Recently I was sitting around a circle with a group of adults and was asked this question: “What legacy do you want to pass onto your children?” Answers of education, diversity, culture and values were all being passed around. While all of those things are valuable and I desire them for my kids, that was not my answer. I want to pass something onto my kids that sustains, that is eternal. Faith. My biggest desire is that my kids would know, love and follow Jesus. In light of this conversation and a few others, I wanted to put my story of how God gave me the only thing that sustains and is eternal, in writing.
I think one of the most powerful things we can see on earth is God changing a heart and a life for Him. And boy has he done that in my life! From a very young age, I was searching for who I was. I didn’t want to conform to someone else’s image, and I certainly didn’t want to follow someone. I wanted to be set apart. Unfortunately, this resulted in years and years (probably somewhere around 18, if you ask my mom) of difficulty with teachers, coaches and authority figures. I got
kicked out asked to leave girl scouts and ballet because I wouldn’t listen. My mom had to have a parent-teacher conference with every one of my Elementary school teachers because I talked too much or wouldn’t listen to instructions. I wound up in the principals office frequently in middle school. I was searching so deeply that I even went to New York City with full cornrows. And refused to wear any Abercrombie or American Eagle brand in middle school. In 8th grade, by the grace of God, I became friends with a girl named Sarah. Sarah loved Jesus and she was not ashamed of that. I knew something was different about her, but I was confused, so it wound up looking like me making fun of her because she was Christian. Luckily, she stuck around. As you can see, I didn’t want to fit any mold. I didn’t want any adult or peer to tell me what to do or who I was. And this continued into my Freshman year of high school. But my freshman year was a sacred and life-changing year. Because I met a girl named Emma. Emma was my cheerleading coach. There in lies the first problem. She was a coach. And I was defiant to any authority, but my coaches especially. Emma knew Jesus and she knew He was what I wanted, but more so what I needed. So despite many frustrations with me, and tears I may have caused her, she kept inviting me to this thing called Young Life. Another girl on my team started inviting me too, and finally I decided I would go to Young Life camp that summer.
The summer of 2004, I experienced God in ways I never knew I could. I had always thought being a Christian was a set of rules you had to follow so naturally, I opted out and had no interest. Yet there was still a hole. A hole inside my heart, which God created, that I was trying to fill, so I would understand who I was. I learned that summer that God was not about rules. He was about relationships. I heard for the first time in my life, that God would do, and did do, whatever it takes to have a relationship with me. And as I looked out at the stars one night at Lake Champion in Glen Spey, NY I knew who I was. I knew I was made by God and for God. I was his daughter and I was so deeply loved by the Creator of the world. I didn’t know what it meant to follow him, but I knew He wasn’t just another authority figure with a set of rules. He was the only authority. He was the Creator of the universe and I knew His plan for me was good.I knew that following Him was the only good thing I could do. I can remember Emma coming over to me on that rock I was sitting on, and talking to me about what I had heard. I don’t recall what was said, but I remember I felt supported.
After I came home from Young Life camp I could not help but tell others about what I had heard. I remember with excitement I told everyone in my family what I learned Jesus had done. However, things were not easy that next year of high school. That summer my sister got incredibly sick and spent several months in the hospital. My mom lived at the hospital with her, my dad went to work then went to the hospital, and my brother and I cried a lot. We saw my sister in the most pain she’s ever physically been in, and it broke us. But in a God-like way, this pain enabled us to search for Him even more. I didn’t know how to make sense of it all but I knew, and I saw, that we lived in a broken world and things were not as they were designed. That year felt like a broken year. I struggled through relationships, school, and my identity. I had come back from a place that felt so right, to a place that felt so wrong. I continued to hang out with my same friends, who did not know Jesus. They started partying, and for the most part, I chose not to. I was confused. I was living the life I had always lived but I now knew what life was truly meant for. My heart had changed, but my actions took longer to follow. I struggled through that year and went back to Young Life camp again that summer.
I heard it again. God desired a relationship. And I couldn’t live in the in between. He wanted all of me. And deep down I wanted all of Him. That summer a few friends (insert Sarah and a life-long friend, Lauren!) came to camp and over the next year we dived into the Bible together and asked a lot of questions. Although I only had a couple friends who knew Jesus, they helped carry me through high school. And I was passionate about others knowing about God’s love. This is when my dad and brother and I started having more conversations about who we thought God was. I invited them both to McLean Bible Church with me and eventually they came. Over time, God continued opening their hearts to hear and see Him.
In McLean Bible Church one Thanksgiving, my dad realized what I had realized that summer in New York. He saw who he was, and who God is, and gave his life up for Him. While that is his story to tell, it is also such a big part of mine. You see, my story is not just my own. It is a story of how God has changed a family. It’s a story of how God grabbed the heart of one person, and that one person told another, and they told another, and they told their family, and then their city, and on and on. My brother and my dad would come to know the love of God and just like me, they couldn’t keep it to themselves. Years later my Aunt and Uncle would discover the same One who made the universe, made them. They saw how God miraculously used Young Life to engage my rebellious heart and they desired that for their kids and their kids’ friends. So they would go on to help start Young Life back up in Chambersburg, PA. Young Life is Chambersburg would go on to positively impact my cousins, their spouses, and their city. And this story of God taking confused, broken and searching hearts and making them known, righteous and found, is still being written today. That little girl, sitting in the principal office, who so desperately wanted to be known and set apart, has been just that. I am found in being a daughter of the Creator of the world and he has called me holy; set apart. I am overwhelmed by God’s work in my life and the life of my family that I just can’t keep it to myself!
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus
throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.