By Ryan Hall
Where do I start? What message am I trying to convey? What will people think when they read it? These were all questions that crossed my mind as I began to write this story. And then I remembered the words that Pastor Dave has said many times, "Your story is sacred." These words provided comfort and reminded me that my story is what has defined me and what make me...me. It isn't wrong or right, it just IS.
My story began in a small rural town in Northwest Indiana or as my Dad would call it, "God's country." My Dad farmed and he taught his three sons the value of a strong work ethic and ensured we were taught God's grace at an early age. Whether it was picking up rocks in a bean field, bailing hay for a neighbor or taking care of my 4-H pigs, I learned to find God's presence in nature. We knew that God provided the rain and sun that in turn fed the crops, which were our primary income source. For these reasons it was always easy for me to relate to the many agricultural references sprinkled throughout the Bible. Going to church on Sunday mornings wasn't really a choice unless we were behind during planting or harvest season. I truly have some of my fondest family memories from the Sundays where our whole family piled into the Pontiac Bonneville and headed to Milroy Community Bible Church. Our church community really felt like a family and a place where relationships could grow and people genuinely cared for one another. So naturally this experience set my expectations for what I valued in a church community.
Fast-forward to my high school years and miraculously all that wisdom my Dad and the poetic little church bestowed upon me seemed to quickly fade and overnight I became the genius. This may be a slight exaggeration, depending on who you ask, but in reality I was trying to carve my own path and following high school I decided to attend Norwich University in Vermont and pursue my commission into the United States Air Force. The first few years of my Air Force career didn't really go as planned, or at least per my plan. After not successfully completing flight school God opened up a new door for me and in July of 2001 the Air Force sent me to Los Angeles Air Force Base where I began a new career in satellite systems acquisition. More importantly, this beautiful girl named Erica from the south shore of Boston happened to be living just 5 blocks down from me!
In case you were wondering this is the same amazing woman who accompanies me to church today. Erica is truly a godsend and an answered prayer.
When we relocated to Virginia in 2005 we began to search for churches that aligned with our values and after several visits to local congregations we fully embraced the Crossroads vision and decided to make this our church home. We felt welcomed as we were, we saw easy ways to serve the local community, we heard messages that related to our everyday lives with God, and if God ended up blessing us with children, we knew this would be a safe nurturing environment.
Hit the fast-forward button one more time and 12 years later God has blessed us with 4 healthy girls, who have the ability to make you laugh, cry, worry, dream, hope and love all at the same time. As Erica and I wade through this pond called parenthood, we know we have members in our local church family who are there to throw us a life preserver because they truly care for us. Hey, this sounds a lot like that little country church back in Indiana. :)
As Father's Day approaches I know one of my personal goals is to do a better job of intentionally slowing down and be thankful for the everyday blessings that are all around me. A wise friend recently told me, "Think of special moments like a countdown clock and as an example, be ready to accept those hugs from your kids when they sprint to greet you at the door. Because each time we fail to fully embrace them, it is a missed blessing and the clock keeps on ticking down." What blessings are you missing?