This post was written by Jenn Landrein and originally posted to her Facebook page. We're reposting with her permission.
Today was a beautiful day. I started my morning with a wonderful worship at RISE and then drove up to Skyline with my family. Hiking has always been an escape for me; a way to clear my head, refresh myself and spend a few hours in a postcard-esque environment. If I'm ever feeling lost or down, nature is my escape and exercise my release. Today, surrounded by fresh air and changing leaves, my mind was open and my thoughts flowing with the topic and word of the day, courtesy of morning worhship, love.
Love. Simple right? The Beatles tell me it's all I need and that money can't buy it. So, what is it, how do I feel it, how do I share it?
We all "love" things, people, places, feelings. Personally, I love a lot of things: pretzels, 80's music, books, crewneck sweatshirts, football. I love my family, I love my friends, I love senior citizens, I love volunteering, I love to be good and to do good. However, I don't know love - at least not how others know it. I'm 23 years old and I have never had a boyfriend. There's been no magical first kiss, heck, there's never even been a first date. Butterflies? Fireworks? Someone waiting for me at the top of the Empire State Building? Nothing. No, I've never been in love romantically but is that what it means to know love? You're probably wondering, now that I've confessed to having no love life to speak of, why I titled this post "My Love Story." Here's the deal, this is a love story. No, I don't run off with Prince Charming. No, it doesn't end with someone chasing after me an airport ready to confess their true feelings. No, no one is outside my window holding a radio above there head and, no, no one wrote me a love letter everyday for a year. My love story is a story of my love for God and his love for me. So, here it goes...
Part I. My love story begins with a blind date of sorts (cliche, right?). So, less than a year ago I was invited and encouraged by a friend to go to church with him. Now, I hadn't been to church in a long time, except for those select days of the year on Christmas and Easter when I would go to punch my "Catholic card." I was, by no means, an atheist at any point in my life but I was, by no means, a believer either. For 23 years I was raised Catholic but for 23 years I had no relationship with God. When the opportunity to go church came about I was hesitant. Part of the reason for that was because I had a routine of spending my Sunday mornings at Barnes & Noble reading and getting lost in literature. To me, that was my place of worship, my sanctuary. Instead of one God, I had many authors. Instead of one Book, I had millions. However, one day in February I decided to take my friend up on his offer. I went in blind to a service at RISE, sat down for my first date with God, and my life was changed. As I listened to Amanda, the pastor, preach that day, it was as if I was the only person in that theatre and that she was talking only to me. Seriously, at one point I had to turn around and make sure there were other people in the theatre. The message was perfect and it hit me hard. So, many of your first dates might have left you with flowers, dinner, a movie, a hug, a kiss goodnight, but I left that theatre alive and ready to begin my journey with God. For weeks I continued to go to RISE every Sunday. Every Sunday I listened as Amanda told us that we were loved and a gift and everytime my heart banged inside of my chest. Trust me, friends, they are great words to hear, especially when you don't hear them often enough. Somehow, those words have significantly more weight when they're not coming from your parents, a family member or a friend. When a stranger tells you that you are loved it fills you up. I also found myself embraced by some amazing individuals who surrounded me with love and faith. Thank you to those individuals, you may never know how much you have changed my life and how much you have been a part of my journey. My love story truly includes all of you.
Part II. By the power and grace of God I found myself in the beautiful country of Haiti on a mission trip for 8 days. Still in the early stages of my faith I was nervous about going. I still had very little experience with God, I knew more lines out of a Harry Potter book than the Bible and I was intimidated. How could I possibly be the right person to be going to spread His word? How was I the right person to bring faith to these people when I wasn't confident in my own? The only thing I was sure of was that I wanted to help and I wanted to serve. That trip changed my life (cliche again, sorry). On my second day in Haiti, I was helping out at the New Covenant School of Saint Louis du Nord, doing construction on some of the classrooms. Taking a break from work, I found myself talking with some of the "street" kids when one of the younger boys asked me "Do you know Jesus Christ?" Yes, I said, I do know Jesus. Not prepared for what came next, he looked at me and said "Jesus loves me and Jesus loves you too." World rocked. Mind blown. Jesus loves me? Three powerful words that can only be described as the best punch to the gut I've ever received. Now, when I say punch to the gut I mean that I got the wind knocked out of me when that boy told me that Jesus loved me. But, the amazing thing is in a moment when I felt like I couldn't breathe, God somehow breathed new life into me in that moment. Through that young boy, God spoke to me. Every love story has it's climax, it's breathtaking moment, that moment when everything that's meant to be comes to be; well, in my love story that's my moment. In that moment I decided to give my life over to Him and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. That following Sunday I was officially baptized in the waters between Tortuga and Haiti.
Part III. So, there you have it, my very own love story. Twenty-three years into my life and my first relationship is with God. As I've changed this past year so has my perception of love. Do we need love? Yes, I truly believe we all do. Receive love, give love, repeat. What if, though, we not only gave and received. What if we were love? What if love wasn't a merely a feeling or an emotion. What if it was a state of being and action? I will wait patiently for God's plan to unfold and I will wait for love but in the meantime I hope to be love.
So, I guess the Beatles were right. All I do need is love. God's love. And here's the amazing part, I have it and always will.