When I Grow Up 

When I was a child, I thought that the only way I could serve was by leading directly in the church. But as an adult, it turns out there are so many beautiful opportunities to be in and among the people of God.

From a young age, we’re asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” 

The question comes with infinite possibilities, but it also bears the weight of aspirations from our family, community, and personal values. We’re expected and encouraged to say we want a secure job such as a doctor or businessman, to make a difference as a teacher, or a dependable position behind a desk. Many high schoolers are encouraged to make a LinkedIn profile before they’re even accepted into college. 

Some people even choose a career path based on the values of their faith. But my childhood wasn’t this way—at most, I’d experience church and Christian faith a few weekends in the summer with my aunt and grandmother in Wisconsin. At home in Michigan, we didn’t have a community of faith. So my goal as an older child, when asked this question, was I wanted to be a veterinarian. Animals were cool when I was 11. 

All of my ideas about my future began to shift once I joined a church community.  

Church Influence 

When I was 13, I asked my mom to bring me to the church where she married my dad, the church where I was baptized. I wanted to explore more of what my grandma and aunt would share with me during my summer visits. I loved their community, the ritual and routine of worship, song, and coffee hour. I wanted to be a Christian and, thanks to my family’s history with a local congregation, I fell into Lutheranism. 

My adolescence was formed by the catechism and sacraments. At the time I didn’t know the difference between my grandma’s Baptist church and my new Lutheran worship. I just enjoyed being with and bringing people together by leading Sunday school, participating in the youth group, singing during worship, and going to Mexico on mission trips. I threw myself into the church I’d discovered. I found fulfillment in serving my church and world community. I found a foundation for my values, and I began to wonder if I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. Maybe even a teacher in a church.  

When it came time to choose a college, I was set to go to a university in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, when the month before moving up there my pastor shared his alma mater with me. I fell in love with the small campus, being closer to home, and the fact it was a Christian school. I would be able to easily continue my routines of worship and virtuous activities. For a while, I even fell in love with the idea of serving the church professionally. 

It was perfect—to serve the church, bring a community together, meet people where they were, and support families. But  I ended up graduating with a generic major in psychology. It was becoming more and more clear that, no matter my job title, I wanted to be someone who helped people and families feel equipped and supported in the community they found themselves. 

My New Community 

Following graduation, I married and moved from Michigan to Minnesota, which turned out to be an entirely different climate and community than I expected.  I started my family, obtained a graduate degree in family life education, and began my career in the field of social work. 

For the first five years, I supported adults living independently with disability support, while simultaneously exploring church communities with our daughters to find the one we felt to be home.  Yet, just as a Minnesota summer suddenly rolls through autumn and into frigid winters, our family and my life began to change.   

This new season of my life found me all at once divorced, ashamed, a single mom, heartbroken. I became someone I didn’t understand, a person I didn’t feel my church was ready to see. 

Yet, what started as a cold and lonely new season, feeling lost during my most vulnerable moments, slowly shifted into a spring where I was able to experience a new type of fellowship. I began to make friends with people far beyond traditional church walls. 

My community became filled with people like me, people doing what they had to do to provide for their families, nuclear and non-nuclear.  While living beside these open-hearted people, I moved into the next and current chapter of my life. And all these shifts made me start to rethink my vocation again too. 

A New Calling 

During my time as a single parent and social worker, I was able to meet people amid their own authentic, messy, lives and learn their stories. 

This taught me more about how to be a supportive professional and friend than I had ever learned before. 

I was now someone who not only could help people and families feel equipped and supported to face everyday obstacles, but also someone who finally felt like she belonged. 

When I was a child, I thought that the only way I could serve was by leading directly in the church. But as an adult, it turns out there are so many beautiful opportunities to be in and among the people of God. I have been able to experience a deeper sense of spirituality by meeting and listening to those who may never even walk into a church potluck. 

Because it’s about daily showing up for those in need. In your feed, in your neighborhood, in line at the grocery store—people are always in need of help and support if you just take the time to look. 

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for there is no work or though or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).  That’s the scripture I believe in. That’s what I’ve grown up to be. 

It’s never been a simple question. What do you want to be when you grow up? I now know I want to be a servant to my community, when I’m logged in and when I’m standing next to someone. 

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