Friday, June 24, 2016

My testimony

Last year in CBS there was an amazing assignment given where you tell your testimony to your CBS group. It helps you practice sharing God's impact on your life so you can boldly go out into the world and share how you came to Christ and preach the gospel to all creation. 

Mark 16:15 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."

Many people assume Christians put up this front of being perfect and flawless and then turn around and judge others in this perpetual cycle of hypocrisy. Well I will be the first to tell you that the idea of me being perfect or flawless on my own merits is laughable! I am a terrible sinner who really deserves wrath, death, and swift judgement from God. But He has given me his grace and mercy. Even though I am saved, I still make mistakes on a daily basis! My testimony, is a prime example of how God takes us from the depths of despair, sin, and pain and offers us unending grace and mercy.

Romans 3:20-23

 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Anyway, I've been contemplating sharing my testimony I shared at the NY CBS for a while now. My concerns being 1) that it draws attention to me and not God's redemption, 2) It causes me to dwell on some unpleasant parts of my life, 3) It may make some of my family uncomfortable or feel bad. 

I have come to the conclusion that withholding my testimony because of the discomfort it may cause me is actively hiding the light. It's allowing the devil to use guilt and shame to stop me from sharing God's word. I have attempted to edit this to avoid the 3 aforementioned concerns to the best of my ability. That said there is some lingering vagueness to my story and I am more than willing to share more details in a more private venue if it helps others who may have had similar struggles. However, I feel no need to elaborate here for the sake of the details leading to distractions or idle gossip, both tools of choice for the devil.

That said here is the testimony that I shared almost a year ago in Community Bible Study:

When I move to a place The first thing I do is find a church, find a bible study, find Christian home school support for my kids, and find a gym (that’s for stress relief.) We've moved a lot. So by the time we realized we were moving to New York I had it down. I also had this uneducated fear that all of New York would be like all those scary news stories the media constantly cycles from the scary back alleys of NYC. So I really wanted the Christian support. I emailed churches months in advance trying to select one, then asked them for advice on other supplemental groups. This is where I got referred to Community bible study (CBS). Although upstate New York is completely not scary at all and is in fact quite blessed with beautiful scenery, wildlife, and pristine lakes rivers and waterfalls, I’m still happy I have all the support here. CBS has led me into such a deeper understanding of the bible, and their non-denominational approach has really helped me see how important it is to unite with all Christians in the world and not be divided by topics that aren’t matters of saving grace. CBS has also made me more comfortable with sharing my faith and in fact assigned the speaking topic of:

If you have been a Christian since childhood, you can talk about how God has matured and changed you.

So here it goes:
According to my sister my parents were actually not church attending when we were young. My dad was raised catholic and from what I can guess about my mom she was raised either atheist or you just don’t talk about religion. (I’ve asked my grandma many times if she knows Jesus Christ and her response 100% of the time has been to simply not answer at all. I still ask her though :) ) My parents ended up renting our first house from missionaries who loved to share the gospel with us and the pastor in our tiny town actually volunteered to drive my siblings and I to VBS and bible study (where I can remember memorizing all the books of the bible at a really young age.) When I look back on it now, I can really see the providence of God in my life constantly pulling me to him. By the time my memories became consistent and reliable my parents were attending church regularly and talking about God. Also I had my sisters "guidance," my sister, who was much more morbid as a teenager than she is now, read me revelation at a very young age and she interpreted it to me as “that only 144,000 people get to heaven (probably of Jewish descent so my chances were slim)” from that night on I had nightmares of Hell. Very realistic disturbing nightmares. No matter the mechanism that started the chain reaction I am thankful for that because it led me to ask anyone I could, how I could make it to Heaven. I begged my parents to let me publicly accept Jesus Christ into my heart and be baptized. And so I was. This also led my other two siblings to be baptized at the same time. Amen! (The nightmares stopped after that if you were curious.) There were instances I had questions in middle school like “Who is the Holy Spirit” where my parents’ answers did not seem as knowledgeable and sufficient as I was yearning for i.e. “he’s kind of like your conscience.” But every time my dad tells me his parenting regrets, I try to remind him that encouraging and introducing me to the bible was all I needed and clearly what God had planned. I was given the blessed gift of being introduced to the word and God gave me the drive to learn more on my own.

When I was 16 my parents sent me to college with a job and a car and then proceeded to get separated and ultimately divorced after being apart for a lengthy amount of time on and off. Each pursued their own interests. I was the last child, so they pretty much ignored me to say the least. I would like to say here that last they checked I was on the right path. I was getting straight A’s, I played a varsity sport every season, I was involved in school plays, student government, knowledge bowl, church missions, civil air patrol…I can see how as a parent it’s tempting to think your teenager no longer needs you.

* Side note: I would like to offer this very stern advice to any parents of teenagers: No matter how well your teenager seems to be doing at this age, they need you. It’s a very critical time when there are lots of new pressures and our current society is telling them it’s okay to test uncharted waters. Stay vigilant and be attentive to your teenager, yes they will have new independence but you are still their parent and always will be. A common parental regret I hear from parents of my grown up friends who had some serious struggles is that the parent quit being so attentive to their kid at this age or got a job or pursued something else because their child was appearing to be successfully independent. If anything it’s an age where readily available temptation is lurking around every corner. And as a parent I would encourage you to check up on your teenager regularly no matter how well they look like they are tolerating life. It may look like it bugs them, but to know someone is always checking up on you and you always have someone to turn to is a wonderful gift every child loves and appreciates even if they don’t show it.

I want to be clear with my parents that there is no blame or guilt intended here. That’s just what happens when people go through a major life change, it’s hard to divide attention. And I completely understand that each of my parents were dealing with their own problems.  My mom got very flighty and ultimately moved to Portland, Or and my dad traveled for business and was never home. Needless to say I had no accountability and spiraled out of control. I’m really not blaming them, because I could have handled it differently. I had my own choices I made and I am responsible for the outcomes. I needed to realize God was there with me and I neglected to nurture that part of my life without my parents taking me to church. I should have been vigilant because I know

1 Peter 5:8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

And he was!

While looking for 4 year colleges to transfer to after I graduated high school and community college at the same time, I ironically interviewed and got a partial soccer scholarship to a Christian college in California. But I did not navigate the wide world of FASFA and student finances very well and could not figure out how to fund the endeavor. Looking back now I can see that while it was a Christian college my heart heard California and would have not lived a Christian life there, providence again. My mom talked me into moving to Portland, OR with her and her new boyfriend, which was of no surprise a big stalling point in my faith. I always had a bible on my nightstand but I did not read it. My parents were pushing the idea of following happiness because that’s what they wanted to feel okay with. Needless to say I spiraled more. You know how people say you have to hit rock bottom to cry out your Father’s name? I got there. Complete hit your knees and scream His Name. Rock. Bottom. It was so bad my sister called me up and asked one day for me to just leave Oregon and move to Alabama. Without hesitation I just answered “Yes!” It was amazing how quickly and easily I answered her. Ironically, choosing to move across the country was the easiest decision of my life. (It still takes me an hour sometimes to decide what food to pick off a menu but moving across the country- Instant decision!) God had clearly moved my heart for me. I wanted someone to help me out but I didn’t know where to start. So when she asked I thought I’ll follow someone else’s ideas as they have to be better than my own. Coincidentally, God’s plan is always better than our own. Providence again. My sister, who moved away before my parents got divorced, had stayed strong in her faith. She and her husband guided me while I enrolled at a great college and started going to church with them. I started looking to God for guidance again and not long after that I met my husband at their very church. I know I have mentioned how much I appreciated his knowledge and spiritual upbringing because he is a great spiritual leader for me. I named my first child after him proudly, and in a way my second. Because although he is not perfect, I also think of my husband as my kinsman redeemer, my Boaz if you will. I feel like I was wandering lost and God had sent yet another person to save me. How much more it means that he sent his son to die for me on top of all the blessings he has bestowed.

How has God changed me?

Although since I can remember I have felt God calling me, at this point in my life I feel like The Holy Spirit has sanctified me to the point where my submission is not because I am afraid of hell now, It’s my love for God. My appreciation for all the blessings I do not deserve, including my salvation. No matter what gets taken from me no matter how hard life gets, I know God’s plan is best and I will follow him because he is my true father who loved me perfectly so I will try to reflect his love and his glory.

Matthew 22:34-40

The Greatest Commandment
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.

All my love, 
from Idaho

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