It’s Friday, which means it’s time for another sneak peek! This week, it’s Who You Know, a book that came out last month but focuses on old characters that show up in earlier books. Who You Know is like a prequel, and it answers this age old question… what possesses a man to wear skinny jeans? (You’ve wondered. I’ve got answers.)
Check out Sean and Jennie’s story…
~The First Day~
“God has good, good plans for you.”
She breathed the words out as an affirmation to herself, straight from her lips to God’s ears, reminding Him of the promises He’d made in Scripture, as if He needed reminding at all. “Good, good plans. If not here, then somewhere.”
Here was Grace Community Church, where she’d been coming every Sunday since she’d moved to Fort Worth a few weeks earlier, making her way onto the college campus and dragging all of her things up three flights of stairs to a dimly lit dorm room that smelled old and musty. School was what she’d imagined it would be – parties that she wouldn’t be going to because she had grades to maintain and scholarships to keep. She’d already made friends, even with her busy course load, because she always made friends, no matter where she went. The girls in the dorm, the students over at the campus ministry, and even classmates who sat in the lecture halls that seated hundreds – she’d met many of them already, and as a result, she felt like she’d settled in at college, just like she’d dreamt about back in the small trailer miles and miles away –
Nope. Thinking about that place and that reality wasn’t going to make any of God’s good, good plans for her come to fruition. She took another breath, just as the bus neared her final stop and the large church came into view.
“Good, good plans,” she murmured again, pulling down on the cable to indicate that this was her stop and making her way down the aisle of the bus. As soon as it rolled to a halt, she was off and heading towards what she was sure was her destiny, tromping through the parking lot and reminding herself of the prepared speech she was going to give once she got there.
This was a good church. She’d been able to discern that in the time she’d been a visitor, sitting in on one of the adult Sunday school classes because she couldn’t get to the college class on time with the bus schedule being what it was. College schedules and young adult ministries were made for people who owned cars, and she hadn’t been able to afford one. That was okay, though, as she’d learned plenty in that adult class and even more in the main worship service, where hundreds of other people gathered to hear the sermon together. The teaching here was good, solid, and biblical, and she had come to some conclusions about what God was calling her to after hearing it all.
Hence why she was here now, making her way down the halls to the main office, praying with every step that she’d speak well and speak plainly, that God would even now be preparing the hearts of the staff member she’d talk to, and that this would be the beginning of something very, very good.
She took one last quick breath, pasting a winning smile on her face as she opened up the door to the office.
The first thing to greet her was a man’s backside, bent over several stacks of paper, as he struggled to lug one of hundreds of boxes across the room.
Watching him as he continued to pull and push that one box from a virtual wall of others, she did the first thing that came to mind.
“May I help you with that?” she asked, startling the man enough that he dropped the box completely, halting his progress as he let out a small yelp of surprise. He swiveled around, his hand to his chest, still gasping as his eyes met hers.
She blinked right back at him as he stared at her.
He was young. Her age, probably. Certainly young enough that lifting heavy boxes should have come a lot easier to him, making her assume that they were exceptionally burdensome and quite an effort to move, an assumption that was compounded by the way he was sweating, even in the indoor air conditioned office.
Even with the sweat, though, he was nice looking. But not very smart, she concluded, as he continued to stare at her.
She watched him expectantly as she held her resume in her hands, the plastic smile still on her face, willing him to say something… anything…
“Hey,” he breathed out.
“Sorry about barging in like that and surprising you,” she said, determining that she was going to have to do all the talking with this guy, even as she glanced around the empty office, wondering where everyone was. “I wanted to know if there’s a staff member I could talk to. One of the pastors, maybe. Are you a pastor here?”
He’d recovered from the surprise of having her walk in, but he seemed to be struggling for a coherent thought. She tilted her head at this, wondering at his inefficiency. Maybe it was harsh to be thinking like that, but she was nothing if not completely and totally efficient in every area of her life, so it grated her, just a teensy tiny bit, to come across someone who wasn’t likewise.
He shook his head. “Sorry, no,” he finally said. “I’m not a pastor. I’m just an intern, which you probably already figured since they’ve got me lugging around…” He gestured towards one of the boxes, apparently having difficulty remembering the word.
He was an idiot, clearly.
“Boxes,” she filled in for him, always one to have compassion on those who were a little slow.
“Yes, boxes,” he said, still staring at her.
“Well, good for you,” she said supportively, as though he’d actually done something worth cheering, just by being able to articulate what he was doing.
He seemed to wake up a little in response to her praise. “You said that you need to see a pastor?” he asked, eyeing the resume she held in her hands.
“Yes, please,” she said, her smile back in place.
“Well, normally, one of the secretaries would arrange something with one of the associate staff,” he said, chewing on his lip absentmindedly. “But they’re all across the building, helping the support staff set everything up.”
“Ahh, I see,” she said, even though she didn’t know what he was talking about or what support staff even was. And this church had more than one secretary?
He took the confused look that crossed her face in a brief unguarded moment as a question that needed to be answered. “They’re all preparing for a big meeting that’s going to be here at the church. Convention thing, the whole denomination. We’re all hands-on deck at the moment and understaffed, unfortunately. Which is why I have boxes and boxes full of books and papers and –”
He stopped himself from rambling. She was thankful.
“But you need to see a pastor,” he said, taking a breath. “And that definitely takes precedence over everything else. Maybe I can go and grab one of the young adult pastors from that side of the building if you don’t mind waiting for a few minutes.”
“Yes, please,” she said, ready to get this show on the road at last.
He looked to his right, thinking it over. “Actually, I can… uh, I can check and see if Stephen has time.”
Stephen. Wasn’t the pastor who preached on Sundays named Stephen?
Before she could ask, the young man was making his way back to an office within the office, gesturing for her to follow him. He led her straight to an open door, where sure enough, the preaching pastor of the church was sitting behind a desk looking to all the world like he’d been waiting for her and this scheduled meeting.
“Huh,” the young man said, turning to grin at her. “Lucky day for you, coming in and getting the senior pastor. That hardly ever happens.”
Lucky day, indeed. Thank You, God. Good, good things…
“Stephen,” he said from the doorway, prompting the pastor to look up. “There’s someone here who needs to speak with a pastor.”
Stephen stood from his desk and made his way around to the door. “You going to stick around the office?” he asked the young man who’d led her here.
“Sure will,” he said, giving her a small wave and walking back over to his boxes.
“Come on in,” Stephen said, smiling at her as he did so, about to ask another question when she put her resume right into his hands. He looked surprised but quickly read the name at the top.
“Jennifer Williams,” he said, glancing at her. “Well, okay, then. I’m Stephen Hayes. Good to meet you.”
“It’s wonderful to meet you, sir,” she said, amazed that she’d been able to walk right into this office and speak with the senior pastor. What kind of favor was God shining on her right now?
“Did you…” he studied her resume for a second. “Didn’t you join the church a couple of weeks ago?”
Yes, along with thirty other people. It was a big church, so she was surprised and pleased that he’d remembered her, or at least remembered her name.
“Yes, sir,” she answered, practically beaming now. “I’ve been praying about finding the right place for my new church home, and Grace is the answer to that prayer.”
“Always love hearing that,” Stephen said, nodding. “Welcome home.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Have a seat,” he said, gesturing to the couch in front of them, then taking his own seat in an armchair across from it. She lowered herself onto it, just as he leaned back in his seat, smiling over at her. “So, Jennifer. What brings you here today with your… your resume?”
Maybe it was a little presumptuous. Okay, so it was.
“I need a job,” she said anyway, launching right into what she’d already prepared herself to say. “And what’s more, sir, is that I believe this church is the exact place that God has called me to, to serve in a capacity that I’m equipped especially for, as He’s prepared me to be right here, right now, at this exact moment in Grace’s history.” She took a breath. “I’ve been listening to your sermons, about gifting and serving, and I’ve fallen under great conviction that the Lord has me set apart for vocational ministry and that He plans for this to be my training ground, so to speak.”
Stephen sat back and watched her. It was bold, perhaps, just laying it all out there like this and expecting that she’d be offered something immediately, but no one ever got anything by not asking. She’d come to realize in her brief years that taking a chance and stepping out was always worth the risk.
“Well, then,” Stephen said, glancing back down at her resume. “I see that you’re in college. Locally. Just moved here from…”
“It’s a small town, an hour away from here,” she said, seeing that he didn’t seem to recognize the name of her hometown. No worries there, though, because that was the past, and she was only moving forward from here on out now.
“A freshman, majoring in English,” he read. “Good, solid part-time work history. And you’ve been a member of your former church for three years.” He glanced up at her. “That’s not very long.”
No, it wasn’t.
“I came to Christ at fifteen,” she said, holding her head up high still. “My family didn’t go to church. Still doesn’t. But I’d heard about Jesus all my life, because… well, because we live in the Bible belt.”
“True enough,” Stephen nodded.
“But a few years ago, He became more than just someone I knew about,” she said. “He became someone I knew, because Scripture was rightly communicated to me by a friend, and now that I know Him, nothing is the same. I’m not the same. I’m not living for myself anymore, and I want to grow to be someone who can rightly communicate who He is to others so that they can live for Him as well.”
That was her truth and her testimony, and she found that every time she shared it, it was more miraculous than the time before. God’s favor in arranging for her to sit down with the senior pastor of the biggest church in town seemed a very small thing in comparison to the favor He’d shown her when He’d saved her and set her apart for His purposes.
Stephen smiled at all that she’d communicated, likely hearing a lot of what she hadn’t even expressed. “Well said,” he murmured. “And what is it that you feel called to do? Here at this church, I mean.”
Anything. She’d do anything.
“I feel that my giftings will make me ideal for any number of positions,” she said. “Clerical work certainly, but I feel that I would be better used in a ministry position, serving in an outreach of some sort. Evangelism, church planting. That kind of thing. And honestly, sir, the church could gain a lot of traction if I came along and was given good work to do in the community on behalf of the church, almost like being sent out as a missionary.”
Sure, she’d do anything, but begging for a job wasn’t going to make her look like a more attractive candidate. She had to put her best traits forward and let him know that she was actually going to bring something to the table.
Stephen seemed amused by this.
“I have to tell you,” he said, “I’ve never had someone come in and tell me quite so boldly why they need to be given a job here. Especially not someone who just recently graduated from high school and has no real ministry experience to speak of.”
True. But she didn’t let this get her down.
“That’s why I need the job,” she said. “How else will I get experience?”
He grinned at this. “How else, indeed?”
Had she overstepped? Surely not…
“That guy out there,” he said, pointing to the open door, where the young man she’d run into earlier was still working, “is the grandson of Thomas Fisher, pastor emeritus here at Grace and, frankly speaking, the greatest pastor this church has ever known and will ever know.”
The idiot was the grandson of a famous pastor?
“All that to say,” Stephen continued on, “even he didn’t come in like you did with resume in hand.”
Was he telling her that there was no chance?
“He still managed to gain employment here somehow, though,” she said, gesturing to where she could see him attempting to move those boxes again. “Surely I can be on equal standing, if not better, simply on the basis of the fact that I’m coming in here better prepared than he was. And that I’m a self-starter who can give you several good reasons why hiring me would be beneficial to this church.”
Had she been too bold? Was that taking it too far?
Her words were confident, but inside she was cowering, wondering if she’d just blown it…
“Besides,” she said, hearing the urgency in her voice and trying her best to mask it, “I’ve heard that you’re short staffed at the moment and can use some extra hands moving boxes, if nothing else.”
And there it was. Probably the final argument that she could make.
She nearly held her breath as Stephen considered this… then shrugged at her.
“Well, lucky for you, Miss Williams, we actually need another intern around here, like you’ve just mentioned.”
Intern. Was he saying…
“I’m hired?” she asked, unable to keep the note of unabashed thrill from her voice.
“When the secretaries come back from lunch,” he said, making a note on her resume, “we’ll have them go through some steps to make sure everything is as it should be with your background check, and I’ll need to make a few calls to personnel and double check that given the meeting we have coming to our church soon, we can hire another intern out of sheer necessity alone. Then, they’ll need to discuss forms with you, compensation, all of that.” He looked up at her. “But yes. You’re hired.”
That had been too easy.
Stephen seemed to know it as he grinned again. “You just came along when we were at a dire place. It usually doesn’t work like this.”
No, probably not. But God’s favor was shining on her.
“That,” Stephen said, “and I can tell you’re going places, Jennifer. We want to be part of what God’s doing with you.”
She was unspeakably pleased by this affirmation but managed still to say this.
“I go by Jennie, actually, sir.”
“Jennie,” Stephen said, standing to his feet as she did the same, his hand held out to shake hers, just as he turned to lead her back out into the office. “Let me introduce you to your new colleague.”
Colleague. Interns together, which wasn’t like being on staff, per se, but it was something. Her foot was in the door, God’s favor was on her, and surely, good, good things were up ahead for Jennie.
They stepped out into the main office where the young man, who had managed to drag three of the boxes across the hallway, stopped and looked up at them expectantly.
“Jennie,” Stephen said, smiling back at her, even as he gestured to the young man, just as he approached them. “Meet Sean Huntington.”
Want to read more? Get your copy of Who You Know here!