A few days ago, I ran across an old friend on facebook. Ah, the memories! I found out that since I had last seen him (about 10-12 years ago…I don’t remember) he, also, has become a Christian. Praise God! Hallelujah! I told him that I had been praying for him for about 11 or so years now, and that I would love to hear/read his testimony if he ever gets the time to write it out (he has kids, like I do, so I know how it is! Heehee). Well, he wrote back and said 11 years ago, on his birthday (Jan. 2), he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Can you just imagine how ecstatic I felt? I mean, this was true joy, and all because of God. It’s a joy in the Lord, that He makes things happen according to His purposes and Plan. Now, I don’t know if my friend accepted Christ before or after I began praying for him. It doesn’t matter, really, because it was not of my power, but God’s. How great is that?
So, I began thinking. What exactly is my testimony? How did I come to know the Lord? Well, I’m still getting to know Him, and it’s been almost 14 years! 14 years? Really? Huh. Time seems to fly when you have fun, doesn’t it? Okay, let me start from the beginning.
Most of my family is Catholic, and when I was little, I went to CCD, since I went to public school instead of Catholic school. A few weeks before my first communion, though, Mom and Dad pulled me out, and told me that I could decide for myself what religion I wished to follow when I was old enough. We never really went to church much after that, and I’m not sure why. There were a number of factors contributing to it, but it doesn’t matter. When I was in high school, I had been invited by friends to go to their respective churches. I went to a Disciples of Christ church, and while I learned a little, it didn’t feel “right” to me. Another friend, whose parents were old friends of my folks, invited me to her new church, which was an Assemblies of God church plant that was just starting up. During this time I started dating the friend at the beginning of this post. We were together through our senior year, and around Easter of ’95, I accepted Christ. I invited my friend a few times–I think, and it’s been so long I really don’t remember–to come to service with me. Well, we graduated, and he moved to Tucson, AZ in the mid-summer. I continued to go to church and Sunday school, but during Sunday school I felt I was being pressured to do something I wasn’t called to do.
The pastor of this church, which I know now wasn’t completely representative of its denomination, was our Sunday school teacher. One Sunday, not long before I left for college, he began teaching about spiritual gifts. Our assignment was to read chapters 11-14 of 1 Corinthians. Okay, I did, and I felt it was fairly straightforward. I was loving what Paul said about some being called to be doctors, others to be servants, some to be teachers, others to be ministers, etc. Some were also called to speak in tongues while others were to interpret, some to be prophets and others for discernment. Paul even stated how speaking in tongues was to be done during the service. I thought, “Huh, this isn’t how we do that. I wonder why?” So, I wrote down my questions, as it was part of the assignment. The members of this church openly spoke in tongues during service, and they each interpreted their own, um, words? So, I asked the pastor about it, and he said that Paul only said that others were to interpret during the service because it was the times they were living in, and it didn’t apply today. So, I asked, “Well, if that doesn’t apply today, then why does the rest of the bible?” I don’t remember his reply, for it must not have made much of an impact. Then, we started talking about the spiritual gifts, themselves. He stated that yes, you are saved when you accept Christ as your Savior, but you’re fully saved when you are baptised by the Holy Spirit. By that, he meant speaking in tongues. To this pastor, speaking in tongues was the ultimate gift, and that everyone must aspire to it. It is your outward proof of being saved, he told me, and that you’re completely saved when you do speak in tongues. Huh? I don’t get it. I asked, “So you’re only half saved when you accept Christ?” “Well, sort of. When you speak in tongues, it shows the Holy Spirit’s approval of you.” Woah. Um, yeah. To this day, I still haven’t felt called to speak in tongues. Does that mean I still have not been approved by the Holy Spirit? I’ll get back to this in a moment.
Needless to say, after that, I didn’t go to church as often. I went to college, and backslid quite a lot. The religion course I was required to take did nothing for my faith at all, which is sad, really. The professor I had taught from the book of Mark, and said that it was the only gospel that was considered credible, since it was written by an actual apostle closer to the time of Christ’s death, compared to the other three gospels. He went on about Jesus feeding the 5,000, and loosely stated that another gospel mentioned that Jesus fed 4,000. Which story is correct? Well, I went back to my dorm that night, and looked up the matter. Turns out, they were 2 separate events. Luke (I think, it’s been a while…I will edit it otherwise when I have time to look it up) says that Jesus first fed the 5,000, and then the next day he fed the 4,000. Two days later, I returned to class, and pointed it out to the professor, who didn’t even know! Can you believe he was a pastor, himself?!
Anyway, fast-forward to the spring of ’97. I went through burnout, and had to change majors to elementary education (I had been working full-time on top of going to school full-time, and I still couldn’t pass piano competency!!). One of my friends offered to let me live with her and her family so I could continue working in Columbus. She introduced me to a whole new group of people, one of which who invited me back to church again. I began going, and I rededicated my life to Jesus. I could not believe how liberating that was! For the first time ever in my life, I felt truly free, free from all my burdens, free from past sins. I was overjoyed and on a spiritual high for several months.
During this spiritual high I learned so much. The pastor of my new church taught one Sunday morning about how the impact of today’s prayers could make a huge difference in someone else’s life, and you may know it right away, or may not know it for many years to come. He had us write down a list of people we knew who did not know Jesus, or those who did know Him but did not have a relationship with Him. He told us to think about the people in our lives even from our pasts, such as former co-workers, classmates, friends, teachers, neighbors, etc. If we didn’t know if that person on the list had a relationship with Christ, we were to pray for them. We were also to pray that God would bless each person on our lists and that He would exercise His Will. Now, I don’t remember when I started praying for the folks on my list. It could have been that fall, it could have been that spring, I don’t know. He also explained that in some ways prayers could be retroactive, that God knew you would eventually be praying for a situation, and He was already taking care of it before you even knew to pray about it. I thought, “Alright, I can do this.” I prayed for my family, I prayed for co-workers, and even for friends from high school and college. I kept that list for a few years, and continued to pray for those people.
Over the next few years, I grew so much spiritually. The spring of ’98 was rough, but not because of school so much. I started stressing about how I was going to pay for the new PRAXIS exams, which are now necessary for all Ohio teachers. I did continue and press on, because I felt this was what God wanted me to be doing. Summer came, and I was baptized that August. Mom was angry with me, but Dad and my grandfather came to watch.
In the spring of ’99, when the rest of my classmates were preparing for graduation, I ended up changing my major yet again to religious education. And my parents separated. Before I left the dorms that May, they had a dissolution of marriage, the dog was put down (he had cancer and was going blind), Mom had a new puppy (who is now a horse of a dog), and Dad had his own apartment. I had to tell them both that just because I was away and in school, that didn’t make me partial to one or the other. I was also not qualified to be a counsellor (psychology wasn’t even my major!), I was not their friend but their daughter. All this was a huge stressor for me. At the same time, I began dating a friend from church, joined the youth ministry, the church orchestra, and was just plain busy!
That summer was wierd for me. Dad wasn’t there but at his apartment, and my brother had moved out of the house. I was still working in Columbus and thought I had another job, but after I put in my notice, the new job fell through. I was supposed to help Mom with the bills, but couldn’t come through with the money. I started working for a temp agency, and found a place to live for the fall (being a 5th year student, I was no longer eligible to live on campus). Two weeks before I was to move, I had a falling out with Mom, and was kicked out early. Through all of this, meaning the spring and summer of that year, I was strangely calm, and I could tell it bothered some of the folks around me. I simply knew that God had a reason and a purpose for all that was going on, and I had faith that He would pull everyone through it. I moved in with my new roommate for about 9 months. After that, her lease was up, and she wanted to move to a new apartment with a different friend. This was fine by me, and I moved farther away, into the country with another gal in a huge studio apartment with 4 gentlemen in a separate house on the same property. We had weekly bible studies (no, it was NOT a commune) and we often carpooled to church, depending on who had to be there when (we were all serving in various ministries–a couple of the guys were on the tech crew doing sound, Power Point, lights, etc., another was working for the church and had to be there at the crack of dawn to open up the building). I learned so much on studying the bible, strengthening my faith, and serving others. I was working full-time for a local gourmet cookie company that also distributed in selected areas nationwide, plus serving in ministry almost 7 days per week. The gentleman who I had been dating and I broke up, and it took a long time to learn it was okay to be single.
9/11/2001, I was working in our downtown location on Broad and High Streets. When news of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon arrived from customers stopping quickly by for coffee and hurrying to their cars (basically, all of downtown Columbus was evacuating, which in itself was odd, and I’ll save that story for another day), I felt it was God who was warning us. We, as a nation, need to return to Him. As it says in II Chronicles, “If my people who are called by My Name and humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven above and I will heal their land.” For a short time, yes, I believe more people began turning to God, yet it seems like as a nation it wasn’t enough. Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox and save that rant for another day, as well. The whole situation really opened my eyes to praying for our nation’s leaders, as well as those of the rest of the world.
2 days before Christmas that year, I kind of sort of lost my job with the cookie company. From day one, the district manager knew I could work any day of the week except Sunday, and when she wanted me to work at a certain location on a particular weekend but I couldn’t (I was going out of town, and didn’t know I had to request it off, despite the fact that my home store was only open Mon-Fri), she demanded that I go part time. She then hired a co-manager for my store (I was an assistant manager whom she was grooming to be a store manager), which took all my hours. After 12/23 that year, I simply had no more hours. I wasn’t laid off, I wasn’t let go, so i couldn’t file for unemployment. i couldn’t work there, either, since there weren’t even any hours at any of the other stores. Because of the September attacks, no one was hiring. No one in retail was hiring until spring, and other places of business had no interest in someone who had no degree (an almost-degree didn’t count, either), or experience working in an office. For 6 weeks, I searched and searched for employment, knowing that God had something out there for me somewhere. During this time I did a lot of growing. The youth pastor I served under said he was going to be talking about relationships, and since i primarily worked with jr. high schoolers, I had to find a way to talk about it with my girls. I had also started hanging out with a new group of friends, one of whom was Brandon. He had some books that he was willing to let me borrow to help with the discussions with the girls. A week or two later, I went to Snow Camp with the youth ministry at church. The youth pastor in charge of leading the devotions and services talked about being content with being single. He was mostly speaking to the high school students, because so many kids feel that they have to have a significant other or they’re not worth anything. Yet, he even mentioned that he was talking to us single adults, as well (most of the youth workers were single). Hmmm…being content to be single? I never thought of it that way. So, I prayed about it. You know what? It worked! I was perfectly happy to be single. I didn’t want to look for a husband, or boyfriend. So, when I came back from camp I felt I was a totally different person. Later that week, I received a job offer through a local Head Start agency, and began subbing at one of the schools. At the beginning of March, Brandon asked me out on a date to see Blast! at the Ohio Theater. We began courting, and really getting to know one another. I joined him on a church plant across town, where a friend of his was the pastor. I learned a lot about patience. We even decided not to kiss unless we got engaged, and saved our first kiss for our wedding day. We got engaged in October of 2002, and were married May 3, 2003.
Since being married, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be in a true partnership. I still have a long, long way to go. I have learned the difference between being biblically submissive versus subservient. My goal is to become submissive, and while I’ve come a long way, I have quite a ways to go. And to be honest, I also thought I was a pretty patient person (well, unless you’ve been in a car with me, which proves me otherwise…I have a ton of issues with other drivers!) until I had kids. Wow. Many, many life lessons have been learned, as well as many more are being learned as I write these words. I’m also learning a lot about grace and mercy, as well as forgiveness.
How about you? What is your testimony?