I AM CELEBRATING BIG! WELL, TO ME ANYWAY! TODAY IS THE CELEBRATION OF MY ONE HUNDREDTH (100th) POST!! I AM SO EXCITED!! CAN'T YOU TELL BY THE MAJORLY BIG, OVER-SIZED, OFF-THE-DEEP-END SIZED LETTERING I'M USING AND THE FACT THAT THEY'RE ALL CAPS?! THOSE ARE CELEBRATION LETTERS HONEY!! SO, COME ON!! CELEBRATE WITH ME!!
All right, so you want to know what we're doing to celebrate? Well, I've thought about this, and I had a couple of ideas, but I couldn't come up with anything better than the idea given to me by a blogger named Kelly @ email@example.com. Go check her out when you have time (but not now people-read on!). Kelly suggested that I give my testimony as an alternative to the typical 100th post theme, which is usually to tell 100 interesting things about yourself or things you are or were interested in doing. Just that whole fresh, different approach and the opportunity to be frank and transparent was appealing to me, and prayerfully, will be helpful to you; if not helpful, at least you can be grateful to God to be who you are and not who I was. So, with no further comments from the peanut gallery, here we go: (BTW, if you don't have time, you don't have to read this all in one sitting. It'll be here, so come back to it another time!)
1. I was saved when I was a young girl (before my teens), but I can't remember the age.
2. I didn't know what being saved really meant, but I wanted to be saved. In our family and church, you just were prompted when it was "time." You didn't disagree, question, or disobey. This was the thing you do before you get older because it's "right."
3. I probably got saved at a revival with my siblings. This was usually the time for us when it was done.
4. I belonged to a very small, Christian Methodist Episcopal church in Memphis, TN. (This is no longer my chosen denomination or where God wanted me to remain)
5. Most of my church (90% or more) was comprised of my family members.
6. I realized after I got to my early teens that I hadn't learned all that Christ wanted me to know about Him. I knew that something was missing, but I didn't quite know what it was and what I was supposed to be looking for.
7. Our little church closed its doors for good by the time I was a pre-teen or teenager and I never joined another church in Memphis until after I was grown and had children. I visited places regularly, but never joined or became an official member on the role anywhere. I was still trying to figure out my relationship with God.
8. I got married for the first time when I was 21 years old, apparently looking for what I didn't have in Christ, but I didn't know it at the time.
9. I moved to Ft. Campbell,KY with my Army husband and started looking for a church to attend regularly there. I was looking to go to church because it was the right thing to do, I wanted my son to go, and I may have been in pursuit of that "missing" thing that God wanted me to discover.
10. My then-husband played piano and keyboard, so when we were in search of a church, he naturally wanted to be a part of "plugging in" somewhere, so he chose to use his gifts that way.
11. We were happy doing this at first, and I thought that we would be one, big happy family, one that would go to church regularly and live out that fairy-tale marriage. It was right to be a church-going family that wanted the best for your family, work hard, and play regularly right? Where was the personal relationship with Jesus? I didn't know I could have one at the time.
12. I found a very conservative church eventually, that we wanted to be a part of. I didn't find out until later that, while they were very God-loving, people-loving, God-fearing people, they were extremely legalistic.
13. I wanted to be a part of this church because I thought these people had it together; not perfect, but they were pursuing something (later I realized it was what they perceived as pursuing Godliness) I desired. I was the one missing something and they were living nice, holy lives.
14. I thought to live holy meant that you had to give up some things (not just the things that you need to give up to be transformed to the image of Christ, but things like pants, short hair, all music but Christian hymns, and much more). I was willing and ready to give things up to get this holiness I saw and to get that "missing" component I had been looking for.
15. To these (I ended up moving around in Hawaii, and landed last at a sister church of the first church we joined) church's credit, they told me who God really was (the trinity), they told me all about my salvation, they were humble people who genuinely loved the Lord, and I got to see that played out in the way they lived, talked, and did life together. I wanted that!
16. My then-husband started to feel the pressure of living a Godly life, realized that we were not on the same page, had the desire to live a double life (a lot of what he wanted to do and a little of what God wanted), and didn't seem to have anything in common with the church people anymore.
17. I kept going deeper in this church, but I'm not sure I was going much deeper in Christ. The church and its activities were doing it for me. Oh, I was doing what I thought I should be doing, and I was growing more than I ever had before, but still, something was "missing." I was glad to be active and have my children active in church though.
18. My desire was to have my children know and love Jesus earlier than I did. That desire still remains although I see Jesus through different eyes now.
19. My then-husband eventually filed for divorce because obviously we were not pursuing the same things (and Person), and he admitted that he was not willing to do what it took to "fix" things.
20. Though I wasn't perfect in the marriage, I wanted to stay to do what I could and keep my family intact, but again, he was not willing. This was divorce #1.
21. Since my relationship with the church and God seemed to be working for me at the time and was really starting to be somewhat of a comfort in the midst of all of my turmoil, I continued on with church, church stuff, teaching my children (had 2 boys by then), etc.
22. Somewhere between #21 and #24, I moved to a little town outside of Ft. Campbell (my ex had been re-stationed at F.C.), was pursued by this same husband again at some point, and out of my desire to keep or get my family back together, I married this man a second time.
23. We were re-stationed back in Hawaii (2 tours there-Yea!!). We were divorced again, for the same reasons he filed the first time, not more than a year or so after I had moved back. Divorce #2. (I was still looking for love in all of the wrong places, and valuing a relationship with someone above my relationship with Christ, but I didn't recognize that I was doing that. I thought I was doing the right thing. Somebody was getting cheated, and I don't think it was my ex!)
24. I moved to California with a friend to start a new life and continue to raise my children. I lived in northern California.
25. My friend was active duty Coast Guard and she was also a single parent. She thought, out of her graciousness and kindness, she would invite me to live with her for a while until I found a job and a new place to stay of my own-help me with a fresh start.
26. I loved northern California, and so did my children at the time. My oldest son went to a little school there so small, that it couldn't have been more than 70-80 students from K to 5th grade. It could have been even smaller than that. He only went one year. I homeschooled him after this.
27 We lived in California for almost a year. I did get a job, I applied for school, but never got a chance to go, and I took the written and physical tests to become a police officer in my small town and passed them with flying colors.
28. I attended an old, historic church in California (another conservative, legalistic one, of course, but less legalistic than the last), that had been split and practically abandoned years before I came, but the church was still struggling along with very few "leftover" people who were committed to staying. People were just "existing" at this church, but they were very humble and were trying to have programs and a sense of purpose again.
29. I really liked the people at this church because most of them seemed to like and live the old-fashioned way. One lady who went even spun her own wool, from her own sheep, that she sheared herself. This and other things I discovered were so fascinating to me!
30. Something came up, and I needed to move back to Memphis before I could apply to the cadet school to become an officer.
31. I had one of the highest scores that they had ever gotten on the written, and I passed all of the physical tests without having had prior prep or training except I couldn't seem to pass the test of scaling a flat, smooth wall. I have no idea why. It took me forever to learn how to do it, and after a week of going at it, I finally did although it wasn't pretty!!
32. I moved back to Memphis with the intent of living independently of needing my parents, and with the intent of finding a church and continuing on with that. I had learned to love church and having my kids involved in some incredible programs. "Programs"...boy that makes a church doesn't it?
33. Back in Memphis, I found another church that we would call home for a while. It was as legalistic as the first one I joined in Hawaii. I thought this was the way to live, so this was the kind of environment that I would naturally look for. Again, these were wonderful, warm, serious people about the Lord, and I'm still trying to fill in the gap of what I was missing. By now, I may have even thought that gap was filled in.
34. In between all of this time, I took classes in college (I had already gone when I graduated high school), went to beauty school very briefly, and worked really good jobs that paid me well enough to live on my own, pay my bills, and raise the children.
35. Somewhere in these years, my oldest son's father and I (different man than my first and only husband at this point) met again, wanted to pick up where we left off when I was 18 and dating him heavily (so heavily I got pregnant while in college and had my first child), and he wanted to see and claimed to want a relationship with the son he'd never seen up to this point. My son was now 8 years old.
36. I had had the above mentioned son at 19 and delivered at 20 (so I went into marriage #1 with a son already and then had a son in that marriage. I'm just bringing you up to speed. You gotta keep up. This turns into a roller coaster ride.). Never considered one second giving him up though. I thought, as hard or unsure as life was for me at that time, I already loved this unborn child, I would survive somehow, and if I did what it took to conceive him, I needed to be that purposeful and decisive about raising him.
37. I moved to my present city, dated him for a while, got pregnant with my daughter, and married him, because...well, I loved him when I was 18, he loved me very very much when I was young, I had his child and was about to have another one, I wanted to keep family together again, if at all possible, this could work.
38. Nope, I didn't ask God. I just hoped He approved because 'this could work based on what I knew about the guy back when and what I hoped for right then.' I'm still, at this point, looking for something from somewhere.
39. I never had to have a man, because I stayed by myself contently when I was single, so I figure the only reason I got back with them was a sense of having my own intact family, making sure the kids had a father (I only had children by both my husbands, after all, and I didn't sleep around with other people or have babies by other men.), and hoping that things worked out for that sense of "happily ever after."
40. I'd always wanted to be married as a young girl, and I knew I wanted lots of children. I didn't want to ever be divorced or fight like my parents. (Ha! I had superseded my own parents in #'s of divorces by then. I could have taught THEM something! So much for that idea as a girl)
41. Even though I didn't have to have a man to be content or happy with myself, I still had a hole that needed to be filled, but it wasn't being filled by them. What was happening here?
42. While I wanted things to work out with their fathers, and I loved at least one of them, I wasn't completely devastated beyond repair and didn't feel like I was going to die when they wanted a divorce. I was hurt and wounded, but I always knew I would recover, and at this point, I knew that God would help me. I just wasn't making Him the center of my life.
43. Bouncing off #37 above, I soon realized that my life had changed drastically since I was 18 and knew this guy (when I was young, dumb, and full of fun!), and he realized that I had changed too.
44. He discovered that I was interested in God, in an ever-increasing way, and that we had grown so far apart over the years that we really didn't know each other after all, not any more.
45. We kept trying to make things work. He didn't recognize that he had some deep-seated issues that he had never gotten help for. So they affected him very negatively over the years that we had not seen each other. This issues affected our family in devastating ways. He decided that he didn't care enough.
46. The Lord kept drawing me closer, kept protecting me, kept filling that hole, kept loving me until I lay prostrate on the floor one day, after having wept all day and all night about my present situation, my stupidity, blindness, and ignorance in the past, and how much I just desired Him, plain and simple.
47. I begged for his forgiveness (which He had already given me at the cross), repented of lots of things, asked for guidance, made some promises to Him, asked for peace in the middle of what had become a tumultuous storm, and asked for the protection of my children until this man changed and accepted Him, or until He could give me a right way out where my hands would be clean of any further sin.
48. The Lord gave me that peace that surpasses all human understanding by the next morning. My life had changed without a doubt. I couldn't feel any more pity or pain. I had been broken, but He had delivered me. He had brought me through the storm. He had heard my cry and my call and saw my sincerity. He knew that I had recognized my utter need for Him and Him alone.
49. My husband asked for us to leave the home within a matter of weeks. I had remained peaceful with him, non-combative, non-argumentative, etc. He was trying to figure out what was going on. He had gotten to the place where it was vexing his spirit to pass by me and see me read my Bible, pray, teach the children about the Lord, etc. He hated when we went to church. He hated preachers. He hated the sheer presence of the Holy Spirit.
50. God had filled the hole! Praise God Almighty!!!
51. My three children and I left, with no knowledge of where we would go. I had no money and no job because I had stayed home with the children while he worked.
52. Although I had no money and no prospect of a place to go, I had to be one of the happiest people on earth at that moment. I was happy to be kicked out with my children in the street.
53. I was FREE after all! When I packed my stuff and pulled out of that driveway for the last time, I never even looked back in my rear view mirror.
54. God freed me from that den of hell where I had been married to and sleeping with the enemy or at least one of his henchmen.
55. I didn't have to file for a divorce (like I didn't want to be responsible for doing), I didn't have to be the one to just walk out on my husband without trying to win him over with my behavior and conversation and spirit, and I didn't have to kill him for his abuse, neglect, and abandonment that we had endured the whole time we were living there!! Yea!! God rescued me from a whole lot of things!
56. He put us out so...WE COULD LEAVE! The man told us to never come back again; that he didn't want a family. He wanted to be single because he functioned better that way (I managed to have the monopoly on marrying "strange" men). God is so clever with helping you fix your mistakes, and He does it all without helping you sin.
57. While I had been in "earth hell," and had received God's peace, He allowed me to learn incredible things about Him. I figured out how much He really loved me. I figured out that He could do a good job being my all in all.
58. I had consumed so much of God's Word while I was with this man. All I had had time to do was read, meditate, pray, read, meditate, pray. God gave me all of that time at home everyday to focus on the kids and just READ!
59. He was going to use it later. He knew I'd need it. He grew me up (spiritually) so quickly, it was unbelievable! It seemed that I had learned what it was to really live. My belief system changed while I was there, not about God, but about life, His will, His plans.
60. I learned that I had two jobs here on earth, and those were to glorify God and tell others of Him.
61. I determined to live life only as God had spelled out at this point. I determined to give my children a sense of total dependency on Christ. I wanted them to see me madly in love with Him, not a him.
62. I had already been attending a new kind of local church in my city, so at this point, I was praying about whether this is where God wanted my children and I to remain.
63. I moved in with a friend temporarily, got a job, saved up money, put my boys in school temporarily (I started homeschooling again later.), and eventually found a place of our own.
64. I moved, gave my children a much-needed peaceful home environment, and eventually got another job that kept me from working all night. I had been working third shift while living with my friend and it started to take its toll because I was working all night and looking for a home, taking the kids to school, running errands, helping with homework, and then preparing for work again all day.
65. God had proven Himself to me. He made good on His promises. I loved Him more everyday. I had never felt this way about the Lord in my whole life. I knew that I had been saved, I had been finally taught about the trinity in prior years to this, but I had a personal relationship with Christ now, and nothing else mattered. I wanted to be alone with God. I just wanted God and my babies!
66. I found a 2nd shift job that allowed me to homeschool all 3 of my children during the day and continue to teach them to be independent and responsible, so that when I went to work, they could function and do well without me.
67. God protected my babies in my absence. I had to pray with them and for them day and night. I had to pray for myself so that I wouldn't stress out worrying about them and, I could work peacefully.
68. My boys did a great job taking care of themselves, doing assigned chores, studying, and feeding themselves what I had prepared for them (on schedule I might add) or what they had learned to cook from my teaching.
69. They would pray together or seperately, go to bed on time, didn't let anybody in our house while I was gone (that came later when I wasn't working any more, but left to run an errand. Go figure!), and had themselves prepared for school the next day. My oldest would even check the windows and the doors to make sure they were locked safely in.
70. My daughter was very young so she went to a babysitter or her father's until she was a little older and her brother's were responsible enough and felt capable of watching her. (The proceedings for divorce #3 were occuring somewhere between now and #71-84 I think.)
71. My boys had learned how to fish, hunt, and shoot accurately when we lived around or visited my dad over the years, so because I owned a handgun for protection (my dad had insisted and taught me to use them also, since I lived alone and traveled alone a lot), my boys always knew where my handgun was, and they knew how to use it. They would use it if they had to. I wasn't there, so it was God and the gun as protection. That's how it was.
72. My children were discovering some neat things along the way about God also. They had seen the Christ life lived out in front of them before, but now they could see it lived out freely without someone trying to impede that at every turn. They got to discover that God was real, that He answered prayer, that He loved them tremendously, and didn't want them hurting, etc.
73. They were beginning to be more excited about Christ, fellowship with other like-minded children, and settle into some sense of normalcy. My children had been saved for a while at this point, but they could now be at peace and see God's hand directly in our lives. They learned to trust Him more.
74. My job was changing, so I needed to put my children in school.
75. I went to a local Christian school, checked them out, and told the pastor that I wanted my children, if they had to be put back in school out of homeschool, to go to a Christian school so that they would be surrounded by at least more of the mention of God and things of Him for all those hours away from me during the day.
76. I told this pastor that while I wanted that, I couldn't realistically afford tuition for 3 children out of my salary, but that I was willing to do anything it took.
77. I told him that I would sweep the parking lot for them if necessary, that I would do whatever task they gave me in exchange for tuition or to earn money to pay tuition.
78. After I interviewed with this school and the pastor saw my genuineness (and after I prayed of course, like I had learned the value of doing about everything in my life at this point), I took on a job as an assistant teacher and would sign my checks over to the school as I earned them to pay tuition.
79. I worked 2 full-time jobs at this point, one that allowed me to still be with my kids all day and keep tabs on them (and it paid tuition), and one at night that paid the bills and put food on the table.
80. I had an hour and 15 minutes between jobs to take my children home, go over homework, dole out chores, tell what would be for dinner, give out snacks, etc. I hated to do it, but I kissed my babies good-bye, and Mommy was off, missing them like crazy, but doing what this single parent had to do.
81. Somehow, God had allowed me to make every game, program, drop off at every practice, etc. that my kids were involved in. Just because I was a single parent that worked two jobs didn't mean I was going to or wanted to use that as an excuse to miss anything. I wanted to be as much a part of their lives as I could. (It was God's grace and enabling period!)
82. I got home between 12:00 and 1:00am on average every night. God gave me enough energy, after working 2 jobs to come home, wash clothes, iron my daughter's uniform and my clothes for the next day, check homework left out for me, thaw something for dinner the next day, see if I needed to clean something the kids couldn't after their own chores, do my own homework (whatever I hadn't finished earlier at my desk when I was working) from a course I was taking, read my Bible, and get myself ready for bed.
83. By the time I finished all of the above, I may have gotten or averaged about 2-3 hours a night at best. I had to get up early to get myself and the kids out for school and work.
84. This went on day after day, year after year, while I had gotten so comfortable with the fact that it was just me, Jesus, and the kids, that I didn't and wouldn't have known a prospective mate if I saw one.
85. I wasn't looking for anybody, didn't want anyboy, didn't need anybody, and had gotten comfortable with God being my literal everything. He had become my constant companion, my confidante, my priest, my protector, my provider, my husband, my children's father, my all in all!
86. What else did I need or even want?! Nothing-just Jesus.
87. I cherished my obedience to Christ, my singleness, my comfort zone I was in, my total need and dependency on Him, all of that and more.
88. God sent a husband my way, only after He was sure that I didn't need him for any reason except for His reasons. I personally thought that this was a mistake, not something of God, and just a distraction or temptation that I needed to shun.
89. For me, this was going to be easy. Just smile, be polite, and politely reject him. I wasn't against men, I just didn't need one, and I had come to the realization that no man walking on two legs on this earth could do a better job than Jesus with me and my children.
90. Well, the above fact is correct, but obviously I went from one extreme to the next. I went from living life without Christ on the center seat and allowing (although not needing) these men into my life to over-protecting myself, keeping anything that remotely looked like an interested-in-a-relationship man away from us and out of our lives. (I dated no one when I wasn't married to my children's fathers or going through a divorce and living alone.)
91. I also didn't think that I could trust my own judgement and decisions when it came to relationships and men. I didn't want to ever mess up again. I didn't want to casually date, and I certainly wasn't thinking of marriage because that could potentially (a great chance in my case) lead to divorce. I hated divorce! I didn't want my children to suffer through any more bad relationships. It was safer to just stay single. It had been working more than well up to this point. Why would God want to send me somebody?
92. I didn't want anybody to compete with God in my life. (Well duh sister me, God didn't want that either. Get some balance here chickarooney!)
93. So God sends this guy (see my Marriage Monday post for details on this one), breaks down these too-high protective walls of mine, shows me who was boss, whispers in my ear one day during class that this was His chosen person for me and I needed to submit, showed me why He was giving me this gift of a man at this point in my walk, and told me to remember whom I served and how perfect He was and that He made no mistakes.
94. HIS thoughts are higher, bigger, and better than ours evidently!
95. My husband, the one and only true one sent from God Himself, the one who seems like he's the only husband I've ever had, as if this marriage is the first and only one I've had, waited on me, waited, believed God for this promise of a wife, and prayed while I went through my questioning myself and God, while I doubted my need for him, while I doubted that I could actually give myself to anyone for any reason, while I wavered back and forth, while I did everything else and said everything to try and convince this man that this could be a potential mistake that neither of us should want to take a chance on. (Thank you God for this man. He is perfect for me! You are an awesome God and he is a wonderful man of God! Oooohooo, thank you Sweet Jesus! When I became an adult, all I'd ever wanted was a real, genuine, love-God-like-crazy, Christian husband who loved family and people's hearts or I wanted nothing at all! Look what I got!!!!)
96. My husband says that he immediately sensed and saw my heart for Christ and that attracted him so much that he knew he had to pursue this woman more and see what else she was about.
97. He watched how God had given me the ability to raise my children single, stay involved in their lives in every way, and have them behave so nicely and obediently (I didn't say what some of you see with them now; I'm talking about then, okay:). He was impressed.
98. God had allowed me to finish a 2-year Christian course and was giving me opportunities at my job, at church, at home, in Memphis, and elsewhere to use what I had learned to teach and tell people about Him or learn how to study their Bible. I was still growing in Christ by leaps and bounds. Now He would give me the opportunity to use what I had learned in a marriage, that along with the life experiences that my flesh had succumbed to and other things that God allowed.
99. God turned my bad into good, like only the God of the universe can do!
100. I still desire to love and worship Him with reckless abandonment! I pray for and hold fast to my desire to never trade my Jesus and my life-long pursuit of Him for anybody or anything. I don't have to. I am free to love, live, and die with my Jesus. I am free indeed! He makes that possible. Two of my favorite verses are 1Peter 2:9-10--We here are a peculiar people (a people for God's own possession), brought out of darkness into His marvelous light, so that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him! He has shown us mercy beyond measure and grace! We love Him! I hope you do too!!
And that, my dears, with many smaller details and events necessarily left out, is where God has brought me from. I was praising Him the whole time I was writing this because I know the triune God and what I've been through. It could not be done under any human effort and energy. I didn't mention that God chiseled away at my character and brought me through a 2-month parental interference (It's a nice, legal term for the non-custodial parent kidnapping your child with no intentions of bringing them back), gestational trophoblastic disease (a nice, medical term for a rare cancer in the uterus as a result of a molar pregnancy), a miscarriage, a hysterectomy, and the discovery that my oldest son suffers from a mental disease and will never be the same he was prior to 15 1/2 again. And this all happened while I was believing in, and/or following and serving Him! I am better, stronger, and more usable for it. Praise His Holy Name!!