Just As I Am: My Salvation Story


Over the past several years, God has shown me that even in the midst of painful trials, disappointing circumstances, and daunting challenges, He is always right there with me. He constantly showers me with His unconditional love. He reminds me that His plans are always greater than my plans.

I have shared various parts of my testimony the past several years, and I still remember the first time I shared it at UMHB at the Worship in the Quad ministry I was so passionate about. Side note, it was in the BSM that night because of the cold weather. I remember friends approaching me afterwards, thanking me for inspiring them with my story. Each time someone would thank me for sharing, I have tried to remind them that they too have a testimony worth sharing with others. Every believer has a story worth sharing, so don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

A few days ago, the world learned of the passing of the Reverend Billy Graham. Social media was filled with people from all walks of life paying tribute to one person who helped inspire so many around the world through his charismatic evangelizing of the Gospel. As I sat in my little office space at work, getting ready for another day of teaching, I was combing through social media, and I came across a quote attributed to Graham. It read, “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” Rev. Graham has now changed his address and is alive in the presence of God Almighty for all eternity.

As I have reflected on Graham’s impact on the lives of so many people, I remembered the impact he had on me growing up. I also remembered my own story of how I came to Christ. So, I thought I would share it with you here in this blog post.

On July 19, 2000, about a month before I started the first grade, I was at a Vacation Bible School at a church in Georgetown, TX. At a young age, I knew that Christ loved me more than I could possibly imagine and that I loved Christ more than anything else in the world. What I didn’t know was that the most important part of loving Christ was accepting Him into the heart, an act commonly referred to as becoming “saved.”

I still remember my bible school teacher approaching me and asking me if I wanted to become saved. I honestly didn’t know what that meant at the time. It sounded cool and I figured that it would probably be best to become “saved,” although I wasn’t sure what I was being saved from exactly. When I returned home, I couldn’t understand why my Nana was so excited. I remember asking her if all of this was really that important. She certainly assured me that it was.

Over the next several years, as a young kid, I had so many doubts. At one point I doubted if God really existed. That didn’t last long once I looked at all the nature around me and the stars in the sky and thought, “Well of course He exists.” Even then, however, as I understood more fully what salvation meant, I had doubts as to whether I was truly saved. After all, I didn’t understand what was going on at that Vacation Bible School. For the longest time I thought as if perhaps I wasn’t the person actually making that decision, rather someone made that decision for me. I wondered if I was genuinely a Christian.

These doubts were daily and consistent. I realized that the only way to erase these doubts was if I came to accept Christ into my life as my own decision, now that I knew what accepting Christ truly meant. After so many sermons, there would be invitations for anyone willing to take that most important step and accept Christ into their hearts.

Growing up, I remember watching various preachers in person and on television, and the one who seemed most encouraging on television was Billy Graham. I remember him sharing the Gospel in the simplest ways so that anyone could understand the beauty of God’s love and the plan of salvation. I remember hearing “Just As I Am” being played as hundreds of people walked to the stage to accept Christ. I remember understanding that this was something that needed to be done in my life, but always telling myself, I’ll do it next time. Next time. Next time.

The summer after my 7th grade year was one of the most depressing in my life. I was so miserably depressed that summer that although I never considered actually carrying it out, suicide became a recurring thought in my young mind. Before I continue, if you ever have these same thoughts and you wonder if life is worth living, let me tell you that you are important. God would not have made you if He didn’t have a purpose for your life. You are beautiful. You are loved. You are made in the image of a God who pursues you every second of every day. Please reach out to someone and remember that your life is worth living!

Also, if you have ever battled depression or anxiety, know that there is nothing wrong with you. It is not your fault that you are going through this. God is not punishing you. God loves you. I too have battled depression throughout my life, and I am here to tell you that even when I battle depression, I fall to my knees and ask God to guide my every step. I have hope and joy in these circumstances because I know of the unfailing love God has for me.

In the middle of this summer, I went to Youth Camp with some friends in Brownwood, Texas. One evening, a man who went by the name of Runks Runkles gave a sermon. I don’t have the slightest recollection what the sermon was about, but what I do remember is what happened afterwards. He asked if anyone wanted to pray a simple prayer, asking God into their lives. I prayed that prayer. He then asked those who prayed that prayer to stand. I stood, and as my friends, with their jaws dropped, looked at me, I understood right then, to this day no longer having any doubts, that I was saved. That night I had more joy than I have ever had or ever will have until I meet Jesus in Heaven, because I knew that I was a believer in Christ.

There are too many people in my life who inspired me to reach that point that I could never thank every single one of them. Billy Graham was one person who planted that seed in me that would later lead me to asking Christ in my life. Singers and songwriters, Bill and Gloria Gaither, were two others. One of my pastors growing up, Roy Smith, was another. Paul Cherry, an evangelist friend, was another. And of course, my awesome Dad and grandparents also instilled in me the value of trusting in Christ and putting my faith in Him alone. To everyone else, not mentioned here, I thank you as well!

Throughout my life since then, I have still faced many trials. From being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, living with constant pain since my freshman year in high school, watching my Dad struggle with cancer multiple times (and beating it multiple times), other loved ones struggling with pain and disease I could never possibly imagine, and still battling depression off and on, I have faced many hurdles in life and will continue to do so. God never promised me or anyone an easy life.

What He did promise me was that when I fully trust in Him, I can feel joy in the midst of pain. What He promised me was that even when I doubt, He still loves me unconditionally. Even when I question why bad things happen, He is still there, and He feels my pain, understands what I am going through, and He waits for me to once again turn back to Him, a Heavenly Father who loves me more than I could possibly fathom. Even when I ask for healing, ask for trials to end, ask for the desires of my heart, and He says “Wait” or just flat out “No,” I still trust that He is sovereign and that He still has a plan for me and will use me for His glory. And this gives me joy.

People may ask me why I have so much hope, so much joy, and so much peace. I would tell them that the answer is JESUS. If you’re reading this now, know that the answer is Jesus. For you and me, and for every other human being on this planet, He died a very painful and brutal death. He rose from the dead, and He will return one day to bring those who have accepted Him to live with Him for all eternity.

My Dad has definitely been an inspiration throughout my life’s story. To give you an example, I was struggling one day at college (Mary Hardin-Baylor) with my health problems. As I was struggling with this, my Dad, who was battling an infection after having beaten cancer the first time, text me some encouragement. Even as he was battling pain far worse than I can imagine, Dad texted me, “It came to me in my weakness, that God moves strong. He is shaping me into something awesome for His glory alone. Show me this text in a month and we’ll praise Him [Christ] together. Love you boy!” With Jesus Christ by his side, Dad overcame that infection in addition to beating cancer at least 3 times. What this example shows me is that even in the midst of painful trials, we can have hope in Christ Jesus. My Dad still reminds me of this daily.

I will tell you right now that you will still face struggles, but even in the midst of those struggles, you can still have joy in Christ Jesus. It all starts with accepting Him into your life. If you do this, you will still face many challenges, but you will have that assurance that Christ goes before you, that He is there to guide you throughout those challenges, and that one day, we will spend eternity with Christ and without any pain or sorrow. All you have to do is accept Christ into your life, trust in Him, and live for Him.

Please do not wait. You may not have tomorrow. You may not have the next hour. The time to accept Christ in your life is always right now.

If you are unsure of what to pray, pray this prayer.

“Lord Jesus, I come to you today, and I thank you for loving me so much. I understand that I am a sinner. I am truly sorry. I want to turn away from those sins and start following you. Please forgive me. I believe that you are God’s son, and that you died to take away my sins. I believe that you rose from the dead and will return for me someday. I understand that the only way to spend eternity in heaven is through you, Jesus. Come into my heart and save me. I love you and I want to follow you for the rest of my life. I ask you into my life. In your name, I pray, Amen.”

If you prayed that prayer, welcome to the family of God. Now, go tell others that you have asked Jesus Christ into your life, and share your story with others. Share what Christ has done in your life. I also encourage you to frequently read God’s Word. If you can’t afford a new Bible, biblegateway.com is a great resource that has the entire Bible in numerous translations. Always remember that you are beautiful and you are constantly pursued by a God who loves you so much.

If you still have questions, contact your local pastor, or you can email me at morethanconquerors839@gmail.com. I am praying for you and I love you.

Some words of encouragement:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16 (NIV)

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. – Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)

Yahweh your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will bring you quietness with His love. He will delight in you with shouts of joy. – Zephaniah 3:17 (HCSB)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8 (NIV)

Forever by Kari Jobe

Because He Lives by David Crowder Band (song originally by Bill and Gloria Gaither)

Chemotherapy and the Baptism of a New Believer

If I could sum up the past week with one word, that word would be “inspiration,” because that is what my family has been to me, an inspiration.

What I have learned over the past week is that God is always good, He is always faithful, and He is indescribable. I have been more than amazed at just how good God really is. When I think of my family, all that they have gone through and continue to go through, I am blown away at the amount of faith they put in our wonderful Savior.

Last Wednesday, I was blessed to spend quality time with Dad (Ronnie) as he went to Scott and White for his first chemotherapy treatment for colon cancer (one down, eleven more to go). Time and time again, I always emphasize just how much Dad is my Superman. Although the past few weeks leading up to the start of chemo has left my Dad quite anxious about the next six months, he never seems to lose the faith He has in Jesus. He doesn’t use the phrase, “I’m going to get through this,” by itself. Instead he proclaims, “God is going to get me through this,” acknowledging that only by the grace of God, can he overcome cancer, not by anything he does himself.

A picture of my Superman Dad and me!

A picture of my Superman Dad and me!

Sure, the next six months are going to be tough. Chemo at any level is never easy. Yet with God, one can have hope for the future even in the midst of cancer and chemo. As I sat in the chair next to Dad, I was amazed by how much strength and calmness he had as the poison ran from the IV into his body. He was even trying to figure out future practical jokes to play on the nurses administering the chemo. After all, you’ve got to have a sense of humor in all of this.

While we truly believe that God has a plan for Dad, just as He has a plan for each of us, I would be untruthful if I said that we didn’t also have a fear of the unknown. As imperfect human beings, fear is absolutely a very real part of all of this, and yet, God somehow reminds us to place our trust in Him and not fear. He calls on us to cast all of our anxieties on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). So why do we fear? Why can’t we somehow dispose of those fears when God assures us that He is absolutely in control?

Friday morning when I awoke, I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed, reading about what was “trending” and what everyone was posting about. Then I read something my Nana posted and I was astonished (which is not an adequate word) by how God spoke to her.

To provide a little context, my grandparents have wonderful children they adopted as their own, and the youngest one has been through major health problems himself at such a young age (age 10). For quite some time, Isaac has battled Juvenile Dermatomyositis, an autoimmune disorder that causes his immune system to attack his muscles when he gets really sick. Having gone through so much himself, he also never ceases to inspire me by telling everyone how much he loves Jesus and how much Jesus loves the whole world.

A picture of Isaac and me...

A picture of Isaac and me…

Here is what my Nana posted on Friday:

We have the most meaningful conversations in the van in the school pick-up line.
Isaac: Mom, has God ever contacted you?
Mom: I’m not sure what you mean, Isaac.
Isaac: Does God ever talk to you?
Mom: Well kind of. I feel He is with me and guiding me.
Isaac: No, have you ever heard His voice? He spoke to me last night and His voice is like an ocean sunset, you know, calm and peaceful. He said for me to stop worrying so much that He is going to heal Ronnie and that I need to rest and in a few days something wonderful is going to happen and then I saw Him and went to sleep.
Mom: speechless…

Emotions flooded over me as I read this post. If ever I needed a reason to not fear and to trust in the Lord, this would be it. If I ever needed a human example of someone’s faith to imitate, it would be Isaac’s. Perhaps too, I also need to stop worrying, and trust in the calmness and peacefulness of our Heavenly Father. What a powerful example Isaac is to me and to those around him. The way He describes our Creator, “His voice is like an ocean sunset,” gives me goosebumps.

To continue to show me how good and faithful He really is, God used yet another example in my family, in Shayla. Last week, I described how this young high school freshman, full of life, accepted Christ as her Savior last Sunday, and how overjoyed I was by her example. I wept tears of joy in welcoming my new sister-in-Christ. When I returned home this past weekend to witness her baptism, I couldn’t stop loving on her, congratulating her, and telling her how proud I was. She has never cared what anyone else thinks of her, and I know that will continue as she unashamedly proclaims to the whole world that she is a Believer who follows Christ.

I was excited beyond words to witness Shayla’s bright smile as her mentor at FBC, Blaine, dunked her in the baptism pool as the entire congregation watched her profess her faith in Christ. For the past week, she couldn’t stop reminding me and telling everyone on Facebook and elsewhere that she is a Follower of Christ and she counted down the days until her baptism which took place yesterday.

Shayla and Blaine, who had the opportunity to baptize her on Sunday...

Shayla and Blaine, who had the opportunity to baptize her on Sunday…

The past few weeks, Shayla has also served as a source of inspiration to me. She has shown me just how much we should all proclaim our belief that Jesus is Lord of all.

That same day, Bro. Mark talked about how our lives should be a memorial of when God did something awesome in our lives. When people hear our testimonies generations from now, will they know by the way we lived, that we never ceased glorifying God? When people see us now, will they see the light for the Gospel that we are supposed to be?

2 Corinthians 3:2-3 says, “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (NIV).

When people read our “letters” are they reading about Christ? Are they reading about what we are doing to advance His Kingdom? Are we living by the Spirit of God in order to touch the lives of others?

This is why I am inspired by Dad, by Isaac, by Shayla. I am inspired by them to live my life for Christ with every fiber of my being. Even in the midst of cancer and chemotherapy, Dad still continues to proclaim God’s goodness in His life. Even at such a young age, knowing pain and heartache himself, Isaac continues to share how much Jesus loves him. And with her outgoing spunkiness, Shayla is unashamed to proclaim to the whole world that she chooses to serve Jesus Christ with all her heart. These are the examples I strive to live by.

After Shayla’s baptism and Mark’s sermon, we ended the service singing my favorite song, “Because He Lives” by Bill and Gloria Gaither. I cried tears of joy as we sang these words:

And then one day, I’ll cross the river, 
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain; 
And then, as death gives way to victory, 
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives! 

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, 
Because He lives, all fear is gone; 
Because I know He holds the future, 
And life is worth the living, 
Just because He lives!

No matter what the future holds, with Christ, it will always be a bright future. I don’t know what tomorrow brings, but I do know that we can all face uncertain days, because He lives. As believers, we are promised that when we leave this Earth, we will spend an eternity where we will know no suffering or pain. But until then, let us always remember that we can face those uncertain days, and that life is worth the living JUST BECAUSE HE LIVES!

Gaither, William J. and Gloria Gaither, 1971. “Because He Lives.” LyricsMode. Web. 31 Aug. 2015.

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 31 Aug. 2015.

Because He Lives by the Gaither Vocal Band

Lifesong by Casting Crowns

Shout it! Go on and scream it from the mountains…

Yesterday, my heart leaped for joy with the most amazing news that anyone can hear, someone I love, someone so close to me, accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior. How can I not be excited!? How can I not praise God and weep tears of joy in knowing that I have a new sister in Christ!? That sister in Christ is Shayla, one of the wonderful young people my grandparents have so lovingly adopted. Shayla has always been like a sister to me, and that is what I call her, my sister. And now I get to call her my sister in Christ. It makes me wonder how big God must be smiling when one of His own chooses to follow Him.

Shayla and me after her 8th grade awards ceremony in June...

Shayla and me after her 8th grade awards ceremony in June…

For as long as I have known her, Shayla has always been this spunky young lady, always full of joy, with one of the biggest hearts for the loved ones around her. She always brightens my day when I am around her, especially when we tease each other. After all she is the coolest Horned Frog on the planet! Okay, so that was a joke. She’s like the biggest Baylor Bear fan (even more than me), so she probably doesn’t like me calling her a horned frog, the mascot of Baylor’s main rival, TCU. Hehehe.

Yet that’s the relationship we’ve built together, a relationship between a brother and a sister in which the two would walk through fire for the other. So of course like brothers and sisters are supposed to do, we tease each other.

As UMHB’s Welcome Week came to a close, I went with my group of freshmen to visit First Baptist Church in Belton, right next to the UMHB campus. It was such a wonderful experience. Not only was it my freshmen’s first time to visit FBC Belton, it was mine as well. In the packed College House, we talked about Jonah and from this experience, one thing stood out to me… Trust in God’s plan even when it’s not your own and follow Him. In the main service the pastor talked about being salt and light to the world, living as an example for others by following Christ.

If that wasn’t enough to make this experience wonderful, we sang one of my favorite songs, “All the Poor and Powerless.” My heart was filled with joy as we started to sing this song as I realized just how awesome and mighty Christ truly is. One day, when Christ returns, every tongue and nation will cry out that He is Holy, and no matter the pain and suffering we endure, we will know that Christ our Redeemer is Holy!

All the poor and powerless
And all the lost and lonely
All the thieves will come confess
And know that You are holy
And know that You are holy

And all will sing out
And we will cry out
And all will sing out
And we will cry out

All the hearts who are content
And all who feel unworthy
And all who hurt with nothing left
Will know that You are holy
Will know that You are holy

And all will sing out
And we will cry out
And all will sing out
And we will cry out

Then with my arms raised high, jumping and weeping for joy, I sang these words:

Shout it
Go on and scream it from the mountains
Go on and tell it to the masses
That He is God

As believers, we must shout it and scream it from the mountains until the entire world hears the name of Jesus. As I enjoyed both the College House and the Contemporary Worship service, I was realizing just how rewarding it is to follow Christ and truly shout His name for all of creation to hear and know that He is holy.

Little did I know that 40 minutes south of this service focusing on following Christ and being the light unto the world, Shayla would be answering that call and surrendering her life to Christ. I later received the news as she told me that she would be baptized next week. My heart was overwhelmed by gladness at this wonderful news. As I was singing “Shout it. Go on and scream it from the mountains,” Shayla was doing just that. She was proclaiming that Christ is her Lord and Savior and that she chooses to follow Him.

What a wonderful testimony she can share with the world, that she once was lost and now Christ has found her, brought her out of darkness and into light. With everything our family has gone through, she knows more than many that life doesn’t automatically become easy once you accept Christ. But life is so much sweeter when you can rely on the Lord and place your hope, your faith, your life in His hands. She decided that life’s challenges are only for a brief moment, yet God’s promise of redemption remains eternal.

Once one accepts Christ, that person is made new. This person, this saved person, is now sheltered in the everlasting arms of God with the knowledge of eternal life. Christ died and rose again so that we might have eternal life, and once we accept Him into our hearts, we become new people as believers.

Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (NIV).

When we accept Him into our hearts, we have new lives. No longer do we live as our worldly selves, but we live with the promise of eternal life, with Christ living in us. All of this is thanks to Jesus who gave himself for all of us.

I am so unbelievably proud of Shayla and I cannot wait until she shows the rest of the world her decision to follow Jesus when she gets baptized next week. If I have learned anything these past few weeks, it’s that God is worth it! The truth is that we will struggle. We will face hardship. Yet those things are only temporary. The love of Christ is forever!

So like Shayla, allow Christ in your heart. When you do, you will be a new creation! There are so many in this world (even those around you) that have never heard the Gospel. So proclaim His name to the world!

SHOUT IT! Go on and scream it from the mountains that HE IS GOD!

Jordan, Leslie, and David Leonard, 2012. “All the Poor and Powerless.” SongLyrics. Web. 24 Aug. 2015.

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 24 Aug. 2015.

All the Poor and Powerless by The Digital Age

Jesus Loves Me by Chris Tomlin