Rev. 12:11 " And they overcame him [the accuser] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." My testimony is one of many that illustrates living proof of His undying faithfulness. He knew how much I’d need Him and He snatched me from all the unseen evil surrounding me for my good and His glory in the summer of 1979, at the tender age of 9. Growing up in a home with a loving mother and father was a gift from above as I know now that it isn’t a given. I never went hungry. I had clean clothes and new shoes. I was told “I love you” and I was hugged, often. We went camping, fishing, and did family stuff. Besides the tiffs with my younger brother, my life seemed pretty, well…good. And, it happened like it usually does…you know how it happens? Normal is your normal until you see someone else’s normal – then your normal is not at all normal and neither are you. As a child, my “normal” was my parents’ lifestyle of drugs, partying, sexual deviation and perversion, acting out, sensual and reckless, full of deliberate wrongdoing. At a very young and tender age, I experienced molestation and assault from nearly every man I came into contact with, including my immediate family. My mother and father’s lifestyle was such that their “friends” and our “relatives” were allowed unsupervised access to me, a smiling, trusting, young, blonde little girl. By the age of 10, I had witnessed many XXX-rated movies, various people (strangers and family members) talking to walls and screaming to the top of their lungs about imaginary snakes and the like, violent drug and alcohol-induced behavior, my parents’ violent and destructive behavior, commune-style living, extreme, life-threatening fighting and destruction, and even more than I care to recall here today. I had to give court testimony against an offender. I was forced to sit on various men’s and my family members’ and uncles’ lap(s) and I gave myself no credence or allowed any personal desires to develop. My attempts to keep myself from a situation where I might have to sit on a man’s lap or be touched or ogled by someone consumed my thoughts. My emotions were dictated. My actions were methodical. I learned to fit in at all costs and I lost myself to the deliberate anonymity; something I simultaneously hated and loved. From the age of 9 to 14, I spent the majority of my time trying to understand and believe that I was worth His time, let alone worth His sacrifice of His only Son. I consider myself blessed with a mom who grew up in church and saw to it that I was exposed to the Lord (too). What I didn’t know then but I know now is He was with me every step of the way. This idea that I had of “accepting Jesus” was more than just that. Indeed He protected my heart with His mighty, faithful, and heavenly hand as He helped me to forgive a lot. Indeed He gave me to a mother that loved God in her own way and brought people into my life that loved Him and told me of His Great Love. My parents sent my brother and me to the town’s local church via the church bus or a friendly neighbor and I kept hearing His voice whisper hope to me. On very select occasions they would attend church, too. My mom came to my baptism in 1979, though my dad did not. My dad disdained organized church/religion because of the offenses he suffered at hands of well-meaning religious folks at a very young age. And, admittedly, Viet Nam had an affect on his view of God and religion. Once in my life, for a period of a few months in 1983 and 1984, my whole family (of 4) attended a very small Primitive Baptist church together. I was so proud of them (my parents). My grandparents took me to church with them when I stayed over. And, beginning in 9th grade, in 1985, I started attending a church on a regular basis with a friend of mine. It was there I found what I was searching for, true unadulterated acceptance. The truth was preached. Standards were set. Boundaries were in place – finally. God’s acceptance was felt and experienced. Then I met my first boyfriend, my first love. Because the Lord drew me there, I lived and learned along the way about what it was like to be loved by my Heavenly Father. My boyfriend’s family went to the same church. Many, many nights I cried out to God in utter and complete gratitude to Him for His perfect fathering of me. Thankfully, He held me tight; keeping me from certain self-destruction. I couldn’t reconcile this despite the fact that it was ME He was holding onto – I will not ever be able to adequately express how grateful I am for this fact: He is faithful. I cannot and will not recount the times I sinned, over and over and over again, testing His love. Always testing. Does He love me this much? Does He love me that much? Surely, He doesn’t love me THIS much! Surely not! After high school I moved out, worked more, attended church less, and at 19 years of age, I met my future husband. Although he was not a professing, active Christian, he said he believed in God and that was good enough for me. (Who am I to judge?) Out of necessity (I could not live alone with my father, my mother lived out of state, I had no relatives to live with or depend upon and not enough money to live on my own and go to school) we lived together for 2-1/2 years and married in 1991. We were blessed with a son in 1992 and moved out of state to Colorado in 1993. (His grandmother lives there.) We didn’t find a church in Denver and yet, He never left me. My husband was self-involved in his career and non-existent at home and I was a young, selfish and bitter person. Yet, He never left me. In November 1994 we separated and divorced in May 1995. Again, I moved into my boyfriend’s apartment. He was an alcoholic and abusive, but I was determined to make something in my life work! Quickly, this life I called “mine” went down in a tailspin. The divorce, added with the physical, verbal, mental and emotional abuse begat the condition of “Clinical Depression,” which, is still a “thorn in my side” to this day, but is being treated adequately. My ex-husband turned to alcohol, was jailed and his tail was spinning out of control, too. A month after my divorce was final, on the heels of yet another physical altercation, I prayed to God for His help with my life. The next morning I rented a U-Haul, dropped my son off at the babysitter's house, and packed up all I had in whatever way I could. I didn't have a place to go, no one to help me, so I called the Sheriff's department in Denver and to my surprise they had resources to help me. A complete stranger came to my apartment, hugged me, wiped my tears and helped me leave the boyfriend behind. The Lord impressed upon a particular lady that I was "good people" and let me move in without checking any of my references. Amazingly, my ex-husband helped me move my 3 year old son and I into our new 1 bedroom apartment. My Father's love surrounded me even in the pits I dug myself into. I was sleeping 2 hours a day, raising my son on my own (dad was drinking too much) and faithfully God allowed us to run hard and fast in the wrong direction. Faithfully He was found where we fell. Faithfully, He met us both during that time and saved our family. He was faithful when we were anything bu. He worked it all out, every knot, every discord, everything. My ex-husband and I decided to put our marriage back together and we began to date. We moved in together in October 1995 and have been together ever since. We remarried and 21 years later, we are deeply in love and both so very grateful for His faithfulness. Truly I have been deeply blessed. Life as I knew it has given me just enough reason to be so very dependent on Him. And, life as I know it causes me to hold tight to Him. I cannot make it a day without His great love and faithfulness – in fact, I have never had a day where I didn’t know in my soul He was the only good thing in me – even in the deepest heart of my rebellion. So, I praise Him and as He gives the opportunity, I tell the story of my life which in my opinion so illustrates His grace and faithfulness, because I am absolutely sure that if any of this life were only up to me, I would have been lost forever with no hope whatsoever. Today, I am the same person I was born to be, by His design. He knew me before I was knitted together in my mother’s womb and He knew I’d walk the roads I’ve walked. He also knew He’d be there, so I would be okay. He knew His grace would be sufficient. I am still learning; trying to hold onto my Father's hands and balancing myself on his feet as He keeps a generous pace. I try not to test His love. Instead, I try to rest in His grace to get me through each and every day. I am not perfect, and won’t be, but praise the Lord; He doesn’t expect me to be. I, of my own accord, fail, but He does not. His praise and glory will not be squelched and I wouldn’t want it to be, of course. But if I can, in any way, be of any encouragement to someone who may be going through something similar or simply just be a testimony to His Great Love, I will find myself in the right place. Ultimately, I desire nothing more than to run, arms flailing, in the fields of His forgiveness and to find myself smack dab in the middle of His Love which I have through Jesus Christ, my personal friend and Savior. And, if I may be truthful, it is my heart's desire that every one in my path will know the freedom that His forgiveness and His grace brings. As long as my lips can move and my fingers can type, I will shout - May He be praised forevermore!