This week our special guest is my sister Amy Givens. Amy is two years older than me (26), and her birthday is, well, today when I am writing this (the 28th). Anyway, my sister and I have always had a very good relationship, we didn’t fight that much growing up, and still don’t. Growing up Amy enjoyed running and playing the violin, she still does those things, just not with the intensity that she once did. Most formative in her life, besides having me as a brother (I’m sure), has been church. She was very active in church growing up and continues to be as she is a youth director in Altus, OK. She has been married to Brian for almost 4 years now. Brian is a teacher and a coach in Lone Wolf, OK. One day I will ask him to share some of his coaching stories. Anyways, they are great to have family, and we love them. She is also wise, so I think that she can give us a good word for today.
1. Name a formative experience in your relationship with God.
You’ll read about one formative experience in Question 2, so I am going to describe a constant part of my life and how that shaped me rather than one particular experience. For me, church has always been a major part of my life. Fortunately I can say that I have been blessed by the church (even though I’ve seen and experienced negative circumstances) the positive experiences I have had have far outweighed the negative. My experience in the church has shaped my desire to work in the church and affects how I do ministry as well. Amazingly, I don’t recall a time that I DIDN’T want to go to church; I don’t ever remember being forced or talked into it. Church was another home. Being a PK this was to be expected that I would be at church a lot, but I really enjoyed being involved at church. I was cared for and loved by so many at the church and “the church” – the people were what made church another home for me. I know that those many experiences through Sunday School and youth group, church potlucks, children’s choirs, Confirmation, and greeting times have been an incredible source of strength for me in my life. I desire to share that with the youth and others that I minister to now. Of course, we connect them to The Source, but people can be supported, encouraged, built up as they walk in their relationship with God through relationships with those in the body of believers. Thanks to my parents and family for showing Christ’s love continually as well as all the rest of the church who has loved and cared for me, taught me, supported me, encouraged me.
Sounds a lot like my answer to what church was for me. It is truly amazing what church can be, when it is what it is supposed to be. I’m always heartbroken when I hear tales of church that destroys faith, instead of nurtures it. I’m not a Hillary fan, but she has helped made famous the saying, “it takes a village…,” well I say to you, “It’s takes a whole church or Christian community, to raise a disciple.”
2. You had an interesting call to ministry, so describe your call to ministry and how would you help people who were struggling with their vocation or calling?
As many high school seniors (well, really all of us…possibly throughout our life), I was struggling what to do with my life: the pressure of where to go to school and what to major in. I don’t know if I would have been quite so anxious, if it weren’t for all the questions I was getting from everyone around me. (All those people meant well, but it made me worry quite a bit. Understanding my worry through this time is good for the end of the story.) We had a revival at our church in November and I remember that I had been thinking about possible church work, although I had not really communicated that to anyone. So I thought this revival would be a great place for God to “call” me. (Because if you go into the ministry, you need to have a call, right?) Well as I sat there that first evening during the prayer time, nothing was happening. Nothing except a realization for myself that if this was to be (and if anything was to be) God directs our lives. I began to feel bad that I had tried to take control, instead of letting God. I was upset and went to the altar to pray and my parents joined me and I tried to explain my tears. They believed that God was working through this desire that I had and we prayed that I would find a peace about this situation. The last night of the revival, I experienced that peace. The “peace that passes understanding” as we sing in the childhood song “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.” God was giving me an assurance from all my worries. God was accepting my desire to serve him by ministry in the church. God was calling me and I was excited!
I remember that revival, and friends coming up to me and ask me, “why is your sister crying?” I didn’t know, but I knew it was something important. Like Amy said, we all want the God call to be something vivid, but often he calls us just by dropping us random notes across time and space that leave an unmistakable mark on our lives, and then and only then do we look back and realize that, Oh yea, that was God all along.
3. I call you Miss Memory because you can remember so many different things that have occurred over your life, what are some of your favorite memories and do you have any tips for those of us who struggle to remember people’s names among other forgetting tendencies?
I have a lot of great memories of my childhood and growing up – we had a lot of fun! I have fond memories of cousin times – playing lots of games like Kick-the-Can and Ghost in the Graveyard, Spy, Pitch & Spades, and more recently party games like Eye to Eye and Apples to Apples. We also made things up a lot (which I think now I was the ringleader and main ideas person, probably goofy memories to everyone else, but great memories to me!) singing Beach Boys songs, Jeopardy with questions about our family, playing House or Camp, and something where we jumped around on the carpet squares in Grandmother’s basement? I also loved family vacations and going to the places we got to go and seeing great sites. I’m thankful my parents always took the time to do a family vacation like that! I also loved going to church camp and Youth Force over the summer. Remembering things just comes easy for me. It’s not hard to remember names, numbers, dates, etc., so thinking of tips is difficult! I guess being organized and writing things down is important. If you meet someone new, write their name down. If you want to remember an important phone number, punch it into the phone every once in a while rather than just using your contacts on your cell phone. That way, if you lose your cell phone and numbers, you can call those who are most important to you again. When I was in school, I often rewrote my notes when I studied for a test because that was a great way for me to remember the facts (also it made my notes much prettier and I could fix things if I had written them sloppy!)
I don’t have a great memory, so I can remember general themes and ideas, but not very many specific occurrences, except for our cousin Emily running smack-dab into the Pole for the clothesline. Now that was funny, then, and still funny in my mental video collection.
4. In your time as a youth director, what has been the most rewarding part of your ministry experience and what have been some unexpected occurrences (either positive or negative) that have happened?
Being in Altus now for 4 years has given me time to really see the growth in students that I have had throughout this time. It is really exciting to see students grow in faith and leadership. I love teaching Confirmation because I love to teach students new things and to see them “get it.” I love to see the desire in students to be more involved in Bible study or service or leadership opportunities and to help give them a place to study, serve or lead. Unfortunately students you think would stick around, fall away for some reason. I guess situations in their lives change so drastically or mostly that their priorities change so quickly, that before you even realize it, they are gone for a season. Then other students just show up randomly when they haven’t been involved much before. It’s important just to continue to love them and minister in the best way you can at every moment that they are around, and to continue to let them know that you care, and more importantly, that God cares when they’re not involved.
A previous blog of mine touched on this idea of youth ministry where you don’t know what seeds are going to grow into fruition. But you just have to keep casting seeds everywhere you can and in every young person you encounter.
5. How is God moving in your life currently and how can we pray for you now?
God is my source of strength – I can do nothing apart from him. He continues to remind me of that, because sometimes I can get caught up in doing it myself and find the pressure in my ability, but I remember that God is here. I have to continue to surrender my control and ability because God can do much better! Prayers can just be thanking God for always being my strength and trust and that I can surrender everything to him each day and also be a witness of God’s strength by my faith in Him.
So far all three of the interviewees have stressed the need for dependence or surrender to God. That is so almost impossible and so foreign to this world, but it’s not to God, so we will pray for you and Brian during this time.