A little boy filled with curiosity asks his parents “the question”. “Mommy, where did I come from.” The mother replies “Jesus gave you to me.” The child responds “Oh yeah, I remember walking with Jesus in heaven on the golden road and picking you to be my parents”….This, is my earliest memory. I was in the back seat of my Mom’s old blue car the one I used to get so sick in whenever we traveled to school. I couldn’t have been older than five. The memory is fuzzy but I know it happened. My mom so shocked by the response wrote it down in a journal with the exact date. Why did I say that? I’m not sure but whenever I think about it I have this bright image of it actually happening. Me, a little child holding hands with the one who paid it all. Though a very faint image it makes one wonder; Is it a memory or simply put my youthful imagination displaying an image of something I would love to believe. I began to think back and see if I have memories from before that time and the only other one I could truly come up with was my brother and I in the mountains posing for a picture. My mother saying cheese and then me screaming. I was standing on a rock with cracks and in one of the cracks was a coral snake. I remember being so afraid.
Anyone see the irony in these two memories? My two earliest memories?
One of Jesus, and the other a serpent.
In the more recent days of my life, my eyes have been opened to seeing the bigger picture. I now have a strange understanding of why things happened. I’ve always been able to see God’s hand in my life. The little ripple effects he’s caused. The people he’s used. The one thing that led to the other. I didn’t learn what my mother meant when she said “Jesus gave you to me” until later in my life, until my parents were ready to tell me their story. The one that changed their lives.
I’m not going to dive too deeply into this because my parents are currently writing a book about it that is simply far to extreme to just…say. My mother had several miscarriages. Enough to the point that she believed she couldn’t get pregnant. Both my parents struggling in their faith decided to travel to a place known for miracles. A place called Medjugorje (worth googling). While there they both had life changing experiences. Things that now define who they are. My mother was visited by the Virgin Mary and she told her she would have a child. My father was visited by a blinding Jesus who told him he would have a son.
Shortly after returning from this trip my mother found out she was pregnant.
Maybe not so much my youthful imagination.
Being raised in the church meant I was born Christian. It never was much of a choice. However I remember accepting Christ into my life when I was about five. I believe it was during nap-time in kindergarden around the first few weeks of class. I can remember those red and blue square pillows like it was yesterdayyy. This was at North Florida Christian. (My parents clearly wanted to make dang sure I knew about the Jesus fellow). After NFC I went to Holy Comforter Episcopal School (again droppin some cash to make sure I was educated in the gospels.) Something parents should know about sending kids to schools like that. Yes, the child is educated and can pass a Bible quiz BUT it always provides a certain turn off to all things churchy. It becomes a chore and a routine instead of a relationship. Which is where I found myself.
My Christian life became a life of the motions. We went to church every Sunday (at least tried to) and I rarely left feeling anything other than “when the heck is lunch”. After Holy Comforter I began the days of High School at a non-Christian themed public school. I was finally presented a choice. My freshman year was an interesting one. I went from being a nerd in middle school to being what I would at the very least consider calling well received. I made friends with everyone. In fact I made very good friendships with everyone. My group of middle school friends became the group that extended to all groups. We fed into every click the school provided. I loved that. About half way through the year I found out that all these established relationships I had just made were about to be…for nothing. My parents told me we would be moving, leaving Tallahassee. What at that time I would consider the worst news I would ever receive. I live for people. I live for relationships. Finding out I had to leave behind everything I spent my whole life establishing left me feeling angry. Angry at my parents, angry at God.
I remember praying angry prayers. Testing God. “If you really exist then find a way to make me stay.” Time went on and I realized that wouldn’t be an option. My freshman year of high school an organization called Young Life started up in Tallahassee. Chiles High School was on of the first schools to get it. I remember walking around campus and seeing this college guy talking to my group of friends. I didn’t know him. He made an effort to know me. This would be an event that would put into place what is the life I live now.
Summer was coming near and it was announced that Tallahassee Young Life would be going up to North Carolina for a week long camp. My close friends were going and I decided this would be the last opportunity to hang out with my friends before I moved to Sarasota. The area director Chad Borgestad, and my leader(friend) Trevor made a strong effort to get me to that camp. Trevor would bug me whenever he could and Chad came to my house to talk to my parents about getting me to go. My parents being COMPLETELY guilted into it dropped the $900 to get me there.
I need to set this trip up saying this was the beginning of the hardest time of my life (thus far). I was close to depressed. More importantly, I was doubting God. I felt unloved. I felt screwed over. I felt like life was about to be left behind. All I had left to look forward to was this week. We arrived by bus to a line full of leaders cheering and welcoming us. Needless to say my troubles were quickly forgotten. I had what to this day I will call one of the best weeks of my entire life to come, But that is not the story of this week. Towards the end I began to realize this week was ending and my goodbyes were about to happen. I began to remember what was waiting for me when I returned. I began to panic.
At these Young Life Camps they have speakers. The night before the last day the speaker began to talk about how God loves each and every one of us. I’m not so sure I believed him at that moment. He talked and talked about God’s love for us, for me. We then were given time to walk out on the campgrounds and have quiet time. Time to just sit in silence and talk to God. The lights to the camp were out and the stars were bright. I looked to the heavens and said “God if you love me, prove it.” He did.
As I was laying on the grass I was overcome with the loudest yet most peaceful overwhelming voice one could ever hear. “I love you.”
Three times it was said to me. “I love you.” My body felt empty. Like there was nothing. I felt like I had chills, but had no chills. There was nothing but me and that voice. So almighty.
I sat there in shock. God had just spoken to me. I looked up to the heavens with watery eyes and in the sky I saw a perfect constellation of a heart. A heart that to this day I have not been able to see again. A personal sign from God.
A bell rang and I walked back to my cabin. I was shaking. I was terrified. I feared God. There was something about how calm and how peaceful that voice was that gave me much fear. I sat in my cabin my hands shaking and told those in the cabin what happened through a trembling voice.
I returned home and moved to Sarasota where I spent a year and a half of my youth. I joined a rowing team where I made close friends. I loved these people but hated living there. The only comfort I found was in this team. I loved being on the water everyday with these people. I was thankful that I had this. But then my junior year of High School all the goodness, the fun, was taken from me.
I lived far from where we practiced so after school I would get a ride from my coach who’s family also coached on the team. (Wife and son). These rides gave me the opportunity to get close with this family. Some days I would get a ride from his son to practice. Once or twice his wife. My boat was coached by my coach Alex’s son George. He would yell at us to get us in line. He would joke with us to keep us calm. He taught us everything that would make us champions.
George was killed in a car accident in September of 07. These were the darkest days of my life. Someone I looked up to so tremendously, the person who would always stay and wait with me while my parents were running late was taken from all of us. The single worst moment of my life. I found my mind entering depression. I was deeply hurt. We all were. I turned to music instead of God to bring me comfort. I found myself not having the relationship I was wanting to have with him. He saw my pain, and got me out of there.
Shortly after the death of George I found out that we would be moving back to Tallahassee. The timing was perfect. Other than the team and a few others there was nothing about Sarasota that I would miss. I was excited to move back home. To return to the life I had. I looked back at Sarasota many times asking myself what good came of me moving there? I thought there was nothing. Little did I know that by moving there God gave me a small moment, an at the time nothing of a moment, that would ultimately change my life forever. There was one good thing that came out of moving there. (But I will save that for another better story 🙂 CLIFFHANGER!)
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I’m approaching twenty years now. Those expecting a child with a background like mine to turn out to be the perfect christian I am sorry to say I am far from it. Though I do try very hard. I find myself at this point in my life seeking Jesus more than I ever have yet I am still threatened daily by that serpent fellow. I find that the harder you seek God the harder Satan seeks to keep you from God. Life is a test of tests.
Upon going to college I made the decision to give back to the organization that gave me so so much. I became a Young Life leader. I am a leader for Wyldife at Swift Creek Middle School. We go every week and teach middle schoolers the glory and love of God. Let me say that there is no greater joy in my life than doing what we do. 2010 was the best year of my life. God has blessed me so tremendously. I was given the things I wanted yet tested to see if I deserved them. The community I’m surrounded with is by far the greatest gift I’ve ever been given. Word to the foolish: Surround yourself with people that will be with you as you seek God. It’ll bring you great joy and a love for life like no other.
I’ve finally began to read my bible every day. Which is the main reason i’ve created this blog. People do bible journals and always write down what they really think stood out to them while reading. This will be my way of doing that. I figured why keep God’s messages to myself. I gave the story above to provide some background of who I am and why I am a God fearing person and better yet why you if you choose to, should bother to read what I have to say. Though my dad may disagree, I am not a know it all and much of this will be strictly opinion. I felt a strange calling to tell a story these past few weeks and I figured mine was a good start. If you read this long long lonnnnng little essay of life thank you and I hope it was worth your time !