Jackie's Story


It all started when…

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...” - I used to think that a quote like that was only a thing of novels. I used to hear that and think “whatever, Charles Dickens, it’s either one or the other... can’t be both.” 🙈
And then this year happened. It began as a normal year for us. Until one day this past spring Shaun came home and told me there was a job opening within his company for management in Seattle. I told him to go for it because we had both been talking about how we wanted to move somewhere and we wanted to come back to this area. The process took a while. It was mid-June when he was told he got the job. We were thrilled! Dreams were coming true. Everything was falling into place so seamlessly. We game house hunting at the end of June and got the first house we put an offer on. In the school district we wanted. In the type of neighborhood I had always dreamed of. We had a buyer for our NC house... now I just needed to find a church. So I hopped online to the AG website and started looking. Then I did a google search for churches near where we would live and came across FFC, then saw that there was a Lakeland campus. I was so stoked! So I decided to listen to some sermons and make sure the preaching was in line with our beliefs.... that it was deep and challenging. I like the kind of preaching I can go back to and learn from again. The sermon I listened to that night was titled Posture. I needed that sermon that night. I knew I had found my church. Fast forward to July.... on the 6th the movers came and packed us up, the 7th our stuff was gone. The following week was spent saying our goodbyes to close friends by spending some time with them. The 16th  we headed out for our last RFKC in NC where Shaun and I were assistant directors and wanted to make sure we finished what we committed to. We said our goodbyes to my family on the 15th knowing we would leave straight from camp to Shaun’s parents house, say our goodbyes to them and then head out on our drive out here. July 19th...the middle of the week of camp, and the hardest day at camp. At about 10:15 that night as I was heading back to my cabin, Shaun and one of our pastors came to see me, pulled me into a room, sat me down and informed me that my dad had died suddenly. My world instant shattered. I’ve never experienced such awful pain. They say that among the most stressful, difficult things a person goes through in life are: a big move, buying/selling home, chronic illness, and the death of a close loved one. And they were happening to me all at the same time. The weight of that was crushing. A week later, the 26th, was the funeral. The next day I flew out here and met Shaun and the kids. July 30, the day before my birthday, was my first Sunday at FFC Lakeland. Pastor Adam was so welcoming. He sat and talked to us for a while and I loved that. Then I met Ruth and she was so sweet and welcoming also. I had such a peace of just knowing I was in the right place and that God would give me the people I needed in my life. Because I need people. Big time. About a month later I was having a really hard time. Grieving the loss of my dad, fibromyalgia was flaring up and I was in a lot of pain, and I was very homesick. I missed my church family so much. I didn’t come to church that morning. It was all just too much. But then Shaun texted me and convinced me to come after for Make It Home 360. I threw on some clothes and left. My eyes were red and swollen from crying so much. Adam actually was the first person I saw as I walked in and he walked me over to the room where the class was being held. On the way over he said he was so sorry about my dad and all I was going through... he hadn’t known about any of it until that morning when Shaun told him. But that moment in the hallway was huge. The way he looked at me when he said that touched my heart deeply. At that moment I knew “this pastor cares... he truly cares”. It was confirmation I needed that I had found my place, my people. Ruth and I had coffee a few days later where she allowed me to talk through so much of what I was feeling. She understands, she cares. I felt such love coming from her that day. Another confirmation of just knowing I was home. Through the weeks and months since our first Sunday, my new church family has shown me great love, great support, and great friendship in the darkest days of my life. FFC Lakeland was a soft place to land for me.  God did that. He knew what I would need long before I did. He knew I would need a place where I could be real, and raw, share my feelings (good, bad and ugly) and still be loved. He knew what kind of people I needed. He knew the kind of church family our family needed to be a part of. I thank God everyday for bringing us to this place. 2017 was the best year, and it was the worst year. So yeah... the best of times and the worst of times. One minute I’m overwhelmed with love, and joy and gratitude, the next I’m consumed with grief and despair, and then peace of just knowing that God is hanging onto me even when I don’t have the strength to hang on. But thank God, that mostly, there’s joy.