watching, reading, and writing stories

A Few Short Stories about Faith

Woman, Praying, Illustration, Shadow, Silhouette

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I know I’ve posted on this blog about many Christian topics in the past. But there is something else I would like to share that is a bit more personal. It’s my story of how God saved me. Often called a Testimony, I’ve written it in the form of three short stories. Perhaps it can be encouraging to someone out there. I do want to mention, before you read this, that all of the details in these stories might not be correct. They happened so long ago, I had to improvise on what was actually said and I could be remembering things incorrectly. But the essence of the story is true, and it is my own.

I grew up in a Christian home and from a young age I was introduced to Jesus and chose to believe in Him. As any person can attest, following Jesus is a lifelong journey; starting with life on this planet and then continuing into eternity. So although I chose to follow God at a young age, there were definitely times that I had to grow. My understanding of grace especially took a long time to develop. But God has had a hold on my heart from the beginning.

I remember once when I was very young closing my eyes as tight as I could till I thought I could see stars and thinking what if this was all fake… what if I wasn’t real? What if God didn’t exist? It scared me so bad that I opened my eyes and mentally stepped away from that void. It couldn’t be true. How dark and scary the world would be without a God.

These stories I’d like to share, come from three critical points in my childhood, the first was when I discovered the truth of God’s gospel, and the second was realizing the freedom that God’s grace gave me. And the last one was realizing what my faith was based on. I hope you enjoy.

The Simple Prayer

The old blue minivan with the wood-paneled sides was purring in the driveway. I sat in my booster seat staring out at the front windshield. Mom had run inside to grab her purse and a few other items, now that she had the kids settled in the car. But she had made sure to leave the air conditioning on for us. Even in springtime the heat in Texas could creep up, especially inside a darkly painted car.

Brian was sitting next to me, calmly sitting in the chair, without a booster seat. He turned to me, his eyes full of concern. “Lydia?”

I focused on his face, “Yeah?”

“Do you want to go to Heaven?”

“What’s that?” I tilted my head to the side.

“It’s the place people go when they die, but if you’re bad, you go to Hell instead.”

I thought a moment. “Where are Mommy and Daddy going? I want to go with them.”

“They’re going to Heaven, and so am I.”

“I want to go!” Being separated from my family was the scariest thing imaginable to me; I knew I wanted to be wherever they were.”

“Alright, but the only way to go to Heaven is to believe in Jesus.”

“Okay. How do I do that?”

“Just repeat after me.” Brian closed his eyes and clasped his hands together. “Dear Jesus….” Brain paused and peeked at me, waiting for me to repeat what he was saying.

I tried to mimic his hands then said, “Dear Jesus.”

“I believe in you and what you did for me.”

“I believe in you… and….”

“What you did for me,” Brian whispered.

“Thanks,” I said then closed my eyes again. “And what you did for me.”

“Please come into my heart.”

“Please come into my heart.”

“Amen,” Brian said with a sigh then opened his eyes.

“So I’m going to Heaven now?” I asked.

“Yep,” Brain confirmed.

Just then Mom came back to the car, purse in hand. She pulled the door shut and settled into the seat.

“Guess what Mommy!” I said excitedly.

“What is it sweetie?” Mom asked as she turned back to look at me.

“I’m going to Heaven now! Brian told me how.”

Mom smiled, “Oh that’s great news!”

The Meaning of Grace

Several years had passed and I had gone through the stage that many young converts experience of being unsure of the sincerity of the first prayer. I had often repeated the prayer to God that He would forgive me, and reassuring Him, or really myself, that I truly believed in Him and wanted to go to Heaven. Unfortunately, these prayers were not solving my problem. I was stuck because I couldn’t comprehend God’s love and my mistakes. I knew that if I prayed, God would forgive me and save me. But I wasn’t sure how sincere I had to be, or if I had to pray again if I messed up and sinned. This led to me being very aware of all that I did, or could do wrong. I developed the annoying habit of asking Mom about every possible action I could take and if it was right or wrong. It got so bad, that I was worrying myself into a wreck. Especially on a vacation we took to visit some friends in Colorado.

I bounded down the stairs into the dimly lit basement. The rooms looked cozy with carpeted stairs and floors, and rows of bunk beds lined against the wall. Part of me wanted to explore, but the other part of me was scared to touch anything… what if it was wrong? It was much easier at home. I knew what Mom wanted for us there, I could obey my parents for the most part and ask God for forgiveness if I messed up. But here, the rules were unclear. Were we allowed to jump on the beds? Were we allowed to even run down the stairs? I didn’t want to get in trouble. For some reason the idea of sinning as little as possible seemed like the best goal in life and I was always striving towards that. I waited as the rest of the family came down the staircase.

The kids were soon all downstairs, but Mom and Dad were not too far behind.

“Hey Mom, look!” I said as I jumped onto one of the bunk beds.

“Uh huh,” Mom said.

She hadn’t told me to get off, or to stop, so I judged this action as appropriate. Then I pulled myself up so that I was standing on the lower bunk but holding onto the top bunk, I began bouncing up and down, like I was on the trampoline back home. “Look Mom, look!”

Mom nodded, and then walked past me towards another bigger bed in the corner, it was a full sized bed and would serve as Mom and Dad’s sleeping area.

I thought of one more thing to test with the beds. I jumped to the floor and scurried to the side of the bed, where a ladder led to the top bunk. I climbed up and sat at the top. “Mom! Mom! Mommy!” I called.

Mom was busy unpacking her suitcase, and was ignoring my calls.

“Would you cut it out?” Brian said annoyed. “You don’t need to show Mom everything you’re doing. It’s so annoying.”

I stopped. Was I being annoying? Was I doing something wrong? “I just want to make sure I don’t sin…” I said with a whimper.

“Well that’s not the point,” Brian said. “Jesus died on the cross to forgive us from all of our sins. We don’t have to worry anymore, He took care of it.”

I sat back on the little bunk bed trying to process what my brother had just told me. I didn’t have to follow all the rules? God forgave me even if I forgot to ask Him to? He loved me even if I did something wrong. I was coming face to face with the grace of God and it was beautiful. I didn’t have to earn God’s favor, or keep track of hundreds of rules so I wouldn’t get in trouble. Jesus had forgiven me completely for all I had done and all I would do. I was overwhelmed. I was free.

It took some getting used to, to not stress about all of the rules, but that conversation with my brother began to open my eyes to the beauty of God’s grace. I began to understand that I couldn’t please God with my good works but I didn’t have to, God loved me even when I messed up.

Is My Faith Real?

Alright, one last story about my growing relationship with God. When I was in middle school, I was in a Bible study with several other girls, and I finally made a confession one night at our group.

“My fear is that I don’t believe in Jesus. I’m afraid that it’s not real. How do I know if I really believe?” Tears began streaking down my face as I got the last words out. This had bothered me for months. I wanted to know that I was saved, and I didn’t know how I could be sure.

My youth leader looked at me compassionately and offered me a hug, “Aww Lydia, it’s alright.” She held me for a minute. “You know I asked myself the same thing when I was younger, and the very question itself shows that you are genuine about your faith.”

I nodded.

“One thing that helped me was a verse in Matthew. It said that God’s followers will be known by their fruit. If you can see the fruit of following God in your life, then you know you really believe it and it’s real. And Lydia, I can see the fruit in your life.”

I wiped the tears out of my eyes, “Thanks Stevi. I guess sometimes I just doubt.”

“And that’s normal,” Stevie continued. “We all have doubts sometimes, but we keep coming back to what we know is true.”

That conversation really helped to solidify my faith, I knew it was more than an imaginary belief, but that it was real to me, affected my life, and produced fruit. As I continued to grow, I realized how much faith is really dependent on God and not on me. He is the one who helps me believe, and it is He who I’m believing in. It is not my belief, some kind of feeling of trust that I can muster and strengthen, it’s a willingness to let go and say God I can’t do it, I can’t even believe hard enough. I’m just coming to you to save me. It’s nothing that I do, it’s all You.

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What I’m Thankful For #2

Gourds, Fall, Autumn, Orange, Decoration, Halloween

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As you might have seen in a previous post, I am trying to remind myself to be thankful this month. It probably helps that in church yesterday we talked about being grateful and how important it is.

So today I am grateful for my family and friends. I don’t want to sound corny when I say this, I think most people are thankful for the close relationships they enjoy with other people, it’s part of being human. But I really am grateful for the people I’ve gotten to know.

You see, I’ve grown up in the same city, and the only times I moved was when I was 2 years old, and briefly for college. But I came home to visit so often, it was like I never left. So I really feel a deep connection for the people around me because a lot of them I really have known for over a decade.

These lasting relationships are a real blessing to me, it reminds me that just because some people move on, and our friendship only lasts for a couple of months or years, there will always be people that don’t move away, and even the people that do leave can be visited and reconnected with.

I guess the whole reason I’m thinking of this is because my brother just had a couples shower for his wedding in December and seeing all the old and new family friends at the shower brought on a wave of gratitude. There are so many people that love me and my family, and it encourages me to know they’ll be there for us in the happy moments of life, and the hard ones.

And I’m thankful for my family, because man we’ve been through a lot together and we’re still close. We can even fit 11 people in one house (8 of which are sharing 1 bathroom) and we still love each other. That’s a blessing and I’m thankful for it.

So in honor of my family and friends, I will share a short story I wrote about my childhood. Some of the details may be fabricated, but in essence the story is true.


Barton Creek

“Are y’all ready to go?” Dad called from the front door.

“I’m ready!” I said happily. I had just changed into blue jeans, a red t-shirt with the logo of some obscure camp stitched across it.

Dad looked back into the house, not seeing anyone else yet.

“I think Mom’s in the bathroom.”

Dad nodded and headed inside to see if he could help make the preparation process go faster for anyone.

I sat on the front porch step and watched bees buzzing around our rosebush. It was an early summer afternoon, with large cumulus clouds spread across the vast Texas sky. A blue jay hopped from one branch on our massive ash tree to the next.

My Dad never liked the ash trees in our front yard. He said the neighborhood only planted them so there would be big nice looking trees in a short amount of time, but they didn’t live long, and their roots grew close to the surface, so unless you had covered them while they were young, it looked like an anaconda was living in your lawn.

I stared up at the tree, it might not be the best kind of tree, but I loved the shade it gave in the summertime, its branches spread perfectly, drooping slightly to bring the maximum amount of sun blockage. The only downside in my opinion was the fall, when thousands of pointy seeds fell from its branches along with the leaves. Those pokey seeds got stuck on everything and occasionally would break the skin, if you stepped on them barefoot.

The door opened behind me and I turned to see the rest of the family ready for our outing. Everyone had tennis shoes and long pants for the journey into the woods.

“Alright, let’s go!” Dad said enthusiastically. He had this tendency to get extremely enthusiastic about something in a funny way, like he was trying to entertain us with his zeal.

We all started marching down the sidewalk, till we reached the small street. We turned left and headed towards the dead end, with large reflective signs that stated “Private Property,” and “No Admittance,” and other such statements of discouragement. We ignored the signs as always, I think they had been left up from a time when the land actually belonged to someone. Now it was like a private trail for our neighborhood’s residents.

“Remember when we filmed Fat Man here?” Jonny said excitedly. He was referring to a home movie we had made parodying Batman. Instead we had made the hero Fat Man and had stuffed pillows into our neighbor’s shirt to make him chubbier. One of the scenes in the movie had Fat Man battling a ‘robot’ played by another neighbor, in the woods.

I laughed, “Oh yeah, I remember that. Remember that Drew wasn’t wearing his shoes.”

“Yeah, that was funny,” Jonny said.

We continued on, passing fields of cactus and tall amber grasses. A few yellow flowers poked out of the undergrowth. Then we ventured into shaded areas where the cedar trees grew close together and formed a canopy over the trail. A few side trails appeared, but we continued down the main one headed for the creek, as we had so many times before.

Jonny came across a large stick a few feet off the trail and decided right away that he needed a walking stick. He marched along for several minutes like a he was Louis or Clark on a grand expedition, but he soon got bored with the stick and decided he’d much rather have the use of his hands for climbing. He left it on the side of the trail, for yet another adventurer to find and use.

We stopped for a couple of minutes at a short tree that was perfect for climbing. The two boys scurried up into the branches and Mom took pictures. I picked a few yellow flowers instead and put them in my hair.

“Y’all ready to keep going?” Dad asked a little impatiently. He was ready to see the river, and maybe stick his feet in the cool water.

The boys leapt out of the branches, landing with a thud into the soft earth.

We turned and continued deeper into the woods, finally after several minutes we came to a stop at a crossroads. One trail wove down a gentler slope to the creek bed, the other rose to the crest of a hill and gave a nice view of the sloping landscape before plummeting down a steep drop to the bottom. Both ended in the same place, so either could be taken.

“So which trail do we want to take?” Dad asked.

“Mountain Goat Trail!” Jonny and I shouted together.

As you might have guessed, this was the steeper trail. We swerved to the right and walked up an incline to the lookout point at the top of the hill. The tops of cedar trees could be seen in any direction. The rolling slopes of the Hill Country looked like a giant green ocean that had been frozen in time, in the middle of a heavy storm.

After staring out at the countryside, we continued down the steep drop. It wasn’t so much like a cliff, more like a giant staircase with some steep places where you needed to be a little more careful. The trail disappeared as well, the large rocky “steps” were the only way down, and no matter how far to the right or left you went, as long as you went down, you would eventually end up hitting the other trail.

I hopped down the rocks, pretending I was actually a mountain goat. My shoes gripped the rocks easily and I felt like I belonged here.

Jonny and Alicia joined me in jumping around as we headed down the steep trail.

Mom and Dad took things a little slower, making sure not to fall.

As we gathered on the intersecting trail, we stopped to stare down the steep drop. This drop was more like a cliff and ended in a little gully where water from further up the hill would rush down towards the creek. No one would go down there unless they were crazy.

While I stared down at the deep drop, my ears picked up a faint sound. “Shh, listen,” I commanded.

The family stopped talking and we all stood still. Faintly, through the trees, we heard the soft roar of the creek.

I smiled eagerly, “I can hear it!”

Our steps quickened as we neared the bottom of the hillside. It had rained a week before and the water was going to be high. As we neared the end of the trail, the sound grew to a loud swooshing sound.

Finally I caught a glimpse of the water. It looked grey and murky, clothed with a bubbly white shawl. “There it is! There it is!” I said excitedly.

“Whoa it’s huge!” Jonny said.

We all scampered down for a closer look, dodging the wreckage the waters had left in its rush to the creek: branches, leaves, even an old shoe. All of a sudden we were no longer on a soft dirt trail, but on white rocks, rubbed smooth by the water’s touch. We came to a stop at the water’s edge and stood in awe of the powerful rapids before us.

Water careened over the stones, and bubbled as it collided with trapped logs. The roar wasn’t deafening but if forced us to increase the volume of our voice to be heard.

Alicia grabbed my hand and stared amazedly at the mighty river before her.

Brian picked up a small stone and tried skipping it across the water; it bounced once then disappeared into the current.

Jonny took up the game right away, though his rocks didn’t bounce and instead he began to see how big of a splash he could make.

After several minutes, we decided to follow the creek downstream and do some exploring. There was another pathway along the water’s edge, so we got in a single file line and began hiking once more on a worn dirt path. As we journeyed the creek widened and slowed to a gentler pace. The roar of the rapids died down and was replaced by the sounds of calling birds and insects. We passed a rope swing that could be used to jump into the river and an odd tree with a cactus growing on top of its mossy bark.

Twenty minutes passed before we decided to take a break. We’d never hiked this far before and we were all tired. Fifty feet off the trail we found what looked like a natural Bathtub; the creek emptied into a little inlet that was separated from the rest of the water by a few large rocks.

We took off our shoes and got our feet wet, walking from stone to stone and then splashing into the cold clear water.

Mom took out some snacks and drinks for the family. She was always prepared for hungry kids. I guess with having four kids she learned pretty quick that having food on hand was a necessity.

We sat back with our crackers and Capri Suns and talked about our adventure. It wasn’t long before we decided to head home, it had been a long walk, especially for Alicia who wanted to be carried now, and the sun was getting closer to setting. But it had been a good day, and even though I’ve been on many journeys to Barton Creek since then, I’ll still always remember that special day.

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Classics from Childhood

So a lot of people from my generation grew up with the classic Disney movies like Pocahontas and The Lion King. But one movie I also loved growing up is not a Disney movie at all, it’s a Dreamworks movie. I hadn’t realized how much this movie really stuck with me, because until a few days ago, I had never owned it. But through renting it multiple times, I learned its plot line by heart, not to mention several awesome quotes that I still use today.

Here are a few of them:

“Well don’t blame me!”
“I blame you!”

“You’re not a god? You lied to me!”

“Both is good.”

“What trail?”
“The trail we blaze… That trail we blaze!”

“You fight like my sister.”
“Ah, I’ve fought your sister, that is a compliment.”

Can you guess which movie it is?

Well here’s a few pictures to help you out:

miguel the road to el dorado tulio rted

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miguel the road to el dorado el dorado tulio tulio miguel

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cartoon miguel road to el dorado tulio

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If this stirs up some memories for you too, let me know. And maybe if you’re feeling nostalgic go re-watch the movie.

And if you’ve never seen it, it’s called The Road to El Dorado. And it’s one of my favorites. There are unforgettable characters, an awesome storyline, great music from Elton John, and it makes me laugh every time I watch it.

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