One of my favorite hymns is called Come Thou Fount and there is a line that says, "Here I raise mine Ebenezer." The name Ebenezer means "stone of help" and it is a word used to describe a memorial stone that is raised up to remind people of what God has done. So, here is a bit of my story, my Ebenezer of what God has done in my life... this is Tricia by the way ;)
Even though I am not Catholic, my mother did me a kind service by bringing me to Catholic services and confirmation classes as a child. I learned about who Jesus was and as a child I really fell in love with Jesus. My kind Savior who gave himself for me. I also learned about the wrath of God that awaited all those who relied on their own goodness and quality to save them, and about right and wrong.
I was very rebellious though and by the time I was sixteen years old I was smoking, drinking, using drugs, having sex, and regularly using pornography, all of which my parents knew nothing about because I was lying to them all the time (sorry mom and dad!). I was basically living a double life because I was also maintaining high grades and hanging out with the "smart kids."
I was dating an older guy and he had become God to me. I really felt that my life depended on him. I was so insecure and anxious all the time and sought security most from the approval of other people, whatever it took. Whatever it took for someone to like me, I would do it. I was miserable and I knew it. I would try to quit drinking or quit smoking pot or this or that, but even though I could do things in my own strength for a time, it wouldn't last. I would find myself back in bad habits eventually. Let's just say that list of bad habits was growing longer and longer and I wasn't getting any happier. My identity was a very confused thing and by the time I went to college I was a sitting duck for any philosophy that promised a little happiness.
Let me just say too that I wasn't a very nice person. I was self-centered and selfish, judgmental and critical, anxious all the time. Very controlling and angry. I think the only reason I had any friends was because I would work so hard to maintain some kind of image as a funny and fun friend, sexy to the guys and sensitive to the girls. Mostly I hated myself and everybody else.
In college Kelly and I were dating. As most of you know, he is really nice. For some reason we decided to get married, which was a terrible choice for him to make. We married and moved to Portland and proceeded to have the worst first year of marriage I can imagine. I thought marriage would be fun and romantic but it really sucked. We were awful people and I was especially awful. My anxiety was getting worse and worse and I was very depressed. Kelly would take me on long drives at night just to help me relax because I couldn't sleep. Finally I asked him if we could start attending churches sometimes. I decided that I needed help and maybe God was the one who was big and strong and smart enough to help me figure this stuff out. Kelly was willing to do anything to help "fix" his crazy wife.
One Sunday we attended a church and the pastor preached on the things that keep people from trusting God and giving their life to him. One thing he mentioned was our image. It felt like he was talking to me (and I think he was actually because it was a very small church and we were the only visitors ;). I thought to myself, how sad would it be if I never gave my life to Jesus just because I am so worried about what other people think?? I decided to take the chance on Jesus that morning. I started crying and ran out of the church and sat in the car.
Things were pretty rocky for us in the Portland area after that as I tried to figure out what this new decision meant for my life. But God was already at work and I had a new joy that I had never felt before. Looking back I can see the way Satan was after me in that vulnerable time because I had no church and no friends that could really mentor me. But thankfully God moved us back to Bellingham where we immediately got settled into a great church. I started attending a Bible study along with the services and it gave me a great foundation in the Word of God. After over a year of seeing God at work in my life, Kelly decided to give his life to Christ too!
Trusting in Jesus is an amazing thing. I had true JOY in my life because no matter what happened I knew that I was a child of God accepted by him because of Jesus' sacrifice for me. I also started to make friends that seemed to really care about me even when I showed them the yuckier parts of myself. Needless to say, my marriage improved because I was acting for Kelly's benefit and also God thankfully was taming my temper a bit. Most amazing to me was that God completely removed my anxiety from me. And I quit smoking cold turkey.
Now that was ten years ago. My life has not been perfect since then and I am not perfect. I still struggle with sin and I still struggle with completely trusting God. But the adventure that God has had me on since I gave my life to him, well, it is a million times better than anything I could have chosen for myself out of my selfish desire just to "be happy."
Over these years Kelly and I have worked with countless gorgeous babies and teenagers and friends. We have seen many beautiful places that God created with his infinite goodness. We have worshiped our Savior Jesus with Christian brothers and sisters from all over the world. And God has continued to grow me and change me to be more like Christ ( no of course he's not finished yet, give me a break).
Most recently God has helped me again and again to set aside petty and selfish things and even not-so-petty things and move to Zambia so that I might seek his face even more. And on top of that He has given us two amazing and beautiful daughters!!!!! We have three of the coolest kids that have ever existed! This is never where I imagined I would be and it is all because God is GOOD and he is MERCIFUL and he is REAL and he is POWERFUL and I am so happy that he is my God.
Jesus, thank you for saving me and faithfully guiding me and caring for me in your mercy all these years, and for loving me even before I was born. Thank you for loving me even despite my sin. Thank you for the joy I have in you despite my daily challenges. You are awesome! And God I pray that all those I love who don't know your joy and grace would give up the things that are keeping them from you and dive into a life well-lived with YOU. There is no better way I know than a life lived with a loving God.