July 1, 2015

Introduced to a New Life

As a young child I really wanted to be good, but as hard as I tried, I just couldn’t. My troubles seemed to get worse in my teenage years. When I was almost thirteen years old, we lost our home to foreclosure and became homeless. Our family was broken up and within a couple of years, I was living in rural Idaho sharing one bedroom with seven other family members. The transition was not easy for me.

I had always believed there was a God and assumed that made me a Christian, but at seventeen years old, I started to wonder if God was just a myth. I decided to quit trying to be good, and began doing terrible things just to try to satisfy something within me. Of course, this did not make me happy. By age nineteen, I thought maybe the thrill of doing something radical like robbing a bank was what I needed, and I had some crazy ideas of what to do.

About that time, a new girl was hired at the travel agency where I worked and we became friends. One day, she invited me to church. I had not gone to church in a long time and thought maybe that was the change I needed, so I accepted her invitation, and soon started attending regularly with her.

My friend’s life condemned me. It was not what she said as much as how she lived. She was so different from me! When I asked her about it, she said that in her opinion, Christian meant “Christ-like”—it meant someone who emulates Christ and patterns her life after the Bible. I knew that was not me.

On January 13, 1995, at the close of a church service, most of the people knelt to pray, and my friend asked if I would like to pray with her. I wanted to look like a “good Christian,” so I agreed. Soon, my friend’s mother and several others came over to pray with us. We were there for about two hours and I could not believe that anyone would pray for me for so long. I thought, Wow, they must really care about me! Then I realized that if they loved me that much, God must really love me! After all, Jesus was the One who died on the Cross for me. At that moment, the pastor’s wife said, “Jesus died on the Cross because He loved you so much. Now let His death be for a purpose. Let Him wash away your sins. Let Jesus come into your heart.”

Calling myself a Christian but still living with sin in my life didn’t seem right, so I gave my heart to the Lord and asked Him to forgive my sins.

After that, I really prayed from my heart. I did want God to come in and I felt badly that Jesus had suffered on the Cross for me. Calling myself a Christian but still living with sin in my life didn’t seem right, so I gave my heart to the Lord and asked Him to forgive my sins. It felt like a burden lifted from my shoulders, and I knew God had saved me.

The next morning I woke up and thought, Oh no! How am I ever going to be able to do this? There were sinful habits in my life that I knew I couldn’t just suddenly get rid of. Immediately, the Lord spoke to my heart and said, “That’s why I saved you. You can’t do it on your own; You need Me.” Before long I realized God had changed my desires, and I no longer wanted to do the wrong things I had done before.

Shortly after my salvation, my friend told me about a deeper experience called “sanctification.” I had never heard that word before and had no idea what it meant. My friends at church tried explaining it to me; they showed me a few Scriptures that referenced it, and used analogies to try and describe it in an understandable way. However, it didn’t make sense to me at all.

After praying about it and also doing some research, I knew that sanctify meant “to make holy” but I didn’t know how that could translate into an actual experience. I read every verse in my Bible’s concordance and every church publication available on the topic, but it was still a foreign concept. I yearned for more of God but couldn’t figure out how to receive something that I couldn’t grasp on an intellectual level.

Eventually, I simply didn’t want to go another day without having whatever the Lord had for me. Late one night I prayed, “Lord, I don’t care if I understand what this experience is; if You want me to have it, I want to be open to receive it.” I put off going to bed, praying as I did chores around the house instead. Finally, at 12:32 a.m. on February 8, the Lord helped me open my heart enough to receive that experience.

The next morning, I started doubting if the experience of the night before was real, and wondered if I had just been tired and overly emotional. I was not living in a Christian environment at the time, and often felt like the things I could not avoid hearing and seeing were searing my soul. However, that day (and in the days that followed) it seemed there was an invisible shield protecting my heart and soul and I knew for sure that I was sanctified.

When I called my friend to tell her that I had received my sanctification, she told me about yet another experience—the baptism of the Holy Ghost. This experience seemed more understandable than sanctification. I had seen television programs about speaking in tongues and was intrigued by the idea. I wondered what language I would speak and if someone would interpret what I said. My thoughts were very self-focused, but I started to research and pray about this experience as I had regarding sanctification. Somehow the Lord helped me to keep an open heart and blessed me in some wonderful prayer meetings. Though I had only been a Christian for a few weeks, I was growing and learning a lot about God and Christianity.

By February 12, there was a wonderful prayer meeting going on after church. As I was seeking for my baptism, I felt I had prayed, and pleaded, and given everything I could to the Lord, and didn’t know what else to do. After praying for a while, my friend and I sat and observed others praying. One woman in particular caught my attention. She was also seeking for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but her prayer was very different than the ones I had been praying. She wasn’t pleading; she was simply telling the Lord that she wanted to be a stronger Christian, to have His will in her life, and to receive the baptism to help her in whatever capacity of His work He wanted her to be in. Then she began praying in another language and I realized she was receiving the baptism.

At that moment, the presence of God was so strong that I wondered if He would ever be so close again. It was also suddenly clear what God wanted from me. I went back to the altar and my prayer became, “Lord, use me as Your instrument—fill me so I can be used for Your glory.” In a moment I also started to speak in another language. It was quiet and without any of the pomp and circumstance I had imagined, but it was perfect. I had never felt God’s presence so close—it was as if He had physically touched me as He filled me with His Spirit. Speaking in a language unknown to me was simply a confirmation that I had received this magnificent experience.

The Lord has remained close to me, and brought me through some challenging times. Not long after I became a Christian, my dad committed suicide. Some people become angry with God in times like that, but I learned to lean on Him. I prayed He would heal my heart and be my father since I no longer had one. He helped me overcome that traumatic situation and gave me a strong spiritual foundation for other trials that would come.

In May 1998, God blessed me with a loving, godly husband, and after a few years we were ready to start a family. However, I had some physical problems and after many months of tests and treatments, the doctors said it would be nearly impossible for me to conceive. At first, I begged God for my own child, but at some point realized I would rather have God’s will than my own, so I began to pray, “Your will be done.” After becoming increasingly frustrated with the infertility medications, we eventually decided to give up that process. We would have a child naturally or else look into other options such as adoption.

I felt so helpless and afraid!

A couple of months after I had gone off all medication, one of the specialists I had been seeing called. He said that according to their most recent test, if by some miracle I were to become pregnant, there was a fifty percent likelihood it would be a tubal pregnancy, and thus endanger my life. When I told him I had just taken a test and believed I was already pregnant, he expressed concern and told me to make an appointment for an immediate ultrasound. I felt so helpless and afraid! As soon as I hung up the phone, I went to my knees and prayed, “Lord, Your will be done."

As soon as I hung up the phone, I went to my knees and prayed, “Lord, Your will be done. The doctors aren’t the authority on life; You are.” In His still, small voice, God comforted me and let me know that my prayers were answered and I would have a baby boy. Several months later, Theo was born. Two-and-a-half years after that, Rider was born. God blessed us with not one, but two healthy sons!

The next few years were challenging but wonderful. I loved motherhood and the Lord helped me find a way to balance family and career by working from home. Then, a couple of years ago, I started having a series of health problems—severe swelling and pain in one leg and then the other; horrible migraines, one of which made me lose some of my short-term memory for several days; and physical and mental exhaustion. After many tests, I was diagnosed with an inflammatory auto-immune disease and began taking medicine to manage it.

However, I continued to get worse, spending many days in bed. Some nights it was so difficult to breathe that I wondered if I would wake up the next morning. I wondered if I would live to raise our boys. The doctors continued to run tests, but they couldn’t figure out why my condition was not improving. When I told one doctor that it felt like there was a lump in my throat, she scheduled an ultrasound.

Meanwhile, I felt like a failure as a wife and mother. I didn’t have strength for anything beyond the most basic necessities. Our boys were eight and five years old at the time, and very active. They would ask me to play with them or take them outside but I was always too tired. Yet, I didn’t want to make a big deal of my condition, so I was hesitant to ask for help or even prayer. Finally one night, I had another tear-filled conversation with the Lord. This time I just told Him I wanted to be in the center of His will no matter what that meant—even if my family would have to go on without me.

A few days later, my doctor suggested I stop taking the auto-immune medicine for a time. Day by day things seemed to get better. I could breathe without as much difficulty and my energy began to come back. In the meantime, the throat ultrasound showed beginning-to-mid-stage thyroid cancer. It turned out I’d been having a severe allergic reaction to the auto-immune medication. However, the difficult breathing that resulted was the only reason an ultrasound was ordered since the size of the cancer was not big enough to block my throat. The allergic reaction had helped the doctors catch the cancer early on, and they scheduled surgery right away.

For months, my husband had been encouraging me to ask for prayer, and I finally let a few people know about my situation. When I confided in our pastor’s wife, she asked if I wanted a minister to pray with me at the hospital. How could I refuse? Just before surgery, a minister, his wife, and my husband prayed over me and I felt as if Jesus was right there in the room with us. It kept me calm during the hours I had to wait before the surgery began. As they rolled me into the operating room, the song “Christ Liveth in Me” went through my head and I knew I wasn’t alone.

In April 2015, I was declared cancer-free. Though I still deal with the effects of the auto-immune disease and the after effects of cancer, I’m so thankful God has given me more time as a wife and mom. I also have renewed purpose to live in a way that glorifies the Lord. I want our children to see Jesus in me and experience Him for themselves.

It has been over two decades since I gave my life to the Lord. I’ve found that being a Christian doesn’t stop bad things from happening to us, but it sure makes dealing with them a lot easier. Having God in my life is like wearing a life-jacket while swimming in a river—waves may crash over me and there may be rocks to navigate around, but He will keep me afloat through it all. I’m so grateful for the Lord’s presence in my life. My desire is for His purpose to be fulfilled in me.

apostolic faith magazine