I have been wanting to start this series for a while and figured now is as good a time as any. I love ‘story’ and want to use Can’t Steal My Joy to tell story in a way that demonstrates how we learn, grow, break and unite together. I know for certain I haven’t arrived in the place I am today without voices of wisdom and love directing me, journeying with me and allowing me to witness their own life stories. My life is an example of the hodgepodge community we all gather as we grow, influenced by those around us.
Today I find myself reflecting back on working under the leadership of a man named Jack McCormick. I met Jack for the very first time standing outside Midway Airport in Chicago, Illinois on a cold February evening. I was interviewing for the children’s pastor position at Manteno Nazarene Church and Jack was the senior pastor. Jack and his wife LeAnn hosted Danny and I in their home for those few days we stayed to interview. It was clear all throughout the visit, this place was exactly where God wanted us. Manteno Nazarene offered me, a 26-year-old pregnant mama (yep, Titus was along for the ride), a full time position. The start date would come in July of 2010, following the arrival our of first born.
We headed back home to Idaho Falls and made preparations to move in the coming months. May came rather quickly and we welcomed our little Titus Daniel to the world. The weeks of packing, sleep deprivation and saying our goodbyes to Idaho friends and family came and went in a blur. We arrived a brand new family of 3 to Illinois that July.
As I launched into my second children’s ministry position, but this time as a mom, I had to learn the art of juggling a career and caring for a child. I remember grieving so much about going back to work right after having Titus. I worried early on about who would take care of Titus while I was at work and if sending him to daycare was the best thing for him. My worries were carried into Jack’s office early on in our arrival. One thing you might learn about Jack, if you don’t know this about him already, is that he knows how to make lemonade out of lemons. And with Jack, a lot of things are simple fixes because a lot of stuff we tend to make a big deal, well, it just isn’t. As I sat torn about what to do with my little one, he suggested Titus come to work with me for a few months. And just like that, I was gifted the ability to be mom AND children’s pastor.
This arrangement worked beautifully for the first year of my employment. When Titus started crawling (and then running!) everywhere, throwing cars down the elevator shaft and distracting the ladies in the office, I decided it was probably time to hunt down the perfect home daycare for him where he would get social time. It was in our own time we were able to make a decision that was best for our son rather than being forced into it. I’m so thankful Jack’s priorities were family first and he lived it out and allowed his staff to live it out as well. It’s a gift I look back on and treasure deeply.
I have always been a pretty easy going individual and get along with everyone. But as I continued to journey life as a working mom, there were days I felt well-meaning folks poked their ideals, opinions and preferences into my “mom-space” and asked me to sacrifice family in the name of ministry. I believe none of these individuals intended to impose such a thing on me or knew that was what they were doing, but nevertheless it sent me into a tizzy. And that again, landed me in front of Jack’s desk seeking guidance. Lemonade, people. Lemonade. To this day, I hold close the relationships with these very same people who I felt challenged and (perhaps a bit too dramatically) offended by . But when Jack was able to help me take a step back, offer an olive branch, and find away to meet in the middle, incredible relationships were established for life.
Toward the end of my time in Illinois, Jack took a rare trip to the other side of the church to visit me in my office. He brought with him a book. In it were years (decades) of notes and pictures from those who had been blessed by Jack’s leadership and ministry and took the time to tell him so. As he read from some of them, I felt a gift being handed to me. I was witnessing faithfulness. Not just in a current moment, or a year down the road, but a man who committed to serve people for the long haul. Etched in writing were words describing a man who chose to serve in the simplest of ways. As he did that, lives were changed. I believe that as he glanced back through them, he kept these as a reminder of the faithfulness of God who sustained him through ministry.
Danny, myself and our boys were impacted by that servant heart of his. From the first visit he and his wife hosted us in their home, to driving hours to Ohio to visit us during Ely’s brain surgery, he was a rock for us. (LeAnn too!) How incredibly blessed I am – my family is – to have a Jack McCormick in our life.
Who is your Jack McCormick? Who has been able to teach you to shift your perspective, perhaps just a hair, and see life differently? To find opportunity to reach out and connect with others when at first you might only see division? Who demonstrates in your life the simplest servant-hood as a most powerful tool to show Christ’s love? May we become models for the next generation in this same way.
My four years in Illinois at Manteno Nazarene were entirely too short and yet, exactly what they needed to be. And as I look back I thank God for the heroes he placed in our lives in so many ways. We didn’t know what the road ahead would be as we moved two boys with us to California, unaware of the dreadful disease each of them were carrying. But because of the lessons I learned under wise leadership, I believe my spiritual muscle of perspective-shifting had been flexed enough, I was primed for the unexpected plot twist we would be up against in the years to come.
Thanks for listening,
PS. Jack, I know your blushing. Please accept my apology for not asking for permission first. I believe it was from you I learned it was better to ask for forgiveness later than permission first? Right? We’re going with it. Know that you are loved! Also, you should print this and put it in your book. Our God is faithful.