There are these small tidbits of time called moments. At times, these small moments can be so powerful that they mark your life. There is a before and an after but it will never be the same. I would suppose some people would say you could read into any moment of your life but there are some moments and chance meetings that are just too bizarre to not be divinely appointed. Those moments are what I personally call “God Winks”.
I would like to tell you about a few moments of my life that have happened over the past few months but first, let me sum up the first 43 years of my life to this point. It is said that home is where the heart is. This week I will turn 44 and have never known a “home”. I have lived through physical, verbal, emotional, financial, and sexual abuse my whole life. I have battled with my weight, insecurity, low self-esteem, depression, alcoholism, and attempted suicide. I was raised going to a parochial school and believed that I was a good Christian. I married a man and pulled away from my family and my faith. That marriage ended after about 10 years. After a string of failed relationships, I met someone at work who went to Cedar Creek church at the main campus. We dated and I started going to church with him. I loved that church and couldn’t wait to go each week. He slowly changed and then one day he became abusive. He tried to kill me one night. It was that night that I blamed God and turned my back on him again. It would be years before I would step back in a church again. In those years, I drank. If I wasn’t at work, I was drinking till I blacked out. I serial dated abusive men and attempted suicide. I was in the darkest of places and couldn’t seem to get out of it.
After about 7 years of my life being a complete mess, a friend asked me to go to church with her. She went to the Cedar Creek Whitehouse Campus. I made excuses for weeks and weeks. One night, she invited me out for dinner. We pulled into the church parking lot and she asked me to please join her. I did and it changed my life. Ben Snyder spoke that day and I cried almost the whole service. I can’t even tell you why, I just did. Each time I went to that church, I cried. Then on October 26th, 2013, I went up after the service and asked for prayer. I felt so broken. I moved away shortly after that service. I knew things needed to change and that I needed to remove myself from my current situations to change them. I learned about myself while I was gone.
I moved back to Northwest Ohio in the summer of 2015. I started a nonprofit that deals with domestic violence and sexual assault. I would go to Cedar Creek from time to time but was making excuses of work or that I was afraid to run into my ex. This is where my “moments” began. I went to a series called “The Great Adventure”, Ben Snyder spoke on guarding your heart. I cried yet again. Every time I would go to church there, I would have this heaviness in my heart and be filled with enormous sadness, or so I thought. I usually watch the services online but would attend time to time.
I met someone who went to the main campus of Cedar Creek. I decided to join him one Sunday. It was the beginning of the “God Is” series. Ben Snyder spoke about realizing who God is means I am never alone. I have had some very dark places in my life. I have often felt that I am not worthy of God’s love. I have listened to Ben speak several times but this service felt like he was talking right to me. Dr Calvin Sweeney spoke that when you realize who God is, you can face all things. He told a personal story and talked about completely giving it to God. His messaged runs through my head over and over. He demonstrated by leaning on the podium that there are different ways to give it to God. You can “lean” on him or you can truly lean on him. When I find myself not trusting myself to give it to God, I can close my eyes and see him standing up there completely leaning on the podium. Lastly, Tom Martin spoke about God being merciful and about moving on. There are so many people that have hurt me through the years. I have been led to a path of helping others. When Tom shared his story about being led to a pastor role at Cedar Creek and his family’s reactions, it spoke to me. I have been told that God does callings but have never really believed it. It was in his message that my eyes were opened to what God is calling on me to do. It was in his message that I realized that step one was forgiveness and moving on past the hurts. Through those three men, God changed me. I felt like each one of those messages were meant directly for me. Those were the three most life changing services I had ever listened to. It was that series that led me to the recovery program. I also joined a Life Group that has an amazing group of women who give me a model of the type of woman I want to become.
So here it is, three months later. I go to the same service each Sunday, am still attending the recovery program, and my Life Group. You see, for the first time in 43 years, I have a sense of home. My heart is at church and recovery. Although the people who serve at church don’t realize it, they are in many ways, my family. I walk into church and see the same people greeting. They shake my hand and smile; their actions often brighten my day. I expect to see them there and miss them when they are not. There is a certain man who serves that I absolutely love seeing. He gives me motivation. His smile and attitude is contagious. His name is Ray and last Friday at recovery, I thanked him for what he does for me each Sunday at church. This past Sunday, I walked up and hugged him. I can’t even tell you how much that means to me. It is the same with recovery. I listen to Dave each week and am inspired by him and those who share their testimonies. The people who serve at the check in, greeting, and other places have become like family as well. I have recently started volunteering at Recovery. It is not just a want, it is a need. Dave often says, “good evening family”. Little does he know, that “family” is the first place I have ever felt like home. That spot that I once thought was filled with sadness is now filled with hope, happiness, and the pursuit of a relationship with God.
Moments…. I believe you will not realize the magnitude your actions have on other lives and that sometimes the moments we give to others change the course of someone else’s fate.
In closing, I hope you remember this; The Power of One, don’t fall for that lie that one person cannot make a difference. As much as I love coming to Cedar Creek for the music and message, it is often those of you that shake my hand, smile, and say good morning/evening, or that give a much-needed hug that make me feel at home. In some ways, it is like each moment of kindness bestowed on me from each of you replaces a dark moment from my past. So, it is to each of you that I say, God bless you and thank you for all the “moments” from the bottom of my heart.