My name is Randi.
My father left before I was born, so it was just my mother, my older sister, and I. We had a very close relationship; my mother was not just my mother but my rock and my best friend. Money was super tight, our house wasn’t in the best condition but God blessed us with what we needed. At one point my mom found a ‘good’ guy to help take care of us, but he turned out to be an abusive guy. I remember him hitting my mom and yelling at me most of the time. Thankfully he didn’t stay around for long. A few years after he left God blessed us with a wonderful new guy that would love and take care of us, he is now my step-dad.
I never really knew about God or Jesus during my childhood. My mother made me say my prayers every night but I never understood why. She grew up Catholic and I knew she believed in God but we never prayed together nor did we go to church. She always bowed her head when someone said grace but we didn’t pray and I didn’t ask why not. As I got older I started to attend church services with friends but it was just to hang out and ‘play’ not necessarily to learn about Jesus. I was pretty clueless but I knew the ‘basics’ of the Bible: Jesus was born in a manger on Christmas Eve; Noah built an ark, and something about Jonah and a whale. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a beginning, a foundation, maybe not a strong foundation, but not worthless.
During high school and college I was lost and broken and I just wanted to feel whole. I knew something was missing but I didn’t know what it was. I spent time with many friends and would go to church with some of them but never really had a church home and I didn’t know Jesus, I just knew of Him. I continued to get what I thought was closer to God but yet never left my life of sin. I was just leading a lost life of lies and sadness.
My mother passed away in 2008, right before my 21st birthday. My life started spiraling downhill after she died. I was afraid God was punishing me or He was mad at me. What did I do? Why me? Why NOW? I honestly didn’t know how to survive in a world without my mother. I entered the party scene with my friends, thought about quitting school and just giving up. But God held me close through the love of my boyfriend, Nathan. He and his family loved and served God and they refused to give up on me.
Nathan walked with me through a hard year following my mother’s death, I was a stressed out emotional wreck. I kept working and continued with my schooling. But the void was still there and I kept trying to fill it or erase it with alcohol and continued partying. It didn’t work. I was still so lost. On June 27th, 2009, Nathan and I got married. My wedding was hard without my mother, and I was still very angry with God. My mother was supposed to be there to help me get ready for my special day. Why did He not give me just one more year with her, just one?
Then came Easter Sunday, 2010.
Nathan was out of town for the weekend and I was pacing back and forth deciding whether I should go to church or not. SOMETHING was urging me to go. SOMETHING inside wanted to change and I knew help was waiting for me there if I would just be brave and go. I had heard so much about this church, James River Assembly, and even though I was afraid to go without my husband, I did it anyway. I walked into the building alone physically, but I wasn’t alone spiritually, Jesus was leading my every step.
I walked into James River’s South Campus and sat at the end of the first row of the balcony (I can still remember the exact seat). I sat there watching everyone walk by all dressed up and greeting each other. Hugs and kisses were given and kids were shouting with laughter. As I sat there alone watching everyone, I prayed and asked God for something to happen that morning. I needed a sign, I needed to know I had heard from Him and that I was in the right place. At that moment I looked up I saw Pastor John Lindell, walking over to me. I was shocked. He came over, shook my hand and asked how I was doing. When he walked away, I knew that he was my sign. Of all of the people in that auditorium on Easter Sunday morning, the leader of this huge congregation walked over and said hello to me.
I was mesmerized by the entire service as I finally learned what Easter was really all about. I had known of this God my entire life, but that Sunday morning I met His Son, Jesus…. As the service was coming to a close, Pastor John asked us to bow our heads and close our eyes and consider the sacrifice Christ made for us. As I sat there listening to Pastor John pray, I felt this overwhelming feeling that I needed to respond to the invitation given to meet Jesus and accept the incredible gift of Salvation. I was so nervous when Pastor John asked that we respond by raising a hand if we wanted to accept Christ. But then I felt a hand on my shoulder letting me know it would okay, so I lifted my hand in response. Then Pastor said that if we raised our hands that we should come down to the alter to pray. I literally laughed under breath and told God, “Are you serious, no I am not going down there!” Then the girl sitting next to me came up to me and asked me if I wanted her to walk down with me. With tears in my eyes, I nodded and we walked down together. She told me later that the Lord had prompted her and her husband to attend a different service than they normally do that morning. I know it was for me. We sometimes think that we need to “go after God” but I’m convinced that He comes after us more often than we realize.
Even though I accepted Jesus as my Savior on Easter of 2010, the anger and grief I felt from the loss of my mother was still haunting me. But Jesus didn’t leave me as he found me. He began his work through the voice of my husband urging me to attend James River’s grief recovery class. I’m so thankful that he had the courage to intervene. He insisted that I go and I fought him over it. I told him that I was fine and that I didn’t need it. But he fought harder for me and I finally gave in and agreed to go.
The first night I was there I was so annoyed and just wanted to go home but I ended up coming back the next week, and the next week. I actually started looking forward to the sessions every week. It was a place where I could be myself. I made new friends that accepted me just as I was. Everyone had been through something tragic and no one cared about how many tears we cried or if mascara was smeared all down my face. It helped me understand God’s plan, why certain things happen especially death and answered many of my questions. Each night when I left, I felt more happiness and more relief. A new me was growing inside; my soul was being restored, my Savior was healing me, it was so great and overwhelming. And I wanted more of it.
During my grieving journey, I found a few words of scripture to help me through my time.
- In Matthew 5:4 God tells us “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” I have found comfort in Jesus, it has taken time, but He is faithful.
- Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us.” We may suffer here on Earth, but it is nothing like the amazing glory of heaven. Heaven is perfect, there is no more pain, no tears or suffering but pure joy. So just because times are hard here, in the end it’ll be great.
- Psalm 139:16 “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them come to be.” God has written our book and knows how everything will turn out, from the beginning to the very end. Everything does happen for a reason, it’s part of his master plan. Just trust him and he will take care of you!
- Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot.” There is a time and purpose for everything that we go through, from our birth to our death. Within this time, God is there every step of the way to help us with whatever obstacles we may go through.
After the grief recovery sessions, everything changed. My outlook on life and death had been changed and I became closer to God. Before, I was going to church because I felt like I had to, and now I look forward to going. I love attending women’s rallies and conferences with my friends. I volunteer in the Early Childhood department and we also have a wonderful life group to encourage and support us in our walk with God as husband and wife. And I got baptized! I began a real relationship of obedience following Jesus, and I love every minute of it. The void I once had, is now filled with the awe-inspiring love of the Holy Spirit and it feels great.
Nathan and I have seen our entire lives turn around as a result of my brave decision to walk into the doors of that church on Easter Sunday 2010 and give my heart to Christ. My emotions are no longer crazy and I am being healed of my grief and hurt every day. I found a new love for Christ and as I result I have a new marriage as well. I feel like God has healed me in more ways than one. Although I know I have more ‘healing’ that needs to be done, I feel myself growing more and more. I am becoming who Jesus has called me to be more and more every day. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me. I can’t wait to see how He is going to use my talents for His Kingdom.
I have learned that if you trust him he will always take care of you. Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Through the good and the bad, He has always been there. There are two Bible verses that help remind me to trust Him:
Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
I am thankful for all that I have been through. The good, the bad, and the ugly are all a part of my story. My past, present and future are now in God’s hands and He is molding me into the person I am supposed to be. And I don’t fear for the future…. If God brings me to it, He will bring me through it!
1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”