JACKSON, Tenn. - 2/1/2006 -
By: Tim Elsworth
When Lori Neal came to Union University as a freshman, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life.
Maybe something sports-related. After all, she came to Union on a softball scholarship.
But an evaluation she completed during her college years pointed her instead to a career in art. Now she’s completing a master of fine arts degree from the University of Georgia.
“I’m one of the only Christians in my program,” Neal said. “Just to be able to be very confident in who I am and who (God) made me to be gives me the confidence to go out into a dark world.”
Neal’s story caught the attention of bestselling Christian author Max Lucado, who included a section about her in his latest book, “Cure for the Common Life.”
Lucado wrote about Neal, who through the Discovering My Design assessment realized her gifts and how she could use them for God’s glory.
“Within three years the confused, softball-playing freshman was a focused and recognized college senior,” Lucado wrote. “The prestigious ‘Ceramics Monthly’ published her writings, and the world’s premier ceramic school, Alfred University, invited her to study on their campus.”
Neal spent one year studying at Alfred before transferring to Georgia.
Lucado told of his conversation with Neal, in which she described her passion for her art work. He asked how a career in art can “make a big deal out of God,” to which Neal gave two answers.
“The art world has few Jesus followers,” Neal said. “When I do my best, they notice, not just me, but my Lord.”
Neal also told about working at a rehab center one summer, when one of her jobs was to draw pictures on balloons for handicapped children.
“When the work of my hands makes little girls smile, that’s where my heart is,” Neal said.
Neal played softball at Union for four seasons (1998-2001). She was named an NAIA Scholar Athlete in 2001. As a senior, she hit .225 with six doubles and 15 RBI. Neal also posted just eight errors in 432 chances at first base.
A 2002 Union graduate and native of Mansfield, Tenn., Neal will complete her master’s degree in May. She and her fiancée, Clay Nolen, a 1999 Union graduate, will then move back to West Tennessee. Neal doesn’t yet know what the next chapter in her life will hold, but she is sure of one thing.
“God gave me all of these gifts, and it’s my gift to give back to him, to use my gifts for his purpose,” she said.
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