– Kate Kitchen gave her “Faith Story” during worship on Sunday, July 19, 2015
I have a great deal to be thankful for. A year ago today, my son Christian and his family moved to London. It would have been an extremely bleak year without you, my First Baptist family. And I thank you for that.
I think as vital as spiritual discernment is in answering a calling, it may be equally vital to be able to discern when that call or that season is ending. After being a part of your homebound ministry for nearly 6 years, I have come to realize that my future consists of being wheeled through airports, of painful walking and lack of mobility due to medical issues. Between my back and knee, I am carrying around 20 titanium implants and there may be more to come. And so it’s time for me to step aside and let the “green shoots” carry on.
When I was 16, my Daddy died of a sudden coronary on his way to work. He carefully parked his car in front of a hardware store, suffered a massive heart attack, and died in his car. A few days later, my grandmother, my last surviving grandparent, died of a stroke. Not to be outdone, a few days after that, my 28-year-old cousin, a Korean War veteran who was living with a bullet lodged in his spine, took too many pain pills, horribly despondent over my dad’s death. His was death number three. And so during 17 consecutive days of my 16th summer, I was occupied– picking out caskets, standing in receiving lines, surrounded by the aroma of cut flowers. I broke up with Jesus that summer, feeling pretty sure He didn’t love me anymore. At the age of 29, my mom died on the dawn of her retirement. I got the call in my California apartment.
At 32, having been unable to find a nice young man who might be thrilled to make a lifetime commitment of monogamy, I took matters into my own hands. I was no longer willing to live without family. And so I had a child on my own. I had a good job as administrative assistant and staff writer for the San Diego Sports Arena and had bought a little bungalow. And when I found out that I was actually going to become a mom, I was beyond joyful! Now I would have family! A bit convoluted, but that was okay. And after being estranged from God for 16 years, I suddenly found that I couldn’t wait to tell Jesus and to give thanks. That Sunday morning, I HAD to get to a church! I literally grabbed the yellow pages, found the Christian Church closest to me, and practically RAN to church—to sing, to pray, so incredibly happy! Moral or not, right or wrong, I was going to be a mommy! That Sunday night, I received a call of welcome from the pastor, Dr. Hartzell Cobbs.
“We so enjoyed your visit this morning and hope you’ll return! You’re a really radiant woman!” (I took a deep breath before I confessed the reason for my “radiance,” that I had just found out I was going to be a mom.)
“Well, I think that’s wonderful!” he exclaimed.
“But…but…but…I’m a SINGLE mom,” I added quietly.
“Well, then, you’ll need family!” he said, cheerfully. And I never again felt guilt for my choice. Hartzell and his precious wife accepted me unconditionally. And so, by the way, did Jesus! Completely- they became my surrogate parents and Christian’s only grandparents. And remained so until their deaths 20 years ago.
I became a journalist by profession, worked very hard, was at home every night with my little boy, (being a very good girl), going to church every time the doors opened, and through the years, became stronger and stronger in my faith and knowledge of the Word. When Christian was four, we were in church one Sunday and he noticed the hymnbook title: Christian Church. “Mommy, they named this book after me!”
“No, honey, that’s the name of this church.”
He thought for a moment, then looking up at me, caught his breath and said, “Mommy! They named this CHURCH after me?!”
I thought I’d found my calling that year. I thought if I could become a youth pastor, I might be able to help teens go through their difficult years. And I tried to enter seminary, but was rejected. But I didn’t falter this time; I had hold of Jesus’ hand now and I wasn’t about to let go. So Christian grew up, started his own family, and I felt a void again.
And then 10 years ago, I met Jan Hill. I was now in Greensboro, working full time as a journalist, and volunteering weekend nights as a chaplain at Wesley Long. Jan invited me to do a program for WMU, and I was petrified! It was one thing to be rejected by a seminary, but the Baptists would probably tar and feather me. But I was allowed to offer my entire personal, sketchy testimony—and all you did in return—was love me and accept me. And so I stayed … and you couldn’t get rid of me. And I taught the Reflections class after Melissa Chism left, and with Geneva Metzger, organized the first women’s shelter, with you all filling 700 volunteer slots, and served in choir, orchestra, hospital ministry, and I grew in the Word, and I matured, and finally in 2009, there was a spot for me in your homebound ministry. And God and you let me do this thing…..and in one fell swoop, with 85-90 homebound members, God GAVE ME the BIGGEST FAMILY any girl could ever have. All I had to do was love them, support them, listen to them, fix a few things for them…. And walk a lot…to go see them.
It’s that last part that I can no longer do well, and so now I have to say good-bye to my new aunts and uncles, parents, brothers, sisters….. and I will return to my writing full time—I still need to make a living and always will, but maybe God wants me to write some inspirational stories along with my bread and butter business of articles and books … so others who need to be reminded of His generous love for us … can be reminded. I won’t lose touch. I’m moving to Southport, a quiet little place 9 months out of the year, and downsizing so I am not so financially pressured. And I will remember and continue to love—my First Baptist family, the biggest family a girl could ever hope for. Praise God!!