Bellevue Baptist Church was the place. The chapel to be exact. The year was 1998.
I had two babies literally back to back. Our oldest, Clay, was SIX MONTHS OLD when I found out I was pregnant again. Lord Jesus in all of heaven, help me.
And he did. It will sound all pretty and neat but it wasn't. I was asked to go to a women’s bible study at Bellevue Baptist Church, led by the infamous teacher Jean Stockdale, by my husband’s cousin, Michelle. Can I tell you a secret? I absolutely could not stand this darling, full of energy, smiles and lover of Jesus named Michelle who was also family! You know why? She had Jesus and I did not. I was annoyed by her. I didn’t understand all the joy. She drove me up every wall known to mankind! I would act like I cared about her church, her small group, all the churchy things when in reality I was rolling my eyes and thought for sure she was NUTS!
But in a moment of nearly losing my ever lovin' mind with these two small babies, I picked up the phone and called Michelle. Yep, the girl that I couldn’t stand. That Michelle. Only God does that. Why was I even calling her? I honestly don’t remember what I said to her. The only thing I remember was Michelle inviting me to a bible study for moms with FREE CHILD CARE!! Of course she did. *grin*
Listen church going people, don’t you ever underestimate the power of free childcare for momma’s. I had zero relationship with the Lord and because of this, there I found Him.
As I sat in a pew inside this chapel with so many young mom’s and Jean began to teach, I clearly knew I did not have what they had. I was missing something. It took me a time or two to figure out what it was.
Jean spoke with such enthusiasm and love for her boys that I couldn’t stop staring at her or stop thinking of when mine would be as old as hers. I was captivated by the stories she told about her family. And then she turned the corner. She asked us to open our bibles. It’s a miracle I had one with me. I apparently had the sense to grab the barely opened black, leather bound, King James Bible and take it with me. Sidenote: I was the crown-wearing queen of playing parts of any kind so apparently church lady was in my cast of characters to play.
I’m not sure what book she sent us to and I’m quite sure I cheated off my neighbor to find out where we were going. I didn’t even know there was a table of contents much less a gospel, a prophet or a letter. I didn’t know squat.
These women pulled out pens and highlighters, underlined sentences, circled words, took notes, agreed vocally with Jean’s words and I had nothing. I was lost as a goon. Not a notebook or journal of any kind. I probably didn't even have a pen. Why in the world were they underlining sentences within this book? Why the notes? What are we doing?
I don’t remember being scared or intimidated or feeling out of place. That’s a good teacher, y’all. I’m super sensitive to all of these things 20 years later.
We should all feel comfortable and safe when the Word is opened and taught.
You know what? I realized a few weeks later, I needed to know Jesus and walk with Him. It wasn't about Jean. Jean was teaching me about Jesus. She embodied love, grace, truth, and joy. I’ve been seeking after Him, finding Him, loving Him, and serving Him all these years later.
I am not the train wreck of a girl I once was praise God and hallelujah!
This past October I was at Bellevue for something work-related and we were set up right outside that chapel and I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest. All alone, I opened the doors, stepping inside I found the lights, turned around and stared at the space where I found the Savior of my soul.
I have tears in my eyes now as I think about the sacredness of it all.
I walked down the aisle to the section of rows where I believe I sat 20 years ago. I just wanted to sit down and bawl my eyes out. There we were. Me and Jesus all over again. I told Jesus how much I loved Him and then I had to leave and go to work. I won't ever forget that moment.
Sisters, tell your stories of past and present because every single detail is an encouragement to someone else. Nobody else has it all figured it out and they need to see YOU being the precious, full of life and energy, loving your church and Jesus. YOU be the light! You annoy the fire outta someone, ok? Just like Michelle annoyed me, you annoy someone in Jesus Name! You may be the very one that brings someone to Jesus.
God bless you, Michelle. You had no idea how the Lord was using you. I found Jesus because of you, sister. I love you so very much!
P.S. I've told Michelle how I felt about her. We laughed. And of course she was full of love and grace. 🙂