My salvation story could be considered rather dull. I’ve heard so many begin the same way mine does-
“I was born into a Christian home and went to church all my life….”
And yet it’s not about what we’ve done or what has happened to us. Instead, what God has done in our lives to bring us to the point of trusting in Him becomes our testimony. As we’ve seen over and over, history is actually HIS STORY. That is true for American and world history, and it’s also true in our own personal histories.
We all have our own stories.
Yes, there is a point of salvation where God draws us to Himself, but that’s only the story’s beginning. True conversion and faith begin from there, and our lives are an ever-evolving unfolding story as we walk through it with Him. Sometimes that story develops in our youth, and sometimes it starts later in our teen years or even further into adulthood. We all have our own stories.
Mine began in my childhood because my parents were believers and raised me in church, Sunday school, and Bible reading in our home. They also enrolled me in a Christian school for my elementary and junior high years. We did a lot of church hopping when I was young, but I remember specifically one time in an old traditional church Sunday school room asking Jesus into my heart. I remember doing that many times after that because I was never sure if it was real, and I had no way of knowing if Jesus really was in my heart. But the belief was there. The seed had been planted.
Those growing-up years were super hard. My parents had me later in life, and I was an only child. They were almost old enough to be my grandparents, so I was raised a generation older than I was. My dad was very conservative, so we didn’t have a lot of family friends, and I didn’t fit in with kids my own age very well.
There’s not too much I remember about my childhood, but my mom will tell you I cried every day on the way home from school. Life was hard, traumatic even, but on this side of it all, I can see God’s providence in all the hard. God really does “work all things together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 isn’t cliche after you are further down the road from the trials.
Romans 8:29 is also true: “For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” All the hardships I have lived through were God’s “on-the-job training,” similar to Joseph’s in the Old Testament. These incredible hardships prepare us to do the Lord’s work in whatever work He has for us to do.
God really does work all things for our good.
What I did take away from my childhood was a lot of head knowledge. My dad could have been a preacher- he was well-read and studied the scriptures deeply. He knew theology and read books that are still over my head. One of those tidbits of my head knowledge was that I was a sinner, but I had no heart knowledge of that. I knew it, and it bothered me. I would try to read the Bible but just couldn’t understand what I was reading. That puzzled me because I was a good student and could read and write well. English and language arts were my favorite classes in school.
I couldn’t see at the time that God was working through those growing-up years, putting pieces into place, specific knowledge in my head, questions in my heart, and providing experiences. But, one day, I would begin to see how my life was a woven tapestry beginning all the way back at birth.
I was baptized in high school, went to college, and continued with strong faith. I intentionally went to church each Sunday, still in the doing-the-right-things checking-the-box mentality. The Lord preserved me throughout my life regarding my emotional and mental health, physical health, and purity. There is no question that His hand has been on my life, even when my faith was baby faith for years.
It wasn’t until after I was married and had Big Bro that the Lord finally converted my head knowledge into heart knowledge. Hubby was working late one night, and Big Bro was sleeping in the pack-and-play. I began reading a pamphlet I had brought home from my parent’s house called “The Day God Saved a Baptist Preacher,” which was the testimony of Charles Spurgeon. I am not sure exactly what triggered it when I read it, but the Lord opened my eyes, and I felt all the knowledge settle in my heart faster than I could comprehend. I just knew something supernatural had happened.
Slowly over time, I began to be hungry for the things of the Lord. First, I read many spiritual books by pastors and devotional books. Spiritual milk, as the apostle Paul calls it. Then, gradually, I began consuming more and more scripture until I could read and study it for myself. Now I would say I can chew the meat of the word. But that was not a quick process. It was a journey with the Lord. And that journey was very much tied up in motherhood, being Big Bro’s mama.
He uses the mountain tops and the valleys, too.
The Lord and I have been through many valleys over the years of marriage and motherhood. He carried me through many of them. The Footprints poem resonated deeply with me, and many times over the years, I was aware I was not walking alone if I was even walking at all. I honestly have no idea how I made it through those years, except I know that it was the Lord sustaining me, mostly carrying me. But that was a work He did, nothing I did on my own or in my own strength.
Life has been unbelievably difficult on all fronts. I am hesitant or even embarrassed to tell anyone the complete story because it feels like way too much, and I don’t want sympathy. If I tell the story, it’s to give glory to God for sustaining me through it and using it for His glory.
As I have mentioned in another post, we recently reached a point in my motherhood journey with Big Bro that required me to pass the baton and send him to a residential place. His special needs were more than Hubby and I could handle, and our home wasn’t healthy for anyone living there. God, in His mercy, allowed it to be out of our hands so we didn’t have to send him away from our home. But as I reflect on my life, sitting on the precipice of a new chapter, I am keenly aware that all the hardships, pain, trials, and struggles I walked through in my life prepared me to be Big Bro’s mama. There were many ways I was mistreated, conditioned to be a people pleaser, and even taught very conservative views of women and their roles. I could settle into anger, hold a grudge, and be bitter towards God and others, but God needed me to have specific perspectives and views through those experiences to be present as Big Bro’s mama. That is a truth that comforts me.
Being Big Bro’s mama was a specific call in my life, and God prepared me for it. There is no question in my mind about that- I know that deep within my core.
We’re left with a decision.
At some point, we realize that we can be angry at God for the journey or be thankful for how He prepared us for the challenging tasks that make up the work He called us to do. And that’s where full surrender comes into play.
As we mature in our faith, God brings us to a place where we fully understand His sovereignty and place all of our trust in Him. He shows us glimpses at the tapestry He has been weaving and opens our eyes to His goodness within our lives. We catch glimpses of how He has been working all the things for good.
I grew up with an understanding of what is called the long arm of the Lord, which are the big distant attributes of God. They are the things that seem to keep him at arm’s length. So I needed to learn about the short arm of the Lord and how he’s also a tender friend in a close relationship with us. He taught me that by prompting me to study His goodness. And He gently showed me that His goodness is more often than not demonstrated through trials and hardships. From that was born the Grateful for God’s Goodness devotional series.
And at some point in our walk with the Lord, we learn to listen for His voice instead of always talking and asking. That’s when we begin to notice He’s been working in our lives all along. For example, a few years ago, I started noticing themes in what I read or listened to, and I understood God was talking to me. Sometimes it was a word of encouragement, and sometimes it was something I needed to repent of or address. That is how he called me to start Life Well Inspired. A series of themed messages through scripture, a sermon, and music sparked the thought of starting a blog. That was one of the first times I heard His voice speaking into my life, and He began to teach me about obedience.
First obedience, then surrender.
Obedience follows the surrender that comes as our faith in the Lord deepens. And obedience is another lesson the Lord teaches in our walk with Him. We can’t surrender our lives to Him if we don’t trust Him; likewise, we won’t obey someone we don’t trust. The Lord first tasked me with creating Life Well Inspired. I wish I could say I did what He asked without question, but I played Gideon more times than I want to admit. Lots of questions surfaced as I stretched my wobbly legs. “Are you sure, Lord?” “Did I really hear your voice?” “Make the ground dry and the fleece wet.” “Now the fleece dry and the ground wet.” He patiently confirmed and answered, and I eventually stopped seeking confirmation.
Then He brought me to a season of severe anxiety after a parasite trashed my gut. The healing came through obedience as I worked with a nutritionist and began learning about herbs and functional medicine. I had to do the work of learning as he brought me summits and articles, but I was very aware of His leading in the process. My love of all things gardening, plants, and nature helped! At the same time, He began asking me to lay down that love and my business.
Eventually, He brought me to the place where I was willing to obey the call to lay down the identity I had placed in my plants and flowers, motherhood, and marriage. Interestingly, this place of surrender coincided with Big Bro leaving our home and beginning a new chapter in my life. He had stripped away everything and had me broken down to bare. It felt scary and like a blessing at the same time as I began to anticipate what he would rebuild from the ashes and rubble of my life.
One thing is for sure. The story of God’s work in our lives is not for the faint of heart. It definitely takes guts to follow the Lord, but He is faithful to meet us where we are and enable us to continue on the journey with Him. Just as it is the Lord who seeks us out and draws us to Himself, it is the Lord who guides our steps and enables us to walk with Him. Many times it is an invitation to follow Him blindly. We often don’t have many, if any, steps illuminated in front of us. That’s precisely why Psalm 119:105 says, “His word is a lamp unto our feet and a light to our path .”We need to trust Him to illuminate our way, sometimes even the very next step.
As we walk with Him, we gain more confidence in Him, and it becomes easier to trust Him as we can remember what He has done in the past. It becomes easier to discern His voice and follow His leading. Remembrance becomes an essential part of our faith.
Remembrance comes next.
Rosemary means remembrance. That’s what I painted on the tiny pots which held the rosemary cuttings I used as wedding favors. Looking back to my young adult days, I can see how God wove the thread of remembrance through the tapestry of my entire story.
My wilderness journey was 18 years or more. I guess that’s how long it took me to mature enough spiritually to surrender to the Lord fully. But, praise God, He didn’t give up on me but kept pursuing me- teaching, sustaining, and drawing me closer to Him until it was time to open my eyes. God taught me through Genesis, Exodus, Job, and Numbers during those eighteen years. There were times of deep study, plenty of ah-ha moments, and times of wondering where God was and needing to use what I had learned in the plentiful years.
It seems remembrance is a necessary cadence for living, and we should work it into our own rhythms. There are many scripture references regarding rhythms that can springboard our own rhythms.
This is the basis of much of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. God constantly called the Israelites to remember and set the feasts and sacrifices in a way that reminded them of their faith. The Passover is an excellent example of a yearly rhythm of remembering their deliverance from slavery in Egypt.
When the second generation crossed the Jordan to enter the promised land, and God parted the waters, God instructed the Israelites to go back and find 12 large stones to make a monument for all future generations to remember what He had done.
Jesus commanded the disciples to remember His death and gave us the communion rhythm we still observe today. So, in a way, Easter is our Passover as we remember God’s sacrifice that freed us from slavery to sin.
Eighteen years later, God is teaching me more profound lessons in remembrance as I stand on the precipice of a new season now that my oldest is out of the house and not needing my full attention. The call to remembrance is a call to remember what God has done. We can’t forget how he has moved and worked in our lives. It’s a call to remember God’s goodness in our life.
Remembrance increases our love for the Lord. It is a faith-boosting exercise. We can’t come face to face with God’s hand in and on our life without falling into worship. It will strike the match of awe every time. The longer we walk with the Lord and practice remembrance, the larger He will be in our minds and lives. Grace Fox, Proverbs 31 First5 writer, says it this way, “Recalling God’s faithfulness in the past brings us courage for the future.”
Recently, the phrase “new adventure” has caught my attention on the heels of an understanding that I am entering a new chapter in my life. God has proven good and faithful. Therefore I am excited about what words He will write on the blank pages before me. I know He’ll sustain me through the hard times yet to come and send blessings I will be able to celebrate.
Remembering my salvation story and HIStory most definitely gives me the courage to face the future before me.
How does remembering your salvation story and HIStory encourage you?