I know lots of you who read my blog have known me for years. You watched me grow up in Chanute and know my parents, or you were part of my community in Kansas City. And some of you are part of the online community that has encouraged me in the past year.
Although you're part of the middle of my story (where we're at right now), some of you may not know my beginnings.
I've shared some of it on "my story" page, but it's always great to reflect back on what God has brought me through. As I grow and mature in my faith in the Lord, I also gain new insights into my past.
If you're not a Christian, I also hope that reading my story gives you a personal insight into why someone would claim to follow Jesus. It's easy to read about Christians on the news (and some of it isn't so great!) and come to certain assumptions about us. But hopefully reading one person's story helps you understand our faith more.
I come from a family with a long history of faith. My father's parents were missionaries and traveling pastors; my mother grew up in a conservative Baptist church. And my parents both wanted to raise their children to love Jesus and obey his Word.
So it was very normal that my nice middle-class American family living in the Bible belt would go to church every Sunday and Wednesday night.
I am so thankful I grew up listening to Bible stories, memorizing Scripture, and seeing my parents serve in the church.
That childhood gave me a foundation of truth. I grew up understanding my own sinfulness and need for a Savior, and the relationship I could have with God because of Jesus. But all the details of what that means is something I'm still learning today.
As a high schooler and college student (who was homeschooled and attended the community college in her hometown),
I had an unending fascination with those who were different than me.
My friends at college were foreign exchange students, and it was the first time I met those who didn't believe in any God. Talking with them and exchanging views challenged me to really understand what I believed as a Christian and why.
God took me on a journey of exploring "apologetics", a fancy term that means defending the Christian faith based on historical facts and personal experiences.
Books I read, like The Case for Christ, helped me understand how grounded the story of Jesus is in historical reality. I also read about other religions, like Buddhism and Islam, trying to see how they differed from Christianity.
And one thing that stands out to me is that Christianity is the only religion in which God pursues people - not the other way around. It is the only religion that teaches God came to earth and became human in order to save us, instead of staying distant, demanding we are the ones to change on our own.
Understanding who Jesus is took on a whole new meaning when I spent a year working in a fundamental-Muslim country in north Africa after graduating from college. I was surrounded by people who passionately believed in God, but who believed they had to earn their way into his favor.
There are so many things I love about Muslim culture - you won't find any more hospitable people on the face of the earth.
But the idea that I could ever make myself perfect enough to be acceptable to God? Impossible. I saw clearly that if the Bible is true, that means Jesus was perfect in my place.
He lived the life I should have lived and died the death I should have died, so I could come near to God.
Today, I'm still journeying to understand what his mercy means in my every day life. I believe in Jesus because of reasons objective and subjective. History shows he did live and die. And as for his claims to be God - either he was crazy (and we can't believe anything he says), or he really is God. There's not much middle ground.
I'm still learning that even this "good girl" needs grace.
I struggle with wanting to please people, to have a good reputation, to not show weakness, to make everyone think I have it all together.
But I don't. I say spiteful things to my husband; I get irritated when my baby is fussy; sometimes I just want to curl up with a book and ignore the hurting world around me.
All of that is symptomatic of my lingering human brokenness that Jesus is healing every day, through his presence and his Word.
And it's healing that's available to everyone, because we all need it. The biggest problem in our world isn't war and famine, or environmental damage, or economic injustice. Although those are all huge, serious issues, they're all the result of people's broken relationship with their Creator. Jesus is here to heal and help and bring us back to God.
Thank you so much for taking time to read just a part of my story! I hope you see that this story isn't really about me; it's about Jesus. All our stories are just part of His Great Story of redeeming the world.
If you feel like sharing your story of faith, or if you have questions about who Jesus is, it'd make my day for you to share them with me!
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