“And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.” Rev. 12:11
12 years have passed since I became a Christian. The memories of my first years with God are becoming distant, so I want to write my testimony for my own record as well as to share it with others. I used to only see my pain, but I now know that many people have stories similar to mine. Many people have seen things they can’t un-see and have felt things they can’t un-feel. There is hope though, and this is my story of hope coming to rescue me. His name is Jesus.
Before I delve into my past, I want to point out ways I can see how God pursued me and held me as a young girl. I may have felt alone, but I never was, and God made sure I learned about Him. My dad’s sisters would take me to church quite a bit. They would tell me about Jesus and how He loved me, and even though we didn’t attend church, my mom enrolled me in a Christian school from daycare until 2nd grade and again during 6th and 7th grade. I heard the Gospel and learned the Bible during those years. All of the seeds planted by my aunts and my teachers would eventually become a harvest of salvation! There are many parts of my testimony I don’t normally share with people, especially people who have grown up in the church or have had a relatively normal upbringing. But I’m going to share it because there are lots of people who have lived a crazier life before Jesus or are still living a crazy life and they need to hear hope.
My parents divorced when I was 2, so I didn’t know life with them together. By the time I was 3 they both had remarried, and my dad moved to NC two years later. Life after 5 was fairly normal. My step-dad was a deputy in the K9 unit which was pretty cool, and my brother and I played and fought like normal siblings. The normalcy didn’t last long though. Intense fighting started between my mom and step-dad. He left. She was devastated. I watched her completely fall apart. Her pain turned into my pain and the next couple of years were pretty bad.
I was 12 the first time I tried marijuana. I also started smoking cigarettes and sneaking alcohol around that time. To say I grew up fast is an understatement. I was 13 when my mom and my 2nd step-dad decided to get married. Between my mom and me fighting and her wanting to move on with the new marriage, she decided to send me to live with my dad. She called him and arrangements were made for me to move to NC. In one day my entire life changed. I went from having little structure and rules to a pretty normal family life. I adapted and thrived over the next couple of years. I made friends, played softball, sang in choir, went to youth group, and did what normal high schoolers do. At the beginning of my senior year I started falling backwards. Between my behavior and my dad and step-mom not knowing how to handle me, I was forced to move back to FL. I was 16 when I got back down to Tampa. My mom didn’t want me to live with her at first so I moved in with her friend and her friend’s son. Because of another very abrupt change and just an overall lack of security, I ended up with ulcers and coped by starting to smoke marijuana again which led me to other drugs.
By 18 I had been living with my boyfriend and his family for almost 2 years. They treated me like I was part of their unit, which is what I had always longed for. With all of the divorce and moving around, I never felt like I had a family unit that was my own, that I belonged to. The only thing responsible about me at this time was my work ethic. I worked a full-time job while going to school for graphic design. One afternoon, on my way home from work, I was heading through a green light when a truck made a left hand turn in front of me. I didn’t have my seatbelt on and I hit the windshield. I woke up in the driver’s seat with a man sitting next to me holding my head against his chest. It was the man who was driving the truck. I’ll never forget the sight of my hair hanging from the windshield. I ended up with 11 staples in side of my head, but was otherwise okay. The insurance company of the driver who hit me awarded me $10,000 and I used that money to get an apartment of my own.
The crazy thing is I actually saw angels flying around me while unconscious, and this is the story I would tell that would eventually lead to me getting saved.
The year I turned 19 I was finally living in my own apartment, but my partying and drug use were at an all-time high. I really don’t know how I survived that time period. My cousin, who I had done a lot of drugs with, was in a treatment center and I went with my aunt to visit him. It was the first day since I was a child that I felt God’s presence. I knew in my heart something was happening and that it was good.
I became a Christian in November of 2001. I can always remember the month and year because it happened right after Sept. 11th. This is the part of my life where I literally saw light entering in where darkness had reigned for so long.
It was October of 2001, and I worked at Kalemeris Construction as a receptionist. There was a young architect named Keith Gaines who would come in to the office periodically to meet with the owner, and it just so happened that I ran into him at a wedding of one of my co-workers. I had already had a couple of drinks when he approached me. We were talking and I was telling him about my car accident the year before and for some reason I mentioned the angels I saw. Right then and there he asked me if I knew Jesus. I was a little taken aback, but I definitely did remember who Jesus was, well kind of. Keith asked me if I wanted to go to his church small group that night and thankfully I said yes! That night I met his small group (still a little tipsy) and after being there for a little while I thought to myself “this is what I need in my life.” I went to church with him that Sunday and answered the alter call to accept Jesus as my savior the next Sunday. Everything I learned at Christian school, from youth group, and from my aunts came flooding back to me. God made sense! It all made sense!
My life did a complete 180 thanks to God. The drugs fell off completely and I prayed that He would help me quit smoking cigarettes and He did. My music tastes changed and Keith provided me with an entire case of Christian cd’s. I started growing in my church. God provided me spiritual parents and mentors as well as friends who became more like my family. I was re-born, a new creature, totally pure, totally loved. I became bold and on fire for the Lord. I wanted everyone I came in contact with to “taste and see that the Lord is good!”
God hooked me up with other “on fire” believers in the Tampa area and we would spend our weekend nights worshipping then going out to Ybor City or Clearwater Beach and preaching the Gospel. There were things that happened that some wouldn’t believe. The Holy Spirit would lead us to specific people. We’d have people holding hands and praying to receive Jesus in front of clubs in Ybor City, people with their hands up asking God to forgive them. It truly was an amazing time! I can honestly say I had an almost 3 year honeymoon period with the Lord. He did so many amazing things in my life, miracles really, too many to type in one blog post.
Fast forward to 2016, and I’ve been a Christian for 12 years now. The zeal has waned some, but hopefully I’m making up for it in wisdom. There are areas in my life needing growth that I didn’t even realize needed attention until I was married and had kids. I’m so glad I finally wrote my testimony out. I’m thankful there may be readers who make it to the end, and I’m so thankful for the boldness of a young man who asked me if I knew Jesus!!