Saturday, December 8, 2012

My testimony

Standing waiting for the results.  I couldn’t believe it.  The lights were intense and my heart pounding.  I was in the finals for Alaska Jr. Miss Pageant.  Just a few months earlier, I was in the exact place when Michele Shurig from Chugiak won for Alaska Young Women Pagent and I was 1st runner up. I was encouraged to enter again since I had the dress and talent prepared. 

Slowly, the announcer for American’s National Teenager called me in the top ten. Then now, with just three. I stood there shaking, holding the hands of the other two.  And the winner is.. Stacy (I think) Shurig from Chugiak.  Wow, who else can say they were first runner up to two beautiful sisters. UGH.  So close, but disappointed. However, making it to the finals I received a college scholarship in a far away place where maybe.  Just maybe, my life would be better.  
However, I am getting ahead of my self.    

I longed to have two simple things in life.  First, I wanted a family with brother or a sister.  This may not sound like much to you especially if you can remember how your brother would beat up on you or steal your toys.  But, for me, as an only child whose mother could not have any more children, the companionship of a brother or sister was my hearts desire

The second thing I wanted was riches and power.  I believed that if you had enough money and power anything is possible.   Believing “just do it” is the theme my generation adheres to, so, I made certain to work hard to be number 1.  Lying  and “advantage seeking” was the game of the day to get what I wanted.

Growing up in Alaska, I knew everything was perfect at home.  My mom loved me and my dad was my best friend.  We all played games together and worked hard hauling wood in the winter days together as a family.  I didn’t have to guess about their love for me they showed it by the many warm hugs and often told me how wonderful I was.  Even when I felt rejected at school by the cruel things kids said, my parents would say that I was special and they would always care for me.  The words, “I love you,” were proved by our long dinner conversations and gentle discipline.

When I was 12, I went off to summer camp for a week.  One day after finishing a game of capture the flag, my father unexpectedly arrived.  He told me that my mother had left us.  My picture perfect family was completely disintegrated.  I felt abandoned and confused.  How could my mom leave us?  I thought she loved me.  I was deeply hurt.  Became angry on the inside, but put on a smiling face for the world to see.  I was ashamed that my family was broken up.  The one thing (my parents love) that I relied on for security was now gone.  

My dad remarried and my new mom was fun at first.  After a while, I felt like I was in a battle for my fathers love.  We clashed about everything from how I vacuumed to the way I talked.  I wanted to wedge dissatisfaction into the marriage so my dad would choose me.  But, I wasn’t getting love or being heard.  I spent most time in my bedroom so I didn’t have to face reality.

It was at that time, I decided to look for the lost affection from a guy.  After all, Hollywood promotes the tall, dark, and handsome guys.  I wanted a man that would fight for me, care for me and not LEAVE me.  Soon, I found my sweetheart! He was tall with brown hair and blue eyes.  I spent countless hours on the phone, walking hand-in-hand, for three years.  We were inseparable.  I put all my trust in him.  When he was sad-I was sad.  When he was happy-I was happy.  If I wasn’t with him, I was thinking of him and talking about him.  We would even talk about being together forever.  One day, I got a letter explaining that my sweetheart was seeing another women… my hopes of a good relationship disappears again.  This was just another part of my life that was not real.

I was hurt.  Again, how could a man who I put my trust in let me down?  Filled with anger and hatred toward that other women, my thoughts dwelled on getting even.  This hatred brewed inside me.  Concerning relationships, I had learned a valuable lesson.  I was never going to let a man hurt me like that again.  I was going to be “in control”.  I would be the hunter and not the prey.

When I went to that far off college trying to find happiness by changing my location, I had the success and pride of starting my own theater and pizza restaurant out of an abandoned business.  The cast was featured on the 5:00 news hour for being so young and have an entrepreneurial success.  I loved the praise and attention that this business was bringing.

I had put in countless hours working to make this company a success.  Three months after the mayor cut the opening ribbon, the business professor who gave us the idea of starting the business, arranged with the bank to take over the new establishment.  I could not believe that a professor who taught me ethics and many other business classes could be so ruthless.  He even wanted me to work for him.  Tears came easily down my face, when I realized that even my accomplishments meant heart-aches.

I was alone.  All these relationships did not turn out to be what I expected.  They were like seeing a glass of cold water in the dessert heat that dissipates as you get closer …a mirage.  I realized then that nothing is as it seems.  I could not put my trust or security in other people because eventually they would let me down.

I turned to various “hiding” techniques.  I would do so by being busy so I would not allow myself to think.   As long as I didn’t have to face my true angry feelings, I was safe. I wanted to do things so that people would like me.  

If I wasn’t busy doing projects of all kinds, I was being a social butterfly.  I tried on the party hats.  At parties, I could hide my sorrows behind a smiling face.  I would work hard during the week and spend it all at the clubs.

It wasn’t long until my chosen lifestyle became destructive not just to me but to others around me.  My tongue was so full of lies that I would not even know what the truth was.  I continued to make wrong choices and ultimately betrayed my closest friend.

I continued to bury all my feelings.  People would often call me “bubbles” because of my cheery disposition.  But like a mirage, it wasn’t real.  I looked very Happy on the outside but, was really hurting on the inside.  I would often look in the mirror and ask myself “who am I really?”  My emptiness inside began to gradually erode all of my external worth.  Why should I go living?  I am worthless.  I WANTED TO DIE!

Searching for hope, I attended a church.  During the meditations and visualizations I felt so good.  I felt loved and secure.  But, when I left the building in a matter of days, I continued to look for love in all the wrong places.  My heart hadn’t changed.  Soon, I frequented the clubs again and ultimately got myself in a heap of trouble. I was trapped in the mess I made for myself.

As a Resident Assistant in my college dorm, I had to have a “spiritual program” for the students.  I wanted the local fortune teller to come.  When the psychic didn’t return my calls my friend Steve suggested that I invite the residents to a Campus Outreach program.  At the rally, I heard a classmate share “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life.”  He explained that in my life I was earning death by my wrong actions.  However, God had a free gift for me.  The gift was the death of His son Jesus.  They gave me a flyer to attend a Christmas conference, but I put that aside know that I was going to be far away.

During the Christmas break, I encountered more heartache from my relationships with men.  I happened to run across the conference brochure.  My eyes caught the headline…”More than 800 college students from the South”.  Then I thought, there must be some better MEN at the conference than the ones that I had met in the clubs.  So, I got my plane ticket changed with no additional cost to me, and I was off for the “hunt” of a lifetime.

You should have seen the look on the people’s faces when Ella showed up.  I dressed in very tight clothes to woo the men.  However, nobody was interested.

I was surrounded by women who took me in (I belonged eventhough I didn't believe like them).  During the week, I never saw so many people having so much fun without parting.  Since, the men were not paying attention to me; I had to listen to the speaker.  He had many challenging things to say.  

The speaker informed the audience that when you die you can’t take anything with you.  A coffin is not a U-haul truck.  There is something more to live for other than just material possessions.  But what?, I thought.  What was worth living for if everything we have just wastes away.

The speaker explained that God is holy or set apart, and we humans are sinful.  Our sin separates us from God.  The Bible says, All have sinned and fall short of God’s glorious standards.  People have chosen to go their own independent way apart from God.  That has broken the connections between God and people.  Because, God is holy and sin cannot be in His presence.  That was the bad news.  

The good news was that God saw our condition and sent his son Jesus to earth.  The Bible states, “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”  (Romans 5:8)  He lived a perfect life and was sinless. He could do this because He is God.  He loved us so much that, “Christ died for our sins…they buried him, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, as the scriptures said.”  The speaker said all that I had to do was to receive His forgiveness and live for Him.

I couldn’t move.  The speaker then asked people to commit to God!  It was like I was frozen to my chair.  My mind was racing.  You see I compared my life with people around me.  “I am better them them.  I don’t need Jesus.  But, when I was confronted with a HOLY God, I knew I needed HIM.  I was amazed to find out that on the cross, Jesus died to forgive me of all the wrong things I did and would do.  I realized that his death was a gift for me and that I don’t have to do anything to earn God’s Love.  I wanted the acceptance and the forgiveness that Jesus earned for me on the cross. I had to admit my wrongs and ask God to cleanse my sins.  But, in my mind, I struggled with wanting to keep my old lifestyle. 

Still, I knew I needed something different.  I could not hide under the mask any longer.  That night I tried to convince a roommate  that I was a Christian because I had attended a church and did religious things (like summer camp).  She asked me simply, “If I were to follow you throughout the day, would I see Jesus in your life?” No, I thought. My life was about me not Him.  

Later in the evening, I walked out of the hotel room sat down on the stairs and just talked to God. I told Him how sorry I was for all the wrong I had done.  I wanted to receive Jesus’ death on the cross for my sins.  I gave God my life to use it as He wished and then I sang Amazing Grace.  After that, a real loved relationship with My Savior-Jesus finally filled the vacuum hole in my life that I had tried to fill with every evil thing.  For the first time, I felt the heaviness of my guilt lifted off my shoulders.  I was finally free! I believed.

At that conference I learned many things about my relationship with God.  Reading the Bible, I discovered it is God and God alone that can revive a dead soul.  He was my “lifesaver” and my personal friend.  God has declared in the Bible that I am his delight.  I am a child of God and nothing can seperated from HIS LOVE.  I am never alone- God will not leave me.  He took me from sinner to SAINT.  He has given me worth and a position that I could never receive by my own effort. 

I used to think that religion was about doing things.  Like going to church, being nice, or praying.  But  the Bible teaches that a relationship with Him is accomplished NOT by what I do.  It is done because of Jesus death on the cross.

He did this to demonstrate his grace which I don’t deserve in the love He showered me in Christ Jesus. If I try to be good on my own effort or strength, I am trusting me and not Christ.  

Looking back on the rough road from Make believe to the reality of knowing Christ, I would never wish anyone the pain and consequences of sin I endured.  However, I have been able to see God as the rescuer and comforter in my life.  I am here by God’s grace because I deserved nothing and yet He gave me eternal life and his real LOVE.

Remember that hurt child finding out that she was all alone and thought she could hide behind smiles?  Well, I don’t have to hide any longer.  I have now an open and honest relationship with both my mom and dad.  I understand that people are not perfect and bad things do happen, but I have a loving Father in Heaven that will be with me always. 

Remember the men I tried to put my trust in and desire affection from.  I use to fear rejection.  During my new quiet time I read, “He will not tempt you beyond what you can bear, but once tempted, He will find a way to get out of the temptation.”  I didn’t need to find my worth and security in men.  God allowed me to find a way out of temptation especially by going out with a group of friends instead of solo dating. A few years later, God gave me a dream husband who loves God first.   God has given me the BEST.  But, I don’t trust in James, but in my Heavenly Father.

Remember that business teacher that stole my business.  I learned that I didn’t need to wait for him to admit his wrongs.  If I wanted to be free from the anger that I had towards him, I needed to forgive him as Christ had forgiven me.  So, I went to his office and told him that I was hurt and that I forgave him for taking over the business.  It was amazing that I no longer had to be controlled by my anger. 

Remember how I struggled with my self worth.  I was even at the point of wanting to change my appearance by being obsessed by my eating habits.  I used to think; if only I was skinnier I would be loved.  It was hard to overcome this thinking.  During a Bible study, I was asked to find all the “realities” of WHO I was in Jesus.  The Bible describes in detail who we are when we believe in Jesus.  Like-you are a new creation, saint, image of God.  I kept reading those verses and asking God to help me believe His Words instead of my messed up thinking.  I found out that my worth is not based on what I look like or what I accomplish, but what Jesus did for me.  I am precious in His sight.  This has to be the most freeing REALITY.

Remember the shock of being a child of divorced parents that left an empty whole in my heart.  Well, I can honestly say that our God is a God of miracles.  After a recent fire, my father came down and rescued my mom like a knight in shining armor.  He helped her find another place to live and moved when she was all alone. They where able to be friends and reconciled after 23 years of separation.  My dad asked my mom to marry him.  They just celebrated 5 years of MARRIAGE!

Recently another way that I have seen God being Real and not a mirage is the way HIS word teaches me and points out my sin in love.  I read that my words needs to be encouraging and building people up.  Daily I ask for help to take the reigns of my tongue.  It is hard, but His Spirit lives in me and helps me in my weakness.  

Have you looked for love in friends that turn out to be nonexistent like a mirage?  Have you strived for significance and recognition for accomplishment or doing GOOD?  

May I introduce you to the most loving and trustworthy Savior-Jesus.  He says in His Word, “To all who receive Him, to those who believe in His name, He gave the right to become Children of God”. It is the truth.  He will be that perfect father, savior, and friend NO MATTER WHAT.  Many things and people in this world will try to offer this―but only in Jesus is it true and lasting. Only God can truly satisfy our deepest needs.

He who has the Son has the life.  If we have God’s Son, we have eternal life.  When we trust Jesus as our Savior, He gives us His Holy Spirit to live in us.  It is impossible to live a Christian life without Him.  If you have not accepted Jesus’ death on the cross as full payment for yours sins, do it now.  Confess your sin, repent, and ask God to forgive you.  Invite Him to live in you and control your life.     But you can today choose Christ and be HIS CHILD.

It is not a religion of doing things; it is a relationship that you get.  Jesus has “done” the work that allows us to be a friend with God.   If you want this relationship, pray this prayer silently

…Dear Jesus, I do believe that you are the Son of God and that you died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin. Please come into my life, forgive my sin, and make me a member of your family. I now turn from going my own way. I want you to be the center of my life. Thank You for Your gift of eternal life and for your Holy Spirit, who has now come to live in me. I ask this in Your name, Amen.

As you prayed that prayer silently, Jesus Christ has come into your life on the basis of His World. Would you tell me at the door as you leave? I have a gift for you called A New Beginning. To Know Him is to spend time with Him in His World the Bible. I encourage you to sign up for one of the Friendship Bible Coffee in your area.