Day One: My Story

Saturday, February 1, 2014

 Blog Everyday in February

My sweet blog friend, Bailey decided to do a blog everyday in February challenge this month. I'd been looking for something to get me out of my normal groove a little bit, so I'm going to try to join in as much as possible. I've tried things like this before, but I love that I know Bailey's heart and she has worked SO hard getting together prompts for this month. Let's get a groovin. 

It's ironic that this first post is supposed to be my story. There has been a lot of reflection in the Strader household on testimonies in general. I've held back a little bit from sharing my testimony on my blog before, simply because it feels so unnatural to make something so private.. well, public.  Transparency is so important, but at the same time, I think there is wisdom in not disclosing every single detail of your life on the internet for all to read. Anyways, moving forward, I'm excited to share my story with you, and pray that you will read it with a heart of grace.

I was born in Paris, France. Apparently I wore knit hats and took naps in front of major landmarks. 

When I was about a year old, we moved to Atlanta, Georgia. It's fun for me to think about what it would have been like if we had stayed there. I think I would be even more captivated by the South. 

When I was about two years old, I got a baby brother, Henry. 

I don't remember much about being really little but I do know that we went to England every Summer for a few weeks to visit family. The photo above is taken under my aunt's kitchen table. I also remember that I liked pink starbursts and that I would cry when my mom untangled my long hair and that I used to pretend I had an imaginary tiger like Jasmine from Aladdin. 

We moved to Texas the summer before I started kindergarten. 

I attended school in the same district all the way through. (Meanwhile, on the other side of the district lines.. the more rural part, Baby Benjamin Luke was being cute and waiting to grow up and marry me. Yippee!)

During middle school some things changed. When I was in 6th grade, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was pretty far along and I remember it being described to me as tennis ball sized. I know that I was pretty oblivious to the reality of what was going on. 

Omitting lots of nitty gritty, hurtful details.. soon after my parents got a divorce. I don't think this was a surprise to me, but that didn't make it any easier. The process spread out over my seventh grade year, and during the first few months of eighth grade, I helped my mom look at houses and we moved across town. 

Then I started high school. It is on my to do list to go to my mom's house, get on her computer, and find a picture of me from high school orientation. Let me give you a preview of this greatness: I was wearing a navy polo shirt, a silver sequin belt (remember those from mall kiosks?!?), pink lipgloss, sunglasses on my head because that's where they looked cool, and holding a chihuahua. It doesn't get much better and more defining of freshman year of high school than that right there. Also, that was the first day I met my husband. I could detail more about our story throughout this, but our story is separate than my story. They obviously weave in between but I'll try to keep our story for another day, to keep this from being a lengthy novel. 

A freshman year photo with Seth, who was a best friend of mine all through high school and college and sang at our wedding. 

A humiliating depiction of being 14 years old. 

Up until this point I had never attended church. At the beginning of my sophomore year of high school, I was allowed to do so for the first time. There is a lot I will omit about being able to attend for the first time, but I will say that I had desired to go for some time, and that I knew my life was missing something. I thought I might find what was missing at church, because I knew lots of people went there.

The very first Sunday I attended, I met the new youth pastor, Josh, on the sidewalks by the portables. This was his first Sunday there too.. neither of us knew we were both newbies. I already felt like this church was a safe place because of the group of friends from school I had that had encouraged me to come. The confidence of already having a few friends that loved me being there let me make friends with others very quickly, praise God! I loved every minute of learning new things that I had never heard before, and fellowship with such fun, joyful people. 

I attended for a long time and asked a lot of questions. I learned of a God who created me in HIS image. I learned that long ago when Adam and Eve were the first people, they disobeyed God's one command to them and sinned the first sin (Genesis 3:6). I learned that since then, everyone has been born with sinful tendencies, with yucky hearts. I learned that God then sent His only son, Jesus, to die and save us all from the bondage of sin. (John 3:16) Because if we're honest, sin wraps awful chains around us and makes life hard. But then I learned that  there is hope and freedom in Jesus. Believing in His sacrifice in your heart, and confessing it with your mouth (Romans 10:9) brings peace to your life, knowing that one day you'll spend eternity in heaven with Him. I heard these words many times, but as scripture said, my eyes were blinded to this truth until the next summer. 

I went to youth camp, with a bunch of people that had become my closest friends. Several of them still are, which is a huge blessing. 

My realization of my need for Christ didn't come during an emotional worship service, but afterwards during a time of corporate prayer with the youth group. I confessed and accepted Christ that night. 

This tiny itty bitty photo was taken after I had become a Christian. Funnily enough I'm sitting next to my current cousin (in law) Shelley in that photo. #smalltownlife

From that point on I was filled with joy and peace in my new life in Christ. Lots of fun things happened from there. I believe the Lord filled me with a chock load of truth during that time. He grew me, and did so quickly. 

A photo from a Disciple now weekend in fall 2007. We were posing with Jeff Johnson, who later lead worship each week at Breakaway Ministries, a ministry I volunteered for in college. 

That was the same weekend I took my first photo with my future husband. At this point we barely knew each other but I was happy and fun and took photos with everyone because that's what you do when you're a teenage girl and need to remember every detail of a retreat weekend. I truly cherish this photo now. I should print it and put it somewhere in our home. That's just plain fun. 

Also a fun thing from Fall 07.. My friend Liz and I served in my close friend Kassidy's mom's wedding house party. Just five years later my own wedding was in the same church. Look at me. Young. Clueless. Cutting cake and totally unaware of all the things to come. 

There were mission trips and more camps and student council events. That year, my friend Morgan encouraged me to run alongside her for senior class officer. She wanted to run for vice president, and encouraged me to run for president. Looking back, Morgan should have been president. She was so equipped and wise. But her encouragement lead me to do something totally out of my comfort zone and it really stretched me. Getting involved in class council, and more involved in student council in general lead me to get to know tons of people I wouldn't have known or been friends with otherwise. That was truly a blessing in my life. I also made a ton of foolish mistakes in this leadership position, but I learned so much and in the end I think it was really successful. 

Note: At this point in the blog post I'm realizing this is more for me than anyone else. One day I'll be thankful to have written all of this out. It's okay if you're bored/not even reading this. It's just sweet to look back on and remember different seasons of growth and reflect on God's faithfulness. 

During senior year my friend Katherine and I stopped counting at how many times we had gone to the movies to see Twilight after nine times. Yes. I was that person. It's ridiculous but it was a comfortable thing for us to do on the weekends. We liked the romantic parts. Haha. We got bored of the end and the fighting at the ballet studio so we started leaving right before that happened. So hilarious. Katherine sent me this photo she edited once. Awesome. 

Senior photo. Obviously. 

I'm having to hold back from posting a million happy photos from this time.. it was just sweet and there were a lot of things to take photos of. I was constantly surrounded by friendship and community. That year my closest friend group grew and was such an encouragement. The friend group was also mentioned in this post. Basically, there were six of us. Three girls and three boys. We did everything together and it was a really sweet, pure community. 

Then it was time for college. I was headed to Baylor University. Ben and I started dating just a few weeks before we left for school. 

To make a long story short.. Baylor was not where I was supposed to be. I just didn't love it and looking back I probably could have, but I truly believe that the Lord had plans for my one semester there, and investing in the spiritual growth of a friend. 

Ben and I actually broke up just a few weeks after I transferred (again, a whole other story!) but I knew College Station was where I was supposed to me. I loved it!!

That summer I went on my first out of country mission trip, to Mexico. There is so much that could be said about this trip, but the moral is that I walked away convicted about telling others about Jesus, every single day of my life. I pray that will always be a passion of my heart. (Also, my mother in law is next to me in the green shirt in the top photo!)

My first kite! 

The fall of my sophomore year (first fall at A&M!) I went through recruitment and pledged Theta. That's where I got the majority of my community during college and I am so thankful for it. 

That was a hard year, but sweet to be surrounded by friends and to grow a ton. Ben and I got back together during the summer between our sophomore and junior years. College was a really sweet time with lots of fun things and people and learning about what it looks like to follow Christ in different ways. Not to crunch the end of this into one paragraph... but.... let's be honest we're all done with seeing photos of me. :) And the last year or so really overlaps to being a story of our marriage. Ben and I got engaged right before senior year and our last real semester of college. (Fall 2012)

I guess I feel like everything since then has been recorded on this blog. Dig around a little bit if you want. :)

Now hopefully you feel like you know a little more about my background, and don't hate me for the longest blog post ever. There are tons of majorly influential people who weren't mentioned. There are tons of big things not mentioned. But this was long enough already. Bless you if you read all the way through.


  1. I love the idea of bloggers just putting their stories out there! It's nice to feel like you understand someone just a little better by knowing where they came from. I always enjoy bloggers who share a bit about themselves, even though I know it is extremely hard to put yourself out there! (Obviously, because I haven't got up the nerve to start my own blog yet! haha)

  2. Thanks for your honesty! Really like your story & I am so happy that you will blog everyday this month!!!!

    Have a nice day!

  3. I love this and I love YOU, sweet friend! What an adventure we've been on these past few years? Seeing you in that line jersey brought a huge smile to my face for so many reasons! You said yes to Jesus in a time of transition that lead you exactly where you were supposed to be. And he knew a little school rivalry wouldn't keep us from being friends ;)

  4. Glad you're doing this fen challenge too! That's so amazing that you were born in France....don't hear that very often!
    P.s the cute picture of you when you were little, I think I had that exact floral cushion/sofa in our house! Haha

  5. This is so fun! And I just realized (again) what a small world it is... I went to Baylor for three semesters. :)

  6. I read all the way through it, and loved hearing your sweet heart! We definitely need to grab coffee the next time the hubs & I are in town. xoxo

  7. I LOVED reading this post, Victoria! Now I feel like I know you a bit better, and the photos inserted periodically really showed off some of the sweet times of your story. Thank you for sharing. The joy you have inside really shines in each and every photo. You're blessed, my friend!

  8. I didn't know you lived in Atlanta! So fun that we lived in the same state for a little while ;) haha too bad you didn't stay!!

  9. This is a great article ! Thanks for sharing your story and your faith :)

  10. Victoria, You are a very sweet girl as well as a sweet blogger. I loved reading this post and learning more about you. Thanks for sharing your testimony! Keep up the good work on here!


    ps....There weren't too many photos. I enjoyed them all. :)

  11. So sweet! Those little tike pictures of you are SO adorable!

  12. Thanks for sharing your story - so nice to see the pictures, and especially hear how you came to know Christ!

  13. I told Caleb last night that I was looking forward to February because you were participating in Bailey's challenge, which means I get to read your blog everyday in February! He smiled at my blog crush. Reading your blog is such a little treat in my day! We hope you and Ben are well!

  14. I loved this post! All of the old pictures were so fun to look at! :)

  15. I am so curious, was your youth pastor Josh Davis?

  16. This is adorable I loved it so much!

  17. Still cracking up over your first fact. Lovely getting to know you through this post! I hope to explore your blog more and maybe become blog buddies if that's a thing (I'm new to this whole blogging world, so I'm still learning to walk really).



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