I am starting to compose this page, and it will be a work in progress for awhile, as I have time. I’ll give a short version first, and then flesh it out later.
My name is Mark Van Norden. I live in Larned, KS, and have since August of 2005. I grew up in Leoti, KS until age 15, and subsequently lived in Wichita for much of the remaining 20 years of my life, with educational stints in other cities, including Tulsa, OK (attended Oral Roberts University for 1 year), Des Moines, IA (attended Des Moines University for medical school), and other cities for shorter periods of time. I currently work as a Family Medicine doctor, and have owned my own practice since 2008. My wife and I also own and operate a retail store, called Scraps, which has been in operation since 2007. Coffee, scrapbooking, bridal services and catering are our primary business lines. My wife Tayleene and I have 2 sons now (as of 12/17/10), Ethan (5) and Evan (newborn, as of 12/30/10).
I have been “saved” for as long as I remember (more on the quotes later, if I don’t forget!), and as a child attended the local Methodist or Presbyterian churches at different times, before settling into the Assembly of God church in my late grade school years. After moving to Wichita I attended charismatic churches until I eventually left the institutional church in 2000.
From day 1 in church I “bought in”. Being a “pleaser” by nature, I naturally wanted to be pleasing to God. I attended church whenever I could, was involved wherever I could be, and considered myself a pretty committed Christian. I wasn’t “really” committed, because I didn’t read the bible enough, or pray enough (my own thoughts). I stayed committed through the laughter meetings, where I’d sit in my chair, frustrated because I wasn’t tapping into the spirit, and couldn’t catch the “laughter bug”, so to speak. I stayed committed through the building projects, church scandals, you name it. Whenever a question would enter my mind regarding the legitimacy of what I was seeing, this accusing voice would pipe up and tell me that this was subversion, that the pastor wouldn’t do something that wasn’t biblical. As I look back on these years, I realize that I was deeply depressed. I was depressed for multiple reasons, but try as I did to find peace in my walk with God, peace eluded me. At different stages in my life I was good at convincing myself I was happy, but at the end of the day I was not. I say now that I bought the religious lies, “hook, line and sinker”.
Around 1999 a close friend of mine, who led worship at the church where I played drums, began walking “outside the camp”, as he called it then. Actually, his walk out probably began years before, but 1999 is about when he and I began having conversations along those lines. The idea that the church life I had known for my whole life was not scriptural was hard to accept, but after experiencing more blatant lies and deceitfulness at the last church I attended I finally accepted this truth, and began a journey to find truth in my relationship with God. Had the Lord not built a relationship between me and my good friend I may have stayed miserable in “church” the rest of my life.
After this decision I spent the next 2 years in flux. I was traveling a lot for my last 2 years of medical school, so I was never in one place long enough to establish myself with local believers. Even if I would’ve been in one place long enough, I knew that I would not find the fellowship I needed in that environment. After the last 2 years of medical school, I moved back to Wichita for residency, where I stayed out of traditional churches, but was at that time able to fellowship with my friends who had helped lead me out in the first place. After 3 years in Wichita I moved to Larned, where I now reside. It was another 4 years in Larned before the Lord finally brought my wife and I into fellowship with likeminded believers.
The last 3 years of our lives have been unbelievable. Three years ago my wife and I started our first business, Scraps, while I was employed at a local hospital-owned clinic. In 2008 I took a step of faith and opened my own clinic, after contemplating ceasing my family medicine practice altogether. The trials and tribulations we have endured in the last 3 years have been hard, but looking back the growth we have experienced has been tremendous. The lessons we learned will become posts here in the future, so I won’t go into the details now.
As of this writing we have fellowshipped with our local community for over a year; I’ve lost track. In that time the Lord has knit us into, well, a community! The love and care we have one for another is tremendous, like nothing I’ve seen outside of blood relations, and rarely even then. We feel we are at the brink of a great move of God in our community, and we continue to press into Him.
Well, I guess this was neither the long or short version. It may actually seem like the long version, but is probably a happy medium. I may make adjustments to it in the future.