Life Changes

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One of my favorite church memories as a kid was going to the Wisconsin Dells with my closest church friends for a middle school youth retreat.  We would stay a couple nights at the hotel, have morning worship, speakers, small groups, and discussions within our individual church groups.  There was also plenty of time for late night middle school hang outs and waterpark fun.  When I think back on those trips now, I’m amazed at the ways God was establishing my faith even when I had no clue.  I remember sitting in the big ballroom surrounded by close friends and many braces-wearing, likely BO smelling, middle school strangers from other churches, hearing powerful messages from people who had personally experienced Jesus working in their lives.  They shared their stories and encouraged and inspired hundreds of giddy, eager to learn, middle schoolers who maybe couldn’t quite grasp the whole idea of Jesus yet.  I was always amazed by the speakers.  How did they know so much about Jesus? How did they get to experience Him in such amazing ways? I want to have a ‘God moment’ like these people.  They are so confident just standing there talking about Jesus like it’s no big deal! I kind of wanted to be just like them—to experience Jesus in the ways they spoke about; but in 7th grade, I was pretty convinced that life wasn’t going to be for me.

A couple weeks ago I was talking with a friend, and all of a sudden she said to me, “You’re so open with your faith.  You talk about Jesus so freely.”  I was pretty caught off guard, said thanks and sort of just chuckled to myself.  I would never have expected that to be said about me. My 7th grade self would tell you I definitely wasn’t cut out for that.  Then I realized how much Jesus has truly changed my life recently.

My faith has always been important to me.  Something personal and special to me.  When I needed to rely on it, I was able to.  I said my prayers when I needed Jesus to come through for me and thanked him when he did.  I went to church and learned new things to ponder over in my head. I kept everything inside.  I didn’t really need to talk about Jesus to other people, as long as I knew I had a relationship with him.  My faith was personal.  It didn’t really need to be talked about and it was surely going to be uncomfortable if I did have to.  So, it was better just kept to me, myself, and I.  There were other people who knew way more than me about Jesus, so I’d leave that stage to them.  So, the statement my friend made was something I’d never have expected to be said about me.  Sharing about Jesus was for other people, I’d just listen and let them do all the talking.

But let me explain a little bit about what’s changed..

My faith and relationship with Jesus used to be my fall back, when life got rocky, I’d rely on Jesus after I’d try to fix it myself.  He was my last resort when I couldn’t do it myself.  In my thoughts once a day at bedtime when I’d pray.  Life was pretty good just the way it was, when I didn’t need him much.  Things were working out and Jesus was good when I needed him.

But when death snuck into my life, hit me smack in the face and left me completely empty, the ONLY thing I found I had left was Jesus.  My friends couldn’t take the pain away, my family couldn’t change the outcome, and they were hurting just as much as I was.  My only lifeline in those scary moments was JESUS.  He was literally the only thing that felt constant in my life for a period of time—the only thing I could hold onto was my faith in Jesus and what I’d learned over the years to be true.  When I had nothing left, Jesus became everything. It’s hard to explain, but what I learned over the course of time was how every encounter I’d had with Jesus, every opportunity I’d had to learn about him leading up to that point in my life, was perfectly orchestrated to keep me holding on in those moments when I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to.  Every attempt at building my faith and learning about Jesus as a child was exactly the foundation I needed to stand on—because if I hadn’t known about Jesus when the unthinkable became my reality, I sincerely don’t know how my family or I would have survived.

So, here’s what I think.  Maybe that’s what it takes.  Maybe it takes being completely helpless to realize Jesus is the only helper.  Maybe it takes hitting rock bottom to recognize He’s already waiting there and caught you.  Maybe it’s in the brokenness, the heartbreak, and the pain that God has the opportunity to do the most radical healing + transforming in our lives.

All I know is when Jesus was ALL I had, I wanted everyone else to be able to experience that kind of love.  I didn’t want to keep it to myself anymore, because he didn’t just help support me after I’d used up all my strength—he was my ONLY strength.  He was literally all I was clinging to, and at the same time, EVERYTHING I needed.  It was in those moments I began to understand if I had nothing + still had Jesus, then I truly had ALL I would ever need.

So why am I open about sharing my faith now? Because I’ve experienced life with Jesus in a way I can’t NOT tell people about.  Facing impossible pain forced me to need Jesus, be loved by Jesus, be healed by Jesus, and ultimately be transformed by Jesus. I talk about Jesus because I can’t imagine a life without him, and it breaks my heart that people don’t have Jesus in theirs.

My life continued changing when I started following people who follow Jesus.  I hung around my friends who love Jesus.  I started following Christian leaders and influencers on social media.  I read books by Christian authors.  I made church more of a priority.  I had a new eagerness to learn more about Jesus.  I asked questions and researched answers. I started listening to Christian music.  I spent more time praying.  I started making these changes, and my life has become completely saturated with Jesus in the best way possible.  I hop on social media now and hear about Jesus.  I hear a new song, and learn about Jesus.  I have a conversation with a friend, and we talk about faith.  Jesus became not just a one-time thought in my day, but a constant part of my day and my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So yes, by the grace of God I share my faith because I’ve come to realize just how transformative it can be.  I want everyone to live a life wrapped in the kind of love and grace I’ve been able to tap into as I’ve started to learn more about Jesus.  It’s powerful, crazy goodness and I don’t want you to miss out on it!   I encourage you to keep fighting the good fight, remain steadfast in your faith, use this time as an opportunity to grow and learn.  Build a solid foundation now because when life sneaks up and knocks you down, you’ll need every ounce of it to stand on.

So, let’s talk about Jesus more, let’s ask more questions and find more answers.  Let’s spread his love and invite others to experience his grace.  Let’s be disciples who walk in his ways and be transformed ourselves as we experience more of Jesus.  Because it’s a pretty awesome thing, and it’s not meant to only be shared by those people who stand on stage.  It’s meant for YOU.

 

 

 

For a good laugh, here’s some slightly embarrassing photos from my middle school Dells Quake years…you’re welcome.

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clearly we were cool enough for a pic with the band 🙂

Hope you have a great rest of your week.  Friday is almost here!

-Natalie

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