I have been working on revising and editing my book. Which has been a slow process. I hadn’t worked on it for the last 2 months. Today I began revising it. I had stopped at my faith journey. This is the revised version of my story.
I had shared the original version earlier. Here is the updated version.
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. We could have still attended the church I had attended for my first two years in Ohio, but God had other plans. In the new area where I lived was a church and as soon as I saw it, I announced to 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.
During the Christmas break after my husband and I had started dating, I was given the opportunity to talk about my teenage church.
I was handed an envelope.
“Who is this from?” I asked myself as I looked at the card with signature.
Instead, there was $500. No one confessed to who had given me the money because they wanted to remain anonymous.
The fall quarter 1997 was a difficult time in my life. I was a struggling college student with limited income. I had been working myself to the bone with both a full class load and working almost full time. I was given the envelope after I had talked about my dreams of completing my college degree and eventually becoming a teacher. Not one word came out of my mouth about my worries about not being able to pay for college. Even though I had limped away from a relationship with God, He saw my struggle and saw to it that I was given grace. However, there was still doubt that God really loved me a broken young adult.
My grandparents and I were estranged for almost 5 months during the summer into fall of 1997. We didn’t agree about many things which caused a divide. My life was rapidly changing. God knew I needed them in my life, so he used my future husband to help with us reunite.
In my early 20s, I didn’t seek God with my problems. He placed me on a long rope and allowed me to wander away from him. What I didn’t know was he was planting seeds in my life. When I became a Christian, he gave me the spiritual gift of a strong faith. He knew I was going to graduate with my bachelor’s degree in education and be the only one in my house that had a bachelor’s degree. He knew that I was going to become an Intervention Specialist and not the classroom teacher.
“. . . 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.”
Even though my faith in God and lack of a real relationship with him, I became a member of my future husband’s church. Soon afterwards, I stood up at the front of that church and married him. Thus, began the tradition of going to church almost every Sunday. This was his childhood church and my church for the next twelve years. Our sons began their spiritual journeys in that church.
To be honest, I was complacent with my relationship with God. Going to church became ritualistic and not built on building a relationship with HIM.
A political issue caused our church to crack. People we had called family turned their backs on us, because we weren’t on the same side of the political issue. Eleven years later, they still won’t talk to us if they see us in public.
On a nippy March evening in a clubhouse of a golf course, we became part of a group of people gathering to form a new church. A leap of faith as we change courses with our church. Those people on that night had the faith of a mustard seed. Almost eleven years later, my family still attends the church.
My grandparents died in 2003 and 2008. My faith was not shaken during that time. However, the last ten years have seen some challenges that have rocked my faith. My faith that had been complacent for so many years. I have stumbled over the rocks and thorny plants that have taken over my road of life. No matter what, God was by my side picking me up whenever I stumbled or fell. He never forsaken or forgotten me.
The two biggest rocks in my path were the deaths of my sister in 2016 and then my mom in 2019. I could have gotten off course when I began to doubt God and why he would take away an almost 39-year-old. She still had so much life to live and now she was gone. It has been something I’ve struggled with for the last 4.5 years. The only positive part of her death was the relationship I was able to develop with my mom during her last 3 years of life. I brought her back to Christ. She enjoyed helping others and was able to do that at the church.
Right before she died, we took a class about spiritual gifts. I discovered I have 2 gifts. Unwavering faith and exhortation or spiritual encouragement. As I doubt my purpose in life and why I was able to survive my childhood and outlive my father, mom, and sister, I have to remember God has never forsaken me. He wants me to use my story to encourage others.
The foundations of my faith began in the church I attended as a teenager. However, it was not until the Coronavirus pandemic that my faith began to flourish. God picked up the broken pieces of my faith and began to rebuild it much stronger. I had 20 plus years of self-discovery before I could fully embrace how God sees me. He started to pull the rope, so I could come back to him.
On a Thursday morning in late February 2021, God took that moment to say look towards me. Tears were flowing down my face as I listened to a worship song “Graves to Gardens.” God had finally broken through my heart and whispered, “Now, let’s build this relationship.”
When you have a relationship with God, the church is meant for you to worship and praise the Lord for all he has done in your life. However, you need to begin a real relationship with him. Church helps you get there, but it needs to be a personal journey.