Monday, May 1, 2017

Restored and Renewed

I had a great childhood. I grew up in a Catholic home with loving parents, had two caring grandmothers and a huge extended family on both sides. As the only daughter and the youngest of 3, my parents were more lenient with me. I was responsible with my studies and my jobs, and respectful to others. But I had no relationship with Jesus as I became an adult. I didn’t understand that I could have one. I prayed and talked to God, but mostly when I needed something. And I thought that confessing to a priest and a few Hail Mary prayers would redeem me. You see, I had already graduated High School, had been driving myself around for two years, became very independent and got around on my own.

My boyfriend and I split my senior year. I had traveled to Panama on a sports exchange program in High School, went to Hawaii for a bikini contest and a Hula bowl football game and traveled to Spain for a wedding in Sevilla. I appeared on a local TV show a few times and participated in other local bikini contest all while starting my college years. These were some of the first mistakes that I made, during those early years.

I had a new job, new friends, started college and had a new outlook on life. I was ready for anything, and nothing would stop me. I found myself dating a lot and had become promiscuous, undiscriminating and unselective of the men I dated. I made a lot of mistakes, picked up bad habits and messed up good relationships, all the while I really just longed for a relationship with someone I could grow old with, but couldn’t find Mr. Right. As a high schooler, I had become aware of these clinics and visited one similar to Panned Parenthood with the boyfriend I had during high school. Then I would later visit it again later in my 20’s, twice…

I was lost, faithless and careless with my life, my body. I had become selfish, self-centered, hopeless and put my parents through a lot. Although they knew nothing of my visits to these clinics, they nearly split up during those years and I can’t help to think it may have been because of the stress I may have added to their marriage.

When I thought I was done, and had no luck dating, feeling like I would never marry. The Lord had His own plan. I soon met my future husband. Two years later, we were engaged and married in 2002. Although we were still two lost sheep when we married, my husband knew we needed to get right with the Lord and felt convicted to find us a church to attend. So we tried different churches, and came back to the one we felt most comfortable with. This was one of the first things we did right as a married couple.

The first couple of years we were part-time church goers though, one foot in one foot out, living two lives. But we weren’t fooling God. He still had His plan for us, but he patiently waited for us. We later began to get more involved, making new friendships with God-fearing people, ending old friendships and changing our lifestyle all together. This was the second best decisions we made as a couple. We finished college and had a healthy and beautiful baby girl. She was everything to us and the reason my husband and I finally took his sobriety serious. The third thing we did right as a couple.

Those years of my life are obviously very shameful to me, but God was there waiting to pull me out of the pit when I called. He was setting things up for my good, so that one day I would make that much needed decision to accept His Grace and ask him into my life, to save me from the wretch that I was, to forgive me for the mess that I had made of my life and to restore me and renew me again. I still ask Jesus to cleanse me every day, because I still fall short every day, I still mess up as a wife and a mother to my two sweet babies.

But that shame was taken “off” me because Jesus paid the price for my shame, and I have learned that He has redeemed me. The Lord has turned my past into purpose, He has freed me! Am I where I would like to be or am I who I would like to be today? No, I’m not. But I am so far from where I was 20 years ago.

(living for Christ since 2005)

Friday, March 7, 2014

From Bondage to Freedom

When I was in High School, I remember walking through the halls with a friend of mine who was on the fence about Christianity. "I would like to become a Christian and I really do believe that Christ died for me" she said, "but I don't like the idea of not being able to do what I want. I like to have sex with my boyfriend and I like to get drunk. Why would I want to give that up just to become a Christian? I feel like I would be giving up my freedom because God is constantly saying 'No' to the things I want to do." Because I was like a Pharisee in High School, living by a set of rules and regulations rather than focusing on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I could kind of see her point. I was stumped and, whether or not I was willing to admit it, I spent the next 10 years, or so, thinking about what she said.

I saved myself for marriage. I didn't drink until I was 21. I tried not to cheat, studied hard, got good grades, was respectful to my elders, was a relatively loyal and honest friend and, most of all, I was full of pride. I thought that these acts of "goodness" made me more worthy of Christ's love even though the Bible that I clutched walking to class was chock full of stories about lowly sinners who fell on their knees before The Lord. And yet He still called them His own. He said very clearly to them, "Go and sin no more" (John 8:11).

As I continued to ponder that girl's statement, year by year, something happened in me. I began to become bitter and resentful. I thought to myself, "Lord, I have done everything you wanted me to and I'm not happy! I am not happy in my marriage, I'm not happy in my work, I'm not happy with my appearance and I certainly don't feel any peace or tranquility like you described you would give to your followers." I stamped my foot at God over and over until, one day, I snapped! I thought, "Forget about playing by the rules! I am going to do what I want! God will forgive me, anyway! He has said 'No' to me for too long, so I am going to make my life all about 'Yes'. I want to be free!

I drank, I partied, I cheated, I slandered, I lied, broke rules and I became the sorority girl I had always secretly envied. I did all the things that I always swore I could/would never do. And after all of that...I felt more in bondage than ever before! I was a slave to my sin. I had visions of the woman at the well, described in John 4 and the woman caught in the act of adultery in John 8 and Saul after his encounter with Jesus, described in John 9. They were terrible sinners, like myself (and like all of us) and their eyes were finally opened to their enslavement. They saw that, in Christ alone, they could experience freedom. That's what happened to me.

Psalm 73:26 says, "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." I had to truly hit rock bottom to understand that verse. Everything in my body, heart and life failed me. But the Lord took a lowly sinner, such as I, and brought me out of the pit. I finally began to realize that God doesn't say "no" to us simply to be a tyrant! He isn't pointing His finger and giving us a set of rules to puff up His own ego. He is GOD OF THE UNIVERSE. He is fully secure and in control. He sets out commandments to give us freedom-- freedom in Him to live a glorious and rich life, a life that brings joy through death to self and fleshly desires.

As I am entering my eighth month of sobriety after struggling with alcoholism, a good friend of mine gave me some sound advice after I was tempted to drink one night. "Misty," she said, "being sober isn't about what you're saying "no" to (a nice glass of wine), it's about what you're saying "yes" to, which is being one with Christ, obeying The Lord and seeking fellowship with him when you feel alone and overcome by your desire to drink." I couldn't agree more. Her true statement is going to stick with me for years.

I am now experiencing the "yes" of life in Christ! As I seek Him, He meets me in my darkest hour. No one is too far gone. We are all desperately in need of a Savior. A Savior who will give freedom from bondage.

(accepted Christ in 1987, living for God since 2012)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The End of Myself

I was raised Catholic.  I remember growing up believing in God and praying and talking to him at times as a child.  I remember going to church every Sunday and going through the motions.  There was no real connection; no relationship with Christ.  As I got older, the absence of a true relationship with Jesus was evident and I was oblivious to it.  Then one day, at the age of 15, a friend I grew up with invited me to a Christian church.  I honestly didn't even know what Christian church was about at the time but for some reason I said yes without hesitation.  The following Sunday we attended and I put my faith in Jesus and began a relationship.

For awhile I began to attend church on a regular basis, participated in ministries, and attended weekly Bible studies.  I believed in Jesus but I did not grow in Him; I was living a double life.  When I was at church or participating in anything church related, I was all in; however, outside of church throughout the week, temptation and worldly influences would easily distract and consume me.  At the time I didn’t understand the significance of it.  I thought I was truly following Christ but as I looked back, I was far from it.  I do remember times where all I wanted to do was to serve and follow Jesus, and there were fruits of my walk but I so often easily gave into a worldly life.  I was not grounded in the Word.  I was no different than those of the world; as a matter of fact, I was worse--I was a hypocrite.  Jesus says in Luke 9:62 that, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."  

As I grew into my later teens and into my 20’s my life began to spiral out of control.  I began to abuse marijuana and then alcohol.  By my mid 20’s I had become a full blown self-denied alcoholic.  I did not care who I hurt and how I did it.  I spent several nights and even weeks in jail, wrecked a vehicle and survived without a scratch by God’s mercy and grace alone, attended rehab several times and still continued down my destructive path.  Men truly love the darkness as John 3:19 says.  Anytime my family or friends would reach out to me I felt ashamed, defensive, and angry.  Where there is shame it is easy to comfortably hide in the darkness.  Next thing you know, I’m where I belonged, broken, depressed and at rock bottom.  I had completely abandoned Christianity and I felt hopeless.  I began to seriously evaluate my life and by God’s grace he opened my eyes to the destructive life style I have been living.  

One night I began to pray…seriously pray with repentance asking God to intervene, to help me because I couldn’t help myself and if I didn’t turn to him I felt like I was literally going to die.  It wasn’t until I reached the end of myself that I finally looked to God.  Praise him for that!  I asked God for forgiveness and dedicated my life to Jesus.  I wanted to abandon all of my evil ways and my own efforts and put my complete trust in Jesus Christ.  I picked up my Bible and I began to read the book of Job.  One day of Bible reading then turned into several days, days then turned to weeks, weeks to months.  Next thing you know I was reading my Bible on a daily basis consistently along with other Christian books.  However, I was still not attending a church and I would watch online services sporadically.  The more I read the more I realized the Bible and the Spirit commanding me to attend a church and be part of the Body of Christ.  So I went back to my old church.  I attended that for several months but I felt God telling me that there was somewhere else he wanted me to be.

I began to explore other options, one other to be exact, McLean Bible Church.  I have never been to a church this size and it was extremely intimidating.  After years of being out of church I felt extremely hesitant to attend a church this size.  I would almost try and talk myself out of attending MBC saying that I would only get lost in such a big church.  But, praise God for his persistence and steadfast love.  He kept at me so I walked in one Sunday morning mid service here at MBC and watched part of Lon’s sermon on the TV’s in the main lobby and then walked out.  I didn’t go back for a few weeks; but, again, God remained persistent and he kept telling me that this is where I belonged.  I finally submitted to his will and attended a 9AM service.  As soon as I walked in the auditorium I felt the Spirit consume me.  I thought to myself, “This is it, I’m where I need to be.”

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20

(accepted Christ in 1995, living for God since 2008)

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Send Me a Guru

I was always a believer in God, but not in Jesus Christ.  I became very interested in spiritual things when I was a teenager and lived in the self-help and religious sections of Barnes and Noble.  I had only been to a Christian church a few times in my life and had acquired my mother's doubts about the Bible even though I had never read it for myself.  As I got older, I became desperate and prayed to God for a guru.  Of course I was expecting a little Indian man to come into my life and reveal the mysteries of the universe to me, but the Lord sent me a little African woman who was full of the Holy Ghost.  The last place I wanted to find God was in church! There was no power in the Bible, (I thought).  However, she was so persistent that I ended up going to church with her.  I couldn't believe that people were reading the Bible literally! It was very interesting to me. 

As Jesus became more and more real to me and I became born-again, the boyfriend I had at the time became very hostile about my new-found faith.  He even put a huge walking stick up to my eye and told me to say that I loved Jesus.  It was definite warfare!  I had made the decision that I was going to sell out to the "dark side" because being "good" didn't pay. Within hours of making that decision, my life was threatened and  I questioned whether this invisible God could deliver me from these circumstances.  Soon I was laying in an emergency room waiting to be seen to find out the damage that had been done.  As I lay there, a peace came over me like I had never known.  I began singing songs that I had sung in church, but somehow I knew all the words.  I was having a hard time breathing, but every time I would be gasping for air, the Lord would tell me, 

"Don't think about your problems, think about Me and what I can do, I can move mountains!" This would calm me down and I would be able to breathe.  

After the doctors had taken x-rays and checked me over, I was praying at my bed and they came over with many other nurses and people and told me that they were in shock that I was still conscious because I was operating on one lung.  They told me that I must be in excellent health. They then proceeded to tell me that they would have to operate and insert a chest tube to inflate my other lung and that they had never had anyone conscious before this procedure was done.  This was God's supernatural hand on my life, I can tell you I wasn't in excellent health, my lungs had been ingesting marijuana smoke for years prior.  This was the peace of God that surpasses all understanding and that is the only way to explain any of it! It was miraculous. This event began my true walk of faith in Christ Jesus!I haven't been the same since He touched my life and it only gets better and better! He moves us from glory to glory!!!!!

(accepted Christ in 2000)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Life Changed at Summer Camp

It was 1989. I was just 8 years old but I knew I was a bad kid from lying to stealing and just being plain difficult. Just that spring, I had enjoyed Easter eggs and jelly beans in my second grade classroom while watching Peter Rabbit. I liked the fun and games of Easter time, not to mention the Easter rabbit. On Easter Sunday that year, my Sunday School teacher asked that unforgettable question: "Can someone tell me what Easter is about?" I waved my arm frantically in the air; I couldn't wait to answer. She picked me and I blurted out "It's when the Easter bunny goes around and gives people Easter eggs!" The whole class burst out laughing at me. She called on someone else who answered "Easter is when Jesus died." I remember thinking to myself 'Somebody DIED?!?!' I couldn't imagine how such a fun-filled holiday could have something to do with someone dying.

Later that Spring, I got caught stealing again. It was nothing new to my parents to get a call from the Principal's office. Once again, I came home for my punishment. But somehow, my punishment this time was different. I thought I’d get the spanking of my life but this time, my parents had mercy on me. They spared me from punishment that I knew I deserved. Crying by myself in a dark room, I remember feeling so sorry, so remorseful for what I had done. I was so truly repentant. I actually cried out to God and told Him how sorry I was and that I would never do it again. At that moment, I felt the presence of God surround me. I knew God was real.

Summer came and off we went for a week of summer camp. It was a Christian camp called River Valley Ranch in Maryland. We were so excited to be going to camp but unlike the other kids, our parents didn't arrange for all the activities that we could have participated in. So while all the other kids were out for a hay ride, I was in the cabin stealing again from my cabin mates. Everyone returned and were in dismay as one by one little girls realized they were missing things. Guilt overtook me. I even had a stolen bean bag in my hand. I remember dropping it along the wall near the door and slipping out. Some girls saw me but no one put the blame on me.

On the Thursday of camp, we gathered in the chapel like we had each night. A puppet show commenced and the performers proceeded to share the way of salvation. They explained that Jesus died for every bad thing we had ever done. I thought to myself 'I've done some bad things.' They explained that I could accept Jesus into my heart and that He would forgive me. So while every head was bowed and every eye closed, I got up to see a counselor who led me to Christ. Almost instantly the story of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis that we had watched over and over again as kids lighted my imagination and I understood! I went to my cabin and cried myself to sleep. I woke up the next day to a new life in Christ

Taiwo "tia"
(accepted Christ 1989)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

No One Else But Him

Growing up, I was raised by strict Catholic parents. I was forced to attend classes and went through the whole process of Confirmation. But even after all that, Jesus still didn't seem real to me. In fact, I really only went to those classes to make my parents happy. It was never my choice. I lived my life strictly to please others. I felt I lived a pretty good life. I succeeded in all I pursued, I had lots of friends, I was popular, I was happy.

But in 1998, the end of my junior year of high school, my life seemed to get complicated. I started dating my future husband, Jason, who was a born-again believer type of Christian. My parents would warn me about him and make comments like, "Oh, he's only going to try to convert you". So of course, I did everything I possibly could to prevent that to make them happy.

Jason first shared with me the story of Nicodemus, the Pharisee and how Jesus told him, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3) Jason asked me if I believed in Heaven and Hell and if I knew where I'd go after I died. At that point, I stopped him and ended the conversation right away. I was a bit annoyed that he even asked. Who wants to think about death? I thought, 'Here he goes trying to convert me just like my parents said.'

As we continued to date, Jason never gave up on me and my salvation. When he invited me to his church, I would say to him, "If you go to my church first, then I'll go to yours." So one day he did. When I finally attended my first service at his church, I felt nervous, anxious, worried, guilty, and even a little excited. I didn't know what to expect. But God knew. His presence was everywhere, during the praise and worship, the message, and even the people. I had never experienced God that way before. He was starting to change my heart.

I didn't accept Jesus right away, but through curiosity, I started to seek Him more on my own. Growing up, I was never encouraged to read the Bible, but at Jason's church, I was told that I needed to read it if I wanted to know more about Jesus. So I secretly started reading the Bible and continued to attend Jason's church.

In October 1999, I finally accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. I didn't care what my parents thought anymore. I did it for myself. I was convinced that life without Jesus was no life at all. I wanted to please no one else but Him. I realized that God really does love me just for me; that no matter how good we are, or how popular we are, or how pretty we are, or how proud our parents are of us, we ALL still fall short of the Glory of God, because of sin. God definitely made a way for me to want to know Him despite my stubbornness.

(accepted Christ 1999)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Search For Peace

I was raised Catholic and went to church every Sunday. At some point, we stopped going every Sunday and only went during Christmas Eve and Easter. By the time I was in my late twenties, I stopped going to church and had little interest in “my religion.” I then made some bad choices in my life (mainly with relationships), and thought that this is what I deserved. After ending the worst relationship of my life, I decided to leave Dallas, TX (which is where I had lived the past 10 years), and decided to start a new life in Arizona. I moved to Phoenix in 1999 where my sister resided.

I wanted “peace” in my life and wanted to “find myself.” I was in desperate need of wanting some kind of spirituality. I visited Buddhist temples, Japanese Healing Homes, Unity Church, and other mediation places. I was never satisfied and jealous of my sister who was finding peace at most of these places. We would often go to these places together, and for some reason, people would welcome and accept her instead of me (now I know that I was being protected or maybe these people sensed that I was not satisfied with their beliefs). At times, I even experienced migraines after meditations. To me, this was not “peace.”

During my search, I was working at the Make A Wish Foundation and met a co-worker who seemed to always be at peace with his life. He told me he was Christian, but I did not fully know what that meant. I had known Christians in the past, and unfortunately, they were always judgmental of others. But, this guy laid it all out for me. He answered all my questions and even gave me my first Bible.

I prayed for God to reveal himself to me. It was a long battle because I refused to have someone else be in control of my life. I also started to have feelings for the person who was witnessing to me, BUT, I knew he was already a Christian, and I wasn’t. I prayed to God all the time and asked him “why did you bring this person in my life”? He was so different from others that I had dated in the past. I now know that God meant to bring us together, not only to have us be united as one (in marriage) but also to have him witness to me! 

I came to Christ in April of 2001. I feel closer to God than ever and desire to have Jesus be my main focus in life. I want to continue an intimate relationship with Him and continue to grow. I thank God for Johnny who I not only fell in love with, but who told me truth. God protected me during my “search” and for that I am extremely grateful!


(accepted Christ in 2001)