I had the privilege of giving my testimony for a ladies' brunch at our church on Saturday, and had quite a few people ask for quotes and a few people who wanted to hear it but were unable to attend. So I thought it would be helpful to put it up on my blog. It was an incredible blessing preparing my testimony and looking back in reflection on all that God has done in my life! I think I may have been more blessed in preparing than anyone who listened!
There was a period in my life where I wondered if it was a problem that my salvation wasn’t an incredible “wow” story. But over the years the Lord has shown me that the salvation of every believer is a “wow” story! Being rescued from my wretched, sinful lifestyle is an incredible thing! If anything, I realize how thankful I need to be that the Lord spared me from a more heart-wrenching story.
By God’s grace, I was raised in a godly, Christian home, and the Lord used my older sister to reveal to me my sinful, hell-bound state. When I was nine years old, my sister was my counselor at summer camp and was able to live life with me for a week. I praise the Lord that He blessed me with such a godly older sister who was concerned for my soul. She was not afraid to speak truth into my life, and gently shared with me the habitual sin she saw in my life that week. She asked me if I thought I was saved, because she was concerned that she saw no spiritual fruit in my life. Even at the young age of nine, I realized that I was a terrible sinner, and that it was my sin that nailed Jesus to the cross! Separation from God was guaranteed unless I repented and accepted Christ’s forgiveness. It was at that moment that I believe the Lord rescued me from my life of sin and my path towards hell.
Before we move on to the rest of my life, I would like to read a quote by Alan Redpath that my sister shared with me many years ago. It has forever stuck with me, and really helped shaped my view of every circumstance that the Lord sends my way. He says,
“There is nothing – no circumstance, no trouble, no testing – that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a GREAT PURPOSE; which I may not understand at the moment. But as I refuse to become panicky, as I lift up my eyes to Him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my own heart, no sorrow will ever disturb me, no trial will ever disarm me, no circumstance will cause me to fret – for I shall rest in the joy of what my Lord is! – That is the rest of victory!”
Wow! To know that nothing happens in my life by accident, but has come with great purpose is an incredibly reassuring thing. In Romans 8:28 and 29, we learn that the ultimate purpose of all circumstances in our life is to conform us into the image of Christ. And in James 1, we see how trials and testing play a large role in that process of sanctification. So with this in mind, I want to share with you some of the bigger events the Lord has used in my life to accomplish these things.
I would have to say that these trials of great purpose really started to come full-fledge in high school. For me, high school was one of the most trying times of my life. My dad took a new pastoral position right after my ninth grade year, moving us from New York to California. Friends who loved Jesus at my new school did not exist, and I had never felt more lonely in my life. Only two short years later, my dad was forced to resign by men and women in the church described in 2 Timothy, who were not willing to endure sound doctrine, wanting instead a pastor who would tickle their ears and meet their desires. We remained in California as my dad searched for a new pastoral position, and during this time, my mother became very ill. Almost every part of her body ached and hurt, which kept her in bed most of the time. After months of testing, there was still no diagnosis, and her suffering came to the point that I had prayed the Lord would take her home. I praise the Lord that He did not answer my prayer; she was eventually diagnosed with fibromyalgia and has learned how to keep her symptoms at bay and is doing much better.
Looking back, I am truly able to see the “great purpose of blessing” these trials brought to my life. By stripping away all the comforts of my childhood years, the Lord used this time to reveal to me that He is all I ever need. Asaph says in Psalm 73, “Whom have I in heaven, but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” I also realized I should desire nothing else here on this earth more than Him. “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek. That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4)
Then the Lord saw fit to send me off to college in Southern California. Leaving my sick mother behind was extremely difficult, but well worth the journey to finding my husband. College was a short experience for me, as Aaron and I were married after my third semester, and the Lord gave me great peace about graduating extremely early with my MRS degree. After growing up in the home of a pastor and seeing all the hardships that can come with ministry, I told myself I would never marry a pastor. Yes…my humble Aaron says it’s his good looks that won me over.
Marriage is a beautiful gift from the Lord. Martin Luther said “there is no more lovely, friendly, and charming relationship, communion, or company than a good marriage,” and I whole-heartedly agree! I have no sweeter relationship here on earth, than that which I share with my husband. But as sweet as it is, it has done something challenging for me! Marriage completely peeled back my outer layer of self-righteousness that I had kept so neatly in place, revealing many of the little sins hiding just below the surface.
One of the biggest things marriage has revealed to me is how selfish of a sinner I really am. During our googly-eyed engagement period, I would have told anyone that I most looked forward to serving Aaron as His wife and being his helpmeet. Well, after all the excitement I had, you can imagine my shock when this didn’t come easily. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” Ladies, this is no small task! Daily dieing to my own desires and being a humble servant is actually an impossible task…without Christ.
This leads me to the second greatest thing marriage has taught me, which is that CHRIST is CRUCIAL. My relationship with my Lord and Savior is of greatest importance, even greater than my relationship with my husband. Sometimes I get so caught up in being a Martha to my husband and children, always going, going, going, that I forget how truly important it is to be a Mary, sitting at the feet of my Savior day in and day out! Jesus said in the book of John that “apart from Me, you can do nothing.” We would never do our husbands any good without Christ! Janelle Bradshaw, one of C.J. Mahaney’s daughters, writes this on Girltalk Blog…
“[Christ is] the one, who transforms our motives from “I do me good” to “I do him good.” If it weren’t for God’s grace at work in our hearts, the only “good” we would do our husbands wouldn’t be good at all, but rather manipulation dressed up as goodness. He’s the one who gives us the desire and he will help us persevere in doing our husbands good.”
Aaron and I would both agree that the most stretching, difficult times in our marriage have been during both pregnancies. I have never been so depressed than I was with my first pregnancy, feeling sick day after day for months on end. I knew in my mind what truths in scripture I needed to think on: that it is for my good and has great purpose, that I need to be joyful in the Lord and content with what He has given me, that I must rely upon His strength and grace to endure, etc. But the incredible battle it was to be joyful made me feel like a complete failure before the Lord. I thought that any godly Christian shouldn’t struggle being joyful in the hard circumstances!
But praise the Lord for using my husband to so graciously lead me back to Christ. Aaron completely understood why I was so distressed. I was dwelling on my health and failure to respond rightly, rather than dwelling solely on our awesome God--- His amazing beauty, all of His attributes, His work on the cross, His great work in my life, and the many blessings He has given me. The Lord taught me some huge lessons during that time that I try preach to myself whenever I am not feeling well.
· Lesson #1: Don’t let your thoughts dwell on how you are feeling, but rather, fill your mind with thoughts of your Savior and all that He has done for you!
· Lesson #2: In times of failure, put off discouragement, frustration, and self-pity, and remember where your identity and victory lie! Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God!” Because of Christ’s work on the cross, we are clothed in His righteousness and freed from sin.
· Lesson #3: Don’t read the Word with the intention of finding scripture to encourage you and change your perspective on life (although this often is a result). Read the Word to learn more about who God is and all that He has done. Pursuing Christ for the sake of knowing Christ is far more valuable than pursuing Christ to fix your problems.
· Lessson #4: Be thankful! “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thes 5:8). Sometimes we don’t necessarily feel thankful, but we can always choose to be thankful in spite of how we feel, knowing that our sovereign God truly does have great purpose in all that He gives us!
Learning these lessons was not the only blessing the Lord gave us as a result of our pregnancies, seeing as we now have two more little sweethearts in our home. I must say, being a mother brings so much joy and delight to my heart. I never new two little girls’ smiles could melt my heart daily. It is a gift I never want to take for granted. All that to say, I have come to learn that motherhood is plain, hard work! Sometimes it is easy to feel like I do nothing but dishes, diapers, cleaning and cooking. You know those days when your husband comes home from work, asks you what you did all day, and you give him a blank stare, trying to remember exactly what you DID do? Well it is days like these that make me laugh at this story by Veronica Kavanagh:
One afternoon a man came home from work to find total mayhem in his house. His three children were outside, still in their pajamas, playing in the mud, with empty food boxes and wrappers strewn all around the front yard. The door of his wife's car was open, as was the front door to the house and there was no sign of the dog. Proceeding into the entry, he found an even bigger mess. A lamp had been knocked over, and the throw rug was wadded against one wall. In the front room the TV was loudly blaring a cartoon channel, and the family room was strewn with toys and various items of clothing. In the kitchen, dishes filled the sink, breakfast food was spilled on the counter, the fridge door was open wide, dog food was spilled on the floor, a broken glass lay under the table, and a small pile of sand was spread by the back door. He quickly headed up the stairs, stepping over toys and more piles of clothes, looking for his wife. He was worried she may be ill, or that something serious had happened. He was met with a small trickle of water as it made its way out the bathroom door. As he peered inside he found wet towels, scummy soap and more toys strewn over the floor. Miles of toilet paper lay in a heap and toothpaste had been smeared over the mirror and walls. As he rushed to the bedroom, he found his wife still curled up in the bed in her pajamas, reading a novel. She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went. He looked at her bewildered and asked, "What happened here today?"She again smiled and answered, "You know every day when you come home from work and you ask me what in the world did I do today?" "Yes" was his incredulous reply. She answered, "Well, today I didn't do it."
As funny as that story is, this is the call of motherhood! All the small things we do every day, if done for Christ and in His strength, are so very glorifying to the Lord. Sometimes I catch myself thinking that my impact for the kingdom isn’t very great. After all, I’m “just” a mom, while there are others out there sacrificing so much to be missionaries halfway across the world, but this is such wrong thinking! As a mom, we can have great impact for the kingdom of God in our very own homes! Rachel Jankovic, the author of “Loving the Little Years”, writes,
“God loves the little offerings. Given in faith, that plate of PB&J’s will feed thousands. Given in faith, those presents on Christmas morning will bring delight to more children than you can count. Offered with thankfulness, your work at home is only the beginning. Your laundry pile, selflessly tackled daily, will be used in the hands of God to clothe many. Do not think that your work does not matter. In God’s hands, it will be broken, and broken, and broken again, until all who have need of it have eaten and are satisfied. And even then, there will be leftovers.”
For me, being a mom has, above all, been humbling. As if marriage wasn’t enough to sanctify a person for all eternity, add children to the mix and you have what I like to call, “super sanctification”. It takes dying to self to a whole new level, especially when there is often little or no gratitude in return for all that you do. I daily see how far short I fall in so many areas, and often find myself discouraged, when really I should find myself on my knees, at the foot of the cross, resting in the power of Christ; for in 2 Corinthians12:9, He says “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected weakness.” No mother is perfect. The sins of this world so easily entangle us, but we can surely take heart, for Christ has overcome the world!
And last for today, but certainly not least, the Lord used our journey here to once again sanctify me a little more and draw me nearer to himself. I never in my wildest, or not so wild, dreams, would have seen this one coming. In fact, I have always informed the Lord that I never want to live in the Midwest because it is equidistant from both oceans, which to me, means "the middle of nowhere." Oh, how I laugh at myself. Apparently the Lord knows better than me when it comes to my human desires, but you know what else…the Lord changes human desires!
When Aaron and I first found out he was losing his job, our world was turned a bit upside down. During the time of wondering what job the Lord would provide, our need for dependence on the Lord was made so real. I wish I could say that this dependence is always there, even when the practical blessings abound, but it's so easy to get caught up in self-dependence. One of my prayers through that time is that I would always see my need for Christ in everything, and that I am nothing without Him. Not only is He the ultimate provider of our monetary needs, but more importantly, He is the essential provider of our spiritual needs. And we are always spiritually needy people!
Well, as you well know, the Lord truly provided above and beyond what we could have dreamed of, seeing as I would have never dreamed of coming to Kansas. Yes, when I first found out that MRBC was in Kansas, I cried, but seeing Aaron's excitement and how the Lord answered our prayers above and beyond, I haven't once looked back. He replaced my frivolous tears with great excitement and joy!
And now that we are here….Well, I shouldn’t be surprised at God’s incredible goodness, but I still catch myself wondering why the Lord chose to smile upon us so sweetly. We have felt so blessed and loved by this church, and I have no hesitancy in calling you all family, even after just two and half months. It is my prayer that Jesus would shine as brightly in me as He most certainly shines through you.
I know that I have a long way to go on the road of sanctification and will never obtain complete righteousness until glory, but along with the apostle Paul, I want to “press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”