This past Thursday I was the speaker at a Christian Ladies Group and had the opportunity to share my testimony so I thought I would also share it here on the ol' blog. Enjoy. :)
I grew up in a family of four, my mom and dad and my older sister and me. We lived in Ontario for most of my childhood. We went to church on Sundays and came home to enjoy big Sunday lunches...I have to admit that was my favourite part of Sundays--the food!! I wasn’t so into Sunday school or church so it didn’t bother me when my folks decided they had had enough of the church we had been going to and instead we all got to enjoy sleeping in. I didn’t miss it and we still got the yummy lunches so I was pretty pleased about that. I didn’t think much about God or Jesus at that time. I went to school during the week and enjoyed family time on the weekends.
Every other summer my sister and I would get to visit my grandparents in Nova Scotia which we really enjoyed. It was like travelling to a whole different world. To go from the hustle and bustle of city life in Ontario to the laid back and quiet life in the country in Nova Scotia. I lived for those summers. My grandparents had a farm, lots of open space, a barn to explore and of course the animals were a curiosity. Just as curious were some of the friends my grandparents would take us to go visit. I remember one family’s home as they were an older couple and didn’t have children our age so there wasn’t much for my sister and I to do but look around and stare at the walls. There was one plaque on the wall that captured my attention and I began reading it...I’d like to read it to you now, perhaps you’ve heard once or twice before:
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed He was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from His life. For each scene He noticed two sets of footprints in the sand. One belonging to Him and the other to the LORD.
When the last scene of His life flashed before Him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of His life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times of His life.
This really bothered Him and He questioned the LORD about it. LORD you said that once I decided to follow you, you'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.
I have to interject here and tell you that even as a child I was getting upset reading this! I was all like, YEAH, GOD! Where were you when he needed you most?!!!
The LORD replied, my precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you! During your times of trial and suffering when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.
Carolyn Carty, 1963
WOW! I had to fight back the tears so my grandparents wouldn’t wonder what was wrong with me--didn’t figure I read a plaque on the wall and it made me cry would sound all that intelligent...but I’ll tell you from then on I couldn’t get that scene out of my head. Kept mulling it over and over. Still didn’t go to church but I was certainly thinking about God a lot more.
By the time I was 14 my folks were tired of the rat race and keeping up with the Joneses lifestyle of Ontario and my grandparents just so happened to be putting their farmhouse up for sale. It seemed the right time to make the move and on my 14th birthday we made the trek from Newmarket, Ontario to Westville, Nova Scotia. Talk about your culture shock! Went from being right in the middle of town to being right in the middle of a bunch of fields. We were 15 minutes away from the nearest town. Basically everything was far away, or so it seemed anyways.
For one reason or another my father decided to go back to church. This was fine with me so long as he didn’t intend to make the rest of us go, which he didn’t. What he did do was come home with story after story about what went on at church, the people he met, what the minister was like and so on. He also became a member of the choir and now he had even more stories. I love singing and enjoyed school choirs so now he had my ear. After a while I decided I would go with him and see what it was like. I loved it. The people were wonderful and the service was enjoyable. What really struck a cord with me was my first Christmas eve service.
Weeks before hand the church had been decorated with red and green lights around the windows. The sanctuary had green garland around the banisters with little white mini lights interwoven. Even the large stained glass window behind the choir loft was lit up. I just loved it. And on Christmas Eve the church was just glowing and the place was packed with families and friends. You could feel the anticipation building. I loved being in the choir, you had the best view of the place. As we walked in and sat down in our pews, it was delightful to look out at the sea of faces of family and friends. The service began with the usual hymns and readings but my favourite part was the ending. Just as the last hymn’s notes faded away, the lights in the church were turned off one by one. First the overhead lights, then the pretty Christmas lights and then even the small light over the pulpit the minister turned off himself. The entire building was in darkness. It was so dark you couldn’t even see your hand in front of you. The dark and stillness were almost overpowering until the doors at the front of the church were opened and a young boy walked up the aisle with one small candle. He walked up to the minister and lit his candle and then in turn the minister lit the advent candles...little by little the light grew. He walked back to the choir and as we gripped our candles tightly, we passed the light from one to another. In the meantime the minister had gone down to the congregation and started sharing the light with them. It was so amazing to watch as the light passed along and how the darkness was pushed aside as the light continued to grow. There was no stopping it once it started. Once all the candles were lit, each face beaming in the glow of their candles we sang Silent Night--gives me goosebumps. At the last line everyone lifted their candle up to let the light shine! It was a most magnificent sight! The joy just welled right up inside of you till it came tumbling out in song! Awesome!
Another favourite service was the Easter sunrise service. It was held behind the church in the graveyard. We sang hymns and had readings and generally shivered. We were a smaller crowd but somehow that seemed fitting. Again what started as a dark moment was enveloped in light as the sun rose over the horizon. The minister said, “Let us shout it from the rooftops Christ has risen!!” Amen! I so wanted to do that right then even!
Now while those services and the not so exciting services were lovely and all I couldn’t shake the feeling or the doubt that I had missed something somewhere along the line. A piece of the puzzle had somehow slipped out of my hand. There was something and I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Oh well, I thought may as well just keep on keepin’ on.
By this time I was on my way to university in New Brunswick where I joined the choir in the campus chapel. I loved it there, it was open and and the people were friendly. The choir director invited me to join his church choir Sunday mornings which I happily accepted. More friendly faces awaited me. And while I enjoyed the differences of this church that nagging doubt of having missed something just wouldn’t leave me. It would be another four years before anything resembling a solution would appear.
I was living in PEI now staying at a Christian college and attending UPEI to become a teacher. I loved living at the college and took some classes while I was there. Again there was a choir to belong to and I loved it. Even more I felt, while in the presence of these students, that I had somehow, somewhere along the line missed something. And now it was really beginning to bother me. I would think back on my past and how I had gone to church, sang the songs, read the readings, prayed the prayers--so why this doubt? I just couldn’t figure it out. During this time I had developed a lovely rapport with the president of the college and was disappointed when he had to leave to fill another position back in his home province of Nova Scotia.
Still, life had to go on and on it went until one Sunday as I sat in church I just couldn’t stand it any longer and now I wanted to know, just had to know what was it that I missed?!! But I had a problem, who do I ask? The person beside me? What if they had the same question or worse yet they had no answer for me. And besides how is one to even ask?
“Hey uh, I’ve gone to church for years you know and ahh, I sang the songs and read and prayed and stuff and I think I may have missed something---don’t suppose you know what it was?!!”
Yeah, that’s not going to work...hmmm could ask the minister after the service, he’s probably heard everything and might be able to get this one...ugh but he’s always so busy then and people are all milling about. That’s not going to work either. So I was left with the only surefire way to get to an answer: prayer. It was a very simple stated prayer, Lord if you would just put before me a person or such to let me know what I missed that would be great. Amen. To think that even in the Bible it says, “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with your whole heart. Jeremiah 29:12-13
The funny thing is I pretty much prayed that prayer and then forgot about it. That is, until later on that week when I was at my friend’s home chatting and drinking coffee with her. We weren’t long into it when she told me that she had a letter for me from the past president of the christian college I had stayed at. I was pretty pumped about that, and couldn’t wait to read his letter. What that man wrote in his letter blew me away. About a paragraph into it he mentioned that he feels that I had a heart for the Lord but somewhere along the line I had MISSED SOMETHING!! I just stopped reading there and that prayer came right back to me and I got goosebumps just thinking about it. Now not only had he sent this message but he also included a work booklet for me to look over. It was within those work book pages that I finally found what I was looking for. Simply stated, I was a sinner and needed salvation and the only way to receive it was through Jesus Christ! What a great example of the verse found in Romans 5:8 that reads, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
Wow! I can remember being in my own bedroom the night I read those words and then praying that the Lord would forgive me for my sins and live in my heart. To know that it says in Romans 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” It was a quiet and special moment for me and I’m pretty sure I went to bed that night with the biggest smile on my face! I’ll never forget that moment and the life that began that night. I thank the Lord for hearing my little prayer and finding me when I needed him most.
And now years after that prayer the Lord has blessed me with a husband who cares for me (and ceases snoring when nudged) and 3 beautiful children to care for. There are many challenges to face during this journey that we call life. They can be daunting and cause us to stumble, a loved one gets cancer, you are financially strapped, your family relationships may be suffering but throughout it all it is a comfort to remember that there isn’t a thing that can separate us from the love of God as it reads in Romans 8:38 “I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”