When my two sisters and I were very young my mom left our family and at the age of 26, my dad found himself the single parent to three little girls ages 4, 3, and 2. He moved us to my grandparents’ farm where he had grown up and we became my grandmother’s “day daughters”. My dad worked days as a telephone lineman, helped out with the farm when he got home, and worked as the church sexton on Saturdays. We spent those Saturdays with him, learning to clean the chalk boards, empty trash, and straighten up the sanctuary. All of the hymnals and Bibles had to face the same way and be evenly distributed in the pew racks. We swept floors and cleaned toilets. We helped to fill the baptismal, wash the communion plates and cups, fold the bulletins, and even got to ring the bell on Sunday mornings. We were at church early on Sundays to “open things up”. You could say that we grew up in the church. It was a comfortable and familiar place.
I remember one warm spring morning when I was a teenager. I was pushing the wide dust mop between the pews in the high ceilinged sanctuary. The open windows were tall and made of panes of lightly colored glass. They were framed with heavy burgundy drapes and thin sheer curtains hung between the drapes. The curtains were gently blowing inward with a light breeze. The air had the smell of newly mown grass. Birds were singing. All of a sudden, I knew that God was in this place. I was filled with such a sense of His presence that I almost couldn’t breathe. I will never forget that day.
I was baptized in that sanctuary several years later. I was 21 when I made my public profession of faith, but for me, I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t believe.
Fast forward a few years. I was married, living in North Carolina, had completed my Master’s degree and had become a Mom. I was working two part-time jobs, juggling hours so that my son, Brian, would not be in day care anymore than was necessary. A neighbor had a home daycare across the street from our home. Brian was a toddler, probably 16 or 18 months old. I was working as a nurse practitioner and had had a tough clinical day. As I walked up the walk to Miss Kim’s screened front door I could see Brian with his face pressed against the glass waiting for me and my heart was so full. I couldn’t imagine loving anyone so much as I loved my son. And then it hit me that God sacrificed His only Son – that He loves so much, for me. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” I could only begin to comprehend what that meant, how much that cost. Sometimes I stop and thank God for allowing me to be a parent. There have been so many times when it has helped me to have a glimmer of understanding His unconditional love.
So all my life I believed in God the Father. As I read and reread His word I have come to understand why Jesus came to pay the price for my sins, why He was the only one who could enable me to approach God – to come boldly before the throne of grace to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16) But I still couldn’t quite grasp the concept of the Holy Spirit. I understood intellectually what the Bible said about the Holy Spirit and I prayed that He would be with me and guide my words and actions but I didn’t feel like I knew Him. Until, I went to Haiti. I had been a couple of times to the orphanage in Port au Prince doing manual labor and loving on the children. But, my third trip, shortly after the devastating earthquake in 2010 was truly a life changing experience.
Each day at 7AM I’d walk the quarter mile or so down the dusty, rough road to the MOH medical clinic. There, I’d begin cleaning and sterilizing instruments to be used in the OR later. When the clinic opened at 8, I’d begin seeing patients. They would arrive at the open entrance to the triage area on foot in the already hot and humid mornings. Some limped in with orthopedic hardware in place, metal screws through their skin and into their bones holding broken bones together. Others were on crutches, some with two legs, some with one… We cared for them one by one in small rooms and crowded hallways with intermittent electricity and only cold running water. At 3PM, I would walk a short distance up to the post-op “ward” – a hoop building with about 25 beds lined up in 3 rows. Each bed had a cot beside it for a family member. The building was hot, so hot that we couldn’t use electric thermometers because the temperature reading would start at room temperature – often higher than 100. There was no privacy, no running water – unless you count the outside spigot, and no bathroom. There were also few complaints and little that I could do to ease the suffering. Later, I would trudge back up the hill, in the continued oppressive heat and the darkness feeling weary and helpless and wondering – why. And the next day, I would do it again.
People talking to me after my return would say “Oh, you’re so good to do this.” But I knew differently. In that week I was emptied of myself. I was humbled. I used every single nursing skill I had. I absolutely relied on something that was much more than I am and that was the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 I now know that that which is good in me is only due to the Holy Spirit.
I still don’t really grasp the concept of the Trinity, God in three persons. I cannot wrap my brain around the idea that this God has no beginning, that He has always been. But then, I can’t conceive of time before time so these are limitations of my humanity not of God. God has always been “of course” to me. I have never questioned His presence. He is much bigger than I can ever hope to comprehend and that gives me comfort and reassures me and gives my life purpose. My God is an awesome God!
If you have questions about my faith story, please come talk to me after the service. I’d love to hear your story and get to know you.