When Elaine looks back over her life now, she sees the hand of God throughout it. At the time, she may not have recognized him, but he was always there.
When Elaine was three years old, her father died. The second of four girls under four years old, she remembers praying to her “father” soon after his death. At the time, she thought it was to her earthly father, who – in her little-girl mind – was now watching over her; but now she sees it was actually her Heavenly Father she was praying to. And he was listening.
Growing up in East Los Angeles, she says things could have gone wrong very easily; but her mother was strong and gave everything for her girls. She ran a tight ship, and none of the girls strayed from their mother’s strict morals. She had them in Mass on Sundays, and in Catholic school. Elaine looks back now and sees these experiences as some of her first familiarity with God; and while they weren’t always positive, he was always there, inviting her.
A few years ago, a friend at work started a Bible study and invited Elaine, who gave her an enthusiastic “Yes!” Soon, she was baptized, her mom and sisters watching from the ocean shore; and her story since has been one of continued discovery. She says she didn’t know what she was in for – “You don’t realize it, but… you are going to change and there’s nothing that’s going to stop that from happening! But I didn’t know that. I was just taking the next step.”
Her friend gave her a Bible, and she has spent the last 7 or 8 years exploring it, feeling she’s barely scratched the surface. “[At first] I didn’t really know how to read the Bible - do you start at the beginning and go to the end??” But her friend encouraged her to start with the gospels, “since everything else is built on that.” And now spending time in Scripture is part of her daily practice. Between reading her Bible and sermons at church, she feels like she is finding language for some of what had been only mystery before.
Since coming to The Vine, she has also discovered what it means that God is in her. She says when she is at church, she can often even feel the Spirit “coming in… [like] wind!” She still has a hard time explaining that feeling, but she is discovering a deep desire to listen to the Spirit. She was also surprised to realize that she already had been – in many small ways – listening and responding to God.
“I think [reading the Bible] was probably the most important thing that I did that I didn’t realize I was doing it because the Spirit was speaking to me. But that was part of it. That’s part of what’s new inside of [me]… And when I hear Pastor Michael, it confirms that what I’m doing is something that the Spirit told me to do…Even though now I feel like I want to listen to God, before, I was listening to God but I didn’t even know it!”
Recently, Elaine’s husband had some health issues, and she has had some struggles at work. With retirement only months away, normally she would have been frustrated with how these struggles are affecting her life and plans. But, instead, she is surprised to see herself turning to God, waiting, listening. And she hears him say, “Slow down. Be patient. When the time’s right…you’ll know where you need to be.”
Once again, she is being invited to pay attention, lean in, and just take the next step. One step she has taken recently is to join the Women’s Bible Study, to continue to learn more. “We all have different journeys,” she says, “but for me… it is to be somebody that really knows him and listens to him and comes to him.”
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