If you aren’t a believer, that is fine, I think there are still a lot of messages of empowerment and inspiration that you can gain from God and Christianity.
I am a non-denomination Christian and I guess I have always been throughout my life. It’s been a pretty interesting growth with my relationship with God, literally choosing to follow Him without any leadership from others in my life; it was my decision from the beginning.
If I had to say one person, who I had specifically looked up too that gently led me to the Christian life, it would have to be Laura Ingalls Wilder. Yup, the one and only! I got into reading at a very young age, thanks in part to my older sister who taught me how to read every day after Kindergarten and First Grade. The downfall was that by the time that I was in school most of the books were WAY too easy for me and I got bored. My mom enrolled me in the Laura Ingalls Wilder Fan Club through Penguin books. It included monthly club gifts that featured not only the books but outside reading, cooking information about the pioneers, travel information, religion information, and crafts.
It was all my overactive imagination needed to get hooked; I was ready to travel the country as one of the original frontiers. In the journal that came in the club, I would write letters to Laura about how today’s technology worked and would giggle with delight over what her reactions would be to things like my first watch, Even Stevens on Disney Channel, and horse trailers! Give me a break guys, I was like 6 years old….
I distinctly remembered quite clearly that before every meal and before bed every night they would say their prayers. I wrote down the nightly prayer and kept it under this giant stuffed animal rabbit in my bed and, by flashlight, I would read it every night before bed. Growing up I used to have a lot of nightmares, fears that I wasn’t going to make it through the night. I had this innate fear of death and I was always afraid that when I closed my eyes they would never open again. These were the words that comforted me every night and told me that no matter what happened during the night that I was going to be okay, that God was going to take care of me:
When I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I shall die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take,
Then I would say that I abused the Lord pretty bad through the next 10-13 years or so as I 100% mistreated him. I still said thanks for my meals (in my head) and before bed (if I wasn’t too tired after 4H or basketball) but I would always make these foolhardy promises or deals with God. They usually stemmed around my grumbling stomach, the most embarrassing and awkward thing of my childhood. I was always hungry. ALWAYS. It didn’t matter if I was hungry or not though; my stomach ALWAYS growled. It seriously sounded like a tiger battle cry as it would roar loud enough to disrupt my teachers and make the rest of my classmates laugh. I would spend almost all of my classes with my arms wrapped around my stomach applying as much pressure as they possibly could in the hopes of keeping my traitorous stomach quiet. I remember running the words, over and over again in my head, saying, “God if you just keep my stomach quiet until lunch I promise I will talk to my parents about going to church.”
And usually my stomach wouldn’t growl out loud and I would survive until lunch. I would shrug it off as coincidence and in my playtime at recess I would forget my promise until the next day when I would guiltily start asking God to keep my stomach quiet … again.
I had an opportunity to go to Sunday school with a friend of mine but, moments before I went in, I got panicky nervous. I was doing something for the very first time without having my parents there to protect me; it was quite terrifying. I tried to leave, making up some excuse. My friend Stacey’s mom (how many of you just started singing the song?), immediately stopped, grabbed my hand and Stacey’s, Stacey obediently grabbed my other hand and her mom said, “Dear the Lord, today is Katie’s first day of entering Your family and because of this new venture at a young age she is very scared. We love her very much and appreciate her friendship with our daughter and ask that you watch over her with your love.” Then with a smile I was ushered into my first religious meeting. I honestly don’t remember anything from that meeting, I was so floored by the prayer that Stacey’s mom had given me. I had never experienced such open honesty about feelings before in my life.
This is what you can learn from this message if you are not religious; open, confident declarations of your care for another and/or for a relationship can motivate and inspire others to reach the next level of their life and of their own reasoning and power.
I didn’t go to church again until college. At a time when most kids who are raised in the church can not wait to get away and move on to the next thing I was found apprehensively walking into church for the first time. The church was called Grace City Church based out of Corvallis, Oregon and I went with one of my best friend’s from college who was also my freshman year dorm roommate; Marz. That first sermon was very interesting, I was so impressed with the ease and ability I had to follow along and stay genuinely interested in the conversation; I had been worried that I wouldn’t be a “good” Christian and would fall asleep.
Then it happened, loud enough to startle everyone around me, my stomach growled SO LOUD! I think I turned like 400 million shades of red and Marz just started laughing so loud with the exclamation, “WAS THAT YOUR STOMACH?!”
Basically disrupted the entire congregation on my first ever appearance to church as an adult.
Anyone follow along here? Can anyone else say that that was no coincidence and 1000% karma????
Well played God, well played…
Through college basketball and then working full time after basketball I hardly had the opportunity to go to church. This was hard on me and I began to feel myself to start to drift away. I liken it to students who aren’t able to go to school every day, how can you expect to make relationships and feel welcome when you are embarrassed that you have other duties calling you away from something that should be the most important to you?
After basketball I needed God more than I have ever needed God in my life.
It wasn’t until I ran into my friend Megan who tried (successfully) to convince me to go play basketball at Corban University, a religious institution. I hesitantly went to look at the team with my mom and afterwards, in a post-practice meeting, I was touched as they all sat around and just discussed how their day was going and what they needed each other’s strength in outside basketball. Watching them eagerly volunteer to lead prayers for their teammates who had aunts dying from cancer, for parents whose marriages were struggling, I literally felt myself starting to cry. Besides three of my many coaches, none of my coaches would have given a darn about these issues outside of our lives. If you asked them about it they would say yes, they did care but when push came to shove they would have found it a pointless hinderance taking away from basketball. You didn’t dare ask to confide in anyone basketball related for fear of losing playing time opportunity because your head “just wasn’t in it.”
I went from not sure if I ever wanted to play basketball again I went and sat down in the coaches office ready to tell them that I was going to play. I was promptly told that it would work but I wouldn’t be able to play while getting my masters, I would have to sit out time, more paperwork, all of this stuff. It just wasn’t a financially feasible or educationally smart move on anyone’s part. I kept my head held high, told them it wasn’t a big deal, I knew it wasn’t going to work I just thought I would explore the option in courtesy to my friend, and then went home. My mom was obviously concerned about me the whole ride home, said good-bye to her at my townhouse, and walked up to face my roommates. Neither of them had been very positive about the idea, mostly because they were my best friends and they didn’t like the idea of me moving far away I can guess. The look of relief on the face of my female roommate almost broke me right there. I assured them that all was fine and that I was gonna grab a shower before we caught a movie or something; in the shower I broke down 100%. I haven’t cried that hard since the relationship problems of 2011, the death of my Uncle Butch or the death of my beloved dog Rosie.
I was so angry at God.
I remember gritting my fists as tight as possible and angrily muttering over and over again how much I hated God. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in him I had just felt totally betrayed by him, that He wasn’t the kind of person that I wanted to follow. How could I have been so dumb to follow someone so blindly????? I was angry beyond belief.
Tired, stressed and spent; my dreams had broken – again. The next morning I was sitting in my 9:00 am writing class when I got a text from my mom that said, “Great Grandma Helvie passed away today.”
I simply got up, walked out of my class with my stuff, got right in my car, and drove home where I just put my arms around my mom as she fell into them sobbing. It was a moment where I realized that I was so much older than I used too, that my own mother was starting to see me as a peer and not 100% as her child. It was a good feeling in a sad situation. I blamed myself; I thought that it was my fault that she had passed away when she had died. I had been angry at God just the night before, he was punishing me by hurting everyone that I love. I was so disgustingly bitter with him.
As the long week drove to a close I decided that the only way I was going to get any stress, any answers, and any peace of mind is if I just met God myself to have a little conversation about the issues going on in life and how we needed to find some sort of truce. I wasn’t going to live much longer because I was already a quitter in my mind; life was just getting to painful to live.
Church on Sunday I sat myself at the end of a row in the far back corner of The Whiteside Theater that Grace City had moved too. The pastor started this sermon about something they had been lecturing on, it was dry and boring, and then, right before I got up to leave because I was uncomfortably aware of how alone I was (there were only couples holding hands around me) he stopped preaching mid-sentence.
He shook his head, clasped his hands together, adjusted his glasses, and then I kid you not…. he goes, “Gosh this is boring! We are talking about fighting back right now and I want to share my fighting back story with you. I used to be an Oregon State football player, I was great in high school, was pumped about playing for my University, and then I got here just to watch kids have no work ethic, mock me for mine, eat terribly, do drugs, all of this stuff… and I couldn’t understand why! I was so mad at God…”
The sermon continued. I sat there, tears running down my face as I took in every single word that he was saying, I felt as if he was speaking directly to me. That we were just having a conversation about all of my pain and frustration. I didn’t realize that God had saved me that day. I sat in my car in a long meditative silence after that. Still a little shaken, I went and checked my Twitter feed where the very first tweet after refreshing was by Fred Whitfield; “If your dreams don’t exceed don’t be sad. You have no idea of the wonder when you start on God’s dream for you.” Life was changed.
It was the first moment that I was able to put basketball away. It had been a strenuous year of crying everyday after high school basketball practice as I wished more than anything that I was coming home after my own practice, selfishly missing my chance to be the athlete.
I realized that God understood that I loved basketball, just as much as my horses, dogs, and cattle. He understood that basketball was the optimum vessel to help me make the connections, learn the skills, and gain the leadership and empowerment that I was going to need to continue to spread His message through my future endeavors. I realize that God has a much bigger plan for me and that I have to work as hard as I can so that I am ready when he calls me to my mission.
“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.”
~ Phillipian 4:10
It wasn’t that God had stopped caring about me, it was that he had been waiting for an opportunity vessel to show me that he cared and to show me that it was more than just about me and that it was about reaching others and helping their lives for the better.
I’m not able to go to Church that often still but, with the use of my social media education, I have been able to learn more through “I AM SECOND“; an organization I am very proud to be a part of. I adore the videos, the inciteful break downs in my daily reader, and so much more. I loved watching my idols in basketball, sports, rodeo and entertainment reach out with their heart felt stories. Hearing what they had overcome I realized how lucky I am that God hasn’t given me a strenuous life plan, at least nothing that I couldn’t handle – but I guess that’s how He works, always pushing us with burdens that make us better people.
I proudly sport my I am Second bracelet and what was first a scary thing to talk to strangers about, I look forward to explaining my bracelet to strangers in the grocery line and so much more. To most people it is strange, that a Division I basketball player would proudly promote that they are second place. It isn’t losing though, because this is how I live my life, striving to make The Number One proud of me. Always striving and pushing for the next level because to me God is embodied in land as America and I want to always promote the prestige of our American history; of the west it was raised on.
God has improved my quality of life.
God has pushed me to new boundaries that I NEVER thought I would have the courage or the ability to participate in.
God has introduced me to some of the greatest people alive.
Thank you God.