Yesterday, at the beginning of a church service, people were announcing anniversaries: eighteen years of marriage; thirty-six years of marriage, etc., and in the past, that would’ve brought me down because I’ve always wanted to state that I’d been married for a bazillion years but was never able to, and then it dawned on me: I had been married to God for a year, and all of a sudden, the years of marriage I was listening to didn’t bother me one bit.
I wanted to share about my anniversary God but couldn’t get the pastor’s attention, so I held it inside and figured I’d just write about it.
One year ago, on July 26, 2014, I was re-baptized and married to God in the same moment, a moment in time that’s forever reminded to me by the ring on my finger. It was an intense moment of discovered purity, a moment of supernatural strength to be all of me in all of Him and never settle for anything less than His very best for life, but leading up to that moment was an uphill journey I chose for myself.
Wow, that last sentence just enticed me down memory lane! This blog will be about finding my First True Love, but there is so much in my heart to write about…it’s insane! Do people even care? Does it even matter? It was reminded to me today that this is my blog, I can write what I want, and something came over me that said, “Okay,” so look out!!
In 2004, I found that God had been chasing me, and I finally let Jesus have my heart, but that was it: I was still cussing, drinking, living how I wanted to. I just gave him my heart, looked nice on Sundays, and opened my bible at church. Eventually, I opened my bible at various bible studies but found that if I wasn’t at church or in a study, my bible would be a foundation for dust. I was living but not alive, and the example I was to my kids was disturbing.
In 2005, I sobered up through Alcoholics Anonymous. It was in the rooms of AA where I learned that being a Christian wasn’t necessarily a good thing. They talked bad about them, so I kept my beliefs to myself. (Since then, I’ve changed. Now, I talk about Jesus in every meeting I go to.) Once I became single, I began sleeping around, ditching my kids, justified every act with “at least I’m not drinking,” etc. I was sober but not happy, and the example I was to my kids was disturbing.
In 2006, my oldest daughter left me a suicide letter. I was undone. That unveiled a twisted road of psychiatrists, suicide attempts, emergency rooms, treatment center stays, counseling sessions, medication, etc. At that time, I wasn’t close to God and was still chasing men and was still justifying everything with “at least I’m not drinking.”
People say your path was written out long before you were born. I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe that God set me up to be a drug addict, to sell my body or to give it away for free, to take my clothes off in front of men for a living, make movies…pictures…memories of filth. No, to say that that was all planned by God to make me who I am today is nonsense. God gave me free will to choose between right and wrong. I chose wrong and ate the fruit of those choices, and that way of living has nothing to do with the definition of who I am today.
When you think you know who you are apart from what Jesus accomplished on the cross, you’ll find yourself in a very dark place that appears to be light. I spent many years in churches hearing that I was a sinner and always would be, listening to how I was undeserving and unworthy of His mercy and grace; all the while, Jesus must’ve been thinking, “Then, what did I die for?”
In 2008, I started reading the New Living Translation of the Life Recovery Bible, and things began to change. I understood; it was like the bible was FINALLY written in English (if you know what I mean). I could barely put it down. I began to burn with a passion for God like I had never experienced before. I found myself wanting to talk about AA in church and wanting to talk about Jesus in AA but didn’t know how, so in 2009, I sought out a church that combined the two and felt I was “home.”
The more I read the bible, the more my mind was washed with His word, and in July of 2009, I finally stopped having sex. I had finally realized what a “gift” I was and how I wanted to be treated as one. It was one of the freest revelations I had ever had, and that started a whole new journey for me.
There’s a funny analogy that goes with that.
Growing up, I loved swimming and was on the swim team for years. For swimming, when you dive in, you want to make sure you dive near the surface with your legs closed to have the fastest motion possible to thrust you ahead the farthest. We would often dive during practice, and most of the time, when I would come out of the water, I would hear, “Laura, keep your legs closed!” It was so hard for me to remember. Evidently, that carried on throughout my life, but once I closed my legs and dove into the bible, I felt I was thrust forward into a whole new Light.
I began to learn how to have friends without having sex. I learned to be wanted without giving my body. I learned to be loved in a healthy way, and it felt super wrong to me, but I stuck with it, until it felt right. During this time, I went to numerous church things, friend hangouts, etc. and found that, yet again, I was putting something else before my kids in an unhealthy manner. It was during the summer of 2010 when I finally fell in love with my kids through God’s heart.
It was funny, I was in the middle of a church service, and my kids were at home, and I heard God say, “What are you doing here? Go be with your kids!” I got up and left and began to listen to God for direction in my life instead of using His Name to direct it myself.
Instead of going other places for fellowship, I began having “game nights” at home, bringing the fellowship to my kids. Instead of running to every church event, I began to stay home and watch movies with my kids, make them dinner, love them the way I never had, and it was during that time that Katie would refer to me as finally becoming a good mom, but that didn’t last long because, shortly after, I turned my affections toward a man.
In 2011, I entered into my first “Christian” relationship with a very unhealthy “Christian” man. Even typing that sentence brought up emotion, so these next few lines will be written through tears.
I had been at a point where I thought I had something to “give” a relationship and wanted to be wanted by a man. The man who pursued me claimed to have the same desires as I, but as I learned more about him, that wasn’t true, but in my heart, I had already made a covenant agreement with God for this man to be my husband, so I stuck in the relationship, hoping he would change, but the only one who changed was me, and it wasn’t in a very good.
I began to lose sight of who I was. This man drilled into me how I was a bad mother, how there were things wrong with my kids, how we were dysfunctional, how my talk about casting out demons was demonic (in a negative light), how my past reflected who I was, and how I couldn’t be trusted, etc. He was very controlling, had no idea how to love well, and in the process of trying to make this relationship work, he damaged me and my kids emotionally and spiritually. In the midst of all this, he proposed, and I said yes.
In the midst of all this, he proposed, and I said yes?! What?!!!
There I was, as a “Christian” woman, living in a light that was dark but didn’t realize it. I was blind…too weak to defend myself or my God or my kids. Did God plan for us to go through all that? Absolutely not! He gave me the keys to the Kingdom and the authority to release His Kingdom from me. He also gave me free will to make my own choices, and I chose wrong. I chose my path. I didn’t even “ask” God about dating this man, but because this man “wanted” me and was a “Christian,” that seemed good enough for me, but it turned out, he couldn’t even hear from God, and THAT’s the man I almost let lead me and my family. That sounds more like a scheme of Satan, not a plan from God.
In 2013, that man walked out of my life, and I never let him back in. He tried coming back, so I had a male friend of mine encourage him not to, so he never bothered me again. THAT was my only “Christian” relationship, and he brought out a woman in me that I was not proud of, so when I started to learn about my identity in 2014, I was filled with hope about who I was and not filled with despair about what I’d become or how I’d lived. During this time, I also had a life-changing experience with a worship flag that freed me from a twisted mindset about feeling dirty because of my past, which is the reason why I make and sell worship flags today.
I wasn’t going to include this part, but why not? Growing up, I loved to dance, and as an adult, I learned to make money from it by being a stripper. During that time, I was also selling my body out of the club. I was drinking, smoking, using; it was a very dark time of my life; although, I didn’t realize it. When I began to go to church, I realized that when I heard music, my body wanted to move, but even in the church, I gathered the impression that dancing, in general, was bad, so every time my body wanted to move, I felt like I was bad and would control it, until one evening orchestrated by God.
I was at an Aglow meeting, a place where dancing with worship flags was normal, and I would watch the women who were dancing, waving their flags, and yearn so badly to join them but knew the instant I would join them, all of a sudden, it would become something dirty because “I” would be the one holding the flag, so I would never join in and never expressed my desire to dance to anyone.
I mean, it was all very confusing to me. I would hear about dancing being bad among different voices in different churches but would sit with God in His word and discover dancing all throughout the bible. How could something God blessed be so bad? For a long time, I felt that anything I thought was wrong, so I kept a lot inside. Last year, God told me to stop reading other people’s insight and start writing my own. He told me I thought things that people needed to read and hear, so I began to write.
Anyway…back to the Aglow meeting. I was standing in one place, worshiping God with my hands stretched high, when, all of a sudden, a friend of mine PUT the stick of a worship flag in my hand. My only thought…”Oh, it’s ON, now!!” I walked straight to the front of the church to dance, and the moment I raised my hand, intense heat began to flow through me from the top of my hand to the souls of my feet and continued to burn through me for the entire song. I KNEW that God was burning away every bit of dirt I felt and every bit of filth, and for the first time in my life, I was dancing purely for God, in a room full of people, and nothing was being released but His Glory.
That’s where my business name “Flames of Glory” came from…so much meaning…so much power…so much freedom. It’s insane, but what’s insane on earth makes total sense in heaven.
Shortly after this experience, I met a man, who eventually taught me how to make flags. During this time, I really learned my identity in the cross and wanted to bury everything I had attached to that was wrong, so I was re-baptized. Leading up to that was what this whole blog was supposed to be about, but some other things burned in me that had to be released, so here we are now.
Here’s an example of how I used to talk about myself. I would meet you and tell you how I used to be a stripper, but that was it. I wouldn’t really go into the freedom I was living. Maybe that’s because I wasn’t really free. I’m not sure. All I know is that I used to remind everyone of who-I-was and not so much of who-I-had-become. I would tell everyone the reason why I’d forgotten how to clean because of my drug use, instead of grabbing hold of a new nature that likes cleanliness, and so on, so I began to align my language up with heaven, my mindset was aligning with Kingdom living, and every time I mentioned the possibility of being baptized again, my chest would burn, so I KNEW I was supposed to be raised in this new identity through baptism.
Around that same time, I had been pouting to God, telling him how, even though I was older, I wanted a promise ring but couldn’t afford one. I’ll never forget it: one day, I was sitting on my oldest son’s bed, pouting to God, when He told me, “You have one.” As I looked down at my right hand, the ring on my right finger glowed. “Could it be?”, I thought. I took my mothers ring off my right hand and tried it on my left, and it fit!! Immediately, I took it off because it wasn’t time to place it on my left hand yet, and that’s when I knew it was to be moved as I rose out of my baptism water into His glory, into His newness, into the me I was becoming. I was so excited! But before I go on, let me tell you about the ring.
At the time when I sobered up, my oldest son was fourteen and resented me for a lot. It felt as though he hated me because of the way he spoke to me. It took years of living sober and chasing God for him to finally trust me as a mother. On mother’s day of 2012, he gave me a mothers ring and told me how much he loved me. This ring has all of our birthstones on it, starting with mine: garnet, tanzanite, peridot, tanzanite, and diamond (me, Kyle, Katie, Carolyn, Nathan). Receiving this ring meant so much to me and still does, so the thought of it being my wedding ring to God blew me away.
On the day of my baptism, I was going to be married to God. I went under the water to bury the “Christian” woman I had become and the past I had kept digging up, and when I rose in God’s Glory, I was married to Him and placed the ring from my right hand to the ring finger on my left, where it rests today. Recently, I’ve decided that I would like to keep this ring on forever, even after I’m married to a man here on earth, because I am forever God’s bride and want to be reminded of that.
I will never forget that day, what I was proclaiming, the covenant I made, the person I’d become and am still becoming today. The old me was buried. Sinners don’t know God (or don’t want to know God). Saints have said ‘Yes’ to His invitation to enter into His heart through the blood of His son, Jesus. The Holy Spirit is constantly communicating with the saints and constantly calling the lost home. You don’t have to live in bondage. You don’t have to be ashamed. You don’t have to be stuck in the dark. If you’ve been following Jesus and are thinking, “Is there more?” The answer is, “Yes!! There’s always more!”
When Jesus promised life more abundantly, that word abundantly means “freely.”
Today, without a doubt, I am free. Life doesn’t have to be a roller coaster of emotions. It can be lived with love, power, and a sound mind…just believe!