– 1988 – If a testimony is an open declaration, in this case about my life, I suppose I’ll openly declare from the beginning. As in, my conception. Not birth, conception. Oh yes, my testimony extends pretty far back. Albeit, I may not be able to remember its beginnings, I do have it from a reputable source that God had a cool plan in motion from Day 1. On the morning I was conceived The Lord spoke to my mother and said this, “Now, this one is Mine.” When my mom tells the story today she adds a lot of animation and makes sure the listener knows the level of shock and honor she felt by hearing the audible voice of God speak to her and give her such an authoritative word about her daughter. Who needs to wait several days to take a pregnancy test when you have the Author of creation to give you the nod!
And so the battle begins.
1988-2001 – It has been said, and I agree, that a battle is waged for our souls from our conception and doesn’t stop until we breathe our last breath. The Kingdom of Light versus the kingdom of darkness. However, not everyone receives a declaration from God that “He’s got dibs” straight from the get-go; I know that’s heavy. Anyway, I was raised in a Christian home. My parents passionately loved the Lord throughout my childhood, and still do. I loved to sing as a child, was extremely watchful and observant, and overall a pretty well-behaved kid. As I aged, I began to notice that I was ever-so-slightly different from my peers. It was most clear to me in high school. I became very interested in understanding why my thoughts, behaviors and desires seemed to be so different from that of my friends. I should add that, although I knew there was a God, being raised in a Christian home didn’t necessarily mean that I knew Jesus personally. I rarely even remember calling myself a Christian because what I feared most was being considered a hypocrite of anything. So I didn’t dare. I would go to church but it never made a large impact on my life that I can point to. However, I know now that despite my disinterest in “organized religion” every moment I was in such a place was an investment into who I would grow to become, whether I was aware of it or not.
2002-2006 – I think if you went around and took a poll of my closest friends from high school many of them would say that I was intense, controlled, acted older than my age, at times easily overlooked, sarcastic, dry humored, hard to understand, and the like. I’m sure most wouldn’t even have a word for me. They’d probably say something like “Rachel was just Rachel” or something about how they never really knew what to make of me or how to describe me. All of those answers would be just about right. Looking back I know how to describe who I was, but over those four years, I was interested in figuring out what was keeping me from being like everyone else. So I tried doing what the majority of my peers did; partying, alcohol, drugs, relationships, smoking, gossiping, sitting around idle, not doing my homework, drama, pranks, skipping class. All to my detriment. The memories that stand out the most are the many parties I would attend filled with underage youth under the influence of a concoction of illegal substances. I indulged. It wasn’t that I had a bad home life, a sense of rebellion, or even a strong desire to belong. I just thought that if I did what everyone else did, perhaps I would stop feeling so different from them in my own mind. This was my sixteen year old rationale. I was never, at any point, addicted to any substance. Somewhere in the back of my head I thought I knew that the area’s I dabbled/experimented in were not who I was and thought it wouldn’t be long until I walked away from all these indulgences. How arrogant of me. In reality I thought I had control of my behaviors, but truthfully, it was God’s hand on my life holding me back from being fully immersed in that lifestyle. He protected me. He kept the bumper guards up. I do believe in large part, His influence on my life was strengthened due to the unrelenting prayers of my father. My dad has prayed for me since his knowledge of my conception. Every single day. Sadly, many of my peers were not interceded for and as a result were left without a defense.
[The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” -James 5:16]
2006-2007 – My freshman year of college was more of the same, except it started to get scarier. I met a lot of students that had never experimented with drugs and alcohol in high school and their new-found freedom offered them the ability to throw care, responsibility and wisdom to the wind, to the detriment of their mind, body, and spirit. Many of them went too far. I saw things I wish I hadn’t. Rapes, overdoses, binges, drug deals, fights, police, self-hatred, abuse, insecurity, fear, compromise and even death. I hated it and wanted out. Partying never made me as uneasy in my life until I saw it in college. I wonder if others can relate to that or not. The first time I discerned true emptiness in someone’s life was when I looked into the dark, lost eyes of a guy completely drugged out at a party. It’s haunting and deeply saddening. Even in my lost and searching state, I knew the college party lifestyle Hollywood loves to glamorize wasn’t right. There’s nothing glamorous about it.
June 2007 – So I left. An old friend and I decided to backpack through Europe for two weeks the summer following my freshman year. It was in Dublin, Ireland that I would meet the great romance of my college career. I met him the last night I was in that historic city. We fell for each other hard. Like really hard. He was British, an ex-Royal Marine and one heck of smooth talker. Two and a half months after we had met he flew to the States for my birthday. We would spend nearly two years of our lives together after meeting. Four months into our relationship, I dropped out of college and moved out to England to be with him for six months on a visitor visa, to my parents dismay and reproach. It was these six months that would change my life forever. He had lots of money, his own beautiful home, a car, tons of friends, he loved me, wanted to marry me, the whole nine yards. I was living “the dream” or so they call it. And yet, I felt more empty and depressed than ever before. How could I have everything society tells you that you should desire and still not be content? A home, a man, financial stability, a future. What’s the problem right? Then it hit me. I didn’t know my Creator. I had no real purpose or passions. If I didn’t have a relationship with the God that made me, how could I ever be truly satisfied? That had been the problem all my life! From elementary school until I was nineteen years old I hadn’t realized the emptiness in my heart could not be filled by anything this world could offer me. I needed to know my Father; knowing Him is the purpose of life — the prize. Everything else is just a bonus.
May 2008 – My visa was up and I left England. Much of my former life had moved on without me while I was away and it was almost impossible to get back into things again. So I started over. I got a job, re-enrolled in college, started going to a church and tried to maintain a long distance relationship. One of those four things did not fit any longer. As I went to church I felt the emptiness inside of me beginning to become filled. Creativity began bubbling up to the surface of my personality. A genuine compassion for others emerged that I had never known. A realization of my sin and the irreverent life I had lived became something I couldn’t run from any longer. Repentance filled my heart. What were all these thoughts and emotions? Where did they come from? Who was I becoming? Then I realized, I was encountering the Father. His heart was becoming my heart. I could see things so clearly. I had to have more of Him! So I got re-baptized at nineteen years old. I’ve told people a million times that I was one person when I went down into the water (in the presence of 1,000 witnesses) and I was completely different when I came up out of the water. The significance of a water baptism surpasses this earthly realm and does all manner of deep-spirit and soul changing things. It cannot be taken lightly! Now, I’m not saying that I lived as a saint after that, but I became fully aware of the personal nature of God and His desire to bring me into His destiny for my life. My will began collaborating with His will. It was beautiful!
August 2008 – After that, my second attempt at college was a true change. New major, new professors, new friends. Still, having undergone major heart surgery with God, I was a very different person on that campus. It was lonely at times because I could no longer conform to the patterns of a “typical” college lifestyle, but thankfully the freshman year that had haunted me was long gone and from my re-enrollment forward I truly enjoyed my college experience. In May of 2009, I ever so painstakingly heeded the voice of the Lord and ended my two-year relationship with the Englishman. “How can two walk together, lest they be in agreement?” God would ask me. We fundamentally did not agree at our core. He could only acknowledge there was a God, but that was it (James 2:19). He desired nothing further. I believed there was a Father who made each of us to know Him intimately, not just acknowledge His existence. To this day I pray for and respect him, believing that one day he will have an encounter with the Father and understand for himself the passion I feel everyday for this Savior. I walked away from an earthly romance and into the arms of my One True Love.
June 2010 – I have a passion for travel and a love for different cultures around the world. And anyone who’s traveled internationally knows exactly what the travel bug feels like. It can hit pretty hard! It had been a couple of years since I’d left the country and opportunity suddenly struck me when speaking to a Korean foreign exchange student. He told me about the relatively inexpensive Korean Summer Study Program his home university made available to students from my school. I was hooked. Korea, eh? Cheap, eh? Didn’t know much about it. Might as well check it out. Next thing I know I’m spending my summer in Korea. Long story short, in the brief time I was there, I fell in love with the people and decided to apply for a scholarship to return and study there that upcoming fall semester. I was awarded the scholarship and back I went in August of 2010. Except this time I was determined to reach that country for Christ. I had hoped to start bible studies, get involved in a local church, make an impact and be missional instead of touristy. What ended up happening was altogether different from my hopes. I was attacked emotionally, mentally, relationally, spiritually and even physically while there. I fell from grace. Sinned all over the place. Lost myself and realized how much young faith needs to be protected, shielded and mentored. I also realized how heavily the adversary will attack new believers in their zeal. You can get a brief idea of what I felt in my “Things are about to get CRAZY” blog post written at the beginning of my studies that fall. Unfortunately, I stopped writing because despite the overcoming spirit I tapped into to write that blog, things only got more and more difficult for me. I’ve never felt so dark and far from God than I did in the months I spent in Korea the second time ’round. In late November of that year North Korea attacked South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island and that was my way of escape. I had nearly three weeks left to stay, but I simply had to get out. I was under such attack and crumbling under the pressure that I felt my only answer was to leave. Fear had gripped my heart. Resolve had left me. I packed up and went home.
2011 – Once home I wouldn’t leave my bedroom for weeks, wouldn’t open up to my family, wouldn’t go to church. I came back from Korea full of anger, bitterness and confusion. Where was God while I was over there? Why did I fall so hard? Why was I so weak? We did He leave me? I blamed God and was unrighteously angry at Him. I failed to realize that He had never left me. I had left Him. I began to think that my relationship with God was a joke. That I had made it all up. That there was no way I could really love Jesus the way He deserved because look at how easily I fell away…These were all lies, meant to keep me from my Father. In January, despite my low spiritual state, I found myself at a christian conference in Atlanta, GA called Passion 2011. I went half-heartedly, uncertain of what this conference was about and feeling unworthy to try to reach back out to God after how I’d brought shame to His name through my failings in Korea. It was at this conference, filled with nearly 20,000 college age youth with heart’s for Christ, that I was transformed. Love washed over me that I had never known. Forgiveness and renewal filled my heart. He took me from faith to faith. Baptized me in His Spirit. Rocked my world and truly made all things new. I didn’t realize just how much Jesus loves us. He knows that we mess up and make mistakes. His mercy transcends our shame. He really is our Healer. You can read much more about that experience in my Passion 2011 blog post.
July 2012 – So here I am. 23 years old. Completely-totally-unequivocally-unashamedly-obsessively in love with Yahweh, Emmanuel, Jesus, my Heavenly Father. Since fully committing to Him life has been tough but beautiful. Life as a believer may not always be easy, but it is certainly worth every difficult moment. There were times when I have stumbled, but God has picked me up and dusted me off every time. And after the dust has settled, I realize how much stronger, wiser and more dependent on Him that I am. He see’s me as righteous and calls me a saint. He is the One that looks past all the sin of my past and calls me a new creation. My hope and home is in Him. Living in the Presence of God is indescribable. If I tried to write it down for you I would still never ever be able to express His Presence. English certainly is a limiting language. He is the air that I breathe. His Presence, Word, and Truth is life to me. I have found the meaning of life–The purpose of existence: To know God and to be known by Him. That may mean going through difficult seasons. Being broken, embarrassed, persecuted, alone. It can also mean blessing, purpose, unrelenting joy, peace and all-consuming love. Love that goes past sentiment and into action and lifestyle. Love that pours itself into you as you pour it out on others. Love that is more than talking about it, but living it. None of which is possible without first knowing our Creator. He beckons us to Him everyday if we only had ears that could hear.
For those of you reading this who do not know the meaning of life; who haven’t encountered your Father. He is waiting for you! He is the greatest romance ever known. The greatest story ever told. He is real. I mean breathe Him in through your lungs, feel Him in your heart, speak Him out through your mouth REAL. He knocks on the door of your heart continually, until finally you stop running or ignoring Him and open the door. He is a gentleman and will never force Himself in your life. You must open the door and invite Him. God made man for this reason: To have someone to walk with in the cool of the day. Someone that would love Him of their own free will. What a vulnerable God of the Universe, huh? He could control anything He wanted and yet He chose to make man, in His image, with their own free will. We have the choice to choose Him or to reject Him. God was willing to take that level of risk when He made man. He chose to risk that billions upon billions of people might reject Him. What are you willing to risk for Him?
And for those of you that know this Father of which I speak, there is more to know. Seek Him every day, more and more. He never disappoints! And we must never forget that the same grace and unbelievable mercy we have been introduced to, is not for us only, but for everyone we meet. We must share Him! We have the ministry of reconciliation. It’s about time we get scandalous with this love affair. Bold with our feelings. Fearless with this power He has given us. Pray for revival. Pray for God to use you, everyday. Yet remember, before revival will ever begin in the public place, it must first begin in the secret place. Get away with Him. Go deeper. Spend time together to be soaked in His presence and filled with His vision. You won’t regret it.
Life Verse: Song of Solomon 2:10 — “My beloved spoke and said to me, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come away with me.”