January 7, 2007
Good morning! As Pastor Terry said, he invited me to share my testimony. I was delighted!
My family grew up Catholic - the kind that went to church on the major holidays because we were supposed to. Then my dad left us. Back then, twenty plus years ago, you couldn’t be divorced and Catholic, at least at the church we went to. My mom started bringing us to a Vineyard church which was really different, but felt alive. I loved the praise music and connected to God through it. To this day, I still connect best to God through music. I committed my life to Jesus and was baptized. However, no one ever told me or I didn’t understand that I needed to do anything to foster my relationship with Christ.
During this time, I basically raised my younger brothers who were about the same age as my boys now. My mom was a nurse and most of the time worked 3-11 and 11-7 and slept while we were in school. After a couple of years, my youngest brother would slip at times and call me mom. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I went to visit my dad for the summer in Florida. I stayed. I had no clue how to have healthy relationships and was angry about any number of things. I desperately desired to feel loved and wanted, but didn’t. I learned to depend only on myself because I couldn’t trust that anyone else would be there. Some times were worse than others, like when I just didn’t go to school for three weeks. I just couldn’t deal with anything. I ended up failing for the semester because I missed too many days unexcused.
Then my dad left again. He and his girlfriend moved to Tennessee and I was not invited. I moved in with my grandparents so I wouldn’t have to change schools again. Three weeks later my grandmother died. My uncle (my mom’s brother) called to see how I was and invited me to live with him and his wife in Georgia. I didn’t know what to do and told him I needed to think about it. He told me to take all the time I needed and that he would be down to pick me up tomorrow.
Living with my uncle was so hard. I had never had rules before. I never had anyone actually care about what I did or wanted to do. I was grounded for a month the first week I got there. They showed me consistency and structure - something that I really never had and was just not used to. I graduated with a full scholarship for nursing. I decided before I started college, I wanted to visit my brothers. I hadn’t seen them in three years and had barely spoken with them or my mom except on holidays and birthdays. I came to visit and fell right back into playing mom. My mom was working an hour away from the house and long hours. She was gone more than she was home. I stayed. I couldn’t leave my brothers to care for themselves.
After about six months, I had reached my limit again. I ended up moving in with Bryan. This was the start of what I call my stupid years. I realize now that I was constantly searching for a true relationship. I just didn’t know how or maybe even want to look in the right places. It was easier to do what I needed to do to survive, what I knew, and was better than getting hurt. My relationship with Bryan was not a healthy relationship by any means, but it was better there than home. At least I could cling to the illusion that he cared for me. More than a year later, I realized that I was in an unhealthy relationship, with no real option of getting out of it. I’m not actually sure I wanted to, I wanted the illusion.
Around this time, I went to lunch with my brothers and my mom. My mom sent the boys to another table and we had our first real conversation ever. She shared some of her story with me and I saw so much of myself in it. She invited me to come to family week at the Christian camp she was working at for the summer. I ended up going and it changed my life. I spent the entire week hanging out with the camp counselors who were my age. I never knew there was more to being a Christian than just believing. I never knew there were people who actually lived out their faith. It was exciting and scary. Towards the end of the week, at one of our campfires, we were to pray for the person to our right. Annie, I don’t remember her last name, prayed for me. She prayed so specifically for me and the issues I was dealing with. I felt as though Jesus was speaking directly to me. The things she said, she could not have known.
I recommitted my life to Christ, sent Bryan home to his mom, and spent the next two summers working at this camp as a counselor. It was wonderful to be around people who lived their faith. Then I went off to Kutztown and fell right back into my old behaviors - more of my stupid years. I had spent the last two years being fed by others, not feeding myself. I lost my fellowship and support and ended up losing my relationship with Christ. I again had missed the point of being in relationship with Him.
I spent lots of time at the bars in Kutztown. It was a way for me to be in relationship with people without any commitment. My relationships were never deep enough for me to get hurt. Everyone was at arms length. Then I met Andy, a Christian. In time, I had found someone who loved me unconditionally. I had never had that. We talked about our faith and beliefs, but I still did a fairly poor job of living these out. Andy and I got married. We looked for a church, but couldn’t seem to find one. We come from very different backgrounds which made it more difficult. I really think it came down to the fact that I believed that I could be a healthy Christian and not be in community. I don’t know what I was thinking!
Then we had Josh. We still had not found a church, but looked more intentionally because I wanted Josh to have what I didn’t. Then when I was pregnant with Zach, we were brought to Grantham. I say “brought” because we couldn’t have found this church on our own. We were living in Dauphin and I found out we were pregnant with Zach. We told our landlord who told us to find other housing. We couldn’t have two kids there. The first place we called about was the parsonage for the Redland BIC church, although it wasn’t advertised as such. We moved in and tried out the church there. It wasn’t for us. Then a friend of Andy’s from work invited us to come here. I worked a lot of Sundays when I was with Red Robin. So Andy and Josh came a couple of times without me. They loved it. All I kept praying was please let it be a good church. Obviously it is!
Not long after I started coming, I saw an ad for the Office Manager position. I jokingly said to Andy, “I could do that.” We both laughed. I’m not really an office person. However, I had started listening to Christian music again and every time I got in the car I kept hearing this song “Come Unto Me” by Nicole C. Mullin. It’s based on the text in Matthew 11:28-30 which says “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” I, of course, tried to ignore Jesus’ call, but every time I saw the ad I felt as though God was beating me over the head saying, “Are you going to choose to not listen again?” After about 2 ? months, I finally called and submitted my resume. I wasn’t sure I wanted the job, I really liked working at Red Robin, but I knew I needed rest. I knew I needed to put Jesus first in my life.
Well, as you know, I’m on staff, because Terry hired me. It has been amazing to be here at Grantham to have a community that desires you to grow and loves you through it, a community that not only supports you, but teaches you how to grow closer to Christ. My job has changed a lot since I started. Not quite a year after being on staff, I started getting restless. I felt Jesus was asking more of me. Since I hadn’t attended a Christian college, I felt I needed to gain more biblical knowledge. I started seminary and have two part-time years in. However, I needed to take a leave for now. It was just too much for my family. By the end of the summer, I was getting restless again.
I took the spiritual gifts class that Pauline offered. My spiritual gifts were what I expected, but what I didn’t anticipate was looking at my passions. I realized that my passion was working with youth and young adults which I was not doing. I prayed about what I should be doing. In the end, I felt that I had to start something with young adults here at Grantham. God continues to push and mold me. I continue to learn to listen. Because of His grace and this church’s support, I know have the privilege of working with young adults which is so exciting to me.
I now know that there is much more to being a Christian than just believing. It takes work and commitment just like any other healthy relationship. It also takes community. I look at my life and how long it took me to understand that God loves me unconditionally. I look at how He saved me from myself over and over again. Now that I get His love, I can’t do anything but share it. I would never wish my life on my children, but I wouldn’t change my life. I look at what He has done for me and think, “How can anyone think there isn’t a God?” So, I love sharing my testimony and looking back on the past because, for me, it exudes what God’s grace is all about. Thank you all for allowing me to share my life with you.