Shelly was one of 30 individuals to publicly proclaim their faith through baptism this weekend! Read her story below:
After my salvation at seven years of age I led a very lukewarm Christian life putting “me” in the center of life and my “perceived desires.” Nonetheless God kept me and blessed me for four decades. He blessed me with eternal knowledge and showed me things from the beginning, through parents that never strayed from bringing me to Sunday school, AWANAs, church camps, and Christ-centered activities. He gave me an unspoken testimony from my birth father, Vernon, who though he often worked side jobs at night or weekends, he showed an unwavering allegiance to his faith by still choosing to get up early on his little bit of “off time” to honor the Lord and get himself and me to church. I will never forget the “passed test” I’d given my dad, standing next to him in the pew, one Sunday peeking up at his tall stature to see if he kept his eyes shut the whole prayer (when only God knew his heart). This small action has resonated with me my whole life. I knew my father loved the Lord and wanted me to also.
He took my father at thirteen, but gave me an immediate courage to accept this fate and be strong for my mom and grandmother. He again blessed me by giving me a stepfather to care and provide for me and teach and guide me through my teen years and a successful entrance into the working world. He gave me my “Nana” until about twenty -seven years of age who throughout life was my biggest cheerleader. She sometimes made me feel as though I too, could “walk on water.” She gave me a living example then of how I now know God sees me now; through all my brokenness and flaws I am learning that this is how he also cherishes and thinks of me. To God, I’m as special as Nana thought I was (well probably even more).
He blessed me with a husband of fifteen years who took good care of me and provided everything I needed to be a stay at home mom and live an easy lifestyle. . He has blessed me with a fantastic health record throughout my 50 years. Not only did he give me three healthy children, he provided throughout my life various churches that consistently spoke his perfect truth to me.
God next used a divorce, perhaps as a “wake-up call” or its “disruption” in my life to begin the process of drawing me back to where I’d been at seven years of age, longing to know him, be in relationship with him and tell others of his good news.
It was shortly after this that I started pursing him, not me, to be the center of my life. I would say the verse that he showed during this “awakening” or drawing me back was Mathew 6:33, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
This verse was made even plainer one morning as Rich Yauger showed an “overhead” teaching, “the only person who can satisfy the desires of our heart is the one who created our hearts in the first place.”
Although it resonated with me, I do still struggle with wanting to put my desires in front of my Creator’s and have felt maybe, though God has been drawing me back, because of this realization, maybe I’m not ready to be baptized?? But I think my answer from God is, therefore, I should be baptized!
I want to be baptized to show my allegiance to Jesus Christ, to show obedience of what God asks me to publicly proclaim, which is a new identity, accepting I will never be good enough or always order my priorities correctly. So, through this act I accept his “undeserved favor,” I identify with his death and resurrection as replacing my weaknesses and giving me new life. I will continue to ask him to be my helper as he promised through the giving of the Holy Spirit.
So, how would I sum up the change that has brought me here today? I’d say although I asked Jesus to come into my heart and forgive my sins, kneeling next to my white dresser in my Bowie, Maryland bedroom as a seven-year-old, that at 51, or 44 years later, I remember God’s ways are not our ways. I acknowledge this had ALWAYS been God’s plan for when things would come together for me.
My story or testimony therefore is: though saved at seven, and a few years after that having started my journey in life only having Christ in the background for decades, all the while, he chose to bless me immensely. Then, despite my “lukewarm” disposition, about seven years ago he began the process of drawing me back as well as “aligning the stars” if you will, for me to see the need I had to center life on him and to honor my abundant blessings.
At the start of this “alignment,” he orchestrated, and placed the most wonderful Christian man in my life, David. I’d never even dated a guy that had a relationship with Jesus, nor did I only pursue a man with that qualification. God, knowing what I needed. placed David in my world and from our first date, when he asked if he could pray before we ate. I knew he was a gift from God to me. Dave has shown me many Christian virtues, such as not treating me how I often deserve, but by being forgiving and unwavering in his grace toward me, and showing me a love like I’ve never known.
Christ also put me in a strong Christian community, that being Grace Community Church. He gave me an unbelievably strong Bible study to personally walk this journey with me. He even gave me a new women’s friend group of believers to do life with, who are as crazy and love to laugh as much as I do. He answered my prayers to align my son Brennan’s path to a worship team who will mentor and keep God’s word in front of him. God gave me a second set of parents and a loving stepdaughter through David, who show me an amazing love, and speak so much wisdom into me, as I have always struggled with a persistent “thin skinned” disposition. He gave me two of my closest sister’s in Christ, Sue Brady and Sharon Szostak, and has consistently shown me his love here and now through their “hands.” He has given me so much more confidence in myself, as a leader and a Gospel teacher, myself. He has answered my prayer to place my daughter, Lexi, in a Christ-centered college where she will not only be taught how to make a living, but how to live “counter-cultural” and be a champion for Christ first and foremost.
My surrendering to Christ took place over decades, only to grow more intense over the past seven years. Now I know what I want to do with the rest of my life as a response to the blessings and knowledge he’s given me.
Being mindful of Luke 12:48 which states, “from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
I want to be a great servant, a very bright light to this world, and I plan to continue to pray that God will help make his desires, my desires, and through baptism draw me even closer to him.
Baptism at Grace
During all worship gatherings on Baptism Weekends, we celebrate the very reason we exist as a church: Christ’s mission to make disciples, baptizing and teaching in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28: 19-20). We share testimonies of how Jesus changes lives now and for eternity. And the best part… we baptize with a joy that’s out of this world!