RETURNING: this 12%

RETURNING: this 12%

I’m still believing in the promise that He made.”

Three years ago tomorrow, at around 10:30 am on December 15, 2018, I jumped onto a zoom call that would change my life. Between the hustle and bustle of the holidays, and with chattering family in the background of the call, I spoke for over an hour with two complete strangers about my relationship with Jesus, my past experiences, and the future of what would soon become our church. I made the roughly 300 mile journey from my hometown in Western North Carolina to Powhatan, Virginia, for the very first time. And prayerfully, over the course of a very busy weekend, I began to consider what it might be like to be here; to be on staff working what I believed would be my “dream job.” With Ephesians 3:20 on the tip of my tongue and in the back of my mind, I believed for then what I am certain of now: that God is surely able to do exceedingly, abundantly, and immeasurably more than all that we ask or imagine. My “dream job” was just the beginning of all that God could and would do in and through my time here.

Three years. You can measure that in a lot of ways. (And truly, I’ve actually been on staff for 2 years, 10 months, and 2 weeks. But we’ll round up.) 3 years. That’s 12% of my life thus far. At around 3 a week, that’s over 460 Starbucks lates. And with at least one a week, we’re looking at around 150 trips to Sheetz. And in the world of PCC, it’s been about 150 Sunday services, 1200 minutes of Daily Worship, and upwards of 4500 hours spent in meetings of all kinds. These three years have been so so full of so many things.

If I wanted to be grim, I could easily measure this time in heartache; by the number of homesick weekends, missed family birthdays, the phone calls cut short due to crappy cell reception between Amelia and Powhatan. I could measure it by the long distance friendships that just didn’t make it, by the apartment that burned to the ground that first November. I could measure this time in flat tires, in sad songs written over a tear-soaked page, by disposable masks and quarantine blues and spring allergies for the first time in my life. By annoying landlords and speeding tickets and pulling an all-nighter because I accidentally deleted a file. I could also easily measure these three years in grief – over betrayal, a campus closure, because of struggling with my mental health, or because of the loss of people I’ve loved that still doesn’t feel real.

All of that is true and valid and difficult. However, there has been so much more… so much good that I choose to remember and cherish.

I’ll celebrate the DIY experiments with friends that furnished that first apartment, the rehearsals gone right and the conversations with students who finally “got it.” The friendships formed fast, the late night drives through Richmond in the summer, and God bless that first breakfast at Frisby’s (and each one since). I’ll count the moments that a creative idea just clicked, when we found the right way to play the right song at the right time and tell the story of Jesus in a new way. The retreats with co-workers who’ve become family – with late-night fishing and star gazing and milk and cookies and living room worship and maracas and laughing so hard that our sides hurt. I’ll measure this time in the stories we’ve shared; of how God is at work in this person’s life or in that person’s family or because of what that person’s ‘Just One’ experienced at church. I’ll count the long walks around the James, the hours spent writing at the grand piano backstage, and the songs we recorded that have shaped my heart forever. I’ll celebrate the small groups I’ve been a part of, the holiday parties and conferences, the mega camps and lock-ins and nights of worship, and every. single. mashup or medley I’ve gotten to create. I’ll even celebrate the time we played Free Fallin’ because I finally got that acoustic guitar part right. I’ll remember the Facebook Lives and the zoom “happy birthday” songs, the baby announcements and bonfires and working from home being actually not that bad sometimes. Beth’s weekend baking adventures, trips to Bruster’s, UpTick retreats and lunch time meetups. Shenanigans before we went “live” on Daily Worship, my pink hair phase, the bangs, turning 23… 24… 25.
There is so. much. good. There are so many more moments. So many more little things.

Mostly, when I look back on this season of my life, I’ll remember the flawed, real, amazing, genuine, incredible people that God put in my life who have loved me like family. I’ll remember the ways that we’ve passionately pursued Jesus and helped other people know Him more. I’ll measure this time by the complete, persistent, and perfect goodness of God.

When I came to Virginia, I whole heartedly believed that this was the beginning of a lifetime in ministry at PCC; and I’ve invested here as if it would be. But after three beautiful, challenging, and transformative years here in Virginia, I am going home.

God is kind, and He has led me every step of the way. He is leading me in this next very painful step, as well, and I am trusting in His goodness and what I’ve believed all along – that He is not done yet. He’s not done with me yet, and He’s not done with PCC yet. While this decision has been on my heart for a while, I have been in no way hurrying to leave. I love this place, and I will always be a supporter of this ministry and of these people. I’m not who I was three years ago, and I have this community to thank. Words can’t express my gratitude for the way that the people in my life have loved me so completely and made space for all of the versions of myself that I’ve grown in and out of as we’ve done life and ministry together. To our Creative Team, our Music Team, our Pastors, and our church, thank you for trusting me to carry what I’ve been so blessed to carry for the last three years. Your confidence in me has helped me to stand taller, to live more authentically, and to have the courage to dream.
This is not easy; it’s not easy to leave all of THIS. But I am reminded again that God honors obedience, and Jesus is the leader and Lord of my life. It’s never been about what I’m creating or what we’re building or even about these vibrant relationships I’ve been able to form. My purpose, and what I believe is the purpose of each one of us who follow Jesus, is simply about faithfulness to Him and serving His church. At 22 years old, I asked God to lead me, and he led me to Powhatan. And now, as I’ve dared to ask Him again, He’s made it clear: it’s time to return home.

I am returning with a new song to sing, with a new appreciation for my family, and with a tribe of incredible friends and mentors who will continue to walk with me and cheer me on from afar. Having weathered deeply painful storms, bearing scars that will never fully fade, I return home stronger. Having grown and received invaluable teaching and training from the most phenomenal and smart and faithful leaders, I return a more confident and much more equipped church leader. Having been broken and vulnerable and having been loved so well through it all, I return more tender and willing to show vulnerability.
My mentor and friend and mother of sorts, Beth Stoddard, shared these words when announcing my departure to our church staff: “Immaturity is shown by making false choices: living only in the past, or only in the present, or only in the future, or even, living only two out of the three. Maturity is not a static arrived platform, where life is viewed from a calm, untouched oasis of wisdom, but a living elemental frontier between what has happened, what is happening now, and the consequences of that past and present; first imagined and then lived into the waiting future. Maturity calls us to risk ourselves as much as immaturity, but for a bigger picture, a larger horizon; for a powerfully generous outward incarnation of our inward qualities and not for gains that make us smaller, even in the winning.” (David Whyte)
As they were shared by someone who knows me so completely, these words have humbled me and honored me, and I am so, so grateful.

I have grace for the girl that I was when I came here. But thank God, He’s used this season to shape me into someone new. I’m returning home to a place so familiar, but I am so very different. Thank God.

Christmas Eve will be my last official service as a member of the PCC staff, and January 2, 2022 will be my final Sunday. I’m so thankful to spend this holiday season and those days with so many of my favorite people, and to end this chapter with our RiSE Student Worship Experience, doing what I love most about this job – watching our student band shine.

I am grateful beyond words that I will always have this home away from home, that I will be able to visit often and with a heart overflowing with love for this place and these people. God is faithful. And He’s not done yet.

3 years. In the grand scheme of my life thus far, it hasn’t been that long. But it’s been the most transformative and mind blowing and healing; what a priceless gift this 12% has been.

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