May 25, 2011

Radiance-Week One

Yesterday morning I opened my computer and someone had left my blog page up.  I saw the post and thought to myself, "Is that still here?"  My suspicions that readers might be getting sick of seeing the same thing were confirmed last night when our neighbors dropped by for a visit.  Terri said I had to get less busy so I could start posting something on my blog again.

The truth is, I spent all last week in my travels working on a series to post this week.  Computer glitches lost about half of the 12 or more hours worth of work dealing with the topic of friends and unplugging your family.  I was in a less than pleasant mood.  Brianna spent an entire evening attempting to recover the work but it is gone.  I will recreate it, and who knows, maybe it will be better this time.  Unfortunately, it has to sit on the back burner while I tend to more pressing matters.

In the mean time, I promised Terri I would post something for her oh so boring life.  Don't worry, she said that and I told her it would appear on my blog, so its okay.  (In the future, if you ever get really needy you can always check out my other two blogs for a little something.  365 Ways to Say I Love You was a challenge last year to intentionally take time each day to make sure our hubby's know how much they really mean to us.  365 in 2011 is a daily photo challenge that is journaling the Wachter year, one day and one photo at a time.

This morning, as I was doing my work, I was thinking of Terri and what could I post that wouldn't take too much time from the long list I am committed to before the holiday weekend begins.  All of a sudden I remembered an article Kaitlin showed me that I had intended to scan in and post, except I can't find it anywhere in the stack of paper work I need to take care of.  (In case I don't get through the pile before June 12th, yes we will be there for your house warming party.)

Anyway, one day Kaitlin was reading an article in one of those magazines that come inside the newspaper.  She started laughing out loud, almost hysterically.  She passed it on to Brianna who reacted in a similar way.  At last they showed it to me.  The title of the article was, "Five steps to home improvement."  When the girls calmed down enough to talk, Kaitlin asked me this question, "When have we ever finished a home improvement project in just five steps?"  So, there you have it my home improvement friends, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!  Even our daughters understand the vacuum of the hammer, nails and general disaster you are in as you strive to finish your home building project.

On to other things...  for quite some time, I have wanted to share the personal testimony of how the Lord saved me and changed my life.  Because of some very painful details, Allen and I have never been quite sure as to whether or not this public forum was the right place to share, because of the possible implications to our younger children.

However, last week Brianna started a four week celebration on her blog called, Radiance, in which she is challenging readers to dig deeper into their faith by sharing it with others.  Week one includes sharing your personal testimony on your blog.  I told her I would do it as soon as I finished the above mentioned article.    Now we know how that turned out.  I told her in exchange for the time she tried to recover my document I would give her post top priority.

Our Pastor clinched the deal Sunday when he asked Allen and I to share our personal testimonies at a special friends and family service over the Memorial Day weekend.  Isn't it great how God confirms things for us?  So there you have it... a blog post for Terri, an entry into Brianna's challenge, sharing my personal testimony and writing it out for Pastor all wrapped in one.  I love efficiency!

So kick back with some coffee and enjoy.
I love to listen to the testimony of believers as they share how Jesus saved them. Even more than that, I love sharing the story of how the Lord changed my heart and the path of my own life in one fell swoop. It seems I’ve told it so many times that everyone must surely know it and be sick of hearing it. It wasn’t until last year when Nathaniel asked me a question relating to my past that I realized, he had no clue about where I started, where my life could have been and where God has brought me instead.

So for those who don’t know the amazing work that was done in my life, let me introduce myself. I am Kathleen Wachter. I grew up in a devout Catholic family. My child hood years were characterized by confusion, chaos, and complete lack of joy or happiness. Our lives were controlled by my parents unhappy marriage, alcoholism, abuse, neglect and a father who was rarely around. Home life seemed so unbearable, that it was often my wish that my parents would divorce once and for all, just so that we could know the peace and stability I enjoyed when visiting in the homes of school friends.

If I had to sum up our lives in one word, it would be hypocrisy. We went to church every weekend and on the holy days. We observed the times of fasting and were careful to partake of all the sacraments. My brother, sister and I attended Catholic school where we were taught the doctrine of the church. It was unthinkable to lapse in any of these things. “What a nice family,” people would say. “What good children.” We were called Christians and believed we had earned the name. However, at home, we did not live as those who have claimed His name should.

Elisabeth loves to ask the question, “Why.” If you aren't careful she will trap you in a circle of “whys” that you can’t get out of. After ten or fifteen minutes, Allen starts to get frustrated at not being able to give her a satisfactory answer and he will beg, “Kathleen, help!” I love to look back at him and tell him how he got himself into it and he should find a way out. Then in a sentence or two I answer her question and she is on her way. But the fact of the matter is, she got that trait from me.

Even at a young age, I was always trying to figure things out, asking questions and getting frustrated that no one I knew could answer my “whys” to my satisfaction. I would read something or hear something in church or in our religion classes and it just didn’t work for me. Instead it just gave me more questions.

The day a teacher told us we must all be baptized or we can’t get to Heaven particularly sticks out in my mind. The toddler daughter of our friend had just dropped dead on the play ground, so this children and Heaven thing was very fresh in my mind. When I asked the teacher about the babies who die before they are baptized she said, "Well they have to be baptized. But if they are very sick and a priest can’t come to baptize them, anyone can baptize them."  My mind wondered what would happen if there was no one who knew how to baptize properly. Would God really not allow this child into heaven? The teachers answer was to tell us how to properly baptize someone should we ever find ourselves in that situation. But no one had an answer for those who didn’t have the opportunity.

We loved to sing. My mom sang us hymns and taught them to us.  We often would sing in the car on our way to and from school. One of the songs we sang was based on the scripture John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” One day Mom and I were working on something in the kitchen and singing this song when I realized, “Wow, this Jesus is pretty amazing!”

One spring, as Easter approached, and we fasted our way through the Lenten season I was particularly stirred by the teachings at church and in school about Jesus death on the cross. I had heard it plenty and been told that Jesus died so we could get to heaven, but it had never been so real to me before. This brought about so many more “whys”. If Jesus died so we could go to heaven, why do babies have to be baptized? Why do we have to go to church? Why do we have to take the sacraments? It was all so confusing. I talked to my mom. I spoke with my teachers. I questioned the priests. But every answer they gave only created more questions for me. And after a while it was made clear that my questions were impertinent.  To question the doctrines was to lack faith.  To lack faith was a sin.  To sin would cost my salvation.

So I did what I was told. Went to church. Took the sacraments. Volunteered. Tried to be a good enough person to make it to heaven one day.  But never knowing for sure.

Fast forward a few years through my parents divorce, my homeless nights, a bad marriage and even worse divorce. All of which the Lord used to bring me to the last place on earth I would have ever chosen to live. New Jersey. In desperate need of work, I agreed when my brother asked me to move to the area where they were stationed in order to care for their son, who was the same age as Kaitlin.

By this time, my life and heart were so troubled with financial, personal and spiritual questions, that I ceased to sleep at all. Every night was the same. I would tuck Kaitlin in bed and then crawl into bed myself completely exhausted and my mind would start spinning. What am I going to do about this? What about that? How can I this? And so it went until the sun came up. I was so completely exhausted, I would doze off sitting up and even while driving. I couldn’t focus and my memory was suffering terribly. Of course at night, when I fell back into bed, the questions just started again. But never did I arrive at an answer. What I now know, is that I couldn’t ever find an answer to those questions because I was looking in the wrong place. In my surroundings, in finding the right job, in whatever I would do. But the true solution was not within me but by turning to the God who controls all.

And He was so good to provide just what I needed. Somehow my brother had been invited to a Bible study being hosted by the Baptist Chaplain of the base where he was stationed. His wife wasn’t interested in attending with him, so he asked me if I would go. My social life wasn’t exactly full, so Wednesday night we grabbed our preschoolers and headed out.

It is so funny to me that I can’t remember the man’s name or even see his face. It is as if he truly stepped completely out of the way to let the Lord speak through him for my benefit. As we sat and listened to preacher talk about the Lord’s word, retelling the stories of the OT saints, I was in shock at the passion he had. His overwhelming belief in the truth that he was sharing and the faith of those he was teaching about. The unquestionable fact that this was truth written just as it happened to be understood and interpreted just as the Bible said. No need to be smarter, older, wiser or more spiritual to get the “real” meaning. Here it was in the Bible for all of us, everyone, to understand and KNOW for ourselves. That was such an amazingly new revelation for me. Up to that point in my life, whenever I saw a conflict in what man said and what the Bible said, I was told that it was because I wasn’t capable of understanding it. But here, for the first time, I knew that if there was a conflict, it wasn’t my understanding that was lacking, but rather  it was the understanding of the world being added to it. The bottom line?  I could believe without a doubt every word God had given to us.

It didn’t take long for me to put two and two and two together. I knew that if I could understand Moses literally called on God’s power to open the red sea and lead the Israelites across, than the other things written in His word were literally true, also. When the word said Jesus died to free all men who believe on His death as the full payment of their sins, then my sins had indeed already been paid for.

I didn’t know the lingo or even the steps to soul winning we teach others, but I will never forget the hot evening in 1994 when the Lord opened my eyes and heart to this truth and I gave up my sin, worries and ultimately my life to Him. It felt as thought my heart burst open and immediately there was a freedom and peace which had eluded me all my life.

One time someone asked me to sum up the difference in my life in one word. I had never considered such a question before but “Joy” was the word that instantly fell from my lips. 1 Peter 1:8 sums it up like this “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

Prior to that day, I didn’t know joy even in those occasions that were to be happy and filled with pleasant memories. If someone had told me that in the midst of the complete chaos of my life, I could not only have rest but also know such unspeakable joy, I would have laughed in their face. Yet, here I stand today, the survivor of far worse trials than even in those days. And the one thing I can tell each of you, and anyone else who will listen, is that not only has my God seen me through, he has done so while filling my heart with the joy of His love and forgiveness and the peace of knowing that He is in control, just as He promises in His word.