Everyday Disciple: Emily's Story

This post is part of an on-going Everyday Disciple series. We're celebrating here what it looks like to follow Christ faithfully in the day-to-day. I am thankful to share the stories of gracious friends and readers, and I have sought to preserve and honor their voice in the post below. I invite you to join me as we listen to their experience as an "everyday disciple."

I was so excited when Emily first emailed me to share about her experience working as a civil engineer in construction. It’s a world I’m definitely unfamiliar with, and I was delighted to hear her stories. I hope her enthusiasm about her work and the ways God is at work in it bring your heart as much joy as it has brought mine. 

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I wish you could see the beauty in construction. Yes, the same noisy, annoying, dirty, nuisance-on-your-way-to-work construction. I wish you could see the beauty in the act of creating something that has, up to that point, only been imagined by other human beings. Or of the circus act of moving parts and personalities working towards a common goal. Of the countless numbers of people who have touched a building along a processing line, operating trucks across the country, or eventually installing it in the field with their own hands. I wish you could see, behind the test of patience, the beautiful story of creation and growth and relationships behind each construction project.

At first, I didn’t think I had the personality for the construction industry. But God led me to this career, and in spite of my hesitation, since I took my job in construction project management, I have discovered what God already knew, that this was the perfect job for me. 

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I love that each project I work on is completely unique and requires a team effort and accountability. My job requires constant problem solving, and I can see the physical results of the planning efforts of my team. To start with a blank piece of land and end with a brand-new structure that will be enjoyed by others is very fulfilling to me.

I have learned that good construction work (as with many other industries) is all about sustaining good relationships between all individuals involved in the process. In construction, there are many different parties with many different interests: architects, engineers, owners (clients), end users, subcontractors, inspectors, and the individual workers in the field. My unique job as a Construction Manager is to serve as a mediator and conduit of information between all these different groups. Knowing God, and therefore knowing how I should act as a Christian, helps me to approach each meeting without preconceived judgements or only my own agenda, and implores me to treat each person respectfully and fairly. I have many opportunities to model right relationships, just by showing up to work and doing my job.  

In tenuous and stressful situations (where time and money are on the line) there is always a temptation to make quick decisions or take the easy way out, cutting corners. This often has fatal consequences if done during the construction process (whether it is risking the safety of workers, or the ultimate performance of the structure). Christianity calls me to be truthful in all my dealings and strengthens me to honor God in these circumstances by acting with integrity.

When I read the first post in this series, I thought of how God uniquely placed me, with my particular industry skillset, in the church that I am currently attending. I’ve struggled to know where my gifts and passions fit into the Body. When I first joined the church about four years ago, I was not aware of the Building Committee’s Master Plan process.  When it was revealed to the congregation, I felt as if my heart would burst out of my chest at the thought of possibly being involved in the construction of this grand plan.  

Looking back, God was carving a path through specific experiences I had had during the first few years at my company to ultimately allow me to serve on the church’s "Building Committee." One by one, the pieces aligned, and I eventually was asked to join the Building Committee with just enough construction experience under my belt to be helpful. We are now in the construction phase of the new parking lot around our current church and despite the fact that this might sound boring to most people, it is such an honor to be part of this process. I have never felt more fulfilled in my work than knowing I can simply be used in this way as a member of the church body for the glory of God’s kingdom.

Our church’s motto is to “know Christ and make Him known,” and this can be done anywhere. I can do this while using my “ever day job” skills for His glory while serving my church through its building projects. And I can do this as I am a presence for God’s Body and represent the church in the construction field. You never know how God will use your passions for His glory.

If you would like to be a part of this project, I would love to hear your story. Contact me for more information.

Friday Morning Coffee #45: Where Do You Come From?

I'm curled up in the corner of our couch looking at our Christmas tree. And I'm thinking about where I've come from. The leap in logic there, I suppose, is that the delicate glass ornaments are family heirlooms. When we hang them each year, I think of my grandmother and of the great-grandmother I never met. 


There are certain ornaments, when I gently lift them from their paper beds, that send me back in time. I'm younger then, and the tree is much smaller, elevated on a wooden table. And I'm decorating the tree for her, picking out my favorites to go on the tiny branches. The first year we were married, the first year we used them on our tree, the first time I'd seen them after she died, I sat down and wept when I opened the boxes. Memories are strange like that - a curious mix of joy and sorrow. Now, I just smile. And as I sit here today, I'm thankful for the memories, for the rootedness, for the history. 

My own sense of rootedness is making me think of the genealogy of Jesus. Perhaps it's because I saw just talking to one of our little friends about it this week. She was telling me about what she was learning in her Bible class.

"The people (Israelites) left slavery (Egypt) and they crossed the sea and went to the Promised Land. And then people said there were giants and they were scared. So they sent in spies to see what it was really like, and they came back with grapes that were this big." She held her hands in a large circle, the size of her head, to give me a scale. "But while they were there, they almost got captured, and a nice lady helped them hide and get out. We didn't learn about this part yet, but I know what happens because I read the story before," she ended proudly.

"Do you want to know something pretty cool?" I asked her. She nodded, perhaps a bit skeptical as to what I would consider "cool." 

"That nice lady was named Rahab. And the Bible tells us that she was Jesus' great-great-great-great... (I sped up, thankful she wouldn't actually care about the number of generations between them.) grandmother." 

Her eyes were big. "She was what?!"

For most of my life, I just skipped over the genealogies in the Bible. In recent years, though, I've taken a liking to them, particularly the one in Matthew 1. I don't have the space or time to go into the beautiful things it teaches us - so for now, I'll just say, take a look at who's there, and look them up in the Old Testament. It's a speckled family history. If "David had Solomon by dead Uriah's wife" doesn't catch your attention, I don't know what will. 

But for today, I'm thinking about how Jesus came from somewhere. He wasn't an isolated incident. He didn't come in a vacuum. He came from a particular family line, in a particular place, at a particular time. He was from somewhere. And when he would have told the story of Rahab and the spies, as our young friend did, he would have ended it saying, "And that nice lady was my grandmother..." 

In honor of the musings on genealogies, I offer you what will probably be the only Christmas song you'll ever hear that involves Matthew's genealogy. Enjoy.

In a Land of Deep Darkness

I grew up in the “country," in a neighborhood dominated by farm fields. They stretched long over gently rolling hills, interrupted by silos that sliced through the horizon, straining for the sky. There were often cows in these fields. I could see them from my window as they grazed, their dappled white and black hide backlit by a green pasture.

At night, a thick quiet settled over us, a quiet only broken by the occasional car passing on the road by our house. No street lamps intruded the darkness. You could see the stars. On nights when the moon was small and the sky was clear, you could lay down in the driveway or in the dusky damp of the front yard and stare up at them. Tiny pin points of light, flung across the sky in dazzling splendor. They brought the comfort of smallness and a tight squeezing in my chest.


But it wasn’t always so magical. I remember this specifically on nights it was my job to drag the trashcan to the end of our gravel driveway. It didn’t always have wheels then. In those days, I’d have to drag it or, if it was particularly heavy, slip it onto a small handcart and wheel it down.

I would reach the point, about halfway down, when I stepped past the glow that radiated from the windows and stepped into darkness. I tried not to let my overly active imagination get the better of me. What could be lurking in those shadows? What animal might be stalking me? What bad guy might be sneaking up, about to clamp an iron hand over my screaming mouth? I was jumpy, bracing myself for some creature to jump out at me.

In a book series I read at the time, the main character would repeat a Bible verse to herself when she was afraid. I took her cue, and if you listened carefully, you would have heard my tiny voice repeating, “In what time I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee.”

I’m not often scared of the dark these days, though my imagination can still get the better of me. These days, it’s the metaphorical darkness that disquiets my mind. The darkness of evil, the darkness of a world that still groans under brokenness of sin.

I read of war crimes and heinous violence inflicted by humans, made in God’s image, on other humans, made in God’s image, and my stomach turns. How can this be tolerated? I see natural disasters, sickness, sorrow, betrayal. I see them here, in my town, in my church community, in my home. And I ask, how long, Lord? How long until you bring the completion of justice, how long until your healing is complete?

The small child, still deep within me, trembles, wondering what will lurch next from the shadows, whispering to herself the truth.

And what a blessed truth we remember this Advent season—that of a small child who came to drive back the darkness, to defeat the evils that lurk in the shadows, to shatter that darkness with Light everlasting. Thanks be to God.

The people who walked in darkness
     have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
     on them has light shone…
For to us a child is born,
     To us a son is given;
And the government shall be upon his shoulder,
     And his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
     Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.    (Isaiah 9:2, 6)

Everyday Disciple: Bekah's Story

This post is part of an on-going Everyday Disciple series. We're celebrating here what it looks like to follow Christ faithfully in the day-to-day. I am thankful to share the stories of gracious friends and readers, and I have sought to preserve and honor their voice in the post below. I invite you to join me as we listen to their experience as an "everyday disciple."

Bekah and I first met while working at a summer camp in Pennsylvania. We'd fallen out of touch in recent years, but I was excited when she emailed me to share some of her story. It's a story both of how she sees God working through her work - and of how God has used other "everyday disciples" to direct her to the place she is today. 

* * *

The beginning of my freshman year at Shippensburg University was a challenging and unusual situation. I was a commuter, a student athlete, and an undeclared major.

As a commuting student, I felt like an outsider. (I once had someone tell me, “You are not a real college student anyway.”) I loved being a part of the cross country team, but my situation was different from that of my teammates. I had to wake up earlier to get to school for practice, and when teammates wanted to hang out after practices, I eventually had to go home. As I watched new students move in, I witnessed something I would never experience. It was very hard for me.

Early on, I met Melissa, who was an intern with the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO). We began meeting weekly, and she took time to listen, encourage, and mentor me throughout my first year. At one of our meetings, Melissa told me she could see me working with college students someday. I gave her a quizzical look and just brushed the statement off.

I made a painful decision to stop doing track in the spring season. Little did I know that this hard decision would lead me to discovering my passion to work with college students.

I eventually began volunteering with the Career Center. In the fall of my senior year, the Director, Victoria, said, “I could see you working in higher education with college students some day or even having a position like me one day.” Once again, I brushed the statement off. I planned to stay with the company I’d been working at since high school.

But as I began to think about what came after graduation, the conversations I’d had with Melissa and Victoria kept overwhelming my thoughts about what I really wanted to do. Through long course of discernment, prayer, and decision making, I ended up where I am now: at Geneva College, getting a Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration and working as the Graduate Assistant-Career Coach in the Career Development Center on campus.

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Looking back, I am amazed how God used Melissa and Victoria to encourage me to work with college students and in career development. It is a testament to me that the Lord truly has a plan for the experiences of our lives and he brings people along to speak wisdom and encouragement to us as we pursue our passions and use our gifts and abilities.

I take the time to tell this story because I now get to influence and make a difference in the lives of students just as previous professors, staff, and mentors (like Melissa and Victoria) have made on me throughout my life. I meet with students, as they did with me, to help them better understand their callings and professional pursuits. I get to help students explore their purpose in life—discovering the passions God has given them, understanding how their past has influenced their present, focusing on the whole picture, remembering that God has a plan for their life.

I see my work in the Career Development Center as a way to help students know that whatever career they choose, the Lord can use them in it to be a light for Him. I want to show Christ’s love to each student so they know that they matter, their story matters, and their experiences matter.

I ask you to pray for our college students and the college communities across the nation and the world. Many of our students are facing major challenges and are trying to figure out the plans for their lives. I ask you to consider connecting with a college student or someone you know who works in the college setting.

Meaningful and supportive relationships can help these students see and reach the individual and unique potential the Lord has for their lives. We can encourage our young people to use the gifts and strengths the Lord has blessed them with in the careers and opportunities they will have for the rest of their lives.

I know—because I was once one of them.

Friday Morning Coffee #44: When Art Inspires Worship

We spent all of last week in Pennsylvania with our families. Scott and I are fortunate that "going home" for both of us is basically the same place - the same county, at least. So we make the drive - back to the land of farm fields and silos, the purple-blue Appalachian Mountains like sleeping sentinels in the distance, the place where people still seem to have time to stop and talk a bit. It's not a perfect place, but it is in many ways idyllic. And we'll never shake our fondness for it. 

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While we were there, we did something that Scott and I have wanted to do for a long time. One of our favorite artists - Makoto Fujimura - had several paintings installed in a new museum in Washington, DC. So, we ventured down with my in-laws and brother-in-law for a short day trip - and we finally got to stand in front of his paintings in person. 

What an experience! The paintings were each on a Gospel - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - and studying them up close was a moving and worshipful experience. If you're familiar with his work, I'm sure this will not come as a surprise to you. If you aren't or you haven't heard him talk about his views on faith, culture, and art, you really must look him up. 

I wish I could describe to you in words the richness of the colors or the texture of layers of mineral-based traditional Japanese paint. Or how the longer you stay still and simply look, the more you see, the more movement appears on the canvas. I wish I could explain how his artistic meditations on Scripture made me ponder, made me meditate on those sacred words further. But I've been having trouble finding the words. They're too...flimsy, cheap, like a promotional blurb in a magazine. Maybe someday I'll share with you, once I finally discover what the "story" of this experience is about.

I'm thankful for artists, like Fujimura, who run after beauty and creativity because of their love and worship of the Beauty and Creativity of God. It's an inspiration.