Proclaiming God’s Faithfulness
I recently shared the following part of my testimony at a women’s retreat and was reminded how encouraging hearing about someone’s journey to salvation can be. So, I’ve decided to begin a new page on my site specifically for people to share testimonies of the Lord’s faithfulness in their life.
I would like to encourage any of you who would like be an encouragement to others to use this opportunity to share your testimony, too. Please write me at Phyllis@Phyllis-Sather.com with your testimony and I will post it to my site so we can all be encouraged.
I have a black past, but a bright future, thanks be to the Lord Jesus Christ.
“… I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust” Joel 2:25
This is a verse that I continue to see the Lord fulfill over and over in my life.
Growing up, I spent hours on an old horse-driven plow that had been abandoned in the grove of trees behind our barn. There, away from the hustle and bustle of farm life, I spent countless hours dreaming about being a wife and mother.
I grew up in a religious, but not Christian, family, and quickly left the farm after high school graduation. We were dirt poor, so college wasn’t even suggested as an option. I didn’t realize how poor we were until I discovered that at minimum wage I was earning more than my Father’s government pension. What followed was a series of minimum-wage jobs that barely made ends meet.
Away from home, and looking for “fun and adventure” (which really wasn’t fun and adventure, but subtly disguised sin), I quickly fell in with a group of older people who thought it was fun to sneak me into bars so I could drink. Of course. smoking was “in” so I took that up, too. Dating an “older man” seemed great at the time, since my age was rarely questioned when I was with Jerry.
Soon I found myself pregnant, and Brad, my oldest, was born before I was married – This was in the days when being an unwed mother was still a shameful thing, so I hid my condition from my family and the world, telling only the father. He told me he was married. After Brad was born he said he already had 5 sons and wouldn’t see me anymore unless I placed the baby for adoption. His oldest son was just a couple of years younger than I was.
After 3 months of trying to care for Brad alone I finally placed him for adoption. This was to become what I thought of as my “unforgivable sin” which I carefully hid for the next 15 years. What mother could give up her own child? I praise God abortion wasn’t an option back then, or I’m sure that would have been my choice. Five months after Brad was born I was pregnant again – same guy – but by now he was divorced and we got married. I cried all the way down the aisle, knowing that I would get a divorce. He was an alcoholic and very abusive. He threw me out of a second story window when I was 7 1/2 months pregnant and Sue was born early.
I thought that was rather ironic since people were already counting the months between my marriage and her birth.
When Sue was about 8 months old, Jerry, my husband, hurt her trying to take her from me in a drunken rage. I filed for a separation, telling him I would go back to him if he ever stayed sober for 6 months –to my knowledge that never happened and he soon remarried.
Then I proceeded to spend the next 10 years living very immorally and in various forms of addiction to drugs and alcohol.
About that time I was introduced to a woman who was a Christian. Her husband had been committing adultery, had left her, filed for divorce, and was getting on with his life. A friend introduced us, thinking I could help her because I had been divorced many years by that time. He didn’t know how drunk and drugged I was most of the time. There’s an old joke – “I didn’t know she drank until I saw her sober once” – that could have easily applied to my life. I took 4 – 10 ml. Valium, 4 – 10 ml Librium every day and drank beginning at breakfast. How I functioned at all I’ll never know. I think God must have a sense of humor, sending me to help her. Anyway, to make a long story short, I saw something in her life that I didn’t have. I began attending church with her. My goal was to prove there was a God and answer this question: If there is a God, why doesn’t he care about me?
Shortly after I had Sue I began having a recurring dream. In it, someone would discover that I had placed Brad for adoption and use it to prove I was an unfit mother. I would wake up with someone taking Sue away from me and knowing that I would never see her again. The fact was, I was an unfit mother, even without that information. This never-ending dream drove me to drugs, drinking, and men – anything that would help me sleep without that nightmare.
After about a year of going to the local Lutheran church – where no one ever mentioned giving my life to the Lord, or reading the Bible – I decided that if there was a God He didn’t care much about me. I filled my prescriptions, got a bottle of whatever I was drinking at the time, and decided to kill myself. At about 2 AM I called the woman I had been going to church with and told her what I planned to do. She talked to me for a couple of minutes, and then said she thought I had talked to her enough and I needed to talk to God. She suggested I ask Him for something that would be meaningful only me, to prove He was real and cared about me. She said it couldn’t be a million dollars. Then she hung up.
For some reason, I decided to try it. I asked Him to be able to sleep without that nightmare. And I did… I slept about 15 hours. When I awoke and realized what had happened I remember hitting the floor making excuses about how I wasn’t really so bad and didn’t really have to change too much. I knew there was a God and that he cared about me, and if that was true He wasn’t about to leave me the way I was. Within hours I had emptied my prescriptions and alcohol into the toilet and have been drug and alcohol free ever since.
The next 5 years were years of rebuilding. I spent another year at that Lutheran church, but now the Scriptures and service were filled with meaningful words. I went in to talk with the pastor about what had happened to me and he assured me that whatever it was would go away. By then I didn’t want it to go away. Then one day after church someone told me about a Christian conference in town that she thought might interest me. As an afterthought she said, “Oh, you will need a Bible.” Other than reading of Scripture during the church service that was the first mention of it to me personally in over 2 years of attendance.
I went to the local Christian book store and bought a paperback Bible because it was on sale for $5 and I thought I would only use it for that week at the conference. After 3 evenings of listening to the speaker expound on the Word of God and how God uses it to guide our lives and speak to us I came home just terrified. I was really struggling because I hadn’t been reading the Bible and I was questioning if any of what had happened to me was real, and if I had been reading the Bible God would be able to use it to speak to me, but I hadn’t so… At that point I glanced down at my open Bible and these words caught my eye,
Psalm 16:11 Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
This so perfectly described my past year with the Lord that I knew He would be able to guide me using His Word, and all my doubts fled.
Slowly over the next five years Lord started cleaning me up –
I started reading and studying the Bible.
I changed churches to one where the Pastor knew what had happened to me!
I made a commitment to only date Christian men, but if I had known how few there were I wonder if I would have been so quick to do that! I didn’t have a date for 5 years! But I met Dan at the end of that time and he was certainly worth waiting for.
I went back to LSS where I had placed Brad for adoption. I was able to speak with the same woman who had been my counselor then. She was a believer and helped me work through a lot of the pain. One thing she asked me to do was to talk with a group of adoptive parents – and tell them my “unforgivable sin”. Through them I experienced group forgiveness as they saw me as someone they would want their baby’s mother to be like. I was also able to work with unwed mothers. I was part of the only group at that time that had direct access to the unwed mothers. We gave holiday parties and little outings for groups of them. They were always amazed, and I think encouraged, to find out that one of the “nice ladies” had been an unwed mother just like them. There were often opportunities to share my testimony.
I quit smoking, but not until I had been a Christian for over 2 years. The Lord had much bigger things to work on in my life. This is always a good reminder for me when someone else isn’t growing as fast as I think they should be.
It took several years to work through some illegal activity that I had been involved in, but that’s a story in itself.
Back to the beginning – all I ever wanted to be was a wife and mother. While other girls were dreaming about being teachers and nurses, I was in our grove dreaming about my wonderful husband and all the children we would have. By this time I felt like I had probably thrown away all my chances to live the “happily ever after” life that I wanted so badly.
But God – aren’t those beautiful words? I always tell our children to watch out for the “buts” in the Bible. But God – our God is the God of new beginnings.
One of the best of which was to bring my Dan into my life – Somewhere inside me there was still a small flicker of hope and I felt like the Lord had told me I would have another son. I had been reminding the Lord that I wasn’t getting any younger and that I really wanted more children. A friend wanted to attend a singles group at one of the local churches. I consented to go with her once, but I quickly found out it wasn’t for me. I felt like I was at a bar without alcohol and that everyone was looking for just the right person to be with. I felt like the Lord had told me that if I was busy doing the things He wanted me to do when I was ready He would bring the right person to me. I quit going after one meeting and kept busy with the things I thought the Lord had given me to do.
Several months later Dan walked right into my office and then rented the apartment next door to me. How’s that for a word from the Lord? We knew each other 2 years before we even thought about being more than friends, and then waited another year to marry. We often joke that I had to wait for him to grow up since he is over 9 years younger than me.
When Dan asked me to marry him he got down on one knee in front of where I sat on the couch, told me he loved me and wanted me to be his wife. As I looked at his face it was as if I was realizing for the first time what kind of man he was. He was innocent and pure – he had never even had a cup of coffee, much less abused alcohol or smoked a cigarette! And then there was me – well worn, to say the least. When I saw what he was offering me I realized I had nothing to offer him in return that even compared to all that he offered me and began to cry. When he finally convinced me to tell him what was wrong he said to me, “To me you are a new creature in Christ. The person you were before no longer exists.”
Its one thing to say that, but Dan has lived that for these past 25 years. He knows most of the grimy details of my past, but has never even once, not even in our biggest fights, thrown it in my face or used it against me.
Just a bit about Brad and Sue. They are full brother and sister. It turned out Brad was raised about 40 miles from me. When he was about 20 he asked his parents if they would help him find me. We have met several times. He keeps in touch with Sue more than me. He has had some drug and alcohol problems. I’ve been able to share my testimony with him and his family but so far I haven’t seen any fruit. Something I found out gives me shivers: He married a woman named Phyllis – and named his son Joseph William. Joseph was his paternal grandfather, William his paternal Uncle.
We have also met Kim, the daughter that Sue placed for adoption. She was raised in Plymouth, MN – again just a short distance from where we lived.
In closing, I’ve shared parts of my testimony many times. Often times a young woman from the audience will come up to me afterwards and say something like, “Oh I wish I had a testimony like yours.” At that point I usually ask her what her testimony is and she will respond with, “I grew up in a Christian family, gave my life to the Lord at an early age, and can’t remember a time when I didn’t know the Lord.”
Isn’t that beautiful? Personally, I think too often we focus on someone like me, who dug a pit so deep that there was no way out of it and the Lord had to rescue her in a dramatic way.
I’m not saying that we don’t all need rescuing, because we do, but it’s very different being rescued after many years of sinful living. Someone like me can be saved and made righteous, but there are still consequences from my years of sinful living. One example from my own life is this: I placed my first child for adoption, my daughter placed her first child for adoption, my 20 & 22 year old granddaughters have both had children without being married and are raising them alone. I have a son, daughter, 5 grand children and 2 great grandchildren – all of whom are unsaved.
Dramatic testimonies appeal to us because it’s wonderful to see a life that has been so destroyed, rebuilt with God’s love and mercy – but I believe my testimony is an example of God’s second best, not at all what He would have for his children.
How many of you moms have told your children, “Go out and sin, get in as much trouble as you can, then the Lord will rescue you and you will have a dramatic testimony to share.”?
I would guess none of you have or will ever do that. Scripture tells in Matthew 10:16 … to be innocent as doves.
Philippians 2:15 New International Version (NIV)
…so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.”
Matthew 5:8 (King James Version)
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
I’m so thankful that the God of second chances gave me an opportunity to raise three children whose testimony is: We grew up in a Christian home, gave our lives to the Lord at an early age, and really can’t remember a time when we didn’t know the Lord. I think this is the Lord’s best, His first choice for all of His children.
Remember, I would like to encourage any of you who would like be an encouragement to others to use this opportunity to share your testimony, too. Please write me at Phyllis@Phyllis-Sather.com with your testimony and I will post it to my site so we can all be encouraged.
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Proclaiming God’s Faithfulness at:
© 2008 Phyllis Sather
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Contact me at: Phyllis@Phyllis-Sather.com