I’ve written extensively on my father and his role in my faith. You can find my favorite article here. The next person who had a measurable spiritual impact came into my life at another formative time.
I was a 20 year old mother with no parents and in a crumbling marriage. I was well acquainted with the church of Christ. I knew all the right answers and could spit them out without hesitation, but I was only vaguely familiar with the Christ of the church.
When I became a mother I knew it was time to get serious about my faith (or lack thereof). I also knew I needed a family of believers for this journey but wasn’t sure which congregation to begin that walk with. The little one where I had grown up and where my father had preached was 40 minutes away. The congregation where my grandfather had preached was closer but filled with older Christians.
For my new start, I decided to go to a place I had never been. A large, local church near my home in Paducah, KY. I packed the diaper bag and my six month old and set out. I was terrified.
I’ll never forget how surprised I was to see familiar faces sprinkled throughout the large lobby. Several people from that little church where I had grown up were in attendance. And I can’t tell you how much I appreciated the tended nursery. I could actually listen and pay attention to the sermon. That was huge to a young, exhausted mother. Not only was it my first Sunday at the Lone Oak church of Christ, it was Mike Tanaro’s, as well.
Mike had a way of making the Bible come alive. His preaching was real. It was deep yet practical and simple enough to understand. He had a gift for words that made me want to learn more. It was during this time that I sat down and actually read the Bible. I believed that he believed what he spoke. And more than any of that, Mike introduced me to grace.
Coming from a strict, conservative background and spending much of my childhood in an unstable, chaotic household, I needed grace. I needed to know that I wasn’t too far gone.
My father had died from ALS when I was 9. Mom was a preacher’s daughter who continually battled depression and addictions. I had been a wild, rebellious teen who was finally trying to take that reckless life and give it to someone and something that mattered.
Several years later when I was a struggling, single mom and had met a wonderful, struggling, single dad, it was Mike who we sat down with for counseling. He spoke truth into a difficult situation advising us on the best way to blend a family, “keeping God in the center is the only way to be successful”. He was right, by the way. And when we decided we were totally committed to each other and our children, it was Mike who did the officiating.
My family was running late to Lone Oak one Sunday evening so we whipped in to a local congregation which happened to be only 2 miles from our home. With several children there, we decided we wanted our kids to be able to attend school with their church friends. Because of this, we stayed with this congregation. It wasn’t an easy decision but we have no regrets.
It’s been over twenty years since I walked into that lobby with that sweet baby and I still can’t help but smile when I think of how much I needed to be there. I’m grateful to the Christians at Lone Oak who took in a young mother and walked alongside her on her journey and grateful for the beautiful words spoken by Mike Tanaro in a time I needed them most.