Introducing…Me!

Hey, friends! I’ve seen a lot of new faces around here over the past week or so, and I’m so excited to have some new friends with us on this journey. I’d love to get to know each of you personally, but since that’s not really practical or possible, I’m going to modify a trend I’ve seen on Instagram: Friday Introductions. Over the next few weeks, I’ll post something a little more personal than normal on Fridays, as a way of introducing myself and letting y’all get to know me – and hopefully it will start some conversations that help me get to know you, too!

To start off, I thought I’d give a little of my backstory. If you’ve been here long, you may know some of this – otherwise, it may be new to you. I always think that learning about someone’s history helps to get to know them now, so hopefully soon you’ll feel like you know the person behind the words.

Clearly, I am a follower of Jesus, and making that decision has placed my life on a track I never expected or anticipated. Though I grew up attending church every Sunday, God’s awakening my heart began when I was a junior at Berry College, studying in Spain during the spring semester. Those were four of the hardest months I have ever lived. Every day felt like a battle – from conversations at breakfast in Spanish with my hostess, to navigating the winding European streets to class, to learning Spanish folk dances, to managing a full course load entirely in Spanish. Nothing about the experience came naturally or easily to me, but my major in International Studies and Spanish required that I press on. The gut-level desperation I felt during those four months began my reaching out to God and experiencing Him in personal ways. I connected with a group of amazing Christian girls who invited me to prayer groups and church services; most importantly, though, they lived out a Christ-following life in front of me and accepted me with the love of Jesus. I got to see their devotion to Him, and experienced Him through our conversations and fellowship. They were unlike any friends I had ever had, and those relationships had a lot to do with my belief in the power of community to change a life. (You can read more about that experience here, if you’d like –> When God Got My Attention)

I did survive those four months, but when I returned to Berry in the fall of that year, I was a different person. My journey with God had continued once my feet stepped again onto American soil, but I discovered quickly that for the people I had left behind, life had continued as usual. No one else had changed – least of all my friends at school – and the subtle changes I felt in my spirit were not understood or welcomed in our on-campus apartment. There was no outright persecution, but I did feel the message strongly that I should just keep it to myself.

So I did, and it worked fairly well. But what I discovered was that if I was not outwardly expressing my new faith as I had in Spain, and if I was not surrounded by people who felt the same way, I was not strong enough to keep it going myself. I faltered a lot that year, falling back into old habits and seeking comfort in the wrong people and places.

The thought of graduating terrified me because of the unknowns that lurked in the murky future, but in a way I was glad to end that stage of my life. It was hard, but I think I felt a need to close that chapter and figure out what was next. Soon after graduating (and right in the middle of the shock and awe of What in the world am I going to do now?) I sought counsel from one of the pastors at my church.

Had I ever spoken to him before? No. Was it a natural thing for me to call him and ask to meet? Definitely not. Was he surprised that I called him, of all people? I’m sure the answer is yes, since I had a history of *literally* running and hiding from him.

But in my confusion and desperation, he suggested I go to a young adult Bible study that was just starting. And there, I believe, my journey really got going.

From that Bible study came more incredible friendships – including one with a boy who grew up down the street from me who would, within two years, become my husband.

From that Bible study came a year of serving as youth minister at a small local church, where I got to preach a sermon for the first time and realized ministry of some kind was in my future.

And from that Bible study came involvement with a new church plant, where I began serving as the “welcome and announcement girl” and eventually was offered the chance to both deliver messages on Sunday mornings and to write devotions to encourage my church family during the week.

So that, friends, is the basic nuts-and-bolts story of how I got to where I am today. In the typical nature of testimonies, mine is a story of someone lost who found their way in Jesus, only to look back and realize that the missteps made along the way were part of what made His purposes come to life in me. I write and I speak and I do everything I do because I serve a God who saw the mess that was me and knew I could be more.

[Tweet “God saw the mess that was me and knew I could be more.”]

What about you?  What are the nuts-and-bolts of your meeting Jesus? I’d really love to know! Let me know in the comments, email me (jessica@jessicabolyard.com), or find my Facebook page and start a conversation there. These stories can be so encouraging, so let’s share them!

 

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