I have prepared many speeches but yesterday was more than unique; sharing my testimony in chapel at Mount Vernon Nazarene University challenged me to dig deep in order to tell my story of reconciliation which covered the past 39 years.
I wrote my speech a month ago and began practicing it in the car twice a day going between my son’s school and work. Sometimes I would start crying and I knew this was going to be more than an emotional speech-it was going to become a platform for others to think about their own hurt and heartbreak. I wanted to tell the story of how we can experience hope and healing to move forward in our lives. I also wanted to create an awareness that our purpose can drive us forward too-but more than anything-I wanted to convey that life is not a solo act and that life is spent best in community.
I arrived at my alma mater Tuesday night….I sat in chapel and fine-tuned my speech. I also went so far as to stand on stage and mentally give my speech. That night I stayed with my friend in town; she was my first job supervisor in college and she also taught me how to drive. The next morning my friend came to check on me and she asked me if I knew my shirt (pajamas) was on backwards. We both had a good laugh!
I left the house and headed back to campus; I was given my ear mic and I started to walk around to get my nerves calmed. I was about to pour out my heart and I didn’t know how I was going to handle the opportunity in front of a thousand college students (attending mandatory chapel).
And then I ran into Joe- the Chaplain (and my former professor) that invited me to share my story. He blessed me with a hug and walked me back into chapel. We walked into the back room with all of the students leading morning worship, and he said a prayer. I was thankful for this moment of heart preparation.
We exited and I found my place in the front row next to Joe. We sang worship and then my foster parents joined me too. This moment was too incredible not to stand in awe of God and His power to transform. Worship prepared my heart and I was aleady fighting back tears! I was telling myself to pull it together. At that moment, Joe took my hand and squeezed it, as if he was sending me a message, “you are loved and you got this.”
Finally, Joe introduced me and I walked up to the platform to deliver my message….
(To view my testimony, please visit this link)
(I start speaking about 22 minutes into the service)
To my surprise I felt calm….but my emotions ran through me like a mighty river. Joe had been right, I hadn’t shared my testimony like this before, especially in front of my friends and family.
Twenty years ago, I was a student sitting in chapel and yesterday, I was speaking in the same spot that I had heard Brennan Manning, Joe Noonen, Gary Sivewright and LeBron Fairbanks speak – just a few of my hereos and mentors!
Following my speech, a group of students came up to me and gave me a hug. I was blown away with thier generosity of kindness. A few students also asked me to pray with them, which was so humbling. At the same time, I completely felt peace and assurance that God used me in a way that I couldn’t have imagined….Thanks be to God!
I would also learn later, that my dad (a professor at MVNU) stated that he had never heard the students in chapel so quiet!
Following lunch, I gave an artist talk to a painting class and shared my website and my experiences in art therapy. I also participated in a painting critique which was a wonderful gift added to the entire day. I guess that’s when I had my 360° moment.
I had mentioned being an art student in my speech; I talked about the pressure of a critique and putting your best work (Only “A” quality) up on the wall and then waiting for everyone to tell you why it is not an “A.” During my visit to the class, I realized how far I had really come. What I mean to say, is that I felt like I had finally made it. “Made what?” you might ask?
As an artist? Alumnus? Art Therapist? Higher Education Administrator? I made it as a whole person -even in the midst of my imperfections & brokenness- with everything to offer. I just had to believe in myself first.
P. S. Don’t ever believe grace doesnt apply to you.
* I am so thankful for Joe Noonen and John Donnelly for the invitation to share; thanks for entrusting me with your students.