Hi. My name is Lindsey. Thank you if you came today because I dragged your heiny in here to support me! So I did grow up going to Holy Spirit. I came with the Simmer's family for a long time, Mark Laura and Sara Simmers, when I was little, and then my mother Robbi Denman and I started coming. I then went through confirmation here at Holy Spirit. I went with Polly and a bunch to Yakima to do Habitat for Humanity one year, and then was a part of the trip to Honduras in 2008... however I am 26, so I like to blame my spotty attendance on my age. Really, I seem to be doing a little bit of that 'transition' thing that I may or may not have been doing the last eight or so years of my life. If any of you are my age or have kids that are my age...or kids that were my age...or if you were my age...you might know what that's like. Anyway Pastor Mike and Pastor Sara asked me to speak a little bit today. Typically the service right after Christmas, the New Years’ service, is a sermon given by a young member of this church, so apparently I still pass for a young person! which I would definitely agree to and I probably will I'm well into my 90s BUT I'm not going to lie, sometimes my knees don't feel young anymore and sometimes I now want to go to bed at 10 o'clock. So, I have my moments of still feeling young.
But, like I said, apparently I'm young in their books, because they've invited me to give all of you lovely people a little testimony of my life today and share how the Lord is been present and working in my world. I wanted to give you first an introduction on who I was, in addition to my connection here at Holy Spirit. And yes, I'm tall. I am six whole feet tall; it's not just this podium that gives me the extra lift. Volleyball is my sport of choice, contrary to the many of you who thought maybe I was a hooper. I probably fouled out of every basketball game I ever played in…so, volleyball. I was the King County MVP at Inglemoor high school, and then an All-American player collegiately at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, and then played on Sound Premier, the professional team here in Seattle a couple years ago. Now am the head coach for Seattle Academy in Capitol Hill and I also coach a seventeen-year-old club team. This sport is obviously something that I love and have loved. It's a great sport and a lot of people enjoy it, whether you are setting up a net at Greenlake for your company barbecue or watching your daughter play in a junior high Gymboree, it's really an easy export to connect with. I have a lot of great memories surrounding this sport as have I learned a lot and grown a lot as a person because of my involvement.
The reason I've introduced volleyball thus far is because the first pivotal crux in my life took place surrounding this sport. So let's go back in time: 2009, coming into my senior season my team was stacked. It is my college team I'm speaking of. There were two returning all-American players, three all-region players, several other all-conference players, and we were ranked 7th in the nation. We had a target on our back and we were ready to prove that we had earned that spot. We had had a great off-season and everybody had worked their buns off the summer before to come in ready to rumble. It was going to be awesome. Second week into our regular season, already with a couple tough wins under our belt, we host our arch nemesis and crosstown rival, Pacific Lutheran (I know a lot of you probably went to school there, Pastor Sara, Pastor Katie, Jordan Fermstad, Linnea Anderson, Jenny Wohlman, went to school there... But we don't really like PLU...) who ALSO was ranked top 25 in the nation and had consistently competed for a top spot in the conference and region. So, game on!
Ever since this moment, I have been able to look back and reflect on this game in slow motion – uber slow motion. Everything happened with extreme sensitivity and my alertness was on point like never before. I was tapped into some sort of extra energy that night allowing me to soar above the reality of the individual contest at hand. We had lost the first set and were down in the second. I remember my best friend Kalli was in the middle in the front row hitting, and I was in the back row passing, my competitive drive burning the spaces around me. I nailed three perfect passes – the first, one teammate sent sailing out of bounds, the next another teammate buried the ball deep into the net, and then finally our setter gave Kalli a nice buttery set that she smashed on the 10 foot line of the other side of the net. Okay. We cheer, side out, now we're serving and I rotate to the front row as an outside hitter, ready to lead my team to a victory. Like I said this is all in slow motion for me, so I'm trying to take you there with me.
Okay, so we serve the ball, the lutes pass a good ball and their setter goes to set their middle hitter. I can see their middle hitter begin to run around the back of the setter and come into my blocking territory. I'm on it. The ball is set tight to the net and I know I'm going to seal the net and block her face off. And I do. The ball pounds against my arms and goes straight down with a thud. But, before I can land and celebrate with my team, their hitter lands on my side of the net. I come down on top of her and my knee buckles outwards. There was a long drawn out silence. I fell to the ground. Me and everyone around me held their breath as we hoped against the obvious damage that I had just done. Kalli looked me in the eye, held out her hand in my collapsed direction and said, in the most serious tone she'd ever taken with me, "Get up. Lindsey, get up!" I couldn't. I couldn't get up. I couldn't finish that game. I couldn't finish that season. My knee was destroyed. ACL, MCL, and meniscus – I ruptured it all. I had to spend the rest of the season on the bench, leading vocally and re-assessing my next moves in life.
So it's very apparent that this story gets me pretty emotional still today. No matter how many times I tell this story, which I honestly try to avoid telling at most costs, I feel really impacted and I think that's because of what it meant for me in my life. The impact that this sport had on my world and what it meant for me at that point in my life was so much, that having everything pulled out from under me all at once, unexpectedly, was not the easiest thing for my brain to cope with. Up to that point, volleyball had ruled my world and I planned to play abroad that next year and go from there. I honestly hadn't figured out a plan of attack as far as a career went beyond that, and because of my investment in this sport I really didn't feel like I needed to, like I was in any kind of rush. So from here, there definitely was a lot of soul-searching; a lot of trying to figure out more of me.
So, the last four years after college have been a season of trial and error, of travel and exploration, of learning and challenging. I began to look really closely at the interests that I had been ignoring for years; the interest in things that I had done on the side or given only so much attention to when volleyball and school ruled my world. Now, by no means do I want to discount what volleyball and education have done for me in my life. I thank the Lord and my family every day for giving me a structure and a clear direction leading me to so much success so early on. I truly do because of those fundamental experiences and moments, I had a base help to align me as a person, but God has also given me the strength to take on challenges beyond that – challenges beyond the regimented, black-and-white formulaic pathway that had steered me in the right direction up to that point. The second defining twist to my tale has been this last year and especially this last fall season.
I traveled around South America for a little bit after college, I then came back and worked for the YMCA with Camp Orkila and the camping services department, then I moved back down to Argentina where I taught English for a year. I moved to Colombia and worked in a hostel and then on a coffee and banana farm for a while, I enrolled in a university in Medellín and studied Spanish, I really did a lot of personal exploration; a lot of personal reflection and I pushed myself in uncomfortable and vulnerable ways. My best friends when I was living in Argentina were the 65-year-old couple that owns the grains store down the street. We had dinner every Saturday night and spent all day preparing it sharing stories and laughter.
So one of the things that started to redevelop while I was abroad and at summer camps and here in there after college, was my serious interest in photography as an art. My father had given me a black-and-white film camera when I was very young, and he taught me how to meter my camera appropriately, how to expose my film correctly and achieve different affects with depth of field and movement. But beyond that, shooting recreationally and taking classes here and there in high school and college, I never realized the opportunities in photography nor my abilities in the art. I began doing some travel documentation of my journey to share with friends and family back home, I wrote a blog, detailed new exciting recipes and shared stories about excursions. I really found a genuine connection capturing still images. When I came back to the United States, I began to do some work for friends here and there, I did family portraits and head shots, events...I was eventually asked to do weddings. I really began to delve into this industry. The thing with me though is really deciding that I'm going to focus in one area; really commit myself to just one thing. I love being involved in a lot of different areas and I feel like I can contribute to this world in a lot of different ways.
So Pastor Mike called me in the beginning of the summer and invited me to a dinner at his house with a bunch of other young adults. We laughed and got to know each other, revisited past friendships, enjoyed good company over good food. He presented this idea to us. This idea of a new young adult’s ministry. He asked if it would work. We got excited. There was a handful in the room that really felt like it was a calling, really felt like it was something stirring in their heart, that they were able to get really excited about. This is salt house.
Pastor Sara was hired and brought up to her hometown to lead this group of young adults in a positive direction with the Lord. In getting to know her, and in reaffirming and revisiting my relationship with the Lord, my life has really begun to feel peaceful; feel connected and feel whole. AND… busy...
So, this last year I thought maybe I'll teach, coach, play, be a photographer, make some money on the side bartending be involved in building a new ministry... That's manageable... So I was taking classes at UW as prerequisites for their Masters in teaching program, coaching for a club team, coaching for a high school team, subbing at that high school, playing beach volleyball, bartending at a restaurant in Bellevue, being a part of Salt House, photographing 2-3 things a week, and juggling just too much. And, I honestly don't think I ever have said that out loud before, the too much part (except for maybe in practicing this sermon), my mom can probably attest to that... I will never admit to doing too much...I have always been one to go, go, go, do, do, do. And rest and my day of Sabbath were not a regular part of that regiment. I want to do it all. I wanted to do it all. and yet, doing it all can mean a totally different thing, depending on the place that you're at.
I did not get into the University of Washington's master’s program. This was a bit of a shock to me, as my credentials, my grades, my test scores, my class requirements, my recommendations, all of those things, measured up, and so trying to understand this rejection, took me a minute. Luckily, God is here. God has been present this whole time. And I know and I feel and I believe that. I know also that he is God of the unexpected. God doesn't make bad or negative things happen to us, God didn't bust my knee. God didn't reject me from this grad program. But these things happen in our lives and really noticing how God shows up in these things in these experiences is what reaffirms my faith. He helps us to bring the unexpected blessings out of these challenging moments.
Last month I got my business license. Lindsey Denman photography is now an LLC and something that I'm putting my whole 2 feet into. (So.. if any of you have been thinking this whole time that you definitely are in need of some photography work, I'll leave some business cards in the Narthex -call me hehe). But I could not be more excited. I have several weddings already scheduled for this next spring and summer. I've been doing engagements, beautiful shoots with families, infants, high school seniors, a lot of events in the hip-hop industry and music festivals – a lot of really neat stuff; a lot of stuff that really hits me in a different part of my heart and aligns very well in what I can bring to the table as an individual.
So as I look back at this particular game and injury, as I look back at not getting into the University and struggling with my decisions of wanting to do everything, I just feel like I was on such a different path with my life. I have been on so many different paths thus far in my life and I just continue to learn, that God shows up in unexpected ways. Our Lord surprises us, and when I look back and see these awful and really difficult times, I can now also see really beautiful places; really positive direction and truly great hope in the unexpected.
This is the message I want to leave us with. In this season of Christmas, this season of celebration and expectation and hope, we are hustling and bustling about trying to enjoy the spirit of giving, attempting to stay on top of all of our work and family affairs, and trying to find that peace in our lives. We need to give ourselves a chance to breathe. A chance to reflect and find the hidden opportunities that God helps us shine the light on. Throughout this last month, and this Advent season, we have been reading scripture about the Lord coming to us here on earth. The people thought that God would come to us as an all-powerful ruler, as the Messiah, as a great and enormous spirit; but he came to us as an infant; as a human infant – a real live, breathing, child. This is unexpected. For Jesus to be God in human form, next to us, with us, here on earth, is truly the most unexpected.
So, I would love to take a moment and use this space to invite everyone to reflect and maybe claim all of the uncertainties and unexpected uncomfortableness amd pieces in our hearts and lives right now. Maybe think on pain, or challenges, and really bring those things forward and give them light. Pastor Sara talks a lot about this idea of sharing light and giving light to confusing ideas and feelings and situations... I really resonate with that. I think I will open up in prayer, and then allow a time of contribution for anyone that would like to share out loud, and then I will close in prayer. Sound ok? Ok.
Heavenly father, I would like to open up this space and time to these lovely people here at Holy Spirit in order for us to reflect and give a moment to the pain or unexpected challenges in our lives right now.
Lord if you will hear our words and help us all to reflect on these decisions, these turning points, these opportunities. Give us encouragement as we go on and attempt to confront these uneasy pieces in our world and support us in our vulnerability. Help us to make the most of these realities and guide us with your presence and with your peace. In your name we pray, Amen.
Thank you all so much for hearing my story today and being a part of this lovely community that opens their hands and hearts to so many loving people. It’s quite a beautiful place, so thank you