But God. Those are two of my favorite words in Scripture. When I first became a believer, I heard lots of testimonies and I still love hearing stories of what God has done, and is still doing. It always bothered me that I didn’t have one of those dramatic stories – I’d never done drugs … or lived in the gutter … or anything else really dramatic. My story didn’t fit the pattern… but I was just as lost. I remember crying to the Lord because I didn’t have a testimony. Slowly he began to bring things back to my memory and show me where and how He had worked in my life. I have since learned that our story is His story. He writes it… His way… His rules. So, I hope this blesses you.
I am the oldest of 12 children, and – if you haven’t already guessed – raised Catholic. I attended Catholic grade school, and graduated from a Catholic girls’ high school. Religious training was integrated into every class in school – even math. At home I was also taught about God. We went to church on Sundays and holy days – missing church was a mortal (deadly) sin. We often said the family rosary at night, and I was told that when I disobeyed, I had committed mortal sins. You should have heard my first confession (I was in second grade.) Every sin I confessed was committed thousands of times! Better safe than sorry! Better too much forgiveness than not enough! I knew that mortal sins sent you to hell! To me, God was the creator of the universe, the giver of all rules, and always looking to see what I was doing wrong. He was, like my father, never pleased with me. The threat of hell was a very real fear, and one my dad reminded me of regularly.
When I was in the fifth grade, my teacher, a nun, showed the class a picture of Jesus knocking at a door in a garden wall. She asked us what was different about the door. We all had our guesses. The top of the door is round? There is ivy on the wall? No one knew. She said, “There is no door knob! This is the door of your heart. You need to open the door from the inside to let Jesus in!”
That was an entirely new concept. JESUS IN ME??? To myself I said, “Well, who wouldn’t want Jesus in their heart?” All of a sudden I felt kind of warm, happy, and so-o-o-o good – like I had just been given a big hug. I had no idea what had just happened! Jesus answered the prayer of my heart – one that my head couldn’t even ask – and He came to live inside of me. But God… Like I said, I had no idea what had happened. All I knew was that it felt really good – so I said it again to see if I could feel good again. I now know that I didn’t feel anything the second or third times I said it because Jesus was already there.
I forgot about this for years. Things were pretty bad at home. Mom was totally overwhelmed with all the kids – understandably so! Like I said, there were 12 kids – in 19 years – and I’m the oldest. Dad had an anger issue and a leather belt – and I was pretty rebellious. We had LOTS of angry clashes, and I couldn’t wait to get out of the house.
I met my husband in typing school after I graduated from high school. I finally found someone to love me – I didn’t yet know how to love him. We had a couple of kids and I was following in my father’s footsteps. Now I had the anger issue. My poor husband! He didn’t quite know what to do with me, but he loved me unconditionally. We bought our first house and I made friends with other young mothers.
It was the early 70’s and the Jesus movement was sweeping the country. Bob’s boss invited us to a Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship dinner meeting, and he was paying for the tickets. We were told there would be dinner and a speaker. I had no idea what it was, but we went to get brownie points with his boss, and it was a night out! Yeah!
I had never seen anything like this! People were happy about God! They were singing and praying, and it wasn’t even Sunday! They were there because they wanted to be there – not because they should be there. We attended for a couple of months not really understanding what it was all about, but we liked it. It was something I could share with my husband. He wasn’t Catholic and really didn’t like going to church with me. At one meeting I found I couldn’t sing without crying – and I certainly wasn’t going to do that in a roomful of 500 people! Everyone was singing He Touched Me. I love that song, but kept my mouth shut! I don’t remember much of what was said that night, except that the speaker was a “spirit-filled” Mennonite. At the end of his message, he gave what I now know is an altar call, asking a very simple question. “Who would like more of Jesus in their life?” I really fought the idea of standing and going forward, but I knew I wanted more of Jesus.
Now, if that man had given the standard salvation altar call, I would never have gone forward. It would have run right into my Catholic beliefs like a brick wall. But God…. But God knew just how to reach me, right where I was at the time. He knew my heart, and He knew my head would just get in the way. I went forward.
I started reading my bible and lots of the testimony books that were out at the time. One night I attended a prayer meeting in the basement of my Catholic church – led by an Assembly of God gentleman. We sang the song Blessed Assurance. I’d never heard it before and the words surprised me. Assurance? Assurance of heaven? Is there any such thing? When I was leaving the meeting, I asked the leader, “Does that mean I’m going to heaven?” He smiled and said yes. (I think he was saying “Duh!” in his head.)
Several months later, there was a situation in my neighborhood with my new friends. One lady told me “they” were really fed up with me, “they” didn’t like my kids, etc. For four days I didn’t leave my house; I just stood by the window, crying. I couldn’t wait for the weekly prayer meeting. I was desperate. At the meeting I shared the problem briefly and asked for prayer. One person said that the Lord was giving me peace and joy. I felt nothing!
When I went back home, I was again standing by the window. I remembered what the lady said about peace and joy. I still felt nothing, but I said “Well, I guess if He says I’ll have peace and joy … I’ll have peace and joy!” Suddenly, it was like a large bucket of peace and joy was poured over my head. I went from depressed and crying, to being happy… really happy. Such a difference!
Life has not been the same since. I heard a man say “We all get saved on a fraction of the truth.” I didn’t understand much, but God…. But God loved me, knew my heart, and met me right where I was… in a way I could receive Him. I am so grateful for…. But God!
So much I didn’t understand. …
- I didn’t understand about salvation, or the salvation prayer. I knew Jesus had been crucified… but I didn’t know Jesus had paid the price for all my sins… but He had. I just wanted Him.
- I didn’t know Jesus was coming back… but He is.
- I didn’t know Jesus knew me before I was born… that I wasn’t “Mistake #1”… that He loved me … even when I was a teenager… or very angry adult… but He did.
- I didn’t know that He’d promised to always be with me… and you … but He has… and He is!
- I didn’t know that He could talk to us… or that He even wanted to… but He does.
- I didn’t know God is still working in this world today through Holy Spirit… or that He’s not too busy to listen to our smallest needs.
I had no idea just how much He loves me… and you… but He does. …And there is so much more… we have a BIG GOD!
Please come into my life.
I don’t understand everything,
but I know I need you.
I believe You are God.
I believe You died on the cross for my sins…
and that You arose again.
I want to know you better…
I want to follow You.
Come live within me,
and change me from the inside out.
Thank you for everything you’ve done…
and everything you will do.