Aug 29, 2007

I have just been so encouraged in my preperations of gospel stories for this years Bible studies. Yesterday I did Gideon and today the men of the hour are Joshua and Moses, specifically in Numbers 13:25-Numbers 14: 11. I can see that I will learn so much about the men and women of God this year, right along with the kids. I never knew that I could identify with Gideon so much! It truly is funny how God works things out to help us sometimes(you will have to read his story to know what I am talking about...) and I learned a lot about how fear today ~ how it can serve to paralyze us from obeying God's commandements, or having faith in them, if we let it.

Fear had always been a constant companion to me all of my life, as a child I appriciated it~ wore it like a cloak of protection~ trusted it to guide me, knew it so well I almost thought I knew the taste and smell of it. But all that fear did was teach me to live a life imprisoned in worry, dread and self-doubt. Never did I trust in anything; I had nothing to put my trust in(as far as I was concerned.)

My grandmother had talked to me about God plenty of times when she had me at her home, even took me to church and got me baptised and then took me later on and made me take a communion into the Catholic faith, but I didn't trust this God figure either. Unfortunately, I was taught by some of the nuns in one of the schools my grandmother atrranged for me to go to that God watched everything I did(okay...)and that He also would punish me severely if I sinned, like told a lie or stold something(Uh-Oh! That was all it took to petrify the first grade me...) Since then, I have learned that God is merciful especially with children and the harsh legalistic tone I had once seen in the Bible's words is now gone. I can feel loved by God today.

As a beginning college student, another shift happened. The Lord that I had heard about all my life not only had abandoned me as a child(or so I thought; I rationalized this by telling myself He let me be born of my mother)but now He was really letting me down in life even further~ I mean, here I was with a 2 year old son and a divorce hanging off of my shoulders and it was, to me, yet another failure on my part. Now I know that a person cannot change another person, only God knows the heart truly and can change hearts if He wants to, but at the time~ I put my trust in Myself and My abilities and my Education and My inner strength and My making opportunities in life happen for myself(sound familiar? It's the World's Way.)

I learned to be distrustful of God "because He lets bad things happen." I was, apparently, wiiling to aquiesce to the sovereignty of God but unwilling to see Free Will for what it truly is: something I am not always grateful that I posess. But the point of this post is not to glorify how I felt back then; it is to glorify God for what He can do and tell how He stepped into my life and changed everything about me. I was about to graduate; I had big plans for my life. I was also in a crappy job that paid well for a recent graduate but was entry-level, and cropped me off at the knees from ever being able to make real change with the families I "pretended" to help every week(I say pretended because I couldn't really help them; I was impotent from government regulations, time-lines, red-tape and long, loong, looong waiting lists.) I began to abhor my job; instead of appriciating that I had employment at all and at least a steady income to count on I had the attitude that I feel is common for some recent graduates, and that is- "I worked for 4 long, hard butt-busting years for this?"

I fell into a bit of a depression. I like to call it " when you graduate and real life smacks you in the face, hard." I was a part of the rat race, and it wasn't as exciting as I'd imagined it would be. If that wasn't enough, I had been 'seriously involved' with my now-husband Alan for a couple of years at this point and I was pushing for a commitment, hard. And He was pushing back harder for a lack of commitment. I felt like a failure once again! (I was so dramatic, wasn't I? Hey, I didn't have God...)

In the midst of this funk of all funks, God was absent ~ because I didn't want Him; I didn't ask for Him, I never even acknowledged Him. This is what life can do to you without God: I broke up with Alan for a 6 month period that year(it was my doing, but I was miserable about it) and I quit that job I told you about,and moved on to a sparkley-new posistion that held a little better title and that I thought would offer me more freedom~ it didn't~ and I spiraled into going out drinking more with my 'friends' (Friday nights soon became Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday nights, you get the point) and it was to the point where 3 or 4 nights a week I was 'out' after I put Tyler to sleep, not one or maybe two in a busy season. I was already an occasional smoker(started when I was 14, quit when I was pregnant, unfortunateky had decided to make the brilliant decision to pick up the habit again when Ty was 3 months old and I relaized that I was the only one of my friends who didn't smoke), but now I was smoking a lot more( went from a pack lasting me a week to a pack lasting em 2 days) and my body was weary for it all,so were my relationships with my family.

I was living, with Tyler,with my grandparents at this point: and the goal was that as soon as I graduated, I would start a new life,just me and Tyler, securing a great, well-paying job and wonderful child-care that I felt great about leaving my child in for 50+ hours a week. then I would get out. Lol. I was not only 'not getting out' fast enough, but I was miserable with my job and even more miserable about 'losing' Alan and suddenly totally overwhelmed with the idea of being a single mother( though just a few months prior I felt perfectly strong, independent and capable. Bring it on!) Everything had changed. I was no longer feeling independent, I was feeling my dependency. On all kinds of crutches. Especially the crutch that was Alan ( and I had leaned heavily on him following the divorce.)I even got to the point where I quit even going out at night and started avoiding my 'friends', preffering instead to lay curled up on the couch with my cat and watch endless hours of stupid TV. Tyler was the child I cooked for, fed, bathed and hugged evey once in awhile when I saw his face inbetween all that but mostly he preferred to be with my grandfather, sitting on his lap in the back room, watching cartoons with him. And could I blame him? I had become a shell. It seemed that at night was the only bonding time that we had anymore.

At night, when we would lay together, his little head in the crook of my arm, he would want only his momma and that made me feel better. In fact, we both cherished it so much that Ty didn't stop sleeping in my bed that way untill he was almost 6. Inspite of all the things I did have going for me in my life, I kept this funk and I was starting to occasionally get thoughts that popped into my mind out of nowhere, like while I was driving somewhere, that would tell me "why don't you just kill yourself? Tyler would be better off without you anyways. Looks at what a total failure you are; you worked so hard; now your nothing; just give it up already." I was shocked and disgusted with myself. Even a little bit, admittedly,scared as to why I would suddenly be thinking such things.

In the midst of all this, Alan contacted me and we got back together. I told him about all of this that was going on and he took pains to protect me, which was what I needed and wanted. A short time later he decided re-encorce his strict conviction that he could not leave his long-time job and all of his family to come move in with me up North; he had a life there already and I was just a new graduate, so why couldn't I grow my rooots there in PA and let him take me home to his family? Well,Al taking me home with him to his family suddenly sounded very good indeed and I was no longer feeling up to insisting on my own rights ( like me being near myfamily.) I withdrew Ty out of Kindergarden a few months later and Al,his brother & once of his friends moved us to PA.

I got a job with the county, found acceptable before and after school child care for Tyler and settled into living with my man. It was great for a while. I found out I got preganant with J. just a couple of months after I moved in with Al; great! we thought. I worked till my due date and then had a baby. I settled into my new life as a mother of a newborn and a now 5 year old. I was swirling mentally admist all of Alan's and my families assertions that we get married,and all the speculations on his mom's side why we weren't, but Al had decided that he would be married when I
decided to go see a therapist for my nightmares almost every night and for the feelings I still had to work out from my past, my childhood memories. He felt that they were very much affecting me in my life as an adult and I diagreed (though I knew they were) but I reluctantly agreed to go see a guy I found in the phone book that said he was a Christian counselor and a Christian sounded like someone I could trust. I guess even then I knew in my spirit that God was good.

The counseling didn't do much for me, I didn't appriciate him bringing me back to my family tree and family cross-generational issues so much, but Al talked to the guy a few times and it seemed to be helpful for him in learning how to deal with me, lol.
One night I was up at 3 a.m. feeding the baby and I was flipping through TV channells, half-aleep,looking for anything worthy of looking at. I came across a Joyce Meyer broadcast, and was ready to flip on by it( since it was just another hsow about God when she caught my attention with something she said: she was saying that she was abused as a child and had difficulty because of it much of her younger life, but that she knew that God was goos to her throughout all of it and Satan was behind the cause of her abuse at the hands of her father. I was shocked; she had been sexually abused throughout her childhood and she was saying that God is still good?!? I had to hear about this.

That night I did listen to her program, and towards the end of it I decided to do just what she was suggesting: ask God to reveal Himself to me if He would. I did that and waited to feelsomething spectacular, or at least life-changing. Nothing spectacular came, but I felt an odd peacefulness(odd for anxiety-riddled me) and I went to bed again that night just as I had every other night, tucking Josh into his crib blanket and falling fast asleep. It wasn't untill several nights later that I realized that I had been sleeping through the night without any bad dreams~ ever since lifting up that prayer! I knew that this was God revealing Himself to me, just as I had prayed for. I started watching Joyce Meyer everyday. Soon, I got some tapes of her teachings and began, with her "healing your emotions" tape set, to unpack the garbage that was stinking up my heart.

One of the first things that God showed me was that He was good. I learned from the beginning, with Adam and Eve. I read about how we took our free will and used it to become sinners, for the millionth time, but with actual understanding this time. I realized that none of the bad things that had happened to me, none of the bad things that had happened to anybody, were God's doing. I learned that He weeps when we weep and walks with us through our darkest times. Psalms 23: Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me." My heart melted before God; He was for me not against me, and memories flooded my mind of all the times He had provided, comforted, protected. It was as if He hit the play button on a reel of film from my lifetime; film clips that showed one image after another reminding me of His sovereignty and His provision for me. How gracious of God to do this for me; he could have just said, rightly, "How dare you accuse me! After all that I have done,you dare to question God??" But He didn't. He was merciful.

And that's what I remind myself of when I am faced with someone today, just like I used to be in my yesterdays. I have met quite a few of them. Even gotten the opportunities to talk to several about the gospel. I can really understand how you feel, I can tell them, because I once was in that place too. And then I get to say, "Let me tell you about what God has done for me." It is worth living every day for, just that right there, alone :)

I don't know why I shared all this today, but today was the day for it I guess and although this post has taken me all day up untill now, getting on and typing up a bit at a time, it is with a feeling of accomplishment that I end this post. I hope that you were encouraged if you stuck with me and read all of this. I know that you know, God is working and continues to work in even people like I was. The hard hearted don't stand a chance when God's mercy and love start melting all of that confusion away. Keep praying for our prodigals. Love to you all.


cb4swife said...

Stacey...what a fantastic post. I so love hearing the story of God's grace in people's lives. Even though I know your story...I loved getting to read it again! I could listen to salvation stories all the time. It has been a joy to see the Lord at work in you. I have gotten to watch the latter part of this story and you are a different woman...I can't even imagine you being the woman you were before you were saved! I am so glad He brought you and your fam to CCC. Thanks for your example of resting and relishing in God's are truely a light in a dark world that loves to blame God and ignore his goodness. Reading your testimony made my night! Love ya...Shannon Eder

Stacey, this is C.B. I say a hearty "Amen" to all that Shannon said, and I want you to know how pleased I believe our savior is by the way you are writing about Him! Isn't He so amazing! You and your family mean so much to us! Because of Him...C.B.

Lily said...

Thank you for sharing this, Stacey. It was a real encouragement to me. I love how our God is so powerful and full of love for us that He gives us beauty for ashes. Please continue to share! I love hearing stories about our God. :)

Free In Christ said...

WOW!!! What an awesome testimony of Gods sovereignty. I loved reading it. A few weeks ago my pastor quoted someone as saying/writing, "good allows the things he hates to accomplish the things he loves." God hates evil, and yet it happens, and it all brings glory to him in the end. If you hadn't experienced what you did (which I don't know it all) you would not be the person you are today. God has used the evil in your past to make you a better person, and to bring all the glory to him for you salvation.

Salvation is such a awesome thing. "It is not of works lest any man boast." ephesians 2:9. It is a free gift and God is the giver. If he had not chosen to reveal these things to us, we'd still be lost sinners.

Thanks for the post. I love to read peoples stories. Be encouraged, God is sovereign and in control of all things.

Have a blessed day.
Hey, email me sometime.

Free In Christ said...

Have you read the book

Hinds Feet on High Places?

Check it out, if you haven't it is awesome.

staceyhoff said...

thannx for all the encouragement guys :)

Rachel said...

Stacey....I did stick it out. It was great to learn your story. And it was an encouragement to me. To remember where I am from and how far I have come because of God. Praises.

Love to you and your family.