Thank You Mike & Laura Lee

I go to the most amazing church- Hope Community- and my pastor always talks about how he gets nasty emails from people. I can't imagine EVER emailing anything rude to Mike Lee. On the flip side, I haven't done my fair part of thanking him either. Every weekend I walk out of service & tell myself "this is the Sunday to email Mike & tell him thank you". Do you think I do it? No. But I'm going to try to make up for some of that with this blog.

This post is dedicated to my pastor and his wife- Mike & Laura Lee. Blogging with pictures is the only way I know how to communicate all that he & the church have done for me. For most of you, you know my story and have heard all of this. But this isn't for you. It's for Mike & Laura. It's a very long overdue THANK YOU!

So here goes. It's a little long so I apologize but I wanted to show a true picture of what my life at Hope has been about.

Mike,
I have been a member of Hope for 5 years and I absolutely love it! I have never loved a church more, have never been involved & invested more. Nor has another church changed my life more. To appreciate all that Hope has done for me, I feel that I have to tell you where I started so you'll appreciate where I'm at today.

I grew up in a Christian home but I didn't "get it" until I was 21 years old. I quickly become a Sold Out Jesus Freak. Unfortunately that didn't last long. I graduated from Texas A&M in the winter of 2002 and accepted a job with the USDA in upstate NY. For the first time in my life, nobody knew me and I could do whatever I wanted. SO I dropped Jesus off at the Pennsylvania border and lived 3 years the way I wanted. I had a blast in NY but deep down knew that there was something missing. Once my time in NY was over and it was time to move again with my agency, I knew that I wanted to get back in church once I got back down to the South. So I picked Jesus back up at the Pennsylvania border where I left him at and we moved to NC.

I wish that I could say that I joined Hope right away & got my life where it needed to be but that didn't happen. I visited Hope but was scared to dive in because I didn't want the accountability in my life. So I became a bench warmer in the back row for about a year. I continued to live life the way I wanted and was completely miserable. I knew exactly what I needed to do but it took awhile to get to the point where I was willing to actually jump in. You had talked about the importance of small groups so I reluctantly sought out a small group.

God placed me in the most amazing group of real life women. Some were younger than me, some older. It was a great mix of all stages of life and it was there that I started to get back in the Word and started to grow.

From Thank You
From Thank You

We had so much fun together.
From Thank You

We went on retreats each year to get away and reflect on all that God had done over the last year in our lives.
From Thank You

After a year in the group, we "branched" and I become a co-leader of the 2nd group.
From Thank You

Leading a group is SO much different than just being in a group. It held so much more responsibility & so much more accountability which was exactly what I needed.
From Thank You

I have been in the same group for the last 5 years. We have seen each other through every stage of life- break ups, make ups, weddings, birthdays, good time, bad times and now even BABIES!
From Thank You

I know that I wouldn't be the person I am today without this group!

Another thing that I did 5 years ago was SERVE. I listened to you talk about how we all needed to be involved and children seemed like the natural fit for me. So I became a gold group leader in the K room. Hated it! Yep, you read that right. I was only serving because I knew that I needed to and I just wasn't making the connection with the kids. So after a year of that I decided to become a full time teacher. And this proved to be one of the greatest things I've ever done! I have had the same group of girls for the last 4 years. Each year I move up with them. We started off in 1st grade together and now they have finished 4th grade. I have had so much fun with them and I've really used my creativity to throw a million parties.

Father/Daughter dances
From Thank You
From Thank You

Pumpkin Pickin
From Thank You

Christmas Parties
From Thank You

Princess Slumber Parties
From Thank You

Rockstar Slumber Parties
From Thank You

And our most recent Summer Time Fun slumber party
From Slumber Party 2012

Each year I take them to Spring Arbor Nursing Home in Apex and they literally become the hands of feet of Christ.
From Thank You

Some girls got a little carried away with the hands & feet concept and almost pushed this poor woman into a early grave. Oops!
From Thank You

I've even learned a few things about myself along the way- like I'm NOT cut out for Camp Kid Jam (this is a picture before the trip started. I promise you don't want to see the after one). I can serve every weekend in Kid City but 4 continuous days of screaming kids is not my idea of fun!
From Thank You

And eventually God would use these 4 years to prepare me to have a little girl of my own one day (but I skip ahead)

Serving also allowed me to develop friendships with the people I served with each week
From Thank You
From Thank You

Some of my closest friends are Hope staffers and these relationships have made Hope feel like a small church.
From Thank You

So about 2 years into my Hope membership and I'm moving & grooving. Everything is great but there's still something that I'm struggling with: I'm SINGLE. I'm lonely and convinced that God does NOT have a mate for me. I date all the wrong guys & come up completely heart broken and discouraged. So I convince myself that I'm either going to convert and become a Catholic nun or I'm going to be a missionary. My good friend Smiley Steve convinces me to try out the mission field and go to Belize in August of 2009. I figure I can do anything for a week & know that this will probably be a good experience for me. Had NO clue that this trip would literally change the course of my life.
From Thank You

So I'm hanging out in Belize, minding my own business and falling in love with these 2 girls- Shameka & Chelsie.
From Thank You

This mission trip is tough. I'm hot. I'm exhausted. And God is slowly showing me that I'm not cut out for the mission field so now I'm sad. Then something happens on the last day of the trip. I sit next to this guy named Todd Craig. I had seen him all week long working on houses, digging trenches with tarantula spiders and playing with kids. But I had never really "noticed" him until that last day on the bus. I could literally feel God lift a veil from over my eyes and I saw somebody special. I saw a Godly man that I had been praying for for almost 30 years. He wasn't what I expected nor did he look like anything else I had dated- he was better! And 6 months later we were married.
From Thank You

My husband has been the BEST thing that has ever happened to me. He is the funniest person I know. He loves me like Christ loves the church and he's my best friend.

Princess slumber parties? No problem for this guy.
From Thank You

Rockstar slumber parties? I think he liked this better than the 1st slumber party we had at our house the first year we were married.
From Thank You
From Thank You

He is true helper & mate and I couldn't be more grateful that God used Hope Community church to send him my way.

Todd & I have also made the most incredible group of friends at Hope and we're doing life together.
From Thank You

This year God will be using all those years in Kid City to prepare me to become a MOM! Todd & I are literally 3 (but hopefully only 2) weeks away from becoming parents!
From Christmas Card
From Maternity Pictures

It's amazing to me how my life has changed since joining Hope Community Church. I was the prodigal son at 26 years old. Now I am back with the Father. I had no church family now I have the most incredible group of strong Christian friends. I definitely didn't have hope of a boyfriend let alone a husband. Now I have a Godly helper and mate. I had no clue how important serving is to your spiritual growth. Now my heart beats for 10 girls that I serve on a weekly basis and God has used that to prepare my heart to become a mom.

Todd & I have to make a big life decision soon. I work for the USDA and they will be closing my office in Raleigh at the end of 2013. In order to keep my job, we will have to move out of state. I recently put my name in for a job in Athens, GA and we are waiting to hear back. My biggest fear about moving is that we will NEVER find a church like Hope. I know we'll adjust, make new friends and even be closer to Todd's family. But my biggest reservation is leaving this church that changed my life. We'll see what God has in store for us but if we do leave Raleigh, leaving Hope will be on the toughest things I'll ever do in my lifetime.

I can't thank you or Laura enough for your sacrifice and dedication to this church. To say it has changed my life is an understatement. God has used this church to make me the person I am today. And I am only one of thousands who feel this way about this building of people we call Hope Community Church. I "hope" you see how this church has made an impact on my life and I apologize for not telling you THANK YOU sooner!

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you both from the bottom of my heart!
Candice

Momma T  – (June 25, 2012 at 6:42 AM)  

WOW, that is all I have to say WOW!

Kelsey  – (June 26, 2012 at 9:46 AM)  

And thanks to Hope Community Church, I was able to meet you! Knowing you and having you as an inspiration in my life is one of my favorite parts of my Hope days. God is amazing, and as you know I love hearing your story (or His story rather). Lots of love, Mama! Can't wait to meet the baby.

Kelsey  – (June 26, 2012 at 9:46 AM)  
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