Monday, May 20, 2013

My Testimony

I'm sure than my high school and college friends read my blog posts and wonder who this crazy lady is who keeps talking about Jesus! "She was never like this when I knew her!"

So for those of you who knew me "back then," I have changed so much in the last few years, thank goodness, and felt like I needed to share my testimony so you know why I keep talking about Him.

In high school and college I believed I was a "Christian" because I was a pastor's daughter (I grew up going to church), I believed in God (um, well, so does Satan), and I had that mindset that God will forgive me when I go to bed tonight so I can do whatever I want to right now. "Besides, I'll have a chance to ask for forgiveness before I die, right?"

As a child I remember accepting Christ as my savior and praying with my parents, but the older I got the more I rejected God. When I heard "Jesus" spoken out loud I would cringe and think, "Why can't they just shut up?" I would tell my friends, "I believe the same thing they do, but do you see me going around pushing it on people?"

I also had the mindset that I needed to learn from my own mistakes (I really bought in to that mentality, instead of learning from someone who had already been there, done that). For example, I was absolutely convinced that I was going to marry my high school boyfriend. I wanted to spend as much time with him as I possibly could, I wanted to have sex with him (After all, God wants me to be happy, right? and why, if I'm going to marry this guy, do I have to wait?), and when my focus was entirely on the boyfriend, I began to ignore my parent's teaching and hate the mention of Jesus. That stuff only applies to me when I'm older. I'll live that way after I'm married, after I've experienced life.

My junior year of high school was when I really began to reject God. My boyfriend was graduating, along with all the people I hung out with at that time. Their graduation was already hard enough because I honestly thought that my senior year was going to be tough. Sure, I had some friends in my own class and even in the classes below me, but the friends I chose to hang out with were in the grade above me. When graduation weekend came I dreaded it, so I dragged my feet as I walked into graduation practice (I was in the band). That day will be one I will never, ever forget. The graduating class was sitting around waiting for everyone to arrive, the band was ready to play, the teachers and administration were giving out last minute instructions, but we were waiting for one last person: Brian Pancau. Everyone loved this kid. He was friendly, outgoing, positive, and he held a special place in my heart as being my first kiss. (From that point on I had a crush on him, but he was not interested in pursuing a relationship with me so I dated one of his good friends, and Brian and I continued to have a wonderful friendship.) There were rumors going around the gym that Brian had been in a bad car accident (some kids drove past it on their way to practice and recognized what was left of his car). So naturally, we were all freaking out. Next thing I know our principle walked up to the stage and announced that Brian had not made it. The gym erupted. People screamed, cried, and held each other. It was an awful chaos.

We dedicated our next track season to him. On our shirts we put the quote he said, all the time, GO BIG OR GO HOME. One of my friends (Ashley) who had been on the 4x400 team with me the previous year decided not to go out. I remember being crushed because we had made it a goal to win state after we took home a 3rd place medal my junior year. Looking back I truly think that she didn't know how to handle the death of Brian. They were really good friends.

I was more excited than ever to start track after ending a horrible basketball season my senior year. The coach benched the seniors claiming he was, "building for the future." I loved the game of basketball, but it was Ashley who kept me sane. She'd sit in the back of the bus with me and we'd chat. She'd sympathize, offer advice, and we'd trade details about our life. So when track season rolled around and she didn't go out, I was ultra disappointed.

Right before I graduated she walked up to me and apologized, "Honestly, Becky, Honestly," (she began every important discussion with honestly) "I regret not doing track. I knew how bad you wanted state; I should've done it for you." At the time I thought it was incredibly sweet (I still do), I thanked her, told her not to beat herself up too bad over it, and we went our separate ways.

Part of the reason I told her not to worry about it was because I broke my foot, which affected the outcome of state anyway. At the time I didn't know it was broken, but six months after the initial injury, I got an x-ray and began the healing process, which eventually required surgery. I simply waited too long. This was a big bummer. My senior year was not going the way I had dreamed and hoped.

It added to my desire to get away, thinking that going away would solve my problems. It was coming time to decide what I was going to do with my life. Some family friends and my boyfriend talked about Doane College all the time and how amazing it was, so I too wanted to check it out, I was convinced it was where I needed to be. Now, I realize my decision was very selfish - I left behind my family and it cost my family an arm and a leg - but I was only thinking of what I wanted.

I couldn't wait to get out from under the wing of a father who I thought was too controlling. I couldn't wait to be closer to my boyfriend. But what I didn't do was think of how I was hurting my best friend - my brother - by moving ten hours away. Being fifteen months apart we did not know life without each other. We did everything together. And when I walked out the door, I sobbed as I said good-bye, but now when I look back on that day I realize how much I hurt him as I replay his broken heart over and over again in my head. I also left behind two sisters who needed me and who heard me endlessly rant about how unfair our father was - planting a seed of rebellion and animosity towards him.

All I cared about was getting out and moving on to something I thought was better.

My first year of college was eventful.

I broke up with my boyfriend, joined a sorority, "played" basketball (I had a boot, so I went to every practice and watched), participated in the pep and concert bands, and partied, partied, partied. At the time I didn't realize that I was self medicating.

I was still struggling with the death of my friend Brian and then I learned that my friend Ashley had died from complications involving a four wheeling accident. I was crushed. What I regret most was that after hearing about her accident I kept telling myself I needed to call her and told myself I would, "later." I never called her. To my everlasting shame, I also decided to not go home and attend her funeral. There was no closure and now I was living with this huge regret - Why didn't I call her?! Why didn't I go to her funeral?!

When I drank, my mentality was, “I drink to forget.” I'd tell myself that I’d feel better and I wouldn’t think about all that crap, so I would drink to the point of blacking out. When I did that, I made horrible decisions. I would wake up, feeling horrible about those decisions, want to forget that I made them, go back to drinking, make more horrible decisions, feel horrible, drink more, make more horrible decisions, and this vicious cycle continued until my best friend said, "Becky, I don't want to hear about it anymore. I don't feel sorry for you!"

I was mad, but despite my rebellion I came to the understanding that she was a true friend. She was willing to risk our friendship so that I would change the way I was living. That was the first step towards healing. Yes, I continued to drink, and yes, I continued to make stupid decisions, but not at the astronomical rate I was going during my freshman year.

When something bad happened, I still had that mentality to drink and forget it, and I still had this weight on my shoulders as I continued to live a destructive lifestyle.

Then my junior year my mom decided she wanted a divorce.

You talk about anger. 

I hated her for that decision and I did not hesitate in telling her through screaming phone calls, nasty emails, and begging her, pleading with her, to change her mind. Our family was broken and my heart literally felt like it was torn in two. Just the thought of what my family was going through brought me to tears. I could barely talk about it - I'd become a sobbing mess.

I was piling on a lot of emotions: loss, regret, anger... and I dealt with it all by drinking more.

The only place I felt where I belonged was with my sorority sisters. My basketball team rejected me and the more I felt rejected by them, the less I liked playing basketball. I felt judged when I attended church with a friend, or went to the Fellowship of Christian athlete's meetings, or the Christian events hosted by the college. I felt like I didn't belong - I was tainted - I was a sinner.

I met Kyle at the end of my senior year of college. After three months, I knew I was going to marry him and it freaked him out! I accepted a job on the other end of the state and after graduation we would begin a long distance relationship, so he broke up with me. I was crushed and mad at him. After four days, he came to realization that he felt the same way I did and that we'd make it work.

Our relationship was not God centered. Neither of us were living Godly lives, but that all changed when we got engaged.

One of dad's requirements was that Kyle and I find a book that focused on putting Christ at the center of our relationship. Kyle took it seriously and the day after I said yes, we went to Barnes and Noble and found one book, one, that met dad's requirements. At the time I didn't understand divine providence, but I said, "Well, it's a sign that it's the one we're supposed to read!" So we bought it and read it!

Our lives began to change because now we were seeking Godly advice. We knew we wanted something different. We wanted to last, we wanted to be happy, and for some reason we knew that the only way to attain true happiness was by following my dad's advice. So we found a pastor that would guide us. Our first meeting with him was both hard and absolutely amazing. Hard, because forgiveness and a means of acceptance of things that cannot be changed needed to take place in regards to past relationships. Thank goodness for a forgiving husband.

More importantly...

Kyle accepted Christ as his savior.

I reaffirmed my life for Christ.

And we began an amazing transformation.

It did not happen overnight. Although our partying had slowed down significantly, we continued to live that lifestyle, but this time we came to realize that we had to change, we wanted to change, and the only way that was going to happen was through Christ and learning and growing through Him.

Two things happened for me: 1. I partied too hard at my bachelorette party, woke up feeling absolutely horrible, and vowed I would never, ever do that again. and 2. Through divine providence I realized we needed to find a church, Kyle knew it was the only way we were going to grow.

I hated the idea of going to church. As a pastor's daughter I saw the in's and out's of the hypocrite's who attended and a big part of me blamed them for my family being ripped apart. My dad put up with so much drama, my mom was excluded from women's groups, problem after problem would arise because someone thought they needed to be in charge, or there were fights over music, or misunderstandings would arise because of something they thought was said or not said, or grotesque sin was made blatantly obvious by people who were leaders in the church, or or or or or...

As a child soaking all of this in and watching how it affected my parents, I wanted nothing to do with church or the people who went there. So when Kyle brought up the idea of finding a church, my immediate response was NO! Kyle, knowing my "church" history, only asked me to pray about it. I agreed to do that at least.

Well, God knows best, because Kyle bought us a men and women's devotional set. We'd each read our own devotional teaching for the day and talk about it later. The very next morning after Kyle asked me to pray about it, the topic was: Church! (And I hadn’t even prayed about it yet!)

We found a church and our pastor started the process of discipleship - rightly teaching God's word so that we could study and teach others on our own. When I began to read God's word, meeting with another woman from our church, and listening to verse by verse, word by word teaching of God's word every Tuesday and Sunday, my faith, my understanding of God grew and grew and grew and continues to grow!

God's grace took my anger and regret away. A load was lifted off my shoulders and for once I felt like I could breathe! I finally understood the power of God's sovereignty and I finally understood true freedom when I learned to let go and let God!

I was changing and growing and learning and then I had Brielle.

It was a scary experience, but Kyle and I grew significantly in Christ as we held each other and prayed for her and His will for us. When I finally held her in my arms I began to understand the depth of love God must feel for His children. At this point, I was more than ready to accept whatever fire God was going to put us through, I seriously thought that her birth was the end of that "refining fire".

Was I ever wrong.

Ten days after giving birth I hemorrhaged and nearly lost my life. I thought I was saying good-bye to this life and as I was being loaded on to the flight for life and began singing "Indescribable" I was suddenly okay with dying. I believed, beyond a shadow of a doubt what it says in Roman's 10:9, "... if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." I had faith in Jesus and the hope of salvation through Him, "… there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) I knew that if I died I'd be with Jesus in heaven. A few years ago if someone had asked me where I would go if I died, I'd shrug my shoulders, "... heaven ... I think..."

But, now, I know and am so excited for that day! I don't see October 1st as a horrific experience. Instead, I often wonder what I would be doing right now had I died. I find myself aching to know what heaven is like and aching for the day when I finally get to meet Jesus! And aching when I think of how God describes hell, so much so, that I ache to tell others about Jesus and the hope we have in Him.

For many years, I didn't understand why my life turned out the way it did. Why did I go to Doane? Why did I lose my friends? Why did my parents get a divorce? But now, I understand that Doane helped me develop into a passionate teacher and that's where I met Kyle. I was able to help my students through tragedies like losing their friends and empathize with them as they endured their parent's divorce. Instead of judging the sinner, I see a hopeless, struggling individual who needs God. All of these events are part of my testimony because they are now a means of ministry!

I do not fear God's "refining fire" because He is in control. And I do not fear death because I have faith that what Jesus taught is true: "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life." (John 6:47-48)

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