I mentioned I graduated with honors. To do that, we each had to do an honors thesis. I hooked up with my biology professor, who knew of some interesting research going on at UAMS. I had decided a couple years into my college courses that I no longer wanted to do medical school. I became very interested in NASA, actually. The research was taking a look at bone loss in simulated space environments. Through this connection--not to mention it was close to Searcy--I decided to attend graduate school there. I applied for the PhD program in Physiology. Working for the last time in Garland, I said adieu to Texas and made my permanent move to Arkansas in early July. Bryan was having his second surgery so I wanted to come on up. Although my mom and I toured for apartments previously, the only ones that stood out were ones I didn't get to see firsthand. So I basically moved into Chenal Lakes Apartments sight unseen. That was on a Saturday. With everything still in boxes, I saw a church around the corner and just opted to visit it on Sunday. Needless to say, I haven't left Parkway Place since. Think God had a hand in that? :)
Back then, the pastors did "pop" visits, where they came over and brought a soda. My pastor was Leslie Willis. We talked a bit and he asked if I sang. Thanks to Janie, I was again, so he invited me to choir practice.
School started up and it was way worse than I could ever have imagined. There were only 6-8 of us in the class, but every single other person already had a connection to a professor and knew what they would be researching. I--having come from a small, private, liberal arts college--had no idea what I was doing. And that made for a very stressful year. Being handed professional journal articles and expected to critically analyze it in a presentation was a nightmare. I made my first "C". Then I had no clue as to what I wanted to research yet, so I would rotate labs. Well, the professors would ask what I wanted to do. You can imagine how well it went over when I said "I'm not sure." Long story short, I was not a quality student in their eyes. It came to a head one day when a professors told me I was acting like a "5th grader" and asked why I wanted to get this degree. She said that my research had to be the. most. important. thing. in. my. life. Well that was a red flag and in that moment, I knew I didn't want to live that way either. So at the end of my coursework, I went to the chairman and asked to use my credits for a master's degree. He agreed, indicated this was a one way trip.
Before I continue that story, I have to pick back up on my experiences at PPBC. I was suffering from huge separation anxiety from OBU. I would go back every Saturday for football games and to see friends. But back in Little Rock, I was hurting. I would spend all my free time in chat rooms online. I joined these silly role playing groups and would sit and chat "in character" for hours on end. I went to see the pastor, Allan Greer, a couple months after moving. He could see my struggle and invited me to do "Experiencing God" with him one-on-one. I also met a crazy guy named Jared Hodges, who was the interim student pastor. We became friends and he invited me to some events with the students. I guess you could say that's when I became involved with the student ministry. Leslie also asked if I knew enough "tech" to help out on Wednesdays with sound. So, I guess that's when I became involved with the A/V team.
The church eventually got a full-time student minister. But as I said, I was really struggling with a lot of issues. The student minister and I never really had a solid relationship. I loved those students though. We made some crazy videos back then (check them out on my Youtube page), and I ran sound for the services. Good times.
So back to school...it's 2003 (I've been in LR for two years). I've opted to go for a master's degree instead. So I needed a job. There was a chemistry position open at Little Rock Christian Academy. I interviewed; it went really well. They seemingly were on their way to hire me by the types of things they asked me and the comments they made. I knew God's hand was in this unexpected turn. Oh His hand was definitely involved, just in an...unexpected way. I graduated, but then didn't get the job. I was completely devastated. So certain I was, of God's leading in this, that when it didn't happen, I questioned everything I knew about God.
A few weeks into the summer, the student ministry went on a mission trip to Arizona. I had already committed so I went. But that was really my breaking point. I was so confused and angry that what I was doing out there made no sense. And I kept getting pushed to produce. It got so bad I was contemplating leaving this middle-of-the desert place and find a way to get to the airport to fly home. Allan was on the trip and was going into town one day and I jumped in the van. He could see my pain and frustration and lovingly talked me down. We returned home; I was working at Chenal Country Club. I met with Allan and another mentor, Tim Knight, for weeks. We read "Celebration of Discipline" together. I quit the student ministry, because I knew I had no business being in that position in the state I was in. It was such a hard decision.
In the meanwhile I was looking for a job. But the situation got worse: my hours were cut back to about 8-12 per week. I had to get help for two months to pay my rent. One Sunday in November, I was convicted to take my tithe to church, something I didn't really know about until having read "Celebration of Discipline." But I didn't. On Monday, I dropped to my knees for the first time in my life since having given my life to Jesus and begged God to act. I took my meager check up to church and handed it to the secretary. Hours later, I received a phone call to interview at the State Crime Lab for a Forensic Chemist position. In December, I started there.
At church, many exciting things were going on. "40 Days of Purpose" was revolutionary and stands out in my mind. I began singing on the Praise Team, while also taking on more responsibilities on the A/V team. Eventually we started to video the service, so I made the tough choice of leaving the choir and just doing A/V ministry. I tried leading a young single adult ministry for a while, but that wasn't part of God's plan for me, so I let that go too.
The crime lab was awesome. In fact, I loved it and felt pride and purpose there. Like any place, there were a few people who just didn't click with me. When I transferred sections, in fact, I had many a run-in with a coworker. I also began teaching as an adjunct instructor for Pulaski Tech a couple of evenings a week. (I feel sorry for my first class. I was pretty terrible.) I was getting increasing responsibilities in small doses there, but the politics of the place were starting to eat at me. In spring 2007, the director of the science curriculum at the nursing school campus where I taught was promoted and recommended me for her position. The possibilities--not to mention the better salary--were very enticing and in June 2007, I was hired. And that's my job to this day. I like it well enough, though it is not entirely everything I expected. I struggle with patience almost every day when it comes to dealing with student who can't seem to help themselves or don't want to do the work it takes. That's something God is still working on with me. /wink
While I was working at the crime lab, a coworker got me interested in online gaming. She told me about World of Warcraft, specifically. (Go ahead and groan.) I started playing with them and eventually a lot more than them. I mean A LOT more. I honestly became addicted. There was a span of months where as soon as I got home, I would log in (around 4:30) and would sign out at bedtime (around 10:30). Every Saturday, I would wake up and play, logging 12 hours easily. I mean it when I say every literal minute I wasn't at work or church, I was playing this game. Every minute. It had its share of guild drama (guilds being the group of people you play with), but man was it fun. I went to the midnight release of the expansion pack. I even custom built a computer to handle the graphics of the game without a hitch. But soon after the expansion, the drama of playing with other people got to me. My guild broke apart after I had worked so hard for months building up my character. I didn't want to start from scratch with another guild, having gotten fairly high in the ranks of the one I was in. (Can you tell this was serious business?) So I quit. And really, it was a good thing. I was wasting my life away on this game. Over two years of playing it--and I'm embarrassed to admit this--I spent four months of actual play time online. /cough Moving on...
In the time since I worked at the crime lab and PTC, PPBC has grown so much, and so have I. The student pastor left after only a couple of years (which left me feeling kind of vindicated for some odd reason.) A new student pastor came and eventually I re-connected to the student ministry. I made friends and some friends moved away. But the fact is, for the first time in my life, the meaning of "relationship" is something real and positive. And I'm building eternal friendships with many people.
During the last couple of years, as we started our second venue Passion, my responsibilities on the A/V have exponentially multiplied. I joined an amazing community group led by Larry Remington, our Discipleship Pastor. I met with him one-on-one for a long while, telling him things that I have told no other person. He guided and taught and listened...he is one of the most important people in my life. I've since moved to a new community group which my closest friends started. A very hard decision, indeed.
There was a time as I served on the A/V team, when I let the busyness of it become my idol. I had to take a break and did so. During that time, God really showed me what it means to serve and do so in love. Over the course of our "Imagine" campaign last fall, Allan met with me and basically said he was looking to me to lead the A/V team in excellence and service. To have that put on me, along with all the projects I had going for this campaign was simply overwhelming. But I didn't do it alone; my God was the source of strength I needed and name in which I turned to for wisdom.
I look back on the years at OBU and realize how much of a baby Christian I was, having no clue as to the vastness of God's love and grace. Through much patience and love and listening, the pastors and leaders at PPBC have grown me in ways I never thought imaginable. And the exciting part is, as much wisdom and growth as I feel I've learned from them, there's still so much more to learn about our great God! There were a couple of opportunities in the past years for me to move away, but I know that God has called me to this place in this time to serve here. My job is my provision (even enabling me to buy a house about a year ago); my purpose is my ministry.
So all that is left to say is "to be continued" because as much as God has worked on me these last few years--growing me by leaps and bounds--there's certainly more in store. Thanks for reading!