Recovery Testimony: Be Encouraged!

good_newsContinued from here.

I hope that the three recovery testimonies I shared have inspired you and that you are now thinking about your own recovery testimonies. We all have them – nobody is lucky enough to get through life without experiencing some sort of upheaval that rocks your world. And if you truly don’t have one yet, know that one is coming. When it hits, I hope you will remember what you read about my recovery testimonies and believe while in the storm that God will cause the sun to shine again.

Your recovery testimony might not be as dramatic as mine. If that is the case, count your blessings! The three I shared are dramatic, but I had to live through that drama, which wasn’t fun. Only the power of God could turn these tragedies into victories!

I encourage you not to compare your recovery testimony to mine or anyone else’s but, instead, praise God that you have one! Your recovery testimony has the power to inspire other people, so you need to share it. If people believe that you never suffered, then they will assume that’s the real reason for your joy. When you show people your joy and then your scars, they realize that there must be a God to be able to make such sweet lemonade out of life’s lemons.

Think about the type of person that the World would expect me to be. Just the child abuse alone would cause someone to expect me to be a bitter person who is unable to trust (which is exactly who I was for a long time). I could have been a prostitute or drug addict. Heck, I could have committed suicide a long time ago. And yet, here I am, shouting from the rooftops that my God is faithful! He is good! He is bigger! He is in control! It’s one thing to hear those words from someone who has never suffered. It’s a completely different thing to hear those words from someone covered with scars as I am.

I used to be ashamed of my scars, but now I’m proud of them because each one proclaims the glory and power of God. When I show people my scars, as I did in my three recovery testimonies, I am showing evidence that I was wounded as well as proof that God heals. Why would I want to hide them? When people ask how I know there is a God, I need only show them my scars. I have no other explanation for how I became the person I am today.

[Graphic: Cartoon of a newspaper with the headline of “Good News” and a photo of Grace giving a “thumbs up.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Recovery Testimony: Child Abuse

crazyContinued from here.

God’s faithfulness in bringing me my son grew my faith. I was active in church and Bible study. Then, my life blew up again because it was time for God to heal my pain from the childhood abuse. This testimony is far too complex for a 400-word blog entry, so I’ll just hit the highlights.

When my son was a toddler, I started having flashbacks of the childhood abuse. Up until this point, I had no conscious memory of the child abuse, and yet my life screamed my truths. I found a checklist online listing 37 common symptoms of people who have been severely abused in childhood. Someone with over 25 of those symptoms is likely to have experienced ongoing and severe childhood abuse. I had 34 of them. Reading this checklist was like looking in a mirror. For most of my life, I thought I was “crazy” with multiple unrelated issues. I did not realize that I was actually “normal” – a “normal” child abuse survivor.

The pain was so intense that I wanted to die. I even considered suicide but could not figure out a way to do it that would not traumatize my young son. While I held onto my faith during this season of life, I was mostly along for the ride as wave after wave of past pain pounded me. My eating disorder got worse, and I started self-injuring to help me manage the pain.

A church friend asked our pastor for a therapist recommendation, which is how I found my wonderful therapy, who is both a Christian and a qualified psychologist with experience in working with people who were severely abused in childhood. God used him to guide me along the path to healing.

The person I am today is so different from the person who entered therapy in 2003 that I can barely see a resemblance. I have completely forgiven all of my childhood abusers. The pain is gone and has been replaced by joy. I no longer self-injure or binge eat … or experience flashbacks, nightmares, or suicidal urges. I now love and accept myself exactly as I am. All of the self-loathing is gone. I truly am a new creation in Christ, to the praise and glory of God!

Over the years, I have encouraged countless child abuse survivors along their own path to healing. I wrote a blog (under another pen name) for six years in which I shared that hope and healing are available, no matter how severe your childhood abuse was. Several people have confided in me about having been abused as children – I was the first person they told. God has made much lemonade out of the lemons of my childhood abuse.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking wild-eyed under the words, “Cray Cray.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Recovery Testimony: Infertility

sadContinued from here.

Little did I know that life’s next storm was already brewing. I had only returned to God for a few months when I learned that I was infertile. For someone so determined to be in charge of my own life, this news was absolutely devastating. Even the Bible validates the depth of the struggle with infertility:

There are three things that are never satisfied,
four that never say, ‘Enough!’:
the grave, the barren womb,
land, which is never satisfied with water,
and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’” ~ Prov. 30:15-16

Note that infertility is the only human experience recorded in this passage. If you have never walked the path of infertility or walked alongside someone dealing with it, you might not be able to fully appreciate the devastation, particularly for couples who are “control freaks.”

I had a choice to make – Was I going to walk away from God again? Or would I go through this with Him? I decided that grieving the loss of my father without God had not worked out very well, so I would go through the infertility process with God, even though I didn’t understand why He allowed this in my life.

Interestingly, I never perceived my infertility as being a punishment for walking away from God, just as I never perceived my father’s sudden death as being a punishment for anything. My struggle was about why God allowed these things to happen, but I never blamed Him for causing them.

Fast forward 4.5 years … I was sobbing as I drove to work. After years of infertility treatments and surgeries, we went through the process to adopt a child, and we had been waiting over 1.5 years to be matched with a birthmother. My friends’ children were already in kindergarten, and I felt every day of those 4.5 years as my arms remained empty on Mother’s Day, Christmas, etc. I asked God when would I ever be a mother, and I felt this in my Spirit: “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” And a peace washed over me that I could not explain. For the next week, when my thoughts turned to this area of my life, I would sense that again and be washed over with peace.

One week later, we received the call that a birthmother had chosen us to adopt her son. She selected us on the very day that God gave me that message, but the agency waited a week to tell us to make sure she was certain we were the right family. That baby is now my 16 years old son, and he was worth the wait.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace crying one big tear. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Recovery Testimony: Father’s Death

Cartoon of Grace on her knees, punching her fist in the air while yelling, “Noooooo.”Continued from here.

As I shared in my last blog entry, I received Jesus as my Savior and Lord when I was 8 years old. I took my faith seriously. I was mocked for bring my Bible to school to read, and I read the entire Bible cover-to-cover when I was 14-15 years old. I even did a Bible study with my peers in my high school.

Then, halfway through my senior year of high school, my father dropped dead … just like that … and my world rocked. My mother was a stay-at-home mom, so we lost all family income. My mother understandably struggled emotionally with the sudden loss of her husband, so it felt like losing both parents rather than only one. My father’s extended family had a falling out with my mother, so no matter where I looked, I saw friction and discord.

I was angry with no “safe” place to aim my anger, so I aimed it at God. My attitude at the time was that if God was going to treat me this way — one of the few teenagers on the planet who actually took the time to read every word of the Bible — then I wanted nothing to do with Him … and I walked away. I refused to go to church. I stopped praying. I decided I was going to live my life in my own way with my #1 focus on becoming fully independent as quickly as possible. I graduated high school at age 17, college at age 20, and law school at age 23. I was determined to hold the reins of my own life and never have to depend on anyone for anything ever again.

Eleven years later, God wooed me back, and He was sneaky about it. My closest colleague at work became a Christian and had numerous questions. Her church friends didn’t know much about the Bible while I had read the entire book, so I wound up teaching her the basics of her newfound faith, even though I had rejected it myself. God softened my heart through this process.

This colleague then invited me to a new Bible study starting up at work because she didn’t want to go alone. She wound up dropping out after a few weeks for personal reasons, but by then, I wanted to stay … and I returned to God.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace on her knees yelling, “Nooooo.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Recovery Testimonies

helpNext week, I will be starting my coursework toward a master’s degree in Christian Ministry. (Yes, this old dog is going to learn some new tricks.) I am already reading through my textbooks in preparation for my classes, and I learned a new term: recovery testimony.

Of course, I’m familiar with salvation testimonies (stories about how people came to invite Jesus to be their Lord and Savior), and mine is pretty simple. I was 8 years old when my mother started bringing me to a Southern Baptist church. She explained the gospel to me, and I immediately invited Jesus into my heart. I created a bit of a controversy because I was adamant about being baptized right away, and the church didn’t typically baptize children that young. I had to convince the pastor that I fully understood the significance of baptism, which I did (to his amazement). That’s pretty much it.

My recovery testimonies, on the other hand, are powerful, and I have several of them. In a nutshell, a recovery testimony is your story about a time in which something blew up in your life, and God worked it out for good. The concept is encapsulated in this Bible verse, in which Joseph was talking with his brothers selling him into slavery:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” ~ Gen. 50:20

In this series, I’ll be sharing three of my recovery testimonies. As you’ll see, I was faithful to God in some and completely rebellious in others. However, God was always faithful to me, and He worked all of them out for good. That’s one of the coolest things about God – that He can work even our own sin out for good.

Let’s face it – life is hard. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have any need for perseverance, right? I hope that my recovery testimonies will inspire you as well as reassure you that it’s never too late to return to God. As you’ll see in my next blog entry, I returned to God after 11 years of rebellion. Even after rejecting God for over a decade, He still wanted me, and He pursued me until I came home.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sinking in quicksand under the word, “Help!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Obedience Problem = Love Problem

I have shared previously that I am working through Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God , authored by Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby, and Claude King. One concept I am pondering is the repeated assertion that…

If you have an obedience problem, you have a love problem.” ~ Experiencing God

The authors cite multiple Bible verses to support this statement, including the following:

If you love me, keep my commands.” ~ John 14:15

Throughout the Bible, obedience and love for God are intertwined. If you love God, you’ll do what He says to do. If you don’t do what God says to do, that’s evidence of a lack of love for Him. In our humanity, we try to make things more complex, but the Bible says it’s really that simple: If you love God, you’ll do what He says to do. If you don’t love God, you won’t. And that’s why the authors says that if you have a problem with obeying God, then you have an issue with loving God.

Like most people, I struggle with obedience. At the end of the day, I want to do what looks good to me. However, as I have been pondering with my series on the enormity of God, I have a limited perspective, so what I view as “good” or “bad” from my teeny tiny sliver of space and time might be very off-base from the perspective of everywhere and “everywhen.” Note that I have included no mention of love in my explanation for my desire to do things the way that look good to me.

To see the connection between obedience and love, I must believe that God’s Word is true – that my willingness to obey God reflects my love for Him while my refusal to obey Him reveals my lack of love. From my teeny tiny sliver in space and time, I don’t see that connection, but the Bible says it is true. However, I do see that doing what **I** want keeps me focused on myself rather than on God, which does point to a lack of love.

While I might not fully grasp the connection between love and obedience, I have found that it’s easier to obey God out of a motivation of love. For example, when I was in the early stages of forgiving my child abusers, I prayed, “I hate my abusers, but I love you more. Help me forgive them out of love for You.” When I focus on my love for God rather than on myself, I find it much easier to obey Him.

Cover of Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God. Courtesy Amazon.

God Knows More Than My Name

u_get_meA recurring theme in Contemporary Christian music is that God knows my name. Whenever I hear that lyric, I think, “Thank goodness that’s not all He knows!”

For people who feel disconnected from God, I’m guessing it’s reassuring to hear that God knows your name. However, I think about the many people whose names I know but who I don’t know a thing about other than what the tabloids tell me, much of which is likely untrue. And then the things that really matter about those people aren’t going to make it into the tabloids. Only their closest friends will know the information that really matters, and some of the most important information might not even be shared with them. So, yeah, I know their names, but I don’t know them.

Contrast this with the knowledge that God has of you:

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7

Even I don’t know how many hairs I have on my own head, but God does. That’s a level of caring that I don’t even have about myself!

Yes, I love that God knows my name, but I love even more that He understands the way I tick, which is something I don’t fully understand myself. Thanks to the child abuse, my brain developed differently from a “normal” brain, causing me to react differently than other people to particular stimuli. As I have healed from the child abuse, I have grown to understand some of my triggers (thanks to flashbacks), but others continue to perplex me. However, God is not perplexed. He knows exactly why I think and do what I think and do, and He loves me through it all.

I love that I have a God who knows me intimately … who knows where I have been, am now, and where I am going … who knows exactly what I need … who completely understands my peculiarities that I don’t understand about myself … and who loves me completely exactly as I am, even knowing me that intimately. Love like that is transforming and runs far deeper than simply knowing my name.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with her hands on her heart below the words, “U Get Me.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]