Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Laura's Testimony

Child wayward? Don't accept guilt that's not yours! God knows how/when to ‘close the deal’ with your child. Don't worry-Pray!

I know this is long for a blog- but I felt Laura's testimony that she gave at Vine Fellowship on 11/27/11 needed to be shared in it's entirety!

God 'closed the deal' with Laura!

My name is Laura. Many of y’all know me, I've been going to this church for most of my life. Even though I'm not quite sure where to start, this is my story. And like all stories, mine starts at the beginning. It is somewhat of a long story, but bear with me. I really think it's worth listening to.

I was the victim of abuse around age ten. For years I buried those memories deep down in my mind and repressed any thought of it. I became so confused about what happened, the details became so blurry that I eventually had myself convinced that I must have made it up. At that point though, my family had already found out. I was thirteen years old. The cat was out of the bag and I had no idea where that cat even came from. Unsure of what to do, I sat through years of therapy and counseling, listening but not listening. I would tell the doctors I was fine, that the abuse had no affect on me, because I couldn't pin down what had happened. To this day, I can't know for sure what exactly it was. But it did happen. And it did affect me. It's something that with God, and my counselours, and family, I'll have to keep working on, so I can get closure.

I was put on and taken off of medications, taken to therapist after therapist. I'd began cutting myself because I was so emotionally shut down inside, pain was the only sensation strong enough to make me feel awake, like I wasn't just sleepwalking. It as wrong. And it was stupid. I regret it. But at the time I didn't know what else to do. The counseling wasn't working so I was put into an outpatient treatment program. While I was there my family found out the truth. Once they found out about the abuse and the cutting, I fell into such a suicidal depression that I had to be hospitalized. After that I spent a few weeks in outpatient therapy, then continued to try meds and be seen by councilors. None of it helped.

This was probably the second darkest time of my life. I was seeing counselors, I was attending church and bible studies, making decent grades. I had lots of friends and a busy social life. I did art and played piano. On the outside I probably looked like an exceptional young lady. But I wasn't, During this time I fell into drug abuse. I would overdose on any prescriptions, over the counter medicine, or street drug I could find. I felt so broken and empty inside. So completely hollowed out. That I was taking anything I could get my hands on and holding on for dear life. For a while I began eating way too much and gained a lot of weight. And when I saw what I had done I became disguested wih myself. The pendulum swung the other way and I began starving myself, denying myself any food, drinking more energy drinks and coffee than any body should be able to handle, working out till the point of passing out. When I did eat I would take one look at myself and immediately go to the bathroom, to force myself to vomit.

I was still going to church, I was still going to school. But by now I was so desperate, so spiritually exhausted, that I felt completely dead inside. I started trying to find value in myself through relationships with men. I would compromise myself if he would just flatter me, tell me I was beautiful, feed me what I wanted to hear. Even though I never believed them, I feel like I fed myself off of the attention, grasping at yet another empty promise of the world to feel whole again.

We serve an amazing God. It's only by his grace and love that I am not dead, six feet underground. I'm not working a corner, I'm not strung out on drugs, riddled with diseases or living on the streets. Through everything I've been through and everything I've done our God has refused to let me go. He blessed me with the perfect people in my life to surround me and lift me up. When I was at my lowest points, when I had nothing left, God gave me those people to show me Jesus's love. To be that voice in my ear saying the pain would one day go away. To hold onto me while getting me to hold on just a little bit longer.

Then came the darkest point in my entire, young life. About three months after my seventeenth birthday, I found out I was pregnant. The father was an older guy who had been in and out of my life for years. He cared about me, but our relationship was very sick. We both used it as a crutch. I was young and scared, I didn't know what to do. After we finally told my parents, I immedately started trying to find a way to get an abortion. I spent nights online finding laws that would let me get around parental consent laws. I had meetings with lawyers set up through a foundation that was specifically set up to give underage girls a way to get abortions behind their parent's backs. I know now this wasn't the answer, Abortion is wrong. There is nothing our God can't redeem you from. His love for you and his love for that baby will cover all of your faults.

But maybe you've already had an abortion. If you did you need to know, there is no condemnation on you. Not from this church, not from me, not from God. He loves you. He loves that child that he's holding in heaven right now. He understands, and he forgives you. All he's waiting for is for you to turn to him and ask him to restore you. He'll do it! All you have to do is whisper that you wanna come home and our God will move heaven and earth to pick you up and bring you home. All you have to do is ask. There is a perfect love that will cover all flaws, all mistakes. It's waiting for you.

My parents fought me hard about the abortion. I became so angry that I lashed out at them when all they were trying to do was love me, and fight for my life and the life of their first grandchild. The father of the baby fought at first but eventually resolved himself to what would happen. And even with all these people fighing me, I was stubborn and hardheaded, and made the appointment. Me and the father snook out of our houses that Saturday morning. We took a taxi to the clinic in Fort Worth. As we got out, there were protestors. People screaming and holding signs of condemnation and rage, that we were terrible people, that we were going to hell. I'll never forget that moment of despair. I was so angry, so helpless, so broken down. I didn't feel like I had any other choice. I wanted to scream at them and swear and tell them that I knew it was wrong but what choice did I have! I'm only seventeen and I've been through so much and I can't be a single mom! But I hunched down behind the father, avoided their glares, and managed to make it inside.

The small, dark waiting room was packed with other women, some with their partners, some with a friend. There was a tension, a darkness in there that I won't forget. It would be occasionally broken by nervous laughter or someone trying to encourage another girl, but the atmosphere was heavy. I sat with quin and shakily worked through the paperwork and talked wit the receptionist, then I waited.

It seemed like forever before they finally called my name. My heart dropped through my stomach. The woman calling me was the doctor who I'd seen before for the sonogram. She'd hiddn the screen and coached me on what to tell the lawyers and the judge so they'd let me get the abortion. She was rough and impersonal, and she never actually gave me the counseling that I was supposed to tell them I'd recieved. She took me to the room and set up another sonogram, and I asked her what was wrong, why I was the only one called back. She stared at the sonogram, took measurements, then had her supervisor come and do the same thing. They both were staring at the screen for a while, confused. I felt sick and begged them to tell me what was going on.

It turns out, that the measurements said my baby was too big. He was bigger than the measurements they had on record from last time said he should be. He should have only been about fourteen weeks, but the measurements were reading sixteen and a half weeks. Remember that number. At this point, the clinic could no longer legally perform the abortion and I was stunned. I heard the doctor in the other room mumble about the funding they were probably losing over some faulty equipment.

When me and my mom went back to my regular doctor a weak or so later, I made sure to look at the sonogram and ask about the measurements. That day, a week or so after the last sonogram, the measuremeants said the baby was right at sixteen weeks old.

This is when I began to get that deer-in-the-headlights feeling. I could feel the ground shifting and crumbling under me and deep down I began to understand that there was a God, and he was way bigger than me. He loved me. He wasn't going to let me destroy myself. He wasn't going to let me destroy the life that he'd placed inside of me. He loved us both so desperately that he was going to do whatever it took to save us both from myself. I began to feel like one of those supervillains at the end of a scooby doo episode, with my evil schemes undone over and over again, and all I could do was angrily shake my fist while I was being dragged away.

The pregnancy was long and hard. I'd finally hit the point of surrender, but hadn't reached the point of restoration. I was so ashamed that I hid it from anybody I possibly could. I anguished over the thought of people finding out that I was pregnant because I'd worked so hard at keeping up somewhat of a good front for so many years. In my mind, my entire world was gonna come crashing down. I no longer cared about school, about friends, about family. I was going to be responsible and take care of the baby, but I didn't feel like I loved him. I was angry a him for destroying the semblance of a life that I had. I would never hurt him, but I resented him deeply.

By the grace of God I was able to graduate high school on time. Me and miranda, my best friend, gradutated together. She'd been there for me through everything, the good and the bad, and was a huge part of finally making me understand I should keep the baby. And on august the 19th I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy, Jesse Dwayne Irons. My whole family, and the father, and Miranda, and my friend nick were all at the hospial that night (mostly in the waiting room, of course) waiting with me and encouraging me. When he was born it meant everything to have them there to celebrate with me. I felt surrounded by love and for the first time in so many dark years, I began to feel a glimmer of hope.
his is where my story starts to turn around. This is where, strangely enough, my story stops being about me. This is the point where my story becomes about you. You need to know that we serve an amazing God. His love for us is more than we will ever be able to grasp. It's so perfect, and so boundless, that each and every one of us is his chosen one, his personal favorite. Listen to that, because this isn't something you can take lightly. You are GOD'S PERSONAL FAVORITE. You are beautifully and wonderfully made. Fearfully fashoned after his own form and placed center stage in a marvelous creation as all of heaven watches you with baited breath to see what you'll do. All of creation is captivated, with rapt attention as God longs for you, persues and chases you. They're waiting to see when you'll turn to him. They're totally captured in the ultimate romance between the perfect God, and the single object of his boundless grace and affection. You. There's only one question. When's it gonna happen? When are you, the chosen one, going to let your creator rush to you and hold you close to him and lavish his love on you like he's been waiting to do your entire life. When's it gonna happen? And when are you going to help his other chosen ones do the same?

I am a beautiful creation of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has given me an amazing life to live surrounded by some of the most incredible people alive that he loves just as much as he loves me. I am not broken. I am not defeated. I feel like a pheonix rising out of the ashes. With my God behind me no one can be against me. No weapons formed against me will prosper. Our God is great and good. God knows the plans he has for you. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future, And it's going to be beyond your wildest dreams.

I'm going to do great things with my life. Next year I'm gonna start studying graphic design at the Art Institute in Dallas. For my 18th birthday, I want to get some sleeve tattoos on my left arm where the scars are from the self abuse. Not to cover them out of shame, but to change them. To take something ugly that was meant to destroy me and make it into something beautiful that will be used for the glory of God. Eventually me and my bestfriend would love to open a tatoo parlor. I wanna specialize in tatoos for people who have suffered from self injury and turn it into a ministry, to let them know that it doesn't matter how ugly the scars from the past are. Our God has a hope for you, and a future for you, and it is going to be beautiful beyond your imagination.

So I want you guys to watch me. Not because I'm awesome or because I want the attention. But becase I am a true cinderalla story, a true example of the marvelous works of the wonderful God we serve. Some of you may not have the best view. You may not see me as clearly as the friends that have been there for me, that have had to physically hold me up on nights where I was too high and drunk to walk and could barely speak. Maybe you won't see me as clearly as my family who's been there on the long nights where I've been awake, depserate and broken, where they held onto me while I was shaking so bad I felt like I would break apart. You may not get to see as much of me as they do, but watch anyway. Because We serve a powerful God, we are his favorites, and he's going to use us for marvelous, marvelous things. It's going to be a beautiful life, and I can't. wait. to see.

Originally, this was where my testimony ended. I felt revived and blessed and happy, full of joy for the first time in forever. I was so hopeful for where I was headed and what I would be able to do with my life. I'd begun to see that my life wasn't really about me, but about reaching out to others. I turned eighteen, and got the pheonix tattoo that I wanted. The monday before my 18th birthday, I was hanging out in Arlington with my friends Tobi and JJ, playing with the stray dog we found at the park. While me and Tobi were walking around I got a call from my friend Chelsea asking if I'd been on facebook lately. When I said no, she responded with, "I'm so sorry to tell you this, but your friend Dana died in a car accident." This was the beginning of a huge downward spiral for me. It took hours for the news to sink in. At first I didn't really know what to think, I was in shock. But once it really hit I was devastated.

Me and Dana didn't hang out much after I moved but we used to live on the sae block. We had all the same friends and ran into each other all the time. Me and her dealt with a lot of the same problems in our past, and struggled with most of the same issues. She was always trying to reach out to me and make sure I was ok. She was one of the main people telling me that I should keep my son instead of getting an abortion, and promised to be there for me every step of the way. She was a big part of my decision to keep him, and she continued to keep in touch. We'd run into her the week before at iHop where she worked. It just didn't seem real that she was gone.

Once everything really sunk in I started to fall back into depression. I kept thinking, me and her messed up in all the same ways, did most of the same things. Howcome I kept getting more chances and she didn't? Why is it that she's gone and I'm still here? It didn't seem fair. I couldn't stop questioning why I was still alive and such a beautiful, sweet girl was gone. Seeing all her grieving family and friends at the funeral only made it seem more senseless and tragic than ever. I remember being at JJ's the day it happened, and we were sitting in the garage when her mom came home. They lived across the street. We could hear her mother crying all the way inside his house. It was heartwrenching. It seemed like nothing would be the same in that neighborhood again.

That friday was my birthday. I celebrated with close friends and my family. The next morning I went with Joe and his friend Austin to the funerals. The first was for the twins, Stephen and Michael Eckel, who'd passed away. Then we went to Dana's. My brother flew in from the military base in Arizona. It was a really sad day. Overall, with Danielle, Michael, Stephen, and the most recent death, Christian, we lost four amazing young people in that car accident.

I eventually stopped thinking about it. But it never lasted. Every time I saw her picture or a wall post on facebook all the same thoughts came back. Why her? Why was it that she got taken, and I was always given one more chance. Over and over. I couldn't make it make sense to me. We basically lived parallell lives, dealing with almost every same issue and problem and person. But right as I was getting my life straight and finding new hope in my life, hers was taken away.

Then something else happened, something that shook me up more than anything in my short eighteen years. A few weeks ago I was raped by a guy I used to know. He just showed up at my house while nobody was home. Afterwards I didn't know what to do. I spent the next few nights away from home, completely beside myself, not knowing what to do. It was a long time before I could even spend much time at my own house. I still can't be there long without shaking or crying or freaking out in one way or another. I have these horrible nightmares literally every time I go to sleep. I haven't had a good night's sleep and haven't felt safe since it happened. It's gotten so bad that I considered moving out, it didn't matter where, I just wanted out of that house.

So honestly. I'm not doing so good right now. But Pastor David and my dad have been reminding me that I need to stay strong. I recently got a tattoo on my collarbone that says Stay Strong, and it's a constant reminder that I can't give up now. The things that happened almost stopped me from getting up here and speaking to you guys. It didn't seem worth it anymore. Then I was reminded by people close to me that if I let the devil take this away from me, I'm letting him win. I spent most of my life in the dark, hiding everything. It's about time I start being honest and I start telling my story. Everyone has their own story, their own struggles. If my story can help even one person, then it's worth it. I've been in some pretty dark places in my life and if I can help even one person not have to go there, or help them know that there really is a way out, I'll be happy. We really do serve an amazing God, and he's pulled me through more than my share of mistakes. There's nothing that He can't bring you out of, and you'll never run far enough away that he isn't right behind you, waiting to bring you home. You just have to reach out for help.

I remember a quote a teacher of mine had on his wall, about how, you can't solve your problems with the same mindset that you created them in. It takes another perspective, a new look at things. It may even take someone else for you to lean on. But whether you do it alone or with help, it can't happen without God.

I guess I've said all of this, to say that there's no hole God won't pull you out of, and no dark period of your life that won't pass. If you sit and wallow in your own despair and tell yourself you can't do it, you're just prolonging your own misery. Don't be the one that's gonna sit there, not help yourself, not ask for help, and possibly drag others down. Reach out for someone, and for God. That's what our ministry team is here for. That's what this entire church is here for. It doesn't matter where you are or what kind of trash you're currently surrounded by. There's hope, there's a way out. You just have to look.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

To Succeed - Overcome Fear!

“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Tim 1.7

The poet wrote: ‘There was a very cautious man who never laughed or played; he never risked, he never tried, he never sang or prayed. And when one day he passed away, his insurance was denied; for since he never really lived, they claimed he never died!

If you never really try and overcome the fear of trying/failure; you will never have really lived!