By Tiffany Ravedutti
When my husband and I relocated from Illinois to Texas in 2013, everything about our move supported what I felt deep in my heart: my life was changing.
Around that time, my husband and I started our own martial arts academy and transitioned from employees to employers. We welcomed our first daughter into the world and transitioned from newlyweds to new parents. We left the comfort of living near our support system, and ventured away from everything we knew. We even traded iced-over roads for streets lined with palm trees.
Nothing felt the same. And as the feelings of familiarity vanished, so did the sense of safety.
Spiritually, I could feel the tides turning, too.
Immediately upon arrival, we started the church-hunting process. I found myself desperately searching for a church just like the one I left in my hometown. My husband immediately felt drawn to Clear Creek Community Church, but I kept asking to visit, “just one more” to see if I could find the Texas equivalent of my hometown church.
Week after week, we tried church after church and found nothing that felt like home. When we missed a service or hadn’t made plans to check out a new church, we’d go to Clear Creek’s Egret Bay campus.
At one point, we attended a morning service at a nearby church and we both left feeling uneasy. After the service, as we walked to our car, I looked at my husband and asked, “So…do you think we still have time to make it to Creek?”
“I was hoping you’d be up for that!” he replied with relief.
It was during that visit to Egret Bay that I began to entertain the idea that my husband’s discernment was right all along: this was where we belonged.
At the end of the service, when prompted to pray, I felt a strong conviction that I had been approaching this whole church thing the wrong way. Rather than searching for a church that perfectly fit my long list of criteria and could serve me well, I should have been searching for the place where God wanted to use the gifts he had already given me to serve his church.
I looked around at the crowded auditorium and found it hard to believe that there was any gift inside of me that couldn’t already be found in a group that size. Nonetheless, I tucked the conviction in my heart and promised God that I’d explore it further.
Over the next few months, my husband and I joined a small group. Suddenly, the intimidating size of Egret Bay shrunk to people we knew, faces we recognized, and lives that intersected our own.
A few more months later, I decided to follow through with that conviction I felt, and started serving in Student Ministry. As our team huddled, and relationships began to form, the church seemed to shrink even more. Soon enough, there wasn’t a week I walked in that I didn’t know someone.
I loved everything about serving in Student Ministry, but I still had a tugging feeling that I had something more to offer.
Inspired by my experiences serving others at our business and our church family, I began to write posts on social media about the ways in which I could identify God working in the world around me. Every time I wrote something, it was as if this hidden talent (that I never even knew was there) ignited a passion in my heart and grew until it became something I craved.
After writing a post, women I’d known from different times and places in my life would send messages encouraging me to keep writing because I seemed to write their own thoughts. It was when a friend asked me to get a coffee with her that I realized there may be something for me to pursue in writing when she reached across the table, grabbed my hand, and said with tears streaming down her face, “You wrote the words of my heart and reminded me that Jesus sees me. Thank you.”
Somehow, writing seemed to marry my creativity with compassion, and I could no longer ignore the overwhelming desire I had to point people to the grace found in Christ through the written word.
In one Student Ministry huddle, our leader, Aaron Lutz asked the question to the group, “What’s something you see in the world that God is breaking your heart about right now? What’s he asking you to do about it?”
I knew my answer immediately, but I hadn’t spoken it out loud before. When it was my turn to answer, I almost choked on the air I was using to speak.
“I…uh… well, I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot lately, and I think God’s been leading me to write,” I said, staring at the ground.
Startled by my own words, I immediately started dismissing them.
“But, I don’t even know what this is. All I’ve ever known is martial arts and it’s really all I know to do. I don’t know anything about writing…I just…I don’t know.”
Feeling flustered, I looked to Aaron with a hurried half-smile that said, “Okay, next person, please!”
His eyebrows raised in interest and said, “Hey! That’s awesome! Don’t leave today without me introducing you to my friend, Jon.”
After service, Aaron introduced me to Jon Coffey, the director of Story Team.
After a conversation about the power of storytelling, the vision for Story Team, and cultivating a culture of story at Clear Creek, I was hooked!
He explained the process that we’d follow: I’d meet members of the church for coffee and they’d share the story of how God has worked in their lives. I’d write their testimony and it would be shared on the church’s blog to encourage others.
I remember thinking, “So, I get to talk to people about Jesus while drinking coffee? Is this real life?”
What a perfect way to serve my church.
It only took a few minutes into my first interview for me to understand exactly why I felt convicted to shift my church-hunting perspective all those months ago.
To date, there hasn’t been a single, Story Team testimony I’ve had the pleasure of hearing that I haven’t silently swept tears off my cheeks as I’ve listened to the redemption and restoration and goodness of God. There hasn’t been a single story I’ve gotten to share, that I haven’t walked away in awe that God would be gracious enough to give me a front row seat for the work he’s doing in the world.
There hasn’t been a single story I’ve written that my own faith hasn’t been strengthened from hearing.
And along this incredible journey of discovering and using my God-given gifts to serve the church, there hasn’t been a single cup of coffee that I’ve regretted drinking either.