Brooke’s Story

At about 5pm on a October 23rd many years ago I was born into this crazy & wonderful world.  The doctors told my mom she would never get pregnant.  Looks like they were wrong–here I am!  I was born into a small family- a mom, a dad, and a dachshund(duh!).  God/Jesus was kind of important to them but not top priority–until my mom got sick.  My mom got breast cancer when I was 1 and when I was 5 she passed away.  But during those 4 years of sickness her spiritual life soared and so did my dads.  My moms outward body was wasting away but inwardly she was being renewed.  She was in many Bible studies and prayer groups– I have a book of notes that all her prayer group, neighbors, Bible study friends, and sisters wrote me after she passed away sharing about her love for God and others.  It’s the most precious gift they could have given me.

After my mom passed away my Dad made it a huge priority for me to grow up in the church.  And I am so thankful for that.  I got plugged in immediately to missionettes, youth group, youth choir– you name it.  I loved all these activities.  I heard many stories about Jesus and I loved hearing about him–I even traveled in a choir singing about Him.  I knew He was someone Special–I just didn’t know how special yet.

Then in February, during ninth grade, it all clicked and made sense.  I can still picture where I was sitting at the youth retreat. Our youth pastor gave a super clear Gospel presentation. He shared how people are sinful and separated from God. I knew I was sinful—I was sassy, snappy to my Dad, continually lied, was jealous….the list goes on and on.  He explained how God is perfect and Holy and unlike Anything I have ever known. God made me and wants to be in relationship with me on this Earth and forever.  But because of my sin I can’t know God because He is perfect.  But…God came into this world in the form of Jesus—he entered into our pain, lived a perfect/sinless life and died on a cross for my sin, our sin. “For the wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23  His death(because He was perfectly God) was enough to cover my sin and all sin for all time. (He also rose from the dead!).  He came to bring us life-forever. We can have a relationship with a perfect God today-amazing grace.  All we need to do is believe.

For God so L O V E D the world that He G A V E His One and Only Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

My dad picked me up from the retreat and when I got home I went straight to my room and spent the next 3 hours writing out prayers and singing and crying tears of thanksgiving that God would save my soul.  I prayed that night that God would lead and guide my life.  I prayed that I would honor Him and live out His dreams for my life.  This is still something I love to pray.

It wasn’t too long after that that this desire to be in ministry(to help people know about God) started to grow in my heart. I know that not every Christian is called to full-time ministry, but I found myself sitting on the the youth room floor praying that God would open doors for this to be true for the rest of my life.  With every year that passed the desire got stronger and stronger. When I went to Longwood University I majored in Psychology only because I thought it would one day help in ministry. It’s interesting the things that God puts in our hearts once we put our trust in Him.

About 4 years ago Brian and I were meeting with one of my moms friends and also a sweet supporter of our ministry with Cru at a Starbucks in Richmond, Va.  She mentioned to me as we were winding up our time with her, “You know, before your mom died she asked to have her friends gather around her to specifically pray for you—she prayed that you would come to know Christ at an early age and that you would go into ministry.”  amazing.  (At that point I had been in full time ministry with Cru for 6 years.)

Prayers never die.  I’m so thankful for the journey that the Lord has me on.  I’m thankful for the highs and lows and everything in between. I’m so thankful to get to do what I do– i love working with college students.  I’m so thankful that in the Lords kindness that He let me get a glimpse into my mom’s prayer life.

“The Lord will fulfill His purposes for Me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.”  Psalm 138:8

The Story that the Lord writes for your life is always the best….it may not always make sense, and it definitely won’t be without trials and sorrow, but Joy always will come. always.  

“But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.” Philippians 3:20-21 

Thanks be to God.

Katie’s Story

It’s a terrible thing to feel shame. I remember from a very early age having a sense of self-consciousness, shame, and being very easily embarrassed. Even when I was only 4 or 5 I clearly remember times when I failed to live up to someone’s expectations or rules.

Looking back I know the situations weren’t that big a deal but as a child I felt like a failure whenever I screwed up. This feeling made me very driven to strive for excellence and acceptance in everything. I had to get good grades. I had to make my parents happy. I needed to please people so they would like me and if I didn’t think I could please them then I became very shy and would just avoid interaction completely. It was very stressful and I lived with a lot of fear.

I was blessed and grades came easily. They were something I could control. However, people were another whole ball game. I couldn’t make them like me and some of them actively teased or bullied me as kids are apt to do sometimes. I internalized the things they said and felt that shame creep up again. It didn’t matter if what they said wasn’t true. I had failed to make them like me and that was my crime in my own mind.

I needed to feel back in control again. I needed comfort. My parents were good and loving and took great care of my 3 brothers and I. My mom was an awesome cook and food was always a temptations so around age 10 it became my “drug of choice”. It started small with just sneaking food at home. But then I couldn’t do it too much or I’d get caught and ruin my parents’ image of me. 

So next came stealing food from different sources, then stealing money for food, then stealing money for other things.

This became a vicious cycle. Feel shame, steal something to feel better, then remember that stealing is wrong  and feel like crap again. Then back around again.

I felt like a failure. I wasn’t good enough for my friends, one day my parents would find out about all this and be disappointed, and most of all I knew God could never forgive me for willfully doing something I knew to be wrong.

This cycle went on for a couple of very dark years. But then my mom discovered my secret and confronted me about it. She sent me to my room and took what felt like FOREVER to come talk to me. Later she told me that she went to pray. As I waited, my stomach was in knots and dread filled my heart. I had been found out and now what God already knew would become real in my family too. I was a thief, a liar, a failure. Who could love or accept someone like that?

I had been to church many times and I had heard that God is loving, but I felt so unlovable and I did such bad things. No way He’d still love me right?

When my mom finally came in she didn’t yell or tell me how disappointed she was. Instead she asked me about how I’d been feeling and why I’d been doing these things. She saw the lies I’d been believing and shared with me about the true love of God.

All of us have failed to be perfect. All of us have gone astray and rebelled willfully in some way. There’s no way we can rescue ourselves from this brokenness. God sent his Son Jesus into this broken world to live the most excellent, sinless, praiseworthy life possible. He showed us what it looks like to live a perfect life that could please God and we see by comparison our own inability to live that way. But he died on the cross to take the penalty that I deserve. 

He knows the WORST thing about me and still loved me enough to die in my place! All my failures, all of my bad choices, all of my shame was nailed to the cross with Him. 

He ACCEPTS me as I am and wants to be with me forever. I don’t have to perform for Him to make him love me. He loves me unconditionally and that makes me want to follow him and please him out of thankfulness rather than fear or shame. 

 He’s here with me now to guide me and strengthen me to live the best life possible and experience all that He has for me. I’m still not perfect and it’s not like I never struggle with those same old lies sometimes. But whenever those dark voices whisper to me, I now have His loving voice through His Words in the Bible.

The dark voice calls me failure, thief, liar, unlovable.

His voice calls me forgiven, called, beloved, his daughter!

The Bible says that to all who receive Him (Jesus) and who BELIEVE in his name, he gives them the right to become children of God…a part of his family forever.

In Hebrews 13:5 it says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I never have to worry that he’ll change his mind about me.

All of us have deeply felt needs that go unmet. God came that we could have life to the fullest and to meet all of our deepest needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus.

If you haven’t taken the time to get to know Him, I strongly encourage you to give Him a shot. I think you will find that Jesus is better than anything this life has to offer you and He’s more wonderful than anything that death can take away. 

Meg’s Story

I used to think that stories that didn’t involve dramatic life change (in the external) or cheerful endings following dark beginnings were frankly, quite boring.
I was so wrong.
God’s grace is so radical, so life-altering, and we are so far removed from Him {{before Jesus}} that any story of a man or a woman entering into a relationship with the Heavenly Father is, in fact,
        b e a u t i f u l.
So here’s mine.
I am a perfectionist at heart.
In my first-child-ness, in my personality, I want to be made much of for getting things right. I want to do something well and take it to someone and say “Look! See what I did!” and hear them sing my praises.
When I was younger that translated to being the perfect child, the perfect friend, the perfect student. The perfect handwriter. Anything. Perfect. And as I grew up going to church with my family every week, that also translated to the perfect Christian.
I remember for the first time hearing that Jesus, the very Son of God, wanted a relationship with ME! I remember hearing about how crazy and different and perfect Jesus was as I remember distinctly thinking, “Man, I want to follow thatguy!” He was cool. I remember laying my life before Him and saying, Jesus, I’m yours.
And that’s beautiful. It was a “moment” in a sense. It was me giving up everything and asking Jesus to come. To change my life. To be Lord over all that was me.
I went through the phases – the Christian bumper stickers and the WWJD bracelets and, unfortunately, the judgmental, self-righteousness.
I didn’t drink with my friends or sleep around or cuss when I got mad. In God’s grace, I did experience Him and I did experience real faith. I experienced His goodness and I was passionate about others encountering Him. I wanted people of all different backgrounds to hear the gospel and I fell in love with mission work – locally and internationally.
But I had this sneaking suspicion that if anyone really heard my thoughts or if anyone really saw me alone, they’d see who I really was deep down. The woman I was totally ashamed of.
I couldn’t let them in there. They couldn’t see that. I had people to please. And I also had God. I was supposed to be good for Him, too. I wanted Him to look on me and smile. So I continued my life-long quest to look good on the outside and hide the dark places, the places of shame and the places of you’re-not-supposed-to-do-those-things and worked my best to make the outside shiny.
In college, I desired to grow more and so for the first time, I began to regularly read my Bible.
Truth nearly J U M P E D off the page to me!
God’s grace, His goodness, His justice, His character!
My sin, my lack, my need, my punishment.
And JESUS! Jesus, the very Person I had wholeheartedly wanted to follow years before – I read what He actually did and what He actually said and I was taken by Him.
And on top of that, I was experiencing real community.
I heard real people tell real stories of how Jesus had changed their lives. And I saw other people respect them for it.
The gospel became alive and real to me.
  G O D    became alive and real to me.
I began to see my external exterior cracking as God came more deeply into my life. I began to see how I couldn’t hold it all together anymore. I began to admit things that I had always hidden from everyone around me {{because what if they saw that I wasn’t in fact A Good Christian like I was claiming I was?}}.
And I began to see that, while I had been a Christian for years at this point, I had largely missed the point.
When I chose to put aside my perfectionism to see Jesus’ perfection displayed in my messy life, when I saw that it wasn’t about me and how good I was making myself for God even after I was a Christian, I began to come to know and understand the love that God had for me. I began to unravel the reality of his scandal, the reality of the gospel.
I began to see that, really: It’s not about what I do to perform for God. It’s about what He’s done for me.
God loved US so much that in spite of our sin He sent His son Jesus. To live the life that we were called to live and to die the death that we deserved to pay the penalty for our sin. He took the weight of all my shame, all the things I had kept hidden, all my performance and all the things that I would continually bring to Him in order to please Him, and He bled on the cross in order that I might be free.
In order that I might know God.
I love the paradox.
Didn’t He see how messed up I was deep down, even under my cover?
{{And wasn’t that the point??}}

The more I grow and understand what it actually looks like to be a Christian woman, one who loves God and who rests in Him, the more I’m shaken by that truth. It’s a crazy thing, the gospel. It’s a crazy way of loving. But I cling to His love now more than ever. He loves me no more or no less than he ever has. In Him, I am enough.