On June 9th, I celebrated my 5th Believer Birthday. I'm so thankful for the last five years that the Lord has sharpened me, strengthened me, and guided me. As a tribute to what He's done in my life, I wanted to share the testimony that I wrote a few years ago. I have changed some of it to reflect more recent life stages, but this is my story.
Sitting at a red light while listening to an audiobook, stuck in 5 o’clock traffic in Birmingham, Alabama, these words pierced my heart. “She’s talking about me,” I thought to myself. I stared straight ahead, and let the depth of these words continue to wash over me. I picked up my iPod, found the place that marked about 30 seconds before these words, and let the words sink in deeper and deeper. “That’s my story,” I said aloud to the brake lights of the car in front of me.
My life was good…in fact it was really good. I’d grown up in a Christ-centered home and attended church since I was born. I was a “Christian,” at least in the sense that we say we’re Christians in America based on the way we act and speak, or the way we don’t act or don’t speak. I didn’t party, or drink, or do “really bad things” like a lot of the teenagers I went to school with. Many times I felt like my behavior was motivated by my faith…or at least by my parents’ faith. And let’s be honest, they’d be really mad if I did any of the things that the “party crowd” did. Therefore, I was a “Christian”.
I’m the type of person who always has things together. In high school, I was class president, on the dance team, and editor of the yearbook. I would pride myself on how many things I had going on at one time, and how easily I juggled everything. When someone or something would hurt me, I would cry out to God through song or an occasional prayer, but that was usually after I’d tried to put things back together myself. God – although He may not have been my last resort – He definitely wasn’t my first priority.
As a 19-year-old sophomore in college, I had everything I wanted. I had a boyfriend who I thought I would marry. I attended Samford University – my dream college. I was doing well in my classes and on my way to a successful career as a journalist. On the surface, I had a close relationship with my parents and two younger sisters. I was in a sorority and was already serving as the public relations chair. I had good friends. I could go shopping and out to eat when I wanted, for the most part at least. I had a good car that my parents paid for. I church hopped with most indecisive of students. I attended the college worship service most Wednesday nights. I had Casting Crowns, MercyMe, and Hillsong on my iPod. I attended bible study occasionally, but I could always put my two cents in when I was there. From the outside looking in, my life was awesome.
It started slowly. God started taking some of the things that I put some much comfort and pride in away from me. Bit by bit, I started to see my life change. My boyfriend and I were trying to hold something together that was breaking apart at the seams. I had to put more of my own money into shopping trips and dinners out. I realized for the first time that my dad’s job wasn’t as stable as I had always imagined it was. School got much, much more difficult. I didn’t have as much time to go to church or bible study. I missed home desperately. The secret sin in my life caused my relationship with my family to suffer. I was short-tempered and sassy to the people I cared about most. I felt like the weight of the world – or at least my world – was resting on my shoulders.
In April of my sophomore year of college, my life shattered. Within two weeks, everything that I put so much of my comfort in flashed before my eyes. By May, most of it was gone. My life was wrecked – it was in pieces.
In June, God started to put my life together again, and it was beautiful.
I went home for the summer and realized that I didn’t have any friends in my hometown. My mom urged me to go to a college worship service that she’d heard about through some other moms of college students. So I went. I didn’t know if I’d know anyone or if I’d like it, but I drove myself the church, got out of my car, and walked in alone.
But I wasn’t alone for long.
I was greeted by the presence of the Lord. I recognized and even knew a couple of people from high school, and that made me feel more comfortable. But as the hour and a half unfolded, I experienced the most real and sincere worship that I’d ever seen. The college group was called “Downpour,” and immediately I understood why. The Maker of Heaven and Earth literally poured down His Spirit on us.
Sow for yourselves righteousness;
reap steadfast love;
break up your fallow ground,
for it is the time to seek the Lord,
that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.
I couldn’t wait to go back the next week. I craved the community. I longed for the worship. I ached to feel His holiness.
When I arrived on June 9, 2009, the college leader announced that things would be backwards from how they normally were. We were going to do the message part of the evening first and worship second. She spoke from James 5:16 -- “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” After she finished, she said that the worship team was going to play and the rest of our time together would be a time of confession. She urged us to confess our sins, our joys, and our prayers to each other.
I vividly remember thinking that I would never, in a million years, get in front of these people I hardly knew. I refused to tell them how horrible of a person I was; how I put so much comfort in my abilities, my looks, my stuff, and how in love with the world I was. It wasn’t going to happen. I wouldn’t do it.
About 15 minutes later, I had a microphone in one hand and a bunch of tissues in the other. I poured out my heart to the Lord in front of all these people I didn’t really know. I felt the weight lift from me as I said, “I want to live my life for God…”
Since that night, my life hasn’t been easy. There was a lot of mess to be picked up, but I had a Savior to go before me and prepare the way. My family and friends noticed an immediate difference in my life – I wasn’t living for the world anymore. Although many times I still struggle to put His will before my own, my life is beautiful now because it has been intricately formed by the Creator of the universe.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve learned that I’ll always be a mess; I’m a sinner. But God, in all of His mercy and grace, has shown me what redemption looks like.
I have had the opportunity to share my story with young women through youth groups I’ve volunteered with. I have been given the blessing of sharing my testimony before my church as I was baptized. I have been blessed to meet and marry the man that God created for me, and together we live to share the testimony of God’s grace and love through our marriage, and recently we began sharing the gospel of Jesus through this adoption journey that we're on.
God has truly made my life beautiful. In return for that wonderful gift, I strive to live each day to bring glory to His name.
About a year ago, as I sat at that red light in Birmingham listening to Kisses from Katie on audiobook, I thanked God for what He has formed me into.
As I drove away that evening, I prayed that He never cease to keep molding me to look more like His Son.