Good morning, friends, and happy February! Here we are – already into the second month of 2017 – I hope January ended on a refreshing and upbeat note for all of you, and you’re off to a great start with your goals, hopes, and dreams for this new year (and if you’re not as far along as you’d hoped, that’s okay – give yourself grace and get started this month!) Every day is a new day to begin again, a fresh start, a second chance! Praise God!
Since the beginning of this year (and even more since attending Influence Conference a few weekends ago), I’ve felt this stirring deep down in my bones, a feeling I just can’t shake and know I’m being called to act upon, and I think it’s in this forum where I need to start.
As I’ve been diving into God’s Word through bible study, I’ve been struck with this conviction that I need to share more of my “God story,” my testimony of faith, and what God has been speaking to me. So, I’m going to get a little messy and risky and vulnerable today and next week, and begin sharing more of myself with all of you. I invite you to join me and welcome any questions you have, should you have them along the way.
For those who may not know this, I did not grow up in a Christian household. It’s not that my family doesn’t appreciate faith, religion, or spirituality, it’s just not something we practiced or participated in. My experience of church was narrowed down to weddings (happy) and funerals (sad). The great thing, however, is that my parents were open to us exploring, asking questions, learning, and discovering for ourselves what works best for us, belief and spirituality-wise. And I did just that, because at a very young age (younger than 10 years old), I knew there was more out there than just what I can see, taste, feel, and touch. I had this deep sense and knowledge that there was a God (as a kid, I imagined Him like you would see in a children’s storybook bible – high up in the clouds, on a throne, blessing those He’s pleased with and punishing those He’s not pleased with). And I also had this sense that there was more for me than just living this one life, dying, and that being the end of the story. I can’t explain how I knew this, given we didn’t exactly talk about God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit in our household, but knowing more about God and how He works these days, I can say for sure that it was definitely His Spirit at work in my life at a very young age.
Fast forward a little bit to my teenage years – we won’t go too much into detail here with all the awkwardness and growing pains those blessed years bring (ahem). But, I eventually connected with a local non-denominational church where I began attending youth groups, and I did this on-and-off from middle school into early high school. As part of this, I was inspired in sixth-grade to ask my parents for my very own bible for Christmas, and God bless them, they got one for me. It was an NIV Adventure Bible with a super-shiny cover and I couldn’t wait to read that thing and highlight passages and write down verses or lessons from the devotionals included within its pages – I still have it, for sentimental reasons of course.
Three years later, ninth-grade to be exact, I met and began “dating” (hanging out with, really) my first love, a young man a couple of years older than me from a strict, religious background, whose church I eventually ended up attending on a pretty regular basis and that vastly differed from anything else I’ve ever experienced. (I won’t name the religion / church out of respect for this person and their family.) Enter the “dramatic” years, complete with searching, questioning, feeling convicted and depressed, feeling better and hopeful, breaking up, getting back together, praying, testifying, then dropping this whole faith-thing altogether for a while, and dabbling in other random things. Yes, those years were a doozy. It was like that, an up-and-down battle in the spiritual realm of my life, until early college.
Let me pause for a second – to the people who put up with me and spoke life and truth to me during those high-school years, THANK YOU! Your prayers, encouragement, and support ultimately brought me back to the path I’ve been on for the past 12 years. (Friends, I know life can be difficult, but don’t ever take for granted the people in your life who are ministering love and grace to you. Those people and the things they’re saying and praying over you are GOOD things and you will one day look back and see how important they were. Believe me.)
It was my sophomore year of college when a shift began to happen. I had broken up with my high school boyfriend my freshman year of college, after soon realizing we were both heading in very different directions. I had briefly dated a couple of other guys, but it was nothing serious and I knew they weren’t heading anywhere, so I just stopped with all of it. I was busy in school, working, trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up (this might still be the case), and decided I needed a break, some space and time to get back to the basics. And so I did that. I started re-evaluating my life – the direction I was heading in, my relationships with family and friends, and then God. What had happened to my childlike faith and that strong desire to spend time with Him? I didn’t know where to begin, but I just started with my bible (the Book of John, always a good place to start) and a journal, writing down prayers and verses to focus on, and thus began my way back to Him.
Later that year (late summer), a man walked into my life who upon meeting, I knew (there’s the work of the Holy Spirit again) would become my husband (and he is and has been for about 10 years now – thank you, God). He didn’t come from a Christian / spiritual / religious upbringing either, but we both believed in God and agreed to explore and walk this faith-thing out together. And so we did. For the next few years, we checked out a few different churches and I began getting into bible study, eventually landing us right back where I had started going to youth group all those years ago. (Talk about full-circle.) And then the year before we got married – the summer between undergrad and grad school – I made the firm decision to follow and trust God with everything inside of me, giving my heart to Him completely.
Things definitely didn’t get easy from that moment on, but there was a peace in my heart, soul, and mind that I really hadn’t ever had before. It took me back to the simpler days – like when I was a kid – and I was just content to know and be with God, doing something or doing absolutely nothing at all. And that has continued since that summer weekend I recommitted my life to Him. I can honestly say that in the good and bad times over the past 10 years, I have maintained and grown in my faith, in ways that I never dreamed, and I’ve been given opportunities and experienced things that could only ever come from God. It’s truly been an adventure.
So that’s my “Part One” of this God-story of mine – my history of coming to faith in God. Join me next week for “Part Two” where I’ll be sharing the call I believe God has put in my life for now and into the future. Thanks for letting me share my heart today, friends!