I grew up in church. Sort of.
When I was in early elementary school, I began spending most Saturday nights with my aunt and walking to church with her and my younger cousins. I was awkward as kid, and the fact that I didn’t go to the same school as the other kids in my Sunday school class didn’t help me fit in any better. Despite constantly feeling like an outsider, I doggedly kept going and reading my Bible because that’s what the cool kids were doing.
When our age group moved from children to youth, it was like a whole new world. There were so many more people and I felt lost in the crowd. School was also scary, as I had been terrified to move from my beloved elementary school to this “huge” middle school. I was still reading my Bible and praying and thought everything was fine. I joined band and found a wonderful family.
When I was in 7th grade, I went to a Rebecca St. James concert with the youth group. She gave an invitation toward the end, and I started praying with my best friend, Natalie, who decided she was accepting Jesus right then. During the prayer, I suddenly realized I had no idea what I was doing as far as God went and I was positively going to hell unless I made things right between us. We both went downstairs to talk with some counselors. I remember feeling so light and peaceful and overjoyed.
The next year, some of my friends in band decided they wanted to try something “religious” and cool they found on the internet. None of us had ever heard of Wicca or real witchcraft. We lived in a small town in Tennessee, where things like that were never talked about. Keep in mind, I was a pretty innocent kid, therefore I was naive. I was a little wary, but they kept telling me that it wasn’t anything bad and that all the stuff they had read said that God was totally included in everything. I agreed, but after some crazy things happened, I decided to quit hanging out with them. I had felt horrible about it all along, and now I know that that was the Holy Spirit telling me to RUN AWAY.
You would think I learned me lesson with that. Nope. There is a reason humans are continuously referred to as sheep.
I am ashamed to say that during most of high school, I was a complete hypocrite. Left a smear on Jesus’ name with basically every other word that came from my mouth, my actions, and my thoughts. My sophomore year, I was named Band Captain-in-Arms, which is a chaplain for all intents and purposes. I prayed before games, competitions, and during leadership team meetings. I never drank, smoked, or did drugs, but my mouth was filthy, my quiet time was nonexistent, and my prayers outside of my chaplaincy were self-centered. That year was probably my lowest. I was severely depressed, had horrible self-esteem issues, and took out my frustrations on my friends. I was miserable in the new church we were going to, even though I had loved it at first. I felt awkward, unloved, and unwanted there. My grandfather died the week of my 16th birthday, and I stopped going to church. By the end of the year, I had also decided I would end up as a lonely old lady who lived by herself because at 16, I had still never had a boyfriend.
My junior year was much better. I was much more comfortable with myself, I had better relationships with my friends, and best of all, my relationship with my Savior was slowly but surely recovering and becoming right. I won’t necessarily say that I rededicated my life, because I didn’t just decide one night that I was going to turn my life back around. It was much more of a slow process. I gradually came out of my depression and saw how much I missed my Lord and all the terrible things I was doing to hurt him. I started trying to recover my Bible study time and tried to pray less selfishly. I’m so glad God forgives our stupidity and encourages us.
That’s about when I met Les. We became best friends and I started going to his church. I had visited my old church a few times, was so pleased to find that people remember me there, but it just didn’t feel like a church home anymore. Les’ church was great, specifically the youth pastor and his family. For the first time, I felt like I was going deeper than just the words in my Bible and I was growing so fast! Les got saved during that time, surprise surprise. I won’t write about that because that’s his story to tell, but the night he got saved he also led his mom to the Lord. It was good.
That brings me up to speed with the stories I tell in the About Us and About Our Journey pages. I have to say, my journey with Christ has never been perfect, will never be perfect, and it is an amazing work in progress. I am astounded pretty much every day by God’s grace, love, and willingness to work with me.
I literally do not have enough words to describe the blessings in my life. I have the most amazing, upstanding, Christian man who I get to spend the rest of my life with. I have friends scattered across the United States and now even sparsely across the globe. I have a wonderful blood family in Tennessee who I know loves me and supports me, despite the fact that we are so far away. I have the Graenings, who aren’t blood but are just as much my family as those in Tennessee. And I have a Savior who, thank goodness, is not a tame lion. A God who is my Protector and Provider. He has a purpose for me and it’s a magnificent life ahead. That’s why Les and I always refer to our walk with Christ as an adventure. We don’t know what’s coming, but man… it’s been good so far.