For this second blogpost, I’m going to pull the camera back a little from “God in my day” to “God in my life”. By way of introduction, I’ll welcome you to a small memoir of God finding me on this winding path of life – a life that usually looks more like a messy plate of spaghetti than anything else! Good thing messes are God’s specialty!
My faith journey has not been dramatic. I grew up in a faith community in North Kildonan, where church, Sunday School, prayer meetings at home and even Bible stories at school from Miriam’s Book of Bible Stories were my bread and butter. I remember sitting beside my dad in church as a kid, wondering about things the preachers were going on about – like, how did they know it was Paul the apostle who wrote all those Bible verses, or, why on earth did Jesus have to die for our sins? Another question, still with me today, was why did some of those preachers have to yell so much?!
When I was around 7 years old, I became “convicted of my sins” in DVBS, aka Daily Vacation Bible School. In the basement of my friend Doris’ house, I heard the call to “give my life to God”. This conversion experience was a mixture of a fear of hell (always fun for a 7 year old!), a sense of doing what was expected and a response to Tante Bargen (Doris’ mom and my second mom) who I loved.
It’s hard to sort out the beginnings of these journeys, but as far as I can tell, that was my first conscious coming to faith, and my signature on the dotted line in the DVBS handout became a life-long consolation to my Mom who wanted above all for her daughters to follow God in their lives. For many years I have dismissed this early conversion experience as a mere rite of passage that we all went through, but, remembering it now leaves me feeling grateful that I received this early grounding direction.
Around the same time, I remember kneeling on my bed in front of the headboard in the evenings, praying the lines I’d memorized, but also praying from the heart for my sister Hildi, who was 17 years old and suffering from leukemia. She sadly passed away one year later, but one of the lasting gifts she gave me was this sense of prayer, and of going to God in our troubles.
Among the gifts my parents passed on to me, one was enrolling me in a faith-based school from Grades 7-12. Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute (MBCI) was not a perfect school, but its teachers were instrumental in opening my mind and heart further to God. Friends to whom faith also mattered surrounded me. We also sang in many choirs and small groups, and the many hymns and songs of faith were a huge influence to me in keeping my thoughts open to God amid all the hormones and misdirection of a regular teenager. To this day, singing can soften my heart back to God like few other things can.
Many blessings have come my way to keep me on this God path. This is definitely not to say that my life has been Easy Street. Early marriage troubles (which have eased as we grew up), a job of teaching which has never been easy for me but which I’ve always felt called to, and battles with headaches have all served me in “keeping me on my knees”, looking to God for help. I could never have made it with hope, had there not been innumerable interventions by God.
One of the biggest interventions was that God brought my husband Lyle and myself to a small church early on in our marriage. This church, led by Paul Patterson, folded early on but has continued on for 20 years under his leadership in the unconventional form of a house church called Watershed. Paul has a heart for God like no one I’ve ever met, and has been a huge blessing to myself and many others. He has been a mentor, giving perceptive insights that have steered me away from trouble and guiding me to readings that have helped me. He was the one who years ago gave me the wisdom to look for my deepest voice in writing rather than talk therapy. Along with our small faith community, he helped Lyle and I get our rocky marriage out of troubled waters and back to a larger vision.
Watershed under Paul’s leadership has been a huge influence for me in the last 25 years, keeping me tethered to faith when I would have easily given up in cynicism or gotten mired in depression. In a time where faith and church is largely considered obsolete, God has worked in Watershed to make faith relevant and as necessary as food and water, a metaphor that I do not use lightly. It is only becoming more true as I get older. I have seen many stories of God’s healing in the lives of my friends.
These are the broad strokes of God’s story in my life’s story. No doubt I’ll tell more of the story in other posts. As I reflect on it, I cannot say for one moment that this is something I have done. I consider myself standing under a ton of mercy, where God has intervened in my life and provided healing when I would have long ago given up on myself. One of my favorite quotes by Eugene O’Neill says it well:
“We are born broken. We live by mending. The grace of God is glue.”
How about you? Do you have times in your life of faith being stirred up in you?