This is a story of renewal, grace, redemption, freedom, and newness, but it’s not over, it’s an ongoing love story. Every day is a brand new chance to say “yes” to Grace. My prayer is that God uses my story to breathe life into dry bones! I pray anyone doubting her salvation through Jesus will walk forward in His Mercy and Grace. He has covered you and paid a very high price for you precious one! If you have chosen Christ you are His bride! May your love for Him continue to be renewed and may you walk in freedom from this day forward!
My name is Angela. I have to be honest, when I was originally approached by Aurelia to be a part of The Grace Mask in 2015 I thought “sure I will tell my story!” But I really wanted to wait until my walk with God was deeper. I didn’t see my story as one worth being told. I felt insignificant and sort of sidelined … like the fig tree not bearing fruit. I viewed my walk with Christ like a once passionate marriage gone complacent. You know the ones where the husband and wife do life together, but the excitement and passion of their developing love has fizzled into the daily grind of life. I was faithful in outward appearance but my heart had reservations. So I put the photo shoot off. Later that year I became pregnant with our fourth child and all thoughts of sharing my story and having a photo shoot were lost, until Aurelia reached out once again. I’m glad she did. So here it goes…
I can not remember a time where my family was not in church. I went to Sunday school and children’s church on Sunday morning, Sunday night worship services, and Wednesday night prayer meetings. I remember making up songs about Jesus while being strapped tightly into my car seat. I loved going to church and I loved Jesus. So it probably came as no surprise to my parents that one Sunday morning during children’s church I decided to ask Jesus to come into my life and forgive me of my sins. I remember sitting on a gym floor at Park Crest Assembly of God. The speaker was Sam Saint Super Sleuth – Dick Gruber. I can not remember what he said, but I remember knowing that I needed Jesus and raising my hand to accept His gift of salvation. Yes, I was only five and probably couldn’t fully grasp all that it meant when I made that decision. However, my parents were very supportive in helping me navigate my new found faith, and continued to answer my questions guiding me as they knew best. Over the next several years I continued to attend church with my parents. I remember falling asleep talking to God every night specifically thanking Him for creating the world and all that was within it more specifically the trees, grass, animals, people, and praying for the kids in the world that didn’t have homes. I also very intently remember being afraid that our house would catch fire and praying that He would protect our home every night. And He did. My heart was fully devoted to Jesus. He had every bit of me. I wanted nothing but Jesus and my heart was totally at peace knowing He loved me.
At age 12 I recall being in a special service at church when a guest speaker shared about outreach and missions. During the final altar call and worship with uplifted hands I felt a prompting in my heart to be a missionary and said, “God I’ll go wherever You want me to go.” That was the first time I distinctly remember feeling called to be a missionary. I didn’t really know where, but I wanted to give my life for Christ wherever He would lead. I felt compelled to share Jesus with those that didn’t know Him. My heart broke thinking of anyone not getting to be in Heaven with Him for all of eternity.
That same year my family began attending a new church. A very close friend of mine was a part of this congregation so it felt like home and I was immediately connected. There were about 10 kids my age – it was smaller and I LOVED going to church! I looked forward to Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. The church really started growing and so did the youth group. It was so exciting to be a part of what God was doing. I found myself making friends and pretty much doing every extra activity that was offered to the youth. I participated in a discipleship program memorizing scriptures and I even went on a couple of mission trips. At age 15 my heart began pulling my eyes to boys. I followed my heart and the desire to be married! As a 30-something mother now that seems so crazy but at the time my 15-year-old self always had a crush on a boy and was always thinking about marriage. I wanted to marry someone who was going to be a missionary and I wanted to have a family. Wow! With my parents hesitant approval I began to “date”. I really did not know what it meant to date or what healthy dating should look like. Boys became a distraction from my whole-hearted devotion to Jesus. I did not date lots of guys, but I had a very serious, three-month relationship that broke my heart. Our hearts fall fast and deep when we are young, don’t they? I believed I was going to marry that boy. I was over the moon for him. He was going to be a missionary. He seemed to adore me and treated me better than I had ever been treated. He opened the door for me, brought me flowers, gave me cards, told me how special and amazing I was. Yep, he was definitely the one. And because I thought we were going to get married and serve God together I let my emotions and hormones get the best of me. This was the first time I started to step away from my relationship with Christ. What started as a good desire, in-line with God’s plan for me actually took my attention away from Jesus. After the relationship with that boy ended I was devastated and began to seek God again. His mercy and grace faithfully met me where I was and He filled that hole in my heart up with Himself and healed me.
I stayed in church participating in various ministries, attending bible college, trying to figure out God’s will for my life. I still believed I would get married at a young age and be a missionary, but the husband part was not happening. I didn’t have enough confidence to believe I could minister as a single woman. Today, I would yell at myself to stop looking for a husband and run even more passionately after Jesus! I definitely was running after Him, but a small part of my heart was still reserved for someone else. I went to the Brownsville Revival School of Ministry for a year after high school. I remember thinking I would definitely find that husband at ministry school. But I did my best to keep my heart fixed on God and His will… and as a result I was quite picky. After attending the school for a year and not finding that husband, I moved back to Springfield, Missouri and got a job. I had a lot to figure out and working seemed like a good idea.
Around that same time I hesitantly began another relationship. Truthfully I did not imagine myself marrying him, but he was so persistent that I just couldn’t say no any longer. He was a great guy I just didn’t think we were compatible for marriage. We had a lot of fun together though so instead of continuing on my walk with God I began to slowly let my daily interactions with Him fade away. I can’t really point to a defining moment of turning away or being unfaithful to my precious Jesus. One bad choice just leads to another and one day, because of His Grace, I woke up and realized my heart was away from God. The relationship did not result in marriage, but we remained friends. I turned my focus back to Jesus and found myself back on the path to find “the one”.
God gives us the desires of our heart…when we delight in HIM! That godly missions-minded man God had reserved for me to marry had been close all along. I just needed to trust God’s timing.
My husband and I were married in December of 2006. We were married nearly three years when we had our first son. We were attending church, but not consistently as we had a hard time deciding on a church home. However, with the birth of our son I really wanted to be in a church family. We eventually came back to the church I had attended all those years ago as a teenager. Over the next several years God began wooing me back to Him. I so missed the joy of my salvation. I missed how I felt as a child. I longed to go back and restart. However, condemnation for my prior disobedience gripped my heart. There was a particular service in which I remember feeling as if I needed to respond to the altar call for salvation. However, I didn’t – I knew I was already saved so what was it I was responding to? I was confused. I so wanted to be in a full right relationship with God but something seemed missing. I began to talk to my husband about how I felt. I prayed the sinner’s prayer again just to “be sure” and felt I was restored. However, I neglected daily time with Jesus, in prayer, and in Bible study. I continued to struggle in my day to day life with anger and addiction. I wanted Jesus and He wanted me too! He had always been with me. I knew I was forgiven but I couldn’t seem to get free. Just as I had reserved a spot in my heart for a husband as a young woman I was holding my past regrets in my heart as a busy working wife and mother. And just like that reserved spot in my heart for a husband as a teenager kept me from a full, vibrant, childlike love for Jesus, guilt and legalism were keeping me from my redeemed future. I had allowed guilt, shame, and condemnation to continue to live in my heart even though I knew I was forgiven. All I knew to do was keep myself in God’s presence and keep asking Him to take over my whole heart. And that was all I had to do.
In October last year I attended the Designed for Life Women’s conference. I’m continually amazed at how one message can affect 10,000 diverse women in such a powerful way. During a time of prayer I went to the altar sobbing. My heart needed victory. I wanted joy! I wanted the joy I knew as a child. During that time one of the women praying for me took me aside and we talked. I opened up my heart and let her in. I described how I just wanted to be that carefree child again… no guilt from bad choices, no anger, no addiction. She encouraged me to let the past glory days as a child go. She pointed me to a God who held my past, present, and future safely in His hands. It was a bit of a revelation. What I wanted so badly was not His will and He was saving me from it. I didn’t really want to be a kid again. I wanted to be free of my shame as an adult. I didn’t see any way for that to happen so my heart kept drawing me back to my childhood to the days of having a whole heart for Jesus. I wanted to be carefree again and she showed me that God wanted me to focus on the NEW thing He wanted to do. Looking back is not all bad, but we can’t fully give ourselves to a God who is always doing a new thing in us if we are constantly looking back – even if we look back to the GOOD things He has done, where He was obviously at work in us. Sin is for certain in our past and we will be reminded of it if we constantly look back.
I left the conference feeling refreshed and knowing that all was well with my soul. It was time to let my light shine. After the conference I found myself struggling with the daily grind of life; I was filled with hope and love for Jesus, but still struggling. Struggling to find time to spend with Him each day while mothering four little ones, working, and managing my home and marriage. I remember standing in the shower one morning saying, “God, I know you care so much about us and I really just need something specific from you.”
Then I got a message from Aurelia asking me again, to let her photograph me that week. I thought well, if she can work with my crazy schedule this week, then sure. I didn’t really think it would involve me telling my story. I should have known better.
I met Aurelia and put on a beautiful white wedding dress. When I was all changed and ready she said, “You are getting married today!” I don’t think she actually knew that those words meant quite a bit to me. In my mind it was a continuation of what God was doing in my heart. “Oh how cool I get to marry Jesus today!” I secretly thought. As we drove to the ruins of what used to be the little white church I prayed for this photo shoot. I knew it had been put on Aurelia’s heart and that she had something specific in mind. As she began to share with me her heart I knew God was bringing her heart in line with mine for God’s purpose. God is so amazing! It’s so beautiful how He weaves our stories together so perfectly.
We pulled up to the collapsed building and I took it in for the first time. That little church represented my life! Ruined without Christ, but waiting for Him to do something NEW! He didn’t want to rebuild that old church or repair the old me. As Aurelia took pictures and prayed I sensed my life was changing. He who began a good work in me will carry it onto completion. Even though I had prayed for restoration before it was as if God was telling me to lay everything down here today, October 28th, 2016, “I have covered you. Go forward! Behold I make all things new!” And you know what, I received freedom that day on the ruins of a 120 year old church in a wedding gown during a photo session. God is so creative!
I was so afraid to share my story. I didn’t know how to share it, but God knew if I would just trust Him and write, He would help me. I believe we must tell the story for the change to take root. There is so much power in publicly professing your sin as sin and your faith in Christ as life. Stepping out and writing this was what was missing. Sitting on the steps of that little church and talking to my Sister in Christ about my struggles was the missing piece. Jesus met us both that day. I am now fully looking to Jesus who gave Himself up for me so that I might live a free and victorious life!
Holly Wagner writes in her devotional Daily Steps for God Chicks, “You and I have been saved by what Christ did for us on the cross. God didn’t establish a relationship with us because of our goodness. No…we can only come into the presence of God because of what Jesus did for us. No one can take that away.”
The song Man of Sorrows by Hillsong has been my mantra the last several weeks. What a beautiful description of the love Jesus has for us. He has covered us and by choosing Him we are free our debt is paid in full! Hallelujah!
MAN OF SORROWS
Man of sorrows Lamb of God
By His own betrayed
The sin of man and wrath of God
Has been on Jesus laid
Silent as He stood accused
Beaten mocked and scorned
Bowing to the Father’s will
He took a crown of thorns
Oh that rugged cross
Where Your love poured out over me
Now my soul cries out
Praise and honor unto Thee
Sent of heaven God’s own Son
To purchase and redeem
And reconcile the very ones
Who nailed Him to that tree
Now my debt is paid
It is paid in full
By the precious blood
That my Jesus spilled
Now the curse of sin
Has no hold on me
Whom the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
See the stone is rolled away
Behold the empty tomb
Hallelujah God be praised
He’s risen from the grave
I know Angela would be happy to talk to anyone who wants to visit with her in depth about her story. If that is you, feel free to reach out to her or to me here on the blog or on social media. We love you and more than that, Jesus loves you!