recounting god's faithfulness
david and i attended a three week class as part of the process of becoming members at ward church. before the last class met on sunday we had to prepare our testimonies. i laughed when we turned them in because mine amounted to three single-spaced pages, and david's just one third of a page. we know who the wordy one is. i got carried away writing about how my life is changing because of my relationship with christ. it turned into a massive recounting of god's faithfulness to me over my 17 years as a follower of jesus. god truly is a good, good father. i am so thankful for his grace in my life and all that he has taught and continues to teach me. as we're in the midst of a difficult season managing the fourth trimester with a newborn and an especially hard time for david at work, it has been helpful to look back and recognize that god has always gotten us through. it ain't always pretty (the process never really is, is it?), but it's always good.
so here's my testimony, my story.
Life before Christ
I grew up in a nominal Christian home. We attended church as a family and I went to youth group mid-week but I didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus. No one in my immediate family displayed the life transformation that comes with having a personal relationship with Jesus. I’m a rule follower and always thought that drinking and drugs were stupid. I was a good kid who wanted to do the “right” thing and would be devastated anytime I received correction from a teacher or someone else in a position of authority. I’ve always felt things deeply and struggled with big emotions I didn’t know how to process.
How I met Christ
In middle school I “said the prayer” at a Christian summer camp. It wasn’t until my Freshman year of high school that I actually made changes to my life and began truly following Jesus.
My parents divorced when I was an early teen. This turned my world upside down. The fall semester of my Freshman year I was seeking approval and looking for love in all the wrong places. The spring semester I broke off a relationship with a senior boy and had a “come to Jesus” encounter. I knew what I needed to do.
I sought out Brittany, who became my best friend, and asked to attend church with her and her family. They went to an Assemblies of God church in Ann Arbor. Brittany invited me to come up with her at the altar call to commit my life to Jesus but I knew I had already said the prayer and didn’t think I needed to do it again — I just needed to start living it. And that’s exactly what I did. Brittany’s family became a haven for me during my tumultuous high school years. I clung to Jesus and my infant faith and slowly began to grow as I made changes to align my life to God’s will.
How my life is changing
God is my anchor. He has taught me so much over my 17 years as a follower of Jesus. My personality tends to be very all-or-nothing which can get me into trouble. I dove into Jesus and immediately thought I was called to go to the bush of Africa to be a missionary. What else do followers of Christ do?
I went to Central Bible College, a ministry school for the Assemblies of God, to study missions. There I met my husband, David, and we married two weeks after I graduated in 2008. The two of us more or less grew up together as we navigated life as a young married couple moving across the country twice to pursue higher education goals with the plan that my husband would teach at a Bible college or seminary.
God has taken us on quite the adventure, refining us by fire along the way. There were many hard years of unmet expectations, doubt and miscommunication but ultimately growth because at the end of the day, Jesus is Lord of our lives.
Our years living on campus at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary were formative. There we learned that (gasp!) Presbyterians can be saved just like us Pentecostals! Lifetime friendships formed across denominations as we trod the seminary path together with other couples living on campus in what we called the college dorms 2.0, married life. When it came time to think about life beyond seminary, we felt led for David to pursue a doctoral degree. We knocked on several doors and for a season it seemed like God was closing them all. And then late in the admissions process, we got an acceptance letter from The University of Texas at Austin — a place I told David I didn’t want to go, even if he got in. But when we finally got that acceptance letter, I was all for it. God had changed my heart as He brought us through a season of uncomfortable uncertainty.
The PhD years were even more transformative than the seminary years. As I continued to be the primary bread winner and pursued a career in teaching English to speakers of other languages (ESOL), the subject of my own Master’s degree, I learned that it was virtually impossible to secure a full time job in adult education. Something that might have been helpful to know during my program as far as expectations for employment go. My EdM proved helpful getting into the UT Austin system and God opened doors for me there to start full time in Financial Aid and to teach ESOL to adults at the local community college in the evenings.
Eventually the strain of the two jobs on my time and marriage was too great. I felt God tell me “your career or your marriage — you can’t have both.” I chose my marriage and quit teaching. I felt like I was throwing away my Master’s degree but God showed me that was not the case. He opened up doors for me to advance at UT Austin and my last position there was my dream job at the time, Graduate Program Coordinator for the Department of Biomedical Engineering.
My husband and I planned to wait to start a family until after the PhD program was complete. But a sixth anniversary trip to the UK to visit seminary friends, all with children, got us desiring to start a family of our own. We became pregnant with our daughter Sabina four months later. And that little blessing turned all of our plans for David upside down.
We were at a crossroads. We could continue to pursue the PhD path — David had two more years after she was born — or we could abandon ship and move back to my home state of Michigan so I could be home with our daughter, to be with family, and for David to begin working for the family business. I felt God tell me “both options are fine, pick one.” They both required sacrifice, we just had to decide which sacrifices we were willing to make. We decided to go with the latter.
David and I moved from Austin, TX to Livonia, MI almost three years ago. I became a stay at home mom when our daughter was 11 months old. This transition proved to be my most difficult yet as I mourned our life in Austin hard and felt so insecure navigating life as a stay at home mom. I dealt with post partum depression after our daughter’s birth. Depression and insomnia became a recurring battle for me when we made the move to Michigan. These struggles have been some of my darkest days. God has taught me the most in the deepest valleys of pain and isolation caused by depression, anxiety, and insomnia. It has been a brutal broken road but I am so thankful for the breaking and subsequent growth that has made me the person I am today.
Two things that have been integral to my faith journey these last three years are Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) and MOPS. Being in the Word in the format of BSF has really challenged me. God has spoken so kindly to me through his Word and through my discussion group leaders and group members. Both of these ministries and our church family have provided me with invaluable friendships.
Last year my lesson was to surrender to the process. I thought that meant in our domestic infant adoption journey at the time but I came to realize it was a broader lesson — to surrender to God in everything. Trust HIS process. I had wanted to have children two years apart but that was not the plan God had for our family. We tried for some time after our move to Micighan to conceive without success so we switched gears to domestic infant adoption since that was something we had wanted to pursue regardless. The adoption process taught me so much about the adoption triad, parenting children with trauma, and the kind of parent I want to be. We spent 17 months pursuing that road and then became pregnant with our second daughter over our 10thanniversary, something we had ceased to pursue until we reached our 10thanniversary. Clearly that was God’s timing and not my own.
God continually turns all my plans upside down in the most wonderful way. Most recently, with the birth of our second daughter on February 6, just a little over a week shy of our two year anniversary of starting the adoption process. I tried so hard to make our family planning happen in my way and timing. I’m so glad God saved me from myself, from my own plan. His is so much better than I could have ever hoped for or imagined. He knew the growth that needed to happen in me before we were ready for another child and He patiently walked with me through it.
Now we are on hold for adoption and will revisit the plan with our adoption specialist when our youngest is six months, with the need to update our home study and decide whether or not we will return to the waiting families list by the time she is a year old. I trust that God will make it clear what we are to do when the time comes. He has been with us through every transition and He is always faithful.
To continue to grow in my relationship with Christ, I try to pray throughout the day, attend church regularly, have committed to a daily Bible reading plan, attend BSF, MOPS, live in community with other believers, and have committed to coming to a greater understanding of who I am in Christ and how God has created me for His glory in His image. I do my best to catch myself when I get caught up in what others think of me — even my own husband! — and come back to the reality that God’s opinion is the only one that matters. He alone is enough, His approval is the only approval I need. It is a constant battle, but one worth fighting as it brings me peace and security in who He has made me to be and allows me to live in the fullness of that.
I am so thankful for the faith journey He has brought me on and I look forward to seeing what He has in store next. I am also glad God doesn’t show me everything to come because He knows I would probably turn and run! But as I have walked with Him these last 17 years, I have grown in emotional and spiritual maturity and know that He will grant me grace for everything to come — when I need it and not before.
i find myself modeling the gospel daily. trial and error. repentance and forgiveness. i need so much grace each and every day. motherhood is HARD. so so so hard. i am very thankful for the opportunity to be home with my two girls. i'm thankful david and i were able to conceive and i was able to birth them. i'm thankful i have an abundance of milk and that i've been able to nourish both of them from my body. i'm thankful for a loving and supportive husband who is the best daddy -- one bina wakes up and asks about every morning when he has already left for work. what a blessing my sweet family is. and also, what a pain in the ass sometimes! ha.
life is messy. toddlers tantrum. babies cry. there's poo and pee and spit up and vomit. there's defiance and screaming. there's refusal to sleep. clingy-ness when i am all touched out. little hands that always have to be on me. two little beings that need me to survive. the pressure of it all! i find myself having adult tantrums daily. they may not look like my three year old's, but they are me losing my cool because i'm not getting my way nonetheless. i cannot do this alone. i cannot do it with just david. i need jesus. i need his grace. i need the community of believers.
god has been so faithful these last 17 years. and i know he will continue to be faithful, no matter what circumstances may come. he is a good, good father. and his promises remain true, whether i mess up or not. thank god. truly, thank god.