The story is broken into Adam's story, my story, and our story. Our story is written by Adam with my commentary on the side so it of course has his humor tied in. Feel free to ask any questions if you want to hear any part of our side through my eyes.
Adam’s Side of the Story
I wasn’t born into a Christian family or raised Christian until it was the summer between fourth and fifth grade. My parents had gone on a marriage encounter and the Lord spoke to both of them at separate times, when they came back we didn’t have a choice it was “You are going to church.” Surprisingly I was ok with this. I attended Sunday School, went to service weekly and slowly, surely I started to let Jesus into my life. I was baptized by my own choice, and confirmed through the church. In high school I was active in the youth group went on the trips, the lock-ins, even met my two best friends in youth group.
One of the most moving things that I got to experience was a youth gathering in Orlando, FL. It was something about 35,000+ Christian high schoolers all worshiping, learning and growing that made things just really click. Unfortunately I also think this is where the start of my falling away happened. It was not the gathering that did it, it was the church. The group of chaperones asked to go on the trip to Orlando with us was not the best combination. Of the chaperones there was a Mom and one of her older daughters, and a pastor to be (we’ll talk more about him later.) Also in the youth were the mom’s two youngest daughters, and one of their boyfriend’s. Needless to say I watched the two daughters practically get away with everything while the rest of us were held to strict standards and often scolded for being typical high schoolers. After we got back from the trip four of us on the trip had a meeting with the pastor about how we were wrong, unruly, impolite, and disrespectful without being able to share our side of the story. After this it seemed as if going to church was a struggle and a fight of will, as if I was judged and already sentenced to my fate.
Once I left for the Navy my downhill battle began to pick up speed. It was hard to practice a religion when in the middle of the ocean there wasn’t a service, a chaplain, or much time for yourself. The little free time that was offered was spent on sleeping for a few hours before the next day started. It was also hard being stationed in a country where Christianity is almost unheard of. I would say that after about a year in Japan I hadn’t stopped believing in Jesus, but was not a practicing Christian. Alcohol and cigarettes crept in and made itself almost a way of life for me. I was spending over $700 a pay check on alcohol and cigarettes, and the only time I would be sober on the weekend was Sunday, and it wasn’t to go to church, it was so I could be sober to call my Parents after they came home from church. As soon as the phone was hung up it was back to the alcohol.
I finally started to come back to God prior to me going to Iraq. The same pastor to be helped me through this struggle. Ryan is his name and he is only about 6 years older than me so it was easy to relate to him. Ryan basically answered numerous amounts of questions and battles that I had. The hardest was how can I fight a war and be asked to kill someone that is fighting a war for his God. Ryan was able to explain that war is not always right, but God commands us to follow your government’s rules and law, and if war is needed then war it is. A tough pill to swallow but off I went. While my bible went with me, it maybe only got opened twice while I was in Iraq. Once when I first got there, and second when I dropped it and it opened accidently.
Soon after my return Aubrey and I got married, and I’ll allow Aubrey to share her story up until our marriage.
Aubrey’s Side of the Story
I went to church when I was little and I even went to a Christian preschool. Shortly after second grade we just stopped going to church. As I got older I always felt like something was missing and I couldn’t really explain what was missing. After Adam and I started dating I would go to his church every now and then. It was then that I came to realize that what was missing in my life was a relationship with God. I had no idea how to go about starting this relationship and it was just something that fell at the way side.
Adam and I had discussed more and more how we wanted something more for us and how we knew that a vital part was missing. We came up with excuses and kept on the paths we were going.
In January 2010 Adam and I were married. Our first year of marriage was difficult beyond belief! Our relationship had always been not a normal relationship. I married into the Navy, I knew what that meant; long hours, weird schedules, ups and downs of possible moves among other things. I was not only married to Adam, I was married to the Navy. Now add on top of that I was a full-time college student living down in Macomb, Illinois 4 hours away from here Monday through Thursday driving home Thursday evenings and spending the weekend to get some time in with my husband. I basically lived on the road and looking back at my college journey there is no way that I could have made it through all of the struggles without God looking out for me, I just had to realize he was there the whole time. Adam and I moved from our apartment into our current home in Zion and knew that once we were settled we were going to fill that gap in our lives that had been missing the whole time.
Prior to our arrival at CCC there were some struggles and mountains we had to overcome. I was keeping a rather large and quite harmful secret from Aubrey. Was I cheating, was I racking up debt, or was I being abusive? I wasn’t being any of those. I was going through a huge battle inside my head with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. What I wasn’t telling Aubrey is that I was battling the war still in my brain. This had been going on shortly after we got married and only progressively got worse. The first time I had an issue was in the winter of 2010. There was an earthquake in the early morning hours, well in the midst of sleep I was getting bombed and ambushed. Not even thinking I dropped to the floor starting looking for my rifle, which wasn’t next to my bed like it had been for the past 9 months, and ran outside, in the snow, in my pajamas. After calming down and calling Aubrey who was at school, we agreed I needed help. After going to few counseling sessions it was agreed to keep pepper spray by the bed as my security blanket. All was well for the next year. Still no church, but we were well. Then on weekend in the spring of 2011 I went to visit Aubrey at school for a charity bar crawl. Leave it up to college students to figure out how to drink alcohol and raise money at the same time. The bar crawl started out great until we went from a sports bar to night club. At the night club Aubrey left to go to the bathroom, leaving me alone. Normally any guy would be ok with this, but given the low lighting, loud music, and over crowdedness. Aubrey came out of the bathroom to see me in a Hulk like rage about to beat some punk kid for bumping in to me. It was soon after I started going to counseling again, this time with medicine involved. It wasn’t until I was going to counseling once a week for an hour, and some serious doses of medicine did I realize it was our marriage that was affecting my PTSD. Now it wasn’t Aubrey dressing up like a terrorist and running around the house, it was that I couldn’t be perfectly honest with her. Aubrey had little or no gray area when it came to us. It was either perfectly happy or crazy mad, upset, or violent. It’s hard to be happy internally if you can’t tell your spouse that their hair doesn’t look good.
Finally after going to counseling for about 6 weeks, and not telling Aubrey what was going on so I could heal, I broke the news to her one Thursday night after she came home from school. After spending nearly 6 hours, talking, yelling, crying, laughing, screaming, and a little bit of silent treatment, our marriage was about to be over. From almost every angle we looked at it there was no way we could resolve the issues. Aubrey felt bad for making me have PTSD, I felt bad for hiding it from her. Well we did one thing right that weekend. We agreed to go church on Sunday.
So now it’s Mother’s Day 2011, and our marriage is about to be over, and we walk into CCC. Not even having found our seats we are greeted by an overjoyed woman full of smiles and Christ, with a baby on her hip. Heather introduced herself asked us how long we’ve been coming to CCC and informed us about what was to become Elevate. Not so sure how to handle this meeting, we sat quietly and marinated about it at church. While I can’t tell you what Pastor Ken preached about that day, I can tell you he reached deep into our hearts, with the power of the Spirit, and brought us both to Christ that day. The next day Aubrey and I were talking and I discovered that she did not own a Bible. No sooner did we discover this we were in the car going to Vernon Hills Barnes and Noble to get a Bible. After about an hour of pulling every make, model, translation, and style I bought Aubrey her first bible. Now buying a book is one thing, but seeing the new life in Aubrey and I was well worth the price. From there on we kept coming to CCC, Aubrey got baptized, or as I call it controlled drowning at Lake Michigan, and we joined CCC.
Ever since that Mother’s day at CCC to now, our marriage has grown stronger, tighter, and better than we could ever imagine. Christ has always been there for us, we just never realized that he was, and boy are we glad he sent Pastor Ken, Heather and John, and Mike and Beth, and now Elevate into our lives to help us with this journey.