What's Your Testimony?

What is a testimony, but a telling of what has been done.

I can’t tell you the first time I was introduced to God.
I grew up in a Christian home with five sisters. 
My dad would count-down the time when we would leave for church. 
And we would be ready.
When the church doors were open, my family was there, sitting in our pew 15 minutes before service began.
We had the appearance that all was well.
But appearances are not always what they seem.

We lived on the outskirts of a small town in Pennsylvania.
My boys can tell you from their school studies how that little area had its own dialect. Instead of “you’all”, We’d say, “you’ns.” And to this day, my husband must figure out what I’m talking about when I ask him to bring the “Towel” from the bathroom. He probably still stands in the bathroom wondering what kind of tile he can scrape off the floor or wall, instead of bringing me the “towel” to wipe up a mess.

Pennsylvanian hills were a great place to grow up.
Through that introduction, I knew I wanted to know God more.
I gave my heart to God when I was five. 
He thought me worthy enough to die for, inspite of my sin.
I was accepted by a holy God. 
I would serve Him with all my life. And I meant it.

Ever feel so thirsty, you couldn't get enough to drink?
That's what God awakened in me.
I couldn't get enough of God.
My Sunday school teachers didn't prepare a lesson when I came to their class; they had to prepare for life.
When God is so awesome—how do you absorb enough of God?

At ten, I was baptized.I almost didn’t allow the pastor to do it. In my hurry to get to the pastor, I fell down the stairs of the baptistry.
But “double” baptized or not, I wanted to live for the God Who had given me such worth.

Living with five sisters is not too difficult. 
We shared one bathroom and of course bedrooms. 
As third born, I was independent anyway and didn’t care how others did things.
Since I wasn’t into “style,” no one wanted to wear my clothes. That eliminated conflict.

My parents never fought. 
But nor did they talk. 
In high school I told my dad I was afraid they’d get a divorce. 
He told me, “It wouldn’t be his fault.”
I knew it took two to fight and two to talk.

I felt unworthy and unclean around my dad, but didn’t understood why. 
I felt manipulated to do what he wanted. Even when I obeyed, I felt wrong.

It wasn’t until close to his death, I understood my feelings.
My sisters cleaned his room and found piles of pornography.
It wasn’t a sporadic fling. It was an addiction.

My mom had told no one of his addiction, though it started when he was in seminary. 
I never knew why he quit seminary. 
He’d tell people to ask mom, as if he blamed her. 
My dad could make anyone feel it was their fault for what he did.
So my feelings toward my dad had an explanation.

Proverbs talks a lot about how spending time with a harlot makes a man like a piece of bread.
But I've searched Proverbs to find what it does to his wife and daughters. 
It doesn’t say. 
But by experience, if the father is a piece of bread, his daughters feel like the mold that grows on the bread.

Sin doesn’t just affect the one who does it.
It’s like a pebble thrown in a lake. 
It radiates out in ripples to affect everyone it touches. 

My dad thought he was hiding his sin. 
He had his own post office box.
He went to church like nothing was wrong.
He was a deacon.
And a teacher.

No one knew, but my mom and God.
But it effected how he treated his wife and daughters.
God says, “Be sure your sins will find you out.”
His job suffered. 
You can’t manipulate people without eventually being repelled. 
He lost his job.
We moved to Indianapolis. 
He lost job after job until he retired.

What saved me from being consumed by my own feeling of unworthiness? 
God brought a Christian science teacher into my life. 
He showed me my worth in Christ.
Never underestimate the power of your life as it touches another.
He was my life-line to what was real.
His prayers got through. 
He modeled a compassion for his wife I’d never seen before. 

Because of his influence, I majored in comprehensive science education at Cedarville University. 
All that means is I know a little bit about a lot of science. 
I cried through physics. 
I asked questions in organic chemistry that my teacher would say, “We’ll get to that in chapter 23.” But by the time we got to chapter 23, I’d forgotten my question.
Cedarville was a Baptist college that grounded my faith on the Bible and stirred my heart to pursue God with passion. 
I wanted to serve God through teaching.

I graduated equipped to teach junior high and high school science.
But who, really, is equipped to teach junior high?
I taught two years in two different Christian schools in New York state.
And just like Christian homes, Christian schools are not what they seem. 
When the first school could not pay us, a board member said, “Well, this is your ministry.”
Ministry or not, I still had to eat.
In the second school, I learned if the principal didn’t back you with discipline issues, you had a problem.

I wish I could say, I didn't get distracted by what others consider my worth—but I did.
But God—don't you like those words, but God—in His infinite love, drew me back to look at Him.

What could I do after spending my life’s savings pursuing a career I didn’t like?
I went from NY to CA to grad school in San Diego.
There God brought me my husband of more than thirty years.
That began a love story of God's healing.
I found Christ can live for real at home in families.
Through modeling what Christ commanded husbands to do—to love their wives, my husband showed me my worth.
He re-affirms that worth every day by telling me he loves me.
Though I wonder many days, how?
Especially when I was pregnant or nursing and going without sleep for the first 17 years of our marriage!

Isn’t it amazing how God teaches us Who He is through those around us?
What image of God do people see through me?

I wish I could share how my mom has learned her worth, but I can’t.
After years of a husband that mistreated her, she still feels unworthy.
The way she responds to us reflects that low worth. 
Much like that child who is most unlovable needs the most love.
Or like John wrote about himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved," because his childhood was pretty rough—think of being known as the son of Thunder.

My testimony is only half shared.
God blessed us with eight boys.
I could tell of the miracles God worked to allow me to stay home with them. 
We believe the Bible when it says, wives be keepers at home.
We sacrificed to obey. 
God worked miracles to provide.
Was it easy? 
But as we obeyed, our trust grew.

How is it raising eight boys?
Each pushed me into a deeper dependence on God to nurture their God-given talents and train—or beat out—the old nature—theirs and perhaps a little of mine.

I spent years just caring for my family.
I didn’t have time to do anything else.
I learned how much I needed God. 
But also God taught me how much I meant to Him.
I found my worth doesn’t come in what I can do. 
It is found in Whose I am.
That’s when I was ready for His service.

I've written historical fiction and devotionals and Christmas and Easter programs for my church.
Today, I write weekly articles about what matters to women, wives and moms and what matters to God.

So my testimony—my telling of what God has done for me—Is it finished?
Not till He calls me home.
But until then, He continues to work in my life to make me complete for Him.
But the testimony He shows a God Who gives an individual worth, because of that intrinsic value God placed in them.
God takes that life and works those details, good and bad, into something He deems worthy.
Isn't our God great!

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I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

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Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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