So the title is a Good Charlotte song called “The River.”
I know I apologize for this every single time I post but I’m going to say it again – I’m so sorry for being so horrible about regularly posting. Let me just say, though, holy cow has life changed!
So when I last posted I was really only just dipping my toes into the whole Jesus thing. I’ve actually dubbed it my “Journey to Jesus” because that’s really what it was. If you read my, But…I’m an Atheist…? post you’ll know how this opportunity presented itself, but I was recently asked what made me an atheist. I thought I’d address that as I jump into this.
When I was younger I was raised in a Catholic family. They weren’t the “You’ve done wrong, go pray the rosary and say ten hail Marys” kind of Catholics, but that was their faith and so I grew up with this idea in my mind that God was the all powerful judge who shamed and punished for all the sins. I was absolutely certain for the longest time that my dad didn’t love me because I lied about liking spinach, that it was God punishing me with love. To this day I have a very hard time with love and fearing that people don’t love or like me and it stemmed from that moment when I was six. As I got older it was just something that I let go of, I decided there was no possible way that an invisible man hanging out in the clouds was in control of us, it was silly. So I just stopped believing. I actually became very anti-theist; religion was the root of evil in my eyes and I’d dismiss anybody who made any sort of religious comment around me. I was braggy about it and a proud atheist. For anybody reading this who remembers that and was annoyed by it, I do apologize because I’m experiencing delayed embarrassment lol.
In my early 20s I was with a guy whose family was very Christian and so I attended church with them and even attended bible study once or twice. When things started getting sour in the relationship I went to the church because I needed help. Not only did I not get help in a life or death situation, but they made it worse. That was when I decided that the church was just full of hypocrites and when I left that relationship I left God, too. If he was so great how could he let one of his children almost be killed when she already struggled with love?
Fast forward to now. For simplicity sake I’m just going to assume that you already read the aforementioned “Atheist” post so you know how God made himself present to me back in November (of 2017). I kept going to church every Sunday, each week moving a little closer to the stage, I was feeling the songs on a deeper level (I’ve always been about lyrics in a song, and these felt like they were being written just for me). I started serving in the church down in the kids’ rooms monthly, I started going to a weekly woman’s gathering on Tuesday mornings that was for the women of the church. I was attending and excited about our small church group hosted by the very own “preschool mom” who started this whole thing.
I was really getting into it. Surprisingly, I was really enjoying it, too!
At our church there’s this woman and, it doesn’t matter where you sit, you hear her. She’s the woman who says, “Mmhmm!” or “I know that’s right!” You hear her heart announce, “You’re preaching now, pastor!” when the pastor really gets into his sermon. Something about her voice, I’d never even met her..only heard her voice, made my heart say, “You need to meet her. You need to know her story.” So that’s cool my heart said that, but in the churches I went to growing up you didn’t just walk up to some strange person and talk to them, you had to know them or be introduced to them. Actually, the churches I went to never even had that active listener in the audience. You just sat quietly and listened.
Well in March there was a conference called “Thrive” and it was a women’s conference that spanned over one weekend and women came from all over to attend. I never buy expensive things for myself but I bought myself tickets to this conference right around the time of my “Atheist” post. Leading up to the conference that loud audience member won tickets so I finally learned her name when she was called to the stage! What’s even cooler? The very first night of small group at Preschool Mom’s house, this loud woman walks in! What are the chances? Preschool Mom and Loud Woman (sorry that that’s the nickname you’ve been given, I love you and you need to know that your loudness nudged me in the direction that it did) never sat near each other so I never would’ve guessed they were that close. I was so excited, I came home and told my husband all about her and her husband. I think the world of them. When the time is right I’ll make a post just about them.
The conference was amazing. I was so excited to go and see what it was about. I’ve never really had girl friends or done things with large groups of women so I was curious to see if this was going to be a positive and moving experience or turn into some giant bitch fest. It was so much more than a moving experience. It literally changed my life.
On Friday during the opening ceremony the church presented a young woman a Bravery award. This award was for the bravery that she showed during extreme trials in her life and how she showed unwavering faith. Hearing her story brought tears to my eyes, I just wanted to hug her. As we were doing our closing prayer that night I asked God for a sign (if you haven’t caught on, signs are really big to me) to let me know this was right. Walking out to my car that night with my daughter the stars were so bright, we stopped in the grass just to admire them and, clear as day, a shooting star zipped by us. That was my sign.
Saturday evening, during the final session for the day, the church presented a second Bravery award. Our senior pastor was talking about a friend of hers who was trying to invite a woman to church but the woman always had a reason why she couldn’t make it to those Tuesday morning Sisterhood groups but they kept praying for her. It turns out that the woman was attending church and quietly sitting in the back of the auditorium which was big progress from her listening to the sermons online in the privacy of her kitchen while she cooked dinner. I laughed and leaned over to my friend (“Preschool Mom” is now her name for the sake of privacy and familiarity for my readers lol) and said, “Man, I think I’d get along with her!” and no sooner did our senior pastor say, “So if we could welcome, [insert my full name] to the stage!”
I was presented the second Bravery award that weekend for my stepping out in faith, for what I do with the daycare, everything I do with my dad, the Climb Out of the Darkness movement, and for what I do within my town. I am still in shock. I never looked at what I do as brave. It was a truly amazing experience and I’m so grateful for it.
Now it’s July and I’ve read a few more books in the Bible, I’ve been active in everything I mentioned earlier, praying more, discussing Jesus and the Bible with friends, I’ve stopped taking my anxiety meds (which is huge for me and came after I spoke with my doctor), I haven’t been as anxious in social settings, my introvert and OCD tendencies are subsiding enough that they’re not interfering with my life nearly as much, things are changing in me. I actually love myself. I can’t remember the last time I could say that. I am proud of who I am and what I’m doing with my life and the world around me.
I just finished the book of Acts and let me tell ya, Paul? The apostle? He’s a cool fella. I think we would get along swimmingly. That book was my push. It was my, “Now is the time,” moment and, after talking with Preschool Mom about it, we picked a date.
July 3, 2018
My entire small group was there as well as the other group from our town. I made a very corny invitation so if you’re reading this and you received it, please know I’m doubly grateful that you showed up despite my cornyness…there’s so much more to come lol. My closest friends here in town. Their families. It was truly incredible. I laugh because I had a larger turnout for my baptism than I did my wedding lol. All day I prayed for my sign that this as right. Seriously, if you haven’t read my “Atheist” post by now you need to for this next part to make sense (click here, it’ll open in a new tab). I also prayed that somebody else would feel moved and want to be baptized with me.
As my pastor and I stood in the water I could hear nothing, it’s like the 30 people on the beach and the wind and the water all just silenced, I only heard him, and he spoke of Paul (who, I’m just gonna say, Paul is my homeboy), and he leaned me back, and I went under.
I know it only lasted a split second, but in that moment under water it’s like I was being hugged, I felt safe and whole, like I could be there forever. As soon as my head went under water a hawk flew overhead. A FREAKING HAWK!!! MY MAIN SIGN FROM GOD SINCE THE VERY FREAKING BEGINNING!!!! (if you didn’t read the “Atheist” post by now that’s your own fault for not understanding why I’m so excited about a bird.) I didn’t see it but it almost means more that way. It’s like God wanted me to just do it and have faith, but when I wasn’t looking he made Himself visible.
The best part? Two more got baptized in the river, too. The daughters of two of my friends. It was magical. I know God was there yesterday. I felt him. I know they all did too.