Friday, April 29, 2016

My Christian Story, the Short Version

My story starts like many "Christian kid" stories: I grew up in a Christian home.

I usually begin my story with my parents, because they laid the foundation for my introduction to Christ. Growing up, their teaching and encouragement paved the way for me to know God and pursue a real relationship with Him. The learning environments they surrounded me with reinforced their Bible-based beliefs. Every morning my Mom would be reading her big leather-covered Bible at the kitchen table, paired with Our Daily Bread. My Dad, a pastor, taught our congregation every Sunday morning. My parents made church attendance a non-negotiable in our house. Reading the Bible and prayer was instilled as necessary tools for life. I have such a deep reverence for God and His Word. I am sincerely grateful for those lessons that my parents taught me, so early on. 

I loved Sunday school. The songs, the dozens of take-home papers with Bible verses and drawings of Jonah and the whale. The felt boards, the teachers, and other kids to run around with after church. Sunday mornings and mid-week evenings. It was my way of life. I also went to various youth retreats, camps and Christian music concerts. I attended a Christian school, third through 8th grade, where my Mom was one of my middle school teachers (a fact that, at the time, I was not always thrilled about). My parents let me choose to go to a Christian high school, which I have so much appreciation for. I know what a financial investment that was. I later transferred to a Christian collage to complete my bachelor degree. 

As a second generation Christian, to say "I grew up in the church" is a bit of an understatement. It was almost expected or assumed that I would be, based on the many advantages and Christ-centered opportunities I was handed my entire life. Why wouldn't I choose Jesus? Especially when He is all that I've ever known. The road map was neatly laid out right in front of me.

Whenever testimony sharing time was brought up, in church settings or on short-term missions trips, I always panicked. I prayed that they wouldn't ask me to share. Testimony? What kind of testimony did I even have? I didn't live the first 20 years of my life not knowing God. I didn't conquer a drug addition or have a gambling problem. I didn't raise my hand at an emotional altar call and go running down the aisle for prayer. I simply asked Jesus to come into my heart when I was the tender age of five, because I knew that He loved me and that He died for my sins. Since then, my entire life has been a journey of getting to know God, really know Him and actually trust Him with my life and my future

Most people could look at me and rightly assume that I've had it pretty easy. And for the most part, I have. Not without struggles, pain and heartache, mind you. It's only by God's grace that I have the life that He has given me. And it's because of Him that I've been able to walk through what He's placed in front of me. He's kept me from a myriad of different scenarios and outcomes. But what could I have possibly done in my "easy" Christian saturated life to warrant needing a Savior

That's just it. There was nothing about my family or my upbringing or my Christian education that made me not a sinner. I was born a sinner and I deserved the punishment of death and Hell. Just like everyone else. There was nothing I could ever do on my own to make me "good enough" to go to Heaven. I am, at my core, as flawed and sinful and human as the next person. Within my heart resides such selfishness, bitterness, jealousy, pride, unkindness, ungratefulness.... I could go on but this is supposed to be the "short" version. 

The truth of the big picture for the entire human race, is that Jesus Christ came to Earth, to die a gruesome death on a wooden cross, to pay the price for sins that WE are responsible for, in order to give us the chance to be forgiven and one day live for all Eternity with God in Heaven. It's too overwhelming! The payment of his precious blood in exchange for my dirty heart full of sin. I am so unworthy! The love of Jesus is too wonderful to even comprehend, even after hearing it for my 34 years. I'm finding it difficult to put into words even as I type this. Yet, it's so simple that so many people miss it, completely. 

My sin put Jesus on that Cross

Until we come to that realization, we won't get it.

My "Christian" upbringing was never enough to "save" me. There is no such thing as "Christian by association". I had to choose Jesus Christ, for myself. And even though I took that first step when I was just five years old, it became a daily journey of learning who God is and what He thinks about me. God loves me! HE loves ME

There were times throughout my life that I doubted that God really loved me. That I questioned if I was good enough. That I wondered if God was mad at me. When I did sin (which I assure you, was and is more frequent that I like to admit) was God going to punish me. Was I really a Christian. Maybe I should say a prayer again, just to make sure. Am I really going to heaven. These type of doubts and questions used to sneak into my mind. There were times when I pictured God as this great "Oz" up in the clouds, looking down on me, checking to make sure I was doing everything "the right way." As if He had a check list of do's and don't and I had to score high on my report card.

That way of thinking is not true. Don't be deceived by such lies.

When we sincerely ask Jesus to be the forgiver of our sins and the leader of our life, God sees us as His child, loved unconditionally, forgiven and pardoned. Forever.  

I am far from perfect. Believe me! But I am SO thankful that I don't have to be perfect. Because Jesus Christ IS perfect and He paid the price for MY sins. Past, present and future. It's only because of HIS love and HIS blood that we can be forgiven and have a personal relationship with God, our true Father, the Creator of all. 

Please know how much He loves YOU and longs to know you!

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.  

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  
If you have questions, or you would like to hear more, please comment or email me.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Easter 2016

We took a trip to Pennsylvania to spend Easter with our family. It was a nice low-key long weekend with some wonderful time outside, playing on the playground, going for walks and enjoying time with Andrew's parents and brother, David. We also met up with some of our extended family for a quick afternoon of bowling (or as I like to say, bOHLing).

We joined Andrew's parents for church on Easter Sunday then "helped" Marshall look for plastic eggs outside in the grass. Marshall wasn't too sure about all that and the weather was quite chilly and overcast at times. It was extra special because Marshall got to use Andrew's Easter basket that his mom made him when he was a little boy.

It's always a fun time at Gigi and Poppi's house. I can't get over how big Marshall is getting and how much he has changed into a little boy! 

I love the following photos that David took for us.