On Christmas Eve 2017, everything changed. On that day I found my way home to the faith I never thought that I needed. It was the day that my life started falling into place. Finally, I felt like I was actually living. I could no longer ignore that God gave me a pathway to live.
For years I had been walking blindly alone, down a dark road that was cracked and rattled with fear. Everything about life felt empty—chaotic, selfish, useless, and isolating. I grew up in a beautiful but broken home. My parents divorced when I was eight, and I had to navigate a lot of change in a short amount of time. No matter how old I got, it never seemed to feel easier. I had to grow up fast and carry a lot of burdens that were never mine to carry in the first place. As years went by, I found myself lost. I didn’t know why I was lost or what I was missing, which made it feel so much worse. I started to see myself as broken, just like everything around me.
I was so angry at the world all the time. Why did I have to come from a broken home? Why did I always have to be the one picking up the broken pieces? Why was I never enough? Why was I always second choice? If I have a family who loves me and friends who would go to the ends of the earth for me, why was I so incredibly unhappy with life? I was lost and wondering if life was worth living at all as I was facing uncertainty and brokenness.
I was invited numerous times to Stone Church Youth in 2016 by friends. I would constantly refuse to go as I had no interest. Why would I change MY ways of living MY life? Eventually, I started going just to get them off my back. If I’m being honest, I thought, “Maybe If I came, they would finally leave me alone.” The first night I attended I was greeted with smiles and a warmth that I had never encountered from complete strangers. What in the world was happening? Clinging to the few people I knew, I was riddled with anxiety, but I managed to stay for the service even though I was closed off and so out of my comfort zone. I mean they call it a comfort zone for a reason, right? Why would I want to leave?
I decided I wasn’t ready to be in the presence of God. Fearing the unknown and trusting in someone I couldn’t see, seemed unfathomable to my mind. I didn’t want to hear Him. I fought so hard at first, I didn’t want to believe or understand what I didn’t know, and I still wanted to live life by my rules and terms. So, I left.
A year later in 2017, I ended up back at Stone with friends who attended regularly. I had hung out in the building with them, but intentionally never attended service. I knew there would be a Christmas Eve service but, as I mentioned, I knew I would not be going. Instead, I visited my dad in Kennewick that day. While I was with my dad and brothers, sitting silently in the living room, I randomly felt the need to attend one of the Christmas Eve Services. When I stood up and told my family that I was leaving to go to a service, we were all shocked and confused! Driving back to Yakima in a blizzard to make it to the last service of the night, I started to feel doubt creeping in. I didn’t want to show up alone, late, and to a place with unknown people. But I fought past the doubt and made it during one of the first songs.
Shortly after, Pastor Jeff walked on stage and gave a word that will stick with me forever: “There are people in this service tonight for the first time, maybe even in a church service ever; and you don’t know why you’re here, but there is a reason.” Instantly, it was like a switch flipped on in my head. After that night, I started attending services regularly and gave my life to the One who gave it to me.
My relationship with Jesus renewed my mind. I felt loved in spite of all my brokenness, and I felt hopeful for my future. It truly gave me eyes to see that all the pain I went through was not without reason. Good can come from some of the worst things we face; I was never truly alone. It broke my heart, and still does, for that 13-year-old me who felt so isolated. I had no idea who Jesus was and I wished so badly that someone would have told me He was just waiting for me to come lay everything at His feet. He wanted to carry every burden I was stuffing deeper and deeper into my life. That not just someone, but JESUS, cared about what I was going through, and that I could have cried to Him rather than dug myself into a hole of isolation.
Whenever I start to struggle with having faith through trials, to blindly trust in God and His timing, I think about how, by the grace of God, He waited for me. Even though I had left, He never left me. He never leaves us behind. Jesus changed everything.
Life knowing Jesus is such a beautiful thing. Does having a relationship with Jesus make everything perfect? No. You’ll still face trials and extremely hard things. People will fail you. People are imperfect, but Jesus is fail-proof. Jesus is the calm through the storm. When you have a relationship with Jesus, He is the shoulder you can cry on when you feel alone. He is the One you can seek out anywhere at any time when you feel so incredibly lost in this chaotic world. In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul writes, “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” This serves as a constant reminder that God is ready to take your pain, your anxieties, your past, and set it to rest with a peace we can only have and understand through Him. I’ve learned and am constantly reminded to put everything in God’s hands and just live, because eventually you will see God’s hand in everything when you give it all to Him. Trust me, I know it’s easier said than done sometimes. But just try. Matthew 7:7 says, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”
I pray that my story speaks to you. May it remind you that you are not alone, and never will be. Whatever burden you are facing and carrying right now, it doesn’t have to break your back and weigh you down. I pray that you know you are loved, cared for, and truly called by the Lord with divine purpose in this lifetime. I encourage you to take a leap of faith, step out in boldness, and come to a service. When you come to meet God, He will always be there waiting for you to show up.