Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. –Psalm 139:16

Summer 2009 was the beginning of a change in me, I just didn’t know it then.  First, some background information.

I was born into and raised in a Southern Baptist church.  I am as Baptist as you get.  My mother was the church organist and my father served in various roles from Sunday school teacher to deacon.  My brother, sister, and I were at church every time the doors were open and sometimes when they weren’t.  We were in Sunday school every Sunday morning; Mission Friends, GA’s, RA’s, or Acteens every Wednesday night; we sang in children’s choirs and youth choirs, and we attended and later worked in Vacation Bible School during the summers.  As teenagers, we went on every youth trip and attended every youth event.  There was no discussion, no option to not attend, it was just what we were expected to do, so we did it.  We did it even when we didn’t want to and we did it with a smile on our faces.  Little did I know the great journey God was preparing me for, even then.

I went away to college and, after six years and two degrees, I moved back home.  I was immediately asked to join the sanctuary choir, to teach children’s Sunday school, and to teach Mission Friends.  I agreed to all three.  I threw myself into my new church responsibilities and into my new job with enthusiasm.  I loved my huge group of students at work and my small but active group of children at church.

Fast forward fourteen years.  I still sang in the choir and taught children’s Sunday school and Mission Friends.  To these church jobs, I had added Vacation Bible School director, handbell choir, and various committees.  I was tired.  I was burned out.  I could teach Sunday school and Mission Friends in my sleep and it often felt like I was doing just that.  It was summer and I was in the midst of building props and organizing VBS.  I was ready to get VBS over with so I could start my summer vacation, which in those days involved sleeping until noon then sitting around the house and reading, watching tv, or playing computer games all day and into the night.

A few days before VBS started, my friend (and wife of our minister of music, Lou*), came to me.  She explained that the youth choir would be going to Orlando the week after VBS to some sort of music conference where they would be recording a CD.  She and Lou were supposed to be going as leaders, but her mother needed to have surgery that week, so Grace had to go to Tampa to be with her mother.  She wanted to know if I would take her place and go to Orlando with Lou and the kids.  I agreed, but not because I wanted to, I only did it to help Grace out and because I knew she would have done it for me.  I hadn’t worked with teenagers in years and the idea of giving up an entire week of my summer to get up early and keep up with a bunch of teenagers all day didn’t sound like much fun to me.  Lou told me which kids were going and, although I had known all five of them literally since they were born and had taught all of them in Sunday school when they were children, I hadn’t worked with them in years and didn’t really know them anymore.

VBS came and went and was awesome.  For the first time as a VBS leader, I was actually able to enjoy the week.  We had some really great leaders and, using a curriculum that was new to us, we were really able to make a difference in the life of some kids and get them excited about learning about God.  I was surprised that I was sad and actually cried on the last day of VBS because I didn’t want it to be over.  But it was over and I spent the weekend washing and packing for Orlando.

Monday morning, I arrived at church.  It was early and I was grumpy.  I still didn’t want to go and finding out that morning that we were going to do some missions work during the week did not improve my mood.  The trip to Orlando took seven hours and was filled with lots of noise and talking and singing from the kids while Lou and I mostly sighed and rolled our eyes at each other.

We checked into our hotel, along with about 700 other teenagers and leaders, ate dinner in the attached mall, and went to evening worship.  A band called Among the Thirsty played.  They were loud.  Lou and I stood in the back covering our ears while the kids danced and sang.  The speaker preached and I found myself actually enjoying it and listening instead of daydreaming like I usually did during sermons.  After a little free time, Lou and I managed to get the boys in the boys’ room and the girls in the girls’ room and relatively quiet.  The kids slept.  Lou and I discovered the next morning that neither he nor I had slept a wink.

The morning began with rehearsal and another worship service.  Lunch time came surprisingly quickly and we all ate in the mall again.  Then it was time for missions work for the groups that had been assigned a job.  Our group hadn’t, so we had free time.  The kids left Lou and me and went to decide what they wanted to do.  I took a good look at Lou.  He was exhausted.  I felt guilty.  All I had done for two days was complain.  I was there to be a leader and I wasn’t acting like one.  I told Lou to go take a nap.  He said he couldn’t because the boys would wake him up.  I said, “Maybe not,” and set off to find the kids.

I found them in the lobby.  “Go put your bathing suits on,” I ordered, “We’re going swimming.”  The girls were enthusiastic, but the boys weren’t.  They wanted to look at videos on the internet.  “Not now,” I told them.  “Lou is exhausted and needs a nap.  We are all going swimming for the next two hours.  You don’t have to stay in the pool the whole time, but you will not be allowed to go back to your room for two hours, so get whatever you need now.  You can put a change of clothes in our room.”  They realized I was not playing around and they followed directions.  We spent a relaxing two hours a beautiful pool that we had almost to ourselves.  I found out later that Lou didn’t take a nap, but he was able to rest and spend some time talking to Grace by himself.

I spent the rest of the trip trying to be a leader and help Lou instead of complaining.  The week passed by quickly and I was surprised to find that I didn’t want to come home when it was over!  I began to feel God tugging at my heart, telling me that He had something more for me to do.  More?  How could I do more? 

It would be two years before I figured out the next step in God’s plan for my life, but those two years weren’t wasted either.  God used various people and events to prepare me for what was coming and for the role He created for me to play.  I didn’t think much about it at the time, but since then I have come to realize that there are no accidents.  It was no accident that Grace’s mother had surgery that week.  It was no accident that she asked me to fill in for her in Orlando.  It was no accident that Lou and I didn’t sleep that night.  It was no accident that he and I were in that place with those particular kids.  God designed that trip for the seven of us before we were even born.  And, He designed another trip for me and nine others that took place during the summer of 2011…

*Names have been changed