It’s fitting that Mary Holeman is our March Lakeland story. On our interview day, she brings spring into the Lakeland lobby with an emerald green tunic, sparkly netted shawl and green socks with pink flamingos. With a soft green nail polish and red lips that frequently spread into a big smile, she personifies joy.

We sit down with Mary on the couches and ask her about her spiritual journey with Lakeland. She sits back and chuckles, her laugh deep and throaty.  “Well I’ve been at Lakeland since February of 2006. I was drug to church my whole life. And when I was looking around I had given up on finding a church. I was talking to my boss and he invited me and I came.” Her smile widens. “Immediately I knew.”

We ask her what made Lakeland different from the other churches she attended.

“One of the things I had a hard time with an an adult was getting engaged. Dan was the only minister at the time, and I was completely engaged. He’s the only minister I’ve been around that I felt, I can’t really explain…” Her voice trails off and she pauses. Finally, she shares “Other ministers I didn’t connect with before, but the first Sunday I came here I could relate, I could understand and I could see his conviction. I think the Lord brought me here for a reason because my dad died.”

The smile disappears momentarily as tears glisten in her eyes. I got home from a Wednesday Lent service and the minister at my dad’s church called to tell me he had passed.” Her voice deepens as she shares one of her hardest moments. “I didn’t know a lot of people at the time but the ones I did were there for me. A lot more happened in the next year and thank God I had this place. The minister of my parents’ church told me after they passed that it meant so much to my parents that I had found a place.”


She wipes away her tears and the corners of her lips turn up. “I’ve learned so much more here than I ever did before going to church all the time. My old church taught me that “you have to give to get”. Lakeland taught me about grace.  It’s a hard concept. At first I didn’t understand grace, the Holy Spirit, but I do now. ‘Why is the Bible written in code if it’s supposed to be the map of your life?’ I didn’t understand the difference between a parable and a real story. I was 56 and learned so much.”

Her smile returns in full force, joyful and full of happy remembrance. “I’m just so grateful and so blessed.”

About My Stories

Every month Pastor Marta Gillilan and members of the Lakeland Social Media Team interview an individual, couple or family. From struggles in faith to joyful events, Lakelanders are sharing their stories through the “Humans of Lakeland” blog series. Get to know the people who call Lakeland home.