I met Abby through a friend and we only got to talk a little bit – mostly about children. I found her on Facebook and, by mistake, I read her testimony. I am honestly not sure how I got there because this was an older post and I clearly remember I didn’t browse long enough to get there. I guess it’s just God!!! Like always! 🙂 I was so impressed by her testimony that I shared it with my family the exact same day. And then it was simple. I knew what I had to do: I reached out and she agreed to have her testimony posted here!
And this is the testimony. God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life. He who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5:11-12
For the first time in many years, I am attempting to give my own testimony, to share with you my walk with Christ, God’s Son.
When you pass through the waters I will be with you
And the waves will not overcome you
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you
I have called you by name. You are mine!
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, Your Savior. -from Isaiah 43 song
I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine. Song of Solomon 6:3
My parents loved me very much. They both grew up in the Church, but met in the Moonies cult in the mid-1970s. My dad was kind of a fringe member, but my mom gave up everything for the cult and traveled with them all over the U.S. selling flowers. The appeal, I think, was giving up her whole life–completely–to the point of suffering–for something greater than herself. Eventually my mom’s mom kidnapped her out of it and sent her up north to get deprogrammed, which, thankfully, went successfully. My dad had fallen in love with my mom at this point, and when he came to see her, she helped him get out (mentally.)
I do not remember a time when I did not know about Jesus–His perfect life, crucifixion, and resurrection. I do not remember a time when I did not know that I was a sinner in need of a Savior. I do not remember a time when I did not know that believers are baptized as a sign of their commitment to follow the one true God. So this is not so much the story of my being converted into Christianity, but the story of how God has saved and continues to save me from sin, and how I am slowly, painfully, carefully, being transformed into His likeness.
And so I sing with David:
Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you
even at my mother’s breast.
From birth I was cast upon you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God. Psalm 22:9-10
I do remember that there was a time when I did not know this:
“Even a fool can learn from his own mistakes, but a wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” I remember learning this from the Bible, but I have not been able to find the verse. Looking online, this quote actually seems to most closely resemble a quote from Otto Von Bismarck, though I have no idea how I would have known of him as a child.
Not wanting to be a fool, walking down the wrong path, I asked my parents if I could be baptized at the age of 6. I remember Glenn Aiken, the intern at our church, coming to our home to talk with me, but I do not remember “praying the prayer.” I think this is because as he was saying good-bye, he lifted me into the air, and my head was scraped by our ceiling fan, which happened to be on at the time, and my parents immediately took me to the emergency room. I remember getting stitches, though my dad told me just this past year that I would likely have been fine without them.
I grew up hearing countless testimonies of people who had been enslaved to sin and that God had broken into their lives in amazing ways. These stories were wonderful to me, and I loved hearing them, but did not relate. A common strand in many testimonies was that the people confessed living a “double life.” Meaning that they were a different person around their “churched friends” than their “unchurched friends.” And, not wanting, again, to be a fool and not learn from the mistakes of others, I did invite school friends to come to church with me, but mostly I felt free to share my beliefs in my writing.
Satan really got me in the area of prayer though. Right after I had been baptized, I was praying at lunch one day in 1st grade and someone asked me if I was praying. For some reason, I was really scared inside and totally denied it–3 times, just like Peter–and after that I either didn’t pray at lunch or prayed with my eyes open. I still don’t know exactly why I did this, but I am telling you that I did.
I often had a sense of God’s presence with me, especially outside on beautiful days, but it was not until much later that I began to develop more of a conscience. When I was 9 1/2 my family moved from our ranch-style home in the suburbs of Matthews, NC to a large 150 year old farm house in a small town in South Carolina called Clover, the little town with LOVE in the middle. I loved living in the country. I loved exploring all the old buildings and learning to ride horses. But other forces were creeping in too:
- I read a book that said that becoming an adult was about unlearning everything you learned as a child. Frankly, I found this quite frightening. I did not want my childhood to be wasted learning stuff that didn’t matter! I resolved all the more to learn things correctly the first time. But as a result, this made me very distrustful of many of the books and people around me. In fact, I often still do not have a proper respect for authority in general. Did I weigh the truths I heard against the Bible? Sometimes, but not always. Not this time. It was not until I was an adult, when I read Leviticus 19:32, which reads “Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord” that I began to understand the concept of respecting authority (or anyone, for that matter) just because God says so and not because “they earned it”.
- I also did not weigh “worldly truth” against “Biblical truth” in the use of bad language. Another book I read said that all words are just words. “Sticks and stones may break by bones,” you know, “but words will never hurt me.” The book said that if you said a bad word over and over 100 times, it would lose it’s edge and no longer seem bad to you. So, I did it. By this point, I was in fifth grade and knew all 5 of the major cuss words, so I went out in the pasture and said each aloud 100 times. After that, hearing bad language at school bothered me a lot less, and eventually I began thinking and saying those words frequently in my own life as well.
- Lying. I had often heard (in testimonies and other places) that telling lies led to telling more lies until they would swallow you up and devour you. I grew up in a kind of Brother’s Grimm way of approaching child-rearing in many ways I think. The drug-education programs were kind of the same way. They made it sound like if you smoked a cigarette you were going to turn into a human exhaust pipe and your lungs would be transformed into sticky, black sausages. FOREVER! Remember the plaque monster? I am not kidding. The scare-tactics were pretty wild when I was a kid. Talk to strangers and your grandmother will get eaten by a wolf! But for whatever reason, while I have never been drawn to doing drugs or having a mouth full of cavities, the challenge of becoming a good liar became very interesting to me. It started very small with just the thrill of being able to “get away with it” but eventually grew into a way of life. I would lie about things I didn’t have to lie about just to keep in good practice for the times when telling the truth would mean, at least in my imagination, having to face unpleasant consequences.
Probably the scariest thing looking back on it, is that I was totally blinded to the fact that these things are not honoring God. I loved God and enjoyed reading and studying the Bible nearly everyday!
And then, WHAM! Totally unexpectedly, I was talking with a teacher one morning my senior year of high school, and she said, “You know, Abby. You are so sarcastic no one can believe anything you say.” And I knew I had to change. If this woman who hardly even knew me could see that I was such a fake, what did the rest of the world think? And who was I being for Jesus? All the things I thought I was doing so well to cover up were suddenly exposed, right there in the hall! And most importantly, I knew that God knew too! I realized I didn’t want to be a liar anymore. I didn’t want to be sarcastic! I wanted to be trusted and trustworthy! I had not been challenged with Biblical teaching in a long time, but I began to seek it out again. I resolved to read the whole Bible straight through so I would know what it said. And of course in the process read the words, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only that what is helpful for building others up…” Ephesians 4:29. Lying was pretty easy to give up. But by this point, I had been thinking and saying awful words daily, and it is still sometimes a struggle to keep them out–18 years later. But it’s not just the victory that let’s us know we’re His, it’s the struggle 🙂
I had another problem though. I was hungry spiritually. When I was a young child I received very good teaching including learning the books of the Bible, Bible stories, and scripture memory, but after I became a teenager, the teachers at Church for the most part did not teach very much that was new. As a result, I assumed that I already had been taught and knew everything there was to know about Christianity. I was restless and bored. I thought if God was our infinite, awesome, Creator-God, there must be more than THIS! I explored other religions, but came back to the Bible and Christ. Then I went off to College and discovered DOCTRINE! Oh, I was in heaven for the first few months. I loved the way these College people -thought- about God–such high thoughts, such “solid food” I thought. But the implications of their theology did not -taste- good. In fact, it tasted disgusting. The more these people seemed to study and read, the more they seemed confirmed in their election as God’s chosen people, and the more isolated they became from the works God has -chosen us for- on earth. I continued to go to Church because I loved church, mainly the connection I felt to the LORD through singing as a congregation, and I would sing on my own. But I could not read the Bible, not if it was really saying those things… and if it wasn’t saying those things, I was no longer sure what it was saying.
Then one night when I was walking around downtown Charleston with a smart, red-headed boy named Bryan I shared some of this. He listened quietly, as he does, and then said simply, “That is not good.” Over the next several months he helped me to climb out from under all of that murky, muddy, suffocating theology. And more than that, he showed me how weak my conscience was, which still surprises me–the conscience, you know, often being a mark of the Spirit with a person. I was good about sensing if someone needed help or was suffering. I was good about sensing physical danger. But a lot of just common sense right and wrong I was weak, weak, weak as a newborn babe. But he was patient with me and encouraged me, and I will always be thankful to him for that. And to Him.
But there was more. God didn’t just want me to have a conscience, He wanted me to be living in community with other believers! After College, Bryan and I were married, and God led us to a church with a loving group of people our age who sought to study the Word together in order to live wholly for the LORD in this life. He gave us people to wrestle through tough questions with and to share the joys and trials of life together. This was a truly wonderful time of growth as a Body and as a young, newly-married couple.
In 2009, Bryan got a job in Brunswick, GA and we moved with our little 3 month old Anna 5 hours away from our wonderful friends to live in a small town close to the ocean. This was a very lonely time for me. In fact, I am fairly certain now that I was depressed. But God continued to speak to me and grow me during this time. I think up until this point I had often looked to God in music, Creation, or other people, but Brunswick was the beginning of weaning me away from dependency on those things to rely on God Himself.
After Hurricane Katrina, all the oak trees within 7 blocks from the shore in one of the areas we worked were broken to the ground, but all the palm trees were still standing. A man explained that this is because God had made the palm trees to bend in the wind, whereas the oak trees would just crack. It wasn’t particularly fun weathering those 3 years, but I did learn a lot, and I didn’t crack, though I came close a couple times :). What did I learn? The lesson of Job. Play the cards your dealt. They’re the only cards you’ve got. All life is a matter of perspective. Rejoice in all things. I will say it again: rejoice! Do I miss the beach? YES! Am I glad to not be living in Brunswick? YES!
A lot of what I learned here I attribute to the sharing and prayers of our friends Amie and Jill, from our church in Charlotte, who were faithful friends to us through this time, and really prayed for me and encouraged me through it.
In 2012 we moved back to Charlotte with Anna and B. We were excited about being closer to friends and family again, and joyful about the work God had given Bryan there. But things did not turn out the way we had hoped and expected. After a mostly frustrating year and a half at his new job, Bryan received a Fellowship to attend graduate school at Winthrop! We moved in with my parents, and he started school. That year was hard, but really good too. I loved living with my parents. I loved homeschooling the children, then ages 5 and 3. God showed me the joy of deep, healthy Christian relationships with women my age and began to awaken in me a desire to pray with and for others.
After completing his coursework for grad school, Bryan got a job in Raleigh, and here we are! God has continued to bless our family of 5 abundantly. We live in a wonderful community full of caring neighbors, both believing and non-believing. The children go to a great school. We enjoy the teaching and fellowship from our local church, and the library is only 1 mile from our house! There are older women here who love me and take the time to pour their wisdom into me. We pray together.
This feels like the end–where those folks from growing up would end their testimonies, with everything tied neatly into a bow–a lovely gift for the world, and I guess this could be. I am still very much a work in progress, with layers of sin still to shed, and good works to do. There is still so much that I don’t know and want to learn. I pray to continue to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ until I die and to live with Him forever.
Thank you so much Abby for sharing! I praise God for all the work He needs to do in our lives – even when it doesn’t seem too pleasing to us – and I thank Him for always being with us and opening our eyes to see Him! Be blessed sweet friend!!!