Thursday, July 2, 2015

Coffee Break: My Story

Let's try something new.

Some of the best conversations happen over coffee. There is something about a good cup of coffee that brings people together. Add God's Word to the mix and it's the perfect time to have real, honest conversations.

There isn't a coffee shop in town, the kids are napping and I'm a firm believer in the "never wake a sleeping baby" rule so a blog-style coffee date will have to do.

To start off this new coffee break concept, I want to share my story with you. Social media and the internet tend to paint a perfect, "got-it-all-together" kind of picture and I want to share the real, very imperfect me. Being vulnerable and sharing my imperfections is scary, but if I can somehow help or encourage someone else through this, it's well worth the awkwardness.

This is the story - my testimony - of my many mistakes and God drawing me to Himself through grace, mercy and love.
I will give thanks to You, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all Your wonderful deeds. Psalm 9:1

I grew up on a small farm just outside a small town. I believed in God from the beginning and would say a quick prayer before bed each night.

I went to Sunday School most Sundays because my parents made me and church on occasion - at least on Christmas and Easter.

If you would have asked me if I was going to Heaven, my answer would have been something like, "I hope so?" I mean, I seemed like a good person and all. Wasn't that enough?

Though I was doing all the "right things" I was missing the most important part: I didn't have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Actually, I didn't know what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus. I had a Bible sitting in my bedroom but had never read it for myself. And I didn't realize that being a "good person" wasn't my ticket to Heaven.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
After the Sunday School years, I went through the confirmation classes and quit attending church after I was confirmed. In my mind, I had no reason to continue going.

I had the head knowledge, but my heart wasn't there.
I could recite the books of the Bible. Check.
Memorized the Lord's prayer and Apostle's Creed. Check.
I had a Bible with my name printed on the outside. Check.

I had no idea who the Holy Spirit was. In church, He was referred to as the "Holy Ghost" which really creeped me out! I didn't understand that Jesus Christ could transform my soul. My heart was hard and bitter but He could fix it all.

I kept up the "good kid" act for the remainder of my high school years and cut loose after graduation.

Bad decision after bad decision, I lived life doing whatever I felt like - trying to push the limits and find whatever it was I was looking for. I knew something was missing in my life but I couldn't figure out what it was.

For the next four years of my life, I chose to run in the opposite direction of God, looking for something to fill that emptiness in my heart. I looked to partying, ungodly relationships, my grades and athletic achievements. Nothing could fill the void in my heart. As for the convictions I had, I chose to ignore them, hardening my heart even further.

Eventually I hit a wall. A bad breakup and relational drama from the past led me to my breaking point. Lying on my dorm room floor in tears, I didn't know what else to do besides ask God to help me get out of this mess I had made.

After a good while of sobbing on the floor, I felt a peace that I hadn't experienced before, though my troubles were far from over. Over the course of the next year, God continued to draw me towards Him and started picking away at the sin in my life.

The Newsboys were playing on campus so I went to the concert with my tennis teammate. I had no idea they were a Christian band!

During the concert, they passed around "next step" cards where you could request prayer, get involved with campus ministries, etc. I checked the "I want to re-dedicate my life to Jesus" box because it seemed like the easiest option... and, well, wasn't I already dedicated to Jesus? I mean, I was baptized as a baby and all.

Little did I know, God had big plans for transforming my life.

That summer I had the desire to learn more about God and what it meant to have a relationship with Him. My brother borrowed me <affiliate link>The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren and I started working through it by myself.

I would read the book in the morning, go to work for the day and go out to the bar with my friends at night. Despite continuing to party, the hunger for God was growing inside me as I worked through that book. It convicted me of the way I was living and explained the importance of going to church for spiritual growth and accountability. For the first time, I was reading the Bible and jotting down verses in my journal.

I knew I needed Christian fellowship but I was scared to set out to find it.

Fast-forward to a few months later and I was moving away for my first job after graduating from college. Though I was in relationship with an atheist, I continued to chase after God in my alone time.

Lonely in my new hometown, I had the perfect opportunity to find that Christian fellowship I so badly needed. I started checking out area churches on my own, which was really intimidating. Soon I started attending a women's Bible study. That was a big step of faith for me, as it was my first Bible study!

As God continued to work in my heart, I knew I needed to end the relationship I was in. Soon after, I started attending church regularly. They made me feel like I was a part of the family right away.

I continued to attend whatever church events were going on. I couldn't get enough of this Christian community! Through the sermons and Bible study group, I was learning how to read God's Word and apply it to my life. The Scriptures that seemed so boring and confusing as a kid were making sense. A passion for God and His Word started to grow in my heart.

On July 3, 2011, I publicly proclaimed my faith in Jesus Christ and was baptized. That was just the beginning.
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38
Four years later, God is still changing my heart and shaping me. Faith is work in progress. God has blessed me with a wonderful, godly husband and two handsome little boys. He is using marriage and motherhood to sanctify me daily, that is for sure!

Sometimes I cringe when I think of how lost I was for the first 23 years of my life - how much time I wasted. But as I write this all out, I can see all the grace God has poured out on me through my past and continues to daily. I can't help but smile.

My heart was so bad, so hard and bitter, yet God is so good. He didn't give up on me though I tried my best to run in the opposite direction for so long. When I first surrendered my life to Christ, my prayer was for Jesus to soften my heart and to break my heart for those who don't know Him (Ezekiel 36:26).
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26
When I think back on my faith journey so far, I pray that I can give hope to those who are running away from God right now. There isn't one person who is "too bad" for God to save. No one is hopeless.

The lie is that you need to get your life cleaned up before going to church and having a relationship with Jesus. That is so far from the truth. Life transformation starts with Jesus.  Jesus took me as the mess I was, He cleaned up my life and brought me into a personal relationship with God. 
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
I am 28 now but, the way I see it, my life truly began four years ago.

Linking up with Fitness Friday, Mommy Moments and the Fit Dish with Jessica and Jill. #dishthefit

12 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your testimony.

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  2. I also started my journey with God a few years ago. Although I grew up catholic, I never had a personal relationship with Jesus.
    I enjoyed reading your story. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. That is awesome, Cyndi! Isn't it awesome finally finding that freedom in Christ?! Thank you for stopping by :)

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  3. Thanks so much for the great writing. Coming from the linky.

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    1. You're welcome, Tess - thank you for stopping by!

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  4. Thank you Amy for sharing your story. I'm sure you've inspired others to do the same.

    Have a wonderful weekend friend. xoxo

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  5. thank you for sharing your story, it is awesome! I met my husband in a 40 days of Purpose bible study group. God works in mysterious ways when you let him in!!

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    1. He sure does, MB! That is so cool that your husband and you met at Bible study :) My husband and I met while getting coffee and the church where I was baptized. God does plan everything perfectly!

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  6. I loved reading this post last week & forgot to comment on it (middle of the night BFing doesn't make my brain work on full speed)! It's amazing what God can do with our hearts, isn't it? I have a similar faith journey, which is another reason why we click so well! I have loved getting to know you through email, blogging & social media. God puts people in your path at just the right time. I hope to meet you in person at a conference one day!

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    1. Wow, I love that we have a similar faith journey along with so much else in common, Elizabeth! I am thankful to have met you (electronically) and I do hope we can run into each other in person some time :) Our little ones are so close in age, I think they would have fun together as well!

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