All weekend, we’ve been focused on worship at church. The reason I came to church in the first place, besides that my life was in the toilet, was a few good men. Ten years ago when I moved to Los Angeles, I was running – running from expectations, from broken dreams and failures, from skeletons hidden deep inside the closet of my soul, praying that if I just didn’t face it, my past would somehow go away.
I moved to The Met on Flower and Olympic in Downtown LA from NC to finish my education at the Fashion Institute downtown. My plan was to be a buyer and design for Parasucho, but my plans never involved Los Angeles. New York is where you go for fashion. FIT is where you study. I had never even considered LA, never even had a desire to visit LA – it was cheaper though, so I packed up my car and traveled 3,000 miles across the country to forget the two and a half years that had just happened to me.
I wanted to waitress, which had been my job since Fisherman’s Galley as a 12 1/2 year old with a worker’s permit. I worked high end restaurants, crap burger joints and fish houses, even cocktailed (in a dueling piano bar, by the way, where I had to sing and dance, elbow drunk fools, and rebel against my boss by wearing too long of a skirt and a tank top under the hawaiin belly shirt required for the job). Imagine my surprise when I could not find a job waiting tables in LA.
After ten or more interviews and offers to host, I was at the end of my rope (mostly because I was too proud at the time to work for minimum wage), so I called an old manager in NC who called in a favor and got me a job in LA, waiting tables. Turns out that five people on that staff went to the Oasis, where I still attend church ten years later. Lucky for me, only one of the five was a crazy Christian … you know, one of those “If you just knew Jesus” psychos. Two of the five were men – good men, who would come out with us after work. We partied, did drugs, drank liquor like water and they drank diet coke, drove us home and treated us like women, even though we acted like fools.
Four months of their kindness made me ask if I could go to church with them. No Christians had ever treated me that way – I was intrigued, compelled even, to re-discover church. Maybe it was possible for me to find a place that felt like home, a place that embraced a girl like me, with a past like mine. I showed up for the first time and thought I had landed in a Hollywood commercial – there was a band, gorgeous people, smiling, happy faces. I thought, perfect, pretenders like me. No place for vulnerability or transparency – this, I thought, is a game I can play.
Ten years later, I have a story I’ve told hundreds of times, a past that has not been ignored, but redeemed, a heart that is full of worship and joy, vulnerable, loving relationships. I have a life worth living. LA wasn’t part of my plan, but it was God’s plan for me, and as I’ve surrendered everything, He has been faithful to restore my soul and give me a new dream.
Men have been a huge part of this journey. In the past, men have done what I thought was irrevocable damage to my soul; it is men that God has used to do the impossible and repair it. My Pastor Philip Wagner has shown me what a father looks like. He’s shown me what it means to be faithful, to suffer betrayal and grow stronger, to endure through every season and to obey Jesus Christ no matter what. He gives me opportunity to pursue the call of God on my life – He’s the reason I have my dream job. He’s taught me to be a Disciple of Christ, even though I am a woman, by the way he releases his wife and my mentor Holly.
I met, fell in love and married my husband at church. And I am surrounded by great men who treat me like a sister and offer love, care and friendship to me and the other women in my world. Tom and Wade are in the photo – they lead our Outreach Team (Tom also leads with his wife and my friend Sandra). They’re more of my personal heroes and if I had given up in the beginning of my journey, I never would have met them.
Ten years seems like a long time during the first year, the third, the fifth… but by the tenth, it bares wisdom, relationship, love, faithfulness and the kind of character found only in perseverance and perseverance requires time. Hang in there, if you’re struggling. Worship God even though it hurts. My friend Nicole Reyes taught tonight on the Psalms. I was reminded of the early days – I remembered when I would cry during year one, year three, year five, year seven and as I cried I would declare something from the Psalms: “Those who sow in tears will reap in joy.”