‘Shotgun on the passenger’s side’ is a lyric from a song I wrote a little over a year ago. It basically means, “God. You are in control. You are driving this thing. And I’m just along for the ride.”
I began to grasp the great sovereignty of God back in 2007 when God stirred my heart to walk away from my self and turn to Christ.
The faith and the love I began to feel in my heart towards God did not come from me, it came from Him. My life was His. It always had been.. I was just becoming aware of it as He pursued me with irresistible grace.
In the days ahead, God began to put some amazing people in my life who continued to point me towards Christ- Rachel B, Pam, Greg Troyer, Vaughn and Edmund Kee to name a few.
As God continued to turn my world up side down, it became evident to me that I was supposed lead worship in some capacity . So, after a long, miserable semester as a music major at SLU, I moved back home, started taking a few hours at Delgado, and began singing bgv’s with the Saturday night worship band at Celebration Church. Not too long after that, my good friend Edmund got me plugged into a local church in uptown New Orleans called Vintage where I began leading worship on Wednesday nights.
On one particular Wednesday night, a group of folks from the Church at Brook Hills came to our worship service. They were from Birmingham, AL and were in New Orleans to help rebuild homes that were destroyed after Hurricane Katrina.
That evening I heard a pastor named David Platt preach. After his message I remember leaning over to a girl I didn’t know at the time, (Josy Duffner) and saying something like, “OK- I’m convicted. Scratch everything I’ve been doing with my life for the last 9 months as a Christian- I’m starting over.” :)
That same evening I also met a man named Jim Watkins who led worship at Brook Hills. He asked me about my testimony and I was glad to tell him my story about how God saved me one night at a party on a bathroom floor. Jim shared with me a little about the Church at Brook Hills and about an internship they we’re offering that summer. I wrote down his email address on the inside cover of my bible, shook his hand and thought to myself, ‘I don’t have time for an internship.’ But just as the Lord would have it- the desires of my heart began to shift , and every time I opened my bible- there it was- firstname.lastname@example.org!!! ha!
And then scripture began to follow me around- specifically Matthew 7:24-29 where Jesus warns about the fate of the house that was built on sand in contrast to the house founded on the rock.
At that point I had no clue what discipleship really even was (and quite honestly, I’m still in the process of figuring this stuff out) but as I pondered all these things about discipleship and houses built on sand and leading worship, my heart began to desire more and more the idea of spending the next season of my life as a worship intern.
It wasn’t an easy decision- My whole life was in Louisiana. But at the same time it was an easy decision- Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of Your heart.” That doesn’t mean if I follow Christ God will give me a big house. It means that if I am truly, humbly seeking God through Jesus Christ- my heart *WILL* be chipped and stirred and shaped until the desires that are swelling up inside of me are not the desires of Mandi Mapes- they are the very desires of Christ- new desires placed inside of my heart by the Living Creator!
Coming to Birmingham that summer was a big stretch for me. Everything was so, SO unfamiliar and I felt like I didn’t know anyone. I moved into the upstairs bedroom of the Wakins’ house- not Jim and Amy Watkins- Royce and Sandra Watkins (Jim’s parents.)Royce and Sandra lovingly opened their home to me to stay while I interned at Brook Hills as well as another girl who was working at Brook Hills that year, Celeste. Little did I know at the time that these three people would become so close and so dear to me. We *really* are like a family. Royce and Sandra are like parents to me and Celeste. They always tell us that we are like their adopted daughters and we always ask ourselves, “Why would they choose to love us SO much?” Royce is so much like a dad, too. And Sandra, well, Sandra is just amazing.
Celeste, who just turned 24 this September has become often times like a big sister to me. Many nights I have walked downstairs to her room to ask her for advice, or to tell her about something amazing I just learned about God, or sometimes just to cry. And she knows me SO well. She has called me out on stuff that few people would ever pick up on about me. And just to hear her talk is always so encouraging. The Spirit of Christ is evident in her life and I thank God for her and for the little ‘family’ He has put together in this season.
We’ve recently added a new member to the family- Ashley
She doesn’t live with us- she’s ‘moved out of the nest’ but she is so loved by me and Celeste and Royce and Sandra. Ashley’s heart is gold. She just wants to completely quit her life and move to India (and take me with her when she goes!)
It’s going to be cool to see what God’s going to do with her life in the future- I know it’s going to be worth writing a book about.
But I digress- the entire reason I wanted to start a blog is to inform everyone about a trip I’m going on this December to Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya. I plan to take my macbook with me for the 16 day journey and update everyone about the needs and realities of AFrica if/when there is internet access. I’ve already had some pretty amazing things happen already that I can’t wait to blog about very soon! I just want this blog in every way possible- to point you to Christ. To see His goodness and His sovereignty and His glory.