The Journey Is Worth Everything
Blog by April Lessard
I was convinced that I was going to sing opera as my chosen career. Like so many of us, God had other plans for my life.
I first stepped into a Messianic Synagogue when I was seventeen years old. I was every bit the crazy 90’s teenager with my gothic clothing and bright red lipstick. I met my future husband, Joshua, in high school. He hauled me and several other worldly teens to synagogue on Friday to Erev Shabbat services hoping to see us have our “come to Yeshua moment.” Well, I stepped into that congregation and didn’t leave until about 20 years later, and I left with Joshua as my husband and two beautiful adopted children at our sides. What a journey! We left Virginia, where we had spent most of our youth, to embark on a new journey that led us to Tallahassee, Florida.
In 2010, I finished my Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance, and I had also completed several seasons with Virginia Opera as a chorister and understudy. I was so sure that the Florida State University Master of Music Program was for me as it would allow me to further my studies and still be at home with my middle school aged children. Most opera singers live a very migratory life as their careers take them all over the world for different productions. Studying at FSU would allow me the opportunity to sing opera and still be a functioning mom to my children. I was sure that I wanted to be an opera singer but deep down inside I was trying very hard to convince God that I should follow that career path. I had not yet really learned to surrender every area of my life to God. I still have a great love for the art form, but where I am now is so much more fulfilling than I ever thought possible. When one places their desires for their life at the feet of Yeshua and gives Him control over their life, that is where really great things happen!
Those great things happened after three car accidents and the death of my childhood best friend at age 36 who was also the birth mother of my two children. All of these things happened within a seven-month time period! The accidents left me with a herniated disc right behind my vocal folds which seriously derailed my graduate degree at FSU. I was so physically and emotionally damaged that I had a series of really serious panic attacks and eventually ended up in the hospital convinced that I was having a heart attack. Thankfully, I’m in better health after much prayer and finally surrendering my will to God. There is no healing like God’s healing!
Ok, so now what? I did what most musicians do, I got a job teaching music. I enrolled my two children in a local Christian private school and taught at the school until they graduated. Sadly, the school closed not long after my daughter graduated and it left me feeling sad and empty. I had really bonded with some special needs children at the school and I wondered what would happen to them as they had to adapt to a different school through no fault of their own. As that school closed, our very tiny synagogue received a $10,000 donation. I suggested to my husband, who was now the Rabbi at the synagogue, that we needed to put that money toward something very special. We prayed and felt led to start a private school.
Tree of Life Tallahassee was born that day. If you have ever been to Tallahassee, you know that we have some of the most amazing Live Oak trees just dripping with Spanish moss. They are like no other trees that I have ever seen, and I still delight in their romantic like majesty. We are a little crazy about trees at the school. Each student is like a little sapling that God has entrusted us to water with his Word. Feeling called by God to start a new adventure is one thing but the reality of bringing that calling to fruition in our world today seemed like a daunting task.
I could write an entire book about each hurdle in starting the school. All of the paperwork, bureaucratic red-tape, and zoning nightmares were enough to drive a sane person mad, but I clung to scripture. I could do all things through Messiah Yeshua who gives me strength! Finally, after nine-months of hard work, the school opened on September 5th, 2017. I was so blessed to have Godly teachers join me as I welcomed back into loving arms some of the precious special needs children that were missing me when the previous school closed. We have also added many new students to our family and we continue to grow. God is so faithful to finish the work that He started in us. I loved singing opera, but I am so much more content doing the work that God created me to do. I talk with my students daily about really seeking the call God has on their lives.
God has also created such a diverse student body in our little school. We have many students whose lives have been shaped by ADHD, Autism, and Epilepsy who call the school home because they are safe and loved within its walls. I get to nurture young men who have lost fathers and minister to families who are struggling with health or finances. It isn’t just about the children. We have an opportunity to minister to the families of our students. We have a great women’s bible study that is comprised of teachers from the school, synagogue congregants, and mothers of our precious students. God is so good! Each day brings new opportunities to serve.
Pray for us as we enter our second year of service to these precious families in the name of Yeshua. I pray that you will have a deep encounter with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and that you will heed the calling of Yeshua in your life. The journey is worth everything!