I noticed the pumpkin orange flyer prancing over the pavement in front of the Student Union as I buried my face in my scarf and hurried toward the dorms. The campus was almost bare as the last of the rowdy carpoolers pulled away.
I chose to stay at school for the Thanksgiving holiday and already I felt the pangs of regret. Whatever, I thought to myself and walked faster. The orange flyer hovered a few feet away, did a few pirouettes, and then rode a sudden gust of November air to plant itself firmly around my kneecap.
The headline is happy—way too happy, I thought as I read: “Are you staying on campus for the holiday? Come join us! Food, fun, fellowship.” I had no clue what fellowship was but I figured it went nicely with the other two things. They called themselves InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF).
The next day was Thanksgiving and even though I was nursing a hangover, I made my way to the meeting. The people greeted me warmly—like really warmly—which made me suspicious. I found a seat closest to the door so I could slip out when they closed their eyes to pray. And then I heard it. A young man in a flannel shirt held a beat up Martin guitar and began reading the bible. My spirit stirred. The words poured over me like warm oil and my heart beat so strongly it silenced my throbbing head. Certain everyone could hear (and see) my pounding heart, I folded my arms, slid down in my chair, and tried to become invisible.
As the young man read aloud I realized I never wanted him to stop. Ever. They were the most beautiful words I’d ever heard and, somehow, in a very crowded, messed up world, they found me.
I was raised in the Catholic Church all my life and loved it deeply yet always at a respectful, reverent distance. But these words—so personal—seemed brand new to me and filled places in my heart I didn’t even know existed.
That Spring Break I headed to Ft. Lauderdale along with all the other co-eds only this time I bypassed the party bus and headed for the bus marked boldly: IVCF. I was part of the beach mission team that would be sharing the gospel with our partying peers. Yeah, I know—it was certainly the farthest thing from my mind too.
But then someone handed me a little white book that obliterated any kind of “plans” I may have had for myself.
The book, Out of the Saltshaker and Into the Earth by Rebecca Pippert, wrecked me for the ordinary and blew any strategy I had to “ease into this thing” and lead an anonymous Christian life. God said “go,” and I had no choice but to get moving.
My writing career began soon thereafter. Out of college, I became a reporter at a daily newspaper in Arizona. I fell in love with covering politics, business, crime, and people—all kinds of people. I soon moved north to become the managing editor of a paper in Prescott Arizona. I wrote a political column, which came with the added bonus of having to check my rearview mirror every few minutes to make sure I wasn’t being chased out of town by those with opposing views (good times to be sure!).
Soon I met and married my prince (Troy) and moved to a much larger writing market. I became a News Editor in downtown Los Angeles and immersed myself in the arts, music, politics, and business. I loved the pace, the diversity, the turmoil . . . all of it.
Then God broke in again. This time he did it with 7.11 lbs of ultimatum. His named was Zane. One look at my newborn and all the years of chasing the story and exposing the contradictions of this world came to a screeching halt. What did I have to offer my son? For someone who inhaled information for a living, I was no doubt, running on empty.
I thought about the orange flyer and the guy in the flannel shirt. I thought about the radical little book that called me out of the crowd. I knew that when all my striving ceased, Jesus Christ was the only thing of value I could offer my son—or anyone else. So I abruptly dropped out of the reporting business in 1996 to pursue God’s business of becoming a disciple, a wife, a mom, and a freelance writer. He restored my hardened heart and deposited an insatiable desire to know Him, His word, and chase His story.
Since that decision, I’ve been beyond blessed in my family and career. God added a little girl, Olivia Faith, to the mix in 2000. I’ve had the opportunity to work with the most creative people on the planet at the Walt Disney Company and with Birdsong Creative, a company I’ve run with my husband Troy now for the past five years.
In 2006 God deposited an affinity for social networking in me, a very non-technical person. In the time He’s taken to whip me into shape technically, I’ve come to believe strongly that social media is a major channel God will use to show the world His glory like never before. So each day I ask and fully expect Him to crash through the noise. And every day He does just that.
I am @tonibirdsong and I am a Digital Scribe for Jesus Christ.