Testimony. A compilation of words that tells others about your faith.
One of my very favorite parts of the South Africa mission trip is the opportunity to listen to each team member’s testimony. Not only is it a great way to grow community within the team, but it also allows a glimpse into each team member’s life. Your testimony is YOUR STORY, beautifully written and orchestrated by God. It’s your fingerprint of faith. I love sharing mine because it’s a story of redemption, mercy, and his amazing grace. My heart overflows when I think about my testimony because of the overwhelming, unconditional love He’s shown. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
I was raised as a Baptist/Methodist. From an early age, I was taught about God. I learned all the Bible stories on the felt board at Sunday School. My parents had me involved in the youth choir and as an usher in our church. I continued to go to church in middle school and was even involved in our church’s youth group. In high school my attendance started to decline. I went often, but if I felt the need to sleep in on a Sunday, I most definitely did so. In college my attendance at church took an even more drastic hit. I got lots of information on bible studies, church services, etc offered around my campus, but never made the effort to attend. Being involved in church usually meant attending on holidays and the occasional Sunday mornings when I would visit home. I always knew there was a God and believed in him, but had no understanding of a “relationship” with him. My belief in God was based more on the fear of not wanting to burn in hell one day and thinking simply “being a good person” was what was required of me.
My last year of college was a defining year. My sweet dad was diagnosed with a serious form of cancer. This rocked our family and this daddy’s girl to her core. At the time, I had been in a four year relationship with a guy I knew from high school. The relationship began to crumble and ended shortly thereafter. This meant the cutting of ties in multiple ways; we had many mutual friends and I had the intentions of attending a special education Master’s program at the college he attended. Needless to say, the break up was messy and those plans did not come to fruition. In the midst of these two events, I was left feeling pretty broken and confused. My friends around me were preparing to graduate, had just accepted great jobs, and were excited for the next phase in life. I on the other hand was feeling lots of pain. I was afraid of losing my dad and was not sure of what my future had in store.
People react to pain in a multitude of ways. I chose to mask mine through “fun.” I had worked in the athletic department at UVA throughout school and had developed friendships through work. Through these friends, I found a group to hang out with throughout that summer. We would do thinks like attend Friday’s After Five on the Downtown Mall, frequent our favorite bar “Blue Light,” go tubing on the James River, and spend Sundays by the pool. I started to find my identity in being the “party” girl. My pain was buried under my social life.
On one of our infamous tubing trips I met a friend named Melissa. We happened to end up in the same car on the trip home from a day of drinking on the river. She worked as a nurse, specifically with terminally ill pediatric patients. I told her of my dad’s sickness and we immediately clicked. We cried together in the back of the car. We ended up hanging out together at our friend’s house that night as our group BBQ-ed. It was an instant connection.
About two weeks after this tubing trip, I was invited to a church named Clear River by a family that was (and is) very dear to me (The Fredericks, or “The Freds”). They had two little girls that I used to watch once a week. The mom of this family (Cherye) had lost her dad to cancer, so she was a great confidant in the midst of my dad’s sickness. The Freds immediately pulled me into their family. They even were so kind to offer me a key to their basement. Many nights I would find myself staying the night over after hanging out with friends in Charlottesville. The Freds had a third baby and she was being dedicated at church. They asked if I would attend this special service with them. I was honored to be included and agreed to attend. I went to the service and was immediately in love with the church. It was a contemporary, non-denominational church. I loved their worship, style, and deliverance of the message. When leaving church that day I ran into Melissa. I call this a “Godincidence” (phrase I adopted from my mum).
I enjoyed church so much that Sunday that I ended up attending a few more times with the Freds and with Melissa. I started to dive into learning more about Jesus. Melissa and I would have “quiet times” together. There was a specific day that I had lost my cell phone (or thought I had). I pulled money out of my bank account (which was very low those days) and decided to go purchase a new one. On my way I found my phone in my car. I was so excited I ended up driving to a Christian bookstore and purchased a study Bible. I also purchased a bracelet with the verse “In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths” (Prov 3:6) engraved on it.
I continued to hang out with Melissa. Our friendship was a rare, special one. She’s the closest friend I’ve had outside of marriage to this day. We just clicked. God knitted our hearts and lives so tightly together. I’m forever grateful for her. We hung out almost every day. One day Melissa mentioned trying a new church. She was attending Clear River for Sunday services, but going to “Fresh Fire” for bible studies. She wanted to try to attend just one church and was thinking of leaning towards Fresh Fire. I agreed to go with her that Sunday. I went with her and the message just resonated so deeply into my soul. God called his daughter into his Kingdom that day. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
At the end of service they asked if anyone wanted to come up front and be prayed over. I immediately went up. Melissa came behind me and was crying because she said she heard angels rejoicing in heaven. The coolest thing about this happening at Fresh Fire is that the people in the church had been praying for the entire summer as Melissa came to their bible studies. She had told them my story and they had been praying specifically for me. They were able to see their fervent prayers be answered. “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16
I look back at that moment and consider that the day when my relationship, not just the knowledge of Christ, began. It was just the beginning of my story. That’s the beautiful thing about telling your testimony. Where and how you come to know Christ is important, but equally important is the “after.” Your life by his will, under his umbrella of grace…
After accepting Christ into my heart, I continued to go to Fresh Fire and develop a relationship with Christ. I joined the Bible Study and started volunteering at the church. I really started to make a home at Fresh Fire. I also was in the process of surrendering my old habits. I would say I was a “work in progress.” My dad was still fighting his fight with cancer. I’m not going to go into too much detail with that in this blog. I actually had a word from God that really told the story of my dad’s sickness through my testimony that I shared this year in South Africa. That will come in a separate blog to follow (which is what initially prompted me to write this blog).
Around the summer of 2006 I decided it was time for a change. I decided I wanted to move. Long story short, I chose Charleston, SC and made the move in October of 2006. I still remember the day I left. My dad couldn’t bear to watch his youngest one leave. He had to leave the house because he didn’t want to see me drive away. I made one last stop at my mom’s work in Charlottesville to see her on my way out of town and then made the eight hour drive to Charleston. I remember replaying Kelly Clarkson over and over in the car… “I’ll spread my wings and I’ll learn how to fly, Though it’s not easy to tell you goodbye. I gotta take a risk, take a chance, make a change, and fly away…”
This is what you call a leap of faith. It was my first time living outside of Virginia, first time living a decent distance away from family, and I knew NO ONE in Charleston. Yes no one. My pastor from Fresh Fire had recommended I attend Seacoast Church. I went the second week I was in Charleston. They had a young adult service in something at the church called “The Warehouse.” Let’s just say the first Sunday I was overwhelmed. The church was so large; there were cops outside directing traffic. They had a coffee shop, bookstore, and multiple venues. It was like a mini mall. I was so blessed that they had an excellent team of greeters. One specific girl pulled me in and took me under her wing. Through her, I decided to come back again and eventually knew I had found my new home. This is where I built community and found my connections in Charleston.
I got really connected into the young adult ministry. By the Spring of 2007 my life had changed drastically. I was “wholly surrendered.” I had dropped the “old habits” and really decided I was ready to live for Christ. My heart was healed and I was ready to embrace what God had in store.
From that time on I kind of remember things in milestones. I decided to lead a small group with my roommate’s boyfriend. It was a co-ed small group for young, single adults. Little did I know a handsome, Air Force pilot would walk through the door. What started out as friendship, turned into him getting down on one knee on September 28, 2008 to ask me for my hand in marriage on Sullivans Island. We made it official on July 26, 2009. Best decision I’ve ever made other than committing my life. Blessed to do life with this man!
My sweet niece and nephew were born. Love them to the moon and back. They are another example of God’s faithfulness you’ll hear about in my next blog.
Also during this time period I learned what passion God equipped me with. I really got involved helping with local missions. I ended up leading something called “REACH (Relieving Every Ache in Charleston).” What started as a passion for local missions developed into a passion for global missions. I finally committed to going on one in May of 2011. Life changed. Heart Broken. Never the Same. Can’t stay away.
I also made a pretty drastic career change. I knew I didn’t want to continue to pursue a career in psychology. I needed a career that would travel with our Air Force lifestyle and would be family friendly. Brook randomly stumbled across an article on MSNBC one day that led me to dental hygiene. I tired to leap from dental hygiene and open up the door to dental school, but that was slammed pretty quickly. I retreated back to dental hygiene. While waiting during a one year period for the dental hygiene program to start, I went to training with Brook in Altus, Oklahoma. To pass time, I took a medical terminology class for fun online. I then discovered what a Physician Assistant was and knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. This would really allow me to use my career to serve on missions. I asked for my name to be pulled from the dental hygiene program and started the pre-reqs. I sent my application into many schools in 2011, not knowing where God would place us with the Air Force. Little did I know that he would keep us in Charleston. But, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 He knew it and I was offered an early interview at the Medical University of South Carolina and admission one week later. I start school in just 3 days!! I am overwhelmed at his goodness and faithfulness!!
That’s my fingerprint. My unique story. My story of how he lifted me out and set me dancing. How he has worked in my life and blessed me beyond what I deserve or have ever hoped. My story is a mixture of mountain highs and valley lows. The one constant is that God was working through every situation. Even though I couldn’t always see, he really used it all for my good and has never let go. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
Amazing Grace. Sweetly Broken, Wholly Surrendered. That’s my story. I claim it and love it.