God is going to put into written words what I can’t yet put into speech. God has given me the gift of being able to use the written English language to articulate what many people have a difficult time articulating. God has given me the gift of being able to see past many layers of untruths and get down to the core of what he’s laid out for us on this earth. I hope to use both gifts today: the gift of language and the gift of truth to deliver my testimony of Jesus Christ, once and for all.
And the greatest of these gifts is Love.
Claire Marie Costello was my best friend as an eleven-year-old girl. I was a social yet moody teen and preteen. I loved being around people but I spent a lot of time alone being sad and brooding about things most children never feel burdened by. I was a writer, even then. Writing was the one thing my mother allowed me to enjoy no matter what punishment she dished at me. Perhaps, that’s why I got good at it.
Claire was also a writer. When the two of us connected it felt like the whole world got brighter. I finally had someone to share my artsy side with. We could sit and talk for hours about life while the rest of the kids played on the swing set during recess. Claire would remind me to be a kid again and join them so that we didn’t waste an entire recess contemplating life.
Claire died within the two years I had known her. She was very special to me. The most precious person I had in my little eleven-year-old-girl world. I told my mother, “God, made a mistake.” And as time came to pass, throughout my life, I’d tell myself: “you should have been the one who died. You cant possibly do the amount of good in the world that she would have done. People liked her, genuinely liked her. You are not good with people.”
I never realized that was the devil talking. I never realized that God would have it so that I would get to do all of the good things she was capable of. See, Claire was such a pure spirit and a pure soul. I know she’s in heaven just waiting for me to show up so she can say, “hey, Jess, I have been waiting to give you a hug again.”
The last time I saw her alive an angel of the Lord spoke to me. Or was it the Lord? It was the first time I heard the Lord’s voice, so I can’t be certain. But the voice said: “Jess, she’s your best friend- give her a real hug.” I stopped in my tracks and obeyed the voice even though I thought it was silly at the time.
That was the last time I saw her alive. God allowed me to say goodbye. I will always be grateful for that moment.
Why is Claire included in my testimony? Because even at an early age God showed me that he heard every one of my cries of loneliness and pain. God put that angel in my life to show me what it’s like to be connected to someone’s soul- to have all of the purity inside of myself brought to the surface. Her purity infected my life and has proven stronger than any of the lies, pain, hurt, anger, and despair that the devil tried to instill in me.
II- Rachel Joy Scott
God intervened when I was seventeen-years-old. I had gone through the ringer. Growing up was not easy. I had smoked pot at age twelve. I had fallen in love with alcohol and parties and boys at age fifteen. I couldn’t get enough of the drama and yet I was disgustingly empty. I remember walking away from keg parties on the beach (because I grew up in Long Beach) and I would cry alone and ask God: Is this all there is? Please tell me there is more to life than this. At the same time I was angry at God. I hated my mother. I cursed God for joining us together. I hated God. I tried to deny his existence. But even when I was cursing him, I still was cursing something.
I got locked out of my house in the cold at fifteen and moved in with my dad. I thought my life would drastically improve. I thought I’d be the hot new girl that all of the boys would want to date. When none of that happened, I grew defeated. My rebellious, fearless spirit quieted down. I buried my zeal. I retreated. I swore that college would be my new salvation. I would just put my life on hold until I was able to get away.
My senior year of high school God would have it that a mundane school event would change my life. See, a speaker from Columbine, Colorado- the school with the shooting- would come for an assembly. As seniors, we were pretty much over school activities and completely jaded. But that speaker came into my Monday morning English class and changed my life.
I remember my best friend at the time joking about it, but God’s voice inside of me told me: “be quiet, pay attention to this.” And so I did. I focused. And I listened to the crazy spiritual circumstances that surrounded Rachel Joy Scott on the day she was killed by her classmate- a boy who once asked her out and who wrote the same phrase in his school assignment as she did: “I want to start a chain reaction.”
And so that evening I told my parents. I went back to school and brought my step-mom. I saw the same assembly twice. My step-mom bought a copy of the journal Rachel Joy Scott was carrying in her backpack on the day she died. The bullet that took her life got lodged in the journal. My step-mom gave it to me and I read it.
I always kept a journal- but not once did I speak directly to God in it. I saw how close of a relationship this seventeen-year-old had with God. I saw how she basically predicted her own death based on how close she was with him. I want to have that closeness, I thought.
But as I was reading the pages, I grew skeptical. Is this Christianity stuff really the answer? Is Jesus the real deal? I couldn’t help but question it all and I tested God. I said: “God, if Jesus is real, if this is legit, then what am I expecting to see here? A sign? Am I going to see my name written on the next page or something?”
And I swear on the pit of my soul that the very next page my name appeared. It was the only place I saw it in the entire book. The pages were 112–113. I was born on Thursday January 12th, but my due-date was Friday January 13th.
I froze. But I still hadn’t given my allegiance to God.
All I ever wanted to do was go to college and fall in love. I was going to be one of those young married women who reproduced young so I’d always be a pretty mom and cool around my kids. I wanted to be the young, cool, hip mom. Fun, warm, and exciting. Everything my mother wasn’t for me.
God allowed me to fall in love. Matt came into my life September 2006. I was still a virgin… but it didn’t last long.
See, Matt and I had an internet/phone relationship. While all my college dorm-mates and companions thought it was fun to get drunk at frat parties, I was over that life. I had more fun at high school parties. I wanted the real deal. I wanted to change the world. I wanted adult experiences.
Enter Matt with the help of a godforsaken AOL chat room. We started talking instantly and didn’t stop for over two years. During that time I was head-over-heels in love with him. I had never met a man that was as smart, insightful, passionate, funny, and charming. He was a jack-of-all trades. He completely exploded my world. I never knew that type of connection or companionship was possible. Our conversations took on new colors and dimensions every time we spoke and we could literally talk about the weather and have it be exciting.
But he put me through hell. Lied about his appearance. Never physically saw me. Pursued me one minute; dropped me the next. But I completely idolized him with my seventeen-year-old girl heart. He was my entire world.
When he rejected me by refusing to meet me in person, I went to the only thing I hadn’t tried yet: sex. I lost my virginity to a thirty-four-year-old I met on the internet that same night. He lied and told me he was twenty-eight.
God made good come out of that relationship of lies with Matt. See, Matt believed in Christ- or at least he said he did. Matt chastised me when I would commit blasphemy and say that four drunk dudes (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) got together to write the Bible and it was the biggest lie ever told. He told me we couldn’t be together unless I gave the Bible a chance. I fought him tooth and nail- but Matt never let me win a single argument.
“Doesn’t your back hurt?” he’d tell me.
“Why would it?” I’d ask.
“From carrying around all that pride.”
And so I got to my knees one night. I realized that I shouldn’t be a hypocrite and be ignorant of the very text I’m bashing. At the very least, as a writer, the Bible has been the most influential text ever written. And so I gave it a chance.
I said, with Matt’s prompting, that I will read the Book of John with an open mind, an open heart, and an open soul… and whatever happens, happens. Prior to that, I was confused about religion. I carried a Buddha. I took out books on Kabbalah.
But when I read about Christ, journal in one hand, I was floored. There was so much Love in the New Testament. I felt that immediately. Pretty soon I was filling my journal with all kinds of scripture that stuck out to me- words from Jesus. The part where he talks about giving people eternal life- water that would make you never thirst again and food that would make you never hunger. The part where he talks about being a physician to the sick and not the healthy.
I could rationalize it by saying that my mind worked like this: I had never heard words from a human that were so pure, so insightful, so selfless, and so wise. Humans just don’t think that way and they certainly don’t give that kind of credit to other humans. I thought: “Why wouldn’t God want to save us?” And it all just started to click together.
But the God’s honest truth is that I felt it. I just felt like I had found the one true religion. There would be no need to search anymore. This Jesus guy was going to do it for me.
The girl who God put in the very next dorm room was a pure-spirit Christian who had a pastor for a father. She invited me to my first non-denominational church. My Catholic-Girl brain was completely blown. People were actually having fun at church? There was a band?! People were singing, clapping hands? What on earth was going on? Even the pastor seemed friendly.
But it would still be years before I was back in another church.
As for Matt- I know my love for him was real and pure. But him and I were not connected spiritually. See, spiritual connections know no lie, only truth. I am grateful, however, that he manipulated me into knowing God.
IV- Tattoo Shop
Fast forward. I’m twenty-two and I still battle with chronic depression. God had it so I somehow survived times in my life that were completely dark. Somehow, I was able to do it without medication. He truly blessed me in that regard.
I have a fiance’ at this stage in my life. He says he believes and he wants to go to church, but he was a man of little action. We are supposed to be married October 20th of that year at a Catholic Church in Long Beach, NY. It’s the same church where I made all of my sacraments. We have a partial confirmation on a wedding venue on the beach- a new, trendy hotel- and my father is going to chip in money that’s just enough to pay for it. I’m going to be the luckiest girl in the world because I’m marrying my best friend and I’m going to be a young wife and on my way to being a young mother and having all my dreams actualized.
Clarence, my fiance, was redemption for Matt. With Matt, I was in a passionate, poisonous hell. With Clarence, I was just in love with the connection we had. There was passion, but I was saved from the abuse of fireworks. With Clarence, I really thought God was giving me a second chance to have the life I always wanted to have so that all my pain of losing Matt was actually worth it. It’s finally right! I thought.
Sure, something felt missing. But I ignored it because I felt like we were supposed to be together. He was the “right” choice.
Not to mention I trusted Clarence with all of my soul. Not to mention he was always the nice one. The guy everyone liked. The guy who would fly to Vegas for a night just to ask my father if he could marry me. The guy who even won my mother’s stone-cold heart because he knew exactly what to say to give her the illusion that he was going to bring us closer together. The guy who could fake his way into appearing like he had a powerful, groundbreaking heart.
So, with him, I started to search for churches and connections to God. I remember asking God: why do I feel more of a stronger connection to you than I do with Jesus? Why can I say easily “Dear God” but it’s so hard for me to say “Dear Jesus” and talk directly to Jesus? Do I not love Jesus the way I should?
So, January 13th that year, a day after I turned twenty-three, I was visiting a close friend in Brooklyn. She told me there was this tattoo shop where they gave tattoos for $13. What a fun thing to do for my birthday! I thought. I had to wait hours for an appointment, but I was determined to get it.
I had to keep Clarence awake. I bought him food because I paid for almost everything in our relationship. I remember being annoyed by it but I really wanted the tattoo and it was the only way to buy time. When we finally got the call to go to the shop it was after midnight. The shop was crowded. I gave my money and information and paperwork and chose a stupid bird tattoo. I was all ready to go until I saw it.
A the back of the tattoo shop was a picture of Jesus Christ. It was his shoulders up. He had a crown of thorns. His face was demonized. They had drawn all over it. It said, “King of Lies.” They destroyed him.
I froze. I wanted to vomit. I couldn’t stop staring. I was speechless. My stomach turned and my rational brain that is too much like the devil said, “it’s okay. Everyone is entitled to his/her own beliefs.” But my body couldn’t take it. It hurt my soul. How could anyone do that to Jesus? Even if you don’t believe in him, what did he ever do? How could you hurt something that pure?
And even though I waited, paid the money, and really wanted the tattoo, I ran out of the shop in tears. I ran into the cold. My ex followed me. He couldn’t understand what was wrong. Breathless, I tried to tell him. He didn’t get it.
See, just as I was questioning my love for Christ, God had it so I would feel it. Because in that moment I felt like a mother. Christ was my child. I had to protect him. The idea of someone doing him harm sickened me. And in that moment I felt like God had been calling me to the battle of Good vs. Evil. And in that moment I was ready to fight for him on the side of the Good. I was claimed.
Whether I knew it yet or not, my heart belonged to Christ.
V- Car Accident
This one is out of order. When I was twenty and after drinking and smoking cigarettes with an ex-boyfriend and using a white lighter all night, I got into a car accident the next morning. It was the day after Valentine’s Day. I totaled my first car. It was almost brand new.
What was interesting was that I, a white female, was driving a black Hyundai Elantra and the person I hit was a black male driving a white vehicle. (I don’t remember the make or model.) Both cars were totaled. It was a head-on crash. I remember seeing his face in slow motion. I remember watching him wince in pain and being so scared that I took another person’s life. I remember trying to get out of the vehicle because I was scared the car would catch fire. I don’t remember getting hit in the face with the airbag. I somehow opened the driver’s side door just enough to squeeze my way out. If I was any fatter I wouldn’t have fit.
I wasn’t hurt but an EMT a the scene forced me to go to the hospital because he was scared I had internal bruising. I was scared for the guy. He had whiplash. All I had was a scratch and ripped leggings. I felt guilty that I scared a little girl who was crossing the street that day with her father.
When I finally made it home that night I had a crazy nightmare. It woke me up. I was downstairs in my mother’s house. She had a patriotic nutcracker stationed on the dip of the window. I can’t explain it, but I felt evil come out of that nutcracker. There was a horrible, black evil force of energy radiating from it and it was coming closer to me and tearing at my soul. I was so scared that the only thing I could think of doing was praying the only two prayers I knew: Our Father and Hail Mary. Those were the only prayers Catholic School engrained in me.
I repeated the prayers enough that the energy went away because it was chased away by the beaming light of God and I felt safe again. Then it hit me that the entire car accident- white girl, black car, black guy, white car- was a symbol of the Yin and Yang and the forces of Good and Evil. Was Satan trying to take me out that day? Had God protected me from imminent death? No one could believe I walked away from an accident with that kind of damage.
I wonder what the guy is doing now. Has God kept us both for a greater purpose?
August 2012 was a storm. I was a brand new teacher, working in a high-needs community. The majority of my students were in extreme poverty and extremely disrespectful. I was not feeling good about my job, as I was clearly failing at it. Not to mention, I was still in extreme pain for learning just a month prior that my ex-fiance’ cheated on me and was lying throughout our entire relationship. The last time I saw him in the flesh we were together and he said: “Goodbye, I love you.”
I had this sick feeling in my stomach that I’d never see him again. I was right. He resurfaced two weeks later to email me that he was with someone else. I asked him to please tell the priest at the church that the wedding was off because I couldn’t bring myself to do that. He didn’t. I called and left message for the priest right before I got on my one-way flight to Florida.
It destroyed me.
See, I had taken the advice of a friend and gotten rid of everything that reminded me of Clarence. It took hours. I dug through every “love letter” he ever wrote me deep in the computer hard drive. I stood back. I talked to my best friend, Stephanie. My world was shattered and I was devastated. I realized that I was the problem. I was the memory. I had to remove myself.
I thought going to Florida was going to be the trick. I’d just remove myself from the atmosphere. I thought I could just run away from my feelings and problems. I thought I could make an escape- a clean exit.
But Life caught up to me there. Besides my job failing, I had to readjust to living with my mother again and she just couldn’t sympathize with my entire world collapsing. She caused me more pain then she did mitigate it. One night, in the middle of the night, I woke up with a startling realization.
Enough time and distance had gone by from Clarence for God to put the pieces together. Clarence was a closet homosexual. Don’t ask me how- our sex life was always good- but I know in my heart that he was. I almost spent the rest of my life with someone who was actually gay. While it felt good to have the truth, to have peace, I started to hate myself for being so wrong and for having such poor judgment.
See, I truly meant it at my engagement party when I looked that man in the eyes and told him: “there’s a lot I have to wonder about in this world, but I never have to wonder about you.” See, I truly meant it with ever fiber of my soul. And, after my trust in him was completely broken, I turned that pain and guilt onto myself. How could I ever trust myself again? How could I ever trust myself to not believe Lie? I was so sure of Clarence. He was the nice guy and I was the bitch. How could I wake up next to a question mark each morning? How could I be so wrong?
And I thought: what’s the point of living if I can’t even trust myself? College was a let-down. My first love was a let-down. My proposed marriage and redemption was a let-down. What else is there?
These thoughts spiraled in my head all month, even while I was speaking with God and journaling, until I finally acted on them. I was lying on my back watching the ceiling fan turn. The ceiling fan reminded me of my childhood when I would escape from my harsh family by going upstairs in my grandma’s house and I would feel like the fan was going to crash down on me and kill me. I was in such pain as a child, just like I was in pain now. My whole life I prayed for a way out and for a true companion. At twenty-three, I finally gave up on that. I thought: it just isn’t going to happen for me.
I remember my body moving without my brain. I just started to get up. I saw the robe hanging over my door. I grabbed the belt from it. I tied it around my neck. I pulled out the chair from my vanity set- the white whicker one I had since childhood. I stood on the chair and tied the belt to one of the fan blades. I said: “I love you God.” I let go.
I remember thinking that my mother being in the next room, talking on the phone, was appropriate. She was there when I entered the world- she’d be there when I’d leave it. But she’d be powerless to help me. She was partially there.
As soon as I stepped off the chair, I regretted it. I struggled for breath. I wanted to live. I knew I made a terrible mistake.
God let me struggle for a minute. He wanted me to know I could die. When I finally freed myself my heart was pounding. I was scared. I couldn’t believe what I had just done. I immediately went and opened up a bank account. I thought: if it ever comes to this again, I will just leave next time.
But the thing is, I never spoke to anyone about it. I kept it a secret. I didn’t want nor believe in help. So, to this day, I truly believe that when people are ready to die they stop reaching out. It’s not showy or glamorous. The devil comes at you in a quiet, sneaky way, and lies to you by telling you that there is no more hope and no more need to reach out and speak. The devil is so great at taking away your voice.
The beauty is that God saved me. And after weeks I finally told someone who made me realize how serious it was. My best friend forced me to check myself into a hospital. Inside that horrible facility, I spent two days wishing I could get out. I was so scared of getting stuck there for life. Being in there made me fight for my life. Every day I told the shrink: “let me go! Let me out of here. I’m ready to fight for my life again. I am a teacher and I promised my students I’d go to their football game. I don’t want to lie to them like everyone else in their lives has done.”
That stupid middle school football game made me fight for my life. God saved my life for a different purpose.
Life Church in Wellington, FL is where I got saved. It took a direct, sarcastic, no-nonsense pastor to speak some spiritual truth into my tattered soul. I didn’t go regularly. Not at first. But I remember raising my hand at one point, saying that I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, realizing that church wasn’t about rules because it was more about having a relationship with Christ. I realized heaven wasn’t a place to “get into.” There was nothing I could do to get there. It was what Jesus already did that got me there. And I was finally ready to believe in him with my whole heart.
The problem was I was living a lie. I was still drinking myself into oblivion. I was still having sex with guys who never cared to know the true beauty of my soul that wasn’t skin deep or painted on my face. I was still living a sinful life outside of Christ’s footsteps. I still wanted a man in the flesh more than I wanted a God or savior. I dated many, many men. I slept with many. I tried to comfort myself with the fact that I turned down many, many, many more than I actually slept with, but the truth is I have no idea how many times I’ve even committed that ugly sin with different people.
God would have it that I’d be single for a while. I dated here and there, I even thought I loved one of them, but he used me and hurt me in a way I never thought possible. He slept with me when I was too drunk to even walk up stairs. This man that I had known and worked with for four years, this man whose daughter used to run into my arms, treated me like I was a chick he met for the first time at a bar. He used me and left me without so much as a goodbye.
So, sex was a vice I had to eliminate. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite and not walk my talk. I didn’t want to live a separate life Sunday than I’d been living the rest of the week. So, November 2014, I made a covenant with Christ. I realized, with help of my pastor, that the reason virgins are supposed to marry each other is because the shedding of physical blood represents a covenant with God. Is marriage not one of the most important spiritual covenants?
So, that night, I took out a knife and sliced my hand open. I let the blood trickle on my journal pages. This was going to symbolize a new, celibate life in Christ.
I’d love to say that I no longer had a single drink or slept with a single man and it’s been four years of that. The truth is neither. I continued to drink. And after two years of celibacy, I slipped. I made it another year. Slipped. And I’m back to a year again.
Throughout this time, men have rejected me constantly. Try telling 2018 Gender-neutral Guys that they aren’t getting in your pants until your wedding day. Friends told me to lie about it. I never did. I remembered the words of my pastor: “if you aren’t ready to be rejected for Christ, then you aren’t ready to be used by him.”
I spent five years having waxing and waning periods in church and being in a Florida coma. At the height of my spirituality, I was reading the Bible daily, going to three different church services with different messages a week, auditioning for the worship teams, meeting with pastors and their wives, starting groups, volunteering my time Saturday mornings at the life center nearly an hour away, tithing. But even after doing all of that, I kept my Jesus in a box.
See, I was completely stifled by fear. The devil had it so I’d be lukewarm in my conviction for Christ. I didn’t like stirring the pot. Other than the occasional Facebook post, you would never know I was a Christian. The devil kept me contained, wondering why I couldn’t feel connected at church, wondering what was wrong with me, wondering why I never felt good around other Christians, wondering if this was all there is, wondering when I could escape to the bar after all this church stuff started to blend together into nothingness. By the time I made it back to New York, I was turned off by the church, turned off by the pastors, and I was ready to give up for a while.
See, I always had a vision though. Though I kept Jesus hidden because I was afraid to turn people off or to push the world away, I always thought someday I could really live for him. I wanted to transform the church into a place that I could spend my WHOLE life at. I wanted to turn it into a place where I could have a mind, body, soul connection and where I could exercise. Fitness and Jesus were the two things in my life keeping me from clinical depression. I wanted to connect with other Christians about this, but none seemed excited about transforming the church. I wanted the church to reach more people by offering fitness classes for free. I spoke my idea to several pastors, but I remained unheard.
See, as much as I thought about changing the world, I didn’t really think it was possible. I used to dream of traveling and touching the lives of millions, but the devil seemed to take that fight out of me. I lied to myself, saying I was content with being a school teacher. I just wanted to find someone and get married and have kids and call it a simple life.
But except for the few moments I felt connected with God at church during worship, I really wasn’t happy. I was content, not happy. Trust me, there’s a difference.
I was content when I interacted with some of my students, but I wasn’t happy. I was content when I’d meet new friends, meet a new potential date, but I wasn’t happy. I was content going to the gym, church, etc. but I wasn’t happy. During my last year in Florida, I woke up on New Year’s at a church event and I really felt like, there’s got to be more. I can’t do this forever. I felt like I was in a coma.
So, for the first time in my life, God was in it, and there wasn’t anything wrong, and yet I still felt like I wasn’t truly alive. Something was missing. Yes, it’s true that God and Jesus were all I need. Yes, it’s true I had come a long way and was living my life for Christ daily, praying all the time, journaling, etc. yet something was clearly amiss. I, like my mother, attributed it to not having a boyfriend or a set group of friends or an exhilarating career. But the truth is that it wasn’t any of that.
See, after I came to New York for my annual summer visit to see my best friend Stephanie, God had it so that circumstances would make me stay longer. I managed to have a quick heartbreak during my vacation here. I wasn’t looking for it, but it found me. God did it so that I would stay longer and all of my New York memories I had forgotten in six years’ time would come flooding back. They hit me hard. I realized what kind of life I left behind and I realized that I never mourned losing it. I knew I had unfinished business in New York. So I came back with my car and rented a place.
I had no idea what I was going to find here. Turns out, I found God. Turns out, that same best friend would have a Jesus-Freak brother who would tear out my soul and show it to me and challenge me to do something with it. Turns out, none of the “connections” I’ve had with anyone before would ever hold a candle to this one.
But life wasn’t going to be that easy. God wasn’t done yet. See, this situation was complicated and it caused us both great pain. See, this situation prompted me to cry out to God in a way I had never done before. I cried: “God, I need you right here, right now.”
For the first time in my life, the urgency in my prayer and cry brought God directly to me. Within the hour, God had all my fears, worries, pain, doubt, insecurities melt completely away. God transformed me. For the first time in my life I was just as much of a Jesus Freak as the man who inspired me. For the first time in my life, I was approaching strangers to talk about God and Jesus and inviting them to church and throwing money and food at the homeless and seeking every opportunity God put on my heart to talk about Jesus.
I was the girl with a serious face who never smiled at people and expected the world to love me anyway because I’m pretty. Now, I only hope that the beauty I’ve obtained from God can spread across all of the people God puts into my life from this day on.
See, this testimony wasn’t a simple, instant, life-shattering event. I don’t have visceral accounts of supernatural glory. My connection to Christ and my transformation, though instantaneous, was gradual. As you can see, God started work in me and he never gave up.
I want God to bless me with more. Not more things. Not more feelings. I want him to bless me with more opportunities to spread his goodness. Because the day I prayed to him I dropped to my knees on the beach because the sky and ocean were so calm and I thought I was in heaven. The presence of God had me wrapped in a warm blanket. Nothing could touch me. I told God I was so sorry for ever questioning him or going against him. I realized his will is perfect because it brought me to this point. Total peace exists in the presence of God.
In time, I realized I need Jesus and declared it publicly for the first time. I saw myself standing in front of the water in the moonlight and I needed Jesus there to take my hand. I’ve seen my faith produce prayers that came out of me with the kind of righteous anger I never knew I had. A month ago, a week ago, I never knew any of this was possible.
I want to change the church so that no one goes through the “coma” I went through for five years. I want to use my words to reach millions. I want to pair with someone so we can protect each other from Satan’s empty threats by using the word of God as a shield of strength and fanning the fire of Christ for one another. I want to do everything I can for Christ, so that when he comes here, I can run to him with open arms and know I did everything I could do execute his perfect will and I’ll feel the glory of his presence all over again. I want to practice and perfect his love with my husband and children and spread his love to every soul on the planet.
This came to me after the fact. God did speak to me another time. Prior to coming to New York and finding God’s direct presence, he spoke to me while I was in a state of meditation. I was doing gentle yoga, lying on my back, holding a pose and I heard God speak:
“You know why I haven’t sent you anyone, yet?” he asked me. (He must have heard all of my desperate prayers).
“Why, God?” I wanted to know.
“Because you wont accept loss.”
“No, I wont!” I yelled, “I refuse it! I refuse to.”
And my eyes teared because I knew I was fighting with God- I was arguing with him- and I knew I was going against his will. But I also knew how I never again wanted to experience the pain of loss that had me nearly take my own life. Fear kept me from wanting to love a person the way God created me to love.
“You can’t have True Love without the risk of loss,” I heard God say.
“I don’t care!” was my stubborn response.
“I did not create you with a spirit of fear.”
Those were his final words to me. Those were the words that kept replaying over and over throughout the next couple of months. Those were the words that gave me the courage to leave Florida for the summer and drive my vehicle without the kind of toxic anxiety the accident produced. See, the devil really desperately wanted to keep me immobile. The devil really desperately wanted to see me spiritually paralyzed.
Eventually, I told God I was sorry for arguing. I told God that I did accept loss, that I wanted him to teach me to accept it again. I told God that I wanted him to break my fear- that the alternative of living a life without True Love was worse.
I didn’t think he answered me, but after experiencing everything I have in the last few months, I realized that he heard me loud and clear. See, he gave me True Love and he gave me True Loss, all wrapped in one person, all wrapped in one situation. And, what’s even more, is he conquered my fear of it. See, now that I know he’s with me, now that I truly feel his presence, I know that there isn’t anything on this planet that would take me to the dark place of questioning his perfect will.
Lastly, I want to close by saying God may have revealed himself to me. First, when I was fifteen and away with my step-mom’s family at their Lake George vacation house. I saw a homeless boy and I tried to invite him to dinner. My family made fun of me for that. They teased me about it for years: “there goes Jess, picking up hobos.” But that homeless boy’s eyes stayed with me all these years. They haunted me. He showed me kindness. And then he disappeared.
A few days ago I came across another homeless guy with the same energy as the first boy. I bought this homeless man food and water and gave it to him and told him that Jesus loved him. I didn’t think much of it, other than it had been strange to see him twice in different locations, just minutes apart. I thought it was deja vu.
It was only last night that it occurred to me I may have had another encounter with God.
“I did not create you with a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
Lord, I will keep that verse inscripted on my heart.
After sharing my testimony with countless people, it took weeks before I got a response from someone that actually made me reconsider something.
“I really appreciate and relate to everything you wrote,” he began earnestly, “but I just don’t get it still.”
“What do you mean?”
“I just don’t get how you made that kind of change. I don’t get how you became a different person. I don’t get how you transformed.”
I thought about it for a minute. He was right. I had explained all of the ways that God has pursued me relentlessly and saved and protected me fiercely over the years, but I didn’t really get into detail just how my soul transformed. Because the topic carried some pain with it at the time, I more or less avoided it in my testimony. How could I neglect attention and detail to the most important part? And I fancied myself some kind of Big-Shot writer. (Just kidding!).
But seriously. This kid was spot on. I thanked him for bringing it to my attention. I told him that God put him in my path for a reason. I’d have to go back an edit my testimony. I’d have to give more detail and attention to how I actually transformed.
I’m also going to include this in my testimony- this will be both a separate piece and included in my previous blog entitled, Testimony.
Recently I had the urge to sleep with the Bible on my chest. No, it wasn’t my idea. I’m not that holy. I got the idea from someone, from two people actually, and I put it into action a few nights ago. I was feeling uneasy- bad energy- at night. I said, whatever page I happen to turn to, I wont look at until morning. Maybe something in that page of scripture is a message I need to hear from God.
I don’t normally sleep on my back, so this wasn’t exactly easy to accomplish. I wanted to send my love to someone, and in the process, God put a few other people on my heart, one of whom I reached out to.
Low and behold, the next morning I woke up to Isaiah 40:28:
He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion, but those who Trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
At the time, thats what I needed to hear.
It also brought me back to Fourth of July. I started to replay that day in my head in painstaking detail. I remember waking up that morning, slightly late- it must have been close to 11am. I wasn’t well-rested. I was groggy. My landlord woke me because she wanted to fix the leak in the air conditioner. I didn’t want to be rude but I had to rush her and her friend, who gave me his business card, because I didn’t have much time before my best friend was coming to pick me up.
I had my Fourth of July outfit already planned- it was the same one from the previous year with the addition of a new American-Flag headband. I really love my country! Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays- it’s been that way since childhood.
I felt really lucky to be going to a party that day with my best friend. She’s a busy girl with a lot of friends, so I counted myself lucky for any time with her. I asked her what she was doing but I didn’t think I’d be invited to go wherever she was going. I remember saying, “are you sure it’s okay?”
I went out and bought food and drinks- I was raised to never go anywhere empty handed. They were all ready to go the night before.
I looked in the mirror. I was overwhelmed with a light feeling. I didn’t care how silly I looked with my headband and my hair in braids because it’s the only way it looked semi-presentable. I didn’t really care to wear too much makeup. I remember thinking keep it light. I just felt light that day.
And she and I ended up at one of her friend’s houses. We would stay there for a few hours before going to her brother’s house. I felt slightly awkward, not knowing anyone, but it’s a feeling I’m used to.
I get really bored and impatient with small-talk. I hate having to feign an interest- but I remember doing all of those things that day until my mother called.
I stepped aside. I was a couple of drinks in. It was nice to talk to my mother through a slight haze- that would make her words less toxic. She was checking up on me. Giving me updates. Seeing how I was. Probably, in some way or form, expressing disappointment for my impromptu decision to leave Florida for the summer. Probably, in some way or form, sensing that I was about to break from the steady, stable, suffocating life she always wanted me to exist in.
I was glad to leave the place where we were. The people were nice, but I was happy not to have to fake any more small talk. We headed to my friend’s brother’s house.
Here’s the part when I can get into all of the vibes I got from everyone- all the key people- that day. Some of which were confirmed to be accurate. A friend of mine calls me an empath- saying I can pick up on energy and what people are feeling. I don’t know if it’s that or if God has just given me the gift of discernment so I can see through people’s exteriors, defenses, presentations to the world and I can feel the truth (whether it be Joy or Pain) coming from their eyes and hearts.
In either case, it happened a lot that day. I was picking up on more than I knew how to process. While I was still light, there was a heaviness now. I walked into something heavy, something intense, something spiritual. And when I interacted with someone there, and he shared his story with me in front of the entire gathering of people, the only way I can really describe what I experienced is that it tore my soul out.
I don’t cry in front of strangers. Some would accuse me as outwardly heartless. But there I was crying. I couldn’t stop myself.
And though I was scared, I felt the need to share my own story, since it also had to do with suicide. I didn’t realize, at the time, that both suicide stories/testimonies occurred just months apart. Talk about Seasons of Life!
There was some praying involved afterward. I remember thinking to myself: this must look really weird to everyone around us. Two people crying in the middle of a Fourth of July party.
Now let’s get back to fireworks!!!
Something else happened. I got a call from a No Caller Idea. I put the person on speaker because it’s impossible to hear anyone on my phone without it. I also put them on mute because there was the singing of Happy Birthday going on and I didn’t want to be rude. I forgot to take the mute button off and the person hung up.
While this might not be anything significant, what struck me interesting was the time. The call was made right around the time that people are with their friends and family watching the first round of fireworks. Who would be thinking of me at that time?
I racked my brain and the mystery kept me agitated for a few more days.
I remember looking at those fireworks after I spent some time sitting by myself (because after the experience I had I wanted to be alone). I saw the fireworks but I didn’t see them. I was quiet and looking through them. I felt light years away. But I had an adventurous spirit and I wanted to see the fireworks’ source. I went for a walk around the neighborhood.
A lot happened afterward but I’ll skip to the part that is central to my testimony.
Whatever got turned on inside of me on Fourth of July was in danger of slipping away. I sensed the loss of it. It destroyed me. I was in excruciating pain. I was writing in my journal- and then I said it:
“God- I need you right here, right now.”
Within the next hour, all of my pain, doubt, anxiety, worry, fear melted away. It fell right off me. I was driving and texting someone and I knew that every word I wrote was backed with the confidence of God. I was at peace.
I went to the ATM and I took out $40. I drove to the beach- it was a Friday and my friends play volleyball there at 6 pm. It was only around 3pm when I arrived.
“That will be $40 to park,” the girl told me.
I laughed to myself. Okay, God. You had me take out exactly $40. Nice work!
I got to the beach and I walked away from from people. I wanted to be alone and just enjoy God and my music and get lost in the beauty of the ocean.
God had other plans.
Enter two boys, both covered with tattoos. They looked a little rough.
Talk to them, I heard God say.
Are you out of your mind, God? I’m a female! I’m alone. If I go over to those guys it will totally give the wrong impression. Besides, what would I even say?
Talk to them, God repeated.
And just then, I saw a cross tattoo on one of the guy’s arms. At least there would be something to talk about.
We talked. We exchanged numbers. We talked for hours. Strangers talking about God and church and life. Turns out the other guy had a tattoo on his neck that said Pray For Me, and he shared that his mom died of cancer that January and he was unsure where he was going to live. I told him I was inviting him to church. And I did. More than once.
Now, something happened when I obeyed God’s request to talk to those guys. All of a sudden, I liked people. I remember going to the bathroom and smiling at everyone I saw. One girl even complemented my bikini. I was just on Cloud-9. I wasn’t on earth. Everything just felt so peaceful, so liberating, so great. There’s such an amazing feeling when you cross the barrier and conquer the fear to talk to strangers- especially when you are talking to them about Jesus Christ and God!!!
And soon enough there was the volleyball game at hand. I joined my friends for a minute. I had been at the beach all day. But I felt the need to go for a walk just as the sun was setting. My phone was going to die.
I was texting someone pictures of the sunset. There really are the most magical sunsets there. And somehow I ended up near the shoreline, isolated. I looked around in all directions but there didn’t seem to be any people there. And all of a sudden it seemed as if everything stopped- everything grew still. The sky stopped moving- every cloud in the sky- even the ocean stopped moving and grew calm. I knew there were people in the distance but I couldn’t see them or hear them anywhere.
I took a picture of it and my phone died- I didn’t know if the picture would save or not.
The overwhelming feeling of peace wouldn’t go away. It made me dizzy. It made me feel like I was fainting. It made me feel like I wasn’t alive. I pinched myself. Nothing was moving. Everything was still. Where am I? Is this heaven? Did I die? Did I finally pass into eternal life?
The feeling made me drop to my knees. When I regained consciousness, I started to pray:
I am so sorry, God. I am in awe of you. I am so sorry for ever doubting you- for ever doubting your presence. I will never question you again. Your will truly is perfect!
That’s what I said.
When I got home I called my parents. I said I love you to my mom for the first time in 15 years. I was just filled with an overwhelming sensation of peace and love. And I prayed. Man, did I pray to God. I finally gave Him the thankfulness he deserves. I realized that His will is perfect because he led me to this moment and I wished I could just die right there- close to him.
I never knew I could be that close to him.
But he was showing me all other visions. He was showing me how I was going to have everything I ever asked for- and more. He was showing me all the ways he was putting all my plans to shame. He was going to give me True Love, a Family, AND A MISSION! I wouldn’t have to choose. I could fight for him while surrounded by love and a family. I would have a purpose. I would have the best of ALL worlds. The best this poor little earth has to offer. And this is why nothing else before then satisfied. This is why nothing else fit!
He wanted me to have someone equally honest, equally devoted to Him.
In time I would revisit that moment of 100% Pure Faith, Confidence, Assurance whenever I had the subsequent feelings of fear and doubt. I tattooed God’s Will Is Perfect on my arm so I would have a constant reminder of that moment and so that I would recognize it as the only truth I know wholeheartedly. I am never going back no matter what!!! (It’s also a great conversation starter to strangers about God!)
I don’t think I’ve ever felt better in my entire life.
Time would come and pass, and as I was sharing my story with all of my friends in Florida, I also showed them the picture I took (that actually saved!) right before my phone died.
“Do you see it?” my friend Danielle asked.
“The angel?! Look at the clouds in the picture! It looks just like an angel.”
I saw it. She was right. As clear as daylight there was the distinct profile shape of an angel- one with powerful wings and artillery. Gabriel? Michael? I know one of them was watching over me that day.
And time would have it so that I would remember the words of the pastor, Pastor Craig Groeschel, who got me saved. When he gave his testimony he said:
I just dropped to my knees in that softball field and I came up a different person.
But how? I thought. My journey to Christ was so much more gradual. Baby steps. How could a person change in a single instant?
I didn’t get it until now. I left that beach on July 20th a different person. I made the decision to quit my job and stay in New York and dedicate my whole life to whoever, whatever, however, God wants me to be.
So, yes, God, I’ll finally be the woman you created me to be. I now know why nothing else was ever enough.