(This story is dedicated to my dear friend and mentor, Dr. Joan Malick, who represents one of the greatest coincidences in my life. She also introduced me to this phrase.)
Everything was in a state of flux — my career, my faith, and even my happily ever after. It had the makings of an epic midlife crisis.
First to go up in flames was my engagement. After being on my own for more than ten years, I was done with life as a single mom and excited for this new chapter and my upcoming marriage. But as I glanced in the mirror during my final dress fitting, something inside left me unsettled. Later that night a conversation with my fiancé ushered in a series of unexpected events, and within 48 hours it became crystal clear that my fairy-tale romance would never make it onto the Hallmark channel, much less into real life. I was left brokenhearted — and even physically sick.
Next came the vocational upheaval. After six years of seminary and on track for ordination as a Presbyterian minister, my approaching graduation was accompanied by stirrings that grew stronger each day. During the course of my studies, many voices had encouraged me to pursue this path as a pastor, but throughout the process I had felt a continual simmering of unsettledness. My passion and reason for entering seminary had begun with a love to write and teach Bible studies – with no real intention to become a minister. But through the nudging of others, I had slowly begun to shift in another direction until the words of one of my pastors stopped me in my tracks: “Go back to the sandbox,” he said. When I first heard those words – and later, when I took that reflective trip back, the path ended in the same sandbox: my pen, not the pulpit. So after much discernment, godly council, and prayer I was led on a completely new adventure — writing. Now I had a professional crisis to match my personal turmoil.
The years that followed proved that God has a sense of humor, but more importantly that he was with me every step of the journey. Despite what seemed like a crazy idea at the time, soon after my breakup I showed up at the door of the local newspaper, Current Publishing. The next thing I knew I was face-to-face with the owners spewing out my story, ending with two goals: “I’m here to gain experience as a writer,” I said, “and to be a contributor to the newspaper’s mission as an unpaid intern.” While I felt like I nailed it in enthusiastic grand finale style, the Current’s president was silent, and the general manager shook his head in apparent disapproval. Then he continued, after a long pause, “We don’t want you as an intern, we want you as one of our editors.” The next week I hit the streets as a reporter, and my career in journalism took off! A few months later my title became managing editor. Through the owners’ belief in this inexperienced stranger, the door to my new path not only opened but was blown off. Coincidence? I think not!
While this was an incredible opportunity and launch into my writing career, I soon realized that the news business was not for me. After two years, I stepped out on my own into the world of freelance writing — but I was never traveling alone. At times I could feel God's presence strongly, and at other times physically, through people who would show up unexpectedly. You see, until that point, I had received no formal writing training — not a single class in journalism or creative writing. In my younger years, I was a math/science geek with no desire to write, let alone embrace it as a vocation. I desperately needed help. And God dropped someone in my life again. This time it was Judy.
I’ll never forget the day we met as I entered the packed room late and grabbed the closest seat next to the door. I was not only new to the Bible study but also to Traders Point Christian Church. Of the 80+ women in the room, Judy was in the seat next to mine. After a few minutes of chatting, I learned that she was an editor — an occupation she had held for much of her life. She also had a long list of impressive magazine article sales, tons of experience writing pitches and manuscript submissions, and numerous book-editing projects completed and in progress. Judy knew the business, and God placed her right in front of me to equip and prepare me for my freelance career ahead. The wisdom, guidance, and expertise I needed arrived in the person of Judy. Coincidence? I think not!
Today, the divine encounters continue. A few months ago I was in dire need of technical website expertise and began to pray about it. This time help didn’t arrive at church but at a funeral. Over a snack and a chat following the service, I met two brothers who happened to own a website development company. They are not only website designers but also marketing experts. Within a week of our meeting, they fixed my lengthy list of website issues and enhanced others. This random encounter was and continues to be an answer to prayer. Coincidence? I think not!
And now with my computer on my lap as I write this story en route back home from a girl’s trip to New Orleans, I am smiling as I turn and glance over at the seat beside mine. In it sits Elaine. Just a few months ago, our paths crossed at an IndyHumane event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. From the moment we were introduced, we had an instant connection. At the time of our meeting, she was praying for new friendships after her recent breakup of a 10-year relationship. A month later we met at the IMS, and now she is one of my closest friends. Coincidence? Well, you know the answer by now.
There’s no doubt in my mind that God brings people into our lives every day — sometimes for a moment, often for a lifetime, but always for a reason. God is not only ever-present and cares about the details of our lives, but he shows up. And most importantly, over 2000 years ago God showed up, through the person of Jesus Christ, to be a physical reminder of his love and grace and today continues to be a guiding spirit to an abundant and everlasting life.
Coincidence. What does this word mean to you? For me, coincidences are “God Incidences” in disguise. So now I walk the world in wonderment and excitement with what lies ahead and who may be around the next corner.
Coincidence awaits? I think so!
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:23 (NIV)