Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mourning into Dancing (my testimony)

Today we are sharing our testimonies. Write your own story of how you met Jesus and link up here!
Salvation Stories

I am so glad Callie started this link-up. I realized I know how most of you met your husbands, but not how you met your Savior. And I haven't told you my story either. Who knows why! Now I am curious and would love to hear about how you came to know Christ. It's not too late! I am sure she wouldn't mind if you did it tomorrow if you're just now finding out about it. ;) 

I remember a few years ago, a friend from the theater asked me, "Did you become a believer because of your parents? Or did you have one of those dramatic conversion experiences?" I just smiled mysteriously, because he didn't really want to know. He was kind of picking on me, though probably actually curious. He paused & then said seriously, "I'm guessing you used to be totally different and then had some dramatic conversion experience." For whatever reason, I took that as a compliment... but it wasn't really true. 

I grew up in a Christian home. I thought it had always been that way, but later discovered that my parents did not become Christians until after I was born. My dad's family went to church growing up, but my mom's did not. Neither one of them were serving the Lord when they got married. Apparently they were going through some things and mom decided that church would "solve their problems". When she was a girl, she sometimes attended church with her best friend Rae's family (who I am named after) & they were Baptist. This is why she chose Zoar Baptist Church - it was the closest baptist church. She and dad began attending there when I was just a few months old and my sister was three. Mom & Dad both walked the aisle to receive Christ as their Savior. That is also where they met my husband's family. :)

They stayed faithful in their church attendance through my entire childhood. I remember being in Kindergarten at Brownsfield Baptist Academy. Our teacher spent the morning telling us about Jesus with those felt people on a felt board. ;) It was time for recess, and she said if we wanted to pray to ask Jesus into our hearts, then we could stay during recess. I stayed. She prayed the prayer & I repeated. I know I didn't fully understand the significance of what I was doing, but it was still that day that Jesus came to live inside me. I invited him in. And from that day on, He has guided my steps. My parents later began attending Cornerstone Fellowship, and then when i was nine or ten, they switched to Victory Harvest Church, where i was baptized with water & also, with the Holy Spirit.

Life was good for awhile, but at some point my family went through some very hard times that I did not understand back then. Sometimes when you are going through hard things, you take out your anger on those you love most. I have never written about this here, and I hesitate to do so, but I will tell you this. My mom became a very angry person. Most people had no idea what was going on in our home. I was never physically abused, but my mother said very hateful things to me & my sister & even our dad. From age 11 to about 21, I was emotionally & verbally abused. Sounds harsh, but it is true. Ugly, worthless, fat & stupid - all things I was called by my own mother. And I wasn't even fat at the time. Unfortunately, I became fat because i ended up eating to self-medicate. I didn't know this at the time. It was not a conscious thing. I also sunk into a deep pit of depression & self-hate.

Meanwhile, i was still going to church & very involved in my youth group. Yes, I was a youth leader & loved being there, but i didn't tell a soul of what I was going through at home. I pasted on a smile & pretended that all was right with the world... & for the most part, it WAS because i was happy when i was at church! I remember my junior year in high school, I started feeling a lot of pressure from everywhere about what i was going to do with my life. I didn't know. And for some reason, that felt like the end of the world. I remember one evening going to church & the Reverend Samuel Doctorian was our guest speaker. He is actually my pastor's father-in-law, but has traveled all over the world preaching the gospel. He preached that night on what it means to SURRENDER. To surrender your life to Christ, NO MATTER the cost, NO MATTER the call, NO MATTER His will for your life! I heard that sermon & "got it". It didn't matter what EXACTLY I was going to do with my life. All that mattered is that I gave my life to Him, so that He could guide me. So that He could direct my steps. So that He could show me the way to go! He didn't care if i knew what I wanted to be when i grew up. He just wanted me to follow him & surrender to His will for my life. So i did. I responded to that alter call & i cried. My first time to let go & cry in church. And that is the night i TRULY UNDERSTOOD what it meant to invite Jesus to be the Lord of your life. That is the night i believe I truly began to follow Christ. Not to say i was never saved. I believe my prayer as a kindergarten student was sincere and that it began the whole journey. :) But this night of surrendering to God as a teenager, well. That is what it's all about. 

I still struggled with depression, extremely low self-esteem & self-hate. I was called some terrible things by my own mother. I walked on egg shells, too, never knowing if it was a good day for her, or not. Having to deal with these things? Well, it causes issues, to put it lightly. However, God had his hand on me through everything. I am FOREVER GRATEFUL to my youth pastor back then. One day, the summer after I graduated high school, I got to church about 2 hours before it was to start. I had just gotten into a huge fight with my mom & had to get out of there. We had Friday night services for the youth back then so i went straight there. The whole way, my mind was battling with my spirit. I knew it was time to tell someone what I was going through at home. I knew it was time to receive some counseling. But I had never breathed a word of what I was going through to my youth pastor or anyone else. Only my closest friends had a clue, and that was only because they had seen a small dose of what my mother could be like. I arrived at church and my youth pastor walked to my car. I had just gotten back from kid's camp (where i was a counselor) & he wanted to see how it went. He didn't know I was on the verge of tears. Somehow he figured it out & began to counsel me right then & there. I cried all night long. So many years of hurt began to surface. I cried from about 5 pm to 11 pm. Haha. My eyes have never been so swollen! I just could not stop crying. But God was doing a work in me.

After that, God really began working to heal my heart & life. He did it, little by little, until ALL of the hurt was GONE, completely. I remember being so happy and joyful & hearing this verse: 
"You have turned my wailing into dancing, 
you removed my sackcloth & covered me with joy, 
so that my heart may sing to you & not be silent, 
Oh, Lord, my God, I will give you thanks forever."
-Psalm 31:11-12-

This is what I began to call "my testimony verse" because that is exactly what God did for me. I have to tell you... he began the healing process before i forgave my mother. But he could not complete it until that was done. I had to forgive her. This is why i say that FORGIVENESS is the most important life lesson. I couldn't move on in Christ's freedom without forgiving her. I finally did it (though it was not easy) & God began to do such a work in my life. This has already gotten very (very!) long (sorry about that!), but I am afraid there is no way to express just how much God changed me. I began to come out of my pit of depression with God's help. He reached down & pulled me up & brought complete & TOTAL healing. I was so joyful, i had a real smile that I couldn't wipe off my face! I began to love myself & to gain confidence. He even completed the work by doing a lot of healing in my mom & by restoring our relationship. She is one of my favorite people and i am SO THANKFUL for a good relationship with my mom! And if you met her? You would never believe she ever treated anyone the way that she did. God truly did a miracle in her life as well as mine! He is good!

I was always considered a good girl. Whatever that is. ;) You see, because I knew Christ at a young age, I knew right versus wrong, and with his help I was able to stay away from things like alcohol, drugs & sex. I kept my virginity until I was married and to this day, I have never been drunk. But I am still a sinner in need of a savior! We all are! And the thing I want to make clear is that even if you haven't done anything "bad"...even if you consider yourself a good person... well, you still need his forgiveness. But you also need His healing! I know a lot of good people that are SO in need of a touch from God and they don't even know it! I honestly do not know how they make it through without Him.

A lot of people see me as a happy-go-lucky cheerful kind of girl. And I AM. But I haven't always been that way. I used to be afraid of everything, especially what people thought of me. God delivered me from that (though I am still a work in progress!), and that is why you see the happy girl that you do these days. Sure, i go through trials (am in one now!), but I know what Jesus has done for me & I know He is still moving in my life.

If you have any questions about my testimony or about God or His Word, please let me know in a comment or email me (link is in the sidebar). I will answer you as best I can. He loves you & wants to bring healing to your life, too! :)

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