After writing about my parents, I began to think of all the people that I had in my childhood who impacted my life and pointed me to Jesus.  I am truly humbled.  My maternal grandmother, Ma-Ma, modeled for me the importance of starting every day with reading the Bible.  (oh and she gets credit for my coffee addiction!)  My older sister, Monta, set for me an example of compassion.  Monta takes the compassion thing a little too far at times though…she used to cry for us when we got in trouble…who does that???  My older Jeremy is the poster boy for not following the crowd.  Jeremy taught me you can indeed be ‘cool’ and live wholeheartedly for Jesus.  My brother was one of the ‘groundbreakers’ when it comes to dressing casual for church (sorry mom I know it drove you crazy but I thought it was AWESOME!).  With his long hair, torn pants, flip flops, and tattoo, Jeremy never fit the mold of a ‘church goer’ yet he has impacted everyone he encounters for the kingdom of Christ.

            There were many influences beyond my family.  I grew up in the same church from the time I was five all the way through high school.  There is not enough space to list all the amazing people in that small town Baptist church that impacted my life and who showered me in prayer.  Every time I walk through the doors of that church, I realize I am privileged to call it my home church because very few churches have as much genuine love for people as the members of that small town church.  In fact when kids from that church graduate and go off to college, they usually have a difficult time finding a church because they realize how unique their hometown church was.

            It is because of who my family and my church had raised me to be, that I was able to spread my wings and fly off to college.  Since I was a little girl, I had always dreamed of playing basketball in college.  Those who lived on the ‘circle’ will attest to the fact that Jeremy and I (and sometimes Monta) would stay up long past dark perfecting our basketball moves on our carport.  One night when I was in middle school, Jeremy kept me outside for well over 3 hours helping me perfect my James Worthy move.   It is that move that helped me to score most of my points in high school!

            After a basketball knee injury in high school, I made the decision to give up basketball and head off to college chasing my other passion….Jesus.  I got an academic scholarship to a small Christian school and through word of mouth the coach heard about me and asked me to try out for the team.  At that point I really had changed directions in my life, and had given up basketball.  So, I agreed that I would walk on to the team, and give it a try before I would agree to accept any scholarship money that would tie me down to playing. 

            After one season I realized that I was supposed to be a part of that team.  They really didn’t need my abilities.  Because of multiply injuries throughout my college basketball career, I really never was able to have the personal success that I wanted to have on the court.  I was also diagnosed with a medical condition during my sophomore year that tremendously impacted my ability to conquer the academic side of college (oh….I must tell you about the one immediate physical miracle I have experienced in my life…it happened in the science lab late one night studying….i’ll save it for later!   It’s amazing)  To maintain the high grades I wanted to keep, I had to spend more time studying and didn’t have extra time to spend in the gym to improve basketball skills.  Honestly, I had come to the point in my life where I realized that basketball truly was just a game (in high school it often was much more than that to me and it could consume my life.)  My sophomore year I began helping lead a Bible study for my teammates each week and it is there that I found my purpose for being a part of that team.  For the next three years, I spent each week helping my teammates learn more about the word of God. 

            As you can imagine, I did not have much free time in college.  The long practices, late nights studying in the science lab, and weekend game road trips did not allow much room for socialization much less dating.  Though I did manage to go on a few dates in college, I was not like many of the girls around me…getting nervous because they might not have an engagement ring by the time they graduated college.  I had never been boy crazy and that did not change when I went off to college.  I had an incredible earthly father and an amazing heavenly Father, so my bar was set pretty high for the man I would give my heart to for the rest of my life.

            But….the summer before my senior year that all began to change.  I was about to enter into one of the most painful seasons of my life.