For some reason, I thought it had been six years, and that is what I wrote on my work profile online, but I figured out it is really only five years. I can't believe it has only been five years because it feels like forever. But in some ways, I am happy it has only been five years, because it feels like I just have so much to learn, and so many areas to grow in. Which, I guess will be a continual thing to look forward too in life... but I know that there is just so much wisdom to gain that is within my human reach.
Anyway, in honor of remembering my 5 years as a Christ-follower, I thought it would be fitting to write some of my testimony on here. You are reading this today, Thursday, but I have been working on this all week...so enjoy!
It was a cold, cold night on August 6th, 1983, when I was born...
Okay, I am kidding, I am not going to go that into the details of things. But, I was born on that day, to a mother who was going to give me up for adoption (this is probably totally sketchy to write about since it's on the internet...). I was given to the parents I have now, and I had a wonderful childhood. I was an only child until I was seven, and then my sister Sarah was born. Needless to say, I was very spoiled (and some would say I still am...) ;)
When I was nine, my parents had twins - Emily and Tori.
And then there was six.
I grew up Catholic, but I had no idea what that meant. I had heard the name of Jesus all my life, but never understood anything about Him. But I think that our enemy always had it out for me, because even when I was little, my mom said that I would scream so loud in church, she had to excuse herself most of the time. One Sunday, a man came up to mom and said, "My daughter used to scream like that in church, and now she's a nun."
When I turned fourteen, my mom forced me to take classes so I could make my confirmation into the Catholic church. I did not want to. At this point, I didn't even really believe in God, and I definitely was not interested in going to church. But it was either that, or groundation, so I chose to submit (can someone tell me why my sisters are not forced to go?...) ;)
When I was fifteen, I was in my second year of classes (though I hadn't learned anything, like, literally, nothing stuck in my head). I was forced to attend a retreat, and I kicked and screamed the entire way there. I did not want to spend an entire Saturday at church! I even called my mom at lunch, crying, begging her to come pick me up (And note - this was before everyone had a cell phone, and I only had one quarter). She wouldn't. I look back now and laugh because how bad could it have been...all we did was sit there. I went in for the last session, and this time, the teachers caught my attention. These teachers were not normal teachers - they were not priests, or anyone I had even seen before. It was a husband and wife, and they started from the beginning. They explained to us how God had created the world, and everything in it. They explained why I was a sinner, and why I needed Jesus. It took them about an hour, and they basically just explained everything. In my head I was thinking, "This all makes so much sense." At the end of the night, they basically gave an "altar call"! They said that whoever wanted to follow Christ, should ask for the Holy Spirit to enter their heart. I was like, "Heck yah I want the Holy Spirit to enter my heart." So I asked Him to come into my life, and in that moment, I physically felt the Holy Spirit enter into the inner beings of my soul...my heart...my breath; it took away my breath. I started weeping uncontrollably (does anyone know why we weep when we are "saved"?), and I began to look around at everyone else with this look on my face that would have said, "Woa, did you just get a dose of the Holy Spirit as well?"
I didn't talk to anyone else that night who felt the same thing as I did. And I basically didn't talk to anyone who did, after that, for years. Obviously, if you are doing the math in your head, that was not 5 years ago. I believe that I was sealed with the Holy Spirit at the age of fifteen, but I did not become a follower of Christ until I was nineteen. You can take that or leave it.
After the Holy Spirit entered my life, I became incredibly passionate about God (though I had no idea what I was talking about). I volunteered for the "children's ministry", and I convinced my mom to sign us up to teach a confirmation class for the next year. My mom taught this class, and I was her assistant. To her surprise, sometimes in the middle of class, I would just start blurting out things like, "You don't really have to make your confirmation, all you have to do is accept Jesus Christ into your life and ask for the Holy Spirit to come into your heart!" I would also preach various passages from scripture, though I had never picked up and read the Bible ever in my life; it was solely the Holy Spirit which was giving me this wisdom.
All I wanted to do was tell people about Jesus, but I had no idea what this meant. I didn't even really know what I was supposed to say. I became frustrated because I wanted to know more, but I thought I would have to become a nun to do this work...and I wanted a family. So, I gave up. I stopped going to church, and after awhile, I was pretty content with living a life that did not involve God.
I stopped going thinking about God, and I started hanging out with the wrong people. I started getting really involved in the medical field, and I was set on going to nursing school. When I turned 19, I became an EMT, and enjoyed working in the field of "life and death".
But God was determined to get me. He sought after me with everything He had. The most random people came into my life in the fall and spring of my nineteenth year. God used the ER, and people who came through it, to bring me back to Himself. I knew someone from work who would always tell me about the church he (sometimes) went too (Calvary Laguna). One night I was bored, and I looked it up online. I realized where it was, and kind of memorized in my mind. Well, I didn't consciously do this, but the directions were there that one fateful night I decided to drive over there. I was getting off work (I worked 7am-7pm), and that Wednesday night, I got off a few minutes early and was headed home. I used to live off Lake Forest, so I was headed that way. Well, usually I would make a right on Lake Forest (going towards Foothill Ranch), but on this night, I couldn't help but make a left and drive towards that church. I had no idea what I was doing, and what I was looking for, but something overcame me, and I it was as if I had no choice but to go there. And just for a little background - the Catholic church taught me that all other churches were crazy cults who drank themselves to death with kool-aid...so this is what I was expecting to walk in to!
I parked in the parking lot and walked in. I guess I must have been wearing scrubs...how embarrassing. I walked inside the foyer, that I have entered so many times now, and right there was a police chaplain who had been witnessing to me for months. He was so shocked to see me. He said, "Carrie, what are you doing here?!" I said, "I have no idea what I am doing here." He and his girlfriend invited me in to sit with them (which was so nice!), and I sat and listened, and started to realize that everything this pastor was saying, was what those Catholic retreat people had been telling me. I started realizing that this church believed in the same God, the same Jesus, that I think I believe in. The Spirit was moving, and when Joe announced the altar call, I rose my hand. I can't really explain what happened in that moment. It wasn't as physically powerful as when the Holy Spirit entered my life, but this moment was powerful enough to literally make me stop everything and every part of my life, to turn to follow after Christ.
After service, Rich and Cheryl (the nice couple) took me out for dessert, and tried to figure out whether I rose my hand or not (so cute). They talked to me about some things, and answered some of my questions...gosh, I was so cute and young in the Lord. ;)
That following Sunday, Rich and Cheryl waited for me by the door so we could sit together again, and this time Joe wanted people to stand during the altar call. I was somewhat convinced that raising my hand just didn't do the trick, and I stood up. Now, this time, Rich and Cheryl watched me stand up, and afterwards I was attacked by the "new believers" team. They gave me a Bible (my first one!), and talked to me for a while. Rich and Cheryl were so excited and we went out to lunch after to talk more. Also, on this Sunday, on my way out, I saw Melissa. Melissa and I had been BFF in high school, and then we grew apart when she became a Christian and I did not. Thank goodness she was there because she helped me get plugged into the college group where I made my first Christian friends - Heather, Chris Madson, Chris Vlasak, and Grant Wahlquist. 5 years ago today, this is what had happened. Crazy.
That fall, Cheryl invited me to come along to the women's retreat, and I readily accepted. Oh, have I mentioned my awkward "first time Christian" phase? This is the phase where you drop hundreds of dollars at Sonshine Bookstores. I would go there ALL the time. I bought Bibles, and Lee Strobel books...anything I could get my hands on, I bought it. Oh, and of course I had an obsession with the Left Behind Series. Sheesh. Back to the story - so I go on the women's retreat (which was great by the way), and I go to a session for "single women", taught by, you guessed it - Tatum Norman. In the session she mentioned that she was the youth pastors wife. I was entrigued. I seriously have no idea why, but for some reason I had a passion for the youth. I wanted to share this good news with every young kid I could get ahold of. So I talked to Tatum for the first time that night, and the rest of the adventure began.
I became heavily involved with the youth ministry and college ministry. A lot of stuff was happening within our church but I think because I was just so excited about Jesus, I never noticed. I took that first year of me being a Christian off from school, because all I wanted to do was study the Bible. I went to Calvary Costa Mesa every night (that there wasn't church at Laguna), so I could learn as much as possible. I read all day, and volunteered all my spare time at the church when I wasn't working.
After that year, I decided I wanted to go back to school in the fall of 2004, and so I started to go full-time to finish up my general education. At this point, I thought I was going to study history or political science, because I do love those subjects, and I wanted to teach high school kids. In the spring of 2005, I started interning at the church for youth and (a little bit) of college ministries. It was such a blast. I love those kids so much, and I loved all the memories we made together. During this time I was discipled, sent on the mission field, poured what I could into students lives...you name it, I was thrown into it.
In the fall of 2005, I had to make my decision of where I was going to apply for schools. I knew some people who had gone to Biola, and Grant had gone there for Biblical Studies. Honestly, I didn't even know if women were allowed to study the Bible there. So, Grant hooked me up with Dr. Pierce (hehe), and we chatted, and he encouraged me to come and study the Bible if that's what I wanted to do. At that time, I had also met John for the first time, and he also encouraged me towards Biola (thank you). So, I applied, and I got in! Craziness! There I was, not even a Christian for three years yet, and I was going to go study the Bible full-time. My family had thought I had lost my mind.
My two years at Biola were definitely some of the best years of my life. It was a great time for me to grow closer to the Lord, and become a better disciple of His. I also met the MOST amazing Christian brothers and sisters ever, who never stopped encouraging me, and were always supportive of what God wanted with my life.
I graduated this past Spring, 2008, with a Bachelor's degree in Biblical Studies from BIOLA University. Now, I am back to Calvary Laguna, now known as Kingsfield Church, working on staff, doing lots of stuff. It's crazy to think that it has only been 5 years since my life has dramatically changed. I am so thankful for the work that the Lord is doing within me, and for His constant provision in not only the "big things", but the everyday things as well. Being a single woman can sometimes be difficult, but I have loved having the opportunity to put myself in a position where Christ is my husband. He is my ultimate provider for all the things I need. He is my rock, and I am able to give all my cares and concerns to Him.
I am very blessed.
If you would like to know more about having a relationship with Jesus Christ, please feel free to contact me through this blog, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to share more with you about how God, your creator, loves you very much.