I am so lost without the Lord Jesus Christ guiding my life. My testimony may or may not be like yours- dysfunctional family (who isn't??), child abuse, molestation, growing up with an abusive, alcoholic stepfather....bad choices, "party lifestyle," being a workaholic, chained to exercise and in bondage to my physical appearance, "captivity to activity"....the list I guess would be endless. If it weren't for my precious Savior, that is. I was lost....He has set me free. Like the words to the song, "I was blind, but now see. I was lost, but now am found."
One thing that I often hear from my friends is that they are surprised when they hear the details of my testimony. They see me now, loving the Lord, trusting Him, filled with Him, certainly not perfect, but growing, full of joy and peace....They see me as "Bible Study Leader" and "Christian Speaker" and they can't believe I struggled with bondage to sin- that I lived entrenched in the world, believing its lies and living for myself. This is why Romans 12:2 is so dear to me, "Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." I was CONFORMED to the world, living to please it and SELF. Praise God, He has set my feet on new ground. I am so thankful that I am a new creation in Christ, the old is GONE.....My life is now hidden with Christ in God! Hallelujah!
I would be nothing without my Jesus. I could not be the wife He has called me to be. I could not love my husband the way he needs me without my precious Lord. I would be too self-focused to look past my own needs to even notice my sweet husband. I could never be the mother I need to be without a relationship with Jesus Christ. He gives me the strength and the patience and the love I need......He fills me first and then it spills over to my relationships with them. People often comment on how patient I am. Now, I do not see this because I do not feel patient. But, I try to explain that it is NOT Tracy who is patient, but the Lord Jesus Christ living within me. It is Him who guides me and helps me and transforms me and molds me into the mother He has created me to be.
So, my testimony of "How I Got to This Point" (which follows, if you are still interested!) is not as important as the one of "I am still here! I am still in love with this Jesus! I can live life everyday full of joy and full of hope because of Him! I can do all things through Christ! He fills me! He sustains me! I need Him! Life is not just surviving, but thriving! He gives me joy unspeakable- boundless and complete!"
If that is the testimony that you desire, it is so easy. It does not come from reading Oprah's latest book. It is not found in this month's women's magazine. It is not a 12 step, 7 step, or "quick and easy" program. It only comes by laying down your life and picking up His. It comes by saying, "God, I am tired of doing things my way. I need You. I want You." It comes by surrendering your heart to the One who can heal it. Simply ask Him to be the Lord of your life. Invite Him to sit on the throne of your heart. Yes, He will ask you to change. But, He gives you the grace and the power to do it. Yes, there are times you have to squish the whining, feet-stamping 2yr. old inside so that He can grow bigger in you. There will be times when you choose Him over what is popular, cool, and the "in thing." But, I promise, it is a WILD ride- the greatest adventure you will ever have. It is joy unspeakable- impossible to find the words to express it. He will fill you with such love, such joy, such HOPE, such peace. Ask Him to be the Lord of your life today. Open your heart to Him. Let Him in.
Here is my "story":
I am adopted. Because adoptions in the past were not open, I never knew my birth parents. I was adopted into a wonderful, happy home- mother, father, sister, brother. But, when I was 6 months old, my father and brother died in a tragic boating accident. Feeling alone and scared, my mother remarried soon after that. After a horrible motorcycle accident that left him scarred physically and emotionally, my stepfather became an alcoholic. He became abusive to my mother. She endured countless beatings, but divorced him when he molested me. Even though he was terrible to us, it was the only father I had known. And, when he left, I felt abandoned.
As a child and adolescent, I felt broken and scared, so, I hid myself. I was ashamed of my life and didn’t want anyone to know the total dysfunction of our family. It was upside down, crazy, horrible. I did not want anyone to know what went on behind closed doors. I stuffed my hurt deep inside and put on a “happy” face. Teachers, friends, and others in my life would never have guessed I was in turmoil. I was a very good student, popular in school, outgoing, and funny. I needed people to like me. I craved attention. But, on the inside, I was hurting and broken. I began searching for something to ease my pain.
I turned to food. It became my safe place. Whenever I felt scared, sad, unloved, overwhelmed, or vulnerable, I would go to food for my escape and my comfort. Usually I would grab something sweet and hide myself away, either watching TV or reading. I never talked about how I felt, but just buried myself, denying my feelings and losing myself in stories of other people. I wouldn’t binge in front of my friends. Only in secret. And, that is what the enemy encourage us to do- hide- to keep secrets. We feel like we are alone and the only person in the world going through these things. If we hide our pain and our failures, no one will find out.
We can never be healed until we expose these things to God’s light, which heals and restores.
So, food gave me comfort- for a little while, and then when the feeling was gone, I would go and get more. As you can imagine, this took its toll on my body and I soon became an overweight child. This led to more pain. Boys at school made fun of me. I wanted positive attention. But, my weight drew negative attention and I felt embarrassed and like a failure.
By the time I hit junior high, I did not want to be overweight anymore. I wanted boys to like me. I did not want to be teased. So the summer before 8th grade, I stopped eating. My weight dropped quickly. I began to notice the attention I received with my new found body. Everyone commented on how good I looked. Boys began to notice me. I loved this new attention I was receiving because of how I looked. I found something new to fill this emptiness inside of me- the attention and the praise I received. I craved compliments and enjoyed flirting with guys. It was like a high, and the more I received, the more I wanted.
So, now my safe place became my appearance. As long as I was skinny and looked good on the outside, I felt good about myself- important.
This continued through high school and college. My personal worth was directly related to my outward appearance. In college, I lived an "MTV lifestyle." I continued to look to the world to fill my need to feel worthy. I had no idea how much God loved me and that I was accepted in the Beloved! I was looking for love and self-worth in all the wrong places!
In college, I equated my worth with the need to gain approval of others- my peers by how I looked and acted, and my professors by my performance and my success. I began striving for academic perfection. I had always been a good student, but in college, academic success was bumped up to a whole new level. I began receiving recognition through my work and my accomplishments.
I guess all of my “hang-ups” could be attributed to my childhood. I could put the blame on my broken childhood, the absence of a father, abuse by a stepfather, the desperate feelings of needing to find that male affection and attention. These things created a longing in me, but instead of turning to God, I turned to the world to satisfy me. I was seeking my identity and my worth in these things. Instead of filling the emptiness I felt and giving me a lasting satisfaction, these pursuits only created more of a longing, a deeper hole to be filled.
While in college, I married my dear husband. He loved me and poured out love on me. But, that wasn’t enough. We can never look to people to satisfy us and quench our hunger.
I continued to seek acceptance and worth in these worldly areas, even after college when I became a teacher. I was an extreme “people pleaser,” seeking the approval of my colleagues, the parents of the kids I taught, even the kids themselves. I needed to be perfect. I was seeking my worth in performance and others’ opinions. I continually compared myself to everyone around me. Do you ever compare yourself to others?
We had our first child, Andrew, and we were expecting our second when we moved from a Chicago suburb to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I was lonely, moving to a new place far from home. I soon found a new thing to try to fill the longing of my heart… activities. I jumped right in, joining every club, organization, and play group. I was so busy with activities, trying to fill the emptiness in my soul. A full calendar made me feel important. My worth came from being needed- I was on several committees, organizing play groups and socials…
I believed Satan’s lies and looked to the world for my identity. I had set up such strongholds in my life. BUT, at the time, I didn’t think there was anything wrong. In fact, I probably thought I had it all together! I had lots of friends, was planning and organizing so much, was a Sunday School teacher....
Even though I would have considered myself a Christian, I DID NOT have an intimate relationship with the Lord. I had grown up going to church and Sunday School sporadically. I loved God and knew Jesus died for me. As an adult, I prayed every night (the "obligatory prayers- "Now I lay me down to sleep....) and we went to church pretty regularly. But, I had not given my heart to the Lord. I had not surrendered to Him completely. Instead of feeding on God, hungering after Him and pursuing Him, I turned to worldly pursuits. I was looking for my self worth in all of these things, but never quite measuring up. I never felt complete.
I believe women today are looking for completion, and are living with such a sense of incompletion. We are looking for people, careers, things, activities, and success to complete us and to fill the empty void we feel in our hearts.
After our 2nd child, Ashley was born, I could not take off my pregnancy weight, and I was feeling so depressed. For years, I had sought my worth in my outward appearance, and was depressed with being overweight. I literally did not want to go out of the house! I would avoid looking in the mirror. I heard about a bible study that helped you lose weight, and was interested. So, I began facilitating it in my home.
This is what SAVED my life! For the first time I met Jesus Christ! This study taught about strongholds and filling up on other things instead of a relationship with God. God began revealing areas of bondage and then setting me free by filling up on Him! I had never experienced this RELATIONSHIP with the living God before! Yes, I had gone to church and prayed, but to make Him the Lord of my life, my strength, my redeemer, my deliverer, my very best friend, and my 1st love was completely new to me! To experience His presence daily, to be intimate with Him, commune with Him daily… Whew! It changed my life forever!
It is only in this relationship with my Precious Savior that I find my true worth.
I am not a "religious" person, but I have a living, breathing, passionate RELATIONSHIP with Jesus Christ.
My prayer is that you, too, no matter what your "story" is, will give Jesus your heart.