Our lives are marked by Defining Moments. They can happen at any time, especially those moments where our faith changed, for the better, or was simply defined, strengthened.
This year, Faithwalkers, that yearly conference, hosted by Great Commission Churches, to encourage all believers in their walk of faith, will focus on defining moments from those whose lives were shaped by them.
We’ll have the opportunity to hear many defining moments at Faithwalkers, and here are some “Defining Moments” from members of the Candlewood Church family.
A few years ago, the few good friends I had seemed to be walking out of my life. My church, the one I grew up in, people I had known for years, my family, was falling apart. Relationships that defined me and supported me were disappearing. I struggled to draw closer to God, but for months I felt distant. He didn’t seem to hear my prayers; there wasn’t much comfort for the pain I was experiencing; everything in life felt meaningless. “I don’t want any of it,” I thought. I tried a lot of things to make myself feel better. I tried the ‘right’ things: I read my Bible every day; I prayed, sometimes with tears. I took notes on lots of sermons, and re-wrote them, filling pages of my journals. I read books about knowing God, about darkness, pain, and joy. Nothing changed what I was feeling, or made me feel the things I wanted to feel. I felt abandoned by God, alone. I watched movies, read fiction, went shopping, cleaned my house, all things that used to make me happy. Nothing seemed to help. I was depressed. Angry at God and struggling with doubt, holding on to my faith was hard. Yet, I eventually heard God’s voice. I realized that even if I didn’t feel it, God was with me, even in the darkness of my own soul. I told God: “Even if this is how it is for the rest of my life, I’m not leaving. Even if every day is a grind, and I’m never happy again, I’ve promised to follow you. It may not be much, but I’m going to trust you.” That was a defining moment in my life. It strengthened my faith, made it real. It became about trusting God, not about how I felt. My emotions no longer define me, Christ defines me.
In 2014, I began my first year of teaching. Like any first-year teacher will tell you, it was rough, really rough. Unfortunately, I did not have the support I needed and by October, my job was on the line. For 8 months that school year, my confidence was shattered daily, and I felt like a failure. I questioned God saying, “You got me this job, you gave me a heart to teach, why did you put me through this?” Those angry cries became cries for God’s leading. My journal from that school year is filled with phrases like, “I’m begging you…show me where you want me to go” and “I have no idea what you’re doing, but I trust you. Help me to trust you more.” I had a choice to make. I could either choose to be angry at God, or I could choose to trust Him. I chose the latter. By the end of that school year, God very clearly closed that door, and I resigned. I had no idea where he would take me next, but I chose to put my faith in Him. I clung to Matthew 7:7, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” I trusted that when I asked, he would give me an answer as to where to go next. When I sought him, he would give me clarity and direction. And when I knocked, he would open up the right door. This October, I had the opportunity to travel to East Asia to check out an international school. God began to move in incredible ways, and I was offered a teaching position. I accepted the position and am now planning on moving there in January. Looking back to my first year of teaching, I can now see that God was molding and refining me, preparing me for this next adventure. God continues to show me time and time again that He is with me and has a specific purpose for my life. I just have to continue to put my faith in Him!
A little over two years ago, my husband, Vao, and I made the decision to join the church re-plant team that had moved to Lincoln. We were fairly newly wed, pregnant, and bound in an apartment lease, so were unable to join the team until about a year ago. Between the time we made the decision to move and actually being able to physically move, a whole year had passed. However, we continued to be confident that the Lord was leading us forward. By the end of March, we had moved in with my brother-in-law, welcomed a baby in May, and prepared to move to Lincoln by August. After our little bundle of joy arrived, I was feeling anything but joyous. I began to go through postpartum depression. I cannot begin to express how difficult this time was for me. As a Christian and a mother, I was wracked with feelings of guilt that “I have the joy of the Lord and children are a blessing,” so why do I feel this way? Of all people, I should be rejoicing. Horrible thoughts and feelings plagued me and sought to rob me of my joy. I was reminded of Jesus in the wilderness and how, when the devil tempted him, he actually used Scripture. But Jesus would respond back with Truth, and that’s exactly the sort of response my husband gave me. He would pray with me and speak truth, constantly sharing his quiet time thoughts and encouraging me to be in the Word. Slowly, I began to feel more stable, and the Lord gave me so many verses to cling to. My faith felt like it was growing even deeper. And then we moved. My whole world felt shaken because I was still dealing with this depression and most of the relationships that I had built over the years were back in Omaha. We were stepping into a place where we would have to build up new relationships, and there would be a different way of doing things than what we were used to in Omaha. I didn’t know if I could handle it. Vao boldly led the way as I very hesitantly stepped out in faith. I knew this was where God wanted us to be, but it was still very difficult for me because I was in the midst of a great storm in my own life. However, my faith is now stronger and deeper than it has ever been. God brought me through the postpartum depression storm and has brought me through other big changes this past year. Our Lincoln family has been amazing, and I am beyond blessed to be a part of what God has been doing here in Lincoln. As a closing thought, I am reminded of the verse from Psalm 116:7 – “Let my soul be at rest once again, for the Lord has been good to me.” Amen!