I wish it were the season for lilacs right now. As I’m living in the light of the glory of God in the early days of my Christian journey, I can feel the beauty of those spring nights when I sat in my bedroom simply basking in the presence of God. Spring in New York is beautiful. I think it’s so beautiful because winter can be so terrible. I love the snow, but winter in upstate New York is LONG! But when the days start to get longer, when the air starts to get warmer, there is just such a change all over. There is such a rebirth and renewal to all the world. Everything is pure and new. The sun is out more. The laughter of the neighborhood kids is a constant melody until the sun goes down. And the flowers push up from what had weeks ago been frozen and barren ground. It’s beautiful. I kind of love that I came to know God in the spring. It’s kind of symbolic for where my life was when I came to know Him. And in those early days after reading the The Christy Miller Series, I spent every evening in my room with the window wide open, the last rays of the sun pouring in, and the scent of lilacs on the wind. And I prayed. I prayed with all my heart and knew that God was there. I could feel His presence. I could feel His love. And I knew that it was all I needed. He truly became my everything.
I’m still very much amazed at how God called me to Him. He called me out of nowhere. It is still incredible! I read three books that completely changed the course of my life forever. And although now I can look back at that time as one of the best, most simple periods of my life, it didn’t necessarily feel like that at the time. Oh, I knew that I loved God. But becoming a Christian also opened a lot of doors that I didn’t know existed before then.
First of all, I had a total identity crisis. Although I’m sure you can argue that every fifteen-year-old girl was going through the same thing to some extent. It was the end of my freshman year at a new school. I was figuring out who I was, and how I fit into this school. I had so many dreams and aspirations for the future and for the person that I wanted to be. And then God called me by name and completely rocked my world. He asked me to be His own, and I accepted. And I knew nothing. All I knew was what was in the three books that I had read that showed me that I what I had always wanted and had been seeking was a personal relationship with Christ. And my relationship with Him flourished. But it was still hard.
These books were great. They are still great! In fact, I kind of want to reread them right now as I look back on them. They played a major part in my life. But they also confused the heck out of me! The three books that I read before surrendering my life to the Lord were called Christy & Todd: The College Years. There were twelve whole novels that came before them that made up The Christy Miller series. I had no idea about those first twelve until after I became a Christian and I researched the author. And as quickly as I could, I got my hands on all of those books. I think I read all twelve, and then the three college books again, in a matter of a week and half once I had them in my possession. And I wanted so badly to be the main character. I greatly resonated with Christy. The books started the summer before her sophomore year of high school, exactly where I was in life. She traveled to Newport Beach, CA to spend the summer with her aunt and uncle, where she met a great group of people that led her to the Lord. In the second book, her family moved to California, and the story goes from there. They are books filled with great characters who truly became friends to me. And they modeled for me what it meant to be a Christian. I learned so much through these books. And I still count them as some of the greatest stories that I have ever read. They’ll always hold a super special place in my heart…and on my bookshelf.
I also became super jealous of these books. They were everything I wanted. Christy met all these wonderful people that just truly loved God with all their hearts. Her best friend in particular, Katie, made me crave for just one close friend who I could share my relationship with God with. I started praying for friends just like these after reading about these lovely characters. All of the characters just put God first, even as teenagers in the midst of all the difficulties that come along with being a high school student. They were involved in their churches. They discussed the Bible. They prayed together. They worshipped together. They were everything that I wanted to be, and represented all the people that I wished that I had in my life. I had no Christian friends. I had never even met a Christian before. I had no one to spend my time with who also loved God but these characters. I was craving Christian friends like none other. And at times I was astounded by the character of Christy because I thought that we were literally the same person. I know that everyone has a tendency to read themselves into the characters that they love, but we really were very similar. I had an identity crisis. I wanted to be this character in these books so badly that I wasn’t sure who Kelly was anymore. Even in general, aside from the books, coming to God really changed my life and my perspective on everything that I was doing. I was scrambling to find out who I really was, and I felt discontented with myself a lot of the time. Again, a lot of that can simply be attributed to being a fifteen-year-old girl. And it had been a difficult year. Although I loved my high school, changing schools was hard. It wasn’t until I started sophomore year that I actually started making great friends, so freshman year was kind of just a day-by-day journey. I didn’t have that many friends, and without being in school for the summer, my social life really dwindled. I basically had my childhood best friend, Morgan. And what I was craving more than anything was just one friend who knew God.
I also had an identity crisis in another way. I was raised in the Roman Catholic church. When I became a Christian, I had a really difficult time reconciling this new and growing relationship with God with my upbringing in the Catholic church. And it was a real struggle. My dad and I used to fight about it. I didn’t have much actual knowledge to know how I was supposed to feel about Christianity versus Catholicism. It wasn’t until I got to college that I really understood the differences, but because I had become a Christian in a way that had absolutely nothing to do with the Catholic church, I figured that I had to rid my life of all things that had to do with it. It’s hard to try to disregard something that was a big part of your life! I became very critical of the Catholic church for many years. Although at the same time, the church that I grew up in started a youth mass on Sunday nights, which I started going to my sophomore year with some friends from school, which was followed by youth group. I loved it because I got to sing all the songs that I had started to learn through all the Christian CDs that I got. But I still felt different. My relationship with God was personal. And that personal intimacy wasn’t being fed by the Catholic church. It was hard.
Yet at the same time, despite all these difficulties, I knew absolutely everything that I needed to know. I was completely on my own, except for God. God literally nurtured my relationship with Him and was the only One who sustained it. Really, until I went to college, He alone sustained me. He still does today, but going to a Christian college, and truly finding a church and fellowship has greatly changed and shaped my relationship with God and has deepened it in so many ways. But for quite a few years, it really was just Him and me. And although I was always craving Christian friends and a great church community, He was my life bread. He gave me everything I needed. And although there were difficult periods in those early years, my relationship with God never wavered. It continued to grow and progress. And that first summer was merely the beginning.
Right after becoming a Christian, and reading all the Christy Miller books, I set out to read the Bible all the way through. I don’t think I got past Joshua before I skipped ahead and just started reading whatever I wanted. And I spent most afternoons and evenings reading more great fiction novels and listening to all these great songs and growing in my relationship with the Lord. He fed me through books and music that summer (My favorites were Avalon and Steven Curtis Chapman). And it was great. It took a lot of self control to not read the Christy books over and over that summer, and thankfully I discovered another twelve-book series by the same author that I also fell in love with.
It’s amazing to me, looking back on it now, just how clear God was to me then. I’ve heard other people talk about how when they first came to know God, it was almost like a high. And it was. I literally could feel the presence of God with me that whole summer. I was in love. I was so completely on my own, and it was hard at times. But God was everything. From the day I gave my life to the Lord, I knew that He was everything. I knew that He had a plan for my life and that He would work out everything the way it was supposed to be. I had so many hopes and dreams for the future, but knew that God’s dreams for me would be bigger and better than anything I could conjure up on my own. I knew what a relationship with God was all about. He completely built my relationship with Him on His own–Him and me. That’s all. And it was great. In my first ever journal entry, I summed it up in one line–all I really need is the love of God. So true. And so what I need to remind myself in this current season of my life.
Coming to know God changed absolutely everything about my life. And I just got it, right from the start. I knew that God was in charge. I knew that He loved me. And I knew that no matter what I faced in my life from that point on, that God would take care of me. The prayers that I wrote out in my first journal were so simple. I spoke my heart to the Lord, and I wasn’t afraid to question Him. It was the most simply joyful, uncomplicated, and although I didn’t know it then, effortless time of my life.
And from the very beginning, I knew that everything about my relationship with God was contained in this one verse of Scripture: The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me (Psalm 138:8). And He will. His love endures forever.
Back to lilacs. Here’s a picture of some beautiful lilacs that were picked from the lilac bush that grows outside my bedroom window in New York.