Yesterday was the two-and-a-half year anniversary of my first day working at Faith Lutheran Church.
Looking back–I was a bright-eyed, ambitious, and totally overwhelmed young intern.
I shared an office with another co-worker, had about five books on my bookcase, a computer, and a whole desk drawer full of empty files.
Oh, and a pen that I had brought from home. I didn’t know where the community stash of pens was located yet.
And–I wore heels.
You’d have to work here to understand how outlandish that is. I felt like a pariah.
Beyond our senior pastor and the co-worker I was sharing an office with, I couldn’t remember any of my coworkers’ names. Which was doubly awkward, because the entire staff had peeked into my Facebook profile before I even arrived in St. Louis–so the first comment that many of them made to me was, “Gee, you don’t look anything like what your pictures looked like!”
(Note to self: don’t show up to a brand-new office with a drastically shorter haircut, when your co-workers have already done reconnaissance work on you. It’s never good to throw people a curveball when they don’t know you yet.)
Since my husband and I had just moved to St. Louis from southern California, I didn’t know my way around the city at all. My dear husband had kindly inked a tiny map of my route to work on a Post-It note, which I pasted securely on my dashboard.
Did I mention it was the first day of Vacation Bible School? The church was overflowing with people–and my first responsibility was to wrangle a class of preschool kids for the entire morning.
By some small miracle, I handled those screaming, energetic youngsters and managed to ease into my job and learn the complexities of the office copier in the course of that week.
The hard part was yet to come, though. My duty at Faith was clear: my job was to work with middle schoolers and help manage the brand-new student center that they had just built.
Beyond that, I was clueless.
Ironically, in the course of my studies in Christian education at Concordia University, I had often said that I didn’t want to work with kids any younger than high school–that my intellectual nature wasn’t compatible with grade school or middle school kids.
That’s why you never make statements like that, right? They seem to always come back to bite you.
That week, I hosted my first “official” youth event–a little pizza party halfway through the week, designed for me to meet and greet dozens of middle school kids at once. I remember being so excited to meet these kids, but so nervous that they wouldn’t like me at all–that they would breeze past me, grab the pizza, and hightail it home without a second glance. What if God plunked me right down in a place where people would hate me?
I was pleasantly surprised to discover how friendly the Faith kids were. They actually seemed to like me right away.
On day two, I was able to sit in the unfinished student center building, sipping cappuccino as I chatted with a few middle schoolers and high schoolers. Slow but steady progress.
Unfortunately, I was completely flabbergasted when I realized how many names, facts, and stories I would have to learn. My mind was spinning when I collapsed at home every night that week.
Little did I know at that time that I would spend the next few years laughing, crying, and bonding with these people…that some of them would become like my own kids…that their families would open their homes to us and take us…that I would end up thanking God for this church and the people here every day.
Oh, and I didn’t ever expect that I would find myself doing games that involved kids eating baby food or shooting cereal out of their nostrils…but that’s happened, too.
So much has happened in the last few years. I’ve met so many incredible people, and I’ve cried tears of joy upon seeing the love and generosity of so many people who so freely share God’s love with me. I’ve had doors open for me to pursue my passions in writing and student leadership development, by writing my own column at thESource, helping Lutheran Hour Ministries with their curriculum, and being a part of the Missouri District Peer Ministry Training Team. I’ve been inspired and motivated by my coworkers. I’ve made connections with great DCEs and youth workers all over the state of Missouri. I’ve loved working with incredible, devoted, inspirational leaders in our middle school programs. I’ve been blessed to be able to freely go into the public grade school and middle schools near us and simply hang out with students–to meet them where they’re at. I’ve been able to mentor a couple of students and see tangibly how God is powerfully working in their young lives.
Oh, and I’m currently on Computer #3, and have a jam-packed bookshelf and file cabinet. And I only wear heels on Sundays around here–especially not during Vacation Bible School week.
I could never have imagined all of this, back on my first day of work at Faith.
It’s easy for me to forget how abundantly God has blessed me–so this little look back is good for my soul.
Despite the many frustrations, moments of doubt and anger, my incessant questions, my wrestling with my calling as a church worker, my discontent, and my flaws and weaknesses, God has been faithful to me. He’s been my Anchor as I struggled to settle into a new marriage, two new homes in a new state, a new job, new friends and co-workers, and plenty of new passions.
Now if only He could do something about the pens that my friends seem to get a kick out of stealing…that’s a dirty (although highly effective) prank.