This is meant to be a space where people find hope, encouragement, and peace in God. I think it's only fair to share my personal testimony and how I have been led to hold this space.
Faith from an Early Age
I was introduced to the church at birth in my christening - all in white, a new creation devoted to God before I was able to make any conscious decisions. A strong part of my identity is that God has chosen me (and has chosen each of his believers) and has called me to Him.
As a child, I went to church regularly, learned the songs in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School (and still sing some of them as I read scripture), was the angel in the children's rendition of the Christmas Story -- you know the whole thing. All of this was a great foundation, but I don't remember learning much about the relationship piece between God and I. I learned a lot about who God was and He is Great and Powerful, but as a child I didn't understand what that meant for me.
As I matured in age, I didn't necessarily have a maturation in Christ at the same rate. I did my worldly things - played sports, got my first middle school boyfriend, focused on popularity. I still went to church most weekends, put on my "Sunday best" and then spent most of the service trying to contain myself and keep myself awake by circling all the vowels I could find in the bulletin -- fun game, right? I went to church, but looking back I see I was missing the beauty of what the church is.
Growing in Christ
I went through a rough patch in high school. I was pretty sick pretty often which left me distanced from friends, I had turned into somewhat of a mean girl which didn't help in the friend department and then had a boyfriend cheat on me. This led to cling to my family, which I'm grateful for as I'm still close with them to this day. I remember having a conversation in my post-break up where my parents were sharing how kind and loving I was and that someone better would come along - you know great parent pep-talk stuff. That was when I realized, I wasn't super happy with who I was.
I went into image management mode immediately. How could I reconcile how my parents saw me with who I actually was. There were definitely parts of me that were kind and loving, but that was covered up with the mean girl facade so I could be "cool." I decided I was going to put all my efforts into being kind and that would "win me friends." It's a wonderful thing to want to be kind, but my motivation was off.
However, this image management project led me back to God. My senior year I remember waking up my brother early 1 time per week so we could go to school early to sing and worship in the track coach's classroom with other students. One morning they announced that there was a spiritual retreat. I don't remember what led me to this retreat, but whatever it was I had finally heard testimonies of people I identified with. I heard stories of struggles, triumph, and everything in between. Most of all I remember learning not only who Jesus is, but who He is to me. This new relationship ignited a passion for the church that I didn't remember having before.
The personal revelation that God loved me, cared for me, and was calling me back to Him sustained me for a while and I felt that I was not doing good works only for gaining friends, but out of an overflow of my heart. God loved me so I could love others. However, it can be really challenging when you have had this major revelation but you are in the same company that you used to have prior to the revelation.
I didn't realize the importance of the church and a Christian community until I started playing softball in college. I had a couple of teammates that invited me to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at our college and invited me to Intervarsity. Their mentorship my first year left me thirsty for more.
After my first year of college, I decided not to return to the team. I was left pretty physically and emotionally depleted and needed to find restoration. I couldn't make sense of how something I had pursued my whole life wasn't satisfying me.
This is when I found that God had a greater plan for me. Instead of satisfying my desire to be an amazing softball player - He gave me my first consistent Christian Community in a Christian sorority, Sigma Alpha Omega. We did Bible studies, book studies, met for fellowship. This community has given me some of my longest lasting friendships and I strongly believe that this is because it has been rooted in Christ. We are different individuals - each with their own hobbies, interests, and personalities but because we feel so connected to this foundation we have a common understanding and can provide encouragement. This group of women helped me grow and pursue God in ways that I hadn't before - I was reading the Bible cover to cover, getting involved in ministry, and caring for others deeply.
Maturation of Faith
Looking back I have seen God's hand through my story in every challenge, I was drawn closer to God. When my relationship with a significant other fell through, God was there. Every heartbreak that I experienced, led me to finding a husband that is faithful, supportive, and solid.
When I felt that I had failed at softball because I decided to leave after my first year because I was struggling, in just a few short years God had me counseling athletes on how to properly nourish themselves. I was able to use my story to inspire and help others. After feeling defeated when I left what I thought would be my dream job, God opened doors to work in an eating disorder treatment center where I have found my true life passion.
Devoted Recovery is my next calling. It is scary to step out, but God has spoken clearly to me that there are people who need to hear my story and my expertise in the eating disorder/ disordered eating field and hear the hope that faith in Jesus offers. If that person is you, I hope you find what you are looking for.
I'd love to hear from you! What is your testimony? Where have you seen God at work in your life?