A couple of weeks ago I shared about a time in my life where I was strengthened in my faith towards God. It was about how God planted me here in Lancaster and supplied a job that has been a blessing in many different ways.
I also shared that there would be a second part and here it is. In two days on Sept. 11, Lord willing I will be celebrating 9 years that God has saved me. Nine years...wow....at times I feel I am still the same person I was before He saved me and at other times I've seen how he's changed me. Here is how it came about...
I was born on May 18th....hold on, I'm not going to go that detailistic. Did I have you going there? To sum up my childhood, I was born and raised in a military family. My father was in the Marine Corps (hoo-rah) for 20 years. I grew up all over the place in the United States from Florida, Texas, Hawaii and Pennsylvania. I did not have many friends growing up because of moving around, but also because I had many medical issues growing up as well that kept me at times from engaging with other children. At one time, I was not allowed to do any type of hard physical activity for 2 years due to surgery and physical therapy pre and post surgery. I remember growing up having a voracious appetite for books. I guess they kept me entertained since I could not do much physically growing up. I remember I would read a book and wanting to more about the story, so my mom got me book series like The Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings. Little did I know or my parents know that these were books written by Christian men and the impact of reading during my childhood years would come later.
Jump to high school, more importantly, my senior year. I was determined to leave the area where I went to high school. I didn't like the person I was in high school and I didn't like the people around me either. I wanted to change and become a better person and the solution came in the form of college. So I sent out letters and got information, went to college fairs and visited schools. Eventually I came to the decision to attend Millersville University in Lancaster PA. Little did I know what was waiting for me there. During the last half of my senior year in high school, I don't know how to explain it other than God was convicting me of sin, but I started to see how bad of a person I was. By today's world's standards, I would probably be considered prudish back then, but I had this sense of how wrong my attitude, actions and heart was towards my family and other people and I wanted to change but didn't know how. I can't explain it other than I think it was God showing me my sinful heart and preparing me for learning how He could change me.
So the first week of classes at MU came and I remember driving the 6 hours from Townville PA (yes it exists, here's a map) to Millersville PA. I remember the day exactly because it was the day that Princess Diana died. I remember hearing about it and I remember feeling how she had contributed so much to the world and now she was gone. During the first week of classes, I met many people and I know that God sovereignly placed them in my path. God had placed me next to two Christian single women, Jen and Karen, who befriended me and served in many ways. I also met some special people who I have had the joy of friendship over the past 9 years, Doug Plank and Bill and Cynthia Haughery. Little story about the Haughery's...I remember going to their house when I was not saved and leaving thinking that I would never come back to their house. Little did I know that their house would be a place of fond memories of conversations, laughter and good times. Cynthia and I laugh about that.
So back to the story...during the second week of classes, I attended an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) meeting. Doug, Jen and Karen were there as well as some people who became friends of mine, Laura Carroll, Denise Teamans, Lori Randolph, Dora Hauptman, etc. (If I missed someone, please forgive me.) Doug's pastor, Ray Randolph from Lancaster Covenant Church (now Crossway Church of Lancaster) was the main speaker. I don't remember what Ray spoke about but I think it was about the gospel. Then Doug got up and shared his testimony and I was very struck by his humility and how he said that he was 21ish (at the time) and he felt his whole life just began. He spoke about God had saved him and how he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. During or after Doug spoke, I can't remember, there was a time of prayer and a call for people to accept Jesus into their hearts. I remember bowing my head and asking God if he would make me part of his family. When the time of prayer was done, I remember lifting my head and feeling a sense of relief, but I wasn't sure if I was saved. So I turned to Karen and Jen and asked them for help to be saved. They then suggested that I talk to Doug. Now I need to add that from the first time I met Doug, I did not like him. Doug and I laugh about it now and chalk it up to the fact that I was an unbeliever, which is probably the real reason. So, even though Doug was not my favorite person, I wanted help and if that meant talking to Doug Plank, so be it.
So I went over to Doug and he asked me how I was doing and I said "good" and I said I had a question for him and he said "shoot." I then said "I want to get saved, can you help me?" Then Doug responded, "can you wait 10 minutes? I need to see someone quick before they go." I said sure and waited. I figured "what's another 10 mintues?" Now in Doug's defense, Doug went to get counsel from Ray about what to do. See, no one really knew me. I had been in school for 2 weeks and no one knew who I was or where I came from. So Doug got counsel from Ray, prayed with Ray and then came back to where I was and we went for a walk to a quiet place. I remember Doug asking me questions about what it meant to be a sinner and what it meant to accept Jesus' death for my sins. We then prayed and I prayed a prayer of confession of repentance and then zoom! Life really picked up then. That night we met up with some people from IVCF and I think that night Doug got the word around that I had accepted Christ. The next week all these people came up to me and greeted me. People I had never met before, but obviously got the word around. Later I found out from friends that Christians from IVCF spent the summer praying for people to be saved at that fall and also that specifically Jen and Karen were praying for me to be saved since the first time they met me. I'm not sure what was being shared around, but I'm sure people were encouraged to see God answer their prayers.
That first year in college was sweet. I had a wonderful godly single woman who became my mentor, Debbie Jackson, who bought me an NIV Bible and the book When God Weeps by Joni Erickson Tada. She helped me to find things in the Bible and from my many years of reading books growing up, I tore into the Bible. I also experienced the work of Holy Spirit mightily that first year by really opening my heart to understanding the Scriptures and letting it sink into my heart and soul. No doubt I had many mistakes that first year as well being a new believer, but I was surrounded by godly Christians who displayed mercy and forgiveness to me.
Since then, I was baptized in 1999 and became a member of my church, Crossway Church of Lancaster in early 2001. I've not regretted God saving me and placing me in a family of believers in the church. I know that he is faithful and the only consistent source of wisdom, strength, power, protection, grace and mercy.
No doubt, September 11 holds other meanings for others. I remember where I was that September 11 in 2001 when the planes hit the WTC towers, the Pentagon and the one plane that crashed in PA. I remember feeling sad and scared. But I was able to reflect on the guarantee that God had ransomed me from sin and saved me and called me his daughter. God saved me! I am his and he is mine!
In closing, I'd like to share one of my favorite worship songs, In Christ Alone, written by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. This song captures everything that God has done in me since he saved me.
In Christ Alone
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand
In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
'Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost it's grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
'Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand