“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
The beauty I find in hearing someone’s story is when God is glorified through their life. Every story has its ups and downs, mountain tops and valleys, but it is the ability to see Jesus in it all that makes the story worth sharing. Her Story today is one that has walked through brokenness, but through complete surrender has experienced saving faith and the richness of God’s love. Her Story is perhaps just like yours…a sinner saved by grace.
She grew up in a loving, Christian home, and her family was very involved and dedicated in their small Lutheran church. She was raised to believe the truth of the Bible and to live her life according to its truth. Sunday school and worship services were highlights in her week. Her teenage years were filled with youth group activities, service projects, and weekend retreats with the youth group. There were even opportunities for the youth to lead the weekend worship services from time to time. Her mom was the youth director at their church, and she loved that. There was always something exciting to do with her church friends, and this community she had was shaping her in ways she didn’t even fully know at the time. A strong foundation was being built in her life in her early years, a foundation of faith.
When she was 16 years old, she attended a three-day youth retreat with her church. It was at this retreat that she truly encountered God for the first time, an encounter that would change her life forever. The theme of the retreat was all about unconditional love, and that is exactly what she encountered…the unconditional love of the Father. One night in particular, a large gathering of family, friends and different people from the Lutheran church community were singing praises to God as the youth made their way through the candlelit aisles. It was in this moment that she was so overcome by God’s love demonstrated through these people, many of whom she didn’t even know, singing praise to God and showing their support of her and her faith journey. She knew that her life from that day forward would be one committed to following Jesus Christ.
As she entered into her 1st and 2nd year of college, she stayed closed to home, which allowed her to be involved in a Christian college ministry. During this time, she went on her first missions trip, which at the time she thought she’d never survive. The description of five days in Tijuana, Mexico, sleeping on the ground, showering in make-shift showers, and eating camp food seemed a bit much to ask of her. But it was through all of the above temporary sacrifices that her team was able to build houses for the community there. She had no idea at the time, but God was planting a seed in her heart for the nations and serving His people.
When her junior year of college came, she decided that she was finally ready to spread her wings and move away from home to finish college at NAU (Northern Arizona University). It was there that she began to experience what the “college life” was all about. Despite how great her life had been up until this point, she couldn’t help but think she had been missing out on all that this new life away from home had to offer. Although she managed to find a new church to call home, the party scene became an increasing thrill to her and it quickly became more important than her relationship with God. For the first time in her life, guys started to notice her, and that only seemed to fuel the fire inside of her. It felt good to be noticed. She enjoyed the attention she’d get out at the bars and flirted with any guys that looked her way. Despite the many opportunities to cave in, by God’s grace she managed to graduate from college a virgin and without a boyfriend. This, unfortunately, wouldn’t last for long.
With college now behind her, she continued to find joy in partying and vying for a man’s attention. The first guy she met after moving back home was the one that she would give her purity to. Like so many, she believed the lie that no man would ever love her and want to be with her if she didn’t give herself to him first. Her “true love waits” approach hadn’t seemed to bring any eligible bachelors knocking on her door, so why not try something new? All she wanted was a man that would love her, and this was the only way she knew how to get that. From the day that she sacrificed the one thing that she’d held onto for so long, her whole view of dating, guys, relationships, sex, and love became distorted. If she was going to show a guy that she loved him, she would do so through sex. The next few years of her dating life were spent with this distorted view of love and relationships.
In the midst of this downward spiral, she met the guy that she thought was the one. He swept her off her feet, spoiled her, charmed her, and told her that he loved her – everything that she had been searching for. So, they moved in together. She was convinced that this was it. She had finally found the man that she’d been waiting for, the one who would really love her. However, it ended just as quickly as it started. It lasted about a year before it all fell apart, leaving her with a broken and shattered heart. And it was in her brokenness that God began to speak to her heart. The days and weeks that followed were filled with the realization that she was not living the life that God had intended for her. She was searching for love in all the wrong places when God’s perfect love was right there, reaching out to her. She had traded in something that was intended to be so beautiful and real for a cheap, fake imitation of love that had nothing to offer below the surface. She knew what she needed to do. She needed God to be the center again. It was then that she found herself spending her weekends at church instead of at the bars and clubs. She starting seeking God’s forgiveness for the mistakes she had made, and like never before she began to experience the love of Christ. Her journey back to God was not without its bumps along the way, but by God’s grace He renewed and restored her to Himself.
During this season of returning to the Lord, she was blessed to meet a friend at the church she was attending who would do more for her relationship with Christ than she knew and who would introduce her to her future husband. She was quickly welcomed in as a friend and shown the love of Christ. One night, her new friend invited another friend of hers to church and introduced her to him. Greg was an athletic, attractive man, and she was excited to get to know him.
It didn’t take long for her to see that Greg was different than every other guy she had known. He loved the Lord and was growing in his relationship with Jesus. He was interested in getting to know her and for the right reasons, not just to see what was in it for him. He was respectful, wanted to be her friend, and he even invested in her family.
But wasn’t this all too good to be true? Wasn’t this going to fall apart like all the rest had? Fearful that Greg would end up like every other guy, she started putting up walls and pushing him away. She just couldn’t believe that after all that she’d done that God would allow her to end up with a man like Greg, a man with Christ-like character, a man that had everything she had always longed for. So, she took a step back and asked Greg to just be friends. Much to her surprise, Greg’s character didn’t change one bit over the next few months. Although it was extremely difficult for him and she knew that, God was guiding Greg and telling him to just hold on and not to give up on her. Her prayer was that if God desired for them to be together, He would help her work through her past and her fears.
And then one day it all changed. After months apart spent in prayer, she woke up with a sense of peace and calm like she’d never felt before, knowing that God had brought Greg into her life. She knew in that moment that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. She remembers the beauty of the moment like it was yesterday when she shared with Greg all that God had done in her heart to bring healing to places once broken and how He patiently and lovingly guided her to see that Greg was the one that God had picked for her. A few months later, they were engaged and married the following year. This October will mark their three year anniversary, and they will celebrate with their newborn son.
Through it all, she learned the importance of trusting God in everything and being obedient to Him in all things. This is a daily discipline, a choice she must make every day to trust that God knows what is best, and He will guide and direct her life if she will choose to submit to Him in all things in obedience. Although she doesn’t always get what she wants, God has faithfully and always supplied her with what she needs. Often times, God has saved her from her wants to show her that all she needs is ultimately found at His feet.
She learned the depths of this truth last year as her and Greg attempted to short sell their condo in order to lower their cost of living and prepare for a family. They wanted so badly to have a house like the rest of their friends and even considered foreclosing to get what they wanted. However, through Godly friends and counsel, together they learned the importance of trusting God and being obedient to His will. If God wanted them to move out of their condo, He would make a way. Their conviction was that if they chose to foreclose when they didn’t need to, they would ultimately be telling God that His will was not good enough. So they trusted and they stayed put, and God provided something that they needed. They were able to re-finance (with no appraisal!) to lower their monthly payment. Now family life is upon them and even though they may very well still be in their condo when their son is born, they are thankful for the home they can provide for their child, and they will stay there until God provides another honorable option for them. It is a choice to trust God. Time after time, He shows her that He has plans to prosper her, to give her hope and to give her a future. All He asks of her is trust and obedience, which really isn’t much considering His faithfulness time after time.
There have been numerous times that I have been humbled by her faith. There have been countless times when God has shown me His love for me through her. Her story is so similar to my own…a sinner saved by grace, struggling to fully embrace God’s abundant, unconditional love, but set free from every chain by His redeeming love, mercy, and grace. Her story is one that I’m honored to share. She is one of my best friends, a God-send that has been a tremendous blessing in my life. I pray that our friendship is one that lasts a lifetime. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 says it well – Pam, God has used you in my life to make me a better friend, a better sister, a better wife, a better Christ-follower. I only pray that my life can have the same impact on yours. I love you, friend.