Saturday, January 31, 2009

Testify

I'm working steadily to flesh out this blog, and as I get bits of it up and running, I want to share them with you. Today, I'm sharing my testimony, which is embedded in my About page. Now, I'm warning you. This bit is long. Over 2,000 words. So grab a cup of tea and snuggle in.


Born in Canada, I am the daughter of a passionate evangelist and a merciful mommy, who raised my four brothers, my sister, and myself in various locales around the northwest quarter of North America. I defected to Southern California after high school to attend The Master's College, where I majored in Church Music and minored in Bible. After graduation, I moved back home and worked for a year or so before implanting myself in the area in which I now reside.


I'll never forget the day I met my best friend, Jeff. And there hasn't been a single day since that we haven't been in contact. We met and married in three months, and welcomed our son, James, into our family the following year.


This was before I knew about blogging, but believe me, if I'd known there was such a thing, I would have posted twenty times a day about the joys and shocks of being a first-time mom. I stayed home with James for a couple of years, which are now a big blur of diapers and slobbery kisses. Then we welcomed his little brother, Jonathan, and life changed again, as it does each time a new sibling is added.


While I've had knowledge of the God of the Bible and a relationship with Jesus Christ for my entire memory (having prayed to "accept Jesus into my heart" on my fourth birthday), and while my childhood and early adulthood were fraught with poignant moments of faith realizations and dramatic choices that propelled me toward Christ (sometimes kicking and screaming), I did not really purpose to live a life pleasing to God until after Jonathan was born.


When Jonathan was two weeks old, Jeff and I began attending a new church. God hooked us up with a small group immediately, and suddenly, a little cluster of people felt close enough to notice if something was out of place in our lives. It seemed to me that our plastic "everything's fine" faces and "don't come any closer" politeness just didn't cut it there. When they asked me how we were doing and how our week had gone, I was just sure they knew when I was lying.


And I was lying. The reality is my life was spiraling downward into a cesspool of destruction. I was an addict. A secret addict. Nothing as outwardly noticeable as drugs or alcohol, because I'd been raised not to smoke or chew or go with boys that do. My addiction was much more subtle. Pornography.


At first, I denied that I had a problem. I was pretty sure I could stop anytime I wanted to. But then, one day, I wanted to. And I tried. And I couldn't stop. Eventually, I developed about a two-week cycle. I'd fall, then feel horribly guilty for three days, then feel fine for a week, then feel tempted for a few days, then fall again. I'll never forget staying up too late on a Saturday night, then dragging the filth inside my brain to church with me the next morning, and hearing our pastor say from the stage, "Looking at pornography is childish." I felt so ashamed.


I began to feel trapped in my cycle and wondered if there would ever be a way out. No matter how hard I tried, I always fell. Again and again. And my guilt was compounded a hundredfold by what my addiction did to my children. A mommy who stays up half the night, plagued with guilt, is not a nice mommy to be around the next morning.


Then one night, my disgust with myself overwhelmed me. The guilt and self-loathing were so great that I barely slept. The next morning, completely distraught, I finally took a step toward real change. I cried out to God, and asked Him to save me from myself.


God sent me to the Focus on the Family website, which in turn pointed me to an addiction recovery site called Setting Captives Free. They offer 40-day courses designed to help you kick any number of debilitating addictions, and accountability from people who've been where you are.


I signed up right away and did the first day of the pornography course. And my eyes were opened. The lesson described me perfectly. It said I was seeking to glorify only myself, and I was drinking rotten, tepid water from a broken cistern. It said I would never be satisfied, and I would keep needing more and more to get the same fix, and I would eventually destroy myself and my family if I continued on my current path. And it offered me hope. The hope of freedom and purity, of casting off my crushing shame, of enjoying true intimacy with my Abba Father.


I don't share this bit of my life to sensationalize you. But I must share it, because I know some of you struggle as I did, and I want you to find the healing and hope I have found in the knowledge of God's love for me. He loves you too and He wants you to be free. If you relate to what I've shared, please visit Setting Captives Free.


A couple of years later, God began to bring me through the process of remembering and recovering from sexual sin committed against me during childhood. The following months were a haze of depression as I worked through shock buried for nearly 20 years. Suddenly, I made sense. To myself, to my husband, to my family and lifelong friends.


The confusion, anger, numbness, horror, and unthinkable pain clung to me wherever I went. The Book of Job was my good friend. When I could pray nothing, feel nothing, do nothing, one phrase repeated itself to me over and over again: "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21b).


I'm so thankful to God for Matt Redman's musical interpretation of Job's words. "Blessed be Your name, when the sun's shining down on me, when the world's all as it should be... Blessed be Your name when I'm found in the desert place, though I walk through the wilderness... Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering, though there's pain in the offering... Every blessing You pour out I'll turn back to praise... When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say... Blessed be the name of the Lord." That song was my only lifeline for weeks. Without it, I would have despaired completely.


But even with that inkling of a reminder that underneath it all, God was still somehow trustworthy, I wanted desperately to escape the pain. I thought all the time about taking my own life. One night, when everyone else was asleep, I went online and researched what would happen to me if I overdosed on all the various types of painkillers we had on hand. We didn't have anything too hefty, and I learned I probably wouldn't die, but I would cause myself a great deal of pain. How ironic that my chosen method of Pain Escape would actually increase my pain exponentially. Not the way to go.


In the midst of my pit, my aunt died, quite suddenly, from a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer that quickly spread to her lungs. She was gone to heaven only four short weeks after anyone knew she was sick. And she was so excited. The last time I saw her, she said, "I try not to be too exuberant because I know it's hard for all of you, but I just can't wait to see Jesus!"


But even her excitement didn't stop her from fighting for every breath. She was determined to stay on this earth until the very last second of God's appointed span of her life. Usually, when someone dies, they'll breathe for a minute, and then pause, and then take another breath, and then pause, and then breathe a couple more times, and then stop. But not my aunt. Her daughter, my cousin, said at her memorial service that on the night she died, she fought to breathe steadily until her final breath. She gave her last breath for God's glory.


The following week, a familiar song by Casting Crowns hit me afresh: "When I'm weak, You make me strong; when I'm blind, You shine Your light on me...I'll stand on Your truth and I'll fight with Your strength until You bring the victory, by the power of Christ in me...to reach out with Your hands, see the world through Your eyes, to love with the love of the Savior...to feel with Your heart, and to think with Your mind...I'll give my last breath for Your glory."


I burst into tears as God spoke to my heart. I had been focused so completely on my own pain. I had wanted to die for my own glory, not God's. But watching how my aunt lived for Him, and how she died for Him, impacted me to the core. And I knew I wanted to be like her. To give my last breath for something much more significant than personal despair. To give it for God's glory.


But of course I wanted to live for God's glory on my terms. So, snapping out of my depression, I poured myself into my work as publication specialist and music administrator at my church. For nearly a year I focused on that, ignoring the parts of my heart that remained unhealed, and ignoring the Great Healer.


And then, one day, I fell. Literally. While walking down my frosty porch steps, my foot slipped out from under me and I landed on my rumpus. I hadn't used the handrail as I began to descend the stairs, but I sure yanked out to grab it after I started to slip. It took that fall to wake me up to what God was trying to tell me. He was telling me He wanted to be my handrail. But not just my handrail. Not just my Protector. Also my Friend. My life. My Abba Father. My King and my God. My everything.


Knowing my church busyness wasn't helping me, and knowing I'd already tried everything else I could think of to medicate myself, and knowing unequivocally that nothing else worked, I gave in. "Okay, God," I said. "I'm tired of living for me. I want to live for You now. I want to give You everything. I'm not holding anything back anymore. Take it all."


Ummm...yeah.


If you've ever prayed a prayer like that, you know what happened next.


That's right.


God took it all. And He's still taking it all. He is stripping away from me every extemporaneous thing in my life. He is removing every idol, casting down every stronghold, demolishing my old walls, and excavating.


Numerous relationships have been put to rights, I've been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I had to quit all my jobs, I've begun homeschooling my sons, and God is teaching me to be faithful in the little things. Like eating for His glory. And giving up the lie that I'm entitled to anything at all. And managing my household well. And keeping my priorities straight. And parenting as His servant. And reaching out to hurting women. You know. The usual.


But underneath, beside, behind, above, around and through all of that, Abba is whispering romantically, every day, to my heart, "You are My daughter. Let Me show you what I have for you. Come to Me and find rest. I am gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. My plan for you is good, and I have loved you with an everlasting love."


My prayer for you is that if you don't hear it already, you will begin to discern what your Abba is whispering to your heart. I want you to know how much God loves you.



I'd be happy to talk to you about any of what you've read, and I know leaving a general comment might be too vulnerable. If you wish, I invite you to contact me privately via my secure contact form.