It’s always a challenge to answer the question, “Where/when did this start?” There’s an old saying (Chinese, maybe?) that says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” However, after 642 steps, sometimes it’s hard to say exactly when the journey began. Perhaps, like a lot of things, it’s just the journey of life and we really don’t know where it will take us. For those of us who’ve committed our lives to God, those decisions are His and we try to be faithful. But it’s not like He sends angels on a regular basis with instructions and a road map. We walk in faith, trusting that He will guide us even when we’re too dense to get it. My faith journey has been one of seeking answers to questions. However, before I delve into those questions and where they led, I think it’s practical to start with my own background so people will know where I’m coming from in the first place.
I was born August 27, 1968, in Peoria, IL, to a single, college-age mother who placed me for adoption. At three-days old I was adopted by Ross and Barbara Nettell and brought home to my excited big brother, Blake. Excited until he saw his new little sister was a red and blue screaming pest sent to tag along after him and irritate him just so he could grown in virtue! (And since he’s turned into a virtuous man, I do feel some satisfaction in a job well done!)
We lived in Morton, IL, and I was baptized at the United Methodist Church where Mom sang in the choir and Dad taught Sunday School. After a time they started going to the Presbyterian church and we remained Presbyterians. About the time I was five or six, Dad was transferred by Caterpillar to Melbourne, Australia. While we lived there we attended the Presbyterian church down the block from our house.
It is from there that I have my first real memories of church. The pastor would have us children come sit in the center aisle while he would give a Bible lesson. I remember how pretty that church was with the light streaming through the stained-glass and the pastor in his robes stretching out his arms in an all-encompassing gesture. One time as he taught about communion he had one of the older boys and himself each break a loaf of bread to explain it as we smaller children sat in two long lines between them. I knew it was something important. (I also remember falling asleep on Mom’s lap and the old lady with an ear horn, so not everything was ethereal and spiritual!)
Part of the time we lived there I attended an all-girls school run by the Anglican Church. We had chapel every week along with prayer in the classroom. It’s always been the school I’ve looked back on as my favorite. However, after two-and-a-half years in Australia my parents marriage could no longer take the strain of two people poorly matched and they divorced. Mom, Blake and I (I was seven) returned to Morton while Dad remained in Melbourne.
I don’t recall attending church when we came back until Mom started dating Bill Moschel. He attended the Morton Apostolic Christian Church and we joined him. I think what made the biggest impression on me there was how close everyone seemed to be. Although we were “outsiders” in the sense that we weren’t members, I felt accepted and longed to be a part of them. I especially loved the Sunday School when we all joined together to sing. Since the AC churches don’t use instruments in worship, all the singing was done a cappella and I loved it. (To this day, it’s still one of my favorite styles of music.)
We attended there until Mom and Bill decided to get married and found that the AC churches do not marry divorced persons. This was a hard thing for them since Bill had attended there for 30 years, even though he’d never joined. They went to a judge to get married. Sometime around then there were special services held at Grace Evangelical Mennonite Church and they attended them. After that we started going there and that’s the church in which I spent the rest of my growing up years.
I’ll write about Grace EMC in another post or this will get incredibly long!