I’ll start at the beginning. I grew up in a loving, encouraging, and supportive non-Christian home where my parents instilled in me a strong work ethic and moral values. It wasn’t until college that I was saved. After I accepted Jesus into my life, a big weight was lifted. Life as I knew it had changed but I didn’t quite know what to do with the peace and forgiveness I had been given. I was so free but I felt I was given a job I was not qualified to do. What happened and what it meant had not registered. So I floated around in auto pilot for 3 years trying to be a good christian, following along with what my friends were doing, without a job description to guide me. I was not great at asking for help – especially in this area. My senior year of college I was invited to go on a Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Challenge trip. This experience turned out to be the springboard for the foundation of my faith.
Habitat for Humanity is a Christian, non-profit organization that builds safe, affordable housing and preserves home ownership to fight poverty and better the community.
Our group of 16 traveled to Fort Smith, Arkansas over spring break to build a stranger’s house. This is where I fell in love with Habitat…on the very first day of the build which says a lot because we shingled an entire roof and it took the whole day to do it (in a very cold wind). I. Love. Shingling. I don’t think anyone loves shingling so that’s saying something. Every day of the build was fun. Every day I learned something new and realized I had an intuition for a lot of the projects.
Other than discovering how AWESOME power tools are, I fell in love with the environment. The people, the build atmosphere, being given opportunities for hands-on learning, the time and space for bonding with students I wouldn’t have otherwise known, no distractions, being completely present (or you might lose a finger) and giving my time. This environment allowed me to be the best version of myself. I was not at the center of my focus; the future family of this home and the people building it were. I can honestly say it was the best week of my life. I had never felt that amount of joy before. I had never felt that amount of passion for something. Even through the soreness which inevitably came on the third day, I still couldn’t wait to get to the job site. Sleeping in bunk beds, living out of a suitcase, building for 8+ hours a day, not being concerned about our phones, and spending evenings bonding with great people was a dream. I felt like I was really living life. I was really all in and all there.
It taught me a lot about the life I wanted to build, the way I wanted to give, the many ways I could truly connect with and love people, and about “feeling qualified” for what God calls me to do.
Here’s the thing about Habitat: they build houses almost entirely with volunteers – volunteers that don’t need to know how to build a house. Don’t worry, they certainly have the professionals do the plumbing, electrical and other things and there’s a site supervisor directing the build, but as a volunteer there are no prerequisites. You just show up willing to be taught, willing to work, and willing to give your time.
This is what God calls us to do.
Show up. Bring just ourselves and a willingness to trust, to learn, to grow, and to know him more. He will give us the tools. He will guide us. He will perfectly orchestrate connections and friendships and open doors. He will build something beautiful in the community and in our hearts.
Returning from that trip was more than sad. I was mourning the loss of the best space I had ever encountered. My new found passion. One of the trip leaders, our college chaplain, approached me about discipleship sessions. I said yes and those really turned into more of therapy or counseling sessions which I really needed. I was genuinely having an identity crisis after the trip. I remember sitting on the floor in my dorm room sobbing to my best friend. One of my favorite verses from 1 Corinthians describes it perfectly: “By the grace of God I am who I am and His grace to me was not without effect.”
After I graduated and moved to the cities, I was so excited there was an affiliate here. I signed up right away and started volunteering on my own. I kept this up for a few years. A year and a half ago, I was asked by church members to pray and think about starting a small bible study group or service group. I decided to start a Habitat group at church. That spring I stood up in front of church sharing my story and asked others to volunteer with me. “Come and help me build a stranger’s house with other strangers!” The response was overwhelming. I was so impressed by the amount of people willing to join me in serving in this way. Being an advocate for Habitat and a leader of the service group, I’ve been challenged and stretched in amazing ways.
One of the biggest confirmations I get is God nudging me to do something I’m scared of. One example is public speaking. I used to avoid it at all costs and now I genuinely look forward to it. I know that something bigger is brewing when I feel strong enough about talking to a big group. So far this has happened for Habitat and for my job. At work, I found myself volunteering for a 3 minute message to the whole office once a month. (I even sign up for the days when you write your own script!) Had you told me that 3 or 4 years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you.
It’s astounding to see how God can change your plans and grow your capacity for love and serving others. I’m so thankful to my friends and family who stood by me and supported me through these endeavors. Their encouragement has been so needed and appreciated. I still struggle with being open to new things and trusting God completely but I will never forget what He’s done in my life so far.