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Chris and I had just been baptized 4 months prior to last year’s advance. I’m not sure we saw ourselves as “leaders” in our new found faith or new church home. In all honesty, I wasn’t quick to jump at the chance to go to a “religious retreat” and leave our little guy home for a few days. Chris and I also had just found out we were 7 weeks pregnant with our second baby and the thought of traveling that far, in a car with morning sickness sounded absolutely awful. We had also just begun to experience a little bit of a financial burden with Chris taking a new job. All things I took as signs for us to stay home, and think about it next year.

I remember getting a message from Blair asking us if we were going to attend- to which I think I told her all the reasons we can’t go. She was persistent in that this would be a life changing experience. I think she used the word “unmissable.” I think I felt a little better that A. We were wanted there, being so new to this church family and B. Her enthusiasm really planted a seed of curiosity. But, I still wasn’t sure we were able to make it happen due to our finances at the time. She gave me invaluable advice to pray about it and that God will find a way… and He did.

Our overall experience turned out to be exactly as promised- life changing. Chris and I come from a background where being open about our faith wasn’t the norm. Even though I had been baptized 4 months prior I had yet to fully surrender. I had yet to show an outward sign that I was all in. It was at the advance that I really met Him. I felt His presence, and it was there that I decided to truly give my all to Him. Even as I write this now, I can remember what it was like to lift all my fears, all my stress, all problems up to him in an environment so powerful, surrounded by a community of others not afraid to praise and outwardly worship our amazing God. The love was so beautiful. I left the advance with a new life. A new energy. A new promise. Little did I know it would literally be a matter of hours after leaving the advance that my faith and all I had promised would be tested.

Chris and I were faced with test, after test, after test… for the next year. With one hit harder than the next. Hits that literally take your breath away and make you fall to your knees. Hits that make you question all you think know about God and your faith. Experiencing the advance was like fuel for our soul. It was what God gifted us to be able to keep looking up when all we could see was dark all around us. From what I had experienced at the advance I KNEW He was with us every step of the way.

I know He still is…and always will be.

This last year has proven that we are immovable and rooted. I am so excited to see what our faithful God has in store for us this year. Not just for me and my family, but for our whole Church family. I thank our church and our Pastors for such a life changing experience. I pray you will go and experience for yourself — especially if you are new here. There is nothing to lose but absolutely everything to gain.