I wasn’t familiar with “1 Sand Hill Road” in Salem, NH. I came across it through a mutual FB friend who had posted a video of her then 10 year old daughter being baptized. Granted, the video wasn’t taken at 1 Sand Hill Road, but at another location at 284 Kenoza Avenue in Haverhill, MA, but through that video and research online, I found 1 Sand Hill Road and what was located there. It was something I’d been searching for, for what seemed like years…decades…LOTS of decades.
On 1/28/2017, I walked through the doors of Granite United Church. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I had been raised Catholic and I hadn’t been very good at it. Throughout my adulthood, I desperately wanted a relationship with God but I just couldn’t seem to figure out the best way to go about it. I didn’t want to confess to a priest that I really didn’t know, who would be tasked to absolve me of my sins, and then “pay for it with penance”. If penance held monetary value, I’d most likely have been in the poor house. There had to be another way, a way in which I could have a direct line-of-sight to the Lord…an up-close and personal relationship with him, but it was taking me so long to get there because I just didn’t know where to begin.
On that day four years ago, I stepped into a “building” but immediately realized that the “church” was the people inside. The people who welcomed this newbie with a smile, a hug and a “We’re so glad you’re here”! (in my head I was thinking, “Really? You ARE? Good grief, I dunno… I’ve sinned, turned away from God, done some stupid things, but I’ll take your word for it.”).
I was spiritual and I prayed (at least every time I swung my leg over my Harley, asking God for his protection to and from my destinations). I prayed for things I wanted, good health, prosperity, for my family to be safe and well. I didn’t know what I “didn’t know”. As soon as the service began, I KNEW that this is where I belonged! And when the Lead Pastor (Anthony Milas), wearing his flannel shirt, ripped jeans and holding two Ninja Turtle Chia Pets, was “landing the plane” as he likes to call it when wrapping up a service, invited me (not just me, but everyone) who didn’t “know Jesus” to join him in a silent-in-your-heart prayer to ask Jesus to forgive me of my sins, to come into my heart and be my Lord and Savior, I cried as I said that prayer in my heart. I felt it to the depths of my soul which now belongs to Him. I finally was “in the know”, understanding that I didn’t need “religion” to have my personal relationship with Jesus. All I needed was Him. People spoke of the Holy Spirit and I didn’t realize it until much later, but what happened to me that day upon my salvation through Christ was a complete transformation from the person I had been “alone” in life. I was brand new in my life with Him, no longer alone, and was literally filled with the Holy Spirit. Aaannnddd I FELT it! I blew out of that parking lot, nearly careening on two wheels and leaving a 50-foot long patch of rubber (not hard to do when I was banging gears in my Mustang GT!) as I couldn’t WAIT to get home and tell my husband.
Ah, my husband. He didn’t see THIS coming! I rushed in like I’d just robbed a bank (sans the mask), breathless and on fire for Jesus! I was yammering away in excited animation that I FINALLY found a church where I belonged! Whoop Whoop! I think his response was, “That’s nice honey”; then nothing more or less.
Each week as I’d prepare to leave for church, I’d remind him that I was going and I’d toss out an obligatory invitation to which he always replied, “No, thank you.” On June 10th of that same year, I was baptized. My daughter went with me for family support and to top it off, I was baptized with my very best friend from high school who came to Granite shortly after I did because she saw things I was posting on FB and she was intrigued. Why? Because I was “different”…she’d known me for nearly 40 years at that time and she could see the change in me…for the better.
So here I was, in my new found faith with my bestie! We were learning how to read and interpret the bible, going to service every week, attending a ladies bible study, and serving in different capacities. Wow, was my life FULL! Brimming with the love of Jesus! I was taught that the four most difficult words to pray are, “Thy Will be done”. True. I had always wanted things my way (or you could unceremoniously take the highway). But now I was putting God first in my life – above everyone and everything. I wasn’t loving my husband, children and extended family and friends any less than before; quite the contrary. I was now being responsive instead of reactive. I had patience I never knew existed within me. My compassion (which I always had) grew immeasurably and I was doing something I really hadn’t done before…I was forgiving those that hurt me, in whatever manner – in big or small ways – and as soon as I started doing that, I could feel my heart and soul become lighter and I was no longer weighed down by holding on to resentment or grudges. This is God’s Grace.
My husband noticed the change in me, too. I think that perhaps he might’ve initially thought that this was “just a phase” and that sooner or later, I’d “drop it” and return back to my “old self”. I tried to explain that the change in my life was not my own doing. That my old self had died in baptism and that I was raised in new life with Christ. So, I just kept plugging along, going to church, inviting him to join me, always knowing that his response would be, “No, thank you”. I wasn’t the only one praying for him, either. All of my church family was praying for him, the ladies in my bible study were praying for him. There were Prayer Walls and Prayer Posters throughout the church and if I wrote his name down once, I must’ve written it a hundred times. Every time I looked at them, even from a distance, I could see his name…pick it out amongst hundreds of others. My bible study teacher who was my mentor and helped me immensely in my faith walk (but has since passed away), asked me, “Terri, when you pray for your husband to come to church, do you REALLY BELIEVE that God will answer that prayer?” Much to my embarrassment, I lowered my face and scraped the toe of my boot along the carpet and whispered, “No, not really.” She lifted my face and as was her way, she lovingly but sternly told me, “You HAVE to pray boldly and with expectation that God is going to move that mountain!”. I knew she was right, and from that moment forward my prayer life changed. I had to stop being my husband’s “no”, meaning that I kept telling myself, “He’ll never come to church”, and instead, I needed to pray fervently for him. I wanted him to have what I had. I wanted him to know the love, joy and peace that comes with salvation. So I started praying…boldly…in thanksgiving, praise and supplication. A lot of times it involved snot-sob-praying on my knees, but it was good… so good to surrender to my Lord and lay this at the foot of the cross and finally, not just believing, but knowing that He would move that mountain.
Christmas service of 2017 was just a week away and both my daughter and son said that they would go to church with me. I approached my husband and told him that me and the kids were going to church for the Christmas service and I asked him if he’d like to go. He again replied, “No, thank you.” I was happy that my adult children were going with me, but I was disappointed when my husband said “No, thank you.” I texted my daughter (or so I thought) which read, “Daddy said ‘no’…he’s not going.” Little did I realize that I had sent that text to my husband, but clearly it wasn’t by accident. I believe there was divine intervention! When my husband responded to the text, saying, “Guilt works…I’d like to go!” I jumped up and practically screamed I was so excited! I immediately reached out to my campus Pastor, Court Holloway, and filled him in. He put an alarm on his phone to “Pray for Dave” every morning at 6:00 AM (he’s pretty awesome). I was pulling out ALL the stops, letting everybody and their brother (and sister) know that Dave was coming to church for Christmas! And they all continued to pray (no doubt more boldly now), with his anticipated arrival for service.
We arrived at church and I introduced Dave to a number of my church family members and at every opportunity as I stood behind him, I would catch the eye of someone who’d been praying for him and I’d point to the back of his head and mouth the words, “This is my husband!”. He met a lot of people that day who welcomed him with open arms. The service was great and when we got into the car I desperately wanted to vomit all the words in my head out of my mouth…I had so much I wanted to say…so many questions that I wanted to ask and, instead, the Holy Spirit convicted me and what came out of my mouth was, “I’m so glad you came today. I hope you enjoyed it”. Dave replied that he liked it and that he thought the people were so inviting and really nice. I had a sewing needle with some black thread in my handbag and considered sewing my lips shut so that I wouldn’t bombard him with everything I wanted to say, but thankfully I didn’t have to take such drastic measures!
During the week following his first service, Dave was in the kitchen texting someone and under no other circumstances would I ever ask him, “Who are you texting?”, but before I knew it, those words escaped my lips (thank you, Holy Spirit!), and he replied, “Pastor Court and I have been chatting”. Me on the inside: “Pastor Court? PASTOR COURT?! Are you KIDDING ME?! You’re chatting with my Campus Pastor?”. What I actually said, ever so nonchalantly was: “Oh, really? That’s nice”. Then he put his arm around my shoulder, tucking me into his chest, so naturally I took the opportunity to peek at his phone. He smiled and turned to me and said, “That’s RIGHT, I’m going to church on Saturday.” I think my knees buckled a little, not gonna lie, and I fought back tears of joy. I hugged him so tightly and told him how happy I was that he was joining me again at church. And THAT Saturday (December 30th, 2017) was THE day! The day that my husband said the “quietly-in-your-heart” prayer and was saved. He became a Warrior for Christ and our lives have NEVER been the same! Here I was, albeit not-so-humbly, thinking my testimony was pretty awesome…then along came Dave! I still cannot watch his Testimony Video without bawling my eyes out because of not only the change in him and our marriage, but because God DID move that mountain…and I watched him do it! He is such a good, good Father!
On February 3rd, 2018, just a little over a month from the day of his salvation, Dave was baptized. I was asked by the lovely woman who’s in charge of the baptisms if I’d like to read his testimony. Naturally, I said, “yes”, then bawled like a baby. I asked her to keep it a secret as I wanted to surprise him. And surprise him I did! As he stepped down into the baptismal pool, I was already standing on the platform to the far right, microphone in hand and ready to go. I knew he didn’t have his glasses on, so I stepped forward, close enough for him to see me and said, “Surprise!”. I could tell he was overwhelmed with emotion and I could not be more proud of his powerful testimony and I was humbled beyond measure to be able to share in this life-changing moment with him.
So here we are, four years later. Saved, baptized and still on fire for Jesus.
I don’t know where you are in your faith, but if you don’t “know” Jesus, you’re missing out. Take it from a way-more-than-middle-aged couple that your lives can be “forever changed”. That you will have abundant love, joy and peace in your hearts that comes from one source and one source only…JESUS! He is the HOPE of the world.
Even through this pandemic, we haven’t lost faith or hope. We are leaning into Him and His Word more now than ever, relying on His faithful promises. We’d love for you to have the same.
If you’re unsure of how to begin a relationship with Jesus, you can say this prayer:
“Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior.”
Welcome to the Family of God!
I invite you to check out service times (both online and in person) at: www.graniteunited.com/locations
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” ~John 3:16
“But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” ~John 1:12
~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP