“Not to us, O Lord, but to you goes all the glory for your unfailing love and faithfulness.”
I grew up in a small town in northern Michigan with my parents and my younger sister. I attended the big local church periodically when I was young, mostly with my grandma. My parents attended occasionally. I really don’t have many memories of them attending outside of the Christmas concerts. I had close friends growing up who were actively involved in the church with their families. When I was in middle school, I attended a weekend youth retreat one winter. It was a great time of worship like I had not experienced before (not the traditional hymns like I had heard at church). I really felt like God’s presence was there with me during that weekend. At one point the speaker asked if anyone wanted to receive God’s gift of salvation. I remember praying along with his lead from my spot in the crowd. It was then that I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. I continued attending youth group during my high school years on Wednesday nights. It was something that I did regularly and was important to me, but attending church on Sundays was not something that I did regularly even then. Looking back, I seemed to have felt uncomfortable because I wasn’t attending church with my family. Maybe I felt judged since everyone knew each other in that tiny town and I wasn’t attending with my family – I’m not sure exactly.
After I graduated high school, I attended a small public university. I made some new friends, but I was a huge introvert. I felt insecure and uncomfortable in my life in general, even when it came to worshipping with fellow Christians. There was a Christian student fellowship on campus, but I only attended once with my roommate and I just felt awkward due to my insecurities, so I never attended again. The girls who lived in the dorm room across from mine freshman year had a prayer gathering once a week in their room. I attended a couple of times, but I still struggled with being introverted. It was hard to open up to others, and I didn’t do a lot of things with my friends the first couple of years of college, besides eating meals at the cafeteria together. I attended a church service with my roommate and her family that year, but that church reminded me too much of my first church and I felt uncomfortable there. I continued to keep to myself for the most part and unfortunately did not grow in my relationship with the Lord over the years. I didn’t do my part in my relationship with God, even though I know now He was always there waiting for me. (Looking back now, I also know having a community of believers to surround yourself with is essential!)
I moved to Maryland after college, still not having much of a relationship with the Lord. I found Grace five years later, in 2010. I realized that something was missing in my life, and my husband and I started attending regularly. We met with others in a small group for a couple of years, and then when some of us had kids and/or moved, the group disbanded. The small group was great for me to have that community of believers, but I still felt like I needed to do things differently in regards to growing closer to the Lord. I did not spend enough time in God’s Word and prayer despite that fellowship with other Christians.
Once we had young kids it was harder for us to attend church regularly, and I definitely drifted away again from the Lord for a few years. When my son was old enough to attend the Grace Kids preschool class around 2016, I knew then that I wanted to raise both my kids to have a personal relationship with the Lord and have a great church community. We began attending more consistently.
Things were going well in basically every area of my life until the past couple of years. When my husband and I had major struggles in our marriage and became separated in Summer 2019, that is when I feel like I truly found the Lord and had a better relationship with Him. I realized that I needed to center my life around the Lord…for real this time. That was the only way that I could even think about getting through this extremely difficult season. Joshua 1:9 says, “I command you—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” I think of this scripture often and it comforts me, along with many other verses.
Besides feeling the Lord’s presence recently through the separation, I also cannot explain how much I have felt Him with me over the past several months in another way. My parents were in a horrible head-on car accident in January 2020, and they both went to be with the Lord as a result of that accident. I not only lost one parent, but both at one time. I am giving all the credit to the Lord for the strength He has given me throughout this tragedy, on top of everything else that has been going on in my life.
I have been so grateful for all the people who have surrounded me and have provided godly wisdom and guidance. Many of these individuals are staff at Grace, and most of the others are fellow women that I’ve met at Grace. These people have reminded me that God will provide, that He has a plan for me, and that He knows what is best for me. I have been able to ask the Lord many times, this past year especially, to take over the situation and help me realize that I am not in control of what happens. I have spent more time in His Word than ever before. I have prayed more than I ever have my entire life. I have also found myself only listening to Christian/worship music constantly, which does amazing things for my attitude and faith. My favorite day of the week is Sunday, so I can attend Grace with my kids. If I miss a week, I feel like I have missed so much community worship that I need. I am so comfortable attending church now, and I love to share with others about the wonderful things that have happened to me since God brought me to Grace. I am definitely still an introvert, but not to the point where I feel as uncomfortable sharing my story as I was in the past. In addition, every time I am some place where there is an opportunity through a led prayer for individuals to receive salvation for the first time, I also pray the prayer again, reminding myself of my commitment to Christ.
I was thinking about getting baptized last year, but then I convinced myself (or likely Satan convinced me) that I needed to wait until things “settled down.” After things did not settle down, and got even harder actually, I realized that I needed to stop pushing the idea away. I even had a dream last year that I got baptized at Grace. Despite still being very introverted, how could I keep ignoring God when he was telling me that it was time to just take this next step and publicly proclaim my faith and potentially lead others to Him?
I decided to be baptized at Easter 2020 because I feel closer to the Lord now than I could ever have imagined, despite it being the most difficult season of my whole life. Due to the COVID pandemic (which has been a challenge for everyone this year), the baptism was postponed for four months. The time is finally here for me to be baptized. I can truly say that I know God’s got me in his hands, no matter what the future holds and no matter how lonely I feel at times. Even though it has been many years since I accepted the gift of salvation and eternal life, I want to publicly declare today that I have put my trust in Christ and want to be His disciple (Matthew 28:18-20). I also acknowledge that I am a sinner and not perfect. When I confess my sins, God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9).
This is the end of the chapter of the story that I’m sharing today, but it’s only a tiny part of the story that God has written for me. I know the best is yet to come. In the end I know where I am headed. I pray for all of you who are also currently in a season of suffering. I pray that you will seek and find the Lord’s comfort during this time. Rest in His arms. No doubt 2020 has been a huge season of suffering for me (so much loss that I can’t even comprehend fully), but I also want to look back at this year and remember the way the Lord has not only guided me through all this, but also how I have truly become a better person because of the Lord alone. His comfort and strength are the only reasons why I can share my story today and feel so confident in my faith.
1 Peter 5:10 states, “In his kindness God called you to his eternal glory by means of Jesus Christ. After you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.”