I want to share with you where my life began, leading up to this point with me sitting in a coffee shop in a small town, typing on my laptop. It all starts with my faith journey: the moments leading up to accepting my relationship with Christ and all the moments after.
You see, I was raised in a Christian home in San Bernardino, California and was familiar with the routine of waking up every Sunday morning and going to church. I would sit through our church service for what seemed like an eternity, until kids were dismissed for “children’s church.” I would always make it a point to sneak by the table of coffee and doughnuts to grab a doughnut or two.
I went through the same process week after week, until one day I had a discussion with my parents. We talked about the Gospel and I already knew what it was. After all, I was raised in church. The Gospel was nothing I hadn’t heard before and I knew what it was inside and out. My parents were confident that I understood it enough to be baptized and before I knew it, I was standing before my pastor. I told him the Gospel and that I understood the meaning of it. After “evaluating” me, he told my parents that I was in the ideal position to be baptized. So in July 2005, at the age of 7 year and 10 months my dad baptized me in our friend’s pool in front of my entire church congregation.
Looking back, the experience with my dad baptizing me, surrounded by people I love was so special. I even recently found a video of 7 year old me making a proclamation of faith. Everything seemed to be going well and then my parents sat me down and announced that we were moving over 2,000 miles away to Illinois.
My parents moved my brother and I to a small town in the Chicagoland suburbs because my dad was given the business opportunity to manage an opening restaurant nearby. It was a hard transition from leaving everything I knew to something completely unknown. It was during this time that I started going to public school (which was a totally different environment from a private Christian school) and going to a new church with my family.
I was involved with AWANAs and would invite the few friends I had at school to come play games and memorize verses for candy for Wednesday night. They came, but slowly as the weeks went on, they stopped coming. I became discouraged and shy, I didn’t want to be as open with my faith as I was before.
This state of being for me lasted until I decided to go with my church’s youth group to a summer camp for the week. I was in a place where I didn’t have many close friends. (Sure, I had a best friend Lauren. We had been best friends since we were eight. We met after my mom decided to take me out of public school and homeschool me. But she wasn’t at this summer camp and I felt a little lost.)
A speaker at the camp was giving a sermon on the last night of camp. He started talking of life and death, eternal life and hell. It was a lot of deep stuff to take in as a twelve year old. Then, after he spoke on everything in his sermon, he shared the Gospel. Yes, yes I know…I had heard the Gospel hundreds of times. I knew what the Gospel was like the back of my hand, but this time was different. It was like the switch in my heart and mind was flipped. A light bulb went off and I finally, truly understood what it meant to be a follower of Christ.
Christianity for the longest time was just something I was raised to know, something I was “born in to.” But now, I finally understood that I had to make this faith, the same faith my parents had as my own. That night I chose to follow Christ and accept him as my personal Savior. I was overcome with what I now know to be the Holy Spirit. I cried uncontrollably, to know that I was a child of God and that he LOVED and ACCEPTED ME.
“Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”” Romans 10:9-13
My life didn’t become perfect overnight, but my life was changed. I started choosing Jesus more and more. I strove to know him more through his Word and fellowship with other followers of Christ.
Yes, I did struggle. Through most of high school and part of college, I struggled with depression and anxiety. I struggled with a pornography addiction and with body insecurity.
Even through the shame and hopelessness I felt during that time, the Lord was so good and sweet to remind me who I truly am in his eyes. He called me his treasure, his daughter, his chosen one. He is teaching me to see the truth behind the lies and how to overcome the insecurities that I feel with confidence.
These are still things I am continuing to learn…
The Lord called me out of some dark places and even flipped my entire life plans upside-down. You see, I have been in college since I was sixteen. I started at a community college for two years before moving on to Elmhurst College. There, my plan was to be accepted into the pre-vet program and to major in Biology. I had it all planned out.
BUT GOD…(Do you see a theme here?)
“If you ever want to make God laugh, tell him your plans for you life.” –A Wise Person
I had become involved with Cru when I first started at Elmhurst because I didn’t want to become one of the many college students who fell away from their faith because they didn’t have a Christian community. There my faith grew tenfold, I learned what it meant to disciple and how important it was for me to share my faith with the students on my campus.
Jesus had raised the bar for my spiritual growth and I was loving it. I started discipling a freshman girl and would go out “sharing” with people each week. I was involved with going on Cru retreats, bible studies, and prayer sessions.
However, while I was thriving in the community I was involved in, I was failing in my academics. I was taking a majority of heavy math and science classes and I couldn’t keep up. In hopes of saving my GPA and sanity, I dropped a class and switched my major from Biology to English.
Then, God did something surprising. He put it on my heart to join ministry. I had fallen in love with reaching out to college students. I fell in love with pouring into them and meeting them where they were at spiritually, emotionally, mentally.
I made the decision to remain faithful to the call and pursue college ministry. By the end of my first semester at Elmhurst, everything had changed.
I was challenged through this period of transition. My dad had lost his job at the beginning of semester, leaving me to wonder how I would pay for school. I struggled juggling school, work, my community and my social life. I struggled to be a good friend/roommate while also maintaining boundaries.
By the time spring semester rolled around at Elmhurst, I was beat. I had to deal with some hard things, but nothing could prepare me for what was to come ahead.
Even with the things that happened before and after spring semester, my faith only grew. Yes, I still struggled as we all do through trials, but I never doubted God. I never doubted that he was there or what he was doing is still good. Even if you feel this way, that’s okay. God is near to the brokenhearted and he is ready to walk you through whatever place you are at in your faith.
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
Spring semester was not terribly hard academically, like it had been last semester. It was hard in terms of spiritually, emotionally and mentally. I was rooming with my three close Christian friends in a house off campus. We were all involved with Cru and all loved the Lord. However, my one roommate struggles with many mental health issues. She struggled with depression and anxiety, and we later learned that semester that she struggles from Borderline Personality Disorder. It became very difficult on all of us as she would go through episodes with her medication fluctuating. She experienced self-harm and suicidal urges.
I found myself having to help her bandage her arms after she would self-harm. A few times, we had to rush her to the hospital because she wasn’t “safe” with herself and she would have to be admitted into a psychiatric facility.
All the while, the three of us dealt with out own battles. We all experienced depression and anxiety and heartache.
During this time, I experienced depression like I had never known. I would have panic attacks multiple times a week and I struggled to keep my head above water emotionally.
I felt alone…
I couldn’t talk to my roommates because there was so many struggles and unresolved conflicts there and I hated the idea of being a “burden.” I would talk to my discipler, but there was only so much she could do. I even sought professional help at my school’s counseling center, but that made little difference.
And to top off everything, I had to make the almost impossible decision to separate myself from my best friend of twelve years, the one I was going to be the maid of honor for in her wedding. She had broken my trust and hurt me, but refused that she was in the wrong. (But that’s for another time) Just know, I had hit my breaking point.
He was showing me and teaching me through this process where I needed to place my identity. I had placed my identity in so many things leading up to this point. I put my identity in academics, activities, relationships, etc. I really struggled with placing my identity in my relationships. I had put so much work into my relationships: my classmates, Cru, my roommates. I was putting my identity in so many other things that I failed to put my identity into the one thing that truly matters, Christ.
I have found it is when a person is at their weakest, when they have nothing to give is when the real work happens. I was beaten down to nothing and that is when the Lord laid his hand on me and started healing me.
I had decided to transfer from Elmhurst College to Moody Bible Institute because the Lord called me to remain faithful. The summer before entering Moody, I experienced a beautiful and struggling time in Colorado. I was apart of a leadership training program through a Christian organization and I was pushed to the edge. I experienced many insecurities that I had avoided for years, I battled lies that were ingrained in me with God’s truth and worked to resolved conflict with my two roommates who were also in the program.
As I entered Moody, the Lord continued to teach and grow me. He is teaching me the importance of trusting him with blind faith and having joy in the struggle.
With as far as I have come, there is still farther to go.
BUT GOD… He remains faithful and good. He is so patient and sweet with me in my stubbornness and obliviousness. He continues to place people in my life who challenge me to put my identity in Christ.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
Yes, this was a long blog post and I hope it wasn’t too tedious, but in all honesty this is just the beginning of my faith journey. I am twenty and I have the rest of my life ahead to struggle, grow, mess up and succeed.
If you have a faith journey, I would encourage you to share it with the world, starting with you friends and family. Share what Christ has done and is doing in and through you. He has equipped you to impact the lives of others because of the Holy Spirit within you. I encourage you to live out the Great Commission in whatever way the Lord has equipped you.
“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”” Matthew 28:16-20