I often tell people that I was born in church. Well, I was actually born on the last day of February inside a hospital during a freakishly long snowstorm which my dad, who is famously known for slightly exaggerating his stories, said lasted for six weeks. He loves to tell me how he slipped on the ice while carrying my 2-year old sister into the hospital to meet me and how he had to climb the steepest hills in Bowling Green, Kentucky in all the ice and snow during that long winter while carrying his mail route.
Six weeks or not, it was a memorable event, forever frozen in his mind, and I’m positive that as soon as the ice melted, we found ourselves on the doorstep of Grace Baptist Church.
I have few recollections of my nursery and preschool church years at Grace. My earliest memory is of the red carpet in the nursery and the sea of cracker crumbs that littered it. Most Sunday mornings found me clutching a soggy cracker in one fist and the thumb of my other fist tucked securely inside my mouth while being soothed by the steady rhythm of the rocking chair.
Graduating from the nursery took me down the hall to the preschool room with Mrs. Betty. I remember three distinct things about Mrs. Betty: she had felt hangings on her walls, she had an infectious laugh, and she taught me the song, Jesus Loves Me. I had three constant companions named Julie, Jonathan, and Carmen. Although we moved away shortly after I turned five, I still remain in contact with them to this day. I guess that’s what happens when relationships are built around Jesus and saltines.
My early elementary years were spent in a small town in an unfamiliar church. The only thing that I remember about this time was that my daddy taught children’s church and he gave away the best quiet seat prizes. One morning he planned to give away a bracelet that opened up and became a pen. I wanted that bracelet SO bad!! I was determined to be the quietest, stillest child he had ever seen. I barely even breathed!! When it was time to give away the prize, he pretended to search through the sea of anxious faces before landing on mine and saying, “This little girl has been really quiet today. I think that she deserves the prize.” All the energy that I had been stuffing inside erupted into the biggest, proudest smile as I went to claim my red rubber bracelet/pen.
We moved again two years later and quickly found a new church. Unlike the previous church where no friendships were forged, I met a girl named Amber. I never left her side. My favorite memory was from our second grade class. We sat in little wooden chairs and an elderly woman, who loved to lead us in hymns out of old hymnals, was our teacher. To God Be the Glory was my favorite. When church service began, my family sat on our usual pew, right side about 5 rows back.
As the preaching began, I passed a few notes back and forth to my dad with checkboxes for his “yes” and “no” answers. Then, I would lay my head in his lap and drift off to sleep. This was our norm every single Sunday. I will never forget it.
After service was over, Amber and I would conspire and hit up our parents for an afternoon playdate. I would approach my daddy, cross all the toes and fingers that I could, and sweetly ask if I could go to Amber’s house. It worked every time! After a long day together, we would return for GA’s to study about a missionary and make some sort of craft such as Annie Armstrong or Lottie Moon banks out of old Pringles cans.
It was during this time when heaven and hell started to become very real realities for me. It occupied quite a bit of my thoughts. One day I asked my mom,
“What if all this heaven and hell stuff ends up not being real? What if there really isn’t a God?”
She paused and looked intently into my eyes. This was a make-or-break question for me so I met her gaze and waited for her answer. She replied,
“Well, if we believe in God and find out in the end that it was one big lie, what do we lose?”
“Nothing,” I answered.
She let that question sink in before asking another one.
“But, if we decide that God is not real and choose not to believe in Him and we find out in the end that we are wrong, what do we lose?”
“Everything,” I said.
That was all that I needed to hear.
She answered my two questions with two questions of her own and it satisfied me. I became a believer right then and there.
Some weeks later, she prayed with me and I asked the Lord to come into my heart.
On Easter Sunday 1987, at the age of 9, wearing my best dress for twirling, with weak knees and a quaking heart, I went forward to make public that I had received Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. Easter suddenly took on a whole new meaning for me. Jesus was no longer just a one-dimensional picture that hung on my Sunday School wall. He was now inside my heart.
I wish that this is where my salvation story ended. I wish I could tell you that I became a super Christian and never doubted, never denied, and never walked away from my faith. I wish I could say that my parent's faith was enough to sustain mine. But, I can't. And, if I could, I am 100% positive that I would be the most unrelatable person that you know.
Like any good story with twists and turns, my journey of faith has many as well. Unfortunately, the teenage years squelched much of my courage to live for Christ. Jesus was safe to discuss in small doses at youth group and summer camp. I would attend these youth events and promise the Lord that I would live for Him. But, my school friends didn’t go to church with me, so, not knowing how to bridge that gap, I kept my faith tucked tightly inside of me in the public places where I should have made Him known. I cannot count the missed opportunities.
If high school found me swaying back and forth, college found me 100% lost. I walked out of my parent’s house and stepped outside of the protective bubble that had enclosed me my entire life. I was wayward and wandering. Nobody talked about Jesus. Nobody shared their faith. Nobody acknowledged Scripture. I filed all my memories of Jesus into the archives of my mind and set out for one thing – to have a good time.
It wasn’t until I met a broken boy from a broken home that the wheels on my runaway train car started to turn. Unlike me, he did not have an idyllic childhood. He didn’t win quiet seat prizes and sing To God Be the Glory every Sunday morning. He didn’t show up to church whenever the snow melted nor was he rocked soundly to sleep with a saltine in his fist. Yet, I was equally as lost as he was.
Our runaway trains collided with a great BLAST! shortly after we got married. I didn’t think either of us would survive it.
From the wreckage, I was left with a choice – Will I reach back out to the only One who was capable of saving me, the One I had given my heart to so many Easters ago?
At this moment of decision, two questions came to me…
What would change if I didn’t reach back out to Jesus? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And, the thought of nothing changing meant that I would continue down my own self-destructive path.
What would change if I did? Possibly everything.
His extended arm was waiting. I decided to grab hold.
With rubble surrounding me, I began doing things that I had never done before. First of all, I started to study the Bible. I attended Bible study whenever the doors were open. For the first time, I saw that all the seemingly disjointed stories in the Bible that I had learned my whole life – from Noah to Abraham to Joseph to Moses to David to Jonah to Daniel and even to the wee-little man named Zacchaeus – were all filled with great revelations about Jesus! I was hungry to learn more! I also began to pray.
Another pivotal moment came in 2006 while I was attending a weekend event called The Emmaus Walk. Prior to this weekend, the Lord and I had been sorting through some hard stuff and my once weakened faith was blossoming anew. Most importantly, I was discovering a missing piece to my salvation – a personal relationship with Jesus.
But, you may be saying, “You gave your life to Jesus and publicly acknowledged Him as your Lord and Savior on that Easter Sunday long ago in your best twirly dress.” Yes, that’s right. But, the 9-year old Rebecca who had walked the aisle did so out of fear of missing out on heaven and somehow missed the memo that accepting Jesus Christ as her Savior is MORE than simply spending eternity with Him. It is about spending every day on this earth with Him, too.
At the end of this mountaintop weekend where the Lord wooed and wowed me into a deeper and more abiding relationship with Him, a song came on during the closing service that reduced me to a puddle of tears. In a very adult audience, the soft lyrics to that old nursery song, Jesus Loves Me, started to play. “It’s the first song that I ever learned!” I thought. "Mrs. Betty was right. Jesus DOES love me! And, He loves me just as I am."
And yet, it had taken me over 25 years to fully grasp it.
My heart hasn’t been the same since that day. I now live with the knowledge that Jesus does indeed love me. And, He never stopped loving me even when I didn't love Him back like I should have. He gave His life for me. And, He will be with me always. Today. Tomorrow. Forever. I don’t want to miss a second of it. I don’t want to miss the peace and joy of walking with Him today as I, with great hope, look forward to being with Him again tomorrow.
My husband will say the same. We are proof positive that it doesn’t matter whether or not you grew up with a holy saltine in your fist or found the Lord later on down a broken road. He rescues us all. He died for us all. And, He loves us all. He leaves the 99 to rescue the one. In our case, he rescued two.
Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so.
I have loved you with an everlasting love. Jeremiah 31:3
Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:39
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power...to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Ephesians 3:17-19
These are only three of the many, many Scriptures that says how much He loves me...and how much He loves you, too. His love is everlasting, inseparable, and unmeasurable. And, most importantly, it is without conditions. He loves us JUST. AS. WE. ARE. RIGHT. NOW. Train wreck and all.
If you have never given your entire heart to Jesus, I beg you, do so today.
It will change everything.
First, I am a child of God. And, like a child, I am always learning and growing. The more I know Him, the more I love Him. Second, I am a wife to a good man. Missions is his thing while teaching women to love God’s Word is mine. Third, I am a mama to three plus a sweet cockapoo who thinks he’s #4. My children are my ongoing sanctification. Fourth, I am a passionate advocate of all things healthy & natural and a dreamer/designer. Old friends call me Becky, newer ones call me Rebecca, and the most intimate ones call me Beck. You can just call me friend.
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