I can’t stop thinking about the awesome glory of God in my own coming to know Him. God truly called me out of nowhere into His glorious light. I don’t know why He chose me. I don’t know why He singled me out–no one in my family had a personal relationship with Christ as far as I could tell. I am so unworthy. I am so unworthy of all that my God has done for me. I’m unworthy to be adopted as a daughter of the King. Yet somehow God decided that I was worth it. He told me that I belong to Him and no one else. And He pursued me like the great Romancer that He is. And I had been searching. I truly had been. And my seeking heart found Him because He made His glory known.
I grew up in a Roman Catholic family. As a young child, I went to mass on a weekly basis, and went downstairs for Sunday school. I knew a fair amount of Bible stories growing up. At times I just became interested in reading the little kid Bible that my uncle had purchased for me as a baby. After my first communion, we were all given 365 day Bibles, and I was determined to read the whole thing through. There was always some sort of seeking there. It’s kind of wonderfully fascinating to me that even as a young child, I was still seeking to know God by reading about Him. From the beginning there was a connection between me learning about God, and books.
I did everything that a Catholic family does. I had my first communion. Reconciliation. Confirmation. But as I got a bit older, church wasn’t as much of a weekly tradition. For a time in middle school, my dad pushed me to join youth group. I went for probably about six to eight weeks, but it didn’t last longer than that. But even in that time, I still wanted to know God. That’s the thing. I always wanted to know God. I didn’t know how, but I wanted to know Him. I’m not even sure when it started–well before middle school, but I got in the habit every night of saying all the prayers I knew over and over–Hail Mary’s, Our Father’s, The Apostles’ Creed. I would say them over and over, hoping the more times I said a prayer, the more that God would be listening. I didn’t know that all I had to do was simply talk to God like I was talking to a friend. No one had ever modeled that for me. No one had ever taught me how to communicate with God, except for what I experienced in mass. I even prayed the rosary from time to time. Yet even in that, I knew that there was more. I knew that God was bigger than that, but I just didn’t know how to get to Him.
And then God pursued me. He had been pursuing me all along. But He started seeking me in a way that I understood–through books. My whole freshman year of high school, I lived in my local public library. I had always been a big reader. I spent a lot of time in the young adult section. And over the course of six months time, a lot of the books that I brought home with me were Christian fiction novels. I had never heard of such a genre before. But they were books about girls my age that had given their hearts to God, who made the decision to give their all to God. And that was what I had been looking for my whole life. God pursued me through literature.
To back up a step, I read a certain book series–Diary of a Teenage Girl: The Caitlin O’Conner Series by Melody Carlson during the fall/winter of my freshman year of high school. I read the third book first, not even realizing that it was part of a series, and then went back and read the first two books, and also the fourth book (a fifth book later came out) after I had already become a Christian. I remember being really intrigued by the way the characters talked about God, just from that one book I had read. They brought about an awareness that God can be reached in multiple ways, that a relationship with Him isn’t about the amount of “Our Father’s” that I say before going to bed. I still wasn’t sure what to do with that, though.
During my spring break in April of 2003, my dad and I came out to California. It was my first trip to California. My dad had asked me before planning the trip where I most wanted to go, and I don’t even know why, but my choice was California. We planned a great trip, starting from San Francisco and driving down the coast to San Diego. And I loved every minute of it. It was a huge adventure to me, and it was so different than my home in New York. We spent the first two days in San Francisco, and my dad has told me numerous times that as we were leaving after those first two days, I looked over to him as we were crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and told him that I would be moving to California someday. And he believed me, even then. I fell in love with a state. I don’t know what made me love it so much, but I literally became obsessed. I’ve often referred to this trip to California as “my bridge” in my early journals after giving my heart to God. I wasn’t a Christian while on this trip, but it was like a final bridge that I crossed that brought me to that point.
Before flying out west, I had done what I always did and went to the library and picked out some books for the trip. I brought two or three books. One of them was a fictional story about the War of Troy because I was super interested in it for a time. Another book I brought I knew nothing about except that I thought that the cover had an interesting texture when I picked it up at the library. It was called Until Tomorrow by Robin Jones Gunn. I never actually got to that book on my trip because I was too busy sightseeing, and I had other books that I read before it. But it still traveled with me all the way to California and back. I used to think that was pretty significant. Me coming to know God and California were linked in the beginning. They kind of still are in some ways. After all, I am currently living in California.
When we got back from our trip, I dived back into the last two months of my freshman year of high school. But in that first week of being back in New York, I started reading the other book I had checked out from the library, Until Tomorrow, and I fell in love. I fell in love with the characters. I fell in love with the love story. And I fell in love with everything it had to say about God. I knew when I checked it out from the library that it was part of a series. As soon as I finished that first book, I hurried back to the library to obtain the next two–As You Wish and I Promise. I read them over the course of two or three days. And they changed everything about my life. First of all, they are the sweetest stories about a group of friends traveling Europe and finishing college. And they were from Southern California, which is where the last two books take place. With my trip to California fresh in my mind, I soaked all of that up. But above all else, they were books about college students seeking to live their lives completely for God above all else. All the answers that I had ever wanted about knowing God were answered in these three books. What I was desiring was a personal relationship with the Savior of the World. And the only way to have this relationship that I so wanted was to surrender my life completely to Him, asking His forgiveness for my sins, and letting Him take over and be my everything. And I did.
It was a Tuesday night–April 29, 2003. I had just finished reading I Promise. It was a beautiful spring night. And I got down on my knees and gave my life to God. Here is my first journal entry from a few days later, at age fifteen: On Tuesday I vowed my life to God. I promised to love Him forever and to follow the path that He has made for me. I know how important God is and I surrendered my life to Him. It was kind of like a calling that made me do it. I would always go to the library to look for books, but I never knew what books I wanted. I would just pick random books off the shelf and bring them home. All the books had to do with accepting God in your life and about teenage girls like me and their relationship with God. Once I got out the Christy Miller Series by Robin Jones Gunn, well then my life changed. Whoever said you couldn’t be influenced by a book? The books made me realize how important God is in a person’s life. I mean, He created me and someday I will be back in His Kingdom after I have completed everything that He wants me to do on this earth that He created. I feel His presence around me all the time. I know that God, and His Son Jesus Christ, are always there for me (May 3, 2003).
I was gloriously adopted as a daughter of the King of the universe. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing after I became a Christian, but I knew that God was everything, and that’s all that really mattered. I’m still completely astounded by this calling, by this loving pursuit, this great romance. Because there is seemingly nothing within me that should draw God to me, yet He saw something there. He wanted me for His own. He called me by name and continually drew my heart to Him. I am so unworthy, yet God has decided that I am worth it anyway. What great love! And what a great calling! I have never met anyone who has met God the way I have. It literally was out of nowhere. Yes, I had been seeking to know God more and more all my life, but He just found me. There was no one to tell me about having a personal relationship with Him. No place for me to go to find it that I knew about at the time. So He reached me in the only possible way that I could understand–through literature. And He has spoken to me and guided me through books many times since then. But it is so amazing to me still. God knows us each so well. He knows how to reach our hearts. And He never gives up on us. He calls us His own. He desires to display His glory in our lives. And He pursues us. He is the Romancer of our souls.
It’s a love story.