I was standing in my kitchen making mac and cheese for my youngest child. It was a mundane, simple moment. I could hear my husband on the phone with my brother-in-law. They were discussing our church plant.
The topic of attendance came up, and Jon was expressing how pleased we have been with our first couple months, where we have been consistently hitting about 75. He also expressed our desire and plans to increase those numbers.
I was pondering our growth, and I happened to see a Facebook notification on my phone as I stirred the noodles.
As I read the post I was tagged in, my heart instantly began boiling over with joy and an understanding of being exactly where God wants us to be.
I wept as I read because the numbers are people, and the people are numbers.
I am so happy with 75! I will never look down at the number 75, and yet I want more numbers because I want more people. I want to see this story, but in a different way, again and again.
I am wasting your time with my words.
This is Kristi’s Facebook post.* This is why I write; this is why I moved; this is why my home and my world have been turned inside out for months upon months as we planned for a church…. just this:
So, I have been doing some strength and conditioning training as of late. I wanted to participate in a Memorial Day Workout Fundraiser really badly. A few weeks prior I developed a pain in my knee. I did not want to let the pain keep me from participating, so I figured I would endure it.
Except, I couldn’t any longer. I finally asked for help: chiropractor, massage therapist and a trainer.
They could not determine what tightened up first, throwing my knee out of whack – ACL, Quad, Hamstring, Adductor, whatever – I did not care where it originated, I just knew I was in excruciating pain and wanted it gone. You know the kind of pain that you cry out at night when switching positions in bed?
I did not tell anyone about my pain except my hubby and best friend. No one knew how much pain I was really in. I did not want anyone except those I trusted completely to know of my weakness.
Nothing was going to stop me from being in that fundraiser. So after utilizing all the helpers I mentioned earlier along with several LONG deep water runs – it loosened.
Just like that. Snap. Loose. Heaven.
If I did not try to hide it, and asked for help earlier, I would not have been in such pain through the fundraiser. Lesson learned.
But had I really learned that lesson? Had I really learned to ask for help and trust the process? No.
See, back in December – Christmas time to be exact, we were on vacation and I told my hubby,
“I have lost all my faith. God has forgotten about me. I love you and I don’t want to hurt you. And trust me, I don’t have the guts to do it myself, but I don’t want to live anymore. The pain is too great and I am so tired of hurting.”
Can you imagine my sweet, precious hubby having to hear those words? How do you respond to that? He said, “I wish you could see yourself through my eyes.”
My heart was breaking and I, for several years, could not trust God. The fact was, I did not want to. I had been hurt by too many things – losing my grandparents, being abandoned by my father, self abuse, addiction, rape, abortion, suicidal tendencies, depression, my mother dying, losing my family to broken relationships, financial struggle, being hurt while on missions by the church we served, a miscarriage, my mother-in-law dying, ENOUGH!
I was not going to trust anything ever again because I was not going to get hurt again. I am not sure why. Why that night, why that place, but that is exactly what I asked for… help. Help to trust again. I needed God’s help to teach me how to do that. I need him to bring people into my life who could show me the way to that peace.
The next morning, we were at breakfast, and a girl sat down next to me. She had an oddly shaped tattoo behind her ear. I find tattoos fascinating! I don’t have any, but I love the stories behind them. Those stories that are so important, that a person wants that memory forever with them. I also have this only child issue that I think everyone wants to talk to me. So, I made small talk with her until a space opened in the conversation to ask about her tattoo.
She said it was a semi colon, that she deals with depression and has suicidal thoughts and that the semi colon represents an author choosing not to end a sentence, but continue it. She further explained that the sentence was her life, she was the author and chose not to end it. A little much at 9 a.m. for me, but through my tears, I thanked her for sharing.
After returning home and carving out a lot of me time, starting a business that allowed me a creative outlet and expressions of self love, I went to see my friend, Justin. He owns a gym in my hometown and we’ve know each other forever. This is a story for another time, but a doctor told me there was no hope for “people like me” with a medical issue and I refused to accept that. So I went to Justin and asked for help.
Yeah, me, asked for help and trusted someone to help me. Stubborn as a mule, I swear, but even so, he was able to help me succeed.
A few months ago, I was at a vendor event for my business. This sweet, beautiful woman with kind eyes came up to my booth and chit chatted, took my card, said something about starting a church – yawn.
Well, she called me the next day and hired me for a Mother’s Day event at said church. I went to one of their services before the event to check out where I would be setting up and serving. Her husband was the pastor and giving the sermon. There was something wonderful in the message of the sermon. Something about us not being here to judge or figure things out, that our only task on earth was to love. Plain and simple, love. Love those you agree with, love those that you don’t agree with – your only task is to love.
Ok, I thought, I’m down with that. But I am not joining another church – I will not be hurt or be a party to hurting again. Then again, I don’t believe in coincidences. Conflicted.
So the next week, I go and set up for the event, and the sweet lady who hired me was preaching. She started her sermon with a blog post she wrote. From the first word, to the last, I was in tears. Hmmm… chalked it up to being an emotional day and the fact that I cry at EVERYTHING.
Don’t hit me up for cash after one of those animal rescue commercials with Sarah McLachlin singing in the background. I’ll empty my entire bank account.
So, I went back. Then I went over to their house for a small group. Then I was learning about my spiritual gifts and joined the team. What was happening? What had I opened myself up to?
I let them see me. Unworthy, messy, screwed up me. And, they still liked me. They likened the church to a hospital, and that if no one was sick or hurting, then there was no point for the existence of it. I was falling in love with this precious community. I was… well… trusting them and allowing them to show me God’s love through their kindness and striving to build authentic community.
Pastor Jon said in a sermon, that all the icky, ugly (ok, paraphrasing) things that we have gone through in life are to help someone else through exactly that. And, that we are here to be someone’s miracle. Me? A miracle? I thought that was saved for Saints, not sinners.
Wait… could these people be my miracles? At that point, instead of my knee… it was my heart that loosened.
Just like that. Snap. Loose. Heaven.
So here am I Lord, open, trusting, loving and ready to be someone’s miracle.
Kristi’s Facebook post was copied here with her permission. Kristi Lynn Stoken received her B.A. In French from Indiana University. She is now completing her Doctorate of Naturopathy, yet realizing that the only title she holds dear is Child of God. She loves messy and raw because this is where she finds authenticity and beauty. Kristi worships at Redemption Church Charlottesville in Virginia.