As an assignment in our Ladies group on Wednesday night at my church…. we were each told to write down our personal testimony…. although I have given my testimony several times…. writing it down was a different task altogether. I tend to like to elaborate … and that would have taken WAY too much paper and ink. As I was typing this my oldest son said…. Mom… are you writing a novel over there…? I then told him it was my assignment and my testimony. He informed me that if I couldn’t read it waiting on a stop light…. it was more than likely too long. I said… I could… well…. at the Joplin stop light….when my youngest piped up with… you mean … more like in New York City! I am not sure what he was insinuating with that remark …. do you?
So…. Here it is…..Even though it may be longer…. or shorter than some of the others… it is just the beginning of my adventure….
I grew up with a praying Grandma in my life…
My Dad …. Was raised going to church all the time…. But instead of embracing God…. Once he moved out on his own… the only time I ever saw him in church was for a program…. wedding… or funeral… I am certain because of the legalism and hypocrisy he saw through my grandpa.
Mom…. Never went to church as a child unless a neighbor took her to VBS now and then…
She was the oldest of 5 kids and helped with the cooking and cleaning much of the time….If you asked her… she would tell you she loved God, but never really seen the need to go to church….. so my chances of being raised in, or at the very least introduced to a church, were very slim…. But….
When I was 5 we moved to Boston, MO…. A little country community, right between Lamar and Jasper… with nothing there but a little post office…. Cows… Pigs….dogs …. Cats… Some railroad tracks… and a little Methodist Church…. IN MY BACK YARD!!!!
I’m not sure how my brother and I actually got started going over there…. But we ended up going pretty much every week… and … if we didn’t show up…. Many times … some of the kids from church would walk over to our house and get us….! If we got there early enough…. We would take turns riding the rope of the church bell as one of the men rang it…. I love the sound of an old church bell!!!
When I was a teenager…16-17 years old probably….. A new preacher came to Boston…. And he thought that all of us teenagers should get baptized. I knew enough to know that I wasn’t ready to do that because I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. I still wanted to run around and do teenager stuff …so that particular Sunday….. well… I played hooky.
After I graduated…. I moved in with a friend from High School to Lamar where we found out we were both hired for the same job at Horton’s by two different family members and of course… they didn’t need both of us…. So we knew one of us would be without a job very soon….
I had an appointment with Dr. Reavley’s office during that time and in the spare time of sitting in the chair, talking to the assistant…… I told her about the very good possibility of me losing my job. Within the next few days I get a phone call from MaryNell (Dr. Ted’s sister and receptionist) who asked me if I would be interested in working for them…. Dr Jack was needing an assistant since his wife Mickey was no longer able to work due to sickness. The plan would be for me to work with him 2 days a week… and then with Ted for the other two days.
So …. Within 2 weeks of moving out on my own… I was now… a dental assistant …. Alongside a woman…. Who just so happened to be an on fire Christian! She never pushed…. But was always witnessing her love of God in the way she lived her life.
About a year later I was married to … really … the first man who told me he loved me. Had a baby almost exactly 9 months later… and within three years of saying I do…. We were divorced.
Now…. A divorced woman…. With a baby… I felt like no one would ever want me… so once again… when someone came around who actually …..wanted me…. I stayed. About a year into that relationship we ended up living together and shortly after… the abuse began.
During that time, another Christian woman began working at Dr Reavleys with me… She too had been in an abusive situation and when I came in with a black eye… and a lame excuse… she very casually said… are you sure “he” didn’t hit you?….opening a door for me to trust her ……..later….
With the help of another friend during that time who I met after my divorce, who had also been abused by her ex-husband…. I finally opened up to her to what was going on. I was amazed how she filled in my story with the words of her own story. I knew how it would end up if I stayed…. So….I finally got out of that situation and once again…. “used merchandise”
I moved to Carthage after that …
I remember one night, while I was in my bed … I noticed the Bible my Grandma had given me several years before that… She had hidden little quotes or clips out of Capers weekly all through it. I began to feel the need to ask Jesus in my heart….. I prayed a simple prayer of repentance and to ask him to save me…. A warmth went through me and a peace that I had never felt before…. I fell asleep in that peace.
The next morning…. The feeling I had the night before was gone… and that little voice began to speak to me telling me ….that what I “thought” had happened and the feelings I “thought” I had felt the night before… were nothing more than my imagination!
Sooo… I went on with my life ….. just like I had before…
After 2 years of dating a man I met from Liberal…..we were married. In November I was invited to attend a Thanksgiving dinner at the Christian Church and shortly after began attending on a regular basis. I was totally amazed at how the sermons would always speak directly to my heart….but never quite made the decision to go forward during the alter call.
The following Summer I found out my Uncle was diagnosed with bone Cancer…. 3 months later… My Grandpa was also diagnosed with cancer….
In February …. My uncle passed away. Justin…. My oldest began to cry and tell me… Mom… I prayed for Uncle Franky to get well…. And I knew, at 8 years old….that his faith could possibly be made or broken in this ….so the only thing I could tell him was …. Justin…God did hear your prayers….. you know how when you stub your toe…. How bad it hurts…. Well… Uncle Franky hurt like that…. But not just his big toe… he hurt like that all over…. And I believe that God said… Ok Franky… you have hurt long enough… you need to just come live with me now…. It seemed to make sense to him.
A few weeks later…. I woke up one Sunday morning and just couldn’t get myself to church…. I went down to the basement and sat on a stool…. Lit up a cigarette…. And cried. I wanted to quit smoking and yet here I was…. I wanted to go to church… but didn’t ….. and I felt like a total failure. I remembered a friend tell me once that God will pull on your heart just so many times and then if you didn’t respond….. He wouldn’t pull anymore. All I could think of is ….maybe my chance to get saved was years ago…. On that Sunday morning that I played hooky when the preacher from Boston was baptizing all of the teens.
I cried out to God……. “God”…. I said…. “Please don’t give up on me!!” Cried some more …. Finished my cigarette… then went on with my day.
The next morning… I just couldn’t get motivated to get anything done…. When about 10 AM the phone rang. The preacher from the Christian Church said… Teresa…. I have been trying to get over to see you for a few minutes… is now a good time? I told him to give me time for a shower and within an hour he was sitting in my front room. After chatting with him and a few tears…. I “officially” made Jesus as my Savior!!!
The next week I was baptized! I KNEW God was there because one of the songs we sang that day was “The Old Rugged Cross”…. Which was the song I always requested from my Grandpa at the little country church he was the song leader at when I stayed with them.
2 weeks later…. Justin was baptized… again… the song that we sang was “The Little Church In The Wildwood”….. the song all of us kids at the little Boston Church would request!!!
The rest of the story…. Well… is an amazing story of a God …. Who never gave up on a little girl from a little town out in the middle of nowhere. Although my life since that day has been full of ups and downs… laughs and tears…. Joy and sorrow….. He has allowed me to be an instrument to pass on encouragement and hope to others…. Who were and are just like I was….. LOST!!! His amazing Grace is still unfolding as well as His plan for me…and the ride is not over!!
My Life has totally been transformed and I stand in awe…. Every time I retell my testimony. Proving to me… and hopefully you…. That God will go above and beyond to put you in the exact spots at the exact time…. To speak life to your hurting soul….. and…
He NEVER gives up on us!!!