This year I will be doing something new to celebrate Christmas, something I never dreamed or imagined. I will be outside ringing the bells for the Salvation Army. And I am so super excited!
I never knew how it came to be that people were outside of stores and malls ringing those bells. To tell you the truth, I never really even thought about it. I just know that when you hear the sound of those bells as you bustle about in December, this surely is a sign that Christmas is near. And, if or when I had some spare change, I'd through some in the red bucket. What they did with the money I never knew. I mean, it's the Salvation Army. It must be going to repair some old furniture in their millions of stores. Call me clueless and you'd be right. I knew nothing of this organization. And now, in the span of a mere nine months, all that has changed. Not only will I be outside ringing the bell this holiday season, on Sunday, I will become an actual Soldier in the Salvation Army, wearing my uniform for the first time, symbolizing my vow and pledge to live a life of holiness and uphold the practices and principles of the Salvation Army.
If you think God doesn't have a sense of humor, just follow my life and you will be amazed by the funny and amazing things He does through me and my family!
My journey with the Salvation Army began in March of this year as a fitness instructor for the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, located on West 119th Street. From the moment I entered the place to take a tour, I knew I had to be involved there in some kind of way. It was as if the clouds parted and the opera sang "Ahhhhhh!" from the heavens. Surely this must have been how the Israelites felt when they arrived at the Promised Land and saw the gigantic grapes. The place just felt serene, welcoming, peaceful, loving, and kind. I'm serious. I was captivated.
Bear in mind, at this point, I have no clue that this is a church, what the Salvation Army represents, who Ray Kroc is, and the significance of what is happening. All I had was a feeling. When I met with the Fitness Center managerial staff in my initial interview, all three of us instantly hit it off, so much so that I almost went right in to sharing about how good God had been to me, something which is tabu in today's world. It was then that I first learned that the Salvation Army is a church and we can pray all day everyday in the place, in the name of Jesus. Well, "Hallelujah!" I shouted. I can teach fitness classes and pray?!?! This is too good to be true.
I start teaching classes there and just fall more and more in love with the place, still clueless of the magnitude and significance of all of this. And then one day, it happened. I'm standing there looking at the words on the wall, and it was as if God removed the veil from my eyes to see the literal translation of where I was and what I was reading: The Salvation Army. In other words, the army of the saved.
Can you believe that? Here I am standing there with a figurative expression of "read the writing on the wall" becoming literal and alive and active! Like Daniel, I stood there reading the writing on the wall, and also like Moses, could have really taken my shoes off to give reverence for the holy ground my feet were touching. I could have sat there and just cried. No one knew that months prior to my visit to the Kroc Center, I had journaled and written privately between myself and my God that my dream job would be to work somewhere I could talk about God, and not feel uncomfortable about wearing my cross, or how much I love God. I knew I had to be somewhere this was acceptable because my love for God had gotten to a place where I couldn't turn it off for 8 hours at a time anymore. As a former Dean of Students in charge of all disciplinary infractions, I used to suspend kids when what I wanted to do was pray for them. And often times I did privately and passionately plea to God to help me help them. But all of that has changed. It's been two years now since I've been out of the school setting. I didn't know where I would go with this new level of zeal. I didn't know where on earth it would be possible to talk about God openly, aside from being in ministry, which I was not, or a monastery, which didn't give me many options for my husband and four daughters in the house.
Since then it's been one "Aha" moment after the other.
We left John Hannah's prestigious and popular New Life Covenant church we'd been attending for the past year. Nothing bad had happened. We love our NL family. Our membership served its purpose while we were there. And then God called us forward to another place, which leads me right up to this Sunday.
We will go forth before the congregation at the Salvation Army Kroc Center and affirm to live by The Soldier's Covenant. And then, later this month, with joy and gladness, I will stand outside of someone's store or mall and ring my bell unlike Anita Ward ever planned in her 80s hit. And I will do it proudly. And I will ring it boldly, gladly proclaiming the Good News that our Savior was born and still lives in me, and millions of others on this planet.
This IS the most wonderful time of the year!
If you enjoyed this blog and are on Facebook, be sure to like my "In FITNESS and In Health" Fan page. You can find all kinds of motivational information there, and soon, you'll be able to click and catch some videos of me teaching. If you're in the Chicagoland area, I'd love to have you join my classes. And if you have health and fitness goals, I can also help you too! In the past year, I've helped dozens of people lose tens and hundreds of pounds and I'd love to help you too! Visit my website for more information, and remember, vow to live, "In FITNESS and in Health" not sickness. Happy Holidays!