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Saturday, April 21, 2012

My Testimony - The Beginning

I had known who Christ was for a long time, but I didn't know Christ in relationship at all. I grew up in a large Irish-Catholic family. I loved God and knew He was with me even when things got tough. I went to Catholic school at St. Clement's when my parents divorced in 1983. At the time, I thought that was the worst thing that could have ever happened to me. All my friends were going to Harding Middle School, and here I was coming into the school where a few neighborhood kids knew me, but I wasn't one of them. They'd all been together since Kindergarten. It was a tough transition for me. I had few friends, my home life was falling apart--my dad moved back to NH and my mom was working or with her boyfriend, and my older sister was off with her friends. I became the little mama at home, and as one of the kids going to Catholic school for free, I cleaned the convent. It was here that I was shown much love by Sr. Helen Marie and some of the other nuns. They even helped me get my first job cleaning the house of a woman whose daughter went to school with us. The lady was a tyrant, but I learned hospital corners and a good work ethic at 11 years old and had money to treat my brother and sisters to fun things while we were often on our own.


When it came time to make my Confirmation, to accept the Holy Spirit, I was so excited. If you've ever seen "A Christmas Story" and how Ralphie is so excited about his Red Rider BB gun and writes his essay about it and is beaming at the thought of his own brilliance, that was me about being Confirmed. I through myself into the service work we had to do. I did pancake breakfasts, I taught Sunday school with the kids, I put together booklets and fliers, I helped teachers in their classrooms--I was a kid made for service. I love to help other people and take care of them. We had to pick a confirmation name and since my middle name is Ann, I chose Margaret so I could be (Heather) Ann Margaret like the actress. I chose my Aunt Peggy for my sponsor and acted in school like the Margaret was because of her and NOT the actress. I remember writing out Margaret and choosing the words for each letter which signified who she was. What I learned instead was that she (Margaret Mary of Alocoque) was the apostle of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I was in love with this image of him and his sacred heart.




The day of Confirmation, I remember standing in church and waiting for the Holy Spirit to overtake me. To fill me. To change me. It didn't happen and I was so confused. It did seem to happen to a couple of people, but not me. That really messed with me for a while and as I left the Catholic school environment, I also left the church as much as I could, too. High school was misery for me. Thankfully, I had some amazing teachers who invested in me in classes where I struggled and Jesus rescued me from the torture of my life. I finally knew him in a very real way during this period of my life. While I was rejected in so many other areas of my life by people I thought were supposed to love me, he showed up and showed me he could be counted on. I graduated early, was accepted to Ohio University's College of Communication which was in the top 10 for Communications Majors at the time, and started out anew.


College life and its freedoms lead me into a whole bunch of new things. I dabbled in the occult with a friend of mine, but she told me it doesn't work with me because they're not allowed to mess with me--YEA, GOD! I blew off classes to watch the Gulf War. I failed miserably in some of my coursework. Lost a lot of weight. Drank a lot. Had sex with men looking to be loved. Ended up empty and lost again.


When I was rebuilding my academic life in the final quarter of the year, during a service that my friend, Angie, brought me to, I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior in a small church on the Ohio University campus in Athens, OH. The pastor told me that God said I have always wanted a daddy to love me and He was going to be that Daddy for me. The one I had always wanted. I sobbed. No one knew my daddy issues. It was an amazing transformation. Lil' Miss Potty Mouth was no more. I couldn't even believe the change in me. Unfortunately, that beautiful seed landed on the rocky soil. Without roots in this faith and no one around me to help what I had just learned of my Daddy's deep love for me and His first promise to me, I fell away and back into the ways of my former self. 


That season for me lasted about 10 years. I knew I was missing something, but I didn't know what until LM showed me the difference between knowing who Christ is and knowing Christ. LM is one of my Ya-Ya's, but she is also my first sister in Christ. When I was first seeking a relationship with Christ, LM, who had already been brought up in Christ and early in her adult Christian walk had formed her own personal relationship with him, connected with me because I could see Christ in her. It was her love for Christ and for me which lead me down this path I am still walking. I learned from LM that God really did have a plan for me.


There was a Bible study going on across the street from our office downtown during lunch. LM took me there. We were studying Jeremiah. It was in this class that I learned about the new covenant which was foretold to Jeremiah (Jer 31:31-34). Finally, something made sense. I saw that God loved us so much that He stopped trying to get us to follow rules. We make stupid decisions. We live in a fallen world. We don't know what it is to walk with you. God, the Israelites KNEW you and still couldn't do it. How can I? The same for the apostles. They walked with Jesus and they still didn't see him for who he was. Nor did they see themselves for who they were IN HIM. He had to die on the cross before the scales were finally removed for them and they got it. 


n Hebrews, Paul explains the reasoning behind this New Covenant and what it means while referencing Jeremiah 31:31-34:
For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. For he finds fault with them when he says: "Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.—Hebrews 8:7–13
God loves us so much that he keeps giving us the opportunity over and over again to get it right. That is what grace truly is. God also knows that we can't be perfect. We will fall down. We will make mistakes, but in coming to Jesus, confessing our sins, repenting for the wrong we did because it is offensive to the Lord, and reconciling to walk again with Him each time we fall is the key. Once we have accepted the Lord, He forgives us. Our sins are covered in His blood. For he became sin, forsaken by the Father who hates sin, overcame death and is now risen and at the right hand of the Father waiting for the day that He shall come again to judge the living and the dead. Accepting Christ means living in Him and He in us. Our bodies are His temples. Would you defile the temple? Would you say it is not good or right? Then why do we do that to ourselves?


This is where I am in my journey now. Figuring out what it means to be His daughter and having Him for my Daddy. The One who lives by Truth. The One who loves me unconditionally. The One who keeps His promises. The One who gives me more than I can ask or imagine. The One in whose tent I can take refuge. My hope. My future. My Daddy!

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