Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Testimony Tuesday (A New Series!) --- My Story

I've always had a love for words. Words are powerful. They can build up or break down. What better way to glorify God than with words. Of course, words without action, like faith without deeds, are empty & dead. But it doesn't have to be that way. There is power in the name of Jesus! I have had the opportunity to talk with a few friends from all over the country & they have opened up their heart with me and all of you. In words, they are sharing their testimonies of how God, in His amazing grace, has saved & changed them.

Normally it will be every Tuesday, starting next week, that I will bring you a personal testimony. It's called Testimony Tuesday and I pray that God will use it to encourage you & open up your eyes and hearts to God's amazing love that He has for us, His dearly beloved creations.

I want to share my own personal testimony of God's saving and perfect grace in my former hurt, lost, and confused life.
When I was five or six, my parents divorced. I still don't enjoy thinking about it but I can remember it all started. At that time and for years to come, it would seem like this trial in my life was ruining me. I couldn't see the end, even as a young child. It was the hardest thing I've ever endured. But what the enemy planned for evil, God planned for GOOD.
Without knowing, that statement would come to be a recurring truth in my life.
Meanwhile, I grew up confused and hurt. At the age of 12, while sitting in a church service with my mom, I remembered feeling my heart pump almost out of my chest while my hands became cold and clammy. I remember picturing Jesus' cross on a hill, knowing in my heart that the perfect God of the universe came to earth for me, a sinner condemned unclean, to save me and make me whole again. Somehow, Someone who I grew up learning as God, loved me. I needed Him. I knew it, I believed it, and I wanted to be washed clean from my sin so that I could know this amazing God. I asked Him to come into my heart.
My life was still hard. Honestly, I don't remember it changing too much after that. I remember crying myself to sleep every single night because life just wasn't what I thought it should be, too painful for a child. Most of the time, it was impossible for me to fathom that God, my Heavenly Father, actually cared for and loved me. But I had faith, at least a microscopic bit of faith, that I held onto for dear life while I struggled through life feeling confused and hurt.

During middle school, I struggled silently with depression, anger, and unforgiveness but I just figured it was part of being a teenager. Because I wasn't being led to Jesus in really any way, I turned to the world for my identity and fulfillment, purpose and happiness. We stopped going to church during my first two years of high school and honestly, I don't remember much of my life during that time. The person who I was wasn't the real me. I was drowning myself with worldly things... unhealthy relationships, fake friendships, meaningless dreams. I always knew God existed. I never ever once doubted that He was there. I just grew numb to everything. I was popular and on the outside, was normal but on the inside, that couldn't be more far from the truth. 
 As I look back at my life during high school, wow, I see God's hand EVERYWHERE. He was saving me over and over again and I didn't acknowledge Him once. I didn't care. As long as someone as interested in me, I was "happy". Fast-forward to my junior year of high school. I was dating someone (who wasn't a Christian and didn't care to be) when my little sister gave her life to Christ. That was the wake up call for my family. My step dad also turned his life over to Christ completely and started learning how to lead his family towards Jesus.
 I could spot new life budding all around me but on the inside, all I saw was dead flowers just waiting to be brought back to life with the Living Water. I remember two specific days in my past that cut deep. The first one was a day that I was sitting in my bedroom floor looking out the window. I saw a big black bird fly across my window. Something about it felt extremely eerie, something you wish to unsee. For some reason, after that moment I felt complete darkness and sadness for weeks, even months after. I think that Satan was battling hard for my soul. Of course, he couldn't have it but I was so weak and vulnerable, he knew that he could break me down as much as he wanted. (Praise God for His mercy to me because quietly, He was working something different out that the enemy nor I could see!)

 The second was a day I looked in the mirror and literally couldn't recognize myself. It was scary. All I saw was "fake". It was in that moment that I knew something had to change. But because I had no guidance and a lot of pride, nothing permanently changed. I continued to follow the world. On the outside, I was blissfully happy but deep inside, I was dying. I learned how to fake it so well. So well.
But God didn't leave me in my mess. He never once left my side, PRAISE JESUS! The summer after I turned 17, my then-boyfriend (now ex of course) asked me to go to the beach with him and some friends of ours. I asked my mom for permission and for the first time EVER, she told me to ask my father (my real dad). I knew that something was up because she never told me that. I asked him and he said no. In the moment, of course, I didn't understand. But looking back, I KNOW that that was God at work! God was working and moving mountains for me! He was pursuing me and I didn't even know it! That is until a month later when I was supposed to be leaving for the trip. The youth group from our church was leaving that morning for a week long summer camp. I left that morning with them without having previously signed up. I just did it. I didn't want to deal with everything back at home that summer plus I had a weird feeling that I needed to go. That was the week that God changed my life, my heart, my soul, my mind. He changed me completely, from the inside out. It was like God brought me back to life that week. I remember one specific night at worship where I met with God. It was powerful and I only remember sobbing on the floor for hours. Meeting with the all-powerful God for the first real time in your whole life changes a person, ya know? I'll never forget the song that He wooed me with... "Lead Me to the Cross" by Hillsong United. Y'all, I wish that I could put into words that experience. I have never been the same since that week. All glory to God. Thank you Jesus for breathing life into my dry bones!
When I got back from that camp, I no longer craved the world but I desired to remove myself from the world as much as I possibly could. I had a fire burning in my heart and mind for only one thing. I had one desire: Jesus Christ. It was so hard but I had to tell my best friends of 10+ years that I couldn't do the things they were doing anymore because I loved Jesus now and He changed me. They still hate me to this day. But they won't understand why I did what I did until they open their hearts to the One and Only God, Jesus and I pray they do that before it's too late. I also had to end it with my boyfriend. That was hard since we were very close friends but I had absolutely no desire to be with someone who didn't love Jesus or even believe in Him for that matter. After breaking up with him, I remember sitting in my bathroom reading my bible. I came across these verses and I KNEW that God was speaking them right to me...
"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."
James 4:7-10
Those verses quickly became my life verses because I knew that God was meaning business and was taking control in my life. I couldn't risk looking back even for a split second. I still read them nearly every day! 
I wish I could say that I stayed single until I met my husband but that isn't reality. I went back and forth from that ex (mainly because I couldn't get rid of him, he would come to my house everyday to beg for me back) to another guy that was a great guy but sadly, that's all he was. A morally good person. My heart craved a true Jesus follower, a godly man. If only I would of learned patience earlier in life.
Thankfully, God placed a Christ-like mentor in my life to encourage me and help me focus on my One True Love, Jesus. Her name was Cheryl and I swear she is an angel. We met once a week and she taught me, encouraged me, and gently guided me to Christ in a loving way. I grew immensely during that time. I struggled with loneliness since all of my old friends despised me but I prayed for new ones and God was faithful to send me true, honest, and loving friends who love the Lord. What a blessings to have true friends who point you to Christ!
After feeling God call me to mission and community work rather than college (another story for another day), I spent my summers working for Christ and growing nearer to Him. What a hard but blessed season of my life that I can look back on and see how He carried me and instilled key truths in me that I use every single day like hospitality, selflessness, and a love for others. During this time of growing closer to God, I learned how to stop hiding behind a mask. I learned how to be real instead of fake. You don't have to pretend to have it all together. God sees your sin, your scars, your hurt, your pain, your screw-ups and He is loving enough & powerful enough to reverse the curse of sin over you. He gives you strength to be transparent & honest. He loves you no matter what you've done! Do you believe that?
At the end of 2012, I met someone through a mutual friend. We talked for a while over text and then decided that we needed to meet. Four months later, as we overlooked the Caribbean, he prayed with me and thanked God for all that He was doing in our lives. That handsome guy got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife! I almost threw up with excitement. God was faithful. Neither of us were expecting to meet our spouse that year but God is so good! We were married five months later and life hasn't been the same since! Joe has been a key part in freeing me from the chains of my past life and showing me the love and freedom that is Jesus Christ. I have learned so much from him. We have both grown in leaps and bounds with our Father. Marriage is hard but so amazing because God uses it everyday to incredibly mold me and change my heart. I was so selfish before being married. Of course, I don't have it down perfectly, but God has molded me into His loved servant who is more selfless and loyal than ever before.
Living for Christ and not for yourself isn't easy but it is amazing. We have had our ups and downs but I know that it is all for God's glory. He is so so so worth it all. God gave His life so that we could live. The least I can do is lay that life down at His feet to be used for His glory and fame. I still struggle and it's a battle everyday for our souls but He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world. My life is hidden in Christ & I am 100% His. When you let go of selfish ambition, goals, desires, selfish thoughts, and just open your heart to God and His amazing heart, He gives you purpose and joy... Two things I never had until He saved me and asked me to lay my life down and follow Him.
Purpose and Joy is found in Jesus Christ alone!
I struggle with fear but I know that in Christ, I have nothing to fear. God is with me always.
I struggle with past regrets and guilt but in Christ, there is no condemnation and He has made me into a new creation. In Christ, I AM PURE! Literally, my name means pure princess. God is so wise! He knew that I would struggle with worth and guilt and he named me his pure princess before I was even thought of. Thank you Jesus!
I struggle with the pressure of unreal expectations on myself as a wife and Jesus follower but in Christ, I don't have to work to be loved or accepted. I must simply abide in Him.
God is doing so many amazing things in my life right now. He is demolishing fear that has been sewed in my mind all my life. He is sending people into my life to point me to Christ even more so. We are now members of the most amazing church group I could ever dream of. Living life alongside true Jesus followers who are being spent for the cause of Christ is nothing short of supernaturally amazing.
He is giving me a genuine love for people, lost and found. He is giving me a growing urge to do nothing but serve and love Him and His people. I am realizing more and more each day that this life is not about me,  not even 0.1%. It's all about Him and His glory. He saved me from hell, destruction, torment. He has given me life, joy, love. HE IS LIFE, JOY, & LOVE!
One day, I will see my amazing Savior face to face. Lord, haste the day!!!!
You are loved!

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