Friday, December 30, 2011

In His Arms

I had it all together, until it all fell apart. I was an Ivy League educated physician with research accolades, a successful practice, a loving and devoted husband, and a gifted, handsome son. And even a fulfilling, creative hobby that had become a passion – ballroom dance – that my husband and I could share and that had carried us across the globe to share our love of dance with others.

Yet on April 17, 2000, the beautiful melody of our carefully orchestrated lives came to a screeching halt in a crescendo of offbeat discords. A call from the police had interrupted our son’s tenth birthday celebration at a theme park the day before, as the alarm at my mother’s house had sounded and she could not remember how to disarm it, or even how to unlock the dead bolt at the front door to let in the police. When we arrived she was wielding a butcher knife, trying to cut the wires to the blaring alarm, and then she planted herself against the wall, stubborn as a mountain goat, as we pleaded with her to come to the hospital with us.

Over the next few hours she quickly returned to her mild mannered, loveable self, and the doctor could find nothing wrong. Yet I feared that she had had a mild stroke and that Alzheimer’s disease was stealing away the mother I loved, just as it had her mother who had been my constant companion from the time I was born until she died when I was 14.

My grandmother had left me a legacy of faith and prayer that sustained her through a lifelong series of hardships. As a 16 year-old bride she emigrated from the Ukraine to Nova Scotia; lost nine children – all but my mother -- in childbirth or to pneumonia in early infancy; and lost her husband to a brain aneurysm when he was only 35. She moved to New York as a single parent, raising my mother by working long shifts in a bakery as she had never learned to read or write. Yet she was faithful to God through it all, praying to Jesus, drawing strength from her faith in Him, and even scrimping together enough money to donate to her church a beautiful mural of Ruth gleaning in the wheat fields of Boaz (Ruth 2:8).

Despite my grandmother’s example, I had always been a seeker – praying to God without knowing Him, reading the Bible dispassionately as a student of literature and history without grasping its significance (2 Timothy 4:3-4). In college I explored New Age philosophies and Eastern religions, never finding the truth I desperately hoped would transform my empty life and fill it with peace and joy.

An evangelist sat next to me on a long train ride when I was in college, patiently explaining that the only way to Heaven was through Jesus, Son of God (John 14:6), Who came to earth wrapped in human flesh (John 1:14) to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. His death on the cross paid the debt for all our sins, past, present and future, so that whoever acknowledged and turned away from their sins, and had faith in His death, burial and resurrection, would be forgiven and have eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:1-28; John 3:16). But I was a know-it-all, self-righteous, desperately lost college girl who resented the intrusion into my study time and argued with the well-meaning stranger over the merits of reincarnation.

My futile search continued, leaving me empty and unsettled about my future and about how to cope with setbacks, sadness and trials. On that life-changing morning of April 17, 2000, my husband and I had to travel from Florida to New York for a dance competition, even though our dancing had taken giant strides backward and we could barely step on the dance floor without bitter arguing. Our son was hurt and disappointed that his birthday was spent mostly in the doctor’s waiting room, and my mother’s health was uncertain at best.

That morning we stopped at my office before leaving for the airport, only to find more bad news and chaos. The mail brought notice of two separate legal actions, each without basis, yet both attacking my professional credibility and threatening my career. To make matters worse, our office manager announced she was quitting without notice, leaving the practice in utter turmoil.

As we rushed off to the airport, I was too numb to care, overwhelmed by the office situation, my mother’s health, the legal battles, our son’s missed birthday, and our dancing which now brought more frustration than joy. We boarded the plane with feelings of resignation and doom, and my shoulders and neck were as tense as wet ropes wrung dry. My mouth felt like chalk, and my head throbbed as if a salsa band inside clanged off key and off time. I strapped myself into my seat and pinched my eyes shut for takeoff.

I tried to fight back the tears when suddenly there was no need to fight anything. The tension melted away like glacial ice warmed by the radiant sun, flowing into living water that engulfed me and floated me upward. A divine embrace protected and sheltered me, blessing me with complete peace, perfect love.

“Jesus,” I said aloud. It was both a prayer and a greeting. In His arms the words I had heard before without understanding, that He was my Savior and that through Him I had eternal life, became the only truth, the only reality worth knowing. At that moment I knew I would follow Him anywhere. In Him I was a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15), my sins forgiven (Romans 8:1-4), a child of God (Romans 8:14-17). I had been His enemy (James 4:4) and rebelled against His truth, yet He had adopted me as His own and even had appointed me to be His ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20), to tell others of how He had changed my life (Matthew 28:19) and to honor and glorify Him in all that I do (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:23).

As I remembered the evangelist who had told me of Jesus two decades earlier, I hoped he was not discouraged over planting seeds of truth and love seemingly wasted on my hardened heart (Matthew 13:3-23). I look forward to seeing him in glory and thanking him for the effect his words ultimately had in showing me the Way. Through the years I have thought often of that encounter, and of my grandmother’s loving model of faith and prayer, as they remind me that God’s Word never returns void (Isaiah 55:11) and that our work for Him is never in vain (Hebrews 6:10).

42 comments:

  1. God really cares about us. He also gave me new live, spiritual and mental. Because of difficult situation in my family, when I was teenager, I was suffering very much with my mind. But God showed me new live in Christ, despite the darkness and depression. He gave me good church, were I have many friends.
    May God bless You in this New Year. I wish You happy, peaceful and full of new, better experiences New Year 2012.

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  2. Dear Zim, Thank you for sharing your testimony of how God changed your life. God is so good and blesses us far more than we could ever imagine or hope for. May He bring you love, joy, peace and all blessings in 2012!
    Laurie

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  3. A beautiful testimony. Thank you for posting.
    Wishing you a happy new year ahead.
    Frank

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  4. Thanks, Frank, for your encouraging words and wishes! May you have a Happy New Year, and all blessings in 2012 and beyond!
    Laurie

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  5. So few realize how important planting the seed is. If it hasn't been planted it can never produce fruit, and seed takes time to germinate. Far too much emphasis is placed on getting a quick confession. It is the seed that has been allowed to germinate naturally that produces long term fruit. Have a great New Year, seeing what God will produce.

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  6. That is very true, dfish. I believe when we see Christ face to face at the judgment, He will show us each believer who was saved through our labors, not necessarily because we were the ones who heard them pray the sinner's prayer, but because we witnessed to them by planting the seed through our testimony, sharing a Bible verse, showing them Christ's love, etc. Our labor for His kingdom is never in vain. May God bless you and yours richly in this New Year, and may all our ministries be fruitful.
    Laurie

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  7. How grateful I am to be able to read your powerful testimony. Happy New Year and may you have continued blessings this year as you continue to share His precious love available to each of us if we just accept Him.

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  8. Dear Lynn, Thanks so much for your encouraging words and wishes! It is amazing to realize that the greatest Gift of all is freely available to whomever accepts Him. May you have love, joy and peace in 2012 and beyond!
    Laurie

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  9. Laurie, Thank you for the lovely comments and being a follower. I am following you also. BTW, we are almost "neighbors". I am on the Gulf Coast here in FL. Wasn't today a gorgeous day here? We are in for a day or two of COLD weather and I welcome that too, displaced Yankee that I am, even after spending almost half my life in Florida. Enjoy your week.

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  10. As always, enriching. This post made me speechless - thank you for sharing your pain and your joy. Have a great new year!

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  11. Hi Lynn, Thanks so much for following! I'm from up North too -- lived in NY until a "coincidence" carefully arranged by God brought me to Puerto Rico where I met my husband, who worked out of Jupiter, FL but could relocate anywhere in FL. After 5 mo of a long-distance relationship, another "coincidence" got me a job offer in Tampa, and we married a year later, in Jan. 1989!
    Being in Florida, and especially being with my husband, are great blessings!
    Hope you have a terrific first week of 2012!
    Laurie

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  12. Dear myevidentfaith.com,
    I really appreciate your encouragement -- you are a blessing! Wishing you love, joy and peace in 2012!
    Laurie

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  13. Blessings Laura and Happy New Year! What an awesome testimony!Just gripping the way you captured this with respect and tribute to both your mom and grandmother (husband and son as well)! Amazing Grace and such tenacity! Thank you not only for sharing but for the tender vulnerability you wrote with and the beautiful scriptures that show the way! He is the Light and the Only embrace we need... to walk and dance victoriously! Dance on, dear sister and live as a shining Light of His Love!

    Wishing you and Richard a blessed and joy filled New Year!
    Peggy

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  14. Powerful to read. Blessing to you and thanks for linking up to the NOBH

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  15. Dear Peggy,

    Thank you so much for your uplifting words! You are a great blessing and I appreciate you so much!
    May you and your family be richly blessed in this coming year and beyond!

    Laurie

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  16. Dear Adventurer,

    Thanks so much for visiting and for your kind comment! Happy New Year and God bless! Laurie

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  17. What a beautiful testimony Laurie!
    I think it is so important to not get discouraged or give up on people when the Lord leads us to witness to them. We must always remember our own hesitance and blindness before we realized the Truth of Jesus. All are blind until they see...I too have experienced that wonderful embrace from Jesus when my mother died in 2000.
    ~God Bless~
    Lisa

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  18. Dear Lisa,
    Thank you for your encouraging words! That's an excellent point, that all the unsaved were blind until they see, as were we. It is such a blessing to realize that the Creator cares so tenderly for each of us, that He will never leave us nor forsake us, and that His sheltering arms hold us when we are hurting.
    God bless you too!
    Laurie

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  19. "And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." This post will surely draw men to Jesus because you've given Him the praise.

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  20. Dear Pamela, Your comment is so special to me. That is the desire of my heart, to draw others to Him.
    God bless you,
    Laurie

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  21. I love reading testimonies...of God how pursues us. This was beautiful and honoring to Him.
    Blessings,
    Kara @ The Chuppies/NOBH

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  22. Thank you for this testimony and for the story of your grandmother.

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  23. This brought tears to my eyes. You told the story brilliantly and have written a testimony that I think many people will be able to see themselves in, at one point or another. Such a beautiful story.

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  24. Dear Kara,
    Praise God that He loved us first and pursues us until we awaken to His presence. Thank you for your encouraging words, and Happy New Year to you and yours!
    Laurie

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  25. Dear Shanda, Thank you for your comment. May you and your family have all blessings in 2012 and beyond!
    Laurie

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  26. Dear Jen,
    That means so much to me, to be able to move someone through words He has given me. Thank you so much for being such a great encourager.
    Love in Him,
    Laurie

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  27. What an amazing story, Laurie. Our God is the only one who can change a heart this way. What a beautiful miracle He has worked in you and I am so grateful. Beautiful.

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  28. Dear Laura,
    Thank you for your kind words. Praise God for the miracle He has worked in every heart that has trusted Him. You are a real blessing to me.
    Laurie

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  29. Wow, Laurie, thats an awesome testimony. Its so true when we step back from the problems and let Jesus embrace us, He deals with them and we get the victory. Its in the letting go. Great post
    Thanks for linking up again, I so enjoying seeing you there. God bless, Tracy

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  30. Dear Tracy, Thanks for your encouraging comment! Surrender is key -- when we come to the end of ourselves and realize we can do nothing without Him, He is ready and able to carry our burdens and bring us peace and joy.
    Love in Him & God bless,
    Laurie

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  31. Hello Laurie,
    All good wishes for 2012.
    You have a wonderful testimony of how God has worked in your life.Your opening words 'I had it all together until it fell apart' describes me as a person. I'm always falling apart and always asking God to put me back together again, which He does through my wonderful sisters.
    God Bless
    Barb from Australia
    Barb from Australia

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  32. Dear Barb,
    May God grant you the desires of your heart in 2012 and beyond! God is so good and so faithful to restore us in our trials, and it is a blessing to have sisters like you to encourage and uplift us!
    Love in Him,
    Laurie

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  33. Wow, Laurie, I had a hard time finishing this for reading through the tears. Thank you for sharing this wonderful testimony with us. The seeds planted by your grandmother and the evangelist were not planted in vain.
    Blessings,
    Charlotte

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  34. Dear Charlotte, It means so much to me to be able to touch someone through my testimony. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. Praise God that He gave every believer the awesome privilege of planting seeds, and that our labor for Him is never in vain.
    God bless,
    Laurie

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  35. Laurie:

    Your testimony has touched me deeply. I have heard many stories of people hitting "rock bottom" before turning to Jesus. Although I was saved at the age of ten, my husband and I walked away from the Lord for a time and it took one of those near rock bottom experiences for us to turn back to serving Him.

    As I read this, I thought of the evangelist. Wouldn't it be something if he read this?

    Blessings,
    Joan

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  36. Wow, Joan, I never thought of that! Since being saved, I've looked forward to meeting him again in glory, but wouldn't it be awesome if he read this online and made the connection?

    Thank you for sharing your experience also. I believe He does sometimes allow trials in the lives of believers to get us to the point where we realize we can do nothing without Him.

    We have some unsaved friends that we've witnessed to, and it seems that God does so many things to get their attention. We keep praying that they will realize they need the Savior.

    God bless you,
    Laurie

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  37. Thanks, Denise! All blessings to you and your family in 2012 and beyond!
    Laurie

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  38. Oh so wonderful!!! Thank you for sharing. I just love hearing stories of God breaking into lives. So beautiful!!

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  39. Thanks, Laura, for your kind words, and for visiting and commenting on Saved by Grace! Your blog is a blessing and I am now following it, and I invite you to follow Saved by Grace:
    http://savedbygracebiblestudy.blogspot.com/
    Love in Him,
    Laurie Collett

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  40. Laurie, this was so encouraging to read.
    What a wonderful testimony of God's grace!
    Praise His holy Name!
    He is everything beautiful to us, isn't He!
    Thanks for linking up and helping to make LACE a blessing :-)
    love in Jesus...Trish

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  41. Amen, Trish! God is so good, and in His grace we have all we desire and need.
    Thank you for your blogging ministry -- you are a blessing!
    Love in Him,
    Laurie

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