Tuesday, July 12, 2005

My Journey to Christ

My fellow Christian blog friend Jojo asked me to share my testimony. I told her it would be long! She wanted the complete, detailed story but that would indeed be VERY long. Here is a somewhat detailed overview. I do plan to recount certain incidences in future posts where I now can see that the hand of God had been working within my entire life; even when at the time I didn't recognize or even realize it. I will also post about the proofs that have occurred to me, personally, over the last 15 years of Bible study and prayer that have led me to steadfast faith in Jesus Christ and the absolute truth and authority of God's Word, the Bible.

I originally started this post late last evening and then realized that I had left out some important segments. I also realized that I had posted an incorrect date! As certain facts, recollections and instances are called to mind, I will add them either here or in my future posts. Here's the start of my journey to Christ!

My family is originally from the east coast. I grew up in a little suburb town called Roselle Park near Elizabeth, NJ. Our town was primarily of Italian descent and of the Roman Catholic faith. My mom is Polish and her parents came over on the boat. My dad was Scottish, a bit of Welsch and English and the majority of his family were Methodist. My mom took my brother, sister and I to the Catholic church and my dad stayed home. Back when I was only 7, my mom remembers how concerned I was about my dad not going to church. I remember praying that one day he would come with us to church, and he did (very rarely) so I was always concerned about his relationship "with the Man upstairs" (as he used to call him).

Most people whom I hung out with were Catholic, too. After graduating college, I took a job as a physical education/health/safety teacher at an elementary school in my home town. I met and became good friends with Linda Green who was the school's music teacher. We often combined our classes and did several activities and programs together. One day in September, 1979, Linda invited me to her church. It was an evangelical/pentecostal denomination and boy was it different from the solemnity of the Roman Catholic church I was used to! The music was uplifting, contemporary and fun. I noticed a lot of people placing their hands in the air and closing their eyes. When the altar call to come up to the front and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior was offered, I froze. I didn't understand what they were doing or what it meant so I just stayed at my seat. My friend was singing in the chorus so I was standing there in the pew surrounded by people I did not know. When the final call to come forward was made, we were told to bow our heads for prayer. The sinners prayer was being recited and many thoughts were racing through my head. My heart was beating so fast! The words being spoken were all new to me; this was not done in the Catholic church. I remember thinking that what was being said didn't sound like it was against the Catholic church teachings and I was regretting that I didn't have the courage to walk forward. Hearing that sinners prayer made me kneel down right there at my seat (like a good Catholic!) and I joined in and recited the prayer right along with all the people who had already come forward near the altar. There was a second prayer for church members to re-dedicate their lives to Christ. I didn't quite understand what that was all about, but later in my life I learned very well what it meant!

My friend Linda didn't know that I had recited the prayer because I hadn't come forward. I kept it to myself! I think I feared that it might mean that I would have to become a member of her church. Six months later, I resigned from my teaching job because my part time job (Mary Kay Cosmetics) was taking off and I was earning much more money at that than teaching. Linda and I, unfortunately, lost touch soon after that. I became a director with Mary Kay and was successful at recruiting and selling the product. Over the years, I was a superficial Christian. In hindsight, I can now see how God sent Christian women into my life to remind me of that decision I made back in 1979.

Skip forward to 1982. After years of failed relationships and loser boyfriends, I met my husband while doing temporary work at Wakefern Food Corp. in Elizabeth, N.J. We were the typical office romance that is not supposed to work out...but did! We were engaged in April of 1983 and married in October, 1983! My husband was raised Episcopalian, but he agreed to get married in the Catholic church. During the ceremony we took pledges to raise our future children (if so blessed) in the church. Almost nine months to the day of our wedding night (people WERE counting, too!) my son was born. Two months later, my husband accepted an offer to work at Foodmaker, Inc. (parent company of Jack-in-the-Box at the time) in Hayward CA. To the total dismay of my mom and dad, I moved out to CA, sight unseen, with my husband and our 2 month old son. Once there, it was very difficult to hold onto my Mary Kay career and several months later, my unit was dissolved and I was no longer a director.

We were so caught up with our lives that we didn't even attend church anymore. Two years later, a series of tragedies, disagreements and problems arose in our marriage. First, my mother-in-law had lost her second husband and moved out to CA into an apartment near us. Everything was fine until she started acting strangely. She would forget things and would often repeat herself. We then noticed that she wasn't bathing herself and her hair appeared to be not washed for weeks! The hairspray buildup was like glue! I convinced her to get into the shower and told her that I would wash her hair for her. She loved the idea and the attention. I noticed that she was drinking some of the water coming from the shower. I asked her if she was thirsty and she said yes. I planned to get her a drink after her shower, but when I was rinsing her hair I noticed that she was looking groggy and sleepy. Suddenly, she fainted! I screamed for my husband, he ran upstairs and we got her out of the tub shower stall. We got water for her to drink and she was gulping it down. She was severely dehydrated! We took her to the doctor the next day. He told us she was malnourished and dehydrated. When we told him about her forgetfulness and constant repeating the same words, he said he needed to do a series of tests. In those days, they did many tests to eliminate several possibilities of what could be wrong.

We just thought that maybe she was depressed and wasn't eating properly, so we had her come over more often for meals. One night, she didn't show up. We called her apartment, no answer. We called until 10:00 p.m. which is the time she would certainly be home if she went to the mall. Still no answer. We called the police. They said she isn't a missing person until 24 hours passed. It was late Saturday night and we were absolutely panicked! My husband drove all over town and to the mall looking for her car in the parking lots. Early Sunday morning, we get a call from a woman who lived halfway between Livermore, CA (our residence) and Los Angeles! She found Charlie's mom in her Nissan Sentra car off the side of the freeway in a ditch! She was dazed and couldn't remember anything so the woman searched her purse and found our phone number. We drove out there to get her and when we saw where she went off the road it was a miracle. On either side of the place she landed where huge steep drops into deep gullies! She wouldn't have survived if she went off the road 30 seconds sooner or later! After this incident, we knew her condition was serious.

We were devastated to find out that she was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. This part could get very long, but to sum it up I will say that she took turns living at each child's home until she could get into a nursing home in N.J. Those 2 months were two of the longest of my life! I would get in the shower for 5 min. and she'd be gone out the door! We had latches at the top of the door but she would unlock them and leave. She had a pattern of walking to town and sitting on a bench in front of K-Mart. I would get my son in the car and drive over there to get her. She would always say, "I was waiting for Buddy (my husband's nickname growing up) to come pick me up."

Soon after all the stress of this terrible experience with my mother-in-law, I noticed that I missed a period and suspected that I was pregnant again. I went to my gynecologist, he examined me and this is EXACTLY what he said, "Mrs. W., I have good news and bad news. The good news is that you are pregnant. The bad news is that you are going to lose it." Have you ever heard anything so coldly stated such as this? I couldn't believe it! He then went on to describe how many hours from now I would probably have a "spontaneous abortion" and suggested I sit and expel it into the toilet (sorry folks for the graphic description). I couldn't believe he was so unemotional, cold and technical about it. He said I might require a D & C afterward....I just shut his voice out after that point. I remember crying for days after it all happened. I hated reading those words "spontaneous abortion" in my medical records. I was devastated. I remember thinking, why God?

We were told to wait at least 6 months before trying to get pregnant again. In November, 1986, I found out I was pregnant again! We were so filled with joy! My son was almost 2 1/2 and the timing was really good for a second child.

One morning in March, 1987 when I was 4 months along, another tragedy occurred. We lived in a small house at the time with a narrow kitchen. I had just heated up water in the microwave for my morning instant coffee. I turned to get the coffee from the cupboard and I heard the shuffle of footy pajamas coming into the kitchen. My son was coming toward me with wide open arms to hug his mommy. He hit the hot water in the mug and it spilled onto his upper chest and ran down the front of his pajamas. He screamed in pain, I screamed in horror he clung to me like an orangutan and wouldn't let go! I saturated a towel in cold water and placed it between us while running the bath and trying to get him into the tub. He wouldn't let go of me! I found out later that I should have taken the clothes off but in a panic all I could think of was to cool down his chest. I called 911, hysterical. The ambulance came and we headed to the hospital. My son suffered 3rd degree burns on his upper chest and 2nd degree burns on his face (splashing) and lower abdomen. He spent 3 weeks in the hospital. There I was, pregnant, sleeping on a futon in his hospital room. Each morning, they had to give him special baths to clean the wounds. I couldn't stand his screams! I would drive home (30 mins. away) and cry and sob the entire way. When I reached home, I closed the door behind me and collapsed, sprawled out flat on my face on the cold stone entryway floor. There I was, guilt stricken, sobbing with my head on the floor. In fact, there was a song out on the radio with those very lyrics in it. I would lay there, cry and wail, "Why God? Why did this have to happen to my little boy? Why couldn't the boiling water have fallen on me? Why did I turn my back at that instant? Why did this accident happen?" I have to admit, I started to question my faith. First time in my life. I was mad at God.

In those days, the surgeon would take skin grafts from another part of the body (buttocks) and apply it to the 3rd degree burn area. My little boy had to endure this operation and then wear tight, spandex garments for 6 mos. afterward to prevent bumps in the graft as it healed.

Around this time, the news was filled with the horrific incident where a disgruntled divorced father purposely tried to burn his son to death. It had happened years ago, but it was in the news again. The boy (can't recall his name) was burned over 85% (I think) of his body. I remember thinking how could a father do such an awful, horrendous thing? Here I was feeling so guilty about an accident that happened to a small part of my son's body and this boy had to endure so much more pain and anguish. It was a miracle that this other boy even survived. He was so disfigured he had to have many operations.

Those three weeks that my son was in the hospital felt like three months!

The day my son came home was so joyful! We had balloons and cake at the hospital and the staff was just in love with him...but he wanted to get out of there fast! We had balloons, cake and a few close friends came over a few hours later to welcome him home. As he healed over the next several months, I felt so bad for him. He had to endure wearing those spandex garments even in the heat of the summer.

All the stress of this tragedy didn't help my pregnancy. I developed gestational diabetes and had to cut out all sugar from my diet. I ended up losing 8 lbs. in my last 2 months of pregnancy, but gave birth to a healthy baby girl!

My husband was transferred to the Corp. headquarters in San Diego and we moved into an apartment waiting for our first new house to be built. Four months later, on December 29, 1988, we were in our new home. I met another mother who was holding Bible studies in her home in the neighborhood and she invited me to attend. Our family started attending the Catholic church again, for the sake of the children, and were considering placing them into catechism classes. My mother's group and I were studying the book of John at the neighborhood study. When we got to chapter 3 and Nicodemus' encounter with Jesus everything clicked. I realized what had happened that day years ago in that evangelical/pentecostal church! The Holy Spirit was nudging me back to a relationship with Jesus Christ! I was so excited and shared my story with the group. There was a problem though. My husband was not receptive to my newfound excitement in my faith. He said that we promised to raise the kids in the Catholic church at our wedding and he intended to keep that promise. I asked him, "did we make such a promise to a building (church) or to the Head of the church, Jesus Christ?"

We had three tumultuous years in our marriage after that. I was studying every book I could find, including the Bible on a regular basis and my husband was worried that I had become a religious nut! His view was that "religion was a private matter".

In January of 1989, my husband discovered a lump in his neck. His dad had died of Hodgkins disease at the age of 60. I never had the opportunity to meet him because he had died long before Charlie and I had met. I was hoping that the lump my husband found was nothing to worry about. It turned out that he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. When he came home and shared the news with me we held each other on the couch and just cried. The kids were still sleeping in their rooms upstairs and we dreaded sharing the bad news. My husband underwent surgery to remove his thyroid (although it wasn't infected yet; done as precaution) and the infected lymph nodes surrounding the area. The good news is that he has been cancer free ever since then. Praise God! I think that this health scare woke up my husband to consider his stance with God. He seemed less hostile to what I would often briefly share from my Bible study. This gave me new hope! Meanwhile, I was secretly hoping and praying to find a Bible-based Christian church to attend. One Sunday, there was an article in our local newspaper about a new church opening in the next town over. It sounded perfect! Just like what I was looking and praying for! Of course, my husband wasn't very receptive to this. I told him that I just wanted to check it out. That Sunday, I drove to the church by myself and when the service was over, I had raised my hand to rededicate my life to Jesus Christ! There was a popular Christian music artist there (Dennis Agajanian) and his music was terrific. The band and chorus sang contemporary Christian songs and it was so uplifting! I was filled with joy and excitement just singing and clapping and worshiping Jesus! After the service, I met with a prayer partner at the side of the church. We prayed about the salvation of my husband and children.

When I got home, I found out that my daughter had wanted to go with me. In fact, she had been running down the street after my car screaming my name so I would stop and take her with me!

When I shared all that had transpired at this new church, my kids were so excited to attend! When my husband finally decided to give the church a try, he really liked it too. Over the next several months we alternated between the Catholic church and the Christian fellowship! In the Christian church, the pastor would ask the congregation to hold up their Bibles. We went out and bought Bibles. In fact, my husband bought me two of them for Christmas that year! One week, we got confused and brought our Bibles to the Catholic church. We didn't use them there and that was when our kids said, "we like the other church SO MUCH BETTER!" From that point on, we attended the Christian Fellowship. Our daughter went to the children's group and our son came into the big sanctuary with us. He loved listening to Pastor Shawn. My daughter joined AWANA and I became a leader for 2 years and the "Chums and Guards" (3rd - 5th grade girls) Director for one year. My daughter accepted Christ as Lord and Savior in the Chums club and my son accepted Christ as Lord and Savior during a home Bible study in our own living room!

My husband was the one hold out. I kept praying. We kept studying and going to this new church. On Easter of 1990, my husband stood to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. We aren't supposed to peak when the invitation is given, but a guy sitting on the other side of my husband spoke with me after the service and said to tell my husband congratulations! I was in tears! Tears of joy!! Hid those tears behind my sunglasses during the ride home and just waited for him to tell me about his decision. It was the greatest Easter Sunday of my life! Our journey as a strong, COMPLETE Christian family had begun and the prayers I had been praying for my husband all those years were answered! Praise God for his goodness!!

There was one more thing I needed to do. I needed to release my past anger at God for any and all tragedies that had occurred in my life. When I did that, it was like the heaviest of burdens was lifted right off of me! It was then that I saw God working throughout my life through everything...the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. I knew that no matter what, He would never leave nor forsake me. I may not understand why certain things happen until the other side of heaven, but what leaped in front of me were so many incidences that I had not previously recognized as protection, blessing, and grace in my life.

Perhaps I can share some of those in my next post? This one is quite long! I know that I covered more than just my individual journey to Christ, but it was at this point where my faith grew by leaps and bounds unlike anything I had ever experienced before. This is when the "I'll see it when I believe it" incidences occurred in my life that cemented my certainty about Jesus Christ and what he did for us at the cross. I was now into the heart of worship when I realized more than ever before that it's all about Him!


Mike said...

Hi Christine,
Great testimony! Praise the Lord! I thank God for His divine purpose and redemptive grace in your(and your family's) journey to Christ. "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son,..." You are definitely much more like Jesus now than you were before! :)

Jojo said...

What a wonderful testimony! It didn't seem long to me at all - I loved hearing the details of God at work. I'm so sorry for the heartaches you have endured. But isn't it wonderful how God uses them to draw us to Him? Same thing in my life. I would not change the hearache for anything - it's like I shared on my blog in the song from Kathy Troccoli, "Break My Heart." I love that song - but can hardly sing it w/o getting emotional. It just rings from the deepest part of my heart. Thanks for sharing all that you did. I'm so glad your husband came to know the Lord too. Sometimes I think it is thru our little ones that that happens. And just like Jesus told us - we must have faith like children. Looking forward to hearing more.

Anna said...

Hi Christine -

Thank you for your testimony. I love to see how the Lord can take even tragic, difficult times and turn them around for our good.


Christinewjc said...

Hi Mike,

It wasn't until I truly knew what it meant to be "born again" that I recognized God's divine purpose in my life! Knowing ABOUT Jesus is so different from truly KNOWING Him! Only through His redemptive grace do I now clearly see where He was working in my life all along to bring me to this point. So many answered prayers that have occurred in my life so far is not just evidence, it is proof that He has held me in His loving arms through it all!

Of course, he is not finished with me yet! "Being conformed to the likeness of his Son" involves lifetime sanctification.

We can never completely achieve that on this side of heaven. Knowing that we have never "arrived" keeps us focused on Jesus. Studying and sharing God's Word with others keeps us on the right track.

Thanks for your kind words!
God bless,

Christinewjc said...

Hi Jojo,

I keep thinking of things that I left out! LOL But I will share them in future posts.

Does the song, "Break My Heart" play on Christian radio stations? Maybe I have heard it. I listen to KLOVE online a lot when I'm at my computer.

Natalie Grant's new hit song, "Held" certainly describes how we are to let God get us through the trials and tragedies in this life.

Having "faith like children" reveals the need to trust Jesus...no matter what happens while on this earth. Knowing what God has revealed to me over the years has lead to steadfast faith in Jesus and I would NEVER desire to put my faith and trust in ANYTHING or ANYONE else!!

Thanks for encouraging me to share my testimony, Jojo!

Love in the Lord,

Christinewjc said...

Hi Anna,

Thank you for your kind words.

Two verses come to mind that capture what you said:

Genesis 50:20 - But as for you, ye thought evil against me; [but] God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as [it is] this day, to save much people alive.

And Jesus' message in this verse:

John 16:33 - These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

I realize that I left a lot out of that first post! It wasn't very balanced. My next post will include more about the joys in my life. Despite not knowing all the reasons why tragic things happen, I now see how God helped me through them and used some of them to bring about future good!

Love in Christ,

Christinewjc said...

Hi Lepido,

Love your screen name! Thanks for visiting my blog and sharing a bit about yourself! If sharing my testimony helps bring people to the Lord then that would be such a blessing! As I posted to Jojo and Anna, I now realize that I left a lot of the joys of my life out of that first post! I'll be sharing more in the near future. That was just the "first installment" of my journey!

See Jojo? I TOLD you it would be long!

Welcome again, Lepido. I hope you will visit often and share how the Lord has blessed you and is working in your life!

Love in Christ,

Stephen said...

Good morning Christine! I always love reading other people's testimonies of coming to Christ. It just goes to show it takes JUST as much love, mercy and grace to save each and every one of us!

I will try to post more often here - great blog!

Lord bless you and your family -


Christinewjc said...

Oh Thomas,

Ha ha hahahahahahahaha!!

I just re-read your post and imagined you speaking like Robin Williams character in Mrs. Doubtfire. What a hoot! Ya see...you two have a lot in common...living in a fantasy world and all that.

On a more serious note, you imitate the Williams character with your gender bending confusion. It isn't something that I would tend to want to mock. But since mocking obviously appears to be your style maybe I should respond in kind? I'm not the one who brought up the man in a dress issue here. You can take that up with the other poster (or maybe Bru, too).

Your post just reiterates the altogether huge difference between someone, like you, who shows no shame in taking another person's heartfelt testimony (NOT a biography) and replies in a mocking, unabashedly childish manner vs. all the other posts where people showed empathy towards what was shared.

I could tell you how my Catholic faith helped me along my journey out of "religion" and into saving faith (RELATIONSHIP) in Jesus Christ. I could share the many reasons why I was grateful for my Catholic upbringing and how it became a bridge to faith in Jesus. I could share how many friends and relatives are Catholic and the fact that we have great relationships between each other. I could share how I discovered that there is, currently, a large, growing, evangelical movement within the Catholic church. But what would be the point? You have proved that you are not here to discuss anything in a serious manner. Since you are not capable of this, it would be a total waste of my time. You are not searching for God, you abhor Him. This is to your detriment, of course, but you are the one who fancies himself, " your devil in a poofy white dress."

Hey! Your sign-off line just reminded me of that song from the 70's (probaby before your time) "Devil with a Blue Dress". Let's see if I can remember some of the lyrics...

"Devil with a blue dress, blue dress, blue dress, the devil with a blue dress on.... Fe fe fi fi fo fo fum, lookin' mighty nice, here she comes, wearing a wig and a ________ (can't remember), with her high heeled shoes and an alligator hat...

Hmmmm....ALLIGATOR hat....Boy, I can have fun with THAT word next time...

Christinewjc said...

Good morning Stephen,

Thanks for your uplifting and kind words! I know how busy you are so I greatly appreciate your visit here.

I have not shared my testimony in quite a long time so it was good to post it and remind myself from "whence I came" and "such were some of you." No two testimonies are ever alike and this just reiterates Christ's words to Nicodemus in John 3, "you must be born again." Unlike what Thomas attempts to project, it's not about religion. That personal relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is what will matter in the end. Just as your ministry states, "one soul at a time!"

Love in the Lord,

Jojo said...

Hi Christine,
I'm sorry - I forgot to anwer your question. "Break My Heart" is an older song. It is from Kathy's 2000 CD called Love Has a Name. I saw her at Women of Faith back about that time and bought a couple of her CD's. She's an awesome Chritian woman. Such a heart for the Lord. I tried to find it online somewhere where you could listen - but couldn't. Is there some way I could share it with you legally?

Anna said...

Thomas -

Your assertions that I and others on this blog are Christians because we were raised in Christian homes were way off base. Whether or not one is raised in a Christian home where the parents have a relationship with Jesus Christ, the children have to choose Jesus for themselves. One saying we have is, "God has no grandchildren." Each generation must decide to follow Him or reject Him. No one can make that decision for them. Secondly, my husband and most of the people we know came to Christ as adults. No, Thomas, we are not merely products of our parents' beliefs as strange as that may seem to you.

I also noted your response to Life's Journey, referring to your avatar. I understand an avatar is a Hindu deity. My, my, Thomas - an atheist espousing a Hindu deity.

Thomas, all the ranting and raving about what goes on in this world is merely an excuse to reject the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your forefathers. This is nothing new. It is a favorite tack people take to deflect the light of the Gospel from their own spiritual condition.

I pray you will at some point open your heart and mind to Almighty God, who loved all of us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die for everyone's sins.