Melissa entered corporate America right out of college. She specialized in marketing, PR, advertising, product development, and executive coaching. But the Lord changed her heart in 1997, and she admits she became a "Jesus freak."
"I was seeking the Lord every day and couldn't seem to get enough time to study the Bible and spend time in prayer," she says. "I would talk to the Lord and my husband about not wanting to be in the boardroom anymore. I would be in [the boardroom], and while they were talking business, I was asking the Lord where each individual was in knowing Him personally. I wanted to know their hearts as He knew them, and I wanted to talk about Jesus not numbers or strategy."
But when God prompted her to leave it all behind—to take risks and go back to school—she began to bail. "I questioned if I was hearing Him right," she says. "I knew my scarred background, and He knew it way better than me. I knew my study skills and my struggles in college. As an adult, I was really a child with no voice. I had always been a follower. I never wanted to be in the spotlight, and if I was, I would stutter and forget my thoughts."
In 1999 Melissa became pregnant with her third child. Their son Joseph was a sick infant and she had to make the choice to resign from her job or hire a full-time nanny. She decided to quit her job. "In those quiet months when we were almost in full isolation, God continued to teach me, prepare me, and tell me His plans. I was fine with that—I couldn't go anywhere!" It was during this time Melissa received the DTS catalog and began to pray about going back to school. Melissa thought, "How crazy does this sound? What will people think?"
After Joseph was able to be in the care of others, Melissa began doing contract work. "I did very well financially. We bought a home in McKinney in May 2001 on a two-income salary, mine being the major contributor," Melissa says. But after the September 11 terrorist attack, Melissa lost her main client and found herself unemployed.
"My biggest issue was the expense of school—the chunk it would take for us financially. I kept saying, 'Let me pay off this expense; then, Lord' But the one thing I had the greatest fear of losing—money—is what He took from me immediately. He wanted to show me it wasn't mine but His and He would do what He wanted when He wanted. He would be the one to provide for seminary, not me controlling the financial decision and deciphering where this would fit in our family budget."
Melissa continued to be out of a job for thirteen months. "I did everything to get a job," she says. "I had never not been marketable. I had never not been able to find projects or a job. The well was dry. I couldn't get a job anywhere! I was throwing my resume out to everyone I knew."
"Through that full year," Melissa continues, "as we thought we'd lose our house, cars, ruin our credit, shut off every 'thing' we had that wasn't in the category of food or shelter—through it all the Lord was working on my heart. Yes, He was my Lord, but I loved all the benefits [of the world]. He began to question me, 'Melissa, will you worship me even if you have nothing? Will you see me as holy when you have nothing? Will I be worthy of all your praise then, Melissa?' And every time my answer was, 'Yes, Lord, I will praise you.' He showed me what it really looked like when I spoke to Him in my quiet times and said, 'You are all I need, Lord. You satisfy my soul.' He stripped me of all identity, materialism, pride, and worldly perspective, and He placed in me the essentials of life and gave me the bareness of joy."
In late October of 2002, Melissa's church asked if she would help with some work and it eventually turned into a permanent job. "The first week our children's minister took me to lunch and during our conversation asked me if I had been called into the ministry. I had never told anyone but my mom and my husband because I kept it a closet calling, but I said yes. She didn't laugh at me or make a funny face! She just encouraged me and quietly said, 'I knew He had.' "
Melissa shared with her about seminary, and the children's minister encouraged Melissa to move forward with the application. "In the next week or so I had a car wreck that totaled my car," she recalls. "Two of my kids were in the car with me. [It was] hard for them to recover emotionally, and I was in physical therapy for one year. Three days [after the wreck] the house flooded, and we were out of our home for eight weeks—through the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. My husband said to me one night when we got everyone comfortable in the hotel, 'Whatever the Lord has called you to do, it's going to be powerful because the enemy is doing his best to shut you down.'"
Melissa and her family continued to trust the Lord, and she is now a current student in the Master of Arts in Media and Communication program. What's in store when she graduates? Only God knows. For now, Melissa is content to trust and obey.
Melissa is the founder of Walking in Grace Ministries (www.walkingrace.org). She lives in McKinney with her husband and three children.
The mission of Dallas Theological Seminary is to
glorify God by equipping godly servant-leaders
for the proclamation of His Word and the
building up of the body of Christ worldwide.