I wasn't always a Christian- or rather, I wasn't always aware that God has claimed me for His own. From my very early childhood, my life has been a battle between the scars of what has been done to me versus God's claim that I am His. God has allowed me to struggle, to fail, to claw out of the dark places and into His light. He allowed these struggles, pain, and darkness because He knew that my life, the good and the bad, would serve His purpose.

I believe that God is a forgiving and loving God. He created the world (" all things visible and invisible"), and loves His Creation, and therefore, us- His people. He is all-knowing and all-powerful: God knew me in my mother's womb. Because of this, I know that my life is sustained and guided by His hand. These gifts of faith, guidance, and love were not always obviously visible to me, but God has always had my salvation and my true life in heaven in mind. Just as Israel has cried out to God for thousands of years, claiming that God has abandoned them, I have claimed the same.

In my early childhood and in my teenage years, I experienced some horrific things- I pray fervently that my children will never endure those experiences. These experiences pulled my eyes away from the good that God places in this world and "taught" me that I was alone, isolated, and unworthy. Throughout those moments where I felt so abandoned and betrayed, God has always worked all things for his good ("I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33). Though there are experiences and aspects of myself that have permanently changed from these snapshots in time, I find myself thanking God for these life-altering and harrowing times. I have been abundantly blessed and showered in the love of Christ. In receiving His grace, God has allowed me the ability to rest in His peace while knowing that my Creator knows my every moment and has divined it for His purpose. The challenges that I have faced in my life have served a purpose- every horrific moment or glorious day has served its purpose in bringing me closer to God.

I fully believe that God uses His people to reach out to others through their own schema. God calls us to "comfort ye my people" and to reach out to the world in His name. God has blessed us abundantly with the forgiveness of our sins, which is our absolute, unbreakable, and undeserved salvation. Through the sacrifice of His Son, who came to earth and died on the cross to absolve our sins, who was fully God and fully man, who was resurrected and sits at the right hand of the Father, the price of our redemption has been paid. Through the human experience of Jesus, I know that my God is Emmanuel ("God with us"). He lived a perfect life and suffered the cross for the forgiveness of my sins and to show me, permanently and forever, that God loves His people without a shadow of a doubt.

God now calls us to go forth and show the love and forgiveness that was so graciously shown to us. The love that we are called to give is illustrated most powerfully to me in 1 Corinthians 13. Though it is a much beloved and much studied passage, I am struck every time I read it. God places love in such a place of importance that even prophecy, miracles, and unbelievable knowledge pale in comparison. Our simple capability to love is the root of all that God asks of us. More remarkably, just as our faith in God is a gift from God himself, the reason that we are capable of this inordinately incredible gift is because we have first received the most perfect love from God. God calls us to go forth and love- that is our mission and our purpose. Love even though you've been hurt, love though you don't know if you can, love though they haven't "earned" it, love even if they aren't " Christian" enough, love even the least of these- love because you were first loved. In my opinion, the Bible speaks so simply, powerfully, and beautifully in stating, "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."