This photo was taken on the side of a church building in Tacoma, WA in August 2019. My friend and I kept shouting, “Vaya con Dios” which means “Go with God” in Spanish. In the moment, the saying was very cathartic, both Vaya con Dios and You got this. We were on adventure to a concert at Marymoor Park to see Nathaniel Ratecliff and the Nightsweats. Neither of us were big on city driving, so it was semi terrifying that we were doing this adventure. But we witnessed this church and it became our slogan for the whole night. I knew God was with us. His Holy Spirit filled the air and we made it to the concert and got drunk and high and it happened to be the best show that I have ever been to.
It’s kind of an interesting story of how I became a Christian. It’s not a straight and narrow path on how I came to Jesus, and it still isn’t. My testimony is very adverse, which has caused m to be shunned by many in my hometown because I’m not a goody two shoes. I had sex before marriage, I drink and smoke, I have tattoos and piercings, I swear, I don’t go to church, and I don’t read my bible as often as I should. Should some of those things change? Absolutely. I am the first to admit that. But I am also the first to say that religion is bullshit. I am all about a relationship with God. My best friend’s grandmother has the best relationship with God that I have probably ever witnessed and she always said, “Do do do equals poo poo poo!” Essentially that means that actions mean nothing if they aren’t coming from the right frame of mind. If you think that going to church, getting baptized, and shunning the gay community and “praying” for them is gonna get you anywhere with God, you would be wrong. Religion is doing. Religion is pooing.
A relationship with God is different. In a relationship with God, you talk and communicate (praying), you lift each other up (give Him praise and in return he gives you the tools you need to succeed in life), and learn more about each other (read scripture). These things can be done in a church, but a relationship continues and progresses even when it’s not church Sunday. Your relationship with God, like any relationship with a spouse or a best friend would be, should be consistent. You should speak almost daily, if not daily, be getting to know one another more, praising each other, lifting each other up. When you just default these things to happening at church once a week or just when you need God the most to come through for you, you’re not gonna get the results you want. If you disregard your friend and talk to them once in a blue moon, are they going to be happy to hear from you? Sure they may be happy to finally hear from you, but they may be a little angry because they love and miss you and want you to make time for them. Same thing with God. When you don’t make time for God, he will take you back with open, loving arms but He wants you to make time for Him.
I grew up in a Christian household. As a baby, I was baptized to demonstrate that my parents would provide a loving, God fearing home for my sister and I. They took us to church every once in a blue moon. We were very shy, my sister and I, so we didn’t enjoy Sunday school with the other kids our age and we were too young to comprehend what went on in adult church. I always believed in God and accepted him into my heart. I was involved in the program Awana, which is a bible study program meant for elementary aged kids. I enjoyed memorizing scripture and took a lot of pride in it. Once I outgrew the program and went into middle school, my mom began to drink and abuse prescription narcotics, so my faith in God had dwindled. I often asked, “If God loved me so much, why does he make me suffer so much?”
I still ask that question til this day and have about as many answers now as I did ten years ago. Except then, I completely denounced my faith and I became Agnostic, joking with my friend that I believed in Morgan Freeman as my religion. I was about fourteen when my best friend and I started hanging out a lot. We often went to see her grandmother (the one I mentioned earlier with the wonderful faith in Christ) and we all prayed together and talked about God and all of his goodness. In those times, it seemed easy to believe in God; I had no distractions, but I knew the second I would leave and I would stumble back into chaos with my mom. At fifteen years old, my sister at seventeen had decided to go back to youth group at the church behind our house. My sister invited me after her going a couple of times. She said I would enjoy the games, the people, and that there was one cute guy who was my age that she thought I would like. I went in the name of the cute boy and boy, he WAS cute! I had just broken up with my first high school boyfriend so I was on the prowl… well, as prowl as a nerdy, fifteen year girl with braces can be.
After I went to youth group for the first time, I thought it was stupid. I did enjoy the games and the people, but I thought the worship was terrible and I didn’t enjoy the bible discussions and I didn’t enjoy the sermon. But I came back in the name of the cute boy. But this second time I went in, it was different. Instead of sitting back during worship, I stood up and I sang. Not well, of course, but I sang loudly and with feeling. During one of the songs, I felt as though all of the weights and demons had been lifted from my shoulders; I felt as though I was lighter and free. I immersed myself in that moment and sang louder than ever. When I belted out each word, I meant it. It resonated with me and at that moment, because that all happened in one swooping moment, I knew I believed in Him again.
Over the course of the next six weeks, I went to my first church summer camp and the week after I went to camp, I was baptized in the Puget Sound. Besides my experience with God, feeling Him for the first time ever, this was one of the best experiences of my life. Once I was dipped underwater and being pulled back out again, I felt as though I was new. I was clean. I was a fresh start. A beautiful child of God, just as Christ has intended me to be.
Over the next two years, I was an active participant in my youth group and I was constantly having fellowship with other kids in the program. I volunteered to help run Vacation Bible School one summer. I was about to become a leader in the youth group when I met Jake, an abusive ex who happened to be non Christian. Basically I had to choose between leadership and him, and I chose him. After that, I stopped going to youth group and a lot of the friendships I made there had dwindled because of it.
This hindered my relationship with God a little bit. I was a bit jaded on how I could be turned against by so many of my so called “friends”. I thought this was supposed to be a loving, close-knit community, regardless of our differences. I got upset at God that I wanted to have the best of both worlds, but it was obvious that couldn’t happen. So although I still believed in God, I ignored him for a little while especially when I was going through my bipolar diagnosis.
In summer of 2016, I was with Diego who did believe in God. He helped me see the light of God again in spite of my bipolar diagnosis. One day, I get a knock on the door when no one was home besides me, and I answer it and it was none other than one of my best friends who had been deployed in the army. He was home! And he was… at my house? I said, “What are you doing here?! Did you get kicked out?” and he replies, “No, I’m on vacation and I wanted to surprise you!” Surprised I was. He also had a tattoo on his forearm, something he was always very against. I noticed it was a cross. We drove around our hometown together, bored. So you know what I did? I got a tattoo of a cross. Mine was different from his, mine is made of tree branches and has little leaves stemming off of the branches of the cross. It is very girly, but very me and it is my favorite tattoo that I have to this day.
Through the adversities over the past four years, I have always believed in God and trusted in Him. I may not pray every day or read my bible consistently or worship often enough, but I praise God daily. I thank Him for what He has created and for the blessings that He has put in my life. I am working on all of that though. I try to just be a better part of the relationship with God than I was the day before. This year I started reading the bible every day and I fell off the bandwagon a few times, but I read just a couple of chapters each day and take notes on it and it has helped me so much. When I don’t do this, when I don’t take the time for Jesus, I notice a difference in my outlook on life, I notice a difference in how I treat others and how I treat myself.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Til next time,