*my testimony*

I grew up in a Christian family, going to a bible-preaching church. One day when I was five I just said to my mom, "I wanna be saved." I had heard them talk about being "saved" at church and I knew that everyone else in my family was "saved", so I wanted to be included. So my mom and dad went through a little tract with me and they explained the plan of salvation and prayed with me. I didn't completely understand everything about salvation yet, but I understood the main point of being made right with God and going to Heaven.

So at church I started learning more about God and what that decision to accept Christ really meant to me. Then, when I was in second grade I became best friends with a girl named Jessica. Now, we weren't just in the same "group" of friends, we were IT. She and I almost always hung out with only each other. She was my best friend and I was her's. We both understood that. We were, I guess you could say, each other's everything. She was in love with horses and soon after becoming best buds with her, I was too. Do you remember "My Little Ponies" from when you were little? Well, we each had about 40 of those each and we would play with them constantly. At every recess and at every overnight we had together. After we got a little older we graduated to model horses. I'm not kidding - we would stay up the entire night and not sleep and just play horses ALL night. We would make up adventures for them and all sorts of stories. It was amazing what we could come up with if we put our imaginations together. She taught me all about horses, and soon I began teaching her about how I was a Christian. Her family went to church on the Holidays, not regularly. She didn't know about salvation until one summer, I think the summer between our second and third grade years, she came to Vacation Bible School with me @ my church. She was saved there. We weren't old enough or mature enough to understand the whole relationship-with-God thing yet, but we were "on fire" for Jesus! We went to church camp together and we'd learn about God together. We'd always talk about how awesome heaven was going to be. We would take breaks from playing horses some nights and just sit and talk about Heaven. How perfect it would be...what it would be like walking on the streets of gold...seeing GOD...having a perfect appearance...we'd also try to talk ourselves into thinking that horses would be there. :) God & horses: our interests in a nutshell. All of our other interests seemed to be the same, too. Singing, tumbling, country music & Billy Ray Cyrus (that was then), reading, art, whatever one of us liked, we were both into. We totally didn't care about what people thought. I guess looking back, we were sort of nerds - we didn't try to dress in style, we didn't care what other people @ school were doing, we'd just do our own thing. We had that child-like faith in God and we didn't care who was looking or what people thought. We were the best of friends - closer than sisters - all the way.

Then in the summer after our sixth grade year, Jessica, her two little sisters, and their babysitter, who was driving, were killed in a one-car accident. The night I found out....it was just weird. I just didn't think anything like that happened around here. Jess and I had lots of plans for the future, now I would have to go on without her. I never really cried. The way my parents told me was something like "...and now tonight, Jessica's in Heaven" Then I started thinking about the countless hours we had spent talking about that wonderful place and how at that very minute, she was experiencing those incredible things. Wow. I was in awe. I don't remember a lot about my reaction. I really didn't know how to act. It was almost too easy for me because I was so happy for her and her move to that perfect place. I knew I would see her again and I knew she would be waiting there for me.

God used this "tragedy" and really worked through it. For one, Jessica's parents turned to God in there time of need. Remembering times that Jessica had tried to talk to them about salvation/God, they became total-committed Christians, attending church every Sunday, and living their lives for Christ. It was a wonderful witness to the community. But unfortunately, for me it got worse before it got better. With Jessica, like I said we had that child-like faith. It wasn't deep, personal relationship with Christ because we were too young and not mature enough to understand and maintain a relationship like that. We had each other and God was part of our friendship. When Jessica wasn't there anymore, it was just me, on my own with the Christian walk. A solid faith hadn't been built, because I hadn't realized that there was more to it than what me and Jess where living - we weren't even teenagers yet. That year in seventh grade, I found a new group to hang with. I thought they were "the good group", but this was the time that our class started getting into the to-be-cool-you-hafta-be-bad attitude. Everybody started cussing and smoking and little forms of rebellion like that just to be cool. At first I didn't join in - I knew better. Then I realized (or at least I thought) that I was the ONLY person left who wasn't going down the gutter. I gave up. Everybody else was doing it! Jessica wasn't there anymore to stick to the good and to God with. I really wanted to be accepted and thought of as cool, so I started doing those little minor forms of rebellion. It was a very confusing time. That was the time when I was developing into my own person, you know that time when you really consider more than what you have been raised on, you search to find out if what you've been told your entire life is really true, you become very self-conscious, basically maturing into an adult? Well, in more common terms: adolescence. All of these changes in what had always been - PLUS the change of losing my one and only best friend. Things just kind of went downhill. I just wanted to be cool and for people to like me. By the end of the horrible seventh grade year, after going through a huge fight with my friends and a LOT of other stuff, I was hanging out with the stoners and trying to decide if I was going to become one of them. I would get really depressed at times and just cry. I remember driving down to visit Natalie's family for her confirmation and telling Natalie all of my problems about my life. I was making my family worried sick. I was worrying myself. I wasn't sure of anything, really.

That summer after seventh grade (1997), my cousin, Evie asked me to go to this church camp in Wisconsin with her. We weren't super-close, she hadn't really known what had been going on in my life, but she wanted a friend to take with her to the camp. I thought "why not?" so we went. It was called Camp Timber-lee. The first person I met there was my counselor, Michelle. We hit it off right away because we both had red hair. The speaker for the week was Giles Davis. He was a pretty funny guy. Lots of cool people were there at the camp. But, Giles really knew what he was talking about. I had chosen a different path than God, but what he was saying made me consider what it would be like going back. Michelle was amazing. She was so Godly. She was a mature, growing Christian who I could really relate with. She shared with me all about her huge trial and how she fell completely away from God, and how she rediscovered him. We had lots of long talks. I was intrigued by her Godly-ness. She told me about how during praise & worship one night, she was so filled with God's love that she just started giggling w/ joy and couldn't stop! I had never experienced that deep of joy directly from the Holy Spirit before. Everyday, as I would listen to Giles speak, I would consider it a little more. What if I did start following God again? Maybe this guy is right. He sure makes sense. I've never followed God like he's talking about before. He's talking about a DAILY RELATIONSHIP. This is deep. This is more than just a surface thing. God was totally speaking to me through Giles and Michelle. I told Michelle the whole story of Jessica and my seventh grade year. I broke down in tears one night during cabin devos with her. One afternoon, she prayed one-on-one with me. I hadn't prayed the way she was praying before. She showed me how she always prays with her hands open, palms up, as a symbol of her willingness to give everything she has to God and to receive anything from him. She prayed for everything that was going on in my life. It was intense. I could feel the Holy Spirit there with us. We sat there and prayed for what seemed like hours. It was amazing. When we were done, we talked about things and how I felt. I felt so much better! As we were walking back to where everyone else was, I was just so overflowing with the love of God. I had never felt that on such a deep level before! I looked at her and she looked at me and I just started to laugh! I finally realized that the only source of complete joy is from the Father. He was showing me that I didn't have to look elsewhere to find meaning and acceptance again after Jessica died, he would restore me! I ended up laughing non-stop for at least a half hour - I don't remember for sure how long! I learned a ton of stuff from Giles about having that relationship with God. He stressed the importance of daily prayer and bible reading. He taught me how to CRAVE God. He is one of the top ten FUNNIEST people I know. He always had everyone ROFL. And what he said about God made perfect sense! He was so consumed with God and he knew just how to get teens following God with discipline and spiritually maturing. He was awesome. When I got home I told my family all about it. They were so happy. I also told Natalie all about it. That was the summer God became real and personal to me.

I was afraid to go back to school for my eighth grade year. I had become a totally different person over the summer and I didn't know how people would react. I ended up getting hooked up with a group of friends that I had hung out with for the beginning of seventh grade. My best friend at school became Christin. Neither of us wanted to do stupid things like the other kids our age. She was a good friend. We cracked each other up all the time. I also got to be pretty good friends with Kiel. He had a crush on me, then through that we became buds. I still didn't have any close, real-Christian friends. It was tough being a newly rededicated Christian and not having anyone there everyday to keep me going. But, God was there for me and I held on. I prayed SO much for a close, Christian friend. That spring there was a Crusade in town. I was a counselor, who could lead people through the little tracts. The very first night was "youth night" the leader asked all of the Christian youth that were there to come up so they could take a stand in front of their community. Of course, there weren't any youth who stayed in their seats. They all came up, Christian or not. Christin and I were sitting together, so of course we both went up. The guy prayed for us and then he asked if a counselor would get a teen and pray with them and make sure they understood salvation, etc. I was a counselor, so I turned to Christin and asked her if she knew the plan of salvation. She had been going to church her entire life, but did not know it. We went up into the bleachers and sat down and I took her through the little tract page by page. I was so nervous and I don't know how good of a job I did, but she said a silent prayer and it seemed that she had understood and accepted Christ! I was so incredible happy. The very next night, I was sitting with Kiel at the Crusade. I was telling him how surprised I was that Christin had never heard the plan of salvation. Poor Kiel - he was trying to play it cool, but actually he didn't know either. After it was over, I asked him and he finally said that he didn't know it. So I took him over in the bleachers to the same spot Christin and I sat, and did the same thing. I explained it and he said his prayer. He was so excited. With both Christin and Kiel I tried to use examples of what I had been through. I just felt so unworthy to be used by God to reach people, but he used me anyway! God answered my prayer in giving me two Christian friends. It was still hard though, because they were just baby-Christians and I was trying hard to lead them, but they didn't always respond. I didn't feel like I was qualified to lead them along in their new faith, but I still tried my best. Natalie and I were keeping in touch regularly and we were really growing in our faith together.

The summer of 1998, before I entered High School, I grew SO much spiritually. By this time Natalie were emailing each other daily and we were both maturing in Christ so much. We got together for about a week that summer (we live three hours apart) and it was so incredible. We were in the Bible, praying, talking about our problems and giving advice, making big plans for what we will do for God, it was awesome. We listened to ONLY dc talk - over and over and over. We came up with the idea for SPAM. Spam was a major growing experience. That was the summer I became disciplined and hard-core about my faith. God became an indispensable part of my daily life. Now, not only was he real and personal, I was a serious Christian, with a constant, maturing walk with him.

My freshmen year I had a few one-on-one and small-group opportunities to share my faith. Two more of my friends were saved, but I'm not sure if the conversion was genuine. I had all of these baby Christian friends, but none of them were really serious about their faith. I tried and tried to lead them. I could see a little growth, but most of the time I saw none. Natalie always talked about how awesome it would be if we lived closer, because we were the only mature Christians friends we had. We were (and are) so frustrated with the apathy of our friends/classmates. I'm still dealing with this at the present time and prayers would be so appreciated. :)

This past summer (1999) I went on a missions trip to Romania. It wasn't what I expected it to be, but it was a growing experience and I made some awesome Christian friends from Romania who were deep Christians. Ema, Heather, Zubi, Teddy, all you guys, you ROCK! Kiel was able to go, also. He experienced a lot of spiritual growth, which is fantastic.

This year I've found some other committed Christians @ my High School. I've become good friends with Chad and Josh who are actually serious about God and following him - just like Natalie and I! I really needed that fellowship with mature Christians @ school. I am so humbled when I realize how much God takes care of me. He sees what I need and he provides. He cares for every detail. I'm so not worthy of his gifts.

Natalie has been a huge help in my relationship with Christ. I don't know where I'd be without her. We've been friends literally our entire lives - our moms where pregnant together and we have been buds since diapers. Since the beginning, whenever we're together we seem to pull each other closer to God. Although we live three hours apart, we see each other on all the holidays and special occasions and we spend a lot of time together in the summer, and in between visits we stay connected online. She is a mature Christian, who is committed to God and it shows. We are constantly encouraging one another, praying for one another, giving each other advice about everything, discussing our values and goals on a deep level, and we keep one another accountable. She's been with me through it all. I'm so blessed to have such a wonderful person in my life and such a God-centered friendship. I hope that I can form more friendships like ours. Thank you, Nat.

This has been my testimony; a story of what I did about this incredible person who was 100% God and 100% man who came to earth to give people life. Without Jesus, my life would be meaningless. When I finally see my savior face to face when this life is over it will be the most incredible moment I will ever experience. God's love for me is intense and never changes. I live for the King of the Universe - who happens to care for every detail of my life. He feels the same way about you.
Who do you live for?