Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Testimony - And can it be that I should gain...

Typical "church-going" family

I was born into a family that attended a conservative mainline church. My mother attended regularly, taking along my older sister, brother and me, but my father stopped attending shortly before I was born. Dad, who had previously been very active in church serving as a deacon and in various other ways, had become disenchanted with church when he lost his job and found no help or support from the church they were then attending.

My parents were very typical and normal parents for that period in time. We were “law abiding” citizens, active in our community, public school system and church. Dad’s method of parenting was VERY authoritarian, so my sister, brother and I normally thought twice before we chose to disobey or show disrespect. Mom was much “softer” and because dad traveled a lot during the week, she was our primary authority Monday through Friday. My parents provided us with all that we needed and a good bit of what we wanted, and we enjoyed lots of family vacations and activities. However, the spiritual element of our life and family was minimal and spiritual disciplines (praying, Bible study, fellowship with other Christians, etc.) were viewed, at best, as “obligatory”. We normally prayed together as a family only before lunch on Sundays, on special occasions, or holidays. Spiritual conversations were not a part of our upbringing and problems were never discussed or resolved in the context of what scripture directed.

A profession made

Still, I enjoyed attending church and I enjoyed being with many friends there. At the age of 10 I responded to one of the regularly scheduled “altar calls” on a Sunday morning and was baptized shortly thereafter. Over the following 3-5 years I remained active in the same church and enjoyed the typical church and youth activities. I had a “safe” life among “good” friends in a small suburban town whose public school system was still very “Christian” in the late 60’s and early 70’s. I and some of my friends were known as “Jesus Freaks”, and I was viewed by classmates as “religious”. Shortly after I turned 14, my dad received a promotion that required us to move to Oklahoma City. We settled in a suburb where things were VERY different from our previous suburban life! It is here that my true spiritual condition revealed itself.

The “safe” life I left in my hometown was evident just weeks after we moved to Edmond. I attended the middle school which housed 9th and 10th graders. Not only was I horrified that the school had a “smoking hole” for the kids (with written permission from the parents), but one afternoon the students had a “walk out” in hopes of coercing the administration into allowing “open campus” during the lunch hour. I sat terrified in my classroom, with only a few other students who chose not to participate, while the other students roamed the halls banging on the classroom doors encouraging others to join them. That ended uneventfully, but it was the first among many events that opened my eyes to rebellion with absolutely no thought to my supposed Christian convictions.

White-washed tomb

By my senior year in high school I had managed to “keep my nose clean” and my reputation unblemished in the eyes of my parents and most adults. However, my friends and classmates knew me for what I was. I had systematically climbed the social ladder and left many wounded “friends” in my wake. I was primarily interested in having a good time, attaining popularity at almost any cost, and being wherever the action/party was. Because of my upbringing, I was a good worker—thanks to my dad’s example of being a “workaholic”—and managed to be hired by a local bank during my senior year at the age of 17, this is when my banking career began.

After high school I attended Oklahoma State University along with many of my high school friends. My previous interests and goals remained with me—have a good time, be the life of the party, and be where the action is. During my first semester at OSU my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he was only 48 yrs. old. I continued on at OSU until the summer when I moved back home and began attending CSU (UCO). There I found the perfect "socially acceptable" outlet for my rebellion and sin—a sorority!

Side note: during these5 years I dabbled with church and church friends, I even had several “close encounters” with serious Christians. Though I did experience times of feeling guilty, my interests and desires remained self-centered and pleasure focused.

My chains fell off...

I managed to attend school full-time, work part-time at the bank and keep a very active social life. Finally, during the fall of my junior year my appetite for fun and action took me dangerously close to disaster. For about 2-3 months I repeatedly over-indulged at parties and found myself slipping deep into an excessive lifestyle. I can clearly recall the fall day when I realized that the Lord was drawing me. It was on a Monday after a particularly eventful and party-filled Sunday. It was as if God grabbed a hold of me and was guiding every step and thought. I suddenly became ashamed of my previous actions and desires. Much to my surprise, and to many other people who knew me, I found myself seeking out another girl in my sorority who was known to be a Christian. When I finally did find D., I told her what all had been happening—which of course she knew, everyone did—how I had thought I was a Christian since I was 10, and how I suddenly had a desire to seek God and change my behavior.

During that following week I met frequently with her and friends would even comment to me how “weird” it was that I was spending time with D.--a "good" Christian! I believe it was during that time, sometime in mid-October of 1981, when the Lord saved me! At the time, I had simply believed that I was “rededicating my life” as I had done so many times before. But as I grew in my faith and understanding, it became more and more evident to me that there was no spiritual life in me prior to the fall of October 1981. D. attended a charismatic church so of course I went with her. I was baptized (again, but this time with a new heart), and I happily remained in the charismatic movement.

Side note: One of the “close encounters” I had with a Christian in 1978 was with a childhood friend who introduced me to the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” when I supposedly began to “speak in tongues”. It is interesting to note that during and subsequent to that time I was living in serious sin and rebellion to God and my parents. After my conversion, as I grew in faith and better understood the errors of that movement’s theology, I eagerly began challenging them by asking how an unregenerate person such as I could supposedly “speak in tongues” yet live a life so radically opposed to God? None have been able to offer me a Biblically sound explaination.

Only a week after the Lord saved me He graciously saved my friend K., who I had become close to through the sorority. She had already planned to leave CSU and return with me to OSU the next semester. How gracious of God to save her and ordain that I would have a Christian roommate with me at OSU where the temptations to return to my former life could be so strong! She and I had originally decided to attend OSU together with the thoughts of how much “fun” we could have partying, and how much trouble we could find!!

My plans to focus on school change

Well, “fast forward” to the summer of 1982 when I met a very nice and handsome young man! We both were attending the same church and met one Wednesday evening at church. We spent about 3 hours chatting after church that evening in the church parking lot! J. and I became friends quickly and easily, he also became good friends with my roommates, K., and now D. who had also joined us at OSU.

J. and I married in August of 1983 and we remained in Stillwater till the following August we moved to Dallas where J. could complete his undergraduate degree and then pursue a ThM at Dallas Theological Seminary. Only three months after we were married, the Lord presented us with our first “major” challenge as a couple. I discovered that the horrible head aches (migraines) I had been experiencing for the past three to four months were brought on by the birth control pills I was taking. We followed the advice of my neurologist and I stopped taking the pill and never experienced another migraine! However, J. and I were presented with the dilemma of how we should handle birth control. We were both in our very early 20’s, neither of us had finished our undergraduate degrees, and we had made plans for J. to pursue a masters degree, maybe even a doctorate—at the very least, we were looking at 6 more years of school! After several weeks of prayer and seeking Godly advice from others as well as through Biblically sound literature we concluded that God would be honored if we used no birth control.

Infertility

So, God graciously provided us with good jobs and good friends in Dallas, along with the many challenges of marriage and pursuing our educations! After four years of marriage and three years living in Dallas, God in His sovereignty also added the challenge of infertility to the mix!
Though J. and I had earnestly sought the Lord and determined to “let God plan our family” and open my womb, I became concerned that I had not conceived (to my knowledge) in the four years we had been married. I had read that statistically, couples who do not conceive after one year without any form of birth control should seek medical advice. So, in 1987 during my regular annual visit to my OB/Gyn I casually mentioned my concern. That is when the REAL journey began.

During the three to four years that followed God taught me about His sovereignty in ways I would have never imagined possible. As I experienced my complete and utter helplessness to accomplish something I dearly wanted and assumed would happen, and as I spent time around more mature Christians I began to not only understand God’s sovereignty, but I eagerly embraced it. I began to understand that His purposes and ways are greater than mine.
I’m especially grateful to God for not only providing the means to cover the costs of the various treatments and procedures necessary to identify our infertility, but He also provided us with a Godly man who was my OB/Gyn during the 8 years we lived in Dallas. I recall early in my fertility treatment, after Doctor C. discovered one possible problem, he cheerfully commented, “Oh, we can take care of that!” and then paused and qualified his comment by saying that we both knew whatever the outcome, it would be only by God’s will and design.

So, in 1990 after undergoing several corrective surgeries, many, many, many visits to my doctor’s office (sometimes everyday for 2 weeks including weekends), various uncomfortable and awkward procedures, and month after month of disappointment, J. and I together decided to officially end our “infertility treatment”.

Small town life

J. graduated in 1991 with his ThM, and in 1992 we moved back to Oklahoma to wait on the Lord and see what ministry He would lead us to. In 1995 J. was asked to Pastor a new church in rural south-central Oklahoma, J. would be bi-vocational in hopes that the congregation might one day be able to support a Pastor full-time. We eagerly and faithfully served our small congregation until the fall of 1998 when slowly and systematically we saw the Lord closing doors and the provisions to remain there ended.

These were bitter-sweet years. We were so happy to be serving the Lord in a small-town church (as our hearts had longed for), we were enjoying being first-time homeowners, and we were getting acquainted with more and more folks in town. Still, we had no children and were hopeful that God might soon open my womb.

A new direction

When we moved back to Tulsa we both were blessed to return to work with our previous employers. Prior to moving back to Tulsa, J. contacted a pastor friend, D. G., to see where he was pastoring or attending. He explained that the church he was pastoring had recently merged with another Bible church and welcomed us to visit. We visited GBC in October of 1998 and have remained there since.

For the next few years J. and I stayed very busy with work, church, helping my aging parents and keeping tabs on my 90+ yr. old grandmother. I threw myself into my work because I was now an officer of the bank and doing something I truly loved—fraud prevention and loss control. J. and I enjoyed annual vacations together and numerous mini-vacations throughout the year. We became well acquainted with lots of folks at church and enjoyed frequent fellowships together.

All this time, the thought of children still lingered in our minds and hearts, but because we’d always been such busy people and found great joy in each other’s company, we did not dwell on it frequently. Then as my 40th birthday began to come into view, I realized that whatever we were going to do about having children should be done soon! We had always been open to adoption, but never seriously pursued it until the Lord began bringing more and more Christians into our life who had adopted or were pursuing adoption.

Adoption

In September of 2000 J. and I made the final decision to adopt and began the monumental task of collecting, completing and processing the paperwork. By God’s grace, a little over two years later in October 2002 J. and I arrived home from our second trip to Russia along with our two beautiful Russian-born daughters, Olga and Nina! Our adoption story is a whole other story (read HERE)!!!

The steadfast love of the Lord

In my almost 46 years—25 of which have been with the Lord—God has shown Himself to be faithful, merciful and very longsuffering. He has taken me from a wild-eyed young adult seeking only my own desires and pleasures to a woman who wants to care for my family, which not only includes my husband and children, but also my mother, father (and grandmother until she passed away in 2004 at the age of 99). He has given me the desire and ability to educate my daughters at home, not just in academics, but taking the many opportunities He provides throughout the day to truly disciple them and point them to the love and mercy of the Savior. A very special blessing was when He saved our oldest daughter in January 2004!!

God has blessed me with the love and fellowship of wonderful sisters and brothers in Christ, and He continues to faithfully teach me more and more about himself! By His grace I am truly blessed beyond anything I ever imagined and much more than I could ever deserve.

10 comments:

Kim from Hiraeth said...

I feel as though I know you a bit better now! It was good to read your testimony of God's grace.

Please stop by my blog when you get a chance. There's an award awaiting you.

http://hiraeth.squarespace.com/journal/2007/4/3/thinking-blogger-awards.html

Rebekah said...

It is so beautiful to hear your story of how God has moved in your life. Thank you for sharing it! I have a very close family member who is struggling with infertility, and I may recommend your post to them.

Connie said...

Kim: you are so gracious, "...a bit better...". As I was posting last night I considered how my post would most likely be "TMI - too much information"!!

I read your blog earlier this a.m. and am so grateful for the kind honor you have bestowed. Now I'm considering the five blogs that I'd like to tag!

Connie said...

rebekah: I'd be delighted if my post would be an encouragement to another women struggling with infertility--please feel free to recommend!

Ellen b. said...

I'm so happy to read your story, Connie. So sweet that Olga and Nina were rescued by believers. I wonder what God has planned for them?
Blessings!

Connie said...

ellen b.: You can imagine how many times I've wondered that myself! For now, they serve as a incredible picture of God adopting us and making us his VERY own.

Anonymous said...

Hi Connie, this is Rebecca from church. I've been lurking for quite a while, (as God is working in my heart regarding my theology and I do not feel qualified to comment!:) but I wanted to thank you for posting your testimony! Your early/college life sounds almost exactly like mine. God's grace is amazing! Thanks for the picture of God's work in your life, it was very encouraging to me!
In Him,
Rebecca

Connie said...

Rebecca: Hey! Thanks for coming out of "lurkdom" and taking time to comment & encourage!

You said, "God is working in my heart regarding my theology and I do not feel qualified to comment!" That is exciting, challenging, humbling and exhilarating--all at the same time! Please don't hesitate to comment, it's all part of the process of thinking through our theology and applying it--"practicing" theology!

Marcian said...

There's no such thing as TMI when it concerns one's testimony. God has woven SO MANY different situations together in my past that I cannot leave much out. I came to realize this when I finally sat down and wrote out my own testimony. I think at 8 point font it was 2.5 pages long!!!

Thanks for sharing your struggles with infertility. I kind of understood the pain and frustration with wanting something that you just thought would come so naturally. But we cannot thwart the plans of God. That brings me more comfort now, than frustration. And those years you spent in secular employment and as a pastor's wife in that small town will only be understood in their grand placement at the last day. I keep reminding myself of that here at work. I'd love to get married but God has another plan right now, and this is why I'm here instead. Thanks for the encouragement.

Angie Ellis said...

Thanks for sharing, Connie. I always enjoy any part of the journey I get to share with you.