Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Testimony Flashback

I have been wanting to post a new blog entry here for a long time; I suppose I got hit by writer's block.  :)  But today, because of some things going on in my life right now, I have taken a walk down memory lane and decided to share it with you.  Below is part of my testimony that I shared at my local CBS (Community Bible Study) meeting nearly 7 years ago when I lived in Colorado.  If you'd like, you can listen to the audio version by clicking above (It's almost 17 minutes long).  I hope my story speaks to you...

Psalm 105:1-2 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.  Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.”

I’m going to share with you some of the wonderful acts that God has done recently in my life.  I grew up in a Christian home in the South, where I was exposed to the gospel from the very beginning.  I asked Jesus to save me at a fairly young age, but I didn’t truly have a relationship with Him until I was in college.  And this came after I had rebelled and was sucked into a life of sin.  But God showed me my brokenness and I came to true repentance – my life was changed and I knew it.  Before I left college, I met and married my husband Jeromy.  He is also a Christian, and he had a huge impact on my walk with the Lord while we were dating.  When I graduated from college, we took a leap of faith and moved to Colorado, away from our families, to help plant a church in Larkspur -- and so that Jeromy could go to seminary. 

When we first moved there, everything was perfect.  It was one of those mountain-top experiences.  I felt so close to God, and He was answering all my prayers with a big YES!  We first lived in Monument with some friends.  And within a week God provided us both with jobs and a townhome to rent.  My job was at Focus on the Family, so I was excited about working at a ministry.  On top of all that, the church plant we were helping with was flourishing.  We were working, working, working for the Lord and so happy doing it.

This is where the story starts to take a turn, although I didn’t realize it at the time.  But I was beginning to get comfortable.  So comfortable in fact, that I stopped having a real relationship with God.  There I was serving in church, teaching the kids, doing drama, singing with the praise team, and even working full-time at a Christian ministry.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with what I was doing.  All the things I was doing were good things.  But I was quickly deceived into believing that I didn’t need to spend any extra time with the Lord, because of all the other stuff I was doing.  I stopped talking to God.  Sure, I prayed in church when I was asked or at work during our daily devotionals… but there was no meaning in my words.  Because my intimate relationship with Jesus was no longer existent.  I was just going through the motions.

Then the trials came.  First, Jeromy’s father passed away only a year after we had moved to Colorado.  He was only 52.  It was very sudden and my husband took it pretty hard.  I think I handled it okay, but only because it wasn’t my own father.  I felt some distance from the pain, because I hadn’t known him for very long.  But then, the trials became a lot more personal to me. 
On December 8, 2002, I found out that I was pregnant.  Four days later, I began to miscarry.  But at the time the doctors told me that it might be too early to tell if I was going to lose the baby.  The ultrasound showed something, but they couldn’t find a heartbeat yet.  I was totally devastated.  And so scared.  I sought help from a Christian friend, who gave me a lot of verses to claim and pray over the baby.  I spent several weeks pleading with God to save my baby.  And I mean pleading.  It was a good thing that this trial put me on my knees praying, talking to God -- but the baby was all I prayed about.  I thought about nothing else.  Finally, when it seemed to be over, I went back for another ultrasound and the doctor confirmed that the baby was lost.  In that moment I felt so alone, and I even felt rejected by God.  I couldn’t understand why God would say no to my prayers for that baby.  I felt like God had let me down.  Then I started thinking that maybe it was my own fault, since I had fallen away from my relationship with God.  I went back and forth between blaming myself and being mad at God, seeing Him as unloving, unforgiving, and without mercy.  And so I returned to my former habits of not really talking to God.

A few months later we found out I was pregnant again.  I was excited, but very scared because of what had happened with the first pregnancy.  Then my fear turned to terror when I started to bleed.  This happened off and on for nearly 2 months.  I can’t put into words how terrified I was.  I literally operated under a mode of fear for every single day of that entire pregnancy.  The only prayers I could muster again were pleas to God for Him to save the baby.  I am so thankful to say that I delivered my daughter at full-term, and everything went perfectly.  And although it is sad and almost unbelievable to say, my relationship with God didn’t change much even after that great blessing, because I was still wounded from the loss of my first pregnancy. 
Then, I got pregnant again much sooner than we had anticipated.  Our son was due only 17 months after our daughter was born.  And this pregnancy wasn’t much different than the previous one, as I had some early days where it looked like I was going to lose the baby.  But then my body seemed to settle down and several months went by with no problems.  And because of that, I wasn’t as fearful with this pregnancy.  But at the same time, I still wasn’t really having a relationship with God.  I was relying on the prayers of others to get me through, and I wasn’t seeking God out for myself.  Then suddenly, when I was only 30 weeks along, my son decided to be born.  It was a very traumatic event.  At home one night my water broke and I was bleeding heavily.  We had to call 911 and I was driven to the hospital in an ambulance.  When we got to the hospital and they found my son’s heartbeat, I was so relieved.  After a few hours they determined that they had to go ahead and deliver him.  He was only 3 pounds.  They had to take him to a different hospital pretty quickly, because they didn’t have the equipment to take care of him there.  And since I had a C-section and had lost so much blood, I had to spend some time recovering before I could even get up.  My son ended up spending 5 weeks in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit before he came home on oxygen.  Those days of visiting him in the hospital were the hardest days.  I can remember wanting so badly to pray -– to talk to God like I knew I was supposed to be able to do -- and to find that comfort and peace that only He can give.  But I just couldn’t find it in me to do it.  I don’t even know how I functioned from day to day.  I guess I was just numb.  It still felt like there was a wall between me and God, and that His back had turned on me.

I became incredibly depressed soon after that.  After all I had been through, even despite the miraculous things God had done and the blessings He had given me, I felt so far away from Him.  Here I was, with 2 beautiful children who were true miracles, and I was able to stay at home with them instead of going back to work… yet I felt so alone.  I felt like all the troubles I had experienced were my own fault because I had neglected my relationship with God, and that God would never be able to get over His disappointment in me.  And that was all that I could focus on.  Those thoughts of self-hatred and seeing God as my punisher consumed me.  It took me a while to realize that I was depressed, but once I did, I sought help.  I talked to several different people, including my pastor and a licensed Christian counselor, but nothing helped.  Even the encouragement my husband tried to give wasn’t getting through.  So I racked my brain trying to think who in the world could help me.  Finally, I asked a dear friend if she knew of anyone, and she referred me to a Christian couple that she thought could counsel me. 

I praise God that He worked through this couple to reach me.  They talked and prayed me through some of the experiences I had gone through.  And they reassured me that Jesus Christ had literally been with me during all of those experiences.  It was like a revelation to me – to actually picture Jesus there with me in the most horrible, traumatic moments of my life, and to listen to what He was saying to me during those times.  That is part of what it means to have a relationship with Christ – it is real.  And every time I pictured Jesus there, all I saw was love -- not the rejection I had been feeling.  I could see Him sitting with me, holding my hand, holding the precious baby I had lost… He never left my side, and He never spoke a word of condemnation.  When I listened closely, I could even hear Him speaking to me.  All of the lies that I had believed about God for so long were suddenly brought into the light and exposed for what they really were. 

These words of David in Psalm 77:7-14 really sum up my thought process: “Will the Lord reject forever?  Will he never show his favor again?  Has his unfailing love vanished forever?  Has his promise failed for all time?  Has God forgotten to be merciful?  Has he in anger withheld his compassion?  Then I thought, ‘To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.’  I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.  Your ways, O God, are holy.  What god is so great as our God?  You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.”

Since that time of spiritual and emotional healing for me, it has been a day to day battle.  I still have days (or weeks) when I struggle with that depression wanting to come back.  Every once in a while I still hear the lies of the enemy ringing in my ears… that I am a failure.  And I still struggle sometimes with talking to God because of that.  But overall, I know that things are getting better for me.  I am getting stronger.  Jesus is so much more real to me now.  I am learning new truths every day.  I am getting to know who God is through my personal relationship with Him.  And slowly but surely, despite all my weaknesses and the reality of sin, I am learning who I am now because of Christ. 

Psalm 71:20 says, “Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.”

If I leave you with anything from this story, it would be this: find out who God really is, and who you really are in Him.  Seek the truth about God and do not give up, because the truth will set you free.