To Be Continued...

I grew up going to church.
But not this kind of church.
I did all the things—the things you were "supposed" to do. From Sunday school to sitting near the front row, I did it and thought it was the right way. It was a church of obligation, that box you check. Even doing "all the things" and being in church, I couldn't tell you a thing about Jesus or the Bible. In fact, I can't even remember opening one. Not even once. This was my way for 30 years.
It didn't take me long being at North Ridge to realize my way wasn't "the way." The way I lived wasn't the way of Jesus or filled with His Truth and His life. The life of rituals and religion did not steer me near to God or fill me with any of the love and Truth the Bible held for me.
Fast forward six years, and my heart has changed. With my change of heart has brought a new passion to my soul.
The deepest desire of my heart is to share the Truth of Jesus Christ and who He really is.  The real Jesus.  The man who ate with sinners and wept at the loss of His friend.  The man who begged God to take this cup if it was His Father’s will. My every thought and passion of my soul revolves around this very desire.
I am a hairstylist by trade. Even though that is my profession, it is not my identity.  My identity lies in Jesus and being a spiritual leader to the people around me and beyond.  Actually, being a spiritual leader has a lot in common with being a hairstylist.  You might be thinking, but how??  Well, my friend, let me tell you.
The secret behind my job (and my very favorite part) is building relationships.  The same is true in being a spiritual leader.  Trust comes with time, and openness comes with trust.  People trust me with so much more than making their hair look pretty.  I get to be a part of every corner of their lives.  But building this trust with my clients has been a long process through many appointments and vulnerable and honest moments shared about life—the good and the not, the achievements, the milestones, and the low spots too.
A person’s faith life is deeply personal.  We all have different stories and reasons as to why we have the faith we do or reasons why we don’t.  It’s no wonder why being a spiritual leader involves building relationships. 
Trusting someone else with something that is so profoundly personal takes time and vulnerability, both on their part and mine.  I’ve learned it’s the openness of my brokenness that is the foundation of this trust.
I love to share the Truth of the Gospel whenever I can.  But I have learned to meet people where they are at.  If that means sharing a cup of coffee and listening instead of sharing the Word, well then, that is what I do.  If that means bringing an overwhelmed, new mama a meal, then that is what I do. 
Jesus was in it in the real moments of life with the people He interacted with.  Very often, it’s in the real moments of life that hearts are opened just a little more to letting Jesus in just a little more.
A friend once told me that it’s not “if” your wingspan believes; it’s “when.”  I hold fast to this because I want everyone to know the real Jesus, especially those near and dear to my heart.  I don’t want just to spend this life with my loved ones.  I long to spend eternity with them.  And with Jesus.  My heart’s desire is to share the fullness of His love and His ways for the real moments of life here and now too.  This isn’t always accepted, and it’s not always easy.  But it is possible even in the seemingly impossible people in your life.
This is why relationships matter, and being real matters, and why sharing faith is more than just preaching the Gospel.  It’s building trust over time in the dust and dirty parts of life. 
Quite honestly it’s a process that I can start, but it’s up to the other person and God to finish.  I can plant the seed in so many ways, but God will do the watering.  Not everyone is ready for God in the moments we are there to share.  Maybe “no” in the moment is simply an “I’m not ready yet.”  Those are the moments where just being there, just showing up, is what I know I need to do.  These are the moments I know it’s not under my control.
Mathew 19:26 says, “Jesus looked at them and said, “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
I see no one as being impossible to reach because God is behind my purpose.  Even in the moments I feel discouraged, in the moments I hear the “no’s” from those near and dear to my heart, I see it as a “not yet.”  Instead of defeat, it’s an opportunity to love like Jesus in a different way.  It’s a building of trust, and more time is needed.  It’s an “I understand, my friend, and I will meet you where you are at.”
If someone would have told me six years ago, this would been the desire of my heart; I would have laughed and said I have other plans. Now my plans are His plans, and I cannot wait to see where His plans lead me. So, for now, I will continue to follow where He leads me. I believe my story is far from complete, to be continued…
Submitted by Ashley V. on 8/25/2022

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