I don't have a long list of theological qualifications or college degrees.
I am not steeped in denominational traditions that some hold sacred.
I wasn't raised going to church regularly.
Yet I have been part of the Church now for 24 years.
So when do I start feeling like an insider?
I wonder if I'll ever be able to speak in front of a room full of people without trembling from head to toe, wondering whether or not this feeling of being an outsider will ever dissipate. Because I bring one qualification to the table: I'm a sinner saved by grace who simply said YES.
It's called ministry.
Over the years, God relentlessly stirred in my heart a passion to study Scripture. In His Word there is breath and life, forgiveness and redemption, and grace and love. So I chose to become a Bible nerd, because that's where Jesus wooed me and I fell in love with Him. Page after page demonstrates how much He loves us and what He accomplished on our behalf even while we were still sinners.
I've learned to filter life through the teachings and truths of Scripture, but I still don't know it well.
It never fails after speaking at each event, people have questions. Questions I don't have the answers to. And I'll watch the realization dawn on their faces when they figure out that I'm just as frightened and confused as they are about this thing we call faith, and I'm not the authority figure they think they need.
Sometimes I wait fidgeting in green rooms before walking onto a platform, and I wonder with all the lights, production and media if it wouldn't be better for Lady Gaga just to show up and entertain.
I'm not an entertainer. I fit in best with those who don't fit in. The ones who are still trying to find their way. Those who survive life's messes only by the grace of God.
Because I understand that.
I live that.
And I stand before some women who have lived this faith journey twice as long and wonder what in the world God will say through me that can even make a difference in their lives. I dive in out of obedience, then afterward a woman in her 70s comes up and says how she now understands parts of the Bible in ways that she hasn't before.
And I'm once again amazed at how God uses cracked, clay pots. How he uses our differences to make a difference.
But I soon forget the conversation, because someone else makes a thoughtless comment about divorce or the inadequacy of not being a lifelong church-goer. And I let the enemy take the wind from my sails once again instead of leaning against the Rock of Ages.
Some days I feel like such a fraud.
And then a reader from California sends me photos of their women's group walking through one of my Bible studies. And the envelope contains handwritten notes from each lady. Then I get an email of encouragement from Canada. And I sit next to a conference-goer's most precious little girl on a plane whose enthusiasm re-introduces me to the beauty of sunset at 42,000 feet.
And I just want to do well by these amazing people. And I long to honor God above all.
So I make plans to start a new devotional series or map out a new Bible study to keep pointing them the Source of Love.
Then my inbox gets too full. And someone warns me to tone down the divorce talk and loving-on-LGBT-people talk because it makes safe people feel uncomfortable. And then I worry if I'm offending my platform to where it will affect my bottom line, because I need to replace a rusting front gate before it collapses.
And I get anxious about getting my "brand" out there and keeping afloat on the sea of social media. Before I know it I haven't seen my mom or sisters in weeks and I only see real-life friends every other month because I'm too busy traveling the country telling other people how to love their neighbors.
And I get overwhelmed and angry and tired in places that I didn't know I could get tired.
Can this be good for my soul? Is this whole ministry thing worth it?
I pull into the driveway after a long trip, and see that one-eyed squirrel digging in my flowerbed.
George, named by an online friend's young child, is storing up nuts again. I thought for sure that a cat had gotten him last year when he suddenly disappeared and never came back. Yet here he is, half blind but faithfully working toward winter.
At the sight of him so industrious, I put my head on the steering wheel and let the tears roll.
Maybe it's because I'm exhausted from the trip.
Maybe it's because I'm just glad to be home.
Or maybe because George reminds me that life is only as complicated as I choose to make it.
So I just keep praying for God's guidance. For Him to give me the strength to do this calling that I could have never pictured nor imagined. Ever.
And I'll remember a raggedy band of twelve disciples who were outsiders and held no more qualifications for ministry than I do. Who could have never pictured nor imagined that journey.
And half blind I'll faithfully keep writing about real life and a real Jesus who loves real people in real time.
And I'll keep sharing encouragement from God's Word hoping that He uses this messy, unorganized disciple to stir ripples of hope in hurting hearts.
And I'll stop worrying about being an insider, because in this world we will always be outsiders, called to shine His light in the darkness.
It's that simple.
It's that hard.
It's that wonderful.
It's called ministry.
And I wouldn't change it for the world.