Those who read my blogs know that I am a Christian. I don’t attend churches only of a certain denomination, so therefore I do not associate myself with a certain denomination.
My parents grew up going to Apostolic Lutheran churches. I was moved around a lot during my childhood, and my family attended a lot of different churches. I went to Apostolic Lutheran churches for some periods of my life. I went to Baptist churches. Evangelical Free churches. And churches that described themselves as non-denominational, Bible-believing churches. Today I attend a non-denominational-church, but I believe it has Baptist roots.
Regardless of what church I go to, I prefer to call myself simply a Christ-follower. 🙂 Jesus Christ is my Savior, I am free in Him, and I’m on a journey each day of understanding more what it means to love and serve Him and others. My life is a love story with Him. I am certainly not perfect, and people may not always see my efforts and the heart behind them. But I feel it in my soul, the way He gently woos me and teaches me.
So I’ve told you all that I am a Christian. Now I want to share a little of my testimony.
I grew up in a Christian home, attending church every Sunday. I had a good childhood, and remember my mom telling me often that Jesus loved me, and that she would love me always, no matter what.
Just as I trusted that she would always love me no matter what … even if I did something bad … I believed that God was, indeed, God and He loved me. I trusted that Jesus had died on a cross which took away my sins and because of that, I would live in heaven one day with Him.
I had a simple childlike belief. And no, I don’t remember a day when I prayed a prayer to become saved. But I do know that even back then as a little girl I was a saved child of God, because I believed.
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
(Fun fact: I started reading through the Bible, from Genesis, when I was eight or nine-years-old. I finally finished it at fifteen!)
When I was still pretty young, my mom did a Bible study on the book of Proverbs and wisdom with us kids. During that study, I prayed that God would give me wisdom. I wasn’t exactly sure what that would mean – or even the big deal about wisdom – but I prayed for it because the Bible said to get wisdom, to seek knowledge! And King Solomon, as a young person, had prayed for wisdom.
5 Get wisdom! Get understanding!
Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
6 Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you;
Love her, and she will keep you.
7 Wisdom is the principal thing;
Therefore get wisdom.
And in all your getting, get understanding.
8 Exalt her, and she will promote you;
She will bring you honor, when you embrace her.
9 She will place on your head an ornament of grace;
A crown of glory she will deliver to you.”
1 Kings 3:9
9 Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil.
As I grew older, that simple message of Jesus’ love for me got twisted into something like: God is displeased with you and you need to earn Jesus’ love.
Around twelve-years-old, I remember having some questions about the Christian faith and such. Because of this doubt, I became very afraid and cried myself to sleep many nights because I was afraid that the world would end before I worked through my doubts and I wouldn’t go to heaven.
I guess I had somewhere along the line lost hold of that truth of Jesus Christ’s love for me that I had simply believed as a child.
34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
I struggled for a few years. One day I confessed these doubts and fears to my mom, and she grabbed my hand and held it tightly while speaking truth to me.
I think a few different thing made this struggle so hard for me. I was homeschooled all my life and sheltered from a lot, but I still heard other worldviews. And I think because I’ve always been such a deep thinker and feeler, I went through that sort of journey of figuring out what you believe for yourself a lot younger than some people.
I was just entering my teenage years, and becoming very insecure at that point. I didn’t share a lot with other people, which kept me isolated inside my own little world of overwhelming fears and doubts. (When you don’t share some things with others, they can become magnified and instead of fighting and finding help, you retreat further into yourself and only deepen the struggle.) And I was a people-pleaser and it wounded me a lot when people got upset with me. I questioned if my presence was wanted in many places. I questioned if I was loved.
Now, I still knew my mom loved me. But we have different personalities and we kind of clashed during some of my teenage years. I wondered sometimes if she cared about things I was going through – though she did! I just didn’t know very well how to communicate with her (or probably anyone else, for that matter.)
So if I was questioning if I was loved and wanted by the people around me and closest to me, it’s not a huge wonder that I was questioning things about my faith. I think at the root of it all was a question: Am I lovable to God?
Can I trust Him with my heart and my soul and my life and my everything … or am I going to have to figure something else out?
And what was that “something else” that I was going to have to figure out??
It was a process. Sometimes during church, I would feel like the preacher (once it was my uncle 🙂 ) was speaking directly to me. But I was too scared to hope that it was God pursuing me.
But He did pursue me.
One night, when I was fourteen or fifteen (probably), I was sitting on my bed reading my Bible. I don’t remember what I was reading, but I started to cry. I just knew in that moment that God was there and it was going to be okay.
I got baptized at fifteen-years-old. I was still struggling at that point, but I knew the Bible talked about getting baptized and I wanted to be obedient to the Lord in that. Even though I was struggling, I knew what course I was going to pursue. I was going to follow God.
16 So the people answered and said: “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; 17 for the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went and among all the people through whom we passed. 18 And the Lord drove out from before us all the people, including the Amorites who dwelt in the land. We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.”
I think it was around that time that I started developing friendships with some great Christian people and got more involved in youth group, was a co-counselor at a youth camp, went on an inner-city mission trip, and eventually joined the young adult/singles Bible study that really, really impacted me.
The people in this Bible study were some of the few people that made me feel absolutely welcome. Like I was wanted there. Like I was part of them. Like I was accepted and even liked and cherished. They are beautiful people and truly touched the lives of my older brother and I.
1 John 4:15-16
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.
I was growing and learning and enjoying time with my friends. I read some books by Eric & Leslie Ludy and the like that really touched me.
There were days I felt amazing passion, joy, and peace as I sought the Lord. I was serious about my walk with Him. I started a prayer journal and tried to read my Bible more often.
So even though there was still struggles, a deep desire had been born inside me. I want to know God more.
After graduating at seventeen and moving with my family to another state, my anxiety got pretty bad.
See, I had grown a lot in my faith, but I was still struggling with trusting God with absolutely everything. And I do believe, in my case, this is pretty deeply rooted in insecurity and not feeling wanted.
So my life went. Faith blossomed, and faith waned. I struggled and I fought. I fretted and I feared.
But my deepest heart’s desire stayed the same through it all, I believe. I want Jesus.
And somewhere deep down I was started to truly believe. He wasn’t going to give up on me. He wasn’t going to let me wallow in this fear and anxiety and lack of trust for the rest of my days. He had begun a work in me and He is going to finish it. Because He cares.
3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
1 Peter 5:6-7
6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
It was last year that I started praying out loud. Going on long prayer walks. Pouring out my heart to the Lord. Though sometimes I felt very aware of my small voice all alone in the big world, I also felt close to God during these prayer walks. I felt such peace. I felt fearlessness. I felt hope. I felt a true delight in Him awakening in me.
3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.
4 Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
I started being more intentional about reading my Bible everyday. Starting my morning with a devotional and with my thoughts on the Lord.
The end of last year/beginning of this year I finally actually faced how truly insecure I was. I’ve mentioned this before in some posts. And I realized, I need to claim God’s love for me. I need to believe that I am His cherished daughter. I need to find my security in Him. I need to stop comparing my spiritual journey with other people’s. I need to fight dark lies with prayer, the Word, and Jesus Christ’s powerful name. I need to take hold of His promises and step into His love.
Enough trying so hard to serve Him while still wondering if I’m truly wanted and delighted in, and therefore withholding some of my trust.
Enough hiding from my fears – stuffing them deep inside and not addressing them.
Time to get honest.
Lord, I’m afraid. I don’t understand. Please help my unbelief.
Time to speak truth over myself.
You, Shantelle, are a beloved daughter of God. And nothing can snatch you from His hand. Don’t you see? You never earned His favor, He just wanted you and chose you and now you belong to Him forever because of Jesus’ blood.
He sees me. He won’t give up on me. He won’t let anything take me from His loving grip. And I will fight all the darkness and strive to keep my eyes on Him.
27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.”
I’ve watched my faith grow amazingly. I’ve felt myself hunger for God’s Word. My passion for prayer and belief of its power has deepened. I feel the assurance of His love fill my lonely heart. I’ve watched myself change by His work in me – little by little. My desire to live my life for His glory and honor has only grown through the years!
And my eyes have been opened to the reality that I am not alone and my life can be a love story with Him. In a world that can be so uncertain and unstable and harsh, He is constant and no one can take Him from me.
Dear reader, I am not perfect, but my God is.
And if you are struggling, I want you to know that your life can be a love story with Him too! He has more than enough room for you to be His cherished daughter (or son) too! You can have a personal relationship with God and truly experience His genuine, forgiving, redeeming, beautiful, all-encompassing love.
Seek Him with all that you are!
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.
God is faithful and holy and pure and love.
May He bless you and wrap you in His love.
❤ Lady Grace