...one Sunday in September.
A few weeks ago my wife Jackie and I flew to Molalla, Oregon (30 minutes south of Portland) to attend a wedding. Yes, Molalla is indeed a good distance from our home in Birmingham, Alabama! Yes, the cost of getting there far surpassed what we may have spent on a gift. No, neither the bride nor groom is a member of our family. No, neither of them were childhood friends, roommates from college, or lifelong friends. We’ve known the bride for about five years, and during that period of time, we’ve seen her, I don’t know, may a couple of dozen times at best.
So why would we invest our time and resources to travel to Molalla, Oregon to attend the wedding of someone that we’ve known for a handful of years?
Well, because the bride made an impact on my life the day that I met her in 2006. The consequences of that first meeting were instrumental in changing not only my life, but the lives of Jackie, our family, and the people that worked for us.
I love telling this story. I’m quite sure that I’ve told some version of it on this very site at some point, but I feel that it bears repeating for reasons that I’ll explain in just a bit. Besides, I never tire of sharing it...
Jackie and I were attending a salon industry event in Atlanta, Georgia. That Sunday morning Jackie was participating in a cutting class, and I had been invited to a luncheon that was being given for salon owners. I’ll be honest with you in saying that while I really wasn’t excited about going to the luncheon, I figured that it would be better than sitting in our hotel room watching a football game between two teams that I didn’t like.
The keynote speaker at this luncheon was a lady named Ann Mincey, whom I’d never heard of and didn’t know the first thing about. (Again, the only reason that I was going at all was for a lack of anything better to do!)
I showed up at the appointed time and was immediately greeted by Lynn, our salon sales consultant, who grabbed me by the hand and led/steered/dragged me to this stunning looking woman who introduced herself as, you guessed it; Ann Mincey.
The next few minutes were a bit of a blur. I introduced myself to Ann, and then, per her request, I began sharing the condensed version our salon story with her. (If you’ve never heard it, and if you’re interested, click on A Seed was Planted at the top of this page.) When I’d finished, Ann thanked me for sharing our story with her, commended us for our courage in what we’d done, and then, curiously enough, asked if she could give me a hug, to which I readily agreed.
The luncheon began, and after a few opening remarks, the host proudly introduced the keynote speaker, REDKEN’s Vice President of Global Communications, Ann Mincey. You could’ve knocked me over with a feather! V.P.s of huge corporations weren’t supposed to be that nice.
Ann took her place in front of the audience and began sharing her own personal story of change, including her career with Redken (the hair care people). While it was indeed an interesting story, what impacted me the most was Ann’s testimony about God and her faith. And while it wasn’t as bold as what some would refer to as “witnessing,” it was, nonetheless, my first experience of faith in the marketplace, and I was immediately impacted by it; a lot.
I returned to Birmingham, more determined than ever to grow our salon to a level of success beyond anything that I had envisioned for it. Of more importance was my commitment to change not only who I was, but the way that I lived my life. And, in a move that would change the course of my life, I made a decision to include God in everything that I did. Everything.
Change came and came fast. (I’d given God the green light.) I was so overwhelmed that quite often my mind was left reeling. Everything was changing…our business was growing, my outlook on life and on people took on a new perspective each day, and I was constantly seeking more and more of God. And I was changing! Every morning I’d stand in front the mirror and gaze into my own eyes, wondering what self-discovery I was gonna have that day.
It kind of freaked me out, and I wasn’t the only one that felt way. Jackie was left wondering where her husband went and who she was gonna be married to when the “metamorphosis” was complete. Our sons were wondering if I’d lost my mind. Apparently, some guy who talked about God and changing the world all the time had taken up residence in their dad’s body!
And you know? I couldn’t blame any of them for the way that they felt. Like I said, I was indeed changing at an unsettling rate, and I definitely was talking about God all the time, to anyone who’d listen. You see, I believed in my heart that the two were intertwined; I was changing because I was turning to God, and I was turning to God because I was changing. To complicate things even more, I had this inexplicable burning desire to share what was going on inside of me with everyone.
I was so lost. I was so afraid. I wasn’t sure of what was going on inside of me, of who I was becoming, of what I was becoming, and of what the driving force was to get this “message” out about God.
For some reason (I’m sure it was part of God’s plan) I turned to Ann. I got her e-mail address from Lynn, and proceeded to pour my heart out to this woman that I’d spoken to for a total of fifteen minutes. Even as I was writing, I remember thinking that it just didn’t make sense as to why I was reaching out to a person that I didn’t even know, and I expressed that very thought to Ann. I believe that I even included an apology for dumping my life into her lap. As I hit the “send” button to deliver some of my innermost feelings to this virtual stranger, I wondered if I truly had lost my mind.
About a week later Ann responded with a phone call. We talked for a few minutes, and a friendship was born.
More e-mails followed. I shared even more of what was on my heart, because for some strange reason, I felt that I was supposed to, that I could trust this person that God put in my path, and that He put her there for a reason.
That “reason” was revealed in a response that Ann made to comment that I’d made, questioning my worthiness of being a messenger for God. She directed me to the Bible, which was one book that I’d never read.
The word of the Lord came to me, saying “Before you were in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart”…The the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.” Jeremiah 1:5-9
For the first time in my life, Scripture, which I had always feared, suddenly gave me great comfort. God knew me before I was even born, and the things that I had been sharing with others about Him were what He had placed on my heart. Hmmm…
This pattern repeated itself several times over the next couple of months; I’d reach out to Ann with a something that was on my heart, and she’d suggest one or two passages from the Bible that would not only provide me with an answer, but the perfect answer.
I became a student of the Bible. It’s an owner’s manual for the way we should live, and even for raising our kids. Today I own two different versions of the Bible, and other versions are readily available online if I’m unable to discern what a certain passage means. I’m hungry for God’s Word.
One definition of catalyst is “an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action.”
Ann Mincey was certainly a catalyst for change in my life. Not because of her position with Redken, or because she was the keynote speaker at a luncheon that I attended, or because she is a woman (she could’ve been a guy named Larry). She’s a person, just like you and me.
You see, on that Sunday in September, Ann was willing to be a vessel of God. She was willing to share her faith in a business forum, which goes against the grain of conventional wisdom. She was willing to share God’s Word with me at those times when I was lost and confused. She was willing to take time out of her busy schedule to help a little guy from Birmingham, Alabama. Ann’s willingness to share, her love for God, and her love for people, had a profound impact on my life, and Jackie’s too. In many ways, she is like a member of our family, and we love her and think the world of her.
Molalla, Oregon? Heck, I suspect that we would’ve flown to the other side of the world to attend her wedding, if that’s where it was being held.
If He hasn’t already, I pray that God will put an Ann Mincey, or someone like her, in your path. I pray that this person will be a catalyst for change in your life. And I pray that, in turn, you will be a catalyst in the life of someone else.