Jesus was very real to me beginning around age four. Whenever I was scared at night, I would go to bed repeating, "I love you, Jesus," to myself until I could see a rainbow. Around the same age, I vividly remember running in the middle of the night by myself from our home to the Methodist Church that our family attended. I'm not sure if I had a dream to go there or if I was 'sleep walking' in some form, but I was looking for my dad. I ran across the field, looked in a window for him, and ran back home where my scared mom met me at the door in her nightgown and hugged me.
I don't think that I have ever told my parents about the rainbows and they don't fully remember that night that I slept walk-- though other members of the church do. Either way, it's things like these that make me feel weird sometimes.
The church hasn't always been an active part of my life. I was late to my confirmation and baptism service when I was 13 and I got in trouble for it. I accidentally caught my hair on fire on a candle in the middle of prayer during a Passover Seder Dinner. When I was 17, I blacked out in my car in someone's driveway when I was driving drunk and my parents and cops came. In college, I never went to church and was completely driven by the idea of making money and getting acclaim for design work. When I was 24, my brand new car stalled in the middle of the road when I was on my way to look at an apartment where I had planned to live alone in Muncie, IN. I missed the appointment and found out later in the evening that a friend of a friend was looking for a housemate and I ended up living with her.
She attended Muncie Alliance Church (Christian and Missionary Alliance) and invited me to go with her to the Sunday morning services. Initially, I went with her because there were cute guys who attended, but every week, the worship music would make me cry and I never could figure out why. Some evenings, I would open my Bible to the Psalms because that book in the Bible somehow seemed more approachable to me and I began to sketch how I imagined 'God's tent.' I also began to journal and to enjoy spending hours alone outside. More than anything, I was impacted by the community there because people were genuinely in one another's lives and were accepting without being judgmental.
I started attending Wednesday night services and prayer meetings and I would pray with all of my heart that I wouldn't have to say anything aloud. Instead I would try to pray aloud when I was driving by myself and couldn't most of the time.
Finally, on a lone car ride out to NYC, I knew that I needed to either choose Jesus or some other relationships that were consuming to me. I accepted Christ alone in the evening while I was following a semi with a star on the back of it. I decided that I was ready to start pursuing some dreams of mine as well. I wanted to begin using my design skills to create a line of products to sell. I thought that I would slowly start, but when I got back to work from the trip, I was called into the manager's office that Monday and was unexpectedly let go from my job. My boyfriend and I had also broken up on that trip and I didn't have any savings so I knew that I was going to have to potentially move as well. I joke that I accepted Christ and lost my job, my boyfriend, and my home in the same week. In return, though, I was blessed beyond anything I had ever experienced.
I was given an apartment above the printing presses and by the company gym and tanning bed in the design shop where I was fired because they felt badly for letting me go. It's hands-down the craziest place that I have ever lived but I was thankful. They let me use the design computers after business hours, I was able to begin construction on a line of hand-made shirts, and they didn't charge me rent even though their vacuums got clogged with all of my sewing thread. I was also given adjunct faculty teaching positions at Ball State University and Taylor University in the Fine Arts Departments. When I was living there, I actively began photographing moments that were meaningful to me in some way and putting them on shirts. Gala (who had brought me to church) also baptized me during that time.
Eventually, I knew it was time to leave Muncie and I followed a satellite of the church to Indianapolis in 2005 where my friend, Josh Garrels, was pastoring. I moved to my Great-Grandma's farmhouse somewhat close by and I lived there alone for a year and a half. I got a job at a local library close by because I went there almost daily for internet and cellphone connection which I couldn't get on the farm.
Indy Alliance Church has undergone three pastor changes and five different Indianapolis meeting locations since its beginning in 2004. I've ridden a lot of the ups and downs with it. In 2011, I attended the Indianapolis School of Supernatural Ministry. I didn't know much about the school-- it was in its second year and only consisted of ten people whom I had never met, but I knew that I was supposed to go.
The entire school year, I wrestled with my identity and the power of Jesus. I wanted to quit at times, but I'm extremely thankful for the school. It was what gave me the confidence to start working on bigger pieces of art again. My relationship with my church afterward, however, initially faded. One, I no longer had the security blanket that I felt with all of my classmates near. Two, I got mad at our church.
I wasn't sure if I trusted the leadership, if I was valued there, if there was any purpose to organized church community anymore, or if I wanted to be somewhere where I couldn't simply attend a service. In 2012, I left. It was one of the hardest decisions that I have made. A year later, despite the fact that I was still mad, I felt like I was supposed to go back.
I was met with complete grace but it was humbling to walk back in the doors. It was even more humbling a year later when I was able to move into a room in the communal church house next door. Here, it's not a free ride and it's not always easy to want to be engaged in other people's lives or to wade through decisions together, but I feel completely spoiled.
It's taught me that I'm not meant to be an artist who spends most of my free time alone. The neighborhood kids who are constantly running in the alley between the church and the house, leaving stuff on our porch, or talking to us through our kitchen windows don't let me. They and my housemates have become another family to me.
I have moved multiple times and lived with close to 50 housemates from the time that I graduated from college. Each location, each person, I learn more about myself and my perspective of our Creator gets broader. I'm more and more convinced that we are absolutely not meant to live isolated lives. Our church is small, it's young, it's a mess, and it's very much a home to me. I'm not sure whether or not I was specifically shown as a young girl when I ran in the middle of the night that it was within the walls of the church where I personally was supposed to look for our Father, but I'm absolutely thankful for the breathing room that the church has given me over the years to seek Him.