Out of the River, Onto the Raft – My Faith Journey

Purpose in Life – Rewritten

I’ve divided the rest of the book into 5 parts: An All About Me, Meet my Mom of the Last 3 Years, Unveiling the Mirror of My Life, My Relationship with my Mom before August 2016, and Lessons I Learned Along the Way.

When I originally wrote about my faith in God, I wrote in a linear fashion because that is how life is – minutes, days, weeks, months, and then years. But is that how our faith is, does it go in a straight line one moment after another or are there rapids we must overcome? Those rapids might cause our faith to go off course.

I can tell you that I always went to church as a child. Or at least from what I remember. My paternal grandpa was a United Methodist Church pastor and baptized me within a week of my birth. My mom would talk about the different churches we attended while in Pennsylvania but honestly, I can’t remember any one of them. I was either too young or traumatized.

It wasn’t until we moved to Ohio that I can remember the whole going to church and the expectation that I attend on a regular basis even after staying out all night at prom. We first attended church at my mom’s childhood church. I remember the experiences I had at that church: music “tour” trips and being in plays. Even though it felt like home, it wasn’t really my church home.

Then in 1987, we moved across town away from that church. I mean we could have still attended but God had other plans. In the new area where I lived was a church and as soon as I saw it, I told my mom, “I want to attend a service here.”

She obliged and quickly I was in the confirmation class. Within 6 months of attending the church, I was standing up in front of the church becoming a member. I had just broken my leg a couple months prior and was expected to help with the communion on confirmation Sunday. With the help of God, I did not drop the communion tray. At that moment, my faith journey really began.

You see within a year or so of attending the church, I met a person who would truly help me with my faith. He didn’t realize it at that time, but his constant loving of me as though as a daughter really helped me grow as a person and as did my faith. He saw through my human fallacies and shakable faith to see me as someone that had a purpose in life.

For the next seven years, I faithfully attended that church and was active in youth group, clowns for Christ, and attended several mission trips helping those who were misfortunate and needed our help.

Then life happened. Just like there is a bend in a river where you can quickly change course, my life did that. In 1995, I was accepted to be part of the Disney College Program. While on the program, my relationship with God was not priority. It was not going to be that way until I met my husband 2 years later. However, God never forgot me. HE had my back even though I was flapping around like a fish out of the water trying to discover who I was as a person.

Then I met my husband and well I started going back to church on a more regular basis. God was bringing me back to his fold. As I mentioned before, he will find the one lost sheep. HE was searching for me and found me.

“Here, Traci.”

“Who is this from?” I asked myself as I looked at the card. No one had signed the card.

When I asked people, who gave me the money, no one was willing to confess that they had given me the money. They wanted to remain anonymous.

At the time I was given that envelope, I was a struggling college student at that time with limited income. During the previous quarter, I had worked myself to the bone in both classwork and at work. On this day, I had been back to my church for college Sunday. I was handed that envelope after I had talked about my dreams of completing my college degree and eventually becoming a teacher. I never spoke of my worries about not being able to pay for college. God had seen my struggle and even though I had limped away from a relationship with him, he saw to it that I was provided for but still I didn’t realize how much God really loved me.

Also, during that time, I had been estranged from my grandparents. We didn’t agree about many things which caused a divide. It was a rapid in my ever-changing life at that time. God used my husband to reconnect my grandparents and myself.

In the late 90s, I had many rapids in my life. So many river bends were occurring as my life kept changing. Even though I didn’t seek God first with my problems, he planted seeds of my spiritual gift which is a strong faith that my end goal would be accomplished which was my teaching degree.

“. . . if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Matthew 17:20

After my husband and I were dating for a year, I joined his church and 6 months after that we were married. He had also been brought up in the church, so we continued the tradition of going to church every Sunday. We attended the church that he had grown up in and eventually brought our sons there.

During that time, I was complacent with my relationship with God. I knew I loved him but a lot of me going to church was ritualistic and not of building a relationship with HIM.

Then in 2010, a political issue caused a giant crack in the church we had been attending – his childhood church. People we called our church family turned their back on us and still to this day won’t talk to us.

It was decided on a nippy March evening in a golf course clubhouse that we were going to be part a group of people gathering to form a new church. We took a leap of faith as we changed course with our church. Those people who gathered had the faith of a mustard seed. Ten years later, my family still attends that church.

During all these years, I have had challenges that could have rocked my faith. However, my faith as small as a mustard seed has seen me through those challenges. The road of my life has been full of rocks and thorny plants, but no matter what, God has been by my side. He has never forsaken or forgotten me even with my faith has been shaken and gone off course.

God gives ever Christian spiritual gifts. Mine happens to be the gift of exhortation which is spiritual encouragement. It is my belief that God wants me to write so that I can encourage people.

To be honest, I had the foundations of my faith started at my church I attended as a teenager, but it was not until the Coronavirus pandemic that my faith began to flourish. It took 20 plus years of me discovering who I was as a person before I could fully embrace who I am in the eyes of the Lord.

As we continue to float down the river, we are going to meet the two men who would help with the laying of the foundation of my faith. I’m proud to call them my father figures. Without either of them, I believe I would have hit even more rapids and would have fallen off my raft and drowned in the human existence of life. My relationship with God would have floated even further away from me.

To be continued . . .