It’s a new year and I have a new goal of using more often the gift of written communication that the Lord has given me. I’ve resisted in recent years for two primary reasons – the first being that I’ve simply been too busy. Keeping a non-profit flourishing in an non-flourishing economy takes every waking moment. Second, it sometimes feels a bit narcissistic to think anyone really cares about the ramblings in my head. But then I had the thought that it’s really not about me. On more than one occasion, women have shared how my transparency about life and the struggles it often presents have offered them hope. So, if even one woman (or man or child) finds encouragement in the journey the Lord has called me to, then throwing my deepest thoughts and feelings into the abyss of cyberspace is worth it.
Anyway, I’m beginning my new goal today because there is something extraordinarily exciting to write about – our upcoming 10-year anniversary! Even as I type that, it seems surreal. Wasn’t it just yesterday… ?
Saturday, August 16, 2003–
I had been in graduate school at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary for two years, but I was still working full-time as a writer/editor at The Education Center. While I had enjoyed this full-time job with benefits, I knew it wasn’t my life calling. Yet, it was safe. Because of that fact, I would have been content living in my safe little box only taking one course a semester for… well, forever. God had other plans though. I believe He allowed some situations to surface at that job that were very painful, almost toxic, so that the box would turn on its side and I would be willing to crawl out. However, in the midst of the pain, He also provided an angel of grace. Her name was (is) Denine Carter. While those days were very dark for me emotionally, Denine was a bright light who continued to point me to Jesus.
Apparently one Saturday in August 2003 was particularly rough. Unbeknownst to me, after a tearful conversation, Denine wrote a note to me, then filed it away for a later date.
The note read:
“Dear Cindy – I’m jotting this note on Saturday, August 16, 2003. I just got off the phone with you. You told me that you didn’t think you could continue working at TEC any longer – not even these last 10 days. My heart goes out to you. I wish I could take all that pain away. But even today, as you mourn, I believe with all my heart that God is going to bring you to the other side of this pain. I can’t wait for the day that I can say to your millions of supporters, ‘I knew her when!’ LUMI (love you mean it), Neen”
I did end up making it those last 10 days…on a shoestring of sanity and a whole lot of prayer.
Fast forward a year and a half —
I was about to complete the last two months of my final internship and graduate with a Master of Arts Degree in Christian Counseling. Denine had remained part of a small group of friends who had served as accountability, prayer partners, and financial advisers during my final two years of full-time school. The plan was still not clear what was “next” for me…post graduation. I mean, there was no doubt that I wanted to bring the healing love of Jesus to other women through the vehicle of Christian counseling–just as I had experienced in my own life. I just didn’t know where, how, or when this would happen. In addition to that desire, I had begun to realize that many women didn’t pursue professional counseling because they couldn’t afford it.
I really cannot say when the vision actually began to take shape. I just remember sitting in a session with my then-counselor of five years, Steve Lynam, and hearing him say something to the effect of: “You can create a place where women can be counseled for very low fees, but you just need to create it in a way that you can afford to live.” Huh? He had lost me at that point. Then he reminded me that I had a base of supporters who had provided financial assistance through those final two years of school and that these supporters could help launch a new ministry for women. Oh, no! I am not going there! I told him that I had agreed to raise support for two years and only two years. No way was the Lord going to make me stay out on that limb! And how could I ask the friends and family who had already given so generously that now I wanted them to sign on with me…indefinitely?!
Well, the Lord didn’t “make me” immediately, but He did begin to soften my heart to the idea and continued to speak His plan to me through His wise and humble servant Steve. I actually began to get a little excited as I would dream of what could be. But then reality would set in and panic would seize me. Steve kept encouraging me to talk with my current accountability team and I finally agreed to, but only if he would attend the meeting too. I was sure they were going to laugh in my face and tell me to go find some other fools to help launch this far-fetched idea.
Steve agreed to attend a meeting and so I called together those trusted confidantes – Denine, Stephen, Karen, Beth, and my sister.
It was Sunday, February 20, 2005.
We sat in my living room — I think Steve even had the flu, but came anyway because he believed how important this was. I began to share what all he and I had been discussing in the months prior, and much to my amazement, no one laughed. Neither did anyone run from my house as though I’d grown three heads. They just looked at me and nodded. Like it all made perfect sense. Like, of course, this is the next step. Really?! (I was probably now looking at them as if they had each grown three heads!)
I don’t remember much more that happened that day, except by the end of our time together, it had been decided that I would start a non-profit ministry for women to receive low-cost Christian counseling. I’m not sure that I even fully understood what a non-profit organization was or what it entailed. Maybe that was the Lord’s design, because had I known, I’m not sure I could have begun to move forward!
A few days later that week, I received a note in the mail from Denine. It was that first note that she had written on August 16, 2003 — the one I had never read because she had filed it away for a later date. The Lord had prompted her that this was the later date. So, she pulled it out of “my file” and jotted a second note at the bottom:
“2/20/05 Just left your board meeting, got home, and pulled this out of your file (named “New Birth”.) Don’t fret…just believe! Still LUMI, Neen”
And it was a “new birth” that was about to happen. A birth that would leave more stretch marks and produce more growing pains than I could have ever imagined. But with those stretch marks and growing pains came a deeper faith, a more intimate relationship with my Lord, and a (somewhat) calmer spirit than I could have ever imagined either.
Ten years. Seems like only yesterday. And now we (the Board of Directors and I) are discussing what the next ten years might hold… More locations? An “RPC” for men? Makes me want to hyperventilate. I think I’ll take Denine’s advice instead.
Don’t fret…just believe!