Throughout my life I've come to realize that serving the Lord is often full of twists and turns and sometimes even turbulence—and that how we serve him is multidimensional.
After seminary, I served on the staff of a church in Texas in a variety of ministries I loved. I worked with teenage girls, led a weekly Bible study, was involved with the music, and spent a lot of time in one-on-one ministry with young singles. Then my marriage transplanted me to Pennsylvania where, in order to support my husband's academic studies, I switched from ministry to hospital administration, and eventually worked my way into management, computers, and software development. Ministry opportunities were scarce. Much as I enjoyed what I was doing, it felt like a detour—as though I'd stepped away from my service to God.
When our daughter was three, we uprooted again and moved to Oxford, England, for a four-year stint while my husband pursued doctoral studies and I supported our family with my software development business. I was in the middle of what turned out to be a 13-year hiatus from official ministry. My energies centered on family concerns and working with my clients. I didn't have much time or energy left for anything else, and I still remember a sense of guilt that I wasn't really serving the Lord.
But during those years, the words of a friend freed me to think differently about what constitutes service to God: "sometimes your family is your ministry." Her words validated the significance of everything I was doing at that time. Even though I wasn't leading a Bible study or volunteering at our church, what I was doing was indeed serving God. It was a significant segue for me between official, recognized ways of service and a much larger vision of what serving God entails. In fact, her comment wasn't nearly expansive enough to encompass the vast possibilities God has in mind when he entrusts us with gifts and opportunities and calls us to serve him.1