My story begins with loss. My husband had just left an extremely stressful position at an automotive company in Michigan after 15 years of dedicated service. We had also just lost our baby David after having him for only 37 blessed days. Losing him marks the beginning of our testimony.
Alas, all I wanted to do was go home to California—my home! My family was there. My Mom was there. So we packed up our five children and went home. Things were looking up.
We went to work in my uncle's business in an effort to help him revive it, but it was bringing in too little to support our family. We had moved into the little one bedroom house behind my mom's home, because we couldn't afford a place of our own. And that is where we stayed. We prayed, though, and thanked God for this house that my mom and step-dad had rented to us for a fair price. They added on a room and a bath, and for the next six months we had two bedrooms!
I prayed for the restoration of our lives, and for enough money to get us into a house with a good school district. Our current little home was situated on a very busy street, so I couldn't let my children play out front. I had to homeschool them at four different grade levels, something I was unprepared to do while still grieving the loss of my son.
Finding a HomeMiracle of miracles, my brother invited us to a Harvest Festival that was being held at a church near his. Wow! I fell in love with this church. I felt at home.
The next weekend our little family showed up to check out the Sunday service. My husband felt the same excitement for this church. God was truly alive there! We also fell in love with the pastor! The couple sitting behind us was so nice, and the wife even invited me to Tuesday morning Bible study. So I went.
The date of my second Bible study class would have been my son's first birthday. I had dropped the kids off in their classrooms and then it hit me as I walked into the sanctuary. I turned and ran to the restroom—I couldn't stop crying.
Later I learned that the previous head of grief counseling at the church also sat at my Bible study table, and we ended up talking together in the prayer room.
Finding SupportI love the women in my church. I have never felt so supported in my life. Through all we've been through, this glorious church family that I've grown to love has never abandoned us. They are a shining example of Christianity and of God's love being poured out through the fire of change.
Change doesn't feel so good when you are going through it, but God uses it to burn off the impurities in your life. What you are left with is, well, someone God can more fully use. God softens us for a purpose, doesn't he? With no personal knowledge of the painful heartaches of life, how could we reach out to others who are hurting?
Our business failed to get off the ground. In the meantime, we had remained friends with the couple we'd met that first time in church. When they found out my husband was searching for a job, they offered him one. Unfortunately, it didn't work out. But that was okay. It was unfamiliar work and my husband knew he was inexperienced.
Finding the Bottom
The hard part was feeling the world drop out from under us. Can you imagine? I was watching the man I adored, the man who carried the stress of supporting his family, fall to his knees. We prayed, "God, where are you?"
God brought us very close together through that time. We felt like we were in a fire as the bottom fell out of our lives over and over again. But, impurities were being boiled in the process.
The weekend before my husband was let go from his job, he had gone to a men's retreat with our 8-year-old son. Sunday rolled around and I took our four other children to church. At first I wasn't going to go. I figured everyone would be at the men's retreat, but I'm glad I went.
A woman named Sarah Kelly sang and I couldn't stop crying. Her testimony was so strong. What the heck was I complaining about? Listening to her turned the light switch on inside of me.
My husband came home from the retreat and immediately left to go up north on a job related trip. This was just days before losing the job. During that time he had been praying for a change of heart in me—that I would stop struggling with my living situation.
Finding SurrenderGod is great, because when he returned on Wednesday, I was singing, "Faithful Father, I surrender all to you." I had truly submitted my life. I had surrendered. My motto had become, "Depend on God, Trust in God." Now this is not an easy thing to do when your world is falling apart. But I was able to tell my husband that God had changed my heart. If Jesus could be the master of stormy situations, then so would I!
Two days later he was released from his job.
I felt like God was saying, "Okay, now you can be released." I submitted to my situation and surrendered all to God. I was finally done flying my own plane. So then God took over the controls. Now there no longer remained the option to fly my plane. I thought, "So this is what happens when you surrender your life to God."
Finding DirectionWe were up all that night praying to God for direction. Although we felt devastated and shattered at that moment, we knew God wouldn't drop us. By morning we could see a lighted path.
My husband had been just 10 months away from getting his mechanical engineering degree back in Michigan. We would return to Michigan—and that was okay! We had peace.
As I write this, we feel cushioned by the prayers being said for my family by my church family. I can only figure it's the reason we're going through this with such a profound sense of peace.
We will leave back for Michigan a week from today, Sunday. My husband is going to finish his degree and then we'll walk forward. As of today, we are free from anxiety. We are able to sleep at night. Life is good. Even though we are starting over and I don't know what lies ahead, I know our faithful Father will not only give us what we need, he will give us what we need to be his.
As I try to express all that my Lord has done for me throughout my life, I realize it does not do him justice. His unconditional and unfathomable love far exceeds these few words I use to describe my spiritual rebirth, my life struggles and continued growth towards spiritual maturity.
As I wrote out my fourth step while in a 12-step recovery program, I came to see on paper the patterns of destructive behavior I had developed throughout my lifetime. These behaviors had their roots in feelings, emotions and defective beliefs. I did not like who I was, the environment I lived in and the deep-seated feelings I had about myself.
I did not fully realize these truths about myself until I had suffered enough, to the point of complete and absolute surrender (humility) of my whole life.
At an early age I heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and the little bit of truth I understood was enough to plague my entire existence, no matter how far I ran, hid or justified my sinful rebellion.
Needing God's GraceEven though I had heard of salvation through Jesus, I was also exposed to church doctrine that instilled fear, condemnation and guilt. I was torn because I knew in my heart that Jesus did in fact die for my sins, but I had no understanding of his grace. I found myself needing to be saved again and again every time I sinned. I literally went to every alter call at every church I attended.
After many years struggling with my Christian faith, I could not bear it any longer. I abandoned myself to what temporarily seemed to bring comfort. I would later become addicted to alcohol, drugs and sex.
But God was still at work, as promised in Philippians 1:6, " ... being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ ..." (NKJV)
Losing EverythingI ended up suffering the loss of many precious and wonderful gifts God had given me, and eventually in prison, I was stripped of my freedom. I had to be afflicted so that God would receive my undivided attention. If God can’t get a hold of us through his Spirit, he will do it through the flesh.
Throughout the past 15 years I have struggled to know Christ like others had known him. This wouldn't come until I truly got into his Word and sought him wholeheartedly, like Jeremiah: "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13 NIV)
I began to discover for myself who Christ is through reading Paul’s letters, discovering David’s relationship with God and God’s covenant with Abraham. I began to understand God’s grace towards me. This was the beginning of the end of my self-destructive behaviors.
Finding HopeWhen I was at the end of my rope, there I found hope. I knew that nothing outside of Christ was going to bring me genuine comfort, peace, acceptance, love and forgiveness - things I had sought all my life. As I look back I see where I allowed the enemy to influence my life with fear, shame and condemnation, especially regarding my many failures at serving God.
When I completed my fourth step and felt the true weight of my sin and separation from God, I was forced to carry it for a time. It hurt me in my inner most self. I cried for a time and as I looked back. They were true tears of repentance.
When I took this in depth look at my behavior and the pain I had caused those I loved, I knew that I could no longer live this way. So, as I worked through the sixth and seventh steps, I began to see the underlying reasons for my behaviors. They were the results of something deeper. It took the hand of God to reveal these things to me and give me the courage and strength to overcome the thoughts and perceptions which had influenced and controlled my life.
A Daily JourneyIt is a never ending journey which begins each and every day with >seeking God's will for my life. It takes courage, patience, love and perseverance to press on towards the goal set before me.
I work the twelve steps, which I believe are spiritual in nature in my daily life. I have finally come to be fully alive in Christ. I see how much time I wasted, but I am now convinced God had a plan for me even before my parents were born. I went through what I did to be a witness of God’s grace, love and mercy towards mankind and those he puts in my path.
I didn't know God was all I needed until he was all I had. I had to lose everything so that I would not have any obstacles between him and me. I had to give up my life in order to gain a new life in him.
Stepping into FreedomI could go on talking about the steps, but what I need to say is this: In order for the steps to truly work and give me genuine peace, I had to be totally honest with myself and with God, because only he was able to comfort me through the painful process. Only God could help me make sense of it all.
Today I have freedom I never believed I could have. I am convinced that everything I have experienced has become an asset in reaching others who are struggling in similar areas. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not chained like our brother Paul stated, it is for all men, women and children.
“I became all things to all people so that I might gain some for Christ.” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Paraphrase)
It is all about him ...
Before I met him my life was going down the drain. I had nothing to live for, let alone die for.
There was no light at the end of my tunnel. In fact, there wasn't even a tunnel. Only a deep, damp grave. Those days passed long ago, but I can’t ever let myself forget them.
A few summers back I met a wonderful guy who had sparked my interest. His name was Erik. We had only talked and gone out a few times, but I was hooked. I opened up to him about myself and all the messed-up problems I was dealing with in my life.
First, there were the alcoholics. I was living on my own at age 15, stealing, having sex, and the list goes on.
The Answer - An InvitationErik always listened, but one day he answered. He asked if he could take me somewhere. I liked him, so I agreed. Early one Sunday morning we pulled up to his church.
I had never been in a church my whole life and I was unsure about what I should do. My heart began to panic. As we took our seats I relaxed a little and began to skim the crowd while light Christian rock music began to play.
I noticed everyone was dressed casually in jeans and sweaters. But I also noticed everyone’s faces were so lit up with happy expressions. I never knew church made people happy.
A New InterestAfter the service another interest sparked in my life. I wanted to go back again and again and find out what all the happiness was about. I soon learned that it wasn't the church that made people happy, but rather, it was God and his son Jesus. They were the reason for the happy expressions on people's faces.
A New DirectionErik and I drifted apart, but I continued to grow at this church. Over the next few years I learned so much. I started to notice a slight change in my life in the right direction.
One day at church I took the greatest leap of faith and prayed to God. I asked Jesus to be my personal Savior. I walked out of church that warm and sunny Sunday afternoon, a new person. And I've never regretted it.
I wish I could say from that day on I lived a perfect life. Tra la la, and happily ever after ... the end.
But that's not reality.
A New StrengthBeing saved didn't take away all of the problems from the past. But it gave me a new strength. I have the Lord to be by my side always.
Just this year I was baptized and began teaching Sunday school. I would have never imagined this for my life three years ago.
I was at the lowest point of my life when Christ came knocking at my door. Boy, am I glad I let him in! Otherwise, I probably would be pregnant, drugged up, or even worse—dead.
Those days are passed. But I always remember to never forget where I came from. I know where I have been, but I also know where I am going. As long as I walk with Jesus I am safe forever and I know I'm on the winning side.