I Smiled – The Testimony

My story begins with their story, as all children’s stories do.  He is the oldest of 4 boys.  Grew up with a dad in the home, then just a mom, then an abusive man to follow.  He was a dreamer – still is – and a lover of knowledge and books and baseball.  He took a job as soon as he could.  He worked and schooled and graduated and moved out.  She is the oldest of 4 girls – one died after only a few months of life.  Grew up with Mom and Dad and Grandparents and Cousins.  Sunday School, family dinners and picnics, and other parts of “family life” were her start.  Then, divorce happened and she spiraled downward…to a place she still hasn’t found a way out of.  (Both He and She were raised by their adoptive fathers…the biological ones never being a part of their lives.)

After only 3 years, both had lived enough life to leave them scarred and angry and longing…and they found each other.  They were together, she became pregnant, and they became husband and wife.  November 26, 1982 I was born to an emotionally bruised woman and a man with greater longings…but they both found a piece of love in the baby they held.  Two years and divorce passed, and life continued in it’s messy way.  A Dad a long way off, a mother ever making decisions based purely on instant want, and a baby growing up far too quickly.  Abusive men, no steady home, 3 marriages, a little sister, being dropped off at our babysitters and later separated among family, back with Mom again, no money, little food, no peace, no security, no happiness, few smiles, little laughter, this longing to get out…this is the briefest of synopsis’s I can offer.  If you could read between the lines, you wouldn’t want to.  It was hard…all the time.  In the midst of the pain and shame, though, a smile emerged.

June 11, 1996 I had this great privilege to attend a LARGE youth gathering at Camp Caswell on the coast of North Carolina.  That night we did what we did every night – watched skits, sang songs, and listened to a speaker.  Except there was something different this night for me.  I walked forward with many other students that night.  I sat with an older person, just like the others did, and talked about what was going on.  She shared the Good News…and I knew its Goodness that night!  I had sought love, just like my parents, but I had found the One Who Is Love instead of an imitation.  I smiled big that night.  I didn’t know I was, but she said so.

Since then, everything has changed…nothing has been the same!  This is not to say my home life instantly transformed.  No.  I wish I could say that.  Nor did I become all that I needed to be that night.  What did happen, though, was the beginning of a journey toward Him.  It has not been smooth, without fault or failure; rather, it has been this narrow way full of abounding peace, despairing heart-ache, hard falls, even harder times of forgiveness, laughter, joy, sweet fellowship, and grace upon grace upon grace!  No.  I have not done this the “right way” at all; I’ve messed up too much to call it that!  But I have always come back to The Way.  He has never let me go, though my hands have felt slippery and weak at times.  He has turned the ashes of a helpless life into the beauty of Hope.

He gave me new life that night in June.  I had always wanted a different life, but never could I have imagined one quite like this.  I would later find out what my name means.  (This name that had been made fun of so many times during my school years!)  Anastasia: in the Greek…to rise again; new life.  I remember…the first time I read my name’s meaning…I smiled then too.  I knew it was this great gift for me, yes, but more than that, it was the gift for all mankind.  Things change when you know a word’s meaning.  Like, I’ll never forget what “epiphany” is: “a sudden moment of realization”, (we had to memorize that and many other definitions for our Freshman English class.)  Now, when I hear my name, if I listen close, I hear the very message that was shared with me those 15 years ago.  It was the Good News then, and it is still Good!  “New Life…Rise Again…New Life!”  It is the News I will forever need to hear, but now, it is also the News I will forever need to tell.

*I thank God that my Dad knows His Savior; though, he still deals relentlessly with his past.  I pray for his peace and joy…they are his for the taking…take hold Dad!  I still pray for Mom.  Bitterness and anger have eaten her up like a cancer.  She hides things for a brief moment of happiness, but hatred like that eventually shows its ugly face.  I pray for her to know the forgiveness and love of Him Who has always Loved her!  I thank God that my sister here on earth is now my sister for all eternity!  What a privilege to walk this road with her!

**This week I am doing I Peter 3:15 along with others in my Church Family.  We are making a plan to be ready to share at any time God calls us to do so.  We are starting with the “formula” Me, You, God, You.  (I’ll explain each throughout the week.)  Today’s is, obviously, “Me” – my testimony…my story.  Ofcourse my story involves so much more, and I’ll stay ready for God to use whatever instance in my life, but for the “whole” this is Me.

I encourage everyone to be ready, always, with the Good News!  Will you join us this week in preparing to be used by God?  If you want more information or background to this, go to http://www.meridianpointchurch.com/sermons.php