I came to faith in Jesus Christ as my savior when I was nine years old. My family had been attending Bartlett Baptist Church for a year or so—previously we’d attended a Lutheran church, which my parents thought was a nice middle ground between my father’s Baptist upbringings and my mother’s (casually) Catholic family.
It was spring. I was painfully shy, and never said a word in Sunday school, but I was a good girl. I remember the teacher was a guy that looked kind of like Ron Howard (the redheaded guy from Happy Days). He taught the lesson, which I don’t remember anything about, and at the end said the cheesy “do you know that you know that you know you’ll go to heaven when you die” line.
Suddenly I realized that when the bible talks about sinners, it was talking about Me. Not other people. Good girls, like me. Christ’s sacrifice was for me. I knew I needed to repent, but Sunday school had let out, so I went out to our minivan to wait for my sisters and parents (it was “Safe” to do that twenty years ago), and prayed for forgiveness for my sins, for Jesus as my savior.
Sometime later, I was baptized, along with my mother and sisters. My mother came to faith when I was thirteen. My father, though present and a great dad, was not always an active spiritual leader in our house; when my mother came to the Lord, she took the helm. She had us in church twice a week, in a Christian school, and did the best she could, but she was a fledgling believer, and I felt directionless, like I was striving to live how the bible said but couldn’t quite figure it out on my own.
The private school I attended was hellfire and brimstone; the country church I attended was say-one-thing-and-do-another. It was hard to reconcile the social Christians—who did whatever they wanted but went to church on Sunday—with the authentic Christians. And where does all that brimstone factor in? Which was right? Were some of the ideas in the bible just ideas? Did people truly live them out?
I was privileged to attend Union University for my undergrad. I remember walking on campus for a tour (before my private school deemed UU to be too “secular” to promote to us highschoolers), and feeling that I absolutely needed to be there. I still had so much growing to do in the faith, though I didn’t know it then. I had a lot of pride and a lot of cultural ideas about what my life should be like that didn’t mesh with what the Lord had planned. There I met a fine-looking young man named Bryan. We dated throughout college and were married senior year. Though we dated for years before getting married, it was once that we were married that he became the spiritual leader in our relationship, and my life radically changed.
What followed (and continue to follow…) were the 9 most challenging and best years of my life. We prayed that God take us “out of our comfort zone” and he did—instead of moving to my husband’s home town, like we’d planned, we ended up in Boston for me to get a degree in poetry (dumb? Well it worked out!). We moved to Kentucky for seminary, Georgia for my job, then finally back to the hometown we had hoped to live in at the first.
In the meantime, we faced trials we would have never faced had we been comfortably nested in this hometown. Some weeks we didn’t know where groceries would come from; we scrambled for jobs, some crappier than others, we were the “new couple” again and again, in town after town. Bryan worked in ministry a few places, had good experiences and bad experiences. We were sacrificially cared for by some churches, burnt by others. We made friends that changed how we viewed the world and Christianity—I can name ladies that taught me so much about hospitality, marriage, motherhood. I’m grateful for all of them.
Sometimes I still can’t believe we ended up here, after all this time. We are involved in a church we love, a mission we want to work toward, and starting a small group this fall. I love my friends here, our life here. Bryan is still looking for that perfect job, and I would not be surprised if full-time ministry is somewhere in his future, but right now we are waiting to see what the Lord has for us next. We don’t look it, but we’ve been risk takers—each move, each new job, even each new child was leaping out in faith into the Father’s arms.
My highschool self would be freaking out right now. I gave up my career to be home with my kids (I vividly remember telling an old roommate that that was a dumb idea and a waste…so sorry! i knew nothing!), our budget is tighter than i’d care to say, and we have three kids under four years old…and want more, and i’m even homeschooling, which is weird no matter how “cool” i try to make it sound. this isn’t the life i planned for myself, but it is such a good life. I’m thankful for what God has done and eager to see what He does next.
Eccl 5:18-20 (voice bible)
Then it dawned on me that this is good and proper: to eat and drink and find the good in all the toil that we undertake under the sun during the few days God has given, for this is our lot in life. Also, God gives wealth, possessions, and power to enjoy those things, and He allows them to accept their lot in life and to enjoy hard work. This is God’s gift. For people like this have no time to despair over life because God keeps them so busy with a deep-seated joy.