist. God is good, life is an adventure. So I would say, hold on for the wild ride! Stay true to Christ. Allow Him to work in the bright colors as well as the drab and even painful colors in your life. And always, always, know that the Great Master Artist has a glorious picture in mind that you and I could never imagine.
And so, I am a wife, mom, stepmom, grandmother, friend, artist, writer and former church counselor who has found tremendous hope in the Bible and has experienced the compassion of Christ through difficult times. I hope this blog can encourage someone else on their spiritual journey.