The Rebel in Me – Part 2

I normally don’t write on my blog daily. I figure we’re all busy humans and have plenty to read on a daily basis without adding another thing in the mix. However, I felt very compelled to share this today. Maybe I just need to get it out there or maybe someone really needs to know how I struggle and how I have learned and continue to learn to walk through the process of a struggling rebel.

Picking up on the topic of rebellion from yesterday’s blog, Read Here I hope it leads you into an understanding that I struggle. It’s hard for me to make wise decisions, at times, because I want to go against the grain.

The reality is that for so many I years, I did just that. I most often did the exact opposite of what my parents wanted me to do. It took me down some very shameful and destructive roads. Roads that I am not.proud of and sometimes cringe when I have to admit, ”Yes, I did that.”

The truth is, for those who knew me then, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Airing dirty laundry here is neither necessary or fitting. However, if you’re an inquiring mind, make your own assumptions chances are you’ll be right. Even if you’re not, its probably something I thought about doing. Just keeping it real. However, don’t ever think I’ve forgotten who I was or what I did. I have NOT. Again, these are the things things that God has used and continues to use to mold me and shape me into who I am!

Obviously, I don’t sit and dwell on the past and ”what ifs”. I can’t. Life is about moving forward. It’s about pushing through the pain of our past and seeing what a glorious future we have to look forward to.

This life.is temporary and will.be full of.hurt.and pain. We.must look beyond.the now and see.the glorious hope.of Heaven.

However, there are times my past still comes face to face with raw pain. When those things come to mind, I no longer run away from them. I no longer stuff them away and tidy them up the box. Although, my rebel self.wants.desparately to do this! The truth is, when raw pain is there, I need to go in search of the root cause. There is a reason it remains raw. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t like pain when its raw. I want it to go away.

Here’s how I’ve learned to cope when that pain of my past wants to haunt me or stop me in my tracks or make me feel shameful.

First of all, I pray and ask God if there’s something in me that still needs to he healed. Is there an area of my heart that still has unresolved hurt and pain? Why do I go to God first?

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:13-16‬ ‭MSG‬‬

I figure since He knows me best, He my best resource. The main issue is that sometimes the rebel in.me kicks back, like Romney, and I don’t really want to hear what He has to say. Or the rebel part of me doesn’t want to be broken down to be made whole. You see the fight I have with this spirit of rebellion? It’s real and it’s an ongoing fight.

Sometimes, I use the resources of godly and wise friends to help.me navigate through getting to.the root of my pain. There is nothing more beautiful than having people you can be real with. You know the ones who aren’t afraid of your mess but they’re not afraid to tell you when you’re wrong. They aren’t there to.judge or glean information to share about you with the next person. They’re there because they want to see you break-free and be whole again.

Other times, I must.go and seek the counsel of.a Pastor or.other biblically trained professional. I need the Truth of Gods word.pouring into me. The reality is that its only the Truth that will set me free.

And ye shall know.the.truth and the truth shall.make you free. John 8:32 KJV

When I am aware of the root of.my pain, I can then apply the Truth of Gods word to my hurt and pain. Once the hurt and pain has been appropriately dealt with and the root.has been discovered. The Truth of Gods word then acts a soothing balm of.healing. Also, when dealt with appropriately, it rarely effects me again. I’ve taken care of the ”real” issue. I haven’t given it a bandaid fix.

A bandaid may stop the bleeding and cover the wound, but a bandaid will never cure the wound.

Sometimes, this whole process is daunting. So much so, that I want to give up and give in and just.go back to being my rebel self. Then the Truth floods my soul and I am reminded of ALL that God has brought me through. I see his mighty works and I marvel that in spite of who I am, He loves me! He died for me! (John 3:16) He calls.me the ”apple of his eye”.(Psalm 17:8) He sings over me. (Zeph 3:17)

A Glorious Day

As I sit waiting for the dryer to stop, my mind has drifted into another time and place. Well, technically the place is practically the same and maybe that’s why my mind has escaped the reality of the present and drifted into the past.

I remember vividly as if it happened yesterday, and yet it was at least 15 years ago, possibly more. I know for certain I journaled it. I’m just not certain where that journal is right now, but when I find it, I’ll post it

It began like all mornings. Terry and I up before the crack of dawn or the rooster’s crow. In order to get him off to work by 6:30 am and get the 4 kids up and ready and out to door by 7:15 Besides being a necessity to rise early, some days those few stolen moments were the quietest of my day. I treasured them. I longed for them. I needed them.

For weeks leading up to this day, I had been struggling with the kids ns their attitudes. One thing to note, I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth mentioning again. I do not have compliant, non-opinionated, willfully obedient children. They all have strong personalities. I remember journaling about the difficulty I was having with discipline. I felt as though one or all four head-butted everything I asked them to do. Most times, they would concede because I was far more stubborn and bull headed but not without a fight.

Anyway, this one particular morning. I was journaling and pouring my heart out to God. I was sitting in my room with tear-stained eyes because I just didn’t think I could handle it anymore.

As I’m wiping away the tears, I hear the creaks in the wooden staircase, indicating that someone was coming upstairs. As I pull myself together, Matthew peers into the doorway, ran into the room and bounces on my lap, in a single bound. Yep, like Super Matt. He wrapped his arms around me and looked out the bedroom window. He looks at me and glances back to the window exclaiming, ”My what a glorious day!” Turning my head, I peer through the window and saw it too. A magnificent sunrise beginning to spread across the dark sky.

Yes, indeed a glorious day unfolding before me, I just needed the eyes of my child to remind me.

As I continue to ponder that day, I am reminded of how many times I cried out to God and He brought me peace and joy and reminders of his goodness through the lives of my children.

Do you know when we cry out to God in earnest plea, He turns his ear, and hears and answers the deepest cry of our heart?

In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me, turn your ear to me and save me. Psalm 71:2

The key to this verse is recognizing the righteousness of God and believing that He alone has the power to rescue, deliver and save. Oh friend, don’t keep drowning in your sorrow. Cry out to Him. He will gladly come to your rescue, maybe in the form of a child.

Fascinated by the Sky

I have a fantastic fixation, likely an obsession, with the sky, clouds, sunrises, and sunsets. Truly sometimes I find myself just driving around to catch the last glimmer of daylight in the sky. I also love to watch and observe shapes the clouds form in the sky. I have seen a host of things from angles to horses and even a white puff of fluff that looked like my dog. Heck, I even have Terry seeing things in the clouds now.

I don’t know what precisely what fuels my obsession-compulsion; however, when I gaze at the sky I find myself encapsulated with its beauty and I say, ”Wow, God. You made this for me!”

The first mention of clouds is when God set the rainbow in the sky and promised to remember His covenant and not destroy all life again. ”I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. ”I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” Genesis 9:13-15 (NIV)

Again clouds are mentioned during the time of Moses and the Israelites,
”By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light so that they could travel by day or night.” Exodus 13:21. The cloud of the Lord was their protection. When the cloud stopped, they stopped. It served as their protection. In the same way, God used the fire by night to guide them. This way they weren’t limited to the times they could travel.

But quite possibly my favorite verse pertaining to clouds is the following

It is such a great reminder to me that one day God will right all the wrongs. He will not leave the guilty unpunished but He will be patient and give everyone time to change their hearts and minds. This isn’t a weakness. There is greatness in His power to be long-suffering. He will bring reconciliation and restoration when true repentance is sought. His methods are not ours but when wrath comes it will be swift and quick. He doesn’t play. He’s not giving idle threats. And the Pulpit Commentary says the following, ”The clouds are the dust of his feet, Large and grand as the clouds look to us, they are to God but as the dust raised by the feet in walking. As an illustration of this statement (though, of course, the fact was utterly unknown to Nahum), it has been remarked that recent scientific discovery asserts that clouds owe their beauty, and even their very existence, to the presence of dust particles in the atmosphere. The aqueous vapor, it is said, condenses on these particles, and thus becomes visible.

Maybe in writing about my fascination, I am discovering that in looking upward, I stand more in awe of Him and I am more fixated on where I am going and not where I am.

Coffee Talk

Before I continue writing our story, I need to let you know that our lives are not peaches and cream. There is absolutely, and I mean absolutely, no way for two highly opinionated, stubborn people to not have issues.  Just ain’t gonna happen.  I promise.

I can’t even pinpoint the exact time it happened but our children were all still home and in school.  Guessing, I’d say probably around 15 years ago.  I just know it began when all of our children would at least stay in bed until 7:30am on Saturday mornings.  We were early risers and found ourselves enjoying conversation and coffee.  Hence, began what we commonly refer to as “coffee talk”.

During our coffee talk, we spend time talking about everything.  We don’t hold anything back. Most of our conversations, especially early on, centered around our children and their friends.  We would discuss potential issues we saw in our children and especially behavioral changes we saw with certain friends.

We would also talk about things we liked and disliked about each other.  Things that bothered us or behviors or attitudes that we didn’t like.  We did.  Honestly, we still do. We are just not afraid to share how we feel.

There have been times over the past 24 years when there have been times that I’ve just wanted to walk and so has he. These are the times we’ve had to be painfully honest with each other. These are the times where we’ve had to be raw with each other and not hold anything back.

Both of us have always been aware that we are one choice away from being unfaithful. We know how easily we could get sucked into the idea that ”the pasture is greener on the other side” However, from our previous experiences, we also know the pain of unfaithfulness and committed, early on, to fight hard and remain faithful.

If you think it’s been easy for us, think again. We began our lives together with the ready-made family. Two young whippersnappers, ages 3 & 5, are not an ideal way to begin a union. We were and are still determined. And I believe that’s what has made the biggest difference.

We know the value communication.

If you’re in any relationship right now and you’re not honestly and openly communicating with each other; I encourage you to start your own version of ”coffee talk”. It’s amazing how much it will change your lives.

Think about it like this:

Maxwell house: Good to the last drop

Folger’s: The best part of waking up

Starbucks Doubleshot: Bring on the day

I Thought We’d Have More Time

All week long, we’ve been warned about the infamous Diego aka Snowmageddon 2018. The name was given to the winter storm that has pummeled the south this weekend. We were prepared. We have plenty of non-perishable food and bottled water. We had enough bread, milk, and eggs on hand but like Terry says, “If the power goes out, bread is the only thing that will keep, unless you have a generator.”

We sold our generator before we moved. Did we think we wouldn’t need one? Not necessarily, we simply don’t have room to store one and we’ve braved many power outages without a generator before. Besides, our new hike is highly enemy efficient and we have a gas log fireplace. We also have a gas grill and can cook on it, if needed.

The snow in our sleepy little town of Landrum didn’t start until around 5:30 pm yesterday. Considering the favorable temperatures, sticking began almost immediately.The picture was taken about an hour after the snow began

In fact, the snow was so quiet and beautiful it was like going outside and standing in the middle of a snow globe. A little after 11:00 pm, this is how it looked,

After watching the Christmas Chronicles on Netflix, which is a must see, we opted to watch one of our faves, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. We both fell asleep in our recliners before the movie ended, that’s what happens when you get older. We are awakened by the startling noise on Terry’s phone telling us our power was out. Evidently, it went out around 1:00 am and Duke Energy sent us an alert. As we sleepily trudged toward the bedroom with the flashlight in hand, Terry exclaimed, “Well dang, I thought we’d have more time before the power went out”.

When we got up both of us were dreading the fact we couldn’t make coffee. We didn’t care about the heat. We knew our gas logs would be effective. We just don’t function well without coffee. We are definitely coffee lovers.

Finally, around 1:00, we ventured out. The roads were horrific; however, we were able to get to the local gas station, which had power, and get coffee. We came back home fully rejuvenated and caffeinated up.

We ventured out again around 3:00 because our local Pub was opened and we wanted some hot food and watch football.

Once back home, we pulled out all the candles and cranked up the gas logs. Then to our surprise, around 5:30 pm our power came back on. What a welcome surprise; but, we were prepared and not fretting another night without power.

As I think back over the events of the past 24 hours, I wonder how many of us think the same thing Terry did, ” I thought we’d have more time.”?

In the Bible, we are told we don’t know the time or day of Jesus’ return, but He is coming back. Are you ready? Have you prepared? Do it now because you don’t want that day to come and say, “Well dang, I thought we’d have more time.”

The High Level of His Confidence

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know December is a big month for our family. It begins with my birthday and ends with my oldest son, Ryan’s birthday. Sandwiched in the middle is our anniversary, .follwoed by Terry’s birthday and Christmas I know. I know. Why did we choose December, of all months, to get married?

Terry chose it and assumed I would go along with it. I did. Read here, However, a.few years ago I posted the following question ”You planned our wedding before you even asked me to marry you. Did it ever occur to you I might say no?”

He replied, ”Not really. ”

”If I hadn’t accepted your proposal, what would you have done?”

Without missing a beat, ”Well, I guess I would’ve gotten money back on the ring. I just didn’t have any doubts about your response”

This man is mine is so self-assured and self-confident In fact its one of his best attributes One of the many things I admire in him. His confidence is not a prideful confidence; rather an assuring certainty that he can do what he sets his mind on He doesn’t fear the risk a much as he fears not trying.

His confidence is also my confidence. He sees so much more potential in me than I see in myself. He doesn’t mind telling me. He’s a great and genuine source of encouragement to me.

The beauty of his confidence is that it comes with humility He isn’t afraid to admit when he’s wrong. He’s quick to say he’s sorry. But above all, he recognizes that his true strength and confidence comes from his Lord.

What I’ve learned over the past 24 years is that its okay to fail. It’s ok.to be told ”no” Its ok to back up and punt again. But it’s not okay to fear the unknown and not take a risk. The risk may just be your greatest reward

Straddling the Fence

Avoiding the inevitable, that’s what I do best. I would much prefer the easy over the hard any day! Truth be told, the majority of folks feel the same way. The reality is most things take work, hard work, failure after failure, disappointment after disappointment and heartbreak after heartbreak. If I’m being honest, I always shy away from these particular posts because they depict much of my humanness and pride gets in the way. I’ve really had to pull away and almost cocoon to be able to process through it all. I’m not saying I’ve got it all together now but I’m moving forward and pressing on. For me it’s an awakening, an awareness of who God really is and that He is with me no matter what. I don’t mind telling you the past few months have been some of the most difficult of my life. I have floundered around like a fish out of water.

My tendency is to call it “straddling the fence”. Do you know what happens when you straddle for too long? Your crouch hurts. It’s uncomfortable and you have no choice but to go one way or the other. You can’t stay that way.

Oh, sure, I can find excuses for my behavior and compromise my beliefs, little by little, but in the end excuses and compromise leave me feeling desperate and hopeless Truthfully, I may even manage to get both legs to one side but my behind is still sitting on that unyielding strip of wood or hard metal rail. So, what am I going to do about it?

The first thing is to thank God for my blessings every day. As I thank Him, I am reminded of this goodness and grace. I truly don’t deserve anything but He has given the gift of salvation and the hope of eternal life through Jesus. (John 3:16). So, if I can’t find any other reason to thank Him that is reason enough.

Next I can start each day by choosing to find joy. Even if I don’t feel like it, I can still choose it. I can allow the “joy of the Lord to be a my strength”. (Nehemiah 8:10) I can go to God with my whining and complaining and allow Him to remind me that He is my source of joy. David penned this perfectly in Psalm 23

The truth is I am on the fence because I want what I want and I need to get “me” out of the equation. The only way to get over me and my selfish desires is to put Him first in everything. Now, I know that’s much easier said than done. Trust me. I struggle daily but it’s about the journey. It’s learning to trust that His ways are more fantastic and audacious than mine.

The Curtain Will Fall

It’s the end of the show and the curtain falls. It rises again for the standing ovation, once, twice, perhaps more. Finally the applause wanes and its over. The finale. The end. The run is over. Done.

At first, cries and shouts of jubilee from the cast and production crew. Cheers. High Fives. Hugs galore. Then out of nowhere, there’s a sinking feeling deep in the pit of your stomach. You realize this moment is gone forever and it will never come again. At this moment you realize that you’ve been a part of something bigger than yourself and it was your choice. You’re glad you made the choice.

Four times over, I’ve watched as each of my children, in an eight year time span, chose to be part of their Senior Class play. This happens to be one of the oldest and most time-honored traditions of Hendersonville High School.

What makes this so special?

One, the play itself only involves the Senior Class. It’s not a drama club or class. The play is made up of any Senior who wants to participate. Also, lead roles aren’t necessarily given to those students with prior acting experience. In essence, it’s the closing act of the Senior class, their final “Hoorah!”, if you will. Participation isn’t required but highly recommended.

Also, during the long rehearsals and spending time with other members of the graduating class, friendships are born and some rekindled and there’s always the chance that love will blossom.

All of my children participated in their Senior play. Without fail, when the final curtain was drawn, not one of them regretted their decision to be a part. Even those who weren’t keen on the idea initially, would say, “I’m so glad I did this.”

This year Amy and I were sitting in the familiar balcony seats, awaiting the start of the show, and she looked at me and said, “Mom, has it really been two years since I did this?”

“Yes, it has. Time flies. Aren’t you proud to be able to say you were part of this time-honored tradition?” I asked

“Absolutely. ”

A few minutes later the curtain opened and the show began. A delightfully entertaining rendition of “The Wizard of Oz”. After a short intermission, the final act began and just like the previous 96 years, the final curtain closed and it was over. Done. Finished. Caput. The only ones receiving the satisfaction of a job well done are the ones who chose to participate.

And so it is with us, one day our curtain will fall. We will be history. Our bodies will fail. But when our curtain falls, where we spend eternity will be decided by our own choosing. We don’t have to believe in Jesus and the power of His resurrection. The choice is ours and if we miss out it’s our own fault. Because in the end, we have the satisfaction of knowing that we’ve been part of something much bigger than ourselves. We’ve been invited to be part of a glorious kingdom that will never end.

A loss of innocence

A “loss of innocence” is a common theme in fiction, pop culture, and realism. It is often seen as an integral part of coming of age. It is usually thought of as an experience or period in a child’s life that widens their awareness of evil, pain or suffering in the world around them.

I’m just going to go ahead and give you fair warning.  This whole subject makes me want to curl up and cry like a baby. Honestly, I have a time or two.

I’m not sure at what age I realized that my life wasn’t normal and did not look anything like others my age.  I think my awareness began long before it should have.  I know by the time I was four, I was keenly aware things were not like my peers.

By the time I was one, my mom discovered a hideous mole on my dads back.  She encouraged him to have it checked out.  He did and it was malignant.  Melanoma. They removed a large portion around the perimeter of the mole. The portion was so large, it looked like a crater to me.  My little hand fit in the crevice of the dug out space.

Getting clear margins and feeling hopeful, the doctor said, “All should be well if you see no signs within 2 years.”

Nearing the end of the 2 years, another spot appeared.  This time, the cancer had spread.  Chemo would be necessary.  Considering the year was 1972, the best facility for treatment was at Baptist Hospital (aka Wake Forest Medical Center) in Winston Salem, NC.

Thus the journey began.

An entire week, every month, my dad would go for treatment.  Sometimes we would go but not often.  My dads brothers were gracious enough to take turns driving him and picking him up.

In addition, my aunt and uncle who lived in Winston helped with his care as well.  Days turned into weeks and weeks into years.

His body was worn and beaten.  He allowed them to try new treatment drugs on him in hopes to help others, not himself. He knew his time was coming to an end and so did I.

I think my mom tried as best she could to keep life as normal as she could but let’s be real, how many 5-6 year olds do you know whose parent is on chemo and gone for a week every month?  I didn’t know any at the time.  Not one of my friends and I’m not even sure they knew or understand how different my life was than theirs.

I learned, even then, to pretend that I was tough and strong. I could be like the others. You know, “fake it till you make it”. All the while, the voices in my head were screaming, “You’re different, You’re not like them.”

Then it happened, during a routine eye exam in Kindergarten, my teacher discovered I was not seeing 20/20. She informed my Mom. Mom took me first to an optometrist who had no couth told me I needed glasses pronto.. In fact, he was such a nice guy, Mom and I both left the office in tears.

Fortunately, we were given another recommendation and that’s when we met Dr. Gleaton. Not only did he have a terrific personality and calming nature, he also explained the necessity of glasses. Unlike the previous bully, he told me I had a “lazy eye” and would need to wear a patch over my good eye to strengthen the lazy one. By the time we left his office, I felt good about having glasses. Until I actually wore them for the first time.

Oh, the sneers and jeers. The jabs. The taunts. The snickers. I sat on the bank with tears streaming for what seemed like hours. Day after day. It made me see how cruel this world can really be and I was just six.

Now the voices were louder and eviler than before. Not only did I feel different. I felt unattractive, unworthy and yes, even unloved.

Here I was a kindergartner with a dying father and now being made fun of because I had to wear glasses with a patch.

Want to know what I learned? It’s called stuffing. Yep, just hide what you really feel and pretend you don’t care, even if your heart is being ripped to shreds.

On one hand, my father was sick and dying. I saw the cruelty of the disease stripping away his energy and zest for life. I saw how the chemo weakened his strong body. I had no one I could talk to, no one who understood. I don’t even know if anyone had any idea how aware I was.

Then my friends basically turned their backs on me., except one. It was just plain hard being a six year old for me.

Do you know what that year at the tender age of six created? A little thing called insecurity, which actually isn’t so little at all. Insecurity has followed me most of my life. There have been times when I’ve felt less insecure than others; but it’s always there, lurking about, waiting to pounce like a lion.

I have these voices that tell me time and again:

  • You’re not good enough
  • You’ll never be pretty enough
  • You’ll never escape your past
  • You are not worthy

What I’ve learned over the past 26 years, is that these voices will come but they don’t linger very long. I have weapons to fight against them now. I have the voice of truth echoing in my ear:

  • You are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 3:20)
  • You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14
  • You are forgiven and free (John 3:16)
  • I paid a very high price for you and I say you are worthy (I Corinthians 6:20)

A loss of innocence at such a young age has always been a challenge for me. There was a point several years back when I heard or read something to the effect that it is important to grieve the loss of innocence when it’s been stripped from you. I’d never really contemplated the need to grieve over what was taken from me as a child; however, the more I thought about what was lost, the more I realized I needed to grieve. By taking time to grieve, it has given me some real insight to how this substantial loss has influenced and affected many areas of my life. A life that God is in the process of helping me break free

He always pursued me…..He still pursues me!

Before I go any further, God has impressed on my heart that I need to share with you what qualifies me to talk about Him, His goodness, His grace, His mercy, His love and His Son, Jesus. It’s nothing I have done. There’s really no good in me. It is what He has done for me and my heart being receptive to His invitation for abundant life, which is only found through belief in Jesus.

So, let’s start at the beginning. I grew up going to church. Probably from the time I was two weeks old, my parents took me to church. I grew up with flannel graphs. I loved the way teachers could display the story. I loved the visuals. It just made it real. I found it easy to memorize scripture, stories and songs.

When I was 9 and going to VBS all of my friends were going forward for baptism. I followed. I knew and answered all the questions about becoming a Christian appropriately. I even went through a six-week class to make sure that you were sure. I’d already adopted the idea of pretending to be something you’re not just to fit in. I couldn’t just sit the sidelines and watch my friends get baptized. I would be the black sheep. The only one who didn’t. Only I didn’t. I just pretended I did.

The sad reality was that I did know exactly how to become a Christian. I did know all the answers, all the scriptures, all the great stories. I had fantastic head knowledge. I just lacked the heart knowledge. God’s word had not penetrated or permeated my heart, only my head. There is a substantial difference. Head knowledge doesn’t lead to a clear sense of repentance. Head knowledge is still all about me wand what I want. Heart knowledge changes you from the inside out. It convicts and draws us out of our sinfulness and into the abundant life Jesus has for us. John 10:10 tells us, “The thief (devil) comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I Jesus) come that they may have life, and have it to the full”.

At nine years of age, I was baptized but I was not saved. I knew I wasn’t saved because I saw how my other friends, and even my sister had life changing experiences. I saw how their behaviors changed. I was the same. Nothing changed, if anything I was more bitter and angry, not less.

I plodded on through elementary school, junior high and high school without ever allowing the love of Jesus to change my heart. On the outside, smiles and laughter abounded. On the inside was constant turmoil and poor choices. Poor choices that lead me down some very dark highways in life. Choices that still haunt and taunt me today, when I allow my mind to wander and the evil one to remind me of my past.

All the while God pursued me. He sent special people into my life to lead, guide and direct me. While these people knew I was flailing, they didn’t grow weary of telling me how much Jesus loved me. In fact, it was more their actions towards me than their words. I still wouldn’t bend or break. My heart was hard. It was stone cold. I liked it that way. I didn’t have to feel hurt or at least pretend it didn’t exist. Oh, I could talk the talk but I didn’t walk the walk.

Heck, I even convinced, we’ll maybe not, Ned that I had prayed diligently over my decision to get married at 19 1/2 years old. He seemed satisfied with my reply but he still didn’t agree with my decision. While the decision itself, as I have told you before, was more because I was in love with the idea of marriage more than I loved the person I married. I had lofty notions or what marriage would be….oh boy, was I ever shocked! But God used this decision magnificently to pursue my heart and bring me into a right relationship with Him.

It mostly began once we moved to Bremerton, Washington after a year of marriage. I was five months pregnant when we moved. So in addition to a major move in our first year of marriage by the year and a half mark, we would also be welcoming a new baby. For someone who doesn’t adapt well at change, change was being thrust on all sides. Not to mention the reason for our move was decommissioning of a submarine and a crazy, challenging work schedule for my husband at the time. It was 24 hours on 24 hours off.

Anyway, I discovered I was lonely and isolated because he didn’t want to live in base housing. So we lived in an apartment about 20 minutes away. I had to make my own way. The first Saturday I was there, he was working until Sunday evening and I decided I would go to church. I had rarely attended church while we were in Charleston. It just felt like the best thing for me to do. The only problem was I really didn’t know my way around. I got out a map and the phone book. It just so happened that the first church that piqued my interest happened to be within 10 miles of our house. I decided it best to know where I was going and how far away I was. Luckily, it only took about 12 minutes. As I rolled upon the little white church, it reminded be of the old country churches. Like the ones where if the walls could talk would tell you great stories of faith. The deep seeded faith. The kind of faith that moves you. I found myself excited for the next day.

For the first time, in as long as I could remember, I got up with an enthusiastic and optimistic attitude about going to this church. I don’t know what I was expecting, I just knew I was excited. Since I was going somewhere new by myself, I dared not get there too early. I walked in just a couple of minutes before the welcome and announcements. The place was filled with joy. I had never seen such joy on the faces of people. I couldn’t put my finger on it then but I know now, it was the joy of the Lord. As the praise team began, there she was, Sherra. I watched intently as she sang. Her voice clear and beautiful but there was more, her countenance. It wasn’t the fake or performance oriented smile, it was real and genuine. Sweet. Tender Her brown eyes glowed as she sang. I was captivated by her. She wasn’t the only one. I just knew that we were close in age and there was something about her that I wanted and I wanted to get to know.

After the service, she sought me out and introduced herself. I am not sure how long we talked that day but long enough to find we had a lot of common ground. She, too, was a military wife. Her husband was a Marine. We exchanged numbers and became fast friends.

I learned quickly the specialness of that little church was the joy that filled the hearts of the people. It was place where grace was given in abundance. A place where folks cared for the needs of others. A place of hope and freedom. It was there that God really began speaking to my hard heart. I allowed him to soften a few calluses. However, I wasn’t ready to make a full commitment. I still wanted to do my own thing, my own way. It was still more about me.

The ten months I spent in Bremerton were some of the best and worst of my entire life. That’s all I’m going to say about that for now.

We returned to North Carolina. He went to New York for ELT school, I stayed behind. My parents had started going to Hendersonville First Baptist Church. I started going with them. God continued to pursue my heart. I met couple after couple that inspired me. Again, I saw how joyful they were. How real and authentic they were. It was captivating.

In 1991, I found myself at a real crossroads, now I had two boys 21 months apart and my marriage was falling apart. Oddly, I was emotionally sound, except the occasional feelings of not being able to care for the boys. I was now living in Hendersonville and very involved at FBC. God was continuing to pursue my heart. Then, on that spring day in 1992, we had a guest Pastor, Mark Corts. He talked about how so often we get Christianity wrong. Often we actually are baptized before we ever really believe in Christ. He said, “Now is the time to get it right. Repent. Believe. Be baptized.

The invitation was offered. My heart beating out of my chest as I stepped forward but for once in my life I didn’t care what people thought. I knew that Jesus had changed my heart. He had pursued me. I wasn’t even worthy of the pursuit. Yet, He loved me and in that moment, that’s all that mattered. I’d spent 13 years doing it my way. It wasn’t working well for me.

I wish I could tell you that everything in my life changed and everything got better. It didn’t and that’s not reality. In fact, for a period of time, things got worse. My husband no longer wanted to be married. I was asked to leave the youth ministry until my divorce was finalized. I was misunderstood and abandoned by some friends. However, God was working in all these things. Did I question my decision? Sure. I question a lot of things. I just knew I wasn’t going back to what I was. I liked the new me better.

This story is important for me to tell you because I am never certain what God will ask me to share. What I need you to understand is that from brith until I was 22 years old, my life was my own. I did some vile things. I hurt people along the way. I was hurt along the way. So, as stories of my past are shared, I was not the same person I am now. That’s what’s really important for you to understand. Also, you need to know that I am not perfect and I still do things and have attitudes and actions that are not always pleasing to the Lord. And this is how I know my heart is changed because, I like when I was younger, my conscious bothers me and God’s love for me compels me to get rid of things that are not pleasing to Him.

The main reason I wanted to share this with you is because maybe you’re like me. Maybe you were baptized before you really gave your heart and life to Jesus. If so, get it right. Do it in order. It’s truly one of the most humbling and awesome decisions you’ll ever make.

In closing, I will leave you with the following quote from one of the wisest men I’ve known. He said this to me and his daughter, one of my dear friends, about a week before God called him home, “When it’s all about me, me is all I see.” Jim Lowry . Think about it. Most often “me” is the reason we can’t see the greatness and vastness of his love, nor can we see His relentless pursuit.