Scared Straight?

Jesus has been a part of my life since the beginning – well, since before my life began if you want to go further than that.  My dad was “born and raised” in church as was my mom.  So, my younger sister and I couldn’t help but be, right?  We grew up in the same church where my mom had gone her whole life.  As children, we sang in the children’s choir, went to Vacation Bible School (VBS), participated in church fundraisers, and went to youth lock-ins and retreats.  You name it, and we did it if it was church-related.

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Children’s Choir at Olivet – mid 1980’s. My mom is playing the piano, and my sister and I are in the choir (she is front row, far left, and I am second row, far right).

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Youth retreat – mid 1990’s.  (I am standing on the bench, 5th from the left).

I never felt forced toward God though.  It was just an expectation that my parents had that they made clear to my sister and me: If you live in this house, you will go to church.  So, I went.  I was christened as an infant.   I read my Bible.  I went to Sunday school.  I invited my friends to VBS.  I went through confirmation and joined the church.  I took communion.  I was an acolyte.  But, there was never a time I thought any of that would get me into heaven.  I knew what salvation was and that only salvation would get me into heaven.

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Confirmation Sunday – early to mid 1990’s (the day we joined the church after going through Confirmation classes to learn about the Methodist denomination).  I am the second from the left.

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VBS Final Presentation – mid 1990’s.  (I am second from the right).

As some point, I told my piano teacher that I understood that I could die at any time.  I told her that I knew I wasn’t going to live forever; I wasn’t invincible just because I was young.  I must have been 10 or 11.  She told me that since I was mature enough to accept that fact, I was ready to be saved.

Now, I have to tell you, I have no idea why I was compelled to tell her this!  She wasn’t someone I was particularly close to or with whom I have a spiritual connection.  I guess my preteen self just had this on my mind at the time and she was the one who I felt I could tell.  Who knows!  Whatever the reason for the conversation, it has stuck with me as something that was part of what led me to accept Christ as my Savior.

Then, when I was about 12, I was at a lock-in at my church.  We stayed up all night and watched a series of movies about Jesus’ second coming when He will rapture the living Christians to heaven and about the tribulation and what will happen to people who become Christians during that time.  (This wasn’t the Left Behind movie series; it was earlier than that).

What I remember most is the depiction of the tribulation and what life would be like for people who became Christians after the rapture.  In particular was a scene where Christians were being beheaded because they wouldn’t renounce their belief in Jesus Christ.  The guillotine and the actual beheadings weren’t shown, but what was happening was clearly discussed so I knew what was going on.  The scene played out in a dungeon or cell where the Christians were being held.  Someone was coming to get them, one by one, to take them out to the guillotine.  They were given one last chance to renounce Christ.  If they didn’t, they were beheaded on the spot.  I remember this scene especially because there was a child in the dungeon.  Just before he was taken, the adults told him that he’d be asked if he loved Jesus.  He told them he would say that he did.  Then, the adults told him that he’d be laid down on a stone.  They told him to close his eyes and the next thing he knew, he would see the Lord.  Then, the bad guys came and got him and gave him a red balloon.  He goes out with them; you see the sky through the dungeon’s window, you hear the guillotine fall, then the red balloon rises past the window.

I can only imagine what must have been going on in that 12-year-old brain of mine as I watched that movie.  My heart is racing and I am breathing a little faster just thinking of that scene.

At this point, I must be totally honest and tell you that I don’t want to tell you any more of my story.  I am embarrassed and ashamed.  When God started working on me to write a blog and share my testimony, I told Him no.  Me!  I said no to the King of the World!  I didn’t want to do it.  I didn’t want people to know who I’d been and what I’d done.

God has seen our unloveliness - the deep brokenness and rebellion in our hearts - and instead of withdrawing, He pursues us to the very end.  - Matt Chandler -  Postcard available at https://www.zazzle.com/our_unloveliness_postcard-239551337646667759  #postcard #MattChandler #brokenness #unloveliness #rebellion #Jesus #Christ #withdrawing

Photo Credit: Pinterest

But, if God has ever convicted you to do something, you know He won’t let you go until you obey (remember Jonah?!).  I kept telling Him no, and He kept pursuing me and encouraging me.

Earlier this year, a friend encouraged me to find out how other Christians were blogging.  So, I started looking around and found several blog posts by Ann Voscamp.  One series of posts in particular was very inspiring, so I prayed and journaled about what I was reading; I wrote my thoughts, my fears, and my prayers.

When you get tired of it all, God’s there

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Finally, God showed me that people have to see who I was so they can know who God is.  This is why He gave me this life – my story.  And this is what He intends for me to do – write it for you so you’ll know that God loves you.  So, I’ll put aside my fear and obey.  If you’ll keep reading, I’ll keep writing.

John 15:16-17 God chose you to write a letter to the world. That letter is love.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Has God ever convicted you of something, and you said no?  What did God want you to do?  How did He pursue you?  Did you finally obey?

A Simple Southern Childhood

My parents told me that one of the first places they took me as an infant was church.  We went to the church my mom had attended her whole life.  It is within walking distance of the house where I grew up and where my parents still live.

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My parents’ house in Lilesville

Most of the people who attended church there were related to me in some way.  Even those that weren’t blood-related were close family friends.  My mom’s mom, my mom’s brothers and sisters, and all her nieces and nephews went there as well.

Sunday lunches were either at church or at my grandmother’s house with my aunts, uncles, and cousins.  You should have seen all that food!  If it was summer, much of it was fresh from the garden my grandma had at her house.  (We were eating clean before clean eating was a food trend.  “Farm to table” was our way of life).

That garden was big – about one-third of an acre at its largest – and I worked in it every summer I can remember well into my 20s.  Even after I got married and moved too far away to work it, there was a garden.  Two summers ago was the first summer in all my years that there wasn’t a garden.  The space is covered over in grass now, and frankly, it still looks weird.  But, my grandmother, who will be 90 in a few days, said she believed it was time to be done.

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Butter beans (first picture) and corn (this picture) grown in the garden my sister and I planted at her house several years ago.  We never got much food, but it was kinda fun to have our own garden, and we actually missed all the time spent in the garden when we were girls.  I think it made us feel a little closer to our mom and our grandmother to have our own garden.

Why am I telling you this?  I want you to know me.  I want you to get a feel for who I am and where I “came from,” so to speak.  You’ve got to know my life to see God in it.

So, this was my childhood.  My parents raised my younger sister and me in the house where they still live.  We went to church.  We worked in the garden.  We played with our cousins.  We went to school.  It was a simple life.  My parents loved us.  They supported us.  They taught us right from wrong.  They took us to church when we were young and expected us to continue to go when we were older.

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Photo Credit Pinterest

In my world, most everyone was like me: grew up in the same place where their parents had grown up, lived with extended family nearby, went to church… just simple, Southern lives.  I saw other stuff on TV and in movies, but most of the people I was exposed to in the first 18 years of my life were more similar to me than different.  And this was my happy little bubble for quite some time.

What was your childhood like?  Did you live in the same place for most of your childhood like I did or did you move around?  Did you live near close family?  Did you grow up in church?  Please share, if you like.

June Cleaver? Who me?

 

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Leave it to Beaver
Beaver Cleaver and his mom, June (photo credit: Pinterest)

I am not June Cleaver.  I’m just not.  My mom was pretty darn close, so before I became a mom, I assumed I would be great at it, too.  I was wrong!  I’m not June Cleaver nor Carolyn Murdock (my mom).  I’m just Heather Hooks; that’s all I can be.

I have a relationship with Jesus.  I am a wife and a work-from-home mom of two children.  I am a daughter, a sister, and an aunt.  I have only ever lived in North Carolina.  I am a teacher and a photographer.  I discovered, once I had kids, that I was a selfish control-freak with a short fuse on a bad temper that my children see far too often.

At our house, dirty dishes sometimes stay in the sink overnight and bathrooms aren’t cleaned as often as they should be.  The floors usually need to be vacuumed or swept, and I am pretty sure I have become nose-blind to the trash can in the kitchen.

I am learning to be a wife who respects her husband.  This hasn’t always been the case in my marriage.  Learning to trust God and accept His sovereignty over my life has shown me pieces of my own self that could be more God-centered: my marriage, my parenting, my relationships with others, how I spend my free time…

God hasn’t always been the focus of my life though. I was raised in a Christian home and was saved when I was 12 years old, but when I got older, I chose to turn my back and walk away from God and do my own thing for a while.

How’d that work for me, you ask?  You’ll have to keep reading to find out ;-)…that’s what this blog is all about.

This blog will be an honest and open look at my life and my faith journey.  I will be as transparent as possible.  You’ll read my testimony, how God has worked in my life, my struggles and triumphs, what I am learning about marriage and parenting…who knows what else…maybe even a recipe or cleaning tip here and there.  I am letting God take the lead and direct me on this; I’ll just do the typing.

The main goal here is to write to you so you’ll know who God is based on what He has done in my life.  These aren’t just my stories.  These are God’s stories, and I write to share them with you.

 

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

Feel free to introduce yourself.  I’d love to know who is here with me.