My Testimony

I would like to begin by saying that the following is completely God’s story and not my own. I am merely a vessel that God has formed, repaired, and filled in His perfect timing. I was born with two churchgoing parents here in Oklahoma, yet I was not raised a Christian. My parents had met and married in their church, but ceased attending once they started having children. When I was seven my family and I moved from the Bible Belt to the Rockies to a little ski town called Crested Butte in Colorado, where my sister and I had a seemingly perfect childhood filled with skiing and other mountain adventures, but not God. The seven years I had lived there, I didn’t personally know a single person that professed to be a Christian. I felt absolutely no pressure or desire to follow a God that may or may not care about me or may or may not even exist. I remember thinking to myself, “My life is good, real good. Why would I need a God?”
Then came the recession of 2008. Most of the locals now struggled to make ends meet in our tiny town, including my family. Like many others, we ended up moving to a state with a more hospitable economy. For us, that meant moving back to Oklahoma. It was during this transition that my parents grew thirsty for God’s word again, reminding them of His provision and His promises. I was therefore enrolled in a private Christian school against my will upon our return. I had no desire to be around Christians that would make it their duty to save me, and the fact that these students would be Christian was a bit intimidating. But to my relief, all of my teachers and classmates automatically assumed that I was a believer, which again gave me no pressure to become one. It took three years of Christian friendships, Bible classes, and chapel services until I really felt convicted that there was a God out there and that I needed a Savior. One day a trip to the bathroom during class found me knocking on my principal’s office door asking her to pray with me. I immediately told my peers despite the fact that I had evaded the truth from them all throughout high school and they received me with open arms rather than the judgment that I had so desperately feared.
My parents’ dry season with God may have came once they started a family, but mine came once I started college. Being the only one of my friends to come to OU, I once again had no Christian friends or influence much like my life in Colorado. It was during my sophomore year of college that my mom passed away from cancer. I tried leaning on God through this difficult time, but I was consumed with grief trying to handle the weight of the situation on my own which resulted in months of severe anxiety attacks. It got to the point where I considered dropping out of school and I became more and more welcoming to the idea of just not waking up in the morning. My life was spent in grief, my strength failed because of my iniquity, and my bones were consumed. I would often wander out in my pasture bowed down and brought low, literally falling to my knees and crying out to God. It was during these times that I actually started to feel His sweet embrace for the first time. I knew without a doubt that He was hearing my cries. He was no longer just the God that saved me, but a God that actually desired to be close to brokenhearted like me as both a Father and a Friend. It was then that an actual relationship with God began to form, a relationship I continue to nurture to this day. I trusted God, and I was helped. I sought God, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. He rescued me when I was crushed in spirit, and what was once a broken vessel is now a cup that is constantly overflowing. God had not been trying some sort of experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality, He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. I now strive to give God all of the glory due unto His name. There is no way I could ever accomplish this in the span of a single lifetime, but an eternity spent with Him in worship might get me close.

She Was Her Own

When someone dies, it closely resembles a nasty breakup. You constantly think of things that you should or shouldn’t have said once it’s too late, while the presence of all of their stuff still in your house seems to be openly mocking you. The first two things I did when I came home from the hospital was clean up her dirty dishes in the sink and empty out her closet. Three fourths of her clothes were placed in white garbage bags to be taken to Goodwill, while the other fourth was kept between my sister and me. We never once argued over who got what, as sisters often do, which was a miracle. I wordlessly claimed her black down North Face while my sister reached right over it to grab her long brown trench coat. As we transplanted her clothes from her closet into our closets, making them our clothes, our dad tiredly told us to, “come on in here, we have a lot more to look through.”

My sister and me both walked into the living room to see our dad sitting in a sea of photographs, hundreds of them. A couple of them were peeping out from under the blue denim of his Levi’s that he wore, but I thought it best not to say anything. We proceeded to sit in a circle, Indian style, after my sister and I made space for what looked like two tiny islands in the middle of the photographic ocean. Funeral slideshow prep had officially set sail.

I had seen nearly all of these old pictures at least once before. I even knew the backstories to a few, going even further beyond the thousand words that a picture is worth. I held two of my favorites in my hands, looking back and forth at them with a slight smile on my face. One of them was of her posing like Vanna White to reveal her very first washing machine (men, it’s moments like these that women treasure). She wore baggy acid wash jeans circa 1990s with a head of thick brown permed hair to match; her oversized Aztec cardigan would be all the rage right now. My dad had once told me that he bought her that washer to keep all the men from hitting on her at the Laundromat. In the other hand, I held a picture of both her and my father. This time she held a plate in one hand and a teacup in the other, both covered in the same giant pink flowers. My dad and her both had their mouths open, laughing at the camera. She told me once that those dishes marked their very first fight as a married couple, she had wanted them badly but my father refused to give in. A couple days later he bought the dishes and she demanded a photo to document her victory. There was another picture of her and my dad on a beach in Tahiti, but ever since she let me in on the fact that “you were conceived on that night,” I swore that I would never touch that photo again (it still somehow made it into the slideshow).

As time went by, we were slowly but surely filling a gallon-sized Ziploc bag with pictures to take to the funeral parlor. As we kept sifting, my dad must have finally realized that he could say absolutely anything he could right now without her hearing.

“…she liked watching me smoke when I flew, she thought it was sexy…”

“…she got her ears done after her perm that hid them went out of style…”

“…she sometimes used the f-word when she got mad at me…”

These were things that never in a million years my sister and I would have ever believed about her, she would have whopped him upside the head if she ever heard him say such things. That woman preached until her dying breath that smoking was next to murder, that the way God made us was just fine, and that even darn was a bad word. In our eyes, she was always the perfect woman that we had always labeled her. But as I looked in my dad’s piercing baby blues as he said these things, at such a time as this, deep down I knew that he was telling the truth.

Which then made me wonder, why did she portray herself as perfect when she clearly wasn’t? Was everything I knew about her while she was here a lie? I didn’t know what to think anymore, I may not have ever really known this woman…she no longer fit into the mold that I had so carefully formed to fit her perfectly. When I thought long and hard on what exactly was causing me to get internally worked up in such a way, I slowly began to realize that it was over the fact that she actually had a will of her own, a willful spirit. I now realized that I had actually caught glimpses of it in those first two photos… She had a spirit that she suppressed whenever she was around my sister and I, but not when she was around my father. That spirit thrived whenever she first married my dad, but it slowly withered away once she started having children. All of my life, I never gave her a choice as to who she really was. To me, she was my mother. But to her, she was her own.