Putting the Pieces of My Life Back Together
Jesus Did It!
By: Jeanne Russell
I am blessed to have been raised in a Christian home. My mom is the daughter of a Swedish Covenant minister, and my dad was the son of a carpenter. I grew up in South Park Church in Park Ridge, IL, which is independent evangelical. I remember my salvation experience vividly; I was eight years old. My mother came into my bedroom one night and asked me if I had ever asked Jesus into my heart.
She explained that knowing about Jesus and having a personal relationship with him were two different things. I thought that would be a good thing to do, but I felt a strong pulling inside not to do it. When I hesitated, she said, "you dont want to go to hell, do you?" I said "no," and asked her to pray for me. She did, then said, "the angels are rejoicing in heaven." I just wanted her to go, but after she left, I felt the most incredible love envelope me.
My childhood sins flashed before my eyes, and I remember thinking of the verse, "my righteousness is as filthy rags." I wept, and asked Jesus to come into my heart and forgive my sins. I saw a bright light at my window, and I cant describe the awesome love and presence that filled and surrounded me. I fell into a blissful sleep, and awakened elated. I didnt walk, I floated, with joy literally bursting from me. I went to my mom and tried to explain what happened.
I felt like we should throw a party or something. She didnt understand, she just said, "I know," and went back to her work. Later, I learned that not all people get saved with spiritual fireworks like me. She was one who got saved gradually, and made an intellectual decision. I grew in God, and when I graduated from catechism, I got baptized. There were no fireworks, but I did it in obedience to God's Word.
My mom has a friend who writes for Young Life. She wrote a book called "The Addicts," which is about a group of ex-drug-addicts that became Christians. They go to various churches doing psychodramas about being delivered from their addictions, and they came to our church. One of the boys invited me to see him get baptized at a church in Chicago; I was in high school at the time. I loved the feeling of freedom and the music, and though I didnt understand why, I found myself crying through much of the service.
Then, a man with a long beard interrupted the sermon and spoke in a different language. Later, I asked one of the leaders of the group who that rude foreigner was. He said, "dont you know about speaking in tongues?" I said, "I thought that was just for Bible times." He showed me in the scripture that this gift was for today, and asked me if I would like to have it. I told him that I was nobody special or important, so God wouldnt give me a wonderful gift like that. He pressed again, and I said, "Im not a good enough person."
He asked me if I had any sins to confess, and I told him that I went to dances at school, and wasnt sure if God would approve. He said, "I think shes ready." I sat in a chair, and a group of people encircled me, laying their hands on my head. A man was singing "It Is Well With My Soul." Someone said to take a big breath and let out a sound. I did, and then all these strange words spilled out of my mouth, and incredible love and joy came with power.
Someone said I was speaking Polish. Again, I was bouncing off the clouds. I was so full of the Holy Spirit, I could hardly function. I remember talking to kids at school, and all these things about Jesus poured out of my mouth. I hardly knew what I was saying, but they were smiling, and there was this love buzz in the air. I talked to my youth pastor about it, and he said to be wary, because the devil can also make people speak in tongues, and I should be very careful whom I told.
Many years later, he left our church, got the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and has a ministry through his home repair business. December, of my 16th year, my father died, shortly before President John F. Kennedy. I was so grateful to God that he gave me the baptism of the Holy Spirit before I lost my dad, because I experienced His comfort in a very real way.
As I grew, I allowed compromise to infiltrate my life. I was under the impression that if I followed God, things would go well for me. I married at age 21, but when my life fell apart as I struggled with divorce, I blamed God for my problems. I hadnt discovered that verse, "in this world you will have problems, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world."
I was blessed however, with a praying mother. We loved books and she had a way of giving me just the right one, at the right time. One special one was "Prison to Praise" by Merlin Carothers; he said that we are to praise God in all things, and to thank Him. One day, I was feeling overwhelmed and hopeless, but I started thanking God, in spite of all the horrible things in my life.
I felt sacrilegious at first, because I wasnt sincere, but after awhile, I felt joy and peace. I realized that God was sovereign and He would take me through and keep me, no matter what. My circumstances didnt change for a long time, but I had peace in the midst of the storm. Often when I woke up in the morning, I would feel a black cloud over me, when I realized my circumstances, but I praised God before I got out of bed, and the cloud dispersed. I still do that today, just to get an attitude adjustment if I need it, and to welcome the presence of my Lord.
As a single mom, I struggled to put the pieces of my life back together. I attended Resurrection Life Church. There, I finally started growing-up in God, and stopped my life of compromise and failure. "I set my face like a flint" toward my Lord, and would not "turn to the right nor to the left." I had lost so much, but I had found the only one who could truly help me and love me my Jesus. I had finally made him Lord of my life, at any cost, no turning back.
During that time, my daughter, (a young teenager) went through an angry, rebellious period. Through this, I learned how to stand on Gods word. I found all the scripture I could about children, and I claimed it for my daughter. I stopped complaining, and I spoke faith. I bombarded heaven, and declared all-out war against the devil. My girl got through it and loves the Lord today, and I have learned how to fight and stand on the Word. I have stood for our health, finances and my marriage. One scripture I often use is, II Chronicles 20: 1-30. Its the story about Jehoshaphat defeating Moab and Ammon. Verse 20b says, "The Lord says, Dont be afraid! Dont be paralyzed by this mighty army! For the battle is not yours, but Gods." What a comfort!
Verse 22 says, "And at the moment they began to sing and to praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir to begin fighting among themselves, and they destroyed each other." Talk about power in praise! Thats where I choose to live. I learned that there is a time to stand, a time for warfare, and a time to "enter into his rest." I also learned not to let anyone steal my presents. Joy, peace, love, hope and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit are my presents from God.
Eventually, my life settled down. I was happy and at peace. I was growing in God, and active in my church. I told the Lord that I was willing to be single if that was His will, but He would have to give me the gift of singleness. I said, "If I am to marry, You will have to pick him out, because Im just not good at it." Years ago, before I was ready to hear it, a friend prophesied that I would remarry. I didnt believe her, but the Lord confirmed it and told me four things about him. Because of this, I didnt look for anyone, and dated very little.
The Lord wanted me to have that time to heal, and to learn how to walk with Him. Then, a mutual friend introduced me to my future husband. I had a song I wanted to sing at my church for Easter, but it was a duet ("Ive Just Seen Jesus"). He and I ended up singing it together, and wrote a little skit to go with it. Weve been writing and directing Christian plays ever since.
I prayed for three years, that God would send me a husband that I could serve the Lord with, and He has answered my prayer. I am grateful for what I have, but I have learned to hold everything and everyone with an open hand. I trust the Lord who gives, and I trust the Lord who takes. I know that even the bad things that happen to me, are to help me to grow; so I can walk more closely with my Father, and so I have a "cup of cold water" to give to someone in need.
Is everything perfect? Of course not, were still on planet earth. But, I have learned whom to depend on, and to roll my burdens onto Jesus, so I may walk in the glorious freedom of who I am in Him. "He has turned my mourning into dancing." Glory be to God!!!
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