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My testimony starts back in the early 2000s, when my family was living in Pensacola, Florida because of my father’s job as a sailor in the United States Navy. This is when my mom first found Weigh Down Ministries. She didn’t stick with it for long, and I honestly don’t remember ever seeing the materials or fruit in our lives that early, but this is an important piece in our story because it plays an important part later on. We moved to different cities every three or four years, and after living in Pensacola for four years, we got our orders to move to Atsugi, Japan in 2010. I was 13 years old when we moved and was a pretty good kid up until then, at least by the world’s standards.
As I got older and into my later teenage years, I was discovering devious sins and falling into many deep traps that young men fall into. I was very prideful and couldn’t see past my own nose; everything was about me, ruining my relationships with my friends and especially my family. I was caught up in sexual lust, I was greedy and overweight, and I resented my father for the way I was being raised. Back then I got everything I wanted just by throwing a fit, but when we moved to Japan, my father was put on shore duty, which meant he would no longer be touring on the aircraft carrier 10 months at a time. Instead, he would be coming home every night. This was a huge blessing for us because it helped us start to rebuild our family, and while I hated it at the time, it was one of the best things to ever happen to our family because we began to re-establish God’s proper line of authority in our home. Dad and I got into many arguments as my pride and disrespect grew, but I am beyond grateful that my parents never gave up on me or each other. Being under authority was very hard for my mother as well because she was used to being the main authority in our home…given that dad was gone so often because of his job. I used this as a tool to divide them and conquer to get what I wanted.
Remember that important piece I mentioned earlier? Well, some time in 2011, mom was sorting through her old diet books and she found the Weigh Down materials she had stored away. She began to take classes again and found out about the Remnant Fellowship Church that grew out of the Weigh Down teachings. She was ecstatic, because she knew this was the Truth and she wanted us all to be a part of it. She started webcasting on her own at night…trying to get dad to watch too but he wasn’t interested at the time. Eventually she signed my brother and I up to be members of the Church, which I was reluctant about at first, but I can never thank her enough for doing so because it was the best decision anyone could have ever made for me in my entire life. We began webcasting together as a family on Sunday mornings instead of going to the chapel on the Navy base where we lived. My heart wasn’t in it though, and I was moving down a dark path. I got into drugs, and I started stealing from my dad’s liquor cabinet…just looking for a feeling and to escape reality and the misery of life. I was failing in school because I never did my homework and would sleep through most of my classes. I snuck out of the house in the middle of the night to hang out with girls and would sneak around the neighborhood avoiding the base security that would patrol the area. All of this changed when I got caught stealing from the single sailors’ housing…at my job as a maintenance assistant. I was punished with 75 hours of community service. God must have really wanted me to learn my lesson because He allowed me to lose my time sheet where I kept track of all of my hours, right at the 74th hour mark, which meant I had to do all 75 over again, adding up to 150 hours total. I was humiliated and crushed, but looking back on it I am grateful – because it humbled me. It didn’t humble me enough though, because I may not have been getting into trouble anymore, but my heart was still corrupt and full of the other sins I mentioned previously…
“Blessing after blessing came in as I chose to walk the path of Jesus Christ, laying my life down for others and eliminating sin. One of these blessings, and most definitely the greatest and most undeserved, is getting to know my beloved Jacki. Jacki was one of the first people I met when we moved to Nashville, and I was always naturally attracted to her, but nothing came of that in the first few years of living here. God had the perfect plan, and he allowed us both to be in other relationships leading up to our own, because He was molding our hearts into something that would be perfect for each other.” – Chase
While all of that was happening to me, God was knocking on dad’s heart too…and gave him the desire to get out of the Navy rather than re-enlist to finish up 20 years and retire. Dad did not know this was God at the time, but my mom did, and this was a major answered prayer. She let God do His work in our family and did not say a word about that being a prayer of hers, knowing that my dad might decide to change his mind. They discussed where we would want to settle down and my dad thought that mom would choose to move back to Pensacola because she loved it there, but she left the decision up to dad. Out of the blue…he suggested Tennessee, because it was a place that had all four seasons every year and because it was close to where our extended family lived, which was Indiana at the time. Mom couldn’t believe what God was doing for our family, and looking back at it, I am beyond grateful and so humbled that He would choose our family out of anyone else in the world to move here and become a part of this wonderful Church. The story does not stop here though, because my heart was still not quite into it. We eventually got settled here in Nashville and I was still deep in sin for the first couple of years here. It didn’t take me long to understand the Message, but it took me awhile to finally put it into practice. I am so grateful for God’s patience and mercy as well as my family’s through the time it took for my heart to change.
Now my family is ALL IN for God and this Church together, but I’ll never forget the battle that I had. I was losing the fight because my heart did not want God enough; it wanted sensual desires. The lust was so strong it would overtake me, and I did not want to be under authority. Deep down I wanted righteousness, but when the battle was right in front of me I would give in to sin, resulting in the most miserable feeling. I would get so depressed and beat down that I would give up. I was in a relationship at this time with someone I loved more than God and did not allow God into our relationship. It took a long time for the relationship to finally end, but when it did, it sent me to rock bottom, the saddest I had ever been. I writhed in physical pain because my heart was so torn. Something I had invested everything into was ripped away from me and I was left completely empty. I sat in that pain for a while, contemplating what my purpose even was. I technically KNEW the right answers, but I did NOT want to do it God’s way. Thankfully, I had been listening to Gwen Lara’s messages long enough for them to be rooted in my heart and I eventually decided to get up off the floor and start putting them into practice. I had to leave a lot of self-pity behind, and I fought my way to get out of lust, fleeing any and all temptation as it’s taught in Weigh Down. I humbled myself and began to obey my parents again, striving to please them with everything I did. Slowly but surely, blessings started coming back into my life and I knew I was going down the right path. Through this I lost 30 pounds and a slew of other strongholds rooted in my heart. I could not have done this without the Body of this Church… and the close friends that I have within this place. They walked me through these tests and always fed me Truth. They always pointed me back to God and to our leaders.
Blessing after blessing came in as I chose to walk the path of Jesus Christ, laying my life down for others and eliminating sin. One of these blessings, and most definitely the greatest and most undeserved, is getting to know my beloved Jacki. Jacki was one of the first people I met when we moved to Nashville, and I was always naturally attracted to her, but nothing came of that in the first few years of living here. God had the perfect plan, and he allowed us both to be in other relationships leading up to our own, because He was molding our hearts into something that would be perfect for each other. We started to talk to each other more, and we quickly and effortlessly became the best of friends. I told people we were two peas in a pod, and through our friendship founded on a relationship with God, I fell head over heels in love with her. This was the woman I had always prayed for and God has given me every little desire of my heart and more. I couldn’t imagine a woman more beautiful, childlike, and fun to be around than my sweet Jacki. I am more in love than I could have ever been without this Message and this Church, and that is because God is the center of our relationship. We look to please Him first, and then one another, resulting in the most joyful and peaceful relationship. I praise God for Remnant Fellowship Church…and for Gwen Lara tirelessly laying her life down to pour out a teaching that makes life worth living!
When I was 12 years old, my mom knew that we needed to get out of a bad situation, so she gave me a choice of places we could move…including California, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, or Tennessee. I chose Nashville, Tennessee because Remnant Fellowship Church members Scott and Julie Stephens were living there and I wanted to be close to them. I was drawn to them because, while growing up around them, I watched them change when they joined this Church. I did not know this at the time, but I was attracted to their righteousness from their changed lives. Julie knew about our situation, and so she flew to New Mexico where we were living at the time and helped us sell almost everything to get us moved to Nashville. We got here on June 1, 2009, and I got to attend Day Camp at the Church that Summer. I was drawn to the Message of obedience and I saw quickly how the kids here were different; they were full of love and they wanted to obey…and it made them joyful to obey! I immediately was included in everything and had peaceful friendships for the first time. During that Summer, I chose to follow the Message of being like Jesus and began to serve in any way that I could.
As the years went on though, I got complacent and lazy. I continued to serve but with the wrong motives. I was serving others JUST for the praise of man…instead of doing it from the heart for God’s approval and praise…and because that is what I felt like I was supposed to do. Serving became a chore and my heart was growing colder and harder every day. I very much wanted to give up. I am so thankful for the leadership of this Church and the members that continued to encourage and include me even when I did not deserve it. In 2016, my mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. At first, I struggled with the diagnosis because I could not understand God’s plan. Through that I realized that my relationship with God had deteriorated and that I had a root of anti-authority in my heart. I didn’t want to trust that being under the guidance of my authorities at home and at work was best. I wanted things my way. This anti-authority attitude was holding me back and blocking me from accepting my situation and having a relationship with God.
“My heart’s desire was still to be in a relationship with a boy, but this time I was NOT going to do it my way. I completely laid down my timeline and desires and gave God full control. I was finally truly content just being “Aunt Jacki” to all of my friends’ future children, and I was going to put my whole heart into being the most fun, most Godly “aunt” that I could be. With that focus of wanting to please only God, He opened the doors to a relationship with Chase.” – Jacki
With pride and anti-authority still in my heart and a strong desire to be in a relationship, I chose to stay blind and continue down a path of complacency. It was during the next couple of years that God allowed me to be in some relationships that were not blessed because of my pride and disobedience. One relationship in particular almost caused me to give up my relationship with God completely. It was not the relationship itself, but it was my pride that kept me from doing God’s will and only pushed me further from Him. Again, all praise to God for the Church leadership and its members…people who kept encouraging me and lovingly redirecting me back to a relationship with God first. Part of my heart still wanted my relationship with God and that helped me to swallow my pride and ask for guidance. I am so grateful no one ever gave up on me! Getting back in the middle of the pack and serving others in any way I could with the right motives allowed me to begin to rebuild my relationship with God. The more I served with a joyful, grateful heart, the more I was filled with the fruits of the Spirit.
My heart’s desire was still to be in a relationship with a boy, but this time I was NOT going to do it my way. I completely laid down my timeline and desires and gave God full control. I was finally truly content just being “Aunt Jacki” to all of my friends’ future children, and I was going to put my whole heart into being the most fun, most Godly “aunt” that I could be. With that focus of wanting to please only God, He opened the doors to a relationship with Chase. I did not want to grab for anything, and so I prayed for the right timing…and in the following months Chase and I would end up at the same parties, hanging out with the same friends and eventually became best friends. Through becoming best friends, God opened up the doors for a beautiful relationship. Getting to know Chase and growing closer to God together has been the most amazing experience. God gave me my “Prince Charming,” my biggest answered prayer, and my greatest blessing. I know that putting God first and serving together any chance we got allowed our relationship to be sweet, peaceful, and full of joy that has now grown into a love that is far better than anything I ever imagined! I am beyond excited and completely undeserving of the blessing to be marrying my Prince!