A few weeks ago I went out to breakfast with a friend from church and while we were talking she said something that has stuck with me since. I was talking about my life and how I came to know Christ and she said "you should really write that down somewhere, that's a great story." So here I am, to write out my story and how God has changed my life. I can honestly say since I've given my life to Christ, I hear people say they know exatly when God came into their life, the moment they were saved or the exact date of their salvation. For me, it was more of a process. I don't know the exact date, but there were different instances that are extremely clear in my mind that were shaping me into when I would finally choose to live for God.
It started when I was about 6 years old. I hung out with a family that lived across the street from me and her family and I would sometimes go to church with them. I was raised Catholic and although I don't have anything against Catholicism or people that are Catholic, for me, it was B O R I N G. I loved going with my friend to her church and going to a "class" with a bunch of other kids our age. I found myself counting the colors on the stained glass windows of our catholic church on Sundays or just make sure I was quiet enough so I could ask my mom if I was good afterwards. I don't remember ever listening to a single "message". I learned my first Bible verse when I was 6 at Vacation Bible School with my friend that I went with. It was John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, He gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life". At age six I can honestly say that I had no idea what that meant. I didn't think too much about it after vacation bible school. When I was about 7 a new girl moved in up the street from me. I liked going to her house to play because she had just about every barbie you could think of and the HUGE barbie dream house. I remember going up to her house one time and her mom asked me if I had Jesus in my heart. At the time it kind of scared me thinking someone was in my heart but I answered her and said no. She prayed with me and I asked Jesus into my heart and repeated the prayer after her. I didn't feel any different and nothing seemed to change so I went about my way.
Many years and things happened between that time and my next "encounter". When I was 11 years old I got invited to an event called Acquire the Fire with a friend from school. There were a few people I knew that were going so I decided what the heck and I went along with her and some people from her youth group. I remember feeling really uncomfortable and not knowing anyone. Anyone that knew me when i was younger, I was EXTREMELY shy. I felt incredibly anxious being around people I didn't know. Everyone was very nice and friendly and that night I remember making my own decision to follow Jesus. The leaders that went with us bought a bible for me that I still use to this day, it's one of my favorites. I specifically remember the speaker talking about living for Christ meant giving up "worldly things" whatever that meant. He talked about getting rid of the non-glorifying music that led to sin. Whether it was the ambiance, emotion, or anxiety, I left there feeling different and determined to change. Throughout middle school I went to my first concert: Audio Adrenaline and DC Talk, went to a weekend music festival that was SO MUCH FUN, and meeting different friends and christian people that I went to school with. By this time, my family was no longer attending church at all.
Getting into my high school years, I drifted away and hung out with different people. It wasn't until my senior year of highschool that my parents had found a new church, a small church, and told me I should visit. I decided to give it a shot and once again at the age of 18 I prayed the prayer of salvation. This time I was ready to live for God, I was ready to give up the things I didn't think I could. I stopped cussing, I stopped listening to certain music, I was no longer hanging out with certain people. And then came a boy. It once again derailed me from the direction I was headed. I got caught up in what I wanted instead of what I should have been focused on. Thankfully I had a dear friend that came along after that relationship broke me. I decided that was it. I was young, I was going to live for God, I was no longer going to chase after boys. I didn't need guys to make me happy I only needed God.
For a solid year I was reading my Bible, faithfully going to church, tithing, and living the kind of life God would have been proud of. Then I met Pat! He was the only guy that ever just flat out asked for my number. I went out with him a few times and he was not saved at the time and many people told me it was a bad idea to stay with him. I chose to not listen to anyone and dated him anyway. After a year we were engaged and two years later at the age of 21 we were married. I would like to say it's all been a fairytale but it hasn't.
A month after we were married I found out I was pregnant. We were excited to start our little family but we were both working part time jobs. We still had so much growing up to do that we weren't even aware of. Thankfully he had gotten saved when he was 18 as well but like me, it was a process. We had baby #1 and he was a breeze, so laid back, rarely cried, slept anywhere. We thought we had it made. I wanted 4 kids and he wanted 3. So when Declan was about 19 months we found out baby #2 was on the way. Things were going well, Pat was now working full time and I stayed at home with Declan while babysitting for a little extra income. We were attending a new church, another church plant, as the one we were members of previously had dissolved. We started skipping church, we were fighting a lot, we weren't really spending quality time together and we started growing distant.
After Alaina was born we had some really rough marital patches that nearly tore our marriage apart. Thankfully I have a dear friend that speaks truth and life into me and doesn't just tell me what I want to hear. I was ready to walk away from the marriage and move on but I knew that God didn't want that. I knew that God was about forgiveness, mercy, love. He loves all his children the same and even though I tend to rate sin, he sees it all the same. After many tears, pleading, and begging with God, I finally gave in to what I knew in my heart he was telling me. Was it easy, no way but where I am now, I can honestly say that it one of the times in my life that I have felt the closest to God. I believe that out of that difficult time in our marriage I learned more about forgiveness, grace, and mercy than I ever thought I would know.
We decided to turn a new leaf, start our marriage fresh, and that included finding a new church (that we didn't want to skip). We started going to Element when Alaina was about 9 months old. We have been going ever since and although it wasn't completely Element church that saved our marriage, once we started going there our lives changed. It truly changed our marriage, our parenting, and definitely made me more hungry for God's word. I started reading my bible more and started reading books that would inspire my walk with God. Here we are, married 9 1/2 years and I would say that the only reason our marriage has been blessed is because we decided to make God the center of our lives. He is the center of our marriage, our parenting, our decisions. Yes we still make mistakes, yes we still have struggles, but we don't focus on the problems because we know that God will always have our backs and no matter what we go through, we're never alone.