What I am most thankful for...

As we approach this holiday season, I am filled with thanksgiving for so many things in my life.  God has richly blessed Scott and I with so much.  We have 2 beautiful children and God has placed Scott and I together to work as a team, love and respect one another, and to lead our family to follow Him.  Scott is a devoted spouse, someone who loves me unconditionally and always has our family's best inerests at heart.  We have loving families, great friends, a warm comfy house, food on the table, a paycheck, 2 working cars and place to call home.  What more could we ask for?  Well there is something we are MOST thankful for and it cannot be bought, it is a free gift that we both have received and we pray our children and our children's children will also receive...

As we enter the holiday season filled with gifts, Christmas carols, candles and lights, have you ever thought why we truly celebrate this season.  It is because of the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Have you ever pondered the lyrics to "Silent Night" or wondered why Jesus is referred to as a "savior"...have you ever wondered why he came to this Earth sentenced with death before he even was born...it was for you and for me.  We are born sinners and all fall short (it all started in the garden of Eden when Eve was tempted and bit the apple).  No matter how much good we do, how clean our lives look, we all fall short and there is a whole in heart we try to fill with everything but Jesus.  But just like the final piece of the puzzle, Jesus is the only thing that will fit.  Luckily for us, we can all claim him as our savior and this holiday season I thought it was just about time for you all to hear my testimony or how I came to know Jesus...

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that we may not perish but have everlasting life in Him.

John 3:16

Realizing God was my personal savior has been a lifelong journey for me. A journey I didn’t know I was on until after I discovered Christ as my savior. I thought I was a believer my whole life, but thought I had to earn my place in Heaven. I grew up going to church and Sunday school.  I have a loving and adoring set of my parents who have built me into the woman I am today and thank them for my upbringing, I was blessed!
Like anyone else, my life was full of ups and downs.  I had a lot of insecurity and self-hate.  In high school, like many young girls, I was unsure of myself and was very insecure.  I hated myself for many years and didn’t believe I was worthy of anyone’s love, let alone God’s. Some of you may know that in high school I developed anorexia/bulimia.

I hated myself for many years and didn’t believe I was worthy of anyone’s love, let alone God’s, but to be honest he was the furthest thing from my radar. As I look back now, though, I see so many seed planters in my life. What is a seed planter? One of those people that lived their life for God or shared God with me. Their life was different from mine in an unspeakable way and they left a lasting impression.

My 1st semester of college was probably one of the most trying periods of my life. Not only was I going through the throws of growing up, living on my own, being responsible, etc. September 11th happened and for many of us here in Iowa it was a devastating day but it was especially devastating considering the fact that just the the weekend before my family had moved from NYC back to Iowa. They had spent time visiting the sights of downtown NYC and now they were forever changed. How sobering is the fact that my family had been saved from the devestation while millions of others had such loss. Shortly after 9/11 my Aunt Susan, a mother to 1 and 3 year old was diagnosed with terminal leukemia (she found out while donating blood for 9/11) and was gone just 6 weeks later. Every insecurity and anxiety I had about life and death was at the top of my thoughts. I could not get out of my head the thought of dying and why was there so much senseless death going on all around me.

I believe God’s first step in finding him was leading me to Scott.  Scott chose to give me his love of his own free will, I believed until I became a parent myself that my parents just had to love me (well duh as a parent you can't help but loving your children so strongly sometimes it hurts). As our love grew, we began to discuss important topics, one of them being our faith. We both agreed we wanted to make it a more serious part of our life, but college took over, and there was nothing pulling us in at any of the churches we attended. I believe now, my heart was not ready to accept Christ. However we continually watched Scott's sister and brother-in-law and how they lived their lives and there was just "something" about them and the way they lived differently for the Lord.

When I received my job in Ankeny, Scott and I decided to begin looking for a church. It was an act of God that we found our church home. I was looking in the paper and “something” in my heart told me to give it a try, now I know the Holy Spirit was working in my life even then. After my Aunt died at a young age, I always wondered how my life would end.  Death scared me and many nights I would lie awake worrying that my life would end and I didn’t know where I would end up.  I wanted the assurance of Heaven but didn’t know how to make that happen.

I remember one of the first services we attended was on continuous prayer. Pastor John answered so many of the questions that were on my heart, I know God had placed him in my life. I went home that day and began my journey of accepting Christ as my personal savior. Each week continued to be as eye-opening, a continuous answer to my prayers and questions, I would leave each week, being amazed that in our pastor's message God provided the answers I needed to know, as big as He is, he took the time to care for me and my concerns. My heart began to be filled, I allowed God to forgive me of my sins against  hating myself and along with that forgiveness, came self-forgiveness.
Scott and I were beginning to prepare for our marriage and really wanted to make it Christian-centered, and so we began meeting with one of our pastors. On that first Saturday, Larry asked us a question, "Do we without a doubt know we will be in heaven when we die?" A knot ensued in my throat, I couldn't be sure of that answer, and as I tried to choke the tears away, Larry said next, he could ensure us that yes we would be in heaven with God after our earthly life because God sent his only Son to this world and He died on that cross to save us from that sin. His words calmed my spirit, again God used him to answer my one over-arching doubt.  I knew in my heart I had to accept Christ into my life and claim Him as my personal savior!  Althought I could never do enough to win God's favor and earn entrance into heaven, I didn't need to, God had already sent that gift 2000 years prior so that I could accept him and repent of my sinful nature (my biggest sin in hating myself).

I have been saved for nearly 6 years today as I sit here typing and my life has not been perfect nor is any other person's.  I still have my moments of fear and anxiety but I have God now to help me through those moments.  He continues to be in my heart and this time of year is always difficult and there are days I really struggle with the loss of my Aunt. It still bugs me that she died too young. Now that I am a mother and have 2 small children just as she did, I can’t imagine leaving them and I begin to develop a lot of anxiety again.  But then I get into God's word, look up my favorite verses and pray to God. He helps me gain victory over the worry and the pain. 
I am going to leave you with one last thought…

Sometimes I think my life circumstances don't make sense. There are no connections, there is a lot of pain and hurt. But think about your life as a tapestry. We can only see the backside here on Earth, it is messy with knots and strings going every which way but someday in Heaven we will see the beautiful life’s tapestry God has made of our life.

For Sin pays his wage- but God’s free gift is eternal life in life with Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23

For some of you this may be weird or counter-cultural.  I have prayed long and hard over this post and I hope you know it is from my heart.  Just take it as a seed and may it linger on your heart.  Happy Thanksgiving, I have so much to be thankful for!  Much love and God Bless!