I shared my testimony with Hill Country Christian School of Austin's youth group, Ignite on Thursday, September 21st. I wanted to share that with you here, keep in mind this was written for the lens of teens, but I pray it can reach and impact someone of any age.
When I was 9 years old my parents got divorced, this created an empty space in my heart and the first time I had been let down in life.
I grew up in a Lutheran Church, going to Sunday school and youth group. I committed myself to Christ at 13 at church camp. At the time, I wanted to live in the adrenaline rush that comes with church camp. But just like anything that seems incredible here on earth, the "high" doesn't last. We get swept up back in the world.
I was never shown how to truly walk with God. I was never told how crucial it is for me to have a personal relationship with Jesus and what that looks like. It sort of felt like going through the motions, checking a box of sorts. But deep down, I always wanted more.
Like many, I felt like I had Jesus... and then I had my life. Almost as if they were two separate entities.
1 John 2: 15-17 says, Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust also: but he that does the will of God abides forever.
As a teen, I made a lot of decisions I shouldn't have. I wish I could go back with the lens of what I have now in Christ, and change those decisions.
Those decisions, which were not God's design led to me feeling lonely, heartbroken, and rejected.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 says, For I know the plans I have for your declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
In college I was part of Campus Christian Community. I feel like I was trying to do all the things a "good, Christian girl" should do, but I also had the pull of all things part of the "college experience". I had this yearning in my heart for more. Nothing I had experienced so far filled that longing. All the shiny things of this world eventually would fade away. I wanted to lean in to Him, but I truly didn't know how.
At this point, I still treated my faith as if it was separate from my life decisions. I figured as long as I believed in God and tried to be "good" then I was A okay. And yet, I continued down a path I know God did not want for me.
I moved to New York City after college and this is when my life started to spiral out of control... the world was consuming me, the pressures of society, the culture's influence. I cared more about what I looked like, what I wore and what was popular. I got caught up racking up an incredible amount of debt trying to keep up with the latest trend, along with desperately wanting to fit in, which took it's toll on me emotionally.
All of this took precedence over my faith.
Meeting LeBron James from my job with Bubblicious, Stride Gum account I worked, Boost Mobile concert, and all the shenanigans.
Despite my ignorance, God lovingly watched over me...looking back now, regardless of the questionable situations I put myself into, He protected me. He continually pursued me, never abandoning me and lovingly whispering to me to turn to Him. I didn't understand then, but now I know he never left my side.
Psalm 145: 18 says, The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on Him in truth.
When I moved home a year later, I hit rock bottom. I was desperate and so broken. I tearfully prayed for God to help me climb out of the mess. He rescued me. The number of mistakes I made did not matter to Him, because we have a redeeming God and when you reach out to Him, He lovingly opens his arms and gives mercy.
Psalm 34:18 says, The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
One night, when I was in my early 20s, shortly after I moved home from NYC, I was at a restaurant and a friend convinced me to sit at her table. Evan Wiatrek sat across from me. Not sure if you knew this, but back in the day Evan was a hotshot quarterback, a heart-throb and everyone knew of this guy. Little did I know that this was a divine appointment scheduled by God. He saw the mess I was making of my life and when I asked for help, He answered my prayers.
From that day on, I knew God placed this incredible, strong, loving, loyal man in front of me because He made him for me.
We started our life out together, growing in our faith together. But it was not easy, living set apart in this world. But, God's whisper became louder, wanting me to choose Him not the ways of the world.
One of the places I always struggled in my personal life was with music. Music has always been a huge part of my life. My dad was a promotion man for huge bands like Bob Marley, Lenny Kravitz, Janet Jackson, The Who, Van Halen, even DcTalk & Newsboys. My dad taught me an appreciation for all different kinds of music. As I was growing up, we got into every concert, backstage passes, boxes and boxes of CDs delivered to my house. But secular music always left me feeling empty. Being a writer, I always loved lyrics. Once I started combing through lyrics it occurred to me that I was listening to many lies, false promises, empty promises. A pivotal moment for me was realizing how impactful music, TV, movies, etc are. I looked in my rearview mirror at Halen's baby carseat, I was motivated to switch my radio channel for the first time to KLOVE.
The first song The first song that captured my heart was For King and Country’s “Fix My Eyes on You” it was like God was speaking to me through the lyrics. Tears streamed down my face that day in the car … the lyrics said:
“I learned the lines and talked the talk. But the road less traveled is hard to walk. It takes a soldier who knows his orders to walk the walk I'm supposed to walk, and
Love like I'm not scared
Give when it's not fair
Live life for another
Take time for a brother
Fight for the weak ones
Speak out for freedom
Find faith in the battle
Stand tall but above it all
Fix my eyes on You
The things of earth are dimming
In the light of Your glory and grace
I'll set my sights upon Heaven
I'm fixing my eyes on You.”
Those words pierced my heart and it became abundantly clear that I was not living like I should. I wasn’t putting Christ and others before myself. I was still immersed in the world.
Romans 12:2 says,
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Colossians 3:1 says, Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Making that crucial switch opened a door into a deeper relationship with Christ. I’ve never looked back, and honestly haven’t had any desire to keep up with the top 40. This simple decision has radically changed my home, it paved a new way that I wish was paved for me, for my daughters to focus on Christ. Because what we surround ourselves with is what we will become. And ya’ll, worship music is absolutely my favorite.
Fast forward to 2017, I had a 1 year old and 3 year old and I was told I had stage 3 breast cancer. It was the most devastating moment of my life. I had always been a healthy, active athlete. I had run a marathon. I was starting my family. How could this be?
I felt the darkness surround me and I had a choice to make… feel sorry for myself and be stuck in the dark. Or choose the light. In prayer I envisioned Jesus’s loving arm reaching down to me.
God brought me to my knees, He showed me all I needed was Him. It felt as if He plucked me out of the darkness. I was overflowing with gratitude.
I have always been proud of my hair, it was thick, long, blonde and beautiful. My vanity was stripped from me when all my hair fell out. Suddenly all the “things” of this world lost their glow, I began to fully understand what Jesus wants from us.
He wanted me. All of me. He didn’t want to share me. He is a jealous God. Just like he wants all of each of you.
Job 19:9 says, He has stripped me of my honor and removed the crown from my head.
And that is truly what He did, God did not cause my cancer or any of our sufferings. He is a God of goodness. But God did allow cancer to come into my life because He wanted me to lean into Him. He wanted to remove all the counterfeit comforts from my life.
As devastating as cancer or any life threatening issue is, losing my salvation is what is most devastating. God knows the world is temporary, He knows my body is temporary… but He wanted my life, my soul. It all became clear.
On July 6, 2018 I chose to be baptized in Lake Michigan by my Uncle Jeff who worked with Cru… it was the best day of my life because I had proclaimed my life in Christ. When I came out of that water I felt alive!
Psalm 73:28 says, But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.
From that day forward, everything changed… colors were brighter, the cancer felt less heavy, I had this amazing feeling that despite it all everything was going to be okay. I wanted to tell everyone about this freedom in Christ that I found.
It felt like He placed a veil over me that no longer cared about what the world thought. The world wants us enslaved…enslaved to ourselves, to our needs, our wants. The enemy tries to lure us in with the empty promise of pleasure, freedom or selfishness, “you only live once. Live your truth. Do what makes you happy.”
Guys, no one and nothing can take the place of Jesus Christ in your life. Everyone and everything will let you down. Friends, cars, sports, looks, trends, social media, money, jobs, achievement, success… all of them are empty without God as your center.
I realized, through my sanctification that cancer was a gift, a gift that made me realize what was most important. Through my suffering God strengthened my marriage, my perspective on parenting, my perspective on life itself. It’s like I was given a glimpse of God’s secret. I died to myself (and continually aim to do so) and truly surrendered to my Lord and Savior. I wasted enough of my life trying to live my way, being swallowed up by the world. I didn't want to waste another minute without Jesus.
In Psalm 25 David is desperately reaching out to the Lord, trusting God to guide him. In verse 14 he says, “the secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.” To be part of God’s secret we need to trust Him, we need to spend time with Him and we need to wait on God. I ask my girls this all the time, how do you get close with someone? You spend time with them. That is exactly what we need to do in our faith.
The people who realize their utter need for Him and want to love what He loves and hate what He hates are the people who will truly have access to this secret. We need to spend time with Jesus to strengthen our faith and to discern between the lies our world feeds us today.
I stand before you today with stage 4 breast cancer, which means I will be battling cancer for the rest of my life. In, 2021 it returned in my lung, but God has carried me the entire time. He has carried me through chemotherapy treatments, surgeries, losing my hair again, nausea, feeling crummy, even feeling lonely because I can’t do what others do… but he is my portion. He is sufficient for me. I realized I am nothing without Him. He is my everything. And because of Jesus, cancer can never win.
John 8:12 says, When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
I wish I had this commitment to the Lord when I was a teenager. I wish someone had told me not to wait, not to put it off to when I was older. That your faith is not separate, it is your identity.
At the end of the day, we are God’s children. Created in His image and He has such incredible purpose for each and every one of you. Run to the light! Let Him guide you and conquer your fears.
Many are suffering today, and some ask why and are angry at God. But Jesus, He suffered the greatest suffering… all for us. When we suffer we share that with Christ.
My favorite verse says, I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33
I will be healed one day. God heals to show His goodness, His truth and his love. For reasons we will likely not understand this side of heaven - He heals some in this life and others in the life to come. Regardless of when we are healed, when we know him, we are able to stand steadfast in the unknown because his plans are trustworthy. We can confidently proclaim His goodness despite our suffering, despite our circumstances. Walking confidently in that because we WILL be healed one day.
One thing that has always bothered me in my cancer journey is people telling me how strong I am. Guys, I am not strong. Cancer is way to heavy for me to carry. But HE, Yahweh is strong, He gives me strength. He gives me hope, courage, peace and comfort that makes no sense to many when looking at my situation.
I’m here today to encourage you to deepen your faith, to cling to Christ, to be sold out and fully surrender to Him.
Don’t wait like I did. There is urgency in following Christ today. Caden’s life is a reflection of that. Don’t make your life separate from your faith. Your life should reflect your faith in all you say, think and do. Bring Heaven down. Be confident in being a royal heir in Jesus’s upside down kingdom. When it gets hard, lift each other up.
1 Peter 2:9 says, But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
If you haven’t placed your faith in Jesus I would love to talk to you. If you need prayer for suffering or any challenge you are facing, I would love to pray with you and lift you up.
You are the next generation, the world tells us church attendance is down and believers are walking away. You guys have the chance to change that statistic, be champions for Christ. Use your God-given gifts to share the Gospel everywhere you go. God didn’t call us to stay in our comfort zones. He called us to be set apart.
I leave you with this:
These lyrics penetrate my being and the chorus is my mission:
“I stand on holy ground
My faith will not be moved
All my defenses down
Come and do what You wanna do
Father, I'm listening
I'm hungry for Your word
I would give up anything
To see Your kingdom flood the Earth
'Cause I am a temple of Your Spirit
A born again believer, by the grace of Jesus
And I am an ambassador of Heaven
A lover of Your presence, prophesying freedom
And it's all for Your glory” ~Brandon Lake, Temple
And that’s what we need to do guys everything for His glory. Something profound that I realized as I was feasting on His word… God will accomplish His will with or without us. I think of how many times in my life God tried calling me to help in His work. But I was too busy. Too busy thinking of myself… too busy distracted by the world. So will you be listening next time God calls you to be part of His plan? Or will you be distracted?
Allow the world to lose its grip on you. I don’t know about you, but I want to be in the room He moves. Don’t you?