While I have told the story of how I came to know Jesus many, many, many times- I don't think I have ever written it down. I wrote a very condensed version once (like a paragraph) for a mission trip to Nicaragua but I didn't get to include nearly any of the details. Callie and I were talking about having Jesus as a best friend and Savior the other night and it came to me- I need to write my story down because from it I pray her story will come.
It's pretty important to include a background in my story. Growing up, I am so grateful to have parents who allowed my relationship with Jesus to be my choice. I never felt any pressure, guilt, or even a strong push to beleive. While we attended church regularly when we where at home, we were never forced to go to church in our pre-teen or teenager years. I say this, because it is one of the things I am most grateful for in my story. Any questions I had were answered honestly but the choice whether or not to follow Jesus was mine and mine alone. (On a side note: a wonderful consequence of no pressure was that I didn't have the urgency to rebel or go wild as this happens with some).
Growing up, I was a typical kid. Better than a typical kid I perhaps because I never got in any serious trouble and made good grades. I attribute that to good parenting and clear boundaries and consequences set by my parents. When my parents divorced, I experienced a saddness different than I had experienced before. Still yet, they united on our (me and my sister's) behalf and things still seemed to sail pretty smoothly. We experienced ups and downs like any family. I became of an observer of myself and the consquences of my actions. From watching others, I became quite the self-presever, never wanting to step in the footprints of bad decisions. So you see, my need for Jesus didn't come from a wild time in my life or a nosedive into a pit of depression....I always love to hear those stories and how God redeemed and restored a life....however my story is not that way.
One day, I was in the front yard trying desperatly to do a cartwheel without hands (I'm pretty sure it's called and Aerial)! I was 11 or 12 and all I can remember about this year was what a difficult year it was for my sister at school. Girls were cruel to her...it was awful.(One girl actually spit on her..I won't mention what became of that girl..it's a story in itself). She was having such a hard time and this was difficult for me because she had always been so stable for me. It was extremely difficult to see her hurting each day. Anyway, I was outside turning numerous flips and falling everytime, grass stains on my knees. A church van pulled up at the stop sign right in front of my house...the side said, "Hunter First Baptist Church." Church intimidated me. There were always huge families that knew everyone and I had never felt connected anywhere. The driver waved and let me know they were going to have Vacation Bible School soon. I waved back and kept on flipping. A few days later, he drove back by and I desperately wanted to go. I passed again. I just felt to strange to go to a church where I knew noone and pretend to fit in. So I didn't. Less than a week later, my mom took me and my sister to the Franklin Pool. The Franklin Pool was huge and FREEZING. I mean...only bearable if it was 110 degrees outside. While I was sitting on my towel wearing a hunter green string bikini ( I should have never been wearing that..I was super skinny and it looked hilarious), a girl my age walked up to me. She was wearing a one piece swimsuit and apparently was in swim team. I can't remember exactly but I am pretty sure she didn't want me to be around her boyfriend. Anway, hilarious scene. Over the summer, we were enemies for a day, maybe 2 and then the best of friends. We lived a block or two apart and walked to meet each other everyday. I had never met someone that I laughed to hard with or loved to be around as much as her. Stefani became my very best friend. There are a million hilarious stories in that summer but another post...another time.
Here is a picture of us back then:
(Stefani, My Sister Ami, Me)
That summer, Stef asked me to go to church with her. I was excited because I so desperately wanted to go but never said anything. We loaded up in her family's van and headed off. I had no idea where we were going, probably because we were layering weird CoverGirl colors everywhere in hopes to see one cute boy..who knows. You can imagine my shock when we pull up and I see a sign that says, "Hunter First Baptist Church." I could not beleive we were at the same place!! We had a blast. I began going to church with her as much as possible. She was saved in that church and I went to her baptism. I was just so happy to be involved. That winter, I got snowed in at Stefani's house and we were talking with her uncle who was a pastor. We were talking about being saved and having a relationship with Jesus. I don't know why it was that moment but I felt like this was the time, and I was ready to choose a relationship with Him. I knew what a big decision it was, I knew that it was a lifelong committment, and I knew it would call for me to come completely out of my comfort zone. I decided I would wait until I got home so I could do it privately. I said nothing but I could hear my heart beating in my chest. Stef and I went to lay down and I knew there would be no sleeping for me. I laid silentely in the dark for hourse knowing that I needed to make the decision right now. But I had no idea how and I just wanted to do it right. I barely whispered out, thinking for sure Stefani had been sleep for hours. "Stef, are you awake?" "Yes, I'm wide awake." It was a miracle to me. I beleive to this day that God kept her awake. She walked me through everything, what she had said to Him. In the end, I know that it is not the specific wording that you use but the spiritual act of giving you heart back to Christ, I just wanted to do it exactly right. In the instant I chose to accept Jesus, I felt a calmness in the room. I changed that night and woke up with a different heart. We went to sleep so quickly and peacefully.
Everyone knows that I have a terrible memory. I am reminded about events in my life and it takes me a long time to even remember what happened-- if I even do! But this one night is so clear to me that it could have happened yesterday. Choosing Jesus was the best decision of my life. It hasn't been a beautiful walk of perfection of any kind. Rather a messy and bumpy road where He continues to never give up on me. He is sanity to me. He is joy. He is my best friend.
There will always be a special bond between me and Stefani. We have traveled some bumpy roads together but are forever intertwined. We have been the best of friends for 16 years now. Through faith, family, deaths, single parenting, engagements, breakups, mistakes, accomplishments, marriage, and so much more. I love how God plans. Throughout scripture, I see how He intertwines stories throughout generations in ways that only a Maker and Designer could. I love how He planned that church bus to stop on Parkway Blvd and plant a tiny seed for me...a seed that would change my life forever. I love how when you aren't expecting it at all, Jesus persues your heart in the form of a sassy 12 year old in a one piece swim team uniform. I love how that summer, a particularly sad one after the divorce, He went to enormous lengths to make me His. I love how, later down the road, I would find out that Matt and his family went to church there at exactly the same time and His relationship with Jesus also began there. I love that walking into the building for the first time, I had no idea that my future in-laws were surrounding me, and that God's desire was for me to be connected in a way I had always longed. The family that I saw there and wished I knew..was Matt's family...and now mine. Most of all, I love how that tiny story, is working it's way out in the heart of my little girl...who is learning about a Wonderful Best Friend who I love so dearly.....My Precious Jesus.
(This photo was taken this past Thanksgiving. Me, Stef, and my Callie. Stefani is Callie's godmother)
So that is the beginning of my story...more to come soon:)