Thursday, January 7, 2010

In the Refiner's Fire - The Beginning of My Journey

Since one of the purposes for this blog is to share my faith story, I'm actually dedicating Thursdays to writing about it. Here is part one - the beginning of my life and part of the background that sets me up for this refining process that I'm currently going through.

The Beginning

I was born to parents who had been married for more than 15 years, never used birth control and had been told they would never have children. They never intended to have many children, but instead were planning on probably 2, and had most likely expected them to come much sooner than we did. I am an identical twin - a real sock as my parents didn't know they were having twins until my sister was born. I was born second. We were same sack twins - which is how they knew we were identical and is a very rare things - and we were born at approximately 29 weeks gestation. I weighed 3 lbs. My sister contracted an infection and died a few days later. My parents were also in the middle of moving to a new state and it was a very stressful time for them with my Mom living out of a hotel room while my Dad moved to start work. My Mom and I came home several weeks later.

I was raised in the Lutheran faith - infant baptism while I was still in the hospital, Sunday school and weekly worship, first communion when I was about 6-years old, church activities. We became part of a mission (new) church when we moved and I remember my dad literally helping build the building. I remember following the procession with the banners and the altar service from the rented space we had to the building when it was finished in a car with 2 other small children and a baby (friends of ours at the time). My first job was as a custodian for the church when I was in High School. There were two of us HS girls who cleaned the building under the supervision of the other girls' dad once a week - and yes, we were paid very nicely to do it. When I was 14 I was Confirmed. I taught the Sunday school class for the 4-year-olds and Vacation Bible School to the 4-5-6-year-olds while I was in High School as well.

While I always knew God was in my life, I didn't really feel it until I was 16. I was teaching VBS and we were singing a song called "Fisherman Peter". It went like this: "Fisherman Peter, Out on the sea, drop your net now, and follow me." The song is sung repeatedly with each child's name replacing Peter in turn and they form a "train" behind the musician and dance around the room while people join the line. There was a family who had many kids (more than 7, but I don't remember the exact number) and dropped all of them off for VBS, even the 7-mo-old baby (it was supposed to be ages 4 and 10). I was holding the baby, sitting on the floor waiting for all of my kids (students) to be called. I thought that when the baby's name was called, I'd just take her around in the train. One of the older siblings grabbed her and took her around instead (the sibling was about 10/12). I thought I'd just wait until they were all done, but then my name was called. "What? No way. This is kids' stuff!" ran through my mind. "Really? Is it really?" A voice in my head replied. I got up and went.

Something clicked that day. I'm not sure what. But something clicked. It made a difference. A real difference in my life. I realized that faith and religion weren't checklists of things to do: Worship, Sunday school, teach, lead, sing, serve, etc. It was about having God in your heart and doing things in service to Him because you want to, not because you 'should' or 'need to.' It was about allowing God to work through you and not for you. It was about God being there and lifting you up when you need it - the type of carrying that is mentioned in Footprints (John's favorite poem, by the way). It wasn't about earning or 'doing' your way into heaven, it was about having a real relationship with God.

Amazingly, I won the "Most Patient" award from my band class my senior year in HS. I really have never ever thought of myself as patient and anyone who knows me well will say the same thing. I attribute this more patient me to the change that happened in me when I had this realization moment. (I also find it very ironic that my mother doesn't consider herself to be a patient person either, but I consider her to be the most patient person I know!)

Additionally, we had a Pastor, who upon leaving for another congregation said to me, "I hope you never lose your faith." I replied, "Of course I won't." Little did I realize how hard it would be to keep that statement true.

This was the first time I went through this type of renewal. I have gone through it several more times and probably will go through it many more. This was the start, the beginning.

Where did you start on your faith journey? Would you like to share?

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Lea