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But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 2 Peter 3:8-14


My soul feels this ache deep as if crying out when I don’t utter a sound. It is a strange feeling to feel because no words adequately describe it. It can be triggered by music, lyrics to a song, reading, seeing people that represent another time and place, hearing about people that represent another time and place, placing trust in temporary things instead of Jesus. 

Running to Jesus. This is what I am supposed to do instead of always spinning these things in my mind on my own. I searched for scripture about being new… how He makes all things new… changed… how I should be changed. Any encouragement for this weary battle. 

It is easy for me to feel like a failure. It is easy for me to default into old patterns. Default. Yes, it is as if these things have the power to press the default button and I drown in the old. Weak. Disturbed. Challenged to hold onto the change. When I read the above scripture, it gives me renewed hope to keep fighting these battles within because I press on with Christ. Looking forward to that day when there will be a new heaven and a new earth and there will be no more old. No more flesh to die to every day. No more pain in my heart. No more hurt or betrayal or trust issues. No more will be the new thing. He speaks this peace to calm my soul that still lives in the old but reminds me to use that pain and those memories to bring Him glory.  (When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” John 11:4) The wonder of creation…to bring God glory. The answer to my existence…to bring God glory. The answer to my problems…to bring God glory. The answer to why He allows heartache and pain…to bring God glory. Instead of looking back, I can look forward. Instead of default, I can give it to Jesus and be different. New. Changed.


A New Name

and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.

Isaiah 62:2b

For months, the pastors at Orchard Hill Church have been teaching on the book of Isaiah…chapter by chapter. “Sing a New Song of a New Name” was the title of today’s sermon. At the beginning of the sermon, the importance of a name was discussed and how that assigns value to a person. The pastor mentioned nicknames having an effect both positive and negative. While I can be a very critical and negative processor of thoughts, immediately my nicknames came to mind. My parents nicknamed me specifically to shorten my full first name and avoid other nicknames of the full name that they did not approve of. I may have been their princess too. To friends, I was known as enigma, sweet pea, skittles. To my husband, I am daisy. I reflected on how the nicknames changed and how I was known by different people…the nicknames reflected the relationship in many ways. I smiled because the memories allowed me to connect with today’s scripture teaching and the new name God gives. The sermon went through several names that were God-given. My favorite was the fourth one that derived from Isaiah 62:12: the redeemed of the Lord. The pastor went on to say that this name described our worth… we were bought. Our lives are worth what God was willing to give up… His Son. That is my new name… redeemed. It can be your new name too. The very end of the sermon brought about the “why this matters to us today”. God gives the new name and then we change and grow into it. He doesn’t wait for us to do things perfectly or make a change first. No, He loves us too much for that. He names us first. I thought about the Bible study I attended yesterday morning and even in the book of Mark, there was this theme of God’s name and reflecting who He is. I remember my parents sending me off to school (or anytime I was going somewhere without them) with their finger making a cross on my forehead. They would say, “Go with God and He will go with you.” Then, they would urge me to reflect their morals/standards as I went out in the world. They would remind me of everything they taught me by reminding me that I represent their name. That stuck with me in my own parenting. I always give a cross on my girls’ foreheads. When they are going to be somewhere without us, I remind them that they are God’s and they reflect His name. 

There is belonging in His name. There is forgiveness and healing in His name. There is worthiness and love in His name. There is redemption in His name… through arms stretched wide on the cross.

He came for one purpose and that was to give us ours. I pray my life shows His light. I know I fall short but I desire to reflect God wherever I am.


Clean

 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 

Mark 5: 27-30

The image above was captured from a video Bible study series. I have been studying the book of Mark using Lisa Harper’s book and the video series The Gospel of Mark. It has been just a few short weeks but I am learning so much. Last week, I shared some thoughts floating around my brain about what healing has meant to me and how slow the process can be as well as rewarding in this relationship with Jesus. These thoughts only increased after last Saturday. One week ago, I watched the video series and there it was…a dramatization of a woman who was labeled “unclean” with a blood issue. She was covered, head to toe, in garments and hiding from the crowd…she pressed in to just touch the fringe on Jesus’ prayer shawl. She was IMMEDIATELY healed. He felt His power leave Him and she felt healed. IMMEDIATELY. The image…the scripture…the woman’s hope, courage, faith…Jesus’ reaction…have stayed. in. my. mind. I shared with the other women from the Bible study that the song Healer has been near to my family’s heart throughout my mom’s battle with cancer. Shocker I know, but God spoke to my heart through another song this week by Natalie Grant called Clean. I will post the lyrics below. What an amazing God. What struck me most so far in this study is Jesus. Lisa Harper emphasized that He is both omniscient God and personal Savior. I don’t know that I take the time to really reflect on that… I mean, yes, it is a known fact but it is that fact that changes everything.

Clean  (Natalie Grant)

I see shattered, You see whole. I see broken, but You see beautiful. And You’re helping me to believe, You’re restoring me piece by piece.

There’s nothing too dirty that You can’t make worthy. You wash me in mercy. I am clean.

What was dead now lives again. My hearts beating, beating inside my chest. Oh I’m coming alive with joy and destiny. Cause You’re restoring me piece by piece.

Washed in the blood of Your sacrifice. Your blood flowed red and made me white. My dirty rags are purified. I am clean.

Healer (Bethel Music)

You hold my very moment
You calm my raging seas
You walk with me through fire
And heal all my disease
I trust in You, I trust in You

I believe You’re my healer
I believe You are all I need
I believe

And I believe You’re my portion
I believe You’re more than enough for me
Jesus You’re all I need

You hold my very moment
You calm my raging seas
You walk with me through fire
And heal all my disease
I trust in You, Lord I trust in You

I believe You’re my healer
I believe You are all I need
Oh, I believe

I believe You’re my portion
I believe You’re more than enough for me
Jesus You’re all I need

Nothing is impossible for You
Nothing is impossible
Nothing is impossible for You
You hold my world in Your hands

Abide/Remain

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 1 John 4:15

About two years ago, my word for the year morphed into a two word combo of abide and remain. I have felt drawn to those words everytime I see them in scripture. It has been difficult for me to make sense of their importance so it has created this situation of recording the scripture I read and appreciating them. But today, something changed.

About two weeks ago, I was using scissors to cut open packages of new collars for my dogs and when I was finished I put the collars on the boys and noticed blood just everywhere. For the amount I saw, you would think that I would have had some pain but I didn’t even feel it…yet. I washed it and bandaged it and it was a pretty deep cut on one of my knuckles. A few hours later, I scraped the very next knuckle off of something. My injuries have been so painful and they prevented my normal activity (like doing dishes🤔) because everything burned upon contact. Then, this morning, I marveled at the continued pain as I bent the finger I had cut and my skin stretched and pulled. In that moment, the Lord taught me a lesson. I began to think about how disobedience and sin doesn’t seem to hurt at first. As the Holy Spirit reveals situations and behaviors, things can get very painful but it is the healing process. I recognized times in my life when I knew I was healing and it was still painful to my heart and soul. I am amazed at how God created us…the pulling and stretching to eventual healing and wholeness can be an extremely slow and painful process but He knows exactly what He is doing. I looked at the other knuckle and noted that it was basically healed already. I can still see where the scrape was but the cut went deeper. Isn’t that how it is sometimes? I wonder why some of my mistakes bother me more than others. But, I think those were times that those mistakes cut to the core…cut so deep that it revealed my character and those are so much more painful as they heal. It seems they have to heal from the most inner part first… we have to get right with God for the process to start and just when you think He is done, He continues on to the next layer then the next. God doesn’t stop until it is complete. My analogy went further with how we can inhibit healing and there was a brief thought about a scab but I am sparing readers of that. It just brought about the thought that I have found that it takes some work on my part for proper healing. I have to be obedient to the Lord’s leading. He has led me to sometimes do absolutely nothing…be still…remain in Him…abide. Other times have been the darkest soul searching moments where my fears were realized and He called me out of my safety zone. The word safe actually bothers me now because if I play things safe, I can’t ever get hurt and it is through being hurt that I experience healing and get closer to God. I am choosing to stay close to Him whatever that looks like. Abide. Remain.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. John 15:4

To Live Is Christ

For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21

I have found myself reflecting on various things this lenten season. I was listening to my favorites playlist and the song “To Live Is Christ” by Sidewalk Prophets started to play. The words touched my soul and I have decided to pray them throughout the coming weeks.


If I rise, let me rise on You
Not on all my successes
My esteem or my pursuits
If I lose, let me lose my life
Cause if I belong to Jesus
The flesh is crucified


For me to live is Christ
For me to live is Christ
For me to live is Christ
To die is gain


If I grow, let me grow in You
Wilt the seeds of wanting more
Ripping pride out by the roots
If I’m still, let me hear You speak
Not the tone of my transgressions
But the song of the redeemed


My great desire is to be with You
But this is the place You chose for me
This is the place You chose for me
To lift my cross and give everything
This is the time You gave to me
This is the time You gave to me


I’ll never be the same
I’ll never be the same
For me to live is Christ
To die is gain

I Must Decrease

Lyrics stream through my mind tonight…a song that comes when things seem like they are unraveling: “You are stronger, You are stronger, sin is broken, You have saved me, it is written, Christ is risen, You are Lord, Lord of all.”

My memory of the last time that song went through my mind is not a pleasant one. It was through tears and knowing that every effort as a church leader to keep the church I knew together was going to fail. It was recognizing that I was going to be torn away from people I cared for. It was an admittance to my God that I knew He was stronger than everything that was happening. It was my heart cry for purpose behind all the change.

This past Sunday, at Orchard Hill, the phrase “He must increase, I must decrease” was stated within the sermon. It forced me to look up the exact wording in the Bible because I do think the order of how it is written has value. It made me reflect on the last few years and while I have heard the phrase before, I heard it new because I have literally had everything that I held dear in terms of my spiritual walk and ministry stripped away from me. However, even though I struggle to make sense of it all and most likely will never understand the events, I am seeking Him more. I do see that over the last year and a half, God has provided for me over and over. He has placed me in the right place at the right time to meet the right person for spiritual encouragement. He will receive the glory and not I. He has proven to me over and over that He redeems. That word has become one of my favorites recently. He is stronger. He is Lord of all. I just am taking this moment to lean into Him a little closer and appreciate his sacrifice. He died so that I might live. I pray that I can surrender it all (make things less about me) that He be glorified.

He must increase, but I must decrease. 

John 3:30

It Is Well…Thy Will 

In October 2015, I attended Orchard Hill Church for the first time. I had a hurting heart and an attitude that no church on earth was safe and true. The Lord really uses music to speak to my heart on a regular basis. I will never forget that in my moment of barrier mode brokenness, He touched my soul with the swell of beautiful instrumental music and lyrics that stated:
Through it all…through it all my eyes are on you. Through it all…through it all, it is well with me. So, let go my soul and trust in Him, the waves and wind still know His name. It is well…with my soul.

I could not sing the song that day through my tears. I have many times since sung its words in praise to Him. Who else could have orchestrated such mention of trust and wind and waves. He who knows the storm raging all around and on the inside, reached down to calm and to whisper it is well and encourage me to whisper it is well with my soul.

In June 2016, there was Facebook buzz about a new song and I watched the video a little perplexed by its meaning. I didn’t really listen to the song closely enough but when I got into my car with a brain swirling round, the song played on my radio…

I’m so confused
I know I heard you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done


I know you’re good
But this don’t feel good right now
And I know you think
Of things I could never think about
It’s hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that you’re God
And I am not
So

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will

I know you see me
I know you hear me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness you have in store
I know you hear me
I know you see me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Good news you have in store

So, thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
I know you see me
I know you hear me, Lord


The song spoke so directly to my past and present…that which my heart cried daily. It is almost as if the Lord wrote it just for me. I soaked it in. I cried over it. It quickly became a torturous favorite and a most wonderful reminder to seek His will and know that He does see me. He cares about the little things and the big things in this life.

These two songs are still precious gifts to me. They remind me to praise Him in even tough circumstances…to praise Him in all circumstances.

What does my story mean to me?

“The story will be told in the changed lives of people.”~Orchard Hill Church

My last three posts included my story. Like it or not. I cannot capture everything. I left out some recent stuff knowing I have mentioned it in this blog. I know I still hide details of the wrong I did. Even reading my story, I think to myself “did you really not understand what you were doing and didn’t you like having power over people in certain situations?” I don’t want to think that I ever set out to hurt people on purpose but I was selfish and I can still choose to be self serving even now. So, what does it all mean? I believe that the story means everything because if I didn’t screw up my life along the way then I wouldn’t need a Savior. However, I know it doesn’t matter what I have done or didn’t do…it doesn’t matter what I will do this year or the next. I accepted Jesus as my Savior so I am free. It isn’t freedom in the sense that I can do whatever I want…it means that what held me away from God does not hold me anymore. I want to live my life and make choices that honor God. When I was growing up, my parents instilled a heritage in me that because I had my family’s name, it was an expectation to act a certain way. When I send my kids out into the world, I remind them that their actions should reflect God’s holy name. I tell myself this too. My life has changed because of what Christ has done. My story is how I can tell His story.

This is what I have learned so far:
I learned to be still and know. Psalm 46:10
I learned to trust God. Proverbs 3:5-6
I learned that my security is in Jesus. Romans 8:35-39, Philippians 1:6
I learned that my identity is found in Christ. John 1:12, Romans 6:6
I learned that I am a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17
I learned that I am God’s masterpiece. Ephesians 2:10
I learned that God had a plan for my life even as He was knitting me together in my mother’s womb. Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 139
I learned that Satan came to kill, steal, and destroy. John 10:10
I learned that He who is in me is greater than He who is in the world. 1 John 4:4
I learned that Jesus overcame the world. John 16:33
I learned that God is with me and He will not leave me. Deuteronomy 31:6,8
I learned that if I seek Him, I will find Him. Deuteronomy 4:29
I learned that His grace is sufficient and my sins are as far as the east is from the west. 2 Corinthians 12:9, Psalm 103:12
I learned how deep the Father loves me. Ephesians 3:18, 1 John 3, John 3:16
I learned that I can’t do it perfectly…I do the things I don’t want to do and I don’t do the things I should. Romans 7:15-19

God will use you if you are willing to follow Him. I never saw myself good enough to lead a Bible study or lead a teacher’s prayer group in a public school. I never thought I’d teach Sunday School or sing in front of a church. I never thought some of my story would be published in a book or that I would be able to encourage other people in their walk with Christ. But, God uses me time and time again and I am the one who benefits the most. I learn from each experience more about who I am in Christ and more about His character. God is so good, He’s so good to me. I am glad He isn’t done with me yet.

My Story: Early Married Life

Continuing with my story, my husband and I had a rocky start. We had issues financially, intimately, emotionally, spiritually…the works. I have many regrets. There were many times when we acted out of anger. I became so disillusioned and bitter along with the anger. We were surprised to find out we were expecting a child two months after we were married. Becoming parents, in May 2006, brought out the best in us. Did we do things perfectly with this little bundle? Absolutely not. I would look at her in awe of who she was…it had nothing to do with the environment she was being raised in. Something changed in us over years. We changed. We began to focus more on God and how He brought us together. I saw how He used our little girl to hold us together. We began to stop focusing on our annoying differences and allowed God to shape us. God used my husband to teach me and stretch me beyond who I was. I saw changes in my husband too. I have always felt that I didn’t deserve such a blessing I received in my child. Before she could even talk, this little girl prayed over me…I heard her babble and then say amen. She has taught me lessons about love that I would never know. She also seems to have this childlike knowing of the Lord.
During these years, I still bottled everything up inside and buried my past. I wore a mask of perfection in public. But God called me out of hiding. Between struggles in my various relationships, I also would run into the pastor that I shared a secret with frequently enough that it bothered me. I didn’t serve in my new church in any capacity. I found that church also fueled  my anger in various ways. In May 2010, my husband and I had another baby girl. I got tired of sitting on the sidelines of life and started to get a little more bold. Our church received a different pastor in July that same year and I began to sing in the praise team and serve in other capacities. I realized that this church was too close to the last one. It was too small of a world. I spoke with the new pastor and a trusted friend. My new pastor labeled my past sin as an emotional affair and I knew he was right. God used that moment to open my eyes and deal with things I buried. This is when I experienced a vision of the word TRUST emblazoned in fire. God worked in and through me to bring about a healthy amount of forgiveness in many past relationships. I also felt forgiven by God and recognized that Satan would stop at nothing to keep me down. I began to give thoughts and decisions to Jesus and refuse to let Satan interfere with his lies. I learned from the new pastor that I could also extend grace to people in my life and it helped melt away some of the bitterness and tear down the walls I had built around my heart. I learned more about God’s grace for me and His love…I learned to breathe in Jesus. It is as if I start new each day trying to be what He created me to be. God has used words like trust, intentional, abide and remain to draw me in closer to Him. I had served as a leader and after 11 years of membership, my family has decided to leave the denomination and seek after a Bible teaching church. It was difficult to uproot our kids from what they knew but familiarity and comfort is not worth the risk of my children’s eternity. When our pastor was moved to a different place in July 2015, we stuck it out awhile but it was evident that the Bible was “open to interpretation” and we couldn’t participate in the culture infected mockery any longer. It still bothers us and will probably always bother us on a spiritual level…everything we heard, witnessed, and experienced was just wrong on so many levels. But, God is good and He has led us to another church…strong in teaching God’s Word. They didn’t make excuses, they are transparent about their beliefs, and they don’t apologize for following Jesus. This is life for me now. I feel separated from God right now because of my anger about what He allowed to happen. But, I know He is with me. He understands. He sees the bigger picture and has everything in His hands. I can choose to have a temper tantrum about how things didn’t go the way I hoped and planned or I can choose to just go where He leads day by day, trusting in Him. I still tear up when I think of my past in a sort of mourning but I also know He holds the future and it becomes a reminder that He is who He says He is. It becomes a need for my Savior. It becomes a dying to self and allowing Him to carry me through and develop my character into more of His likeness. 

My Story: Transitioning Churches

When I was 14 and in ninth grade, I pretty much had a reputation of being a good girl. I didn’t go out late at night. I didn’t participate in the shenanigans that my peers created in public school. No, I was the girl the principal called into the office to ask if I could tell her “who did it”. I was already made fun of for my beliefs and my friends who went to church began to change. They chose a path of boys and sex as well as smoking and drinking. I felt myself become separated from them because I was not going to make the same choices. My church activities hadn’t changed until my parents announced that they felt a need to leave our current church. I was devastated. This was where I had grown up. I had a lot of people I loved…including that boy that if we got married, both our initials would be E.M.R. I had a plan to marry him. I was sure God was going to arrange it. I will never forget the Friday night that his family came over for dinner. I believe his parents were attempting to stop my parents from leaving the church because they had never come over before. Not like that. The boy and I sat together on the couch and sort of held hands while watching TV. I thought I would never see him again. My family  started going to different churches and we landed in one in the heart of a nearby broken community. It was small so everyone quickly got to know us and it felt like a tight knit family. The pastor was a dynamic speaker. We joined but things quickly fell apart. I was apart of a youth group that consisted of me and my best friend (she became my best friend most likely because we were the only two kids there). I had crushes on many of the boys there and we spent our time daydreaming and gushing over them. Spiritually, I was still just following a list of rules and looking for a guy who was doing the same. That changed a little at a camp named Laurelville. We went in the Fall as a small youth group but also met other youth from our leader’s young life group. I played games and had tough discussions. The worship was great too. Then they sent us out into nature…into the cold and I found a stump to sit on. I wasn’t even sure what to say to God. We were supposed to pray so I started out by saying that I felt so cold and I didn’t like being alone in a dark, strange place. Immediately, I was filled with warmth from the inside out. It seemed like it was the first time I recognized the Spirit in me. God was with me. I re-dedicated my life to Him. But, I still didn’t feel changed and looking back, I didn’t really change. I became more interested in learning more about God and read my Bible on my own but I still was boy crush crazy and it really took over my brain. My first “kiss” was in fifth grade. My first “real kiss” was in ninth grade. The real kiss was with someone who lived hours from me and it was good he lived that far. I basically toyed with boys’ hearts and felt like that validated me. I never dated anyone I was truly interested in because they seemed out of my league. I even met someone I really liked at the camp but he was much older. It always seemed like I was scouting for a boyfriend and that was most important. Yet, I think it was because I couldn’t obtain it. I filled my heart with the views of my peers and they made fun of me for numerous reasons. I filled my heart with fantasies about finding someone who loved me. I filled my heart with TV and music that was anything but Christian.
When I was 17, my dad’s leadership choices at the church were called into question by the pastor and there was a big difference of opinion and it was this situation that revealed the heart of the pastor. My parents decided to leave that church. Being uprooted again made me lose hope in ever finding someone to marry from church. Great thing to worry about, I know. We left the church in the midst of Easter season. No home church on Easter Sunday. We went back to my dad’s old roots…the United Methodist Church. It was a small church but bigger than where we just came from. It had lots of kids and big families. My parents were impressed with the children’s ministry displayed up front that morning. I don’t remember going to another place. That was it. My grandparents had gone to that church along time ago so people knew me and I had big shoes to fill. By now, I had doubts that God cared how I felt. He had taken away my grandparents and I was angry with Him for this church stuff.
I was invited to participate in a Bible study with teen girls. I found this to be very serious learning unlike being with all the other kids in the church at the youth events or Sunday school. I hated those classes. It was me and about three other girls. The other girls dropped out because they were busy but I decided to prioritize and study. The female leader had daughters older than me, losing my grandmothers prior, I just felt a connection with her. She became my prayer partner. She invited me to be apart of a production at Easter and I really was still grieving and didn’t want to but it was also a community thing that many churches were involved in and so I agreed. The youth leader from my previous church was the play’s director. Small world. It was around then that the previous church made the news with a scandal. Money missing, no way to pay for their new building, the pastor in an affair with the secretary who took her own life, and finally the fact that this dynamic speaker faked his credentials. It was all a sham. It was all a con. I still felt like I knew the Lord and it didn’t cause me to doubt where I was but it caused me to doubt others. It was my first experience finding out that people claimed to be something and it was all a lie. I remember going to the new building with my current pastor to read scripture and he was preaching as a guest but I quickly felt out of place and scoffed at. I went out of curiosity but felt deeply in my spirit that I shouldn’t have been there. I was embarrassed over it. My pastor and I had gone through some stuff together. My grandma’s death, my previous church’s demise, I graduated high school and I began to trust him. We talked all the time. We shared deeply intimate details about our lives with each other. I developed feelings that I didn’t understand. I justified myself. My brother was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 12 and then my life seemed to spiral out of control. I was stressed to the point of vomiting. I exercised to keep my mind from spiraling out of control and I lost 30 pounds. I was obsessed with being healthy and I was obsessed with being perfect and I was neither of the two. I ran a mile everyday thinking I was focusing on God but I was running from Him. My parents saw all these changes in me and questioned the pastor. It was kept private. Something he and his wife and my parents were dealing with. But I felt like the problem. I didn’t even understand what I had done. I didn’t want to leave another church. I don’t know how I stayed in that place as long as I did. It wasn’t like I cut ties with my pastor. I felt like I was constantly scrutinized. Why was I happy to go to church? Why did I have to run to him to get a hug? And on and on. I scaled back my behavior still thinking I did nothing wrong. What I felt was a serious issue and I buried it down in the depths with all my other sin. I also felt an obligation to protect this pastor because I didn’t want to ruin his life. From my viewpoint, He stood to lose everything and I stood with nothing to lose. But, the reality was that I had already lost. My prayers were that people would see Jesus in me and want what I had. I had a bunch of crazy feelings and a twisted situation and didn’t see how Jesus fit. Shouldn’t He have prevented me from going down that path. I felt screwed up. I had been set up on various dates by friends but those guys didn’t meet my high standards. I often felt confused and I know I hurt the guys when I gave them the “let’s just be friends” line. That boy with the initials E.M.R. also appeared in my college life but he wasn’t interested in me and my crushes I was holding out on, I became bold and asked them out but nothing. Speaking of college, the only reason I attended was because a representative from the school came to my home and filled out my application. What career would I like? Well, teaching sounded good. I liked working with kids. I didn’t apply anywhere because I felt like my SAT scores were not good enough. I didn’t test well. I was successful in college and got good grades. Around this time, I also met my husband through church. He was in the Marine Corps and my parents were his “Secret Faith Friend”- a program for people to connect and pray as well as send goodies to young adults in college and the military. When he came back to the States, his family had a party and that is when we first met but I didn’t give him a second glance…I was caught up in the drama of what I described above and dating a guy my friend set me up with. I had been trying to feel normal. My friends setting me up on blind dates helped me make friends but nothing lasted longer than 3 months and nothing compared to the deep conversations and feelings I had for someone that I couldn’t have. Eventually, I found myself liking my future husband’s best friend and when I told said guy that I liked him, he didn’t return the sentiment. So, this Marine approached me and said things to comfort me since he knew what happened. I didn’t see him again for many months. He would also just seemingly appear at church because he was on leave. Like one Christmas Eve, when I felt a tug on my sleeve and he asked if he could stop in the next day. I didn’t know why he was asking me when his excuse was that he had thank you gifts for my family. He spent most of the morning and afternoon at my house that Christmas and my parents abandoned me to one on one conversation with him. On another occasion, he called me to ask me swimming at his best friend’s house. Talk about awkward. When he held me, I felt safe. On July 23, 2001, I started dating my husband. He was intriguing. He was the opposite of my list of things I was looking for in a husband. I felt drawn to him. September 11th happened and I was scared that this guy would not get to leave the Marines as planned but he was discharged in December. I turned 21. I still held true to my no drinking and no smoking but my purity became blurred. My prayer partner laughed at me in my struggles so I stopped trusting her. After breaking up a few times, I knew God was pushing me and this guy together. He was the one and I stopped fighting it. We decided to leave the church. He was never real into how things were done in that place and we needed to find somewhere that we could share together and start over. My future husband knew all of what happened because I shared with him every single one of my sins and he shared his with me. We chose a different United Methodist Church just down the road because of the pastor’s ability to step on our toes and challenge us to live out our faith. Together we attempted to embrace more of God and less of each other. We joined that church together in April 2004 and were married there one year later on July 23, 2005. My parents and brother later joined the same church and attended with us. God also opened the door to my career in September 2004. I had been substitute teaching in various local districts but I was hired permanently by one that I had never set foot in. That can only be explained by God’s intervention and provision.

I am going to pause here and continue soon with Early Married Life.