Part 1 of a 2 part post. Grab a cup of tea folks, it's a long one.
You know, blogging is easy in the sense that you can only let people see the parts of your life you want them to see.
Have a nasty, disgusting closet?…Don't do a post on it.
Have a super, organized, wonderful remodel?…Post away.
But as I was laying in bed the other night…snuggling Stuart…trying to sleep…I kept tossing and turning – my mind was racing. All I could think about was this post – and since then, even though I'm hesitant to share it, I've been meaning to sit down and write it. Because it's going to take quite a few words, I decided to split it into two posts. So today, we will begin. And tomorrow we will finish.
I don't know if you'd call it a testimonial, but I'd like to dive a little deeper into a few things. What got me to this point. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Hold on, let me take my last bite of scrambled egg. I'm really gearin' up for it.
Okay. Here we go. Back to the beginnning.
I was born in a small town in central Washington. Born and raised in the good ‘ol Northwest. My parents have been happily married for, like, a hundred years or something. Truthfully, my childhood was wonderful. Many children would be envious of the amount of love I had poured out over me each and every day. My parents loved us to the “moon and back” – as they say.
We began going to church after my oldest sister, Brynn, made a wish with a penny in a fountain that we could go. As my Mom has said, “Talk about being humbled…”. Neither of my parents were raised Christian. But, as our gracious God would have it, they both committed their lives to Christ at that point. And even though I was very young, I remember being at their baptism. That was pretty special.
From then on, church has always been a part of our lives. After a number of years in the Baptist church, we left to attend a Methodist church – What did this even mean? What's the difference? At the time, I didn't have a clue. And at the time, I was thoroughly absorbed with the youth/childcare/fun activities that were involved with it – and less than thrilled with the doctrinal, learning aspect of it all. Sure, I knew about God. Or about Jesus. Or about the Holy Spirit. But I didn't read my bible – I didn't pray (exception of youth group prayers, of course). To me, church was socializing. Not scripture.
At this age (middle school), I discovered boys. I also discovered that I liked boys. Tee hee. My poor parents. I was young when I began pushing the limits of acceptable behavior – and boy, they let me know it. But, bein' stubborn as a mule, the harder they tried to real me in, the harder I pulled away. And though I never got into big trouble, I would appreciate a gallon of white-out to blot out moments I can remember during this time. It can be very awkward as a young teenager, learning how to balance on the teeter-totter between the youth and adult worlds.
Fast forward a few years to high school. Like any teenager in high school, I wanted to dress a certain way, act a certain way, and talk a certain way. I remember thinking I was really cool once for saying a swear word in the hallway. An older teacher pulled me into her classroom, shut the door, and said “Now, young lady, you are far too pretty to be having such horrible words come out of your mouth”. Ouch. Awwwkward. (Side note: I've never been good at confrontation. In moments like this, I usually shrivel up into a ball and die of embarrassment.)
During my high school years, my family still attended the Methodist church, though is seems that our attendance got rather spotty in those last few years, but maybe that was just me. Though I continued to get good grades and *fun-fact* play the snare drum in the marching band (did I just get kicked up in the coolness-factor or what?), I still found myself hangin' with a crowd that was, let's just say, less than grounded in biblical principals. They weren't bad…but they also weren't Christian. Not the ideal setting for a vulnerable teenager girl, that's for sure.
When I was sixteen, I began attending the local community college through Running Start. From the time I was sixteen, I was enrolled in college full time and graduated high school with my A.A. Degree. The nature of the Running Start program puts you in the college classroom – at sixteen – with people who are 5, 10, 15 years older than you. So, I see a cute boy, and the next thing you know, I'm headed over to a party at his apartment. Because he's old enough to live on his own. Yikes.
Now, let my just interject this: My poor, poor parents. No, they did not approve of this behavior. No, they did not condone these actions. Yes, they sat me down with the Bible, and pointed out verse-for-verse the errors in my ways. Unfortunately, because I never got into serious trouble per-say, they made the mistake of trusting me. Which I took full advantage of. Sure, my parents and I laugh about this now (now that I'm married and have a baby…not in jail or pregnant), but at the time, I know that I hurt them severely. It's moments like this that humble you as a Christian – when you realize the depth that your actions can have on other people. When you realize just how dead in sin you can be. I had been taught better – and I chose to rebel – against the teachings of my parents and the teachings of God.
Now, this was an interesting point in my Christian journey. Everything was emotionally driven. Again, feeling that I didn't have the answers to life's “big questions”, I found myself floundering in the “Surface Christianity” – you know the type I mean? Self-help books. Emotional music. Posters. Bookmarks. Sure, those verses look great on that magnet…but did they help me to understand the core, nature of God? Did they help me to understand how the Bible was applicable then, now, and forever? Did they teach me how God saves people – how he turns them from their sin to a life of repentance and dependence on Christ? Did they teach me about grace? And sovereignty? And love? And equally important…wrath? If I had all of these positive things around me – why was I still so confused?
I specifically remember driving around, listening to K-LOVE on the radio in my 1983 Bronco (lifted, with 35″ mud tires, baby…) and feeling very emotionally charged after listening to a song. Soon after, I pulled into the college parking lot and remember feeling very sad. Because that positive emotion I had felt while listening to the song melted away faster than an ice-cream cone. It super-charged me for a moment…and then, that moment fleeted. It was almost like I was wearing a Christian-shell with only the skin on…and I didn't have enough understanding inside to hold the rest of my body up.
In 2004, I began attending Washington State University. Go Cougs! After entering into the Animal Science Program, I chose to focus my studies on Beef Production. Yep, I be a bon-a-fide cowgirl. I instantly hit it off with lots of friends there and because we were mostly all in the Animal Science Program, we shared a lot of the same hobbies. We rode horses. We chased cattle. We fed cattle. We roped things. We drank beer. It was an enjoyable time in that I was finally able to be around what I loved – ranch life.
But. The entire time I went to college, I only went to church one time. One time. I am so embarrassed even typing that – it brings tears to my eyes. I didn't read my Bible. I rarely prayed. I had strayed, to say the least. At the time, I was dating a wonderful guy…let's call him Ted..no, that doesn't fit him…how about Travis. Travis was a rancher and was just a fun guy – everyone loved to be around him, as did I. We shared many hobbies and friends, and were virtually inseparable during my two years at WSU. But Travis was not a Christian. And even though I should have never gotten into a relationship with a non-believer in the first place, it would take me over three years, a few breakups, and a lot of heartache to figure that out.
Lets just fast forward past the tears, shame, and sin present during this time. Thank you for your cooperation.
God is good in this way – from when I was born, he began shaping my heart to love him. And even though I had strayed and wondered far from His ways, he continually was growing my heart into a heart that would seek Him. And I did.
Little things would weigh on my heart – I would feel guilty. I would feel scared. Ashamed. Exposed. I knew things weren't right in my life, but I didn't know why. Or how to fix it. So, naturally, I called my Mom crying…and she simply said…”Come home.” After graduating college in May of 2006, at the ripe age of 19, I did just that. I came home. Alone.
But I didn't come home to the home I had grown up in. My parents had since moved to a hobby-farm in the outskirts of town – which allowed me to bring my horse home from college. I was in heaven. We went riding in the orchards every day. We spent nights up out on the porch, sippin' coffee, and watching the chickens roam around. We picked blackberries and scrapbooked.
We talked about God.
God bless my parents for never…ever…ceasing to talk about Him.
Even still, it wasn't an easy road. The next few years were a little slippery. Maybe I could make things right. Maybe I could be the person someone else wants me to be. Maybe I would be happy, if only I was there. Or with him. Maybe I could ignore all this dependence crap and just control this situation.A horrible relationship and two more moves later, I found myself once again on my parents doorstep like a lost puppy.
My poor, poor parents. Have I said this yet?
At this point in their lives, my parents had once again moved churches. They were now attending a local CMA church that was alive with fellowship and community. I began attending a small group with them here and began to purposefully, and studiously, study the word of God. I stumbled about the wonderful teachings of Alistair Begg and Ravi Zacharias – who began to help me form a more tangible, solid foundation of doctrine. I remember one time meeting with a pastor, who helped counsel me through the idea that a Christian, according to God's word, has no place to be in a relationship with a non-believer. What! Is he crazy! That can't be right. There aren't good, Christian men out there. They don't exist. And if they do, they sure as heck don't want me. I'm sinful. I'm filthy. What kind of Christian man would want this?
Mind you, at this point, Travis and I had decided to give it another go. Surely, we could make it work? Right?
All he had to do was believe? And then we could believe together and it would be perfect, just like I'd planned.
But oh – was God ever working. Through the next year, I was brought to a place of repentence…and dependence. I began to understand that I wasn't in control – that He was. I began to understand that he had severe authority that ruled every cell on this earth and that nothing – hear me now people – NOTHING happens that is apart from His will. I learned that he was able to take that tangled mess of sin that was shackled to my ankle and cast it into the sea, never to be seen again.
I remember one time praying in tears that I would forget all of the sins of my past – sometimes, I could remember them so clearly, it was like I was there again. I hate that. I just kept praying – help me forget…help me forget…help me forget. I was so ashamed. And then one day it dawned on me: I remembered so I wouldn't repeat. I needed to feel that shame and that pain to remember where a life apart from Christ had taken me.
Remembering my sins helped me to remember just how far God's grace has brought me. From death to life. From sin to purity. From darkness to light.
But I don't think it was until I met my husband…ahem, in a bar…ahem…that I truly understood the goodness of God's grace.
Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2 of the saga….