Crazy Love

A couple of months ago I started this YouVersion app that would have me read the entire New Testament in 30 days.

(Did you catch that? A couple of months ago? Yeah. I fell a little behind.)

Anyway, in conversations in the past, occasionally people have posed the question “What is your favorite book of the Bible?”

I always felt, for some reason, like this was a trick question. Even though my suspicions were completely unwarranted, it felt like if I said anything other than one of the four gospels, that it would be looked down upon in some way. Suddenly a team of “real Christians” would come and give me this “…Really?…Ok.” kind of look. You think my thoughts are extreme? Try being in them 24/7.

But again, I digress. Even though of course it is difficult to pick a favorite, I am at the point in the Bible plan where I am now reading mine, if I had to pick one: 1 John. I have thought a lot about getting a tattoo for the last year or two (learn something new every day) and every time I think about it, I literally wish I could have this entire book written so that I would have to read it every day. I try and pick a favorite verse and it just can’t happen. But today as I was reading through it, one in particular jumped out at me that summarized so well what I have been thinking about lately:

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I named this blog post Crazy Love after a book by Francis Chan. In it he seeks to strongly convict us of about both how much we are loved, and what that means for our life.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how Christianity is socially constructed in this culture to mean the same thing as “rules”. You can’t do this, this or this. And God forbid you mess up because the God who is watching you from afar is just waiting to beat you down with religious rhetoric while angels playing harps float around in the background.

When you try to look through this lens from the outside and you see rules and commands first, and God’s love second, then His love is cheapened. It doesn’t ring true, and quite frankly it doesn’t make sense. It feels like if you have to do all these things in order to qualify yourself in God’s eyes, then it definitely isn’t unconditional. I remember spending my teenage years in half-pursuit, half-panic over “What if I mess up? Are these thoughts okay? How much is too much of something? Where do I draw the line? What about this? Have I done something wrong to displease God? Is that why I am feeling this way?” and so forth. I was seeing God and Jesus through the lens of: going to church, singing songs, not messing up too bad, and celebrating certain holidays is what makes you a Christian. It wasn’t until late college that I really began to have more of an understanding of religion versus the Gospel.

I would make the argument based on the entire New Testament, but I will specifically reference the book of 1 John here, which is completely focused on love: People in general do not have an understanding of just how loved they are. This applies to me and everyone else, for that matter. When you are able to understand even just a fraction of how loved you are, suddenly the rules do not seem burdensome. You know that no matter how badly you mess up, you still win, not because of anything you have done in your past or that you have to do in the future, but because of what has already been done for you.

There was a quote that I heard once in a movie that has always stuck with me, over ten years later. Drew Barrymore plays a character who has a son when she is a teenager. One afternoon her and her best friend, who also had a child at the same time, are talking. Drew’s character says, in reference to her son, something to the effect of: “Sometimes I don’t know if I really love him, or if I just have to love him. You know what I mean?…..What’s wrong with me?” and the friend says “Trust me, you love him. Sometimes we love people so much that we have to be numb to it. Because in reality if we felt it all, it would kill us.”

I truly believe that if we actually felt how much God loves us, that it would kill us. Or at least, because that sounds kind of unintentionally sadistic, we wouldn’t be able to function.

I heard this sermon illustration recently, and I really liked it. It isn’t perfect of course, but work with me here, I am doing the best I can to remember it.

You are an Olympic ice skater about to compete. Any one, tiny, little mistake can cause your entire score, and years of training and sacrifice, to just go down the drain in one split second. With sports like basketball or soccer, you have the potential to come back as a team in order to beat the other team’s score in the end. Ice skating, though, is different. Everything rides on your performance and appearance. But before you get on the ice, the judges make an announcement: “We are still going to let you skate, but based off of the performance of this other guy who went before you, you are receiving a perfect score. You can also perform perfectly, or you can spend the majority of the song falling on the ice in your sparkly costume. But either way, you win. Straight 10’s.”

Now how are you going to go about skating? (Aka living your life?) Knowing that because of someone who came before you, you cannot lose. Regardless of the number of times you mess up, the pressure, guilt, condemnation and fear of judgment is completely gone.

It is all about a relationship now, rather than a performance.

Preaching to Myself Here: My Relationship with Social Media

So I have been back from my “social media hiatus” for about a week now, and it’s been…interesting.

For those of you who didn’t know, the day after my birthday back in December I decided to give up Facebook for a month to see how it went. I still used Instagram, so I think it still posted some pictures, but I wanted to see what it was like to not have in my life.

You know it’s really funny…I am one of those people that has had a love/hate relationship with technology and social networking. I love keeping in touch with friends who don’t live nearby, seeing pictures, hearing about an exciting announcement….but for whatever reason, and usually I just prepare myself for this around election time (har har), there seemed to be a LOT of opinions going around that were distracting me from the things that matter the most.

Around that time there were some big news stories that came out. Between Duck Dynasty and states passing marriage equality laws and the always fun “Is the true Christmas disappearing?” debate, everyone seemed to have really strong opinions. And there were days that it seemed like people woke up, sat behind their computer or smartphone, and really didn’t care who they hurt or how insensitive they sounded as long as they got their status or comment out to the world. Facebook became their own therapy session. I think a lot of the time we don’t realize how harsh something sounds in writing until we go back and read it. Suddenly, logging in to check my messages became something I was dreading, because I knew I was going to see people just attacking each other back and forth via comment boxes and like buttons.

But that was also the time that I began questioning just why it was getting under my skin so much. I would like to think that I am a nice person where maybe it was just that I didn’t like seeing people condemning each other, but I think there was also a deeper issue going on.

This is where my title comes in: I am preaching to myself here. I think sometimes the things that get me the most fired up, whether it is passionate or frustrated, are the things that I am the most angry or irritated at myself for.

Facebook and the media gave me the opportunity to see point blank, in writing, some of the most hurtful words imaginable. There were some people who I was sort of afraid to talk to afterwards. But I started thinking about all of the random thoughts that pass through my mind throughout the day that can be just as harsh.

I don’t like this ugly side of my heart. I like to pretend it doesn’t exist. I love meeting new people, learning more about them, hugging them (hopefully I don’t scare you away?) and just talking. When I get to have a really good one-on-one or small group conversation, it takes me out of my own head. Those are the moments I value the most in retrospect. I think that is part of the reason I am a social worker: I love focusing on other people and problem solving, trying my best to offer the love of Jesus along the way, and then just getting to learn from them and talk about what I too struggle with.

But in reality, just because I don’t always necessarily blast out my negative thoughts, particularly in writing, doesn’t mean that I don’t have them.

I still sometimes look at people and make snap judgments based on the way they are dressed, their accent, how their hygiene is, and so forth. If someone is screaming at another person in public, I automatically make assumptions about the state their life is in. And so on, and so forth.

(Before I keep going, if one person reading this could just shoot me a message and be like “I struggle with this too!” I’d really appreciate it! Starting to get a little deep now.)

There are thoughts that I have that would be extremely hurtful to both myself and other people if I stated them all the time. I don’t think I really deserve a gold medal for just being able to keep my mouth shut. I get into less hot water that way, but also don’t believe it is realistic to ever say “My goal is that one day I will never think a critical thought about another person ever again.” Not only is that unrealistic, but it isn’t very productive either.

What I was thinking about today though was how God never ever condemns us. That is not from God. Sometimes He convicts us – if we are doing something that is harmful to ourselves or others, He may say “This has to end. There are some things that you need to be made aware of and change.” And sometimes we are convicted with a huge slap in the face, while other times it is a subtle comment that is actually a massive wake-up call. At that point we have to apologize, try to make amends, and change our direction. Sure, depending on the circumstances the consequences might follow us around. If you have spent five years abusing alcohol for example, then are able to make the decision to become sober, receive help, and stay clean for two months, there are still people who might doubt how long it will last. There are still people who will condemn you for your past. Heck, you could live a completely perfect life and there are people who will condemn you.

But God never, ever does. Any condemnation, accusation, or temptation comes from somewhere else.

I think that is part of the reason I love Sundays so much. I feel so, so blessed to be surrounded by people that the world sees as statistics. The teenage moms, the former drug addicts, the people battling cancer, the children of single parent households. The world knows them only by these titles. There are ways that I can identify with many of these people that bring us a joint sense of comfort that God loves us no matter what. But we are so much more than these classifications, stereotypes, demographics.

Now this is stuck in my head:

“You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You’ve been remade.”

-Tenth Avenue North

These people inspire me so, so much. Sometimes I can’t get over the fact that some of them are in the same room as me to worship after the way that some churches have treated them in the past. I love them tremendously as brothers and sisters.

But even with that love, when I am not held accountable within my own heart and by my friends, my thoughts and emotions can be ugly.

This is why I decided to take a one month break away from Facebook. I really wanted to step away from some of the accusations flying around over “Well you aren’t a true Christian if you don’t do this” or “You are just a Jesus freak, how can you believe in this, you are crazy” or “How can you vote this way and yet still do this?” and so on. It’s exhausting, and I decided that in order to become stronger and focus more on God, that I needed to break away and pray about the change that He wants to make inside of me instead of in the whole world all at once.

“Where you are today is no accident. God us using the situation you are in right now to shape you and prepare you for the place He wants to bring you into tomorrow. Trust Him with His plan even if you don’t understand it.” – Christine Caine

I still learn every day; I learn how to be more gracious and forgiving, and I learn more about the unconditional love that has been promised to me by grace alone. I will rejoice in the knowledge that there is nothing that can condemn me, and continue to fight against my own tendencies that do not act to glorify the one who chose me before I was born.

But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles. – Galatians 1:15-16

Reflections on Baptisms…

Instead of going into all of the things going on in my life right now however, I want to just free write on a subject that has been a big topic of conversation lately: baptisms.

Many of you readers know that I was baptized this past spring- you can read that entry where I wrote out my testimony here. It was so nerve wracking for me to publish. Openly sharing things that I would often prefer to just forget with people who I had never met made me feel very vulnerable, but in a good way. It was an opportunity for people to see a little bit of how I got to where I am now, and I wanted to take the risk that some people might be critical or skeptical for those who would find it meaningful for making decisions in their own lives. It was someone else’s online testimony that inspired me to write my own, and I wanted to continue the chain reaction. To date that entry has something like seven or eight times the views of my next “most popular” entry, which blew me away!

After I was baptized, which for me was a public declaration of who exactly it was that I belonged to, I was quickly affirmed (as in probably like, 5 minutes later) in something that I have since heard time and time again: baptism doesn’t actually make you do things right, or even better, for that matter.

I think a lot of times people fall into this misimpression, often without even being aware of it, that after you make that decision and go through the act of becoming baptized, suddenly you will become full of the Holy Spirit and be kinder, more loving, get rid of perhaps any addictions or constraints, and just generally be full of freedom. At Bible study recently (I am so happy to have already found one in Charlotte!) we discussed the baptisms that are currently going on at church (see footage here– it was amazing to witness in person how much joy there was!) and what our own (if we had done it) meant to us.

This was something that was so good for me to both hear and talk about without even knowing it. I loved hearing others’ testimonies, sharing in the sense of relief and peace that they felt coming out of the water, and how despite the fact that baptism did not actually change their current struggles or perhaps the number of mistakes they made in a day, that it represented how none of it mattered when their past and future was washed clean.

When the old self is drowned in the water, and instead you have something new come out.

Something that will live forever, long after the world is gone.

This seems to be the point that some cite when they say they do not know yet if they want to take that next step to become baptized. Sort of a “I need to get my life more together before I can take that step. I need to be more progressed in my faith,” and so forth. It makes me wonder about all of the different ways in which people perceive baptism. Whether it’s just something ceremonial, or whether it really is something that can mark the day for you when you made the decision that it was time for a change.

I wasn’t even close to perfect when I got baptized. Let me just say that I am fully aware of that right now. I am sure there are people who will vouch for me. Probably a lot of Duke fans. (just kidding… bad joke.)

But despite the fact that the act didn’t actually make me a better person, or wash away the consequences of maybe mistakes I had made in the past or things that I was still in the middle of working out, it was a moment that I knew nothing could take away from me. And from talking to the other young adults in church who made that same decision, it sounds like we are on the same page there.

Here is my attempt at an example, despite the fact that I have no practical experience as a wife.

The act of getting married doesn’t mean that your love has peaked, everything in your relationship is perfect, and you have 100 percent faith that it is going to hold that same level of perfection for the rest of your lives together. But it is a symbol saying “I choose you”. It is making the statement and declaration in front of the world that they now know who you belong to in that context, and that you will not pick another man or woman over your spouse. Your relationship will, however, continue to change, grow and develop over the course of your entire marriage.

This is the best way I know how to describe baptism: something that is not the end, and in some ways even, not the beginning, as there are many people I know (and I was one of them) who accepted Christ awhile before they were actually baptized. People fall in love before they get married, too. And likewise, exchanging rings doesn’t mean that suddenly you or the other person will become a better partner in that relationship, or even that things will change at all from that point forward.

It is a public announcement of your love and commitment to another person.

Baptism is a public announcement of your love and commitment to God by knowing who you are in Jesus Christ.

Who are you in Jesus Christ?

Loved

Forgiven

Chosen

Someone who has their whole past, and future, wiped clean of mistakes

Fought for

Cherished

Just to totally top off my analogy here, I am pasting the lyrics to a song I love by Tenth Avenue North called “Beloved”, which is written as if it were Jesus saying his wedding vows to us:

Love of my life
Look deep in my eyes
There you will find what you need

Give me your life
The lust and the lies
And the past you’re afraid I might see
You’ve been running away from me

You’re my beloved
lover I’m yours
Death shall not part us
It’s you I died for
For better or worse
Forever we’ll be
My love it unites us and it binds you to me
It’s a mystery

Love of my life
Look deep in my eyes
There you will find what you need

I’m the giver of life
I’ll clothe you in white
My immaculate bride you will be
Come running home to me

You’re my beloved
lover, I’m yours
Death shall not part us
It’s you I died for
For better or worse
Forever we’ll be
My love it unites us and it binds you to me

You’ve been a mistress, my wife
Chasing lovers that won’t satisfy
Won’t you let me make you my bride
You will drink of my lips and you’ll taste new life

You’re my beloved
lover, I’m yours
Death shall not part us
It’s you I died for

For better or worse
Forever we’ll be
My love it unites us
and it binds you to me
It’s a mystery

44 Reasons Why I Love My Generation.

This is a post that just hit me as I went out for a run. I was out mulling over a lot of thoughts, blasting old Switchfoot songs on my iPod, having a party in my ears and all that good stuff, when I found myself back at my old elementary school. Suddenly though, things just started coming back to me.

I saw the field where I played soccer every day at recess with the boys instead of talking on the swings.

I saw the jungle gym where I first learned about (and briefly became hooked on) the Spice Girls.

For whatever reason as I was looking at a place that had been in my life so long ago, I started thinking about what I thought my life might look like now versus what it actually looks like. It made me think about my generation in general: the most common dreams we all shared, the things we grew up with, the things we were taught were right and wrong, and now the good and bad that has come out of it.

I am/was a child raised in the 90’s. I grew up with Boy Meets World, Barbies, the Disney Princess Obsession, NSYNC (my first concert), Giga Pets, All That and Pokemon cards. And I am perhaps realizing now, more than ever, the stresses that are being put on our generation.

We are expected to save the economy, solve racism, abortion, world hunger and gay rights, discover new technology and yet not let it take over our lives, be politically aware and globally informed, yet not have a superiority complex, and figure out how to balance gender roles in the work force.

Not saying that similar pressures were not put on former generations, but I am just stating what it feels like to be a “millennial” right now- namely, it can be a bit…exhausting.

This is largely because at the same time that we are hearing all of these expectations, and how the Baby Boomer generation has such high hopes for us, we are getting slammed in the face by articles like this:

“The Me Me Me Generation”

“Are Millennials Lazy Entitled Narcissists?”

“Understand the Myths to Retain Millennials”

But really, this issue constantly comes up, and I am not saying there is no truth to it. I certainly see how social media, technology and so forth have affected people’s lives, social skills and relationships. There certainly have been a lot of negatives.

But there are also a great deal of positives that are, while not unique to our generation, at least worth pointing out.

And because I for one just don’t want to read another article about how we are supposedly going to lead to the end of the world with our sense of entitlement, I would just like to take 20 minutes to write some things I really love about this generation in general.

So here we go, finally: 44 things I love about my generation. (All images are from Google. I don’t actually know any of these awesome, featured people.)

P.S. Please don’t get mad if any of these generalizations don’t actually apply to you. You get my general point.

1. We are not actually out to completely do away with the concept of marriage and having kids all together like it may appear:

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2. We will take just about any job just to get into the field we are so passionate about that we spent years studying for:

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3. Improvements in photography have made it possible for us to have adorable pictures like this:

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4. We are alive to experience really incredible movies:

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5. Memes like this one are made for the sole purpose of making someone smile:

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6. While countless movies that make people overall really depressed about the world come out, these little guys overwhelmingly make everyone’s day better:

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7. Regardless of any disputed opinions over the outcome, thousands of youth want to support the mission behind this movement:

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8. We see couples who were together and happy as long as they were and our hearts completely melt:

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9. Women’s rights in society are more significant than ever:

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10. Kids are raised not to discriminate or make judgments:

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11. We put more of an emphasis on being respectful to the planet:

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12. We are in love with celebrities who are this adorable:

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13. Especially when they hold dogs:

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14. Apparently graphics designers think that the best way to represent us is to make us look like the cast from Men in Black:

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15. We are progressing towards greater international agreement and unity in regards to public issues:

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16. We offer loving support and condolences to our parents who put even more emphasis on Facebook games than we do:

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Ok…so maybe not always supportive…

17. The importance of education for all, not just those who can afford it, is being stressed more and more:

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18. Mediocrity is not an option when it comes to motivation:

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19. Quotes like this are constantly used and shared to inspire others:

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20. There is some really good food from every country, and it is becoming both more well known and accessible:

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21. We take lower paying jobs in order to help others, or provide for our families when perhaps no other options are available:

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22. We live out what we value with joy:

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23. We aspire to be the change we wish to see in others:

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24. We dream big:

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25. We take time to stop and enjoy what is around us:

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26. We like to take pictures of us jumping no matter where we are:

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27. In the midst of devastation, we try to spot the helpers, and focus on them:

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28. We give really good advice at necessary times:

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29. We love animals:

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30. We give respect to people who can pull off awesome hats:

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31. We appreciate it when opposites attract:

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32. We have childhood sweethearts who we still can be friends with on Facebook:

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33. We experience moments of pure freedom:

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34. We don’t just use the internet for entertainment, but for philanthropy as well:

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35. We try to stay politically active and informed. (Side-note: I fully admit that I sadly do not fall into this category.):

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36. We love personalizing interior spaces with as much color and personality as we can cram into it:

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37. We travel and experience different cultures as much as possible, preferably for long periods of time:

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38. We love expressing ourselves creatively:

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39. We love getting involved in the community through outreach, and bringing our friends along as well:

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40. We speak out for what we believe in:

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41. We try to keep our work life separate from our personal life:

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42. We are fun loving:

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43. We love finding the others who share our passions:

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44. We love and respect our troops, but at the same time hope for peace:

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I realize once again that these do not apply to everyone, and there certainly are a lot of things that need to be worked on for the future. But for anyone reading this who perceives the millennials as greedy, materialistic, lazy youths who do not value hard work: give us some time, please? We are working on it!

I Was Baptized Today. (My Testimony)

Today I was baptized for, technically, the second time in my life.

I felt the need to write this post to talk about what convicted me to request this, partially because it was an online testimony that placed it on my heart. So, being a bit vulnerable here, and laying it all on the table!

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I was exposed to the story of Christ as a very young child, as I began going to church nursery school when I was two years old. There isn’t a time that I can recall where I ever doubted this story as being true. Growing up it was simply a fact; Jesus came, died, and was resurrected. I accepted these facts with very little question, and learned how to pray, what hymns to sing, and so forth. Going into my teen years however, I very much wanted to have an understanding of the Bible and all of its promises, but did not feel like I had a grasp of what exactly people meant when they talked about its display of sacrifice and unconditional love.

I differ from some Christians in that I cannot actually pinpoint a day where I gave my life over to Christ. Part of me almost envies those testimonies that really grab people’s attention, as mine in comparison seems rather ordinary. You know what I am talking about? “I had been using crack for 10 years, been in and out of rehab, and was in the middle of my weekly atheist coffee group when I felt a calling from Christ”. Yet that is a very small part of me, as I know that how dramatic my story is makes no difference to God.

For me though it was more of an extended learning process as to what everything I learned in Sunday school really meant; that it meant not just going to church out of habit or because it was “the right thing to do”, but to actually develop a passion for the scripture and all that it teaches. Around the time I turned 14, I began experiencing some health issues that were very stressful at the time. Doctors were pretty inconclusive as to what was going on, and it felt like the pain would never go away. Hindsight, a great portion of the problem was stress that kept piling up that I didn’t know how to cope with. I would ask God why He was putting me through this pain, feeling like I had done something wrong to be feeling like that. I kept thinking “I’m a good person, for the most part. Why is this happening to me?” This is where I really feel that my journey to the point I am now began.

During this time I began reading the Bible more often, searching for a solution. I spent a lot of time alone, and wasn’t sure where to start, but kept reading the New Testament looking for answers. Even though I did not surrender all of my trust to the Lord at that time, it was then that my dependency on His word began to develop.

Fast forward two years later, when I began having more health problems. I had been feeling better for the most part, but suddenly I began having digestive issues that no one could explain. Over the next three years, I lost about 20+ pounds, could barely keep any food down, and had countless tests done. I can’t accurately describe my emotions during this time, and I won’t go into much specific detail over the blog. The medications doctors tried to put me on had bad side effects, and I found myself becoming depressed. Along with simply being malnourished from not eating, I lost much of what little physical strength I had. It got to the point where it would be genuinely painful when someone would even playfully poke me.

Finally, in 2008, I saw a different doctor who was able to determine that I had a rare condition called gastroparesis, which literally means that my stomach is partially paralyzed (it empties about 25 percent slower than the average person). Few people have heard of it, and it is currently not possible to treat or cure. While this is a subject that I could go on about for much longer, my point is that it is something that has shaped my life in many ways. I have had to put my trust in God to lead me through nutritional and exercise plans instead of medicine to take care of me. Don’t get me wrong, I think medicine is a wonderful thing, just for me this was a path that has been able to strengthen my reliance in things unseen.

During this time with my health, I had been dating a boy in high school. At this time unknowingly, I was putting far too much pressure on his shoulders. I expected a great deal of support, and expected that everything would magically work out. In the middle of my freshman year of college, after some on and off again stints, we broke up for good. Again I turned into this pretty pathetic mess and felt like I must have done something wrong since God was not making the problems go away. It is clear now that God has taken these experiences and turned them into something that glorifies Him. Most recently, for example, I led a small group discussion on body image with the girls of my church’s youth group. In that sense, I am incredibly grateful for everything that I went through. While I would not wish it for someone, I am much more prepared than I would have been otherwise to help others deal with their own insecurities and hardships.

I would say the low point for me was in the spring of 2009. It was at that time that I knew something had to change, and clearly whatever I had been doing to cope hadn’t really been working, at least, not for very long. I joined the UNC’s Christian sorority that semester where, for the first time, I met other girls who wanted to serve God just as much as I did. They were friendly, open, and accepting of me, and I found that I looked forward to going to the weekly worship services. I began to grow in my faith again, and started feeling God’s love and forgiveness wash over me. Everything was slowly starting to get better.

Someone once said “It’s always darkest before the dawn” (not trying to quote a pop song here). Since that moment freshman year, my life has become less about me and my wants and more about Christ. I found that I am at my happiest when I am glorifying God through public service. In the last five to six years countless things have happened to continuously reaffirm my faith, and have led to a greater understanding of just how amazing and important Christ’s sacrifice was. It is from these experiences in my past that I have been able to connect and empathize with women and peers I meet. When people twice my age have come seeking my advice, it has been through the grace of the Holy Spirit within me that I have been able to help them.

Ephesians 2:9-10 says “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.” It has been purely by the grace of God that I have been brought into His kingdom, and not a day goes by that I am not reminded of how much I need His grace, as I could never hope to earn that kind of unconditional love on my own. My mistakes humbled and weakened my heart enough so that I could no longer stubbornly avoid God’s will for me. I was broken down so that God could build me up, and when He did build me, He built a stronger, better version of myself to mold into His will. He was with me in relationships that proved to be less than healthy. He was with me when my sorority had the opportunity to acquire a million dollar house and the project was assigned to me as both housing financial director. And He has been by my side as I have tried to find ways to spread the gospel using whatever spiritual gifts I have, and has given me some of the truest friends I could ever ask for along the way.

One of the most important things I have learned is that in order to really let God have control of your life, you have to pray for the wisdom to let go and let Him in. For years I would desire a close relationship with Him, but when I prayed I would ask for the things I wanted. I did not pray for Him to have His way with my life, but instead for things to go the way I wanted them to. And even if I got what I wanted, it still didn’t work in the end. God knows what is best even if it isn’t clear at the time, and offering your life to Him as a living sacrifice is actually the most freeing and liberating thing you can ever do. One of my favorite quotes is by CS Lewis: “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” Although I have had many good things happen to me the first twenty-something years of my life, and I am incredibly grateful, I consider my story to be an example this, and each year truly has gotten better than the last.

So, with all of this said, the reason I decided to become baptized again is because I wanted to make the decision when I was mature enough to know what I was doing, and to show that Christ is Lord of my life. While I grew up sort of under the impression that if I was baptized again it wouldn’t really count, since I had already had one as a baby, I now see that that was a misimpression. While my baptism today was not in close proximity to the time when I really invited Christ into my life, it is a symbolic representation of the spiritual growth and journey that I have been on, and will continue to go through for as long as I am alive. I am so grateful for the people who came today: my real family (parents), “second family” (Lara, Ari and Grace), and church family (Pastor David and his family), as well as a supportive and loving family from Calvary, were there for encouragement. The process of being baptized was something that gave me a great sense of peace. I don’t really know how to put it into words. Hopefully I will be able to one day. Despite the fact that there were lots of happy families there swimming, enjoying the gorgeous weather at the lake, I have to say I didn’t actually really notice them when this was happening. It was a very personal experience, and I am so thankful beyond words that it happened.

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”