Saturday, September 10, 2011

my testimony.

Warning: deep things written here. Go elsewhere for a light read. :)

I have been wanting to write out my testimony of salvation for a while scares me a bit to be this vulnerable, but I love hearing others' journeys of faith. So, I will gladly share my life to this point, and how it has reshaped my thoughts about this blog.

In the elementary years, I met this Jesus for the first time. There were many tornado warnings back then - back in rural Mississippi. I was young and scared, and my dad was always deployed and my mom was all I knew for safety. Sometimes it seemed the bathroom was the other bedroom in the house for the amount of tornado sightings that would happen, police cars circling the military base telling us to take cover. I didn't mind sleeping in the bathtub. It was a little bit fun too, for a 6 year old. As a mom now, I can't imagine it was much fun for my mom during those times. Anyway, Jesus made himself real to me through those tornados. I had heard of His love for me and His sacrifice, but it became very real one summer day when we were visiting family in Seattle. I knelt and cried and prayed a seven-year-old prayer of confession and shame and gratitude for his love and protection. I had never felt so safe as I did in that moment.

Years came and went, and we moved many times. We ended up in New England, where I still am today, where I went to college and met my handsome Jon. I went to public high school, and found a niche, and found people treating me differently because of my faith. Not bad different, but well, they started not swearing around me. I never asked them to do it or even commented on it. But they knew. God is not subtle. Sometimes it irritated me - high school self wanting to "fit in." But they still wanted to be around me and be my friend. I was naive enough to not notice that I was treated differently from a lot of other kids. I was never offered drugs. I wasn't invited to parties. But, I didn't notice. I was too shy to care most of the time.

Actually, the high school years were years of intense devotion for me and God. I remember staying up late reading His Word and praying about the truest sense, Jesus was my friend and my Savior, and I was enthralled with Him while being a little afraid and in awe of just Who He was revealing Himself to be in our relationship. I felt small, yet remained confident of His love for me. I have never, to this day, doubted it. An assurance that has held me together in the later years.

College was interesting. A time to find out what works for you apart from your family. Things between God and I kept going strong, as I was finally in a place to let my spiritual wings spread and learn how to speak "like a Christian" and have late night discussions about Calvinism vs. Arminianism and other such things I viewed as silly next to the wonder of a great Savior such as Jesus. For the first time, theology in all its glory was thrown at me day after day, and I, the artist, the follower of Christ, did not know how to intellectualize my faith. He was too real to me. Why would I put the God of all into intellectual discussion? I found myself drawn to those who intellectualized, and they, in turn, were drawn to me for my childlike foolishness in faith. Both of us would say to the other, "but it's so nice to hear that side of it!"

Halfway through college, I got hit hard with mono. I was in the middle of my last semester of classes my senior year, head over heels in a relationship with the one who would become my husband, and I had worked to become one of the top singers in the music department (nothing that big...I was a senior after all). And I was lost. And I was scared. And I was oh, so tired. I had pushed through the fall semester for so long, not knowing why I was so tired, and then got the diagnosis when it was in a bad way. I should've dropped out and finished the next year. But, I reasoned I could handle it. Looking back, I guess I did. But things suffered. Life became hard. Yeah, okay, so not so hard like some have it. But I call the life before mono the "semi-charmed life" in my own head when I think about it. Hard things in life had not touched me yet. I knew nothing of depression, doubt, or fears.

I began to question why God would do this to me. Why He would take away every happy feeling from me? I was sprialing dark into hormonal depression...the chemicals in my body got way out of whack. I didn't know this at first, and just felt like there was nothing I could offer anyone, and so, what good was I? No, I couldn't believe that I was good enough for Jesus just the way I was. It couldn't be true. So I pushed it away. Here I was, a Christ-follower, a Christian, for most of my life, and I spit in His face because I was tired and feeling sad. I didn't know then how much I had relied on "feeling saved" and "feeling joy" and "feeling love" to prove to myself that I was good enough for God to save.

How pompous. But, the struggle continued after college. Jon saw my struggle and came alongside, though it scared him sometimes that I could struggle so violently against the One that I had often helped him to see the other sides to. And it scared me that I scared him. It was our first real test. And we weren't even engaged yet. After about 4-5 months, I eventually got help through some medication and things began to look better in my world. But, I think, looking back, the damage was done. Satan had gotten a foothold, and I wasn't so sure about my God anymore. Why would I have to go through something like that? What had I done to deserve it? What does it mean that God is good? My fierce, childlike devotion waned. I was tired of trying. Every thing in every day still took effort, first because of the mono, second because of the depression. I didn't know how to be "normal" anymore. I couldn't be my happy-go-lucky even seemed at times like that person was never even real. But, life continued. Jon stuck with me, and I with him and I am so thankful. I knew, through all my anger and confusion over what was happening, that God was still there. We got engaged. I finished school.

A few years later, and handsome Jon and I are married. Life is amazing, and I have a job teaching music for the first time. I feel happy again, hormones balanced. I stop asking God the hard questions...but I also stop communing with Him every day. I try, but I am so happy to be happy again, that I grow complacent. We live the high life for a while, and then one day, not soon after Christmas, I get carsick.

I never get carsick.

I had a vague feeling that something was off. On our way home from winter vacation in Maine, I tell Jon that I think I should buy a pregnancy test, you know, just to be on the safe side. I was sure that I was wrong and there was no cause for alarm.

I took the test. The double lines showed up faster than I could blink. I dropped my head and felt my legs shaking, and began to cry. I couldn't be. I didn't know how to be a mom...I barely knew how to be a wife. Jon knocked on the door, and I didn't even answer, too consumed in my fear and shock. I wish, looking back, that it had been able to be a happy moment, but it was not. I was not ready.

That pregnancy and subsequent birth of my first son, Jeremiah, was a journey, and probably complete other blog post in and of itself. But it was vital in God bringing me back to Himself. I am not proud to say this, but I should not sugarcoat the journey it was for me: I was not happy to be pregnant. I wanted my life to be the way it had been going, not the way it was going to be in 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, months. While everyone around me was rejoicing, I was slowly retreating inside, back to that place I found during the mono. Why God? What is your plan? I'm not wanting this. I'm too young. I'm too immature. I'm too selfish. Many excuses, some true and some leading, filled my heart and mind. I revealed them to no one. I cherished the appearance I gave to others more than the truth.

Jeremiah, my precious boy, was born on August 24, 2007. I loved him more than I could understand. I made a promise to him our first night together, that I would do my best to do everything I could to take care of him, even while I hadn't a clue what I was doing. Days and weeks went by, and I felt myself spiraling, drawing away from God as I questioned why my life had taken such a drastic turn...oh I was so selfish. I wanted my time back, my energy back, my late nights with my husband back. I wanted my dreams back. I felt that having this baby was a complete derailing of everything I thought my life would be. I had always talked about having kids. But, this was quick. I had things to do. We had only been married 17 months when I found out I was pregnant. I withdrew fast, from Jon, from my friends, from my family, and from God. I didn't know what else to do. So I faked the happiness of pregnancy, shoved aside the fear, and held a grudge against my Lord. The One who I supposedly trusted was too dangerous to me.

This is long I know, but it's getting to modern times...just stick with me.

When Jeremiah was 4 months old, I had finally gotten him to sleep in his crib, and was lying in our bed with my sleeping husband beside me, slowly crying myself to sleep, as I had many nights before. I tried to do it quietly, but Jon knew. He tried to help, but I told him I didn't know what was wrong. But deep inside, I knew. God and I had to have some time together to have it out. I was so disappointed and unaccepting of His will for my life that I couldn't even pray. So, that one night, when my son was 4 months old, I gave in. I finally cried out to Him and said, "Lord, if you will take away this horrible feeling of hopelessness, I will do whatever You want. What is it You want from me? Why won't You let me go? Tell me what to do and I will do it. Only take this feeling away."

It is one of two times I have felt God speak so clearly to me.

I heard "Abide in me."

And then I really began to cry. The burden had been lifted and the walk through the valley of the shadow of death had ended, and God still wanted me. I couldn't believe my good fortune, that God would still love me and want me to abide with Him through all my whining and moaning. Right there I told Him, laughing through my tears, "YES!" It was so simple, but I had lost sight of that wonderful abiding in Him that had brought us such closeness in the beginning.

I think back on that time as an almost "second-salvation experience." It might not sound like much, but God reached down to reassure me of His love and awoke such peace in my soul. I will never forget His grace.

Since that day 4 years ago, I still struggle and straggle along. But I have seen how God is molding me into the woman He wants me to be. It is not who I imagined I would be at 18...heck, even when I started this blog, the title says it all. I had a dream to be a singer. God has given me that dream, and continues to give me that dream...but it looks different than I planned. I believe He has also given me other dreams, just as important. The dream of marriage. The dream of motherhood. The dream of teaching. God given dreams. Sometimes they are scary. Sometimes they are overwhelming in their powerful play on my heart. I sometimes try to pull away and pretend I don't care so much.

But, daily. I am trying daily to live in His grace and allow myself to be molded into what He desires for me.

And, ultimately, He desires life for me. Life, and not death. I hope as my life continues and chidlren grow and our marriage grows and students are taught and songs are sung that my life will continue to testify to my Lord's power and hold on me.

I say it loud and proud here: I am His and He is mine.

1 comment:

cara said...

Jen - Thanks so much for sharing your story. It was inspiring to read such honest and deep thoughts.