It was Easter weekend fifty-five years ago that I gave my heart to Jesus Christ. Notice I didn’t say I joined the church, got some religion or talked to the man upstairs. I simply gave my heart, my young love, to a man named Jesus who died on a cross. It is a decision I have never regretted. The gospel message didn’t come through a theologian or church evangelist but from my Mom as we dyed Easter eggs. She knew little about the Bible and did not attend church. She simply repeated the account of the crucifixion as it had been told to her. The power of the love of God in the story of the cross pierced my heart and started a lifelong adoration of the one who loved me and gave himself for me. A few months after that experience, I was invited to attend a Girls’ Auxiliary group at the little Baptist church down the road from my house. I started going faithfully and also began attending church on Sunday’s. No one else in my family attended church but I never wanted to miss it. Studying God’s word and being with the family of God cause my life decisions to be made with the big picture of eternity in mind. It wasn’t until I was in the sixth grade that I joined the church and was baptized. I never thought I was worthy nor had anything to give to the Lord. The poverty, emotional and physical abuse and turmoil that I lived in caused me to have little confidence that I could be of much value in the kingdom of God. During a spring revival I finally got it. After the message, during the invitation song, “Just as I am”, I realized He meant “just as I am” – all He wanted was me. I walked down the aisle and joined the church that had loved and nurtured me through some of life’s most horrendous experiences. That night I was baptized. I proudly told my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. VanCleave on Monday morning of my decision to follow Christ wherever He led me. Through the years, the word of God has truly been a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I think often of the grace I had as a child to give my heart to Jesus. I think of the power of a shared testimony. I think of a life that was totally changed by the amazing love of God. I think and I am thankful. I would like to share a portion of my story as published in 2007 by Bethany Press in a compilation book entitled, “A Light Along the Way”. Please enjoy and be encouraged to share your faith and your testimony with others who are hungry for hope. In my mind’s eye I can see her – a pretty little girl who looks a great deal like young Jennie in the movie, Forrest Gump. Dishwater blonde hair, green eyes and a compassionate smile describes the little girl I see and know. Her summer sandals and white socks provide some protection for her feet during the cold, winter walk to elementary school. As they laugh at her less than fashionable attire, the snickers of other children bring a blush to her olive skin. The humiliation of poverty and the rejection of being unwanted and uncared for are ever present invisible garments. The daily walk is worth the trip because at school there will be warmth and safety. There will be hope and relationships that outshine the darkness in this young life. In a few moments the scene changes, the little girl is once again walking; only this time she is alone. Her path winds up the hill and down a busy street to the local church where she attends services. They are singing her favorite hymn, Holy, Holy, Holy, as she slips into the general assembly preceding Sunday school. She has come to meet with the one person she knows loves her unconditionally. His name is Jesus. Once again the scene will change. An excited teen is thinking about beginning the year at a new school. Establishing new friendships without a family history to explain is going to be awesome! The bruising evidence of domestic violence, the unpaid bills, and the familiar hand-me-downs would be neatly covered up in a new beginning. She still has green eyes, brownish-blonde hair and olive skin but puberty is turning her into a young woman with expectant dreams of love and life. A dark cloud displaces the smile on her face as the telephone rings. The news of her grandfather’s death at the hand of her father causes time to stand still. The painful and hopeless expressions of her Mom and brothers leave her speechless. All hope of a restored family or a new beginning is gone. The humiliation is a thousand times greater than ever before. Death would be a sweet escape from the misery she feels. “Is that the answer?” she wonders. In a split second she drops to her knees and cries out to the one who has never let her down. Could there be enough mercy and grace for such a time as this? In the quietness of the moment the answer comes and grace without measure is poured out. Healed in the midst of tragedy, she rises with the peace of God and the courage to live. Infinite, matchless grace has set another prisoner free. As I consciously return to the present, I close my Bible, and smile as I think of the many times I have sought for the grace to live in the presence of Jesus. I’m not that little girl anymore. She is a memory that challenges me to encourage others in the truth of God’s love. Today I’m an ordained minister, co-founder of a local church, happily married for forty-one years, the mother of two wonderful sons and daughters-in-grace, and grandmother to seven precious grandchildren. I know I could never have the life I have now, if it was not for that “unmerited favor from the throne room of God” that flowed down to a pitiful, little child who was willing to believe in the unseen and hope in the impossible. His grace truly is amazing!
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