One of the definitions of the word “celebration” is to hold up or play up for public notice. This is a perfect description of what we want to do as we celebrate the 25th year of First Place. The true celebration is not for a program, but for what God has done through First Place.  Over the past 25 years, thousands of lives have been changed and many have found Jesus Christ as their savior. Through the spiritual disciplines in First Place, I have learned how to make Jesus Christ a part of every area of my life.

The First Place staff had devastating news in the final months of 2005, which directly affected me and my staff position. The Personnel Committee at Houston’s First Baptist Church began enforcing an existing policy that requires full-time employees to work on the premises. I had been a full-time employee of the church, working in the First Place ministry for 17 years.  Sixteen of those years I have worked from an office in my home, which is about eight hours driving time from Houston.   We hoped the committee would agree with my letter of appeal and that my situation would be covered by some type of “grandfather clause,” but they declined the appeal. My family had a decision to make; move back to Houston or lose my job. Joe and I both felt that moving back to Houston was not God’s plan for us. God has revealed himself to me in so many ways during these weeks as we have made this adjustment.

I have been greatly reminded of what we need to celebrate as we reflect on 25 years of First Place. You might think that in the face of this great loss I would have nothing to celebrate. It would take a book to express all the things I have to celebrate and be thankful for as a result of my involvement with First Place. This situation has only illuminated what I have to celebrate. I have grown in all areas of my life.

I have learned that nothing surprises God. I trust that He knows and He has a plan for my life. He gave me a peace that could only come from Him.  For example, my First Place Bible study during these past weeks consistently had a special word from God directly relating to the situation I was facing.  As I prepared my Sunday School lesson, it had several messages that helped me understand the good God plans to bring out of this situation. I celebrate that I now hear and receive Kingdom messages when God speaks to me.

Emotionally: I celebrate that I have learned life is often about facing difficult situations. I was able to admit the situation was not fair and it hurt. I have learned to express that pain and not deny it.  My First Place family all over this country was amazing, with much prayer support and encouraging words. I even found myself calming others who wanted to take an offense in my behalf. You know who you are and I love each of you. God has blessed me with an extended family I can celebrate.

Mentally: When I joined First Place, I knew one verse from memory.  I celebrate that I learned to hide God’s Word in my heart.  In this situation it was easy to recall so much of God’s word that assured me He was still in control. Many of you sent verses that ministered to me.

Physically: I celebrate the fact that I am able to work. I will find a new job.  I believe that the healthy lifestyle I learned in First Place has saved me from so many of the health problems I see in my family history such as Diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and others. I celebrate that because of First Place, I will be able to serve God longer and better.

This year is a year to celebrate what God has done in the past 25 years through the First Place program. What do you have to celebrate?  Share with someone what God has done in your life through your involvement with First Place.

May God Bless Each of You!

Kay Smith
First Place Associate Director

Kay is the associate national director of First Place and has been on the First Place staff since 1987.

Kay is a popular speaker at retreats, seminars, Conferences, FOCUS Weeks and Workshops across the country. Kay is the First Place food exchange expert and writes a monthly article in the First Place E-Newsletter on nutrition. She also was a contributing writer to the Today Is the First Day devotional book. Her delightful personality and love for people endears her to everyone she meets, and they quickly become her new best friend.

Kay and her husband, Joe, live in Roscoe, TX. They have two children and five grandchildren. Two of the young grandchildren are making a name for themselves on the golf circuit. Two of the young grandchildren are making a name for themselves on the golf circuit, and the three oldest grandsons are all involved in numerous sporting events, which Kay and Joe attend as often as possible.