How Volunteering Ruined Me

You never know what will happen when you raise your hand and say, “I’ll help.”

I’m sitting in Peet’s Coffee outside Portland, trying to digest the last 5 days of intense emotions, profound thoughts and God’s tug on my heart during the Faith and Culture Writer’s Conference.

Last year I was an Attendee, this year I volunteered to oversee the Volunteers. ALL CAPS. ‘Cause they are all that (more on that later.)

Back in September when I first met Cornelia Seigneur, the director and vision-carrier for Faith and Culture, we were chatting on the sidelines of her sons’ soccer game, enjoying the sunshine and sharing our hearts.

Offering to step in and help seemed like an easy fit for me–I’m an organizer, a people person and I love bringing order out of chaos.  Which is basically the description of a Volunteer Coordinator, right?

As the months marched from September through the holidays and on into January, the little movement that was F&C carried on via emails, Skype, face to face meetings and a LOT of texts.  I was planning, getting people in touch with each other, defining roles, making lists.

I was SO on top of things, happy to pitch in wherever needed.

Which of course changed after Cornelia’s accident in January.  Life came to a screeching halt for her; the rest of the Faith and Culture team picked up the burden of the work.

I managed my part along with juggling the loss and aftershock of my mother-in-law’s passing (whose hands you see above). She died 10 days after Cornelia’s accident.  My mental and emotional capacities were being taxed but still, I could handle it.

I had my husband’s blessing and support through this time and was grateful for the prayers for people he’d never met. (I was the one traveling three hours from Seattle to Portland. HE wasn’t going to the meetings. But he kept hearing me talk about these people…)

January turned into February turned into March… Little pockets of time were filled with Dropbox addendums, emails to speakers, airline reservations. Forms and documents and spreadsheets and checklists. I was managing.  Doing fine.

‘Cause I’m a people person and an organizer and I love bringing order out of chaos.

I remember reading a Facebook comment by the humbly amazing Jennifer Dukes Lee about how she was quaking in her boots before a speaking engagement.
I just didn’t get that–why should she worry about doing what she was called to do? You know what came naturally to her, moving in her gifts and calling and all that? 

I never felt like that.
I felt capable, strong, well-suited for the task.

Do you see any red flags here?

D-day arrived.  I packed my car, drove the tree hours to Portland and checked into my hotel. Wednesday began with a 3 1/2 hour meeting for planning and preparation. Thursday held more printing and prayer and meetings. With the Volunteers. The Rock Star Volunteers.

The whirlwind of highs and lows and connections and challenges and blessings carried me through the days.

And I never slept for more than 3 hours at a time. You know, in between the Harley outside the hotel window and the alarm going off at midnight and the pounding rain.

I was the ultimate in sleeplessness.

And I prayed the prayer. The Jennifer Dukes Lee prayer and the Deidra Riggs prayer–“God, when I’m terrified, you’re most glorified. Because I can not do this. Can. Not. I’m exhausted, my throat hurts, my stomach is upset. I’m gonna get sick.”

“I need you God. You’ve got to show up.”

That’s when I remembered. I remembered the gifts and abilities and calling I have come from my Father’s hands.

I am utterly incapable of moving in grace and strength, speaking life to other people or living with a generous heart unless I depend on Him.  Utterly and completely.

So here I am.  Weeping at Peet’s coffee at the goodness and greatness of God. Mind blown at story after story of the move of the Holy Spirit in peoples’ lives. The deep soul work that happened. The connections people made. 

How I was utterly ruined by the precious volunteers, overwhelmed by their hearts and souls. 

The young man that showed up on a rainy Saturday morning at 7:30 to go outside and direct traffic.

My black sisters who hugged me and kept asking, “Is there anything else I can do?”

The college students who were at my beck and call, literally…..(I LOVE COLLEGE STUDENTS!)

The speakers who sat and ate sandwiches and chips (like regular people!) as we poured out our hearts together. 

The messages of my gifted brother, prophet and poet Tony Kriz.  The stained glass beauty of A.J. Swoboda’s words in the chapel.

I could go on…

But I’m sitting in Peet’s coffee and crying in public and so I better stop.

To all the people in my weekend, my Faith and Culture tribe, my blogger/writer in real life friends and the rock star volunteers (did I mention the volunteers???) you’ve ruined my life….in the most beautiful way possible. (thank you William Paul Young).

You never know what will happen when you raise your hand and say ‘yes.’

Linking with Kelly for the Small Wonder Link up,
and Jennifer for Tell His Story

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10 thoughts on “How Volunteering Ruined Me

  1. Kelly Chripczuk

    What a gift to be able to pour yourself out in that way. Now, to refresh and reload and process. Be blessed, Jody. I'm wishing Portland wasn't so far away!

  2. blestbutstrest

    Wow! I love how God can work through us, despite us. I'm glad everything turned out well and that you were blessed as well as had an opportunity to be a blessing :).


    Wow. So many powerful blessings wrapped up in one weekend. What a mighty God we serve! Thank you for an uplifting post, Jody, written with sweet humility.

  4. Jody Lee Collins

    Thank you Tresta for your special, quiet presence. May God open doors for your amazing gift of writing. I hope we can meet again….

  5. Jody Lee Collins

    I had to learn to lean on Jesus in my super weakness. He was glorified through it, for that I am grateful. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Jody Lee Collins

    Nicol, you inspire. What a gift! I hope our paths cross again somehow. Thank you for your kind words.

  7. nicol epple

    Jody, I am so glad that God “messed” you up, because in doing so, you greatly blessed me this weekend! So glad to have a new sister and friend in Christ.

  8. Mom to 3

    This sounds like a wonderful conference. Thank you for sharing how volunteering impacted you I hope you have lovely day.

  9. Tresta Payne

    I am so thankful for volunteers who make things happen, Jody! It was so great to meet you in person and see that the real you is just as generous as the online you – gifted and scared and in over your head. Blessings and rest to you.

  10. janicejohnson

    I did a lot of “processing on paper” during the flight home. Rock stars, YES. The volunteers and their valiant, sleep-deprived coordinator!


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