I started attending Grace Community Church with my family when I was in eighth grade. I remember in particular visiting the Sunday after our school musical had ended – I always LOVED being a part of them, but for those of you who might’ve been involved in school musicals growing up, you know how exhausting they can be.
That Sunday after our musical ended, in particular, my parents decided to visit a church that we had visited a number of years ago – Grace Community Church. To be honest, I wasn’t excited. I was mad that I had to wake up so early after such a long week of late nights, but nevertheless, I pulled myself out of bed and we made it to the service… which ended up being pretty dang amazing.
Directly following the service, I met the youth pastor there, who introduced me to a girl a couple of years younger than me. Her name was Alisha, and it seemed like she knew everyone. I followed her around the lobby as she introduced me to tons of different people, finally stopping near the restroom where I met her mom and the rest of the members of her small group.
I remember thinking how kind she was. After that initial meeting, we talked a few more times, but didn’t hang out with each other too much.
Fast forward a year, and someone had convinced this shy introvert to go down to Panama City Beach, Florida to a camp called “Bigstuf” with the rest of the youth group. I had one close friend who went to the same youth group at the time, so when she decided to go, I decided to go, too. So we hopped on a bus with everyone else and drove down.
I kid you not, that camp changed my life. It changed the way I saw God. It opened my eyes to the things I needed so desperately to change in my life and opened up a new community of friendships to me (which, let’s be honest, for an introvert is like, one new person). But nonetheless – I was making connections and I was excited!
The very last day of camp, we were all waiting while the guys were loading our bus to had back up to PA. Our youth pastor at the time must’ve seen me standing shyly on the edge of the group, so he came over and introduced me to one of the most extroverted people on the entire trip. He had long, red, Justin Bieber hair, tons of freckles, and was very sun burnt. “Nick,” he said to the boy with the red hair, “doesn’t Jenna look like Pam from ‘The Office?’” which I later learned was Nick’s favorite show.
Immediately, I felt put off. I didn’t like ‘The Office,’ and, at the time, meeting new people made me incredibly nervous. I smiled, chatted politely about how cool The Office was (I’ve never actually liked it!) and walked onto the bus. Nick and I ended up sitting near each other – we exchanged a few words to each other throughout the trip home, and even though he was kind of loud, I decided I liked this guy named Nick.
When I got home, I saw I had a message waiting from Nick on Facebook. It’s like he had read my mind – being the shy introvert that I was, I always loved getting to know people via messengers. That night, we talked until, like, two in the morning (and trust me, I’m not a girl who stays up late!). We talked about the camp and how God I worked in both of our lives. I remember, at the end of that conversation, thinking this is a guy I could actually see myself dating.
It’s amazing to see how all of the dots were connected from my very first day at Grace. Alisha, the very first person I had met at Grace, I later found out was Nick’s sister. Thinking back to that small fact alone is such a testament to my heart – God was involved right from the very beginning. God does that – he whispers into the details of our lives to point us towards our future, even when we don’t know it. It reminds me of a story of Elijah:
“Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13)
I think it’s powerful when we can hear God whispering to us, but it’s just as powerful – and encouraging - when we can look back and see where God was whispering to us.
*Banner photo by Gabrielle Halle Photography.