What God Has Done for Me!
by Gini Crawford
I want all of you to get to know me, the woman who is on the other side of your computer. (It's kind of weird, isn't it, to think where I am and where you are, and how we are communicating? It is beyond my comprehension!) The Spirit also has been nudging me for a while to write out my testimony, so what better way for you to get to know me than for me to tell you my testimony. I will prayerfully try to map out for you what the God of the universe has done for me through out my years. I will be honest, but there are other people involved too, so I can't tell you every gory detail. I hope I put in enough humor so that I don't put you to sleep!
I know for sure that God was in my life before I was born. (Psalm 139:13-16 tells us that God knew us and formed us, before our birth.) This is because there was a certain letter my mother wrote about me when I was still in her womb. This letter showed me that God was at work for me, even back then. This was one of those letters that you wished you have never seen. She wrote the letter to her father in 1954, the year I was born. In this letter, it was very clear she did not want me. She was married to my father but thought I would just complicate even more, an already complicated relationship. She wanted to put me up for adoption. My mother was 39 at the time. When my husband saw the letter in a pile of estate papers which we received in 1999, and read it, he was shocked! When I read it, I said, "Oh what else is new? It just sounds like how my childhood was!" I had always felt I was an inconvenience in everyone's life, so the letter just underscored what I felt was true. I know God in His sovereignty made my mother keep me, or I would have been, lets say, somewhere else.
I also know, God in His sovereignty, made me a cute baby. When my mother saw me, family told me that she fell in love with me because I was so cute. (I had blue-green eyes and a wild mop of hair. Frankly I think I looked like an oversized Cabbage Patch doll, but God knew what was needed to have them fall in love with me.) I know that is a bad reason to love someone, but it gave me the attention that God knew I needed. They called me, "The beautiful Irish rose."
My mother was diagnosed with lung cancer just after Christmas, in my 5th year of life. I remember watching her read the results of her lung test when it came in the mail. This is my earliest clear memory. She found out soon after that the lung cancer was terminal. I remember her saying to me, just before she left to start her many treatments, "Be a good girl, so you can be with me in heaven." As I think about that statement now, I get chocked up and hope so much, that someone made the message of salvation clear to her before she died. God's Word tells us in Romans 3 that no person is good or seeks for God because we are all sinners. So being able to go to heaven needs to come through something other than our being good.
After she left, I only saw her three times before she died in June of 1960. The last time I saw her, God worked a miracle. Her lung cancer had progressed to her brain. While trying to stop the cancer, they cut out the part of the brain out that allows us to talk. She hadn't said anything since that operation. They knew her health was failing rapidly, and I hadn't seen her since her brain operation, so they took me to see her. She was in a nursing home for hospice care at the time I saw her. As I walked into her room and went running up to her, she said, "My baby, my baby," and hugged me. Her sister, my aunt, told me everyone who heard it was shocked and had said, "What a miracle." As I write this, tears are running down my face. It is the last and only memory I have of her loving me. I know it was God's gift to her and me, and it touched everyone's heart.
When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I went to live with my father's mother, my grandmother. I was about five and a half at the time. She had this knack of criticizing without you realizing she was being critical. You thought she was just being truthful about how crummy you were. One of the things, she said to me quite often was, "Why can't you be like that girl?" She also used guilt to manipulate me. One of the things I remember her saying to me during my elementary years was, "you are killing me because you are so hard to handle." My father lived with us, but stayed away a lot (probably because his mother did the same thing to him), so he was not very involved in my life. I felt abandoned and lonely.
When my mother died, no one helped me mourn her death. To their credit, I don't believe they knew what to do, so they avoided her memory and her death as much as possible. (From a Psychology standpoint, this doesn't help the grieving process at all.) I remember my grandmother hugging me and saying, "Your mother is gone", when we had heard she died. We both cried and that was the end of any outward emotion about my mother's death from my grandmother. I would wake up in the middle of the night crying for my mother for the next few years.My first memory of God that I can remember, was when I was sitting outside and trying to read Genesis in the King James Bible. I can still feel the peace that was there, many years ago, as I looked for God in His Word. You see, during those many troubled nights crying for my mother, I sensed there was a presence with me that I knew was God. I would call out to Him, but at that point I didn't know who He was. I felt that maybe by reading His Word I could get to know Him. For me to have known I could find God in the Bible was definitely His Spirit wooing me, because at that point I knew nothing about the Book. I know now that God's Spirit was there with me as I was trying to make sense out of my fearful and confusing world. I was seeking Him and finding Him, as He already knew me.
"'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.'" Jeremiah 29:11-13 NASB®
I started a routine of saying the Lord's Prayer before I went to sleep. If I didn't, I would feel unsettled. I said this prayer because I wanted to gain God's love, favor and protection, not knowing that He already loved me no matter what.
"In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." 1 John 4:10 NASB®
My mother's family (my grandparents and my aunt) did talk about my mother and her death when I went to see them. However, for some weird reason, they blamed my father for my mother's death and hated his family. I felt like the scapegoat for their unforgiveness against my father's family. My grandmother and aunt especially had this bitterness towards me that I still can remember. One time they gave me grits to eat and I said, "They taste like sand, and I don't want to eat them." (Now, I often eat a bowl of that sand and love it!) You would have thought I had cursed them from their mean response. I remember I did receive some precious attention from my grandfather. He and I would sit for hours together and use his typewriter, or we would go fishing. I also heard that he prayed for me a lot at night, because my grandmother complained about him spending so much time in prayer. I give him credit for my salvation in a lot of ways. God does hear our prayers!
I remember that neither family liked to see the other. I was sent to my mother's family at least once a year. If they couldn't send me alone on the bus, they would drop me off somewhere and the other family would pick me up. I have to laugh, because to this day, traveling seems so confusing and overwhelming to me. Our past certainly influences our present.
My Aunt Peg, and Uncle Ott, from my father's side of the family, became like parents to me in my teen years. Even though at times they drank a lot, they were the ones who loved me for who I was. I think if God hadn't brought these loving people into my life big time, I would not have survived my teen years.
I found a soulmate in my aunt. We had both been put down by the same woman, her mother and my grandmother, for years. I remember when we first started sharing, and I realized both our struggles mostly stemmed from my grandmother. This fact shocked me, because I had lived in denial for years that my grandmother was the problem. She had made me feel that I was to blame for anything that went wrong in the family. I came out of my childhood taking the blame for anything that went wrong in any situation. To this day I can feel that way, unless I allow God to show me reality. Reality is: we are all sinners. I do things wrong before the Lord, but other people do too. Taking the blame for everyone is counterproductive for His working in my life and in other's lives too.
In my teen years, the reality of my life seemed to hit me like a ton of bricks. I know from my times of honest sharing with my aunt, why I felt so worthless, stupid, ugly and guilty. Still those things just hung on me like a worn and dirty dress that I could not get off. Since I felt so worthless deep down, I felt no one wanted me around. My speech problem which stemmed from a learning disability, made me very insecure around people, so I would avoid dealing with anyone. This dysfunctional way of handling life turned out to be a blessing in many ways, because it allowed God to keep me out of a lot of trouble. You see, in many ways I am like my father's family, who are mostly Irish. The Irish seem to have this vitality and exuberance, which is wonderful when we have energy and enthusiasm for the right things. On the other hand, get any of us bent on what isn't so right, and you really can have a mess. Even though I did thankfully avoid some stuff, I did many things that I am not proud of at all, such as under age drinking, driving, and stealing clothes with friends. I did these things with Irish gusto, we could say.
When I was 13, I became anorexic. My families would say, "You used to be so pretty when you were young and thin," so I became obsessed with dieting to make myself beautiful. I had given up on having worth from academics, because my learning disability made it hard for me to do well in school. I think my grandmothers both thought that if they called me stupid, it would motivate me to achieve, but it just drove me to the attitude, "Why try? I will just fail.' My worth came from my looks. This led me into some pretty unhealthy attitudes, like trying to out do my competition, the other girls. I remember my cousin once said to me, "I liked you better heavy. You were more fun." I remember to this day, how encouraging her childish comment was to me. This was because all I wanted was to be liked no matter how I looked or acted.
My life seemed to hit a crossroads at about 16. I felt like I was crazy. My thoughts and feelings seemed so confused. Nothing made sense to me. Why was I here on this earth? I knew it wasn't to feel worthless, stupid, ugly and guilty all the time, or to try to avoid people or to just have fun by doing whatever, or to diet constantly for my looks. Then that whisper came again from God. He had gently tried to get my full attention over the years in various ways. My grandmother did take me to church through my elementary years, for which I am so grateful. Sadly she didn't seem changed by what she heard. (She became a Christian in her nineties through her nurse, and we found a wonderful common ground.) Church was life changing for me! I remember a dear handicapped woman at that church would tell me about how Jesus died for our wrongs. I was so moved by the statement that God would die for my wrongs and they wouldn't be held against me, since it seemed to me, everyone else held my wrongs and theirs against me. Those words from that dear woman finally became a part of my life at 17 through a Bible study I started to go to on Saturdays.
I didn't want to go to that study. I made every excuse I could come up with when my Christian friends would ask me to go. God very much wanted me there, so He took away every excuse I came up with. Finally, I ran out of excuses and went and loved it. Every time God's Word was talked about, I felt a peace.
At the Bible study the teacher talked about Jesus Christ dying on the cross for our sins so that God could forgive us. That statement got my attention immediately, because I knew I did a lot of wrong things. I knew these wrong things were against what God wanted. It was plain to me that my family didn't want to forgive me, so why would God? The teacher said, "If we believe we are sinners, then we should believe we need a Savior. He then, told us about Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for our sins." He went on to say, "If any of you truly believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, you will be forgiven of your sins and they will never be held against you, because Jesus paid the penalty for those sins." I thought, "Who wouldn't want forgiveness?" (I knew true forgiveness would bring peace and freedom from my emotional distress of feeling guilty over everything.) I also was taken back by the knowledge that God would die for my sins when He had done nothing wrong. I knew I had finally found unconditional love. That day I knew I needed a Savior, which led me to believe in Jesus Christ, Who died on the cross to pay for my sins.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16 NASB®
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB®
I think most of you who are Christians can relate to this fact - my life didn't completely change after I became a Christian. I still had, and do have now, times when my sin nature gets the best of me, instead of God. The one thing I do remember that changed right away was my desire and ability to read and understand God's Word. Even though I fought God for almost 10 years concerning teaching His Word, as soon as I had became a Christian, I just kinda of knew I would teach the Bible someday. The Holy Spirit was at work in my life.
The first year I was a Christian, I was mentored by 2 older women at church, (who were probably younger than I am now, at 53), and a staff member from Youth for Christ. I still remember what they taught me and the ministry opportunities they allowed me to try with them. The 2 women had a friend of mine and me going to a home for wayward teens with them. When those teens would share their problems, I remember thinking, "I am no different from them. I just didn't get caught." It was a great experience because it taught me to be honest about my sins and struggles with my peers. It also allowed me to see what God was doing in my life. Going to that home taught me how to share my faith in Jesus.
I was on a good path with God. He had given me the desire to read His Word, and to share Jesus with people. However, at times my life with God was lacking because my actions didn't match my words. There was a friend of mine I was praying for. She used to ride around in my old VW with me and helped me pay for gas during our adventures, so no wonder I wanted her to become a Christian. I hung around with some cool gals my senior year. All of us wanted to have our last fun before we went to college, so we planned a week in the Florida Keyes. Sounds fun, but the only things to do were swim, sunbathe, snorkel, fish and drive around, so we got bored. (Remember, we Florida gals did those things all the time.) Well, my friend for whom I had been praying, asked her parents about us using their beautiful RV to stay in. I think they let us, because they thought, "What trouble can the girls get in down there; they are too young for the bars and only old men who love to fish were around." Little did they know that boredom would get the best of us! So the last day and night that we were there, I convinced the 7/11 store clerk to sell us Boones Farm Strawberry wine. We got drunk and almost got kicked out of the campground for being so loud. We also forgot to clean out the fish bait from the refrigerator when we left the Airstream camper the next day. This was because we had hangovers. We had told my friend's parents that we had cleaned the refrigerator, so they took our word and locked it up. The Airstream sat for 2 weeks in the hot June Florida sun with fish rotting away in it. When my friend's parents found out, well, let's just say, I don't think they would have ever listened to the message of salvation from me. God taught me a very important lesson about not being a hypocrite. I needed to be doing what I was praying about and sharing.
When I went to college, God was there with me. He was encouraging me to trust people enough to give them a chance to be close to me. As you can understand from my childhood, trusting people to even like me was just an unnatural thought pattern for me. Frankly I didn't even know I wasn't letting people get close to me until God showed me.
My husband, Tom, came along my sophomore year. He was so cute and would walk me to my classes. I thought, "How old fashioned," but it impressed on me how much he cared for me. (I remember that was the year of the streakers or naked runners on our campus. I must say, my generation is not boring; I wonder what we will do as senior citizens? ) If God hadn't kept whispering to me that Tom was the one, I would probably have run from being close to him too. That would have been so awful because Tom has been so wonderful for me. He is the one that always encourages me to do God's will. He is the one who has lovingly nagged me about doing this website.
About 10 years after I became a Christian, God challenged me to step out of my safety zone and teach His Word. At first I said to Him, "I will not stand up and make a fool of myself. God, I know you understand why, because I have trouble pronouncing some words, and I will need to pronounce them to teach." Nevertheless, God gently pushed me to teach. He used the church I was going to at the time and certain scriptures from His Word. In Exodus, God and Moses discussed the same concerns I had. God won the debate in Moses life, as well as in mine. Just lately, I can again appreciate Moses and his struggles about trusting God with ministry, while debating whether I should do this website or not. I think as time goes on, Moses and I will keep being able to relate, with my age and all. (I have to laugh thinking of my spiritual gifts, and what my father used to always say, "I had the gift of bossiness and I could call hogs for a living because my voice is so loud." In a funny way God was letting me develop my spiritual gifts at a young age. He uses my bossiness in my gift of shepherding women. (Of course it needs to be submitted to Him, so my bossiness turns out to be leadership with a servant's attitude.) He uses my ability to call hogs, when I need to teach without a microphone.)
God has blessed Tom and me with 3 awesome kids. Their names are Daniel, Andrew and Ruth. Our 2 boys came first. They were such a hand full. If I took my eyes off of them for more than a few minutes, they were into something probably harmful to their health, or they were getting dirty. They both use their abundant energy now as adults to do wonderful things. One has been to Iraq as a Marine officer and was God's warrior there. He married a wonderful woman that is helping me by editing the study, "God Loves You and Me." The other one has such a heart for the downtrodden, he is always reaching out for God. He married another wonderful gal, who has a daughter we adore. They gave us our first grandson not to long ago, Ezekiel Daniel. With that name he will to do great things for God.
Our third child is a girl. God took away my mother and that relationship, but has abundantly given me one back, with my daughter. She is one of those women who is beautiful inside and out. She got married a few years ago to a neat Christian young man. (Finally the family has some musical talent in it.) Two of my main prayers requests for my kids, even before they were born, were for their salvation and love of God, and for a Christian spouse. Those prayers have been answered, thanks to the good, Lord!
At 47, I had a mid-life crises! I went back to college to finish my degree. Frankly my whole family thought it was the most reasonable thing for me to do, except for me. There again I started with excuses to my family and then to God when I realized He wanted me to go. I finally agreed to go to the advisor at the college, and while driving over there I told God, "I won't go to college if I have to take those entrance tests, because I am too old and can't waste my time." Well, the advisor did look at my age and my old transcripts and said, "You are old enough. I am going to sign you right up for 3 classes. You start in 2 weeks." I was shocked because everyone seemed to have to take entrance tests. There again God gets His way in my life and shuts my month.
I had many interesting and growing situations through my three and half years of college. (I am so grateful God and my family encouraged me to do what I didn't want to do.) However, the one that still sticks out to me and makes me laugh, was the first test of my new college career. I was in this very hard counseling class. I sat by a young gal. She wanted me to study for the test with her, but the lies of my past said to me, "You are too stupid and you will make her fail that test, like you probably will." So I told her, "I can't help you study." Well, I got that test back and when I looked at it, I just knew it would be a bad grade, but it wasn't. I had the weirdest feeling as I looked at my paper. I felt like that test wasn't mine. It hit me that I had believed the lies from my past about me being stupid to this very moment in time. I then laughed and said to the gal who sat by me, "I guess we should study together, I am smarter than I thought." She laughed and said, "That's for sure."
I have to confess when I read that letter a few years ago that my mother wrote about me before I was born, I thought, "Yes, adoption would have been better. Then it hit me, I wouldn't be me." My grandmothers were certainly a very negative influence on my life. Life was hard for me in many ways, but God has allowed me to realize even very bad things in our lives can end up being very good for us. I think that because of my hard childhood, I love God and others more because I know how important love is. I try to live by His precepts because I have seen and felt what life can be away from them. I easily realize I am a sinner, because I got told that a lot as a child. This allows the Spirit to more easily convict me of sin now. I want to say that both my grandmothers lost their mothers when they were young too. Both had difficult lives because of that. This doesn't give them an excuse to act the way they did, but it helps me to understand why they behaved so coldly at times. I am thankful God got hold of me so young. What would I have been like without Him?
Wow, I need to end. As always I can be long winded. Let me end on the theme of love. God's unconditional love has always meant a lot to me, probably because most love towards me from others while growing up was so conditional. You will see the thread of God's love for us through my teaching, because His love for me has been the main catalyst that has made me want to change, and has empowered me to change. God has also shown me His love through many loving people in my life, from family to friends. God has used this love from others as a catalyst in my life to change me for the good.
Because of God's love, Gini