by Dana Kindig
What I’ve learned about testimonies is that they never stop. My testimony isn’t only what brought me to Christ, but also how He brings me through the daily battle. I’ll give you first how I got to Christ (okay, how Christ got to me) and then I’ll share with you where the heart of my testimony really lies.
I’m still unsure if my parents were together when I was born. I know they had to to have been together at some point because well, I’m here. But I don’t ever remember it. I grew up predominantly with my mama, or as I call her, Paula (I say it lovingly, because she’s MY Paula). She had already given birth to an older, taller child. We call him Steven. I was also the mouth piece and cohort to my best friend and cousin, Katie while she played the role of sensible and smart one. These three people make up the majority of my childhood.
Paula worked A LOT as a single mother, and one thing I’ve learned about single parents is that much to their chagrin, there is an absence that has to happen if they want to provide the best they can. And that was my Paula; she was absent a lot, not because she didn’t want to be there, but because she made tough choices that put a roof over our heads. One reason I call her my Paula (usually not out loud because it seems weird) is because I’ve always felt a little protective over her.
When I was in second grade I went to a vacation bible school at the local Nazarene church. Looking back I can see this is a point in life where God was drawing me to Himself, but unfortunately this isn’t the time frame I got saved. I remember one night after getting off the “big purple bus” that shuttled us to and from the church, I had gotten home and a family friend was there to baby sit until my mom got off work. I had gone to bed and in the middle of the night I awoke to a horrendous, loud, terrifying, and unnerving banging noise. I opened my door and directly across I saw Steven, with a panicked look on his face. I panned to my left and saw our babysitter kicking down my moms bedroom door. Having no idea what was going on I stood in shock. My brother ran to me and right as he got to me the door came down. I saw my mom, with her boyfriend above her, hitting her with a strength and force I had never seen before. As my second grade brain was trying to wrap her scared brain around this, my brother pulled me into the closet with phone in hand and dialed 911. Steven had a death grip on my arm as I was trying to get out; his fourth grade wisdom and brotherly instinct told him to keep me safe. The police came minutes later and coaxed us out of the closet assuring us it was safe. I ran to my moms room and sobbed as I tried to figure out why anyone would hurt MY Paula. And as I was pulled away from her bruised face I believed in my deceitful heart that this was Gods fault, if he was as big as everyone said, he could have stopped this. That’s when I decided to never get back on that stupid purple bus.
Life went on. The reminders of what had happened slowly drifted away. The changing of bandages that kept my moms ear attached stopped, wounds healed, the bruises that marked her face faded, the check ins from the worlds best grandma became more infrequent. But my hatred for God stood firm.
I escaped to my cousin Katie’s as often as I could. Depending on where we lived, the drive was anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours. Because we moved so much the consistency of going to Katie’s always felt like something was normal. I spent breaks, holidays and most summers with her. We’ve been best friends since birth and she was my person. Anything I needed I ran to Katie: comfort, advice, love, venting, or anything else, she was there. So naturally I went to Katie for comfort and love when my brother started to get abusive.
Steven had a lot of anger; he was picked on in school, didn’t have a healthy male influence in his life, and he had development problems that public schools struggled to properly address. He had made friends with the wrong crowd and started some bad habits that only fueled his anger. He vented that anger on me in a way that surpassed “normal sibling rivalry”. I can still remember the horrible things he said, bruises he left and doors he broke down to get to me. Now I don’t want to give the wrong impression; I egged it on a lot. I wasn’t perfect; I said mean things, I tested his patience and I gave him reason to dislike me but I always knew I could get away with it because when he hit, kicked and punched me it was worse than anything I could say to him.
Freshman year of high school came and went and My friendship with Katie grew distant. We went from talking every day to barely talking at all. I quickly became a bitter, snarky and mean teenager. The physical abuse from my brother became a regular thing. My mom knew it was happening but not to the bruise leaving, death threatening extent it had come to. She worked two jobs so it was easy to hide because we didn’t see her much. I would sometimes call her crying at work out of fear, and a couple times she called the cops, but because I was afraid of being in trouble I always backtracked and assured everyone everything was fine.
At some point during the middle of my sophomore year it had boiled to a point where we could no longer hide or make excuses for what was happening. Through a series of events involving the violence and a representative urging us to leave for our safety, my mom and I moved to a domestic violence/homeless shelter six hours away in Spokane, WA. We chose Spokane because I was a young girl seeking friendship and love and landed myself in a relationship with a guy who lived and went to school in Spokane. So because I already had ties there it made sense.
So there I was: sixteen years old, bitter, angsty, defiant, rebellious, prideful, and broken living in a homeless shelter. But God….
My Paula and I are readers; we love a good book. So here we are, living in this shelter with horrendous fluorescent lighting. One day my mom picked me up from school in our sweet green Astro Van and we headed down Sprague Street in search of a Goodwill to find a reading lamp. No Goodwill was found, but at the tail end of our drive we found a Teen Challenge Thrift Store. My mom hopped out of the car while I stayed in because obviously I can’t be caught dead in a thrift store (they weren’t cool then) and she didn’t come out for what felt like HOURS.
Finally Paula emerged from the door with a lamp in hand and all is okay for a moment. Then I noticed that she’s happy, which made me mad; how dare she be happy when our situation is this way. I ask her what the heck is with the smile and she responds excitedly with, “WE’RE GOING TO CHURCH!” Which was immediately retorted with “YOU’RE going to church!” Which was then combatted with “Fine, stay at the house alone.”
Looks like I’m going to church…
The next night we pull into Ridgeview Christian Center and walk inside where tables were lined up for dinner. We got in line and were served lasagna and a roll. We sat down alone and almost immediately a woman came up to us asking our story and my mom starts spilling every raw detail of our move to this new stranger who we knew nothing about except her name: Sharon. As Paula is verbalizing everything that had been happening to us I got angry! Why were we telling this to a stranger?!?! And why did I agree to come to this place with people who had their lives put together and didn’t care about people like us? I don’t remember what church was about that night and at this point I still didn’t have a good thought of God, but I do remember being so confused as to why they raise their hands and sing so joyfully.
The next day my mom picked me up from school with another annoying smile and told me we were moving into our own place… What??! How?? Sharon. See, Sharon worked for a company that managed rental units and had found finances and a place for us to move into immediately. Some guys from the youth group and Sharon’s son, Rick moved our things and we had a home. It was a miracle.
Sharon and Rick made it their mission to get me to youth group every week. Every single week one of them showed up at my house to drive me to youth group where I was taught about Jesus and witnessed a joy in the group I had never seen in anyone. I started off hating it, but the more I went the softer to the people and to the gospel I became. One night Sharon or Rick didn’t show to pick me up and I was so confused. I called Sharon when I started to get worried I’d be late. She was feeling under the weather but was surprised I called WANTING to go, so she grabbed her things and headed to get me. That night the pastor, Rich, taught on Zacchaeus. He had talked about how this tax collector, a hated man, climbed up a tree to see Jesus and how the climbing did him no good because it made it harder for him when Jesus came to meet him and dine with him. He taught that our efforts to see Jesus from afar are nothing compared to the joy of relationship WITH Jesus and how we don’t have to try and climb up to His level, because out of love He condescended to ours. In that moment I believed I was a sinner who had been rebellious towards a loving God. I asked God to forgive me and even asked that He’d place a joy inside me that everyone else had and he answered with an excited yes! I felt SO much joy in that moment and I knew without any doubt that only a God who loved me could have changed my life in that way so instantaneously! This joy was not something I could have manufactured on my own.
So I was saved. I was new. My life had radically been altered and as much as I tried I couldn’t hold on to both worlds. Eventually my relationship that I tried to hold onto ended very badly, but through that I moved with my grandma and had some much needed time with her. My friendship with Katie rekindled and she had gotten saved too which gave us an even deeper, more purposeful friendship. God knew we had to be apart to depend on Him. I also grew closer to my remarried dad and other family members in Florida. God was restoring my family and friendships!
As I continue to walk with The Lord my testimony doesn’t stop; He has continued to grow me, show me new things, give me direction for my life and make me more like Himself.
In recent years as I’ve grown closer to God I found a church to grow in, serve in and build relationships in. He’s brought me through hard times and through them He’s refined a lot of sin in me. See, the amazing part of testimonies to me isn’t that He brings us to the end of ourselves and saves us, but that when we know Him, we know His love, and we continue to sin anyway He still WANTS to be with us. With that I just wanted to give a couple examples of Jesus’ refinement in me and how the testimony of God’s grace has continued in my life.
Jesus taught me how to forgive. He showed me that my brother is no worse than me, he is a sinner whom God so loves. He taught me how to forgive my brother by reminding me who my brother REALLY is and showing me who I really am. Steven is the boy who protected me while calling the cops, he is the guy who showed up to things my mom couldn’t make it to when she was working, he was the man who had my back any time someone said anything mean to me. God loves and died for my brother, and that realization makes me see him through Gods eyes. Jesus didn’t come so I could stay bitter, He uprooted some of the weeds by making me face my own ugliness and now I can say I truly love and forgive my brother.
Another part of my testimony is God’s correction. He corrected me through my church family. A couple years ago I made a fleshy mistake out of anger and was exhorted to repent by a few elders who loved me. This, so far, has been the hardest part of my walk. I was confronted with my sin and had two choices… Fight or flight. As someone who loves to flee, I was encouraged by those who knew my habits to stay and fight. Through a prayerful wrestling match with God I managed to gather the courage given to me by God to stay. I was humiliated, frustrated, angry and brought to nothing. And that’s where I learned God uses nothing to rebuild. If he rebuilds from the dust I had been brought to, only He can get the glory! I was loved on, forgiven and restored. God used that time to grow me and show me what true love looks like. God used the church, His body, to bring me into a more intimate fellowship with Jesus just as He intended. And as hard as that time was, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, because out of nothing God built an honest desire to follow Him closer and be more involved with His people.
Finally the last example I’ll share that God used to refine me is through the death of my grandma. This time of my life was the saddest chapter to date. My grandma was amazing! When things got busy, hard or scary with my mom, my grandma would always come get us. A few years ago she rapidly went from healthy and okay to sick and on her death bed. I know she’s in heaven and I’ll see her again, but it still hurt more than any pain I had ever experienced. Through this pain, though, I more intimately learned God’s character and love for us. Death was never the plan. Adam was supposed to live in fellowship with God. But then sin entered and caused death for all. But because God loves us He made a way by beating death Himself. I stopped viewing myself as Gods disappointing child and started seeing myself through His eyes; He enjoys me and He craves time with me. He taught me that just like He was with my grandma, He is so excited to hang out with me in life and in eternity! We’re not promised a pain free life. But we are promised that He will walk with us and fight for us.
I’ll wrap it up here. My testimony is weak, but God’s testimony in me is where my strength lies. Everything I have has been given to me by Him. He literally snatched me out of the world for Himself so credit could go solely to Him. I didn’t grow up in church, I wasn’t taught right and wrong, I gave Him every reason to sentence me to hell but He graciously chose to give me life through the sacrifice of Jesus, because He LOVES me.
Bio :: Dana lives in the Pacific Northwest, works for a rental car company, and serves her local church in youth ministry. She loves poetry, playing board games with anyone daring enough to compete with her, and learning new words. Sarcasm is her first language and she views her birthday as a national holiday.
Awesome to read Dana! Thanks for sharing!
Oh Sister! Your testimony is far, far, far from weak. Thank you for sharing. There is great strength in saying God has grown you from dust and give Him ALL the Glory. A virtual hug to you while I wipe my tears. Peace