I was recently asked:
When did you first decide to follow Jesus, and what has been your story of growing as a disciple?
I don’t think I was prepared for what came out, but I thought I’d share anyway…
I decided to follow Jesus when I was six. I remember it like it was yesterday…nothing else really made sense. My parents served hardcore in church until their marriage fell apart (thankfully God restores), and for me, God was the only thing that was consistent. As my home life fell to shambles, God was there, and for some reason, which I will never be able to explain other than having a good Father, I was wooed into growing with Him. My family and earthly identity was wrecked by the time I was 14, and I had practically no parental supervision (hey, everyone has their baggage, and I probably wasn’t the easiest child). I clung to Jesus. Leading and serving in any capacity I could, I learned to share my story and His love early on. In high school, I knew I was being called to ministry and mission work, but I had no clue what that looked like. By my early 20s, I felt isolated because I was too caught up in the religious side of obedience and missing the relationship. Most of my friends were off sowing wild oats so to speak, and I was trying to figure out what God had for me. The more I sought after Him, the more I realized things had to continue to change in my life. One night, God woke up me up and told me to move to Cincinnati. So I packed my bags, and left three days later. After moving here, I knew I need to seek Him, His approval, and His plan, but the enemy was quick to make me feel like I had a void to fill in relationships, and started old habits quickly. Thankfully, I met Sam (who would later become my husband) and he invited me to church. I knew I needed to be plugged into a body and to be discipled like never before. I was ready. Sam and I married about six months after we met, and began attending a church in Northern Kentucky. He was fresh from a two year discipleship program, and I was chasing after Jesus. We seemed great for each other, until the honeymoon phase quickly ended and we realized the magnitude of strongholds we were both dealing with generationally. On top of that, we were pregnant, and horrible stewards of finances, so basically we were a newly married hot mess.
I continued to press into Jesus knowing I was right where he called me, but it felt like my standing in confidence was obliterating every other relationship in my life, especially my marriage. I remember siting in the living room of our “Ameican Dream” house, crying out to God to affirm in me the identity He’d shaped in me because I didn’t know who I was anymore. I felt empty and I began to doubt myself, withdrawal and find my value in my performance again, instead of pressing into my Father and his purpose for me. I went back to work after our first born seemed old enough,. We wanted to pay off our debt, and it seemed like the perfect fit for our family. While on a work trip to New York Fashion Week, I was hit and run over by a cargo van. Lying there in the street – I was overcome with guilt and shame – I kept thinking, ‘this is all my fault. I shouldn’t be here. my priorities are all wrong again.’ As they loaded me into the ambulance, I kept asking what i’d done wrong. The EMT kept assuring me, it was nothing. It was then that I began to realize how much I’d been living under the guise of pleasing others, and not living to please my Father. I was merely crossing the street, it wasn’t my fault, He saved me because I couldn’t save myself. That may be the best truth I’ve ever learned to cling to. It took me almost 4 months to be able to walk again, and my orthopedist wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to run. The accident, the community that surrounded me afterwards – it all began to make since. I was living by the rules set before me by people, the church, or religion, but I wasn’t living for the calling and purpose placed on my life by my Father. It’s cliche, but a near death experience really changes things. During this recovery period, we were in the process of relocating to New York for my job. I was being transferred to help build the world’s largest fashion photo studio (Amazon.com/Fashion) – it was basically the cherry on top of my dream career as a fashion stylist. It was an easy decision – I told my husband, I’d do whatever he wanted. I was willing to stay or go, but we needed to process it together. We had decided to go. Things were changing in both of us as we really began to see what loving God, loving others, and living out love and grace actually looked like. (I know this is probably a whole lot of rambling, but that fact that you’ve made it this far means a lot, thanks for reading). It was at this time we actually started attending Crossroads and things just clicked. While we still faced a feeling of isolation – because living the way we chose to live can cause division and that is Biblical truth that we now understand – we were more confident in our calling. We finally had a solid community on the ground in Cincinnati, but off we headed to NY. While we were there, we were able to semi plug into Hillsong NYC which was encouraging and uplifting and kept us focused, eventually we ended up relocating again to Florida (my home state) and God had some business to attend to. It was time to break my biggest stronghold – Fear. We lost pretty much everything, all of our finances, our car, our home, it was rough. In the midst of this, we welcomed our second child. It was in this storm, that I realized how fear stricken I truly was. What had been limiting me from believing my purpose, and the true power of our God. That breakthrough was the most pivotal in my entire life. We asked God what He wanted next, and after about a month of prayer, we came together in conversation and had heard the same thing: It was time to move back to Cincinnati. So here we are, chasing Jesus, fighting through the storms, and trying to live out grace and truth as best we know how. Refinement and repentance are daily, and all we know to do is keep fighting, because there is no neutral ground.