j e s u s + m e

16 year old me at Whataburger by the Bay with my art class friends.

16 year old me in the art room

When I was a little 7th grade girl, I followed my art teacher around everywhere. That was a trait that I carried on through high school. I loved my art teachers. They grew me. They believed in me. They loved me.

One afternoon, I wandered into my art teacher's class room, and he was helping a guest speaker take down his easel and traveling case. This man had spoken to the 8th grade students, but being the 7th grader that I was, I missed out on whatever lecture he had given. I introduced myself to him, and offered to help him carry his things down. He had a limp and was quite a character. He was (and still is today) a chalk artist. A chalk artist who happened to love Jesus.

Now, he didn't give a gospel presentation in my middle school, but he did extend an invitation to the kids to visit him down the street at that old yellow church on the corner. He would be doing another "demonstration" of his art. That old yellow church also happened to be down the street from my house.

Two of my best chums invited me to go with them, as one of them actually attended the church on a regular basis. I was eager to see this artist again, and I loved my friends, and there was going to be pizza and games too, so of course I went.

It wasn't too long into the evening that I somehow became squished between my friends on the front row of a very large, very intimidating sanctuary, inside that old, yellow church.
The next thing that happened was a bit queer to me. The man proceeded to tell a story of two friends who were trying to sneak out of church, but one rather large woman had them backed up in the pew with no way to escape. Therefore they had to sit and listen to the message the preacher man was sharing.

Finally, these young lads were able to escape the church, but not before being stirred by the message they had heard. They each fled to their houses where the Spirit of the Lord came upon them both and spoke to their hearts. The first boy, angry and bitter and afraid, yelled at the voice in his heart and shut down, ignoring it's call, ignoring the voice. And the Spirit of Lord left. The second boy, ashamed, confused,  and afraid, asked for guidance and forgiveness. And for courage. And the Spirit of the Lord dwelled within him all the days of his life.

While Larry is sharing this story, he is actually drawing on a large board on an easel. When he finishes his story, he turns on a black-light revealing a hidden drawing. It showed one boy crossing a bridge that is the cross up toward an open armed Jesus. The other boy was falling through the cracks of the earth into the dark chasm. He had denied salvation.

As a small girl, not yet thirteen, I was terrified. Horrified. Ashamed of any darkness that might be inside me. And wanting. Yearning for something more.

So I stepped out of my pew, and demanded to speak to someone. I was frightened by the picture before me and wanted to know more. I knew that God was real. Not because my parents had taught me so, but because I could sense Him, and I trusted the words of this man. I knew I would be able to read a Bible at home. I had one, after all. Who didn't?

And so, the foundation for my faith was poured through one man's obedience to use his gift for God's glory.

As the years continue to move and change and rain down on me, I never stop learning. To me, salvation is something that is there, free for all. Jesus, to me, is the air I breath. He is a part of me. His sacrifice. His death. It paid for me. And I'm renewed. Yes, I'm a sinner. I am known to be a sin-repeater. Often I make the same stupid mistake. But forgiveness is mine. And redemption is beautiful. And so my adoring husband and I fight daily to raise our children up in the light. To be mighty warriors with great integrity. To go against the grain of our society. Even when it's easy to get caught up in the materialism. In the plastic stuff that is not lasting.

We believe that our Savior has come and that his name is Jesus. At the sound of his name, the earth trembles.

That February day in 1997, I knew that something in me was stirring. But it has taken years of digging, of serving, of trusting, of failing, of loving, of wrestling and of growing for me to know this: I'm not without sin, nor shall I ever be, until the day of Glory arrives. But until then, my family shall pursue the Maker with our whole hearts and tell His Story to all we meet. Through words, through deeds, in obedience. 

17 year old me with my art friends

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