Witnessing a life transformation for my dear friend
For the past few Sundays, I've risen early from my bed to take care of necessary health requirements before prepping for church. The reason I had been getting up earlier than normal had to do with my desire to accompany my mother to church at Hope in Spencer.
Mom is in town through the early part of January, visiting from her current residence in a Philadelphia suburb where she lives with my sister and her family. She lived in Spencer for several years prior to moving back east and really found a church family at Hope while living here. It made sense when she came home that she would want to make it to a Sunday service. Every Sunday, dating back to her arrival prior to Thanksgiving, I arose and prepared to join her for a service at her church before returning home and joining my wife and kids for mass at Sacred Heart Catholic. But each week, mom wasn't feeling well enough to leave the house, and she would propose we wait until the following week.
This Sunday, when I didn't hear her up and moving around, I figured she must not be feeling up to it again so I reset my alarm and went back to sleep. Then came the knock on my bedroom door.
"Are you ready to go? Your mom is ready for church."
I glanced at my phone which has replaced my alarm clock as my go-to time resource. It read 8:21. I had reset my alarm for 8:30 a.m. Hope's service began at 8:30. I scrambled, grabbed some clothes off a pile — nothing new there, that's often how I dress which comes as no surprise to my growing list of fashion critics — perhaps clean, perhaps not; pulled on some shoes and socks or vice-versa; grabbed keys and stumbled to the door. We made it to church, missing only the first few minutes of the beautiful choral Christmas Cantata. Pastor Russell Muilenburg saw us looking through the back window of church searching for a place to sit and tossed us a welcoming grin.
If you think I was the only one out-of-sorts Sunday morning you would be mistaken. My mother got up late as well and it wasn't until we were ready to walk through the doors of Hope into the sanctuary that I notified her she apparently forgot her "flipper." What is a flipper and why is that significant you ask? Well it fits inside her mouth and contains fake teeth to fill holes in where teeth were previously located. Needless to say as I pointed this out, just prior to stepping into the church, she clamped her hand over her mouth, petrified about the prospect of seeing some friends she hadn't seen in a couple of years minus a few of her chicklets. She decided she wouldn't sing and wouldn't smile. And it probably would have worked had she not informed every human being she came into contact with she had left her flipper at home. Being flipperless may have thwarted her smile or song but it did not have the same impact on talking. Apparently not having her substitute teeth also caused her to forget her coat which she left hanging inside the church as we were leaving and then caused her to try and car-jack another family's van outside the building. Some poor, unsuspecting family just looked awkwardly as she tried to jump a ride with them. All's well that ends well though. No police were called and she made it into the correct van ... eventually, and all was well with the world.
So why this enormous setup?
I guess my point is, even when it's not the most convenient thing in your life, or the timing feels off, or obstacles might try to alter your path, God will put you where you need to be at the right moment. He knew my mother wanting to go would be enough to make me rise and shine despite feeling like I needed more sleep.
Sure the Cantata was enjoyable and I'm glad I was there with my mother to enjoy it. And Pastor Russell delivered a great message about choosing God's life blessings to fill your pail because the world's offering will leave you empty and wanting more. Trust me, the message penetrated much deeper when pastor said it.
But the real reason God wanted me there was dear friend Kim Smith.
For the past 11 years Kim has served the youth of the Hope Church community in a professional capacity after serving them for several years as a volunteer. During the same time she has been a great friend and a trusted voice sharing God's wisdom in her words of encouragement in my life. The church paid tribute to Kim Sunday, honoring her many years of loving care for the hundreds of Hope youth she has raised, mentored, taught and apparently delivered a lot of candy to. A video presentation from the children, past and present, (and one very large, bulging elderly woman) recognizing their beloved Mrs. Smith was followed by an emotional tribute from the pastor.
Normally I would have missed this. Wouldn't have even been aware it had happened, but as it turned out, through what I believe was God's perfect — albeit unexpected — timing, I was there with a front row seat, wiping tears from eyes along with many in the appreciative congregation and church leadership.
Kim is not just a friend, but she is a partner. When I first introduced the Extreme Am skateboard competition all those many years ago, Kim was the first person to step-up and offer her assistance. Long before I crafted the idea to showcase some of our talented skateboarders in our beautiful skate park, Kim had been out there delivering cookies and taking them drinks on the hot summer days. She showed an interest in them and for some of those kids it felt new and special to have someone give a rip about something they were interested in. They embraced her and she was able to not just talk about God's love but model it through her actions. She became "Skate Mom" and willingly became my partner as we continued the Extreme Am for several years.
She offered food and a place to crash and shower for the "scream-o" bands as she used to call them. They would come to play music at the skate competitions and they would leave with a new friend as she was always finding ways to demonstrate her love for those she came into contact with..
It was a couple of months ago when she first told me she was considering stepping down from her "job" at Hope to take on a new life challenge. This coming in the aftermath of a life-threatening health situation her loving husband Ronnie battled and defeated with her by his side. She told me she was greatly impacted by the tragedy of human trafficking and wanted to take on a new role as community advocate by spreading information and awareness. Not for pay but because God had placed it on her heart and because it's the right thing to do.
Sunday her church family let her know, in no uncertain terms, they are behind her all the way. And I was there, although it wasn't easy or convenient, I was there to share in the moment. God blessed me for my faithfulness as well.
She will be a hero of this cause and I would encourage you to ask my beautiful and amazing friend to come share her God-given passion with your organization. We should all be so blessed to have such an energized and passionate guardian angel here on earth. The tragic victims of human trafficking couldn't have gained a more compassionate or dedicated advocate.