I was first baptized with water on my forehead when I was six years old, and I attended a Catholic school from 1st through 12th grade. But after high school, I lost my faith in God. I always said I believed in God, but my life certainly did not reflect Jesus. I lived for myself, and "Heathen" might as well have been my middle name. I did whatever I wanted to, no matter the cost. I gave into almost all the fleshly desires the devil flashed before me. I immersed myself into a party lifestyle with a "you only live once" attitude. I was manipulative towards others and had a complete disregard for anyone's feelings, including those that considered me to be a friend.
The devil had a tight grip on my soul. I let God sit on the back burner in my life for a decade. And the thing I did not realize until I found Him again was that I never was on His back burner.
Looking back now I see a multitude of times where He was trying to shepherd me back to Him, but I was so blinded by Satan that I could not see it at the time. Miraculous events unfolded before my eyes, including reports from astounded doctors, and I still refused to see Him or His miracles. He was always knocking, but I could not hear it.
Then, through a series of orchestrated events, I finally woke up from Satan's deep slumber. First, God placed me in an environment with godly people. I was living in a foreign country and not many people spoke English. Due to the language barrier, the options for friends were limited. There were a few Americans that crossed my path, and they were Christians so I pretended to be Christian. After all, I did "believe" in God. They invited me to do a Bible Study with them and I agreed. I had twelve years of Catholic knowledge and could certainly provide input into their godly conversations, or so I thought. I met with them weekly and made sure to do my "homework." Seeds were being planted, but I did not know it yet. I was learning new things about God and His character that I had never learned or absorbed during my twelve years of schooling.
Although I was starting to become more intrigued by God, I was not quite ready to fully jump back in with Him. And then IT happened - the event that would veer my life onto a new course.
A group of friends (two from Bible study and three others) invited me to Nice, France. We arrived in the late afternoon on July 14, 2016 and I could not wait to spend a weekend at the beach! We had dinner and then we started heading toward the beach. We saw posters around the town, but they were in French and we did not bother to translate them. Then, lots of little "nuisances" started to happen, like one friend hurting her foot. We decided it would be better to just head back to the hotel for the night. We were all tired, and the beach is better to see during the day, right? We settle in at the hotel and then we find out there had been a terrorist attack. A man had driven a van through a crowd awaiting the fireworks show on the beach.
It took my mind a while to process the fact that God literally saved us, saved me, from a terrorist attack. He saved me from a horrifying experience, and even possibly death. Eighty-six people lost their lives that night, and I could have been one of them as we were headed to that very spot.
Suddenly, everything started to click. We had done research about Nice before we went and none of us had seen anything about the Bastille Day Fireworks Show. Then we found out that the posters we did not bother to translate were advertisements for the fireworks show - something we certainly would have attended had we known about it. All the tiny nuisances that kept us from going to the beach were suddenly no longer nuisances. They were absolute blessings - life saving blessings.
After I was able to mentally wrap my mind around these events, those seeds from Bible study sprouted. They did not sprout quickly, but they were indeed sprouting. I began to crave God. I moved back to the USA and started attending church again. I got baptized (again) in 2018, but for real this time. I fully emerged myself in Christ. I left all my sins and my shame in the baptismal water and came out in His image.
He is my Savior in every way. In every cross in my life, He has been there. He fought for me when I was not fighting for myself, let alone for Him. He graciously kept pursuing me even though I never asked Him to, and at my absolute lowest point, He saved me.
Now I live for Him...
I do not even recognize the girl that I was over a decade ago. And even though I am not proud of the girl that I was, I still embrace her because she is the one that Jesus reached into the depths to save. I know I will never be perfect, and I will continue to fall daily, but I also know He will never leave me. He will always be there healing, transforming, mending and restoring me. He will always pull me from the deepest waters because He intensely and immensely loves me.
And now I intensely and immensely love Him too. I used to live for me; now I live for Him. He is, and always has been, enough.
Jenna and her husband reside in Michigan where they are raising their children. She is a lover of the simple things in life, like the fragrances of baked breads and laundry detergent down the aisles of the grocery store. A brightly colored bloom poking through a crack of a sidewalk will stop her in her tracks every time, and nothing brings more happiness or peace than raindrops on the window at night.
Photos by Cate Autumn Photography
Headshot provided by Jenna Riggs