This testimony is very large, and at
first it looks like it's going nowhere,
but please hang in. Let me introduce
myself: my real name is Mary, I was
born into an extended family in 1945.
Everyone watched over everyone
else's child so the rules were different
all the time...depending on who was
watching you.


Because my mother had to work, but
couldn't afford a babysitter, I lived
between my grandmothers house; my
aunts house; and home. Home was
on the weekends when my mother
didn't have to work.


I was a very difficult child. I was
extremely active, moody, and
demanding. I was always into some
kind of mischief and it seemed as
though I could never live up to
anyones expectations. I was always
being asked by some member of the
family: "Why can't you behave more
like your brother? Your cousin? The
little girl down the street?"


These questions were designed to
force me to rethink my behaviors...but
all it did was make me jealous of my
brother, my cousins, and the kid
down the street.


These questions made me feel as
though i wasn't loved for myself...I
could and I would only be acceptable
(in my familys' eyes) if I were
someone else!


My family was also very competitive.
They were always saying, "Lets see
who can clean the fastest; do
homework the neatest; or behave the
longest!"
Well, guess who always came out on
the losing end of this little game? I
swear that's the reason I do not have
an interest in any form of gambling
today...I learned very early that the
odds were stacked against me. These
little "games" of theirs only served to
make me feel even more inadequate!


I only remember winning once. The
topic was, "let's see who got the best
report card." My report card was very
average, but for once in my life, it
was the best one in the family...I
won, I won!!! I was so excited...until
my aunt decided that because my
cousin was only in first grade, and I
was in third, it was harder for my
cousin to achieve her grades...my
cousin got the awaiting reward!! I
hated that cousin and that aunt for
years because of this. Moreover...I
hated myself because I could never
seem to please my family!


My family was God fearing, but they
were more prone to instill a fear of
God into your heart than to
demonstrate His love. Their favorite
saying was, "God will punish you for
that" and the next time I fell down or
got hurt in any way, they would say,
(even if it was a month later) "See, I
told you God would punish you!" And,
because I just couldn't seem to stay
out of trouble, it seemed as though
God was always waiting to strike!


I never really knew Gods' love...only
His willingness to punish. I was
certain that my eternal destiny was
hell for sure. And church...wow...that
was a whole other matter!


I was brought up in the catholic
church. Don't get me wrong, I have
nothing against the catholic religion,
but for me...the experience wasn't
such a good one.
I had one aunt that was more
religious than the rest.
Usually this aunt was
the one who took me to church before
I was old enough to go by myself.
She was not only the most religious,
she was extremely loving, she
was also the strictest aunt in the
family. We all knew that crossing her
was not a good thing, so I tried real
hard to behave in church.


True to form...I just couldn't.
Invariably I would end up bored,
squirming all over my seat, and just
plain being a nuisance. She would
then give me "penance" to do. I would
have to fold my hands, close my
eyes, and ask God to forgive me for
misbehaving. She wouldn't let me out
of that position until SHE thought I
was done. In retrospect...I believe
that was her way of keeping me
still...but the outcome was a distinct
dislike for church. So, from that early
age, I began to learn that God,
church, and I weren't such a good
mixture. Then I got old enough to go
to childrens' church by myself...oh my!!


Back then, the nuns had what I called
clackers. They were hand held
instruments that, when manipulated
by the fingers, made loud clacking
noises. The nuns used these very
offensive gadgets to "train" children.
Well, I've already established the fact
that I could not behave in church.
Whenever I misbehaved, (which was
every 5 seconds) they would put
those things within inches of my ear
and clack them...now the whole
church knew what a brat I was!!
If I misbehaved once too often,
(which was almost every week) I
would be ordered to stay after church!
I think I was the only kid in the world
to have to stay after church!!...lol


I still loved God (I don't know how
because I was scared of his wrath)
but I wasn't liking church much...I
began to skip. I would take my tithe
money, buy candy, and go down by
the railroad tracks to "hide out" until I
saw the kids walking by on their way
home from church...then I would go
home.


I don't know how, but I still managed
to make my first communion and my
confirmation. I can remember how
proud I was when I made my
confirmation...I was now a "soldier for
God." I had no idea what that meant,
but I was certainly glad I was
it...whatever it was.


By this time in my life, I wanted to
become a nun. I loved God, Mary, the
angels, the saints, the whole thing. I
wanted to be a part of Gods' family,
until I realized that I was too "bad" to
be a nun. If I couldn't make it for 1
hour a week in church, how could I
possibly commit to being a nun for a
lifetime? My mother gently reminded
me of that little fact of life. I think she
was trying to prompt me into better
behaviors, but the only purpose it
served was...I gave up my dream.


By the time I was a teenager, I was a
full fledged handful. My mother
(whom I lived with full time now) was
constantly telling me: "You'll be the
death of me yet, I work my fingers to
the bone and you don't appreciate it,
why can't you be more like your
brother? I'm sending you to a home
for wayward girls if you don't behave!"


My poor mother was so frustrated
with me that she didn't know what to
do. People back then didn't know that
an overactive child wasn't "fresh" or
"mean"...and they didn't have the
resources that we have today.


But again...or still...I was receiving
conditional love. In her attempts to
get me to behave, she was in fact
giving me the message that she
would love me only if I was good,
otherwise, I was not welcomed in her
home.


Up to this point, the mischief that I
had been getting into was just
that...mischief! But it didn't take me
long to hit the major leagues.
I had the name...I was bad...so I
might as well play the game...and BE
bad!! I didn't commit murder, sell
drugs, or anything that big, but I gave
my poor parents a run for their
money. I can still remember them
asking, "where did we go wrong in
bringing you up?"...They were so hurt
by my behaviors.


My life was an absolute mess from
this point until I was 27 years old.
That's when I met the real God via
my first pastor. This man not only told
me of Gods' love, he SHOWED me
Gods' love. I'll never forget my first
competitive situation in his church.
My opponent and i were supposed to
call everybody in the church to get
them to come on a certain date for a
special event. Her people would sit
on one side of the church and mine on
the other...the winner would get a prize.


Well, because of my past record for
losing, I was a little leery about
accepting this challenge, but I
reluctantly did.


Everyone that I called, my opponent
had already reached! I got nervous
about this, so I decided to call people
who hadn't been to church in awhile.


The day of the event finally arrived,
and guess what...I lost again...her
side was filled to capacity...mine was
less than 1/2 full.
How embarrassing...my failure was
so glaringly and painfully noticeable!


But my wonderful christian pastor
rose to the occasion. He pointed out
that, although my opponent won in
numbers, I was also a winner
because the people that were sitting
in my pews were either new or hadn't
been to church in a long time.


This man was able to take the
devastation out of the situation and
point out the positive! He showed me
love and acceptance...even though I
had failed (or I thought I had)! wow!


One time I told him that I couldn't
witness to other people about Christ
(I wasn't ready yet). Instead of getting
upset with me...or arguing with me
about my attitude...he simply smiled
at me and said, "Oh, but you are a
witness." I was shocked! I asked him
how I was a witness. He said, "By
sitting in your pew whenever the
church is open, you are being a
witness to whoever else...especially
newcomers...walks through the
doors." WOW! Once again he took
my negative (bad) and turned it into
positive (good)!


Whenever I would "slip" and swear,
instead of getting mad and reminding
me of how "bad" I was...he would
laughingly ask, "Can't you use a
different word, like basket, or fudge?"


This man had true unconditional love,
and because of this man, I was able
to recognize and understand Gods'
unconditional love for me.This pastor
was not only a talker, but he was a
walker of the word. A demonstration
of Gods' love. He knew my life story,
he knew my attitudes, he knew how
bad I was...yet, he was still able to
accept me and show me Gods'
love...WOW!!


That pastor is with the Father now,
but he left me with the most precious
gift anyone could ever have...Gods'
eternal love, patience, understanding,
and guidance. I no longer fear God, I
now understand His pure and
forgiving love for me. I no longer
worship the frightful God of my
childhood, but the loving God who
loves me just the way I am. And
because of His love for me...I want to
be the best that I can be...for Him.


Praise and Glory belong to God, my
Savior, my best friend...Amen!!


And please don't get me wrong, I had
a very warm and loving family; they
were just trying to bring out the best
in me, but I was very very difficult
back then, and, in fact, I still harbor a
lot of "fight" but the Lord had worked
most of it out of me...He's the
best!!...Yes!!


I pray this testimony helps just even
one person, and please, don't ever
feel that you are too bad for God to
love you. God IS love:


John 3:16 For God so loved the
world, that he gave his only begotten
Son, that whosoever believeth in him
should not perish, but have
everlasting life.

John 3:17 For God sent not his Son
into the world to condemn the world;
but that the world through him might
be saved.