I've not always been open to these opportunities, but that changed about 7 years ago.
It was then that we found a church home at Trinity Lutheran Church in Ann Arbor. It was then that I answered the call to be baptized and truly become part of a community.
This isn't a story of religion or beliefs, however. It's one of encouragement. Be open to the opportunities that life has to offer when you take that leap - when you answer that call.
I felt the need to serve others at Trinity and searched for my calling.
The first was to assist my bride, Cathy, with her Loving Casseroles ministry. It was a group dedicated to providing meals for those recovering from sickness or injury, grieving a loss, or celebrating an addition to the family.
The second was to assist her with another group - Sacred Dancers. I would help setup the music, take photos, and support rehearsals.
While these were both enjoyable and rewarding, they were Cathy's calling, not mine.
My first real calling came unexpectedly. After worship one fall day, John Carey approached me while I was loading up on cookies. We exchanged greetings and he asked me if I would be willing to volunteer for something.
He didn't say what, and I choose not to ask, but to simply take that leap and say yes. John smiled and made his way off.
I know what you're thinking. Who the heck volunteers for something without knowing what it is? I tell you though, he's the pastor's husband, so I figured that it was something like setting up tables, raking leaves, or framing a Habitat for Humanity house. In any case, something told me to just say yes.
A minute later, he was at my side again and had a bit of a sheepish look on his face.
"My wife told me that I have to tell you what you're signing up for."
Uh oh. This sounded a lot more involved than parking cars on game day, or cooking breakfast at Alpha House.
He went on to tell me that they were looking for a catechism coordinator for the 7th grade boys and it was hopefully a 2 year commitment to mentor them through confirmation. They thought I might be a good fit as I seemed to get on well with the younger members of the congregation.
He looked at me somewhat nervously, but I simply smiled and affirmed that I would do it.
And am I ever glad I did. It has been one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of my life.
I had an incredible group of young men, and I surprised myself by how quickly we bonded. Dom, Peter, Ryan, Brett, Andrew, and later on, Jack, became part of my life in a way that I never knew I always wanted. I loved being their mentor and a guide in their development of faith.
Through the course of those two years, I learned a lot about myself and became a better person because of this, and I also grew in my confidence to interact and lead boys of this age.
Had I not accepted the request, I would have missed a journey that gave just as much, if not more, than I put in. I would not have had such a rich experience filled with fun, competition, and faith.
Shortly after confirmation I felt another calling; one that required us to uproot from our home and community of a dozen years. I felt that we needed to move to California to advance our adoption which felt stalled.
This was a true test for us as we had built good lives in Michigan. We had (still have, actually) great friends, a fantastic church, a good job, Cathy was attending Eastern Michigan University, and we were actively serving in our community. We picked up and moved to San Jose, a huge shift from our cozy little town of Saline - population 8 thousand and change.
But it turned out that answering that call was also the right thing to do. On December 25th, 2010, we brought home our son, Nathaniel James. We now have signed up for a calling that will make everything else we've done to date pale in comparison. But we are steadfast in our path forward and look forward to all that this journey will bring.
So, please when you're called, answer. You will be amazed at where it takes you.