God uses pivotal circumstances to do something IN us, not TO us.
Later, at lunch, Dave Nelson was teasing his daughter about the possibility of her going to five different schools in elementary school. It made me remember about a pivotal circumstance in my own life. I actually went to seven different schools between 6th and 9th grade myself. Yep, that’s seven! Seven different schools in three different states; Texas, Georgia, & Washington. I remember feeling excited with the first couple of moves, daydreams about new friends and new places, it sounded like fun. By the 5th and 6th, the reality set in that it was not fun at all but, in fact, very lonely and frustrating being the “new kid” all the time. I never knew my way around, I never knew which teachers were nice, I never knew where to sit at lunch. It was awful! At one school, I irritated the wrong kid and got a whole quart of salsa dumped on my head in the lunch room, in front of everyone. These are not my favorite memories.
Yet, I look back on it, and I can see how God used even those awful years to do something IN me, not TO me. You see, I still get that pit in my stomach when I think about the “new kid”. I feel sick remembering how nobody would take the risk to talk to me when they already had friends of their own. Unless a student was assigned to, I didn’t have anyone to show me my way around, or tell me not to sit in “that” seat on the bus because it belonged to a total jerk. I can literally work myself into a panic thinking about the “new kid”.
But, this is a very good thing! You see, this pit of my stomach feeling is one of the things that drives me to take a look around as we continue to build Great Lakes Church. I find myself constantly watching for the “new kid” to walk through the doors, and they do every weekend. Everything inside of me wants to prevent people from feeling the way I did growing up, like nobody cares, like people are only helpful because they are “assigned” to be. At Great Lakes, I have the perfect opportunity to use those all too familiar feelings of awkwardness to my advantage as we teach our teams how important it is to greet absolutely everyone with a smile. We put up new and better looking indoor signs this weekend in a continued attempt to make things clear for people who don’t already know their way around. Our ushers do a great job of helping people find a place to sit, so nobody feels like they might be in someone else’s seat when they visit us for the first time. (By the second time, they might realize that nobody really has their own seat anyway.) It’s like God has all but given those years back to me, given me a way to turn around and make hundreds of people feel welcome each week to what may be a scary and awkward circumstance for them. It’s elating!
I wonder if you can think of some of your own “bad-turned-good” circumstances. This “new kid” thing is just one of many in my life. In fact, we are experiencing some pretty great milestones at Great Lakes Church and in our personal lives (can you believe we still have personal lives?) right now!
We are in the third and final week of sign ups for our Summer Growth Group season. Kicking off Growth Groups here at GLC has been a dream come true for me, and they haven’t even started yet. Tony and I had the phenomenal opportunity to lead a six week workshop series for people who were interested in being leaders and hosts. Those of you who have been leaders and hosts at EastLake (the church we came from in Seattle) may think this is overkill. You might think, “Does it really take 6 weeks to train someone to run a group in their homes?” Well, I don’t think it does, BUT, we believed we could give them more than just a basic training by investing in them for 6 entire weeks. For 6 weeks (with two different groups, one on Thursdays and one on Saturdays) we had the opportunity to model what a group could be like. Each week we invited them into our homes and taught on everything from “difficult people”, to prayer & communion in groups, to how to gracefully cut off a gossip, to helping people feel welcome. We modeled 5 different kinds of groups: DVD group, Bible Study, Book Study, Game Night & Activity Groups, and Men’s vs. Women’s groups. It was this incredible time where these future leaders had a chance to build relationships with one another and be praying for each other before their groups even got off the ground. We feel so lucky to have gotten to know them all and encourage them all to lead these groups on their own. Now to see some of the groups filling up and everything they’ve learned coming to reality is just so fun! We have over 175 people signed up to be a part of our very first Growth Group season, which is more people than we predicted would even be a part of Great Lakes Church at this stage. In fact, isn’t that about the total number of people we had attend our very first Preview Service back in October of last year? I can’t wait for these groups to get started!
Another milestone to speak of is that tomorrow, June 8th, is our 2 year wedding anniversary. WOO HOO! It’s traditionally the “cotton anniversary”, so we’re thinking… socks? We are excited to celebrate our marriage and what God has done in us during the course of our relationship. We are thankful for our friends and family who have loved us and challenged us to be a better husband, better wife, better friends and better followers of Christ. It’s also quite a thrill because we are expecting our first baby! That’s right, Baby Peterson is due to arrive January 15, 2010! Pregnancy has been an interesting new dynamic in our marriage. I’m sure I’ll share more details about that in the months to come. For now you may want to know that I’m 8 weeks along, tired and nauseous all the time, and the doctor says all my “levels” are looking good.
Love to you all!
Michelle & Tony