I am so glad that you are back! It's Testimony Tuesday!
Today, a sweet and dear blogging friend of mine is sharing her testimony. It's an amazing story of God's relentless love for His beloved children & His protection over His children in the dark times of life...
"I grew up in a Christian home. Christian parents, church every Sunday, I was on the drama team at church, I went to Youth group, and all nighters, all the things Christians do, ya know?
When I was 20, I was in college but I had no direction whatsoever. One day I told my cousin that I was looking to just give up a year of my life and do whatever God wanted me to do. She told me about an internship in Texas that promised to help me find direction and purpose if I just gave up a year of my life and devoted it to Christ. So, I packed my bags and moved to Garden Valley, TX in January of 2009.
The internship was hard in a lot of ways, mainly emotionally. There were a lot of strict rules like: no dating, a curfew, no alone time with boys, and we had to fill out accountability cards. At the internship, everyone seemed to turn into the same person. They thought the same way, liked the same things, dressed the same, did the same things, and talked the same. And I just did not fit in with the masses. I didn’t want to go to Africa, speak in tongues, or journal for hours. And because they made me feel like this is what a Christian looks like, I felt like maybe I wasn’t a Christian after all. At the end of my first year, I was faced with the choice of staying another year or going home. Since I didn’t have another plan, I decided to stay. I hated my second year there. The legalism was crushing. I was 21 years old and I couldn’t think or act like an adult. My doubts on whether I was cut out to be a Christian grew nearly everyday.
It wasn’t all bad though; I made some of my closest friends there. I made my faith completely my own. I learned where I stood on things (though my stance has changed and probably will continue to change). At least it wasn’t because "my mom/dad/youth pastor told me this so this is why I believe this", it was "this is what I read in the Bible and this why I believe this way". Even though the internship was WEIRD (that’s a whole other loooong story), I grew a lot as a person there.
When I got home I began to rebel against everything that I learned in Texas. I knew God loved me but I didn’t feel like I was ever going to be the model Christian that had been described to me. So I figured ‘why bother?’ and I started doing whatever I wanted. I got drunk. A lot. I gave up my first kiss to a stranger. I had waited so long for that kiss and I never thought it was going to happen so just went for it. I did a lot of things I regret and a lot of things that left me with memories I wish I could forget... things that seemed like fun at the time.
During this time, my family and close friends had been praying for me... praying I would come back to God and realize He loved me just the way I was. I had just starting to go back to church and was trying to figure out what it meant to be a Christian outside of Texas when I met Philip. After I met him, my life completely changed in so many ways.
He reminded me that there are good men out there and I was worth more than I was settling for. I started going to his church every week and I remembered what it was like to be excited about God again. I had forgotten the joy I used to feel when in the presence of God because for so long I was afraid I wasn’t good enough to be there.
It was at that point that my heart was profoundly changed by the grace of God. I knew full well that God loved me and I didn’t HAVE to want to be all those things I thought I once did. I just needed to seek after Him with all that I have. And even if I wasn’t going after him with all that I had, He was still there for me. He still loved me.
Just 3 months after we started dating, I got news I will never forget. I remember it vividly. My brother looked at me and said, "Dad has a brain tumor" It was an out of body experience. His prognosis was grim- 6 months to 3 years if he was lucky. The next few months are a long and painful journey that I maybe will talk about one day. Ultimately my dad passed away on August 16th 2012.
The first few days, weeks, and months, everything seemed dark and scary. I never thought I could make it to the other side. I got into counseling 3 weeks after he passed and went for just over a year. I really believe God used this to His glory; I processed and grieved.
After a while I looked back and 6 months had gone by, then 6 more months – a year. Then 2 years. I never thought I could get here and be happy. I won’t lie, some days are harder than others but all in all I believe with all my heart and soul that God carried me through. Christ is the center of my world now because I don’t have a choice otherwise. I would not be here today if it weren’t for Him. Looking back, I see His hand in everything. Do I wish there was a different outcome? Absolutely! But I know he worked all things together for His good. He gave me joy, peace, and He gave me Philip to take care of me exactly when I needed him the most.
But listen to me, friend, if you get nothing else from this story today know this: God is REAL. He is real and He loves you, He loves you exactly how you are. He is worthy of our praise and our devotion. He has proven Himself to me over and over again. That is why I can’t keep it in. That is why I feel the need to tell people it is by the Grace of God I am here today. That is why if you came into my church on any given Sunday you would probably see me with both arms stretched out wide and trying to hide the tears in my eyes. How can I not be moved when I get to sing to the Lord exactly how much He means to me? The words I am singing make my heart soar because I know them in my heart to be true. My desire is for you to know Him too. Because I know this joy full well I want you to experience it too."
----- Mary Keith
YOU ARE LOVED!