When I started this blog a few months ago I started to write my testimony as my very first post. I wrote, re-wrote, and finally just saved it and figured I'd come back to it another time. I was having trouble describing the day that would forever change my life. How do you type a life changing experience? No matter what fancy, descriptive words I use it doesn't come close to the actual experience. Over the last month or so I've had a few people ask me to share my testimony (mostly people who are trying to figure out how in the world I got from the girl they knew in high school to the woman I am today..I still have a lot of work to do but I've come a long way from the girl I was back then). So I thought I'd return to the draft I had saved and do my best to share the work God did, is doing and will continue to do in my life. I also realized maybe you don't need to completely understand what I was feeling at the moment my life was changed but more importantly have you understand how, why, and by WHOM my life was changed.
So this may get long, (I typically try to keep things short and sweet on my blog but I do have 31 years to share) I'll do my best to only share the important events in my life...
I grew up in a Christian home. I went to church every Sunday, sang in the Jr. Choir, went to youth group, prayed before dinner,went to a Christian high school, went on missions trips, oh I could go on and on. From the outside I was a 'Christian' but in reality I didn't know Jesus at all. Although I didn't really know Jesus, I asked him into my heart at the age of 12. Why? Because I was terrified of going to hell. I wasn't sure I believed all this stuff I had heard in Sunday School, seriously...God came to earth in the form of a baby, lived among the people, died on a cross, ROSE from the DEAD (ok this is getting crazy), and is going to come back for his followers!?!? It just seemed a bit out there to me. BUT I wanted to make sure that just in case all of this was true and he did come back that I'd be going with him! I had heard about heaven and hell. Heaven sounded much better.
Although I had asked him into my heart, I still wasn't sure this man named Jesus had ever existed or maybe he existed but he couldn't possibly be God's son. And come to think of it..did God even exist? Well I wasn't sure but just in case, I needed to a least act like I believed all this so I could get into heaven when I die. I was SO terrified of death. It actually consumed my thoughts. What if my prayer didn't work? What if I'm not saved? I continually pushed these thoughts and fears out of my mind and continued living my fake Christian life.
My freshman year I started attending a small Christian high school. It was a good change from public school. I made good friends, had a boyfriend (ok quite a few but eventually settled with one) and was enjoying the close knit atmosphere. I still had tons of questions and doubts about my faith, even though we had chapel every week, and Bible class every day. I just felt like it was something being forced on me. Something I was supposed to believe because everyone said I should believe it. I wasn't buying it but just kept on smiling and playing the part. My freshman year was a fun year but I also began to really struggle academically. It was quickly discovered I had a learning disability. The school was quick to help me with IU-13 and other learning support programs. I am thankful now for these programs but at 15 I was MORTIFIED! Everyday I had to leave class and walk to the IU-13 trailer. It was a long walk, and everyone knew where I was walking to. Talk about a beating on one's pride. I began to hate going to "the trailer". I decided instead of trying hard and possibly failing, I just wouldn't try! That way it was my choice to fail. And fail I did! I rarely passed a test, I copied my homework from my smart friends, and I just prayed my smile would get me through..(it must have worked, I'm still not sure how I graduated). So, instead of going to school to learn, I decided I'd go to have fun! I began drinking, smoking pot, and I sought the attention of boys like it was my job. I had a lot of friends, a lot of fun but I was (deep down inside) miserable. I hated being 'dumb'. I hated myself for things I did when I was drunk. And I hated being a fake (Christian). I felt totally empty inside and did everything possible to fill that emptiness, nothing worked but I continued trying and when that didn't work I'd try harder (meaning I'd party harder).
My entire high school career revolved around boys and partying. Half way through my senior year, I developed quite a crush on my co-worker. He was a quiet cook at the restaurant where I worked (shout out to Country Gardens). He never talked or looked at me (well he was looking, I later found out, but not at my face -- hahaha). One night I decided if this guy isn't gonna talk to me then I'll talk to him!! I called him up (with the encouragement of some giggling friends) and asked him on date! I was shocked when he was so polite on the phone and said yes!! We went on our date and I knew almost right away this was the man for me. We have never been apart since.
Andy and I fell in love and got married. We had a lot in common, including drinking. So we continued to party together as a married couple. Andy was raised in church as well and I believe he struggled with doubts of his faith just as much as I did. After a few years of marriage we both felt like we should start going to church. So we did. We'd go out drinking Saturday night and then drag ourselves to church Sunday morning. I kinda listened to the message that was taught but it still didn't seem to sink in. But we eventually became more and more involved at church and we decided maybe we should slow down on the drinking. We made good friends at church, we joined a small group and I even started reading my Bible in the evening. Something was happening. I wasn't sure what exactly and it wasn't overnight but my heart was beginning to soften. I started feeling compelled to pray. Huh, interesting. Maybe there was some truth to all this God stuff!?
At the same time I allowed God to start working in my heart, Andy and I decided we were ready to start a family. Most of you know what happened next. We tried, and tried, and tried. No baby. Well not for us anyway. All those friends we were making at church though...well they were popping out babies left and right (and still are --teehee)! Every Sunday someone would have another big announcement! OR they would say "So Sarah are YOU pregnant yet?" or "Any announcements yet?" or "Are you trying?" UGHHH. I couldn't stand it. I could not pretend to be happy for one more person who "is so fertile he just has to look at me and I get pregnant!" I was done. No more church. No more small group. No more babies!!!
Since I chose to walk away from my new friends at church, I decided to return to the comfort of an old friend, alcohol. I began drinking again and in full force. I didn't just drink at bars or parties but I started drinking just to fall asleep at night. I was at rock bottom. I was so incredibly depressed. I truly wanted to die, even if I didn't know where I would go after this life was over. After a few years of 'trying' we had some testing done. It turned out we would never conceive a child. 0% chance of it happening naturally and slim to none with medical intervention. We were devastated. But I have to say it was almost a relief to know. Now I could grieve over the children I would never have and move on. Something always sat in the back of my mind though -- one night a few years ealier I went to a Bible Study and at the end I went forward for prayer. I didn't know the girl praying for me but out of nowhere she said "God is going to open your womb" I was taken aback and encouraged but after years of no luck conceiving, I figured it was just coincidence. And now here I was years later with a confirmation from my doctor that I would never carry a child. We grieved. I drank and grieved.
After awhile Andy and I started talking about what was next for us. The thought of adopting was something we were both thinking about. We talked (and we even prayed) about adopting a child. We began to get excited! Maybe we will be parents after all!!! After much thought, prayer, paperwork and fundraisers we got the call. A baby girl had been born that morning in Guatemala and needed a forever home, were we interested. Were we interested!?!?!?! YES! YES! 6 months later we were in Guatemala bringing home our baby girl, Sophie! I was a mommy.
I was completely in love with this little girl. I loved being a mom. It didn't matter to me at all that I had not carried this child inside of me or that I hadn't given birth to her. She was ours. I told Andy "I think we are supposed to grow our family through adoption. I don't care if I never have a biological child!" I'll let you guess what we found out 2 weeks later. Yep, I was in fact pregnant when I made that comment! (just a quick side note: although we conceived after adopting that is NOT the case for many, many couples --comments suggesting otherwise can be hurtful and insensitive, so steer clear of making such suggestions..)
Where was I? Oh yes, I was pregnant! We were obviously thrilled, baffled, amazed, shocked, etc. We were both reminded of the time I was told that God would open my womb. That random girl had been right! And God had kept his promise to me. That was the first time that God was real to me.
I gave birth to our second daughter, Ruby. We were a happy little family (even though I was trying to survive sleepless nights and busy days with 2 little ones). We began going to church again, reconnecting with friends, and again I opened my heart to God and I asked him to move. I asked him to change me and show me who he was. Over the next few years I learned a lot but I never completely surrendered my life to God. I wasn't willing to give him control of every area yet.
That is, until the Tuesday afternoon in my living room. I was home alone and had decided to spend the afternoon in prayer. I was sitting on the floor with my prayer journal and I was getting ready to pray about all the things I needed, pray for all the people who could use some changing, and oh yeah give thanks for all my blessings. God had other plans for that afternoon...
So I should first mention, I had a terrible fear of Ruby dying. I had a dream several months earlier that she had died. It was very real and it haunted me everyday. In the dream I never knew how she died so everyday I'd think of all the possible ways she could die (completely irrational and a little wacked, I know). That afternoon as I began my prayer list I felt the sense that I should be quiet. QUIET!? How can I pray and be quiet? I don't have time to just sit here God, what about my list!? The feeling was persistent, "be quiet." OK, OK, I'll be quiet. SO I sat there. And I sat there. Waiting, listening, waiting. Suddenly I felt like I 'heard' God (not an audible voice but a feeling in my spirit) say "I want Ruby. I want you to surrender Ruby to me." WHAT!?!?!?! NO WAY! WHAT!?!? This was NOT what I had in mind for this day of prayer. Oh my word...Ruby...I have to go and get her right now before something happens to her!!!!!!! I jumped up from the floor and started to run out of my house when I felt God so strongly say, "SIT DOWN!" Almost forcefully. I needed to decide was I going to run and get Ruby or sit down and hash this out with God? I very reluctantly sat down. I was sobbing. How could I surrender my child? I would give him anything else but not my child! I can't, God, I can't. God gently reminded me that he was the one who had given Ruby to me, she was HIS. I was terrified that if I agreed to surrender, he would take her right then and there. Again he reminded me that he is in control whether I surrender or not! If Ruby was going to die I had no control over it anyway, I might as well place her in the hands of the one who created her! So there, in my living room, sobbing, I whispered, "you can have her, God. I trust you. I trust you with my child. I trust you with everything. I am yours and I surrender everything to you...I surrender Ruby." In that moment I felt it...God's spirit completely connected with my spirit and he said "I will bless you." I had never in my life felt God's Spirit and his love so heavy, so strong. It was the most real moment of my life.
My life was forever changed in that moment. I will never doubt the existence of God again. I will never fear death again because I know that what I experienced in my living room (his overwhelming presence and love) was just a tiny glimpse of what I'll experience in heaven.. I cannot even fathom what it will be like! Since that day, God has revealed truths to me that people had been trying to explain to me for years. Example: that Jesus was his son, died on a cross, and rose from the dead for ME! I cannot convince you this is the truth, just like no one could convince me but God revealed it to my spirit and I KNOW IT'S THE TRUTH! I know Jesus is my savior. He is now my very best friend, he is my Father, he is who I turn to when I'm at the end of my rope, he is who I rejoice with when things are good, he is EVERYTHING to me.
I continue to meet with God. I continue to listen for his voice, follow his guiding, and trust him with everything. I surrender to him everyday. Sometimes several times a day! It's not always easy. But I know he is trustworthy, and good and a loving God, who has good things planned for me (and guess what..he has good things planned for you too!) That is not to say bad things won't happen but I trust he will be with me through this journey, good and bad--until my journey is done and finally I will see him in his fullness. What a day that will be!
Until then, I desire to live a life that brings glory to Christ. I desire to know him deeper everyday. I desire to share how he has changed my life with anyone who will listen (or read) and I desire to see people's hearts changed and see lives transformed through the power of Christ!
Phew..there ya have it! Well some of it...I didn't even get into the whole music testimony...I'll save that for another post! :)
Praying you were encouraged through my testimony. If you have never experienced the love of Christ, don't wait another day! Just ask him to reveal himself to you. He will! You'll experience a love you've never known or imagined. You'll be forever changed!!