Sunday, January 18, 2009

where i've been

Let me start by saying this is REALLY long...but to me [and maybe others idk] it's very important. This is where I've been, roughly, in my Christian walk. Mostly just the lows are in detail but God has reached into my heart and gotten me through everything listed. I've learned from everything I've gone through and it's only made my bond and relationship with Christ stronger. I don't have all the answers and i'm not a perfect person, hardly. Nor am I a perfrect christian. Only God is perfect and I may be able to strive to be like Jesus and get closer and closer to holiness but I'm still a sinner, but i'm working on it. If you stumble upon this don't feel like you have to read it. This is mostly for myself, but maybe theres something others can learn from my life, who knows.

I grew up in church all my life but I never really understood it. I was baptized when I was still to little to sit up on my own, which is something I will NEVER do for my children. In 6th grade I even went through a confirmation class at my families church. I mean that's what you did when you were that age and there were about 5 of us around the same age--enough for a class. I have no idea what we learned about, I don't remember a thing. One thing I do remember was that we had to write a "paper" about what we believed about Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit. Who knows what I said. Kind of wish I had a copy now, I'm sure it would be entertaining. Even though I never really got it I never doubted there was a God, yet I never knew Him.

When I was a Jr in high school I went to a Younglife weekend camp. I had gone to church camps my whole life so this wasn't anything that strange to me. The speaker talked about stuff all weekend and nothing really freaked me out or anything, i was use to hearing about God my whole life. But also nothing really rang a bell, it didn't click yet. Then I remember he talked about filling your life with things other than Jesus. He had a glove and tried to fill it by putting in beer, a condom, friends [a Friends DVD], and other things but none of them fit. Lastly he put in God, which was his hand. And what do you know! It fit! It's kind of corny when I think back on it now but I remember it and it started to make wheels turn. The speaker then asked for everyone to split up in three groups. One group was for people who already knew Jesus and had relationship with him, another for people who weren't ready for that or didn't want that, and the last was for people to let Him take the drivers seat. I sat there thinking about which group I belonged in. The whole believing in God was not an issue but I didn't live my life like I believed there was a God. I didn't live my life for Him, I lived it my ME.

CLICK! It was then that I decided to go and be a part of the group that was going to live their lives for Christ! At the time I barely knew what I was getting myself into, I didn't really understand it all but I knew. I just knew! Now I know it was God pulling on my heart, like "come on Erica!" This was the right thing to do! This was what i was suppose to do. I remember I was shaking a while lot and fighting back tears. I didn't even know why, I thought I was being silly. I remember having my Younglife leader Witni by my side, I hardly even knew her.I wasn't sure what to do with myself. I remember a friend of mine who had come with us giving me the biggest hug afterwards when they let the "already in relationship with Jesus" group back in. I didn't understand why she wanted to give me a hug or why she was so so happy, but once I knew Him more I understood.

So I started to learn about Jesus, I started to read His word[I had to hunt down a bible in the house but asked for one for Christmas which was in a few weeks] and talk with him. I was part of a discipleship group that year and I grew fast in my faith. I even began dating a great chrisitian guy that spring. That was great for a while but now looking back I see that I was still too young in my faith for a relationship. We didn't set up boundaries right, nor keep many and we didn't keep our focus on God. Sure I would go to his church on Sunday nights, and he would go to Younglife things with me but we never really talked about our faith, nor the sins we committed like we should have. To the world we looked like the perfect christian couple, but our relationship lacked God. We had everyone fooled, even ourselves. I also thought I was gong to marry him one day, that fact that I was going to UK and he was going to EKU didn't bother me. I figured we loved each other enough to make it. What I didn't realize was that God is what is needed to hold a relationship together.

Fast forward to freshmen year of college, a very exciting time!! The day my mom and dad moved me into my dorm my mom told me their divorce was official[what great timing] after about a 4 month separations and 20 years of marriage. But I wasn't about to let that put a damper on my spirits, I'd already cried enough over that. My parents were gonna take me to the store and get stuff like food and Tide but they bailed. My dad handed me some cash and told me to get my stuff with it. When they left I was all alone in my room. I was too scared to even leave my room because I feared I would NEVER find it again! It didn't take to long to figure some things out, like remembering what Donovan looked like so I could find my way back. I was having so much fun that first week [I had a very intresting first weekend maybe if you ask I'll tell you about it]. I ran into a friend of mine from high school one of the first evenings. She was a year older and we did Younlife together and she was such an important person to me in my first year as a christian. She told me about CSF and got me to start going and I loved it! It was everything I was looking for. I even found a home church, something I lacked back home and I loved it as well.

Then everything hit the fan. Two weeks into college my boyfriend and I broke up. it's the kind of thing they warn youa bout when coming to college but you think, "that'll never happen to me." He told me it was a "break" because he wasn't sure if I was the girl he was suppose to marry and we'd get to experience college more and see where we were in about two months. A month later he was dating someone else. I was hurt and so so broken, words can't express it. I didn't know what to do with myself. I hardly ate, which led to me losing a bunch of weight fast and then I ate a lot which lead to be getting that weight back and then some. But i clung to God like i've never clung to anything in my life.

From that day we broke up for about 4 month I prayed every single day [spiritual disaplines aren't my strong point]! I didn't want to go out and make friends, I really just wanted to nap all the time. Yet at the same time I was frustrated because I wasn't making any real friends, and it didn't help that I knew HE was and I was madly jealous. At first life in the dorms felt like summer camp but unlike summer camp you don't make best friends within the first two days. I felt dead. The only time I felt alive was when I was a Synergy or at 608. I felt like I was living someone else's life. There were times when I'd wake up in the morning and want to yell "what the hell has happened to my life!!" and I didn't even use that kind of language. It was one of the lowest points in my life but one of the times i'm most thankful for. To top it off my roommate wasn't happy either. She went home every weekend and was already talking about going back home and to NKU for next semeste. Even though it had nothing to do with me it still made me feel like crap.[though I am happy to say everything got better and she's my best friend, still at UK, and we still live together!] I so very very depressed. I probability should have gone to a doctor but I was too prideful and I didn't want other people to know how truely hurt I really was. I would fight back tears during class and cry myself to sleep most nights, hoping my roommate wouldn't notice.

I didn't give up though! God wouldn't let me quit that easy! I kept going to CSF and I kept trying to get involved and slowly but surely I began to make friends. real friends. God put fantastic girls in my life [and now they can't get rid of me!! :)]that even thought they didn't realize it they were lifing me up and putting me back together because He was doing that for me and he was and is in them. He put them as a blessing in my life. My whole focus freshmen year was on making bonds with sisters in Christ and centering my life on Him and not myself.

Fast forward to the end of my sophomore year. I was tired. I was sick of school and I was even sick of being in Lexingotn, and i was also spiritually dry. I was looking forward to getting away from everything and everyone for the summer and being with my family in NKY. Over that summer I began to wonder if it was all even worth it but something inside of me wouldn't let myself fully believe that lie. I wanted to want God but I just wasn't. I was slipping away piece by piece. I remember backing mystuff back up after summer and I found my bible stashed away somewhere, I don't think I had opened it after the first week of summer.

Sometimes I have problems with transitioning between Lexington and northern Kentucky. I love both and every time it comes to leaving one I don't want to. I don't wanna go home when I've been in Lexington for a while and when I've been home for a while I don't' wanna go back to Lexington. There's been many times when I come back to Lexington from being home for a while and I just wanna sit in my room and cray and all I can think about is wanting to go home. Don't get me wrong I love Lexington, i love my house, my friends--who most the time are more like family, CSF, and Southland. If it wasn't for my christian family here I don't know what else would really keep me here. UK is fun, I love it but in the end it's really my brothers and sister in Christ that hold on to me here. They're just so fantastic I can't even stress that enough! I can just see Christ through them all and they encourage me when they don't even know they are, I just hope that I can encourage them as much. They teach me things when they don't even realize it, just by living their lives. They're there for me when I need them and I'm here for them if they have a bad date or need some prayer and encouragement! but I guess that the most important part of my community is being able to grow in my relationship with Jesus because that's something that's such a struggle for me at home.

I don't have community in NKY like I do in Lex. I find myself not even thinking to open my bible or pray. It's also hard being with my family as much as I love them, it's just really hard sometimes. My family memebers are "Christians" if you know what I mean. they don't understand why i do what I do. It's so hard for me to talk about my faith in general but it's 300% harder when it comes to them. Sometimes I just want to explode in a sort of bullhorn guy fashion, but I know that's not the right road to travel. I just wish I could show them what's really in my heart, what Jesus is really like, but I feel like I fail. One of the hardest things is they don't believe me, ever. They hardly know me. They have a stereotype of how i am! My own family! They stereotype me as the typical college student. They don't' believe me when I say I don't go out and get drunk or that I don't get frisky with boys. It's frustrating. They don't get it. They didn't get why I got baptized and that was hard. I wanted to be able to share that with them but I couldn't. My dad even asked me "wasn't once enough?"

Then I came back to Lexington [to start my jr year] ready but not as the same time. I kept praying that I would get out of this rut and desire Jesus with all my heart. Then it happened. The Holy Spirit set me on fire once more. I was in awe of the King! I was sharing my life with my sisters again and I was growing spiritually again! It was good!! Itwas real good! I felt like I could start to see what God was doing all around me and that is truly spectacular. I was putting myself out there spiritually, emotionally and as odd as this may be socially. I was praying for more of a servants heart and to serve the Lord with the right intentions. Also to even be OK with out getting any credit for my servents work. Things that I was praying about, meditating about, and reading about were lining up everywhere I looked. I was getting the same message in different directions. I was working on being OK with being single and being contend with Jesus and breaking my alabaster jar at His feet. I felt so in tune and I know it's not always like that but it was for that season. What a fantastic place to be!

When I went to 608 on November 11th 2007 I had no idea what would happen. Most of the service I was slightly bored. Bored might not really be the right word but I wasn't on the edge of my seat. Honestly I kind of zoned out for part of it so I clearly didn't have any idea of what was about to happen. The man speaking during the service was done and now it was ending worship. I watched a couple people get baptized and all I could think about the whole time was how I hadn't been since I became a christian. I remember having talked about it with my Younglife leader in high school. She had asked me about doing it and I wanted to but I couldn't in NKY. I couldn't do it at the churches on either parents side. I know it's funny to say getting baptized in a church wasn't right, but it wasn't. I couldn't bring myself to get baptized in a church I've known all my life but wasn't able to find Jesus in. She talked about how I should just do it but she understood too. I wanted it to be a the right place and that sounds totally stupid in a way because it really doesn't matter, but that wasn't completely it. I just felt it wasn't right. When we were getting ready to sing the last or second to last song at 608 Brad got on stage and asked us to turn to the person next to us and tell them what God was putting on our hearts right then. For once it took no thought at all. I KNEW what God was putting on my heart but I was also scared to say it. It was like He was slapping me on the side of my head and saying "Erica what has took you so long! I gave you the community you so wanted two years ago!" I hadn't stopped thinking about getting baptized but I wasn't thinking of doing it then or maybe not even at Southland, after all CSF was really where it was all at for me anyhow. So i turned to Katie and like a classic person not really wanting to blurt something out that clearly needed to be said I asked her what was on her heart first. As soon as she was done I knew I had to say it, I was trying to swallow it down. I was all nerves! I didn't even look her in the eyes at first, I simply said "I think I need to be baptized, I haven't been I since I became a Christian." She soon became completely energetic, "right now?? You should do it right now!"

And just like that Katie grabbed my hand and she basically flew us back to where they did the baptizims. Jon Weece was still in the water and she practically yelled at him"she's gonna go!!" Katie was great, and also very comical. She kept finding out what I was suppose to do. She barked demands as to where we were suppose to go and what not. We found the changing room and she was throwing clothes at me to put on. I asked her to come with me and I've never seen anyone undress so fast! I was shaking and hurried and it was nearly impossible to change. Then we found ourselves there, at last it seemed. When we got to the baptismal the rest of 608 was praying so we just stood there hugging each other and waiting to get wet. Then down we walked into the water and there was Jon waiting. And the rest is history my friends! Everything besides Jon, Katie and the water was out of my mind. I don't remember hearing the band[although Kellie was playing that night and claims she played extra joyful for me], the cheers, the claps, the lights, the people. As soon as I got out all sopping wet I was so happy to be greeted by a few of my brothers in Christ wanting a hug, not even caring that I was dripping wet. But as soon as
I could I went to put some dry clothes on, and that was an adventure in itself.

I was still completely a shaky mess, in fact it took hours to get over that. So putting my dry clothes back on took three times as long as it should have. I was only about half way done when all of a sudden my curtain is ripped aside--and mind you at this point the changing room was getting pretty busy--and there was Katie totally unaware of my current lack of clothing. "OH MY GOSH! YOU JUST GOT BAPTIZED BY JONE WEECE!!" I'll never forget that moment either, all I could bring myself to do was to try and cover myself up and yell at her. She got the picture after that. It was a really special night. The band was all out of music so they just kept replaying songs because people just kept getting baptized, I think about 20 people that night proclaimed that Jesus is the Christ.

The rest of the semester ended well, I was being extra social like I had been all semester and just enjoying myself. Finals week was awful and to top it off I was very sick. I went home for break hardly wanting to leave my friends, but something changed over break. I'm not sure what brought it on, but it came. When it came time to return to school I didn't want to at all--more than usual. I felt so weighted down. When I came back to Lexington I just sat in my room and cried. I even tried to figure out how many weekends i could go home without it being obvious I was so unhappy. I would sit in my room and watch a lot of Jane Austen movies and be mopey. I went home every other weekend at least til about spring break. I didn't want to hang out with people like I had been doing all last semester to the fullest. I felt anxious and sad everyday for no reason, and I didn't pay attention to my studies like I should have.

Spring break came, and I went to do inner city work in Chicago with CSF. It was overall a great experience. I loved the city and meeting some people from other places. I started to focus on what I can do for others instead of myself. I became a little happier and wasn't going home as much at least. When it came time to go home for summer and to my lovely warehouse job at Toyota I was excited but not ready to leave Lexington. I stayed around for a few days after my last final and hung out with friends and it was a great way to leave things.

Then it was back to NKY, I tried to find a home church but I gave up. I spent my days sweating at Toyota, I got to know the workers well and we had a lot of fun. One of the girls I worked with the summer before came back and we became inseparable. It was great to have someone to talk to about everything and this was the one person in my life over the summer who I could share my faith with. She even decided to get baptized at a lake by her dad. It was just her family [and the family who's lake house it was] and she wanted to me to come. It was a really great experience and I loved getting to share that with her. Over the summer though i didn't kept up with my bible like I wanted [better than the last though], although I did a lot of reading most of it was secular.

I came back to UK for the start of my forth year and I was so much better than I had been a semester ago. I was enjoying my classes more and doing well in them. I reconnected with my christian community and was getting on the right path again. I was starting to stretch myself and learn about theology and even did a study on Isaiah with a group of amazing girls. I was tired of how my relationship with God was and devoted more and more time to really knowing who He is. I read a lot about really just going after a life devoted to him completely and really became inspired by the words of Leslie Ludy. I even started reading My Utmost for His Highest and journaling my prayers pretty much everyday, which is good for me. Now *every* day would be great but like I said I lack discipline. [although I kind of made an uncommitted new years resalution to read My Utmost every day this year, so far I haven't missed a day!]

At times I still have my doubts that creep in but I'm really learning a lot right now! I've started to really LEARN and REMEMBER when I'm reading my bible, I have a whole system I'm working through that I made up. I'm starting to really make sure my devotion to secular activities and pop culture is less than my time devoted to God. I gave up gossip magazines, which I wasn't addicted to but would buy every now and then when I was at the store. I decided I shouldn't really care about the world of pop culture and it was a waste of a few bucks anyhow. I'm working on removing the clutter from my life, in my surroundings and inside myself. Over winter break I read my bible more and prayed more than I had over any other school break so far, and that is a great step in a great direction. My goal right now is to really learn and remember what I'm reading about in the bible and really APPLY it to my life. I also want to learn about great Christians in the past and see what I can learn about how they lived their life. Also I want to give up more of my time in service. One thing I really prayed for over break was the chance to kind of disciple a younger girl, kind of like what my Younglife leader did for me. I prayed for this a lot over break, I didn't know how it would work out but I just felt this semester it could work. I don't even really know anyone younger but I figured God would find a way and God has! He answered that pray with a new thing they're set up at CSF for underclassmen girls to sign up to be in an accountability group and then they are grouped with an upper upperclassman girl. When I got the message asking me to do this I wanted to scream YES! THANK YOU GOD! YOU'RE AMAZING! I was even happy and ready to come back to school after break. A good sign. God is working in me right now, a lot! Extreme make-over style!
Through all the bad...I've been so blessed and He's never left me in the cold.

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