Written in order to share verbally with my sisters in Christ from Resurrection Presbyterian Church at a Fellowship Event tonight. A couple people asked for a copy so I am sharing it here. With humility I hope that it blesses some and glorifies God.
Though it could be written with more style and care it was one of those times when I just needed to get it down without thinking too much about it. It was a challenge in faith, transparency and honesty. I will probably edit it in the year to come and hopefully it will get more readable. Thank you for taking the time to read it as it is.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my testimony – it has been a tremendous blessing for me to be able to think about God’s great love and His perfect ways as I have prepared to share about His work in my life.
While both of my parents had backgrounds in Christianity and I was baptized as an infant in a Lutheran Church, God was not an everyday part of my life when I was a child. Having said that, I do have a few clear memories of my mom telling me Bible stories, particularly the story of creation. I had a very distinct feeling of warmth and happiness at the knowledge that there was a God who created everything. This awakened in me imaginative thoughts of God and a desire to know more about Him. I am very thankful to my mom for telling me about God because thoughts of Him gave me hope & got me through some very dark & confusing times.
My mom had her own traumatic childhood and she met my Dad when she was 15 and he was 20. I came along when she was 20 after having to give a baby up for adoption at 16 and then having a baby die within 24 hours after a full term delivery. My parents divorced before I was 2 and by the time I was 4 my mom was remarried to man who was an alcoholic, a sex addict, and who was abusive in every way. From the ages of 4-8 I remember seeing my mom abused regularly. I saw her being strangled in front of me and beaten, I sat in the ER with her while she got her jar wired shut, and one time I came home from staying overnight with a friend to find every single thing in our small apartment broken – every wall and every door had a hole in it, every glass & dish, every record album broken, everything strewn across the floor. I remember looking at the dumpster the next day and thinking how strange that all of our things could fit in there.
During this time I visited my Dad and his new family every other weekend and don’t remember much about being there accept the feeling that I was very misunderstood. I was told that I smelled like cigarettes and was just like my mother which I could tell was not a compliment. Mostly I knew that it wasn’t safe to really talk very much and that there was a huge paddle that hung on the wall that my step-brother was frequently hit with that needed to be avoided at all costs. Once, while sleeping at my Dad’s, my mom showed up in the middle of the night bloody and bruised and slept with me on the cot that was my bed. I was always worried that my Dad would take me away from her and I strongly felt that she needed me. I passionately believed that if we were together we would always survive and be okay.
I daydreamed about God a lot in these early years wondering what He was like and what he thought of all that was going on. I wondered if he saw me, if he knew me or cared and I sensed that He did. Even at an early age I didn’t like my parents very much and disliked my step-parents even more. I imagined that if God was perfect He was everything that these people weren’t.
On the terrifying night that my mom finally did leave her abuser I hoped and prayed, as he was trying to smash the hood and windshield of the car with a baseball bat, that we would get away and that we really would never go back. We left Tacoma that night and moved to Bremerton. We eventually ended up in a little house in front of the Naval Ship Yard and I thought it was the most wonderful place ever!
I was in 3rd grade at this point and I had already been to about 7 different schools in Tacoma. I loved school, was very good at it and I was becoming a master at making friends. At this young age I had already learned that all you had to do is become just like the first person who talks to you. Like what they like, talk like they talk and you would have a friend. Teachers generally seemed to love me though they did worry when by end of the first month of school I would have all the assignments done and neatly folded and tucked into my English and Math books.
Soon my mom was remarried and we were heading to San Diego on an aircraft carrier. I was 8 years old. The last weekend that I visited my Dad he told me he was pretty sure that he was never going to see me again and so he wanted to tell me about my brother who had been given up for adoption with strict instructions to not tell my mom that I knew. The news didn’t surprise me, I was already convinced in my heart that I was supposed to have an older brother (that’s a good story for another time). I felt that I was already pretty good at keeping secrets from my mom that I knew I would never tell. Soon after we moved I started having nightmares about being given away or abandoned in scary places and eventually had to tell my mom what I knew. I thought that was the reason I didn’t get to talk to my Dad again for a couple of years. I am not sure now that he ever really tried.
Life in San Diego was pretty good – the scariest thing that happened was being alone late at night and into early morning when my mom worked nights as a cocktail waitress & my navy step-dad was away. I got in trouble a couple of times for knocking on the downstairs neighbor’s door but that led them to give me a Bible so I wasn’t sorry. They gave me the Bible and told me it was God’s Book. It was one of those paperbacks that were popular in the 70’s called The Way and since I loved reading I was very excited. I think they were hoping that I would read it and stop knocking on their door at 2 and 3 in the morning. Sadly when I tried to read that Bible it seemed very strange to me. I told my mom that I thought it was weird and she said to open to the middle and read the Psalms. I thought that the psalms were odd too and besides the first few chapters in Genesis the whole thing didn’t make any sense to me.
Soon we moved to Petaluma, Ca and were living close to my step dad’s parents. My new “grandma” was a professional tarot card and palm reader. She had a lovely home and had many clients that would come to her house. She would often tell me that I was spiritually gifted and that I was extremely powerful. She also told me that I held deep secrets that she knew about and she started to teach me her trade secrets. I found her both fascinating and frightening. I had a strong sense that this was not a good way to go.
When I was 11 this marriage was in trouble and I was sent to see my Dad for a month when school got out. Within 2 weeks my mom was back in Washington and moving the little bit of stuff she brought with her into her mom’s house in Burien.
My Dad was newly studying with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and was over the top with enthusiasm. I was fascinated to finally be hearing Bible stories and about Jesus for the first time. I was drawn to the idea of Bible studies and the thought that maybe ,finally , I could come to understand it. A lot of what I was learning was in the context of what other churches taught that was wrong and why the Jehovah’s Witnesses had it right. They referred to themselves as the Truth and my Dad’s life was completely cleaned up. It was very compelling to me. I had missed my Dad and being a part of a family that stayed together and read the Bible together was a deep desire in my heart.
When school started I began 6th grade in the Seattle schools and for the first time I felt lost and alone at school. I felt behind, I couldn’t make a friend and I was becoming uneasy in our living situation. I was starting to be extremely unhappy and my Dad’s religion seemed very inviting to me. I was even more interested in going to my Dad’s house when one day near the end of about the 2nd week of school my mom picked me up and on the way home told me that she didn’t know how but my first step-dad had found us and he was claiming to be a completely different man. She wanted me to give him a chance because he had changed. He was no longer drinking and she was confident he was no longer dangerous. She wanted to get back together with him. That was the final straw for me. I didn’t want to be around that man and I was very angry at her for even thinking about returning to him. I told her that I wanted to move in with my Dad and his family immediately.
From 11 to 13 I lived with my Dad and because my Mom had quickly remarried that step dad and she and I were very unhappy with each other I didn’t see her very much. On the occasions that I did visit her I would steal her clothes. Eventually she caught on and would take me shopping when I visited. On one occasion she bought me my first high heels at a second hand shop. They were sandals with a square one inch heel. My Dad and step mom were not happy and were convinced that visits with my mom were leading me into her immoral ways. I really wanted to know and please God but I was getting increasingly uncomfortable and distrustful of all the rules and lack of love and understanding. I was angry and confused, I felt increasing lost and alone. I was feeling like I could never be good enough and I had nowhere to go that felt safe. Then one weekend after visiting my mom I got home to find all of my things in garbage bags and was told that I needed to go and live with my mom. They didn’t want me around my siblings since I didn’t want to live by their rules. (Someday when I write my memoirs I am going to call it Trash!)
So, I was back with my mom and nearing the end of 8th grade and I decided that I was done with religion. I still tried to talked with God, I believed that he could hear me, but I told Him He was going to have to show me the way to go because I didn’t trust religious people. I was afraid of churches and though I still believed the Bible was God’s Word I was unsure of how to understand it rightly. It seemed to me that men just used it to try and control people and feel superior. I dealt with my anger and fear by not eating, walking and exercising and by shopping-lifting (which continued until I was 17 but quickly ended when I was arrested and put on probation).
I finished 8th grade at Stewart Middle school and began 9th grade at Grey Middle School. I made a lot of friends in my new school and that made it easier to keep busy as much as possible. I spent as much time as I could at friend’s houses and the mall. My mom and step-dad were gone a lot of the time and when they were around they were usually smoking pot and were happy to leave me to myself. We still moved quite a bit, usually pretty quickly when the rent couldn’t be made. My mom would occasionally have the random bruise on her face but would explain them away with claims of klutziness. I was suspicious but never witnessed any physical abuse. He was still a selfish controlling person and a sex addict (evidenced by the perverse movies and books he left laying around)and I didn’t trust him. I barricaded my door at night and slept with a knife under my pillow.
When high school started we moved to the Midland area. With no friends in the area and no malls close by I wasn’t able to stay as active as living in the middle of Tacoma. Instead of avoiding food and exercising to deal with my anger and fear I began to turn to food to deal with my emotions. Also, right as school started I began to get a lot of attention from boys and one in particular was very persistent. He had a car and I started spending a lot of time with him.
A few months after moving to Midland, in February of my sophomore year of high school I came home and found my mom making plans to move again. This time she announced she was leaving her husband and was moving to Alaska. She told me she was only going to go for 6 months to a year in order to make some money and that if I could find a friend to live with I didn’t have to come with her. Well, I was sick of changing schools, angry and distrustful of her, I had my first boyfriend and Alaska sounded like a horrible place. I was pretty sure that I would kill myself if I had to live there. So I asked the mom of a friend who had just recently gotten divorced, all her family had moved out, if I could stay with her while my mom was gone and she said yes.
By the end of my sophomore year it became painfully clear that my mom had no intention of coming back and tension was rising with my new ‘mom’ because I was angry, confused and fiercely independent. I had not really been parented for quite awhile, if ever. It became apparent that she was not happy with me, there were a lot of things I could tell she thought I should know that I didn’t and I couldn’t deal with feeling so awkward and disappointing. I moved out and lived with another friend. When tension rose there I moved to another friend’s house. This happened a couple of times until eventually in my Senior year I was mostly staying in an extra room at Shawn’s parents house. School and Shawn’s family were my stability and with their help and the help of friends I did manage to get a job, get a driver’s license and continue in school. As it got closer to graduation I was increasingly overwhelmed and lost and was battling feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Grandparents and even my mom still talked to me about going to college but there was no guidance as to how to make that happen. I came to see that it was an unrealistic expectation they had of me and a dream I needed to let go of. I was disillusioned, tired and increasingly depressed. I honestly would not have graduated if I had not worked so hard the first two years and if my teachers had not taken pity on me for I really did miss nearly half of my senior year because all I wanted to do was sleep.
During this time Shawn’s mom recognized that I was struggling with depression and she talked to me quite a bit about her own struggle and about her faith that seemed to help her. I would occasionally go to the Catholic church with them but was really terrified the whole time and skeptical of their rituals and what seemed to me as idols. Shawn’s need to constantly go to confession which I thought was sweet when we first met was really starting to irritate me. There didn’t seem to be anything there that was going to help me. I wanted it to help me the way that it appeared to help her but it just didn’t.
After graduation it seemed the logical next step for Shawn and I to get married, we had been together all through high school and we were in love. We figured we were ready to start our own life. We started planning a wedding for the next summer but in August I found out I was pregnant. My mom expressed severe disappointment and my Dad said it didn’t surprise him since I was living the lifestyle of a whore of course this was going to happen. Feeling very ashamed and hurt and knowing that we didn’t have a lot of money we decided to stop wedding plans and got married at the court house in December and set about making a home for our baby that was coming in May. I wanted to be happy but really I was just terrified. I felt like a failure and was pretty sure I was not properly equipped to be a wife or anybody’s mom.
Shawn and I had a lot of fun those first few months living on our own and we were working hard to get things ready. Shawn’s parents were very supportive and Shawn’s mom was thrilled for her 5th grandchild and was really hoping for her first granddaughter. Her enthusiasm and love was so encouraging and I treasured her advice. I was very grateful that she allowed me to share my fears with her and she seemed to really understand and never judged me for my questions and cynical stance on religion. We had wonderful conversations.
After my daughter was born my depression really became unmanageable and my insecurities and fears were at an all time high. I cried a lot of the time, sleeping really wasn’t an option with a new baby, I spent a lot of time at my in-laws house. At some point she told me that the only thing that was going to help me was getting to know Jesus and she told me I needed to go to Bible Study Fellowship.
She knew I had a fear and dislike of churches but she pretty much insisted that this was the place to go since it wasn’t affiliated with any church. Denominations were confusing to me and I thought it was evidence that men really couldn’t know the truth but since people, from all different kinds of churches, were supposedly coming together and studying God’s word and getting along and agreeing on things I thought this might be the place to go.
I had never stopped talking to God and I had asked him to show me the right way. I knew that the Bible said if you seek Him you will find Him and so I decided to give it a try. I am pretty sure that we were studying Matthew that year and the Bible really did begin to come alive to me. It was really easy for me to see that I was a sinner in need of a Savior and I was experiencing every day that I could do nothing apart from Him. I was eager to learn how to do things while being connected to Him. I was desperate for Him to teach me how to live so I didn’t hurt or abandon my daughter and so my marriage could possibly last. One week in the back of the sanctuary at Calvary Baptist Church we were invited to pray for Jesus to forgive us and be our Lord and I eagerly and sincerely prayed along. I am pretty sure that I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want to be pressured to start going to church and I wanted it to be a personal thing between God and I for the time being. I had a long way to go yet in understanding a lot of things but I kept studying and looking for what God wanted me to do.
I started nursing school and went to the BSF night class until clinicals started and I had to drop out. After nursing school I got a job right away and had a 2nd baby on the way. When my schedule allowed I went to BSF. When I was in BSF I was in God’s word and when I wasn’t able to go my Bible stayed shut. I still didn’t feel the need for Church.
When my daughter was three Shawn’s brother and wife were watching her and my infant son. They asked if she could start going to Awana with their boys and also Shawn’s mom was taking her to BSF and she was attending a Christian preschool. As she started to get involved in these things and started to talk about what she was learning I started to see that she needed us to be involved too so I started going to Awana with her. While she was in her class there was a Christian parenting class/support group that they offered. It was there that I started to see that there was a lot more that I needed to learn if I was going to be a ‘Christian parent’. In this group I got to know people and started getting comfortable with the pastor who was teaching the class and eventually decided that maybe I could start attending the church. It helped that I was already comfortable there because it was the same church that I prayed in for Jesus to be my Savior. At this point Shawn was working swing shift and weekends – that is why I making the decisions, he wasn’t really able to go with us.
Soon I was in a new members class and was set to get baptized and over time we became immersed in the life of the church as a family.
Things were going well.
When my son was four circumstances came about that I had to leave my job in a pediatrician’s office that I loved. Since he was starting school the next year we planned that I would stay home for a year or two and then I would find a part time job when he was in school. Well, God’s plans are often different than ours and to our surprise I became pregnant. Because Shawn was working nights and I had the kids during the day and because we had a plan and were very careful the pregnancy was completely unexpected. I was shocked and honestly embarrassed. We lived on one income and I was sure that we had all that we could handle – how could we let this happen? It took me a few months to get used to the idea and God convicted me that my attitude was a worldly attitude. Children were a gift and a blessing from Him and this was His will for me. He was going to show me how to trust Him in a greater way.
A new baby changed my plans on going back to work and I decided to embrace motherhood and being a stay at home mom. Also, I was enjoying being busy serving God at Church and and started volunteering at BSF as well.
During the kid’s elementary years I began to struggle again with depression. I could go through the motions when I needed to but when at home I was sleeping more and more and leaving the kids to watch TV and do their own thing.
I was singing on the worship team, I was leading women, I was homeschooling the kids, I was doing everything that I was asked to do and beginning to feel more and more empty. I was trying to please God but getting a greater and greater sense that I was a fake. At Church I would sing about loving God but I wasn’t sure that I did, I would sing about finding joy and hope and peace in God but I wasn’t joyful, hopeful or peaceful. I was sad, and angry and sure that this made God sad and angry with me. He had given me so much. All I ever wanted really. A nice and loving Christian husband, beautiful children, a cute home, good Christian friends and so many wonderful ways to serve him and yet I was deeply unhappy and aware of being such a horrible sinner – judgmental, unloving, selfish, hypocritical, lazy… the more I read his word the more I saw how horrible I was and was convinced that I could never really please Him. I was growing tired of trying and I was starting to dread His word and church and the conviction it always brought.
Thankfully, I did seek help from a Dr and got treatment for depression. I also stayed in God’s word and kept praying.
When we studied Romans in BSF I found out that what my heart was telling me was true. I am a horrible sinner and there is no way I can, on my own, ever impress or please God. I discovered that what God required I really could not accomplish no matter how much effort I gave. He requires perfection and that is why He sent His Son. I came to discover that the Righteousness I was desperately trying to prove or earn was never going to cut it. God was not surprised by my failures and lacking and He wanted me to stop being surprised by it as well. He was letting me come face to face with it so that in being devastated by it I could finally see the beauty of what was mine because of Christ.
It was at this point that I came to see that He had chosen me by Grace to be saved by His Son and that He was growing in me Faith to believe it. I have never stopped struggling but I have come to be to secure in His love – something that I had always wanted but never had in my life.
Now as I face struggles, which I do on a regular basis – whether it is accepting that God’s ways are not my ways & His plans are often different than mine, or accepting my lack of control over my children or husband, feelings of inadequacy or insecurities, and recently a greater battle with fear and anxiety – I am learning to not linger on my failings, feelings and struggles but to be quicker to look for what He is wanting to show me about Himself.
I can see clearly now that He was with me when I was four, five and six and scared and being abused. He was with me when I was 8 and keeping secrets, He was with me when I was 11 and feeling betrayed and angry. He was with me when I was 15 and feeling abandoned and when I was 18 and feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. He was with me in my 20’s when I thought it was my efforts that were impressing him and in my 30’s when I was disillusioned and came crashing down because I couldn’t impress Him. All along the way He has been revealing Himself to me.
Through depression, through the devastating loss of a friendship I thought I couldn’t live without, through the death of my parents, though financial struggles, marriage struggles, parenting struggles, through children leaving home and through continued struggles with my many different sins He has been with me. He continues to show me through His Word and through every experience that because of Jesus, my Perfect Savior, I am a child of the Perfect Father. I believe His promise that He will never leave, I know His love will never change and that He will never grow weary or bored of me. He will never deem me worthless or hopeless. His Son’s work on the cross guarantees that I will always have everything that I need. I am blessed and thankful that I am His and He is mine.