Beginnings are important. They lead us to the rest of the story, and they can show the basis of why and how we react to things later in life.
I had the perfect beginning; at least in many people's opinion, including my own. Of course, here again, my understanding of "perfect" was based on what I had experienced and been taught over the years. I was raised in a two parent home on a farm in the middle of no where. No one in my family or extended family had ever gotten a divorce, only one person smoked, and only two ever touched alcohol. There were no vices in our family. There was no fighting or bickering that I had knowledge of; everyone just seemed to get along. We went to church twice every Sunday, and every Wednesday evening, and I learned about God and Jesus, and how I needed a Savior, even though I was a "good little girl" from a very tame family.
In spite of the fact that I have an older brother and sister, I was pretty much to myself. With five years difference between my sister and I, and the fact that I was a total tomboy and she was not, the distance seemed even greater. The eight years between my brother and I could have been decades. He was grown up before I really got to know him well.
I didn't mind being the youngest and spending so much time alone. I believe that even at such a young age I was a thinker...one who questioned and wondered about life; one who found solace in the quietness of nature around me, and in the soft snuggles of the kittens that seemed inevitable every spring out on the farm. I would walk for hours out in open pastureland, and I would talk to God. Everything I learned about God was good. He was kind and benevolent, seeking our best interests, always protecting and providing. Yes, He was capable of being angry and disappointed in us because of our sins, but He was always right there ready to forgive and embrace us once again. I knew God to be loving and kind. I loved God back, and knew He would always be there for me. He was my friend.
I grew up, graduated from high school, and moved on to college. I went to a small Christian college about 300 miles from home. I was ready for some adventure, and to explore this strange new world called Holland, Michigan. With rolling hills and pine trees, and the beaches and sand dunes, I was in a magical new world compared to the miles and miles of flat farmland I had only known prior. Freedom from parental eyes was something new to me as well, and I liked it. But with freedom came temptation, and I fell into it. By my sophmore year, I had developed friendships that led me into drinking. It was not a time I look back on with pride, and if life came with a "do over" button, this would be a time I would use it on. By the start of my senior year, I knew this was not what I wanted in life, and looked for a way out. When all your friends are partyers, it makes it hard to walk away. But God had a plan!
I couple of months into my senior year, I met a man named Rob. From the first moment I saw him I was instantly drawn to him, and for some odd reason didn't want to disappoint him even though we had never formally met. I had heard through the grapevine that he had recently rededicated his life to God, and had given up sowing his "wild oats" only 6 months earlier. I wanted that. I was desperate to get away from my drinking lifestyle and friends, and knew I belonged back in the church following God. This man had done that. But here I was at our first meeting, sitting in a bar with mutual friends, half drunk. I wanted so desperately to not appear to have been drinking, and felt like I was blowing my one chance to have this man ask me out. You cannot fake not being drunk when you are. I was ashamed, and afraid he would never want to be with me. But he still walked me back to my dorm, and asked me on a date. I was thrilled to be going out with him! It also was the last night I drank. We dated for about 2 months before we became engaged, and a little over a year later, were married.
We all have a picture in our mind of what our lives will be like; where we will live, what kind of job we'll have, if we will marry or not, how many kids we're going to have, the cars we'll own, etc. But I doubt that anyone's picture ever comes true the way they thought it would. I had those dreams too, and fully expected it would turn out as I planned, with a few glitches here and there. After all, the world isn't perfect. I was a good Christian girl who didn't do anything wrong. I went to church, studied my Bible, prayed, and lived a good, clean life. I deserved to have a good life, and I knew according to Scripture, that God had a plan for me; a plan to prosper me and not to harm me. God was good and was watching out for me. I had a great beginning.
How little did I realize that my belief in everything about God, His goodness, His love for me, and His perfect plan, was about to be severely tested, and that my faith would take the beating of a lifetime.