Monday, January 30, 2017
I was challenged by my D-Group (my women's discipleship group that meets once a week and we study the Bible, pray and encourage one another in our relationship with Christ) to write my testimony and share it with someone. I've always struggled with sharing my testimony, especially out loud and in person, and I'm still intimidated by the word "testimony". It's always felt so big to me, like it needs to be a monumental story of epic proportions. I've known God as long as I can remember, and my story may seem simple. But, I've taken another stab at writing it down, in a condensed "elevator speech" approach, and I'm calling it "My Jesus Story" because it's all about Him, not me.
Maybe someone needs to hear this today. Here goes.
Although I grew up in a Christian home, raised by two Christian parents, and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t expected to attend church, my relationship with God has been a lifelong journey. For almost 35 years, I’ve been growing and learning who God is. Strong roots took hold in me very early. I remember being just a little girl, praying in our kitchen with my mom, asking Jesus into my heart. I knew that Jesus loved me and that I loved Him and I wanted to follow him. I loved Sunday school and the church that my Dad pastored. But, life isn’t very complicated when you’re 5 or even 9 years old. I remember being baptized in Lake Ontario during a summer church picnic. I knew that I loved God, I chose to follow him and I wanted to be baptized. I was blessed to attend a Christian elementary and middle school, and then a Christian high school and college. It felt safe, and real, and I was surrounded by Christian friends, pastors, teachers and godly examples. I knew the truths of the Bible, right from wrong, and I sincerely desired to please God with my life. I went on youth retreats and even short term missions trips and tried to obey God by following the rules.
There came a point, however, in my teenage and college years, that I started wanting the approval and acceptance of friends and boys, more than I desired clinging to the straight and narrow. I wanted to test the waters and see what I might be missing. I was selfish and more focused on what I wanted, primarily in the area of dating and seeking attention from guys. Always on a mission to find “the one”. In high school, I made non-Christian friends at my first job. And when I turned 21, I experienced going out to bars, clubs and parties with friends. At times, I drank too much alcohol, acted in ways that weren’t the real me and I made regrets. I stayed in relationships that I knew I never should have started. All the while, trying to maintain my “good girl” appearance, compartmentalizing my life, lying to my family and myself. There came a point when it felt like I was living a double life. The girl that my family and church knew and expected me to be, and the girl who was looking for love, approval and fulfillment in the wrong things.
2003 was one of the worst years of my life at the time. It was the year I knew I needed to make changes and decide who I was really going to be. I had to decide if I was going to continue choosing sin and selfishness or if I was going to choose Jesus - for myself. Not because I was expected to, or because of the way I was raised, but because deep down in my heart I knew I needed Jesus more than anyone or anything. I wanted Him to be the leader of my life. I wanted to know God more - really know Him, not just the Bible stories I grew up with. I wanted the peace of God and joy in my heart again. I wanted to become who God wanted me to be, not who I wanted to be or who I thought I needed to be. I wanted my faith to be real.
As I took steps back to God, He loved me unconditionally and was so gracious and merciful. I began to see how deceitful my heart was and that I’d only caused myself pain by turning my back on God in certain areas of my life. I couldn’t see that the entire time, I was so loved and cherished by my Heavenly Father. It was something I knew in my mind, but the depth of that truth hadn’t fully made it’s way to my heart yet. I didn’t need to go searching. He was right there the whole time, loving me, teaching me, and drawing me to Him.
2003 was also the year that I met my husband (although I didn’t know it at the time). Just one example of God’s many gifts to me. When I look back at who I was during that difficult time, part of me longs to go back and do it over again so differently. I’d save my self the pain of having to learn things the hard way. I think about potential situations that God kept me from and circumstances that could have gone much differently, were it not for God’s hand on my life. God is so faithful! I am unworthy of His love. That’s what’s so beautiful about God’s grace. Even my rebellious heart and the mistakes I made were paid for when Jesus died for me. He loved me before I was even born and sacrificed His life to save me. Thank you, Jesus!
I feel like such a different person today than I was back then. I know that I am a daughter of God, loved and accepted, not because of anything I did, or ever could do, but because of Who God is. I don’t have to live up to a set of rules or try to be good enough. Jesus is enough. He is the reason I’m here today. Every day I learn more about who He is and I’m humbled by the way He loves me and cares for me. I am far from perfect, and there are many times I still have to remind myself that I am His.
I’m so thankful for Jesus, His blood that rescued me, and for the security of knowing I will spend eternity with Him in Heaven when my life is over. He changed my life. There have been difficult days, and there will be more hard times, but I know that I can face them all because of Jesus. I’m not alone and He has a purpose and a plan, for everything.
Today, I’m a wife and a mom and I’m learning more than ever what it means to be a follower of Jesus. My faith has grown so much since I asked Jesus into my heart when I was a little girl. The same Jesus has been there all along, every step of my journey, and I know He will be there for all the days to come. He is my everything.
Sunday, January 8, 2017
We rang in the new year with our family in Pennsylvania. All 11 of us hung out almost the whole weekend, playing games, laughing and making memories. We celebrated our (after) Christmas together and exchanged gifts. I love getting to see our nieces open their presents and doing crafty projects with them. Marshall loved having so many people to play with him!
We managed to stay awake until midnight to welcome in 2017 and reflect back on the many good things in 2016.
Happy new year!
Thursday, January 5, 2017
Happy new year!
We had a wonderful December and enjoyed celebrating Christmas with family throughout the month. I hosted dinner with my sister's family a couple weekends before Christmas. It was fun catching up with each other and just hanging out, amidst the hustle and bustle of the season. We even got a really nice (unintentionally color coordinated) photo.
It was so nice spending Christmas weekend with Andrew's parents, who drove to be with us at our home. We attended the Christmas Eve service at our Church, relaxed at home and enjoyed good food and too many Christmas cookies (is there such a thing?). We let Marshall open one gift on Christmas Eve, a tradition that I enjoyed growing up. He probably would have been perfectly happy with just matchbox cars!
This was Marshall's second Christmas! He had the cutest expressions while opening gifts like, "Oh, my!". Even though he was a little grumpy Christmas morning and didn't want to take any photos. We tried!
Christmas is so different and even better when you see it through the eyes of your child. Marshall loved looking at lights, Christmas trees, snowmen and decorations. We had fun lighting our trees every day, arranging and rearranging ornaments, and watching it snow (but he does NOT like playing in snow yet).
It has become increasingly challenging to do any type of photo shoot of my little man! As he gets closer to being a two-year-old, he'd rather push all the buttons on my camera than sit still for a photo. He thought it was hilarious to hop around on this little chair, but he was still completely adorable. He has the best laugh and his smile lights up his whole face. My little buddy.
I hope you, too, had a wonderful Christmas, and enjoyed spending time with your loved ones.