My name is Kathy Harwood. My husband Jon and I live in Groton, MA with our three school aged children. I was born and raised in Acton, MA. Born into the Catholic church, I was baptized as an infant by my parents. My parents loved me and took time to make sure I was cared for and that they spent time with me. I loved the outdoors, and I was allowed to wander over to my neighbor’s homes to play as often as I wanted. I felt like I had a lot of friends, and I liked my independence. Little did I realize that the friends that I had made and the ways that they were treating me set me up to become more like an object than a human being. I found myself in situations where I felt forced to comply with my friends’ wishes or they would refuse to be my friends anymore. This cycle went on for years until I was old enough to stand up for myself, and eventually it stopped altogether, but the scars would remain for decades.
In my teenage years, my parent’s started fighting a lot more and the fights were getting worse. I will spare everyone the painful details, but suffice it to say their marriage ended in divorce. I recall feeling at that time a sense of personal emptiness coupled with a deep longing to just feel loved. I found myself in a desperate search after all things spiritual. My world was dramatically altered when one of my friends from gym class, a boy who I thought was cute and for whom I already had plans to invite to my upcoming “semi –formal” school dance, invited me to attend a “gym night” that his church was having at our Junior High School. That night we all played volleyball and floor hockey together. I was amazed at how nicely everyone was playing with each other, and especially how friendly the other students were as they would strike the puck across the floor. We listened to a talk about Jesus and were given booklets to take home.
When I got home I read through the entire booklet. It compared the bible to a rulebook for hockey. Sin was compared to the way an archer misses the bull’s eye. Finally, things were starting to make sense. In my heart I knew I was a sinner, now it was time to admit it. I accepted Christ on the floor of my bedroom that night, repented of my sins and asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life. I opened my heart to God and He filled me with His Holy Spirit, bringing a great peace, light, and new life. I began to study His Word every day after school using the one gigantic family bible that I could find in our house. This I did with much weeping as I read through the Book of Psalms for the first time on my own.
“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.”
-Psalm 63:1-4 (ESV)
At night I began to experience dreams filled with light and feelings of joy. I sensed the Holy Spirit’s presence as I dreamt of walking through lavish gardens and streams with Him. My friend gave me scriptures to confirm what I was experiencing. I continued to attend church with my friend’s family as they drove me there every week. I was given a bible of my own to read, one that I still carry today. The months passed and soon it was time for me to head off to college. It was there that I joined Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I continued to grow in my knowledge of scripture, learned how to play guitar, and began leading worship. At school I struggled to understand what my life with Jesus should look like, especially in my relationships. I felt God’s love starting to deal with the deep wounds of my heart. I learned about baptism as a sign of being buried with Christ, then raised to new life. I was baptized on May 5, 1996 in a bright white robe surrounded by my new church family. Tears of joy flooded my face and I once again put my trust in God to do the necessary work in my life, surrendering my will to His plan.
There have been many struggles, trials and tragedies along the way, including my own extremely painful divorce. But there have also been many amazing triumphs and markers of God’s faithfulness and provision. Today I know I am secure in His love for me, knowing that He loves me just the way I am and there is nothing I can do that would earn His love in any way more than how He already loves me. Today I stand firm on God’s Word knowing that it is His plan for me that will prevail.
I would love to share more of my story with you or answer any questions you may have after the service or even better yet, let’s go for a walk or share a cup of coffee together sometime. God bless you!