I took vocal lessons for several years before college. I received a lot of praise for my vocal ability all through junior high and high school and I sang all the time. I won a few awards and for a brief time, felt like singing might have been my thing. My gift, if you will.
During my second semester of college, after I began dating Thad, I auditioned for the School of Music at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Opera wasn’t my forte’ and I didn’t make the cut. I was devastated.
I also auditioned for a spot in a group of singers that traveled all over the state of North Carolina and led worship. In my interview, I had to pray aloud and walk through other stage-appropriate speaking scenarios. I failed miserably. As I walked out of that interview in February of 1997, I was met by a member of the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell, the camp that I had attended for years as a youth. The man asked me a few questions and invited me into an impromptu interview.
I was offered a job at Fort Caswell to serve as kitchen staff and I took it.
This summer job of 1997 would be a pivotal turning point in my walk with Christ. I just didn’t know it at the age of 19.
I spent my entire summer working countless hours, serving, cleaning, and smiling at thousands of God-fearing Baptists. For 2 weeks, I served those good folks that rated my praying aloud as sub par. And I smiled the entire time I cleaned up after them.
I also spent 10 weeks in a bikini and 10 weeks starving myself.
At 98 pounds, I wasn’t thin enough.
I spent a summer serving food that I never ate, cleaning tables I never dirtied, and sweeping floors I never got sticky. I counted every calorie that passed my lips and napped in the sun to tan the skin I loathed.
I wrote letters to the boy that God had given me and I waited in line to make the occasional phone call to him.
And somewhere in the midst of this summer of serving and starving, I bought the lie that I wasn’t good enough.
My red-headed promise spent a week at Caswell and I gave him permission to walk away. I tried to convince him that I had made a mistake and that he should wait for another.
I cried the entire summer and I journaled everyday.
I recently pulled those journals out and read them. Tears rolled off my face as I read each line. I was a beautiful wreck.
I felt lost in Baptist tradition and for the first time in my life, I was surrounded by other Baptists that didn’t believe as I believed. How could God love us all the same if we all had different thoughts on who He was?
I was also exhausted. A year of good things, great people, and God had left me empty-physically, emotionally, and spiritually. My parents came to visit during their designated weekend and I collapsed on the ground while we did some sightseeing in Wilmington. They took me back to the hotel and I slept the entire weekend.
Exhaustion, starvation, and the quiet attack of Satan left me wide open for all things not of God.
I caved and by summer’s end, I went back to college, 15 pounds lighter, really tanned, and more lost than I had ever been. I literally had no idea who I was, Who I belonged to, or how anyone could love me.
But that boy who played guitar and loved Jesus, loved me anyway.
And grace enveloped this girl and God’s promise became Jesus with skin on.