My Testimony

My Testimony........and the Grace of God in my Life.

My college years were tough.  I went to Texas Tech and I partied a lot. I drank a lot. I dated a lot.  I suffered from severe anorexia followed by bulimia which had begun in high school.  A fellow cheerleader taught me and I was hooked from the first try.  I would pray every morning that I would not throw up, but by night fall, I would have thrown up multiple times per day.  I met my first serious boyfriend when I was twenty. He was different than previous guys. He took me to nice dinners.  He said he loved me.  We eventually took all of our classes together, studied together, partied together, basically spent 24/7 together.  On our one year anniversary, he gave me a promise ring. I was finally loved. We talked about his savings for an engagement ring and a wedding. We rented a town home in Coppell, TX that we were going to live in following graduation. My life I had dreamed of since I was a little girl, could finally begin. Then things changed.  He began to get drunk often. He hurt me a few times. He punched me in the ribs for a guy flirting with me. He pulled me out of his truck by the feet causing my back to hit the curb. The few times this happened, I broke up with him. Every time I broke up, he brought me roses and promised that it would never happen again.  He said he was drunk and couldn't even remember the night before.  I was so in love with him that I took him back. We were two miserable people wanting to be loved, but too unhealthy to love each other well. Our senior year, we began to visit Indiana Baptist Church on Sunday nights. I cried my way through every service. I didn't know that Jesus guy, but I sure wanted to. Some how through those services and after many many tears, I broke up with him. That was by the grace of God.  How I found the strength to walk away from the only man I had ever been in love with was beyond me. Only God could have given me that strength.  I laid on my bathroom floor and wished I could die. It was a difficult break up and he showed up at my door step many times begging me back. I wanted to say "Yes" and would say "Maybe", but then one day, just before college graduation, I said, “NO!” That was by the GRACE OF GOD! 

I had worked my way through high school and college by waiting tables, selling cars and being a fragrance model. Upon graduation, in December of 2000, I had offers in Dallas, Houston and Fairfax, Virginia I chose Houston and my ex was in Dallas. Once again, the GRACE OF GOD! I loved my job and was blessed with the most amazing bosses.  They believed in me. I worked so hard and felt so grown up. I was happier than I had ever been.  I had an apartment nicer than one I could have dreamed and a brand new black BMW. I thought I was living the life. I was still going out to clubs with friends on the weekends, but I would go to Catholic mass on Sunday mornings and Second Baptist to Logos on Sunday nights. I cried my way through those Sunday night services. I was hearing about the love and forgiveness of Jesus.  It was nourishment to my broken soul. In May of 2001 at Logos at Second Baptist in Houston, TX, I walked to the front of the aisle during an invitation and made the best decision of my life. I wanted Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior. I didn't just want Him as my Savior, I needed Him as my Savior.  That single decision was by the grace of God! I was a Catholic girl raised in a devout Catholic home by a mother who had planned on being a nun. Her dreams were crushed when her mother was killed and she moved home to help raise her four younger siblings. I was embarrassed to tell her that I had left the Catholic church and I waited until I was actually baptized to tell her.  My mom was not happy with my decision, but my dad was okay with it because he had been raised Baptist.  I admire my mom's faith and devotion to God, but God speaks to me in a different language than her. She hears from God through Catholicism, but my language is a bible based church.  I do no think I am any better.  I think any religion that follows Jesus is amazing.  We each have to find what works for us.   

Once I walked that aisle, my life changed. I started going to Sunday school and 11:11 service. I continued to cry my way through praise and worship. I began a bible study, Breaking Free by Beth Moore. To say this bible study changed my life is an understatement. It completely ROCKED my world. I bought a bible and dove into it. The homework was hard, but so rewarding. God spoke to me through every word of that Study. I found versus and used the table of contents a lot. I was embarrassed that I didn’t know the books of the bible or how to find a verse, even with tabs on my bible. I was embarrassed that I didn't know how to pray out loud, but the girls in my bible study were so kind. I was going to figure out this Jesus thing, because it was the light unto my feet.  

I continued to have a ton of guilt and shame about my college years. I still wasn't convinced that I was going to heaven, but also wasn't convinced otherwise. I cried and cried. I read book after book. I just couldn't shake this guilt and shame. The more I studied God's word, heard sermons and bible lessons on God's forgiveness, God began to soften that shame. I began to feel Jesus washing me clean. He washed me with his blood and gave me back my innocence. I am so proud to say that after being saved, I saved myself until my wedding night.

My eating disorder battle continued even after becoming a Christian, but improved as time passed.  On September 11th, 2001, I binged and purged for one of the last times.  At the time, I worked in a high rise in Houston, Texas.  We were sent home after the 9/11 attacks.  I went home to binge and purge to deal with the stress.  For some reason, it hit me that night that for the rest of my life when people asked what I did on September 11th, I would know that I binged and purged.  I vowed that it had to stop.  I went to treatment and pretty much stopped cold turkey.  That was by the GRACE OF GOD!

From 2001 until 2005, I had pretty uneventful years.  I attended Second Baptist in Houston.  I was very involved in single life classes.  I began to hang out with other Christian people and date Christian guys.  I would date a guy for a month or two, but always ended it. They weren't nice enough or funny enough or godly enough or too goofy or too successful or just not God's best for me. I did not always know why they weren't the one for me, but I did know they weren't God's plan as my future husband.  

Around 2005, I began to attend Beth Moore's class on Sunday evenings at First Baptist, Houston. I would go to Sunday School at 9:30, Service at 11:11, Single life lunch, socialize with friends and then drive straight to First Baptist to hear one of my favorite speakers on this great Earth, Beth Moore. She spoke truth and knew God's word. I wanted what she had. I wanted to love God's word and so she told us to pray for that.  I still struggle with understanding his word, but I faithfully read it and seek to understand it more.  Over time, I have found books of the bible that are easier for me to understand.  

Around this time, I also met some godly women that were a few seasons of life ahead of me. They taught me about Jesus and marriage and singleness and loving God and loving Jesus and loving myself. They taught me to be a wife before I was a wife. They taught me to be a mom before I was a mom. They were little blessings sent to me from God.

On July 1st, 2006, I met my future husband, Clint. He was introduced to me by my boyfriend at the time. I thought he was very cute. During the party, I would glance up and he was looking and I would look away. We didn't talk other than my boyfriend telling him that I had a huge birthday party the night before. He asked if it was my 30th? It was my 27th and I was VERY offended. This guy thinks I look 30. What a jerk! He later told me that he thought I was pretty and didn't want me to stop talking to him. I went on to break up with that boyfriend. We were on and off and on and off. I knew he wasn't God's plan for me. I would fast every Sunday in hopes that God would show me whether this guy was the guy for me. God made it clear, but I wrestled with him about it.  After that break up, the last thing I was thinking about was my love life.  Around that time I went on a mission trip to an orphanage in Mexico.

A few months later, my mission trip group had gathered to celebrate our trip and share photos from the trip. After that party, I had a Sunday school social. I did not want to go, but I was on the social coordinator team for our entire class and couldn’t miss the party. I drove up and saw my ex-boyfriend's truck. I was going to drive home, but one of my best friends convinced me that I was already there. I might as well go in. I did. When I walked through those doors, Clint, my future husband, was across the room. It was like the room parted for both of us and I slowly, very causally made my way to him. I offered him a coke or water. I was a social coordinator after all. He accepted. On my way to get that drink a guy that liked me stopped me. We chatted for a bit, as I kind of thought he was cute too. But something took me back to Clint. I think it was God. We didn't leave each others side for the rest of the party. He remembered from three months prior that I was Gina and worked for IBM. It turned out that out of eight million people in Houston area, we lived on the same street!  That was always a sign to me. We were both runners.  I was training for half marathons and he had run full marathons in the past.  He convinced me to give him my email so he could give me a tennis lesson. We never had that tennis lesson. I gave him my business card. He emailed me the next day. I responded, but very short and sweet. He was a good looking guy and while I talked to that other guy, Clint was chatting it up with my cute friend, Maria. I assumed he was hitting on her, but I knew she had a boyfriend. That was a “red flag” to me, so I proceeded with caution. Later I found out that they were talking about me the whole time. He called and I would call him back.........a few days later. I wasn't playing a game. I truly was busy with mission work and bible studies and friends and being on the social committee for a class of hundreds of singles. I didn't have time for this guy that had hit on me and a friend at the same party.

After several weeks of brief phone conversations, I continued to take a few days to return his calls. One of his female friends had read the popular book, “He's Just Not That Into You”. She said, “Clint, Gina is just not into you.” He gave me one last call. He decided if I didn't answer or call him back, that was it. I didn't answer, but it was because I was in my mentor's bible study. During that lesson, something made me think of Clint. When I got to my car, I had a missed call. I called him right back. We were both surprised. He asked me on a lunch date. We met at Jason's Deli. I told my mentor that I thought it was a platonic lunch. She was pretty sure it was a date, but I wasn't convinced. He bought my lunch. Maybe it was a date. Clint was so sweet, but it was an awkward lunch. We were nervous. I was sweating from running late, so I felt like a hot mess. He went on and on about a financial planner and that he wasn't sure if she was good. I was not convinced that we are a match, but he sure was cute. 

Clint called and asked me on another date. I agreed. That day a missionary had spoke at church. I had decided to return to the orphanage in Mexico where I had taught Vacation Bible School that summer. He took me dinner at Maggiano's.  He didn't know, but that was my best friend, Breezi, and my favorite place. We had shared countless laughs and moments there. She had since moved to Tulsa, OK and I missed her deeply. During that dinner, I told him about my decision to visit Mexico the following month. He was so kind and supportive. He had been on mission trips to Turkey and Mexico. He was serving in youth at his church, First Baptist, Houston. Wow! A missionary with a servants heart was much more attractive than a smooth talker in a fancy truck. I knew at that dinner that Clint was probably my future husband.

I returned to the orphanage that Thanksgiving. I fell in love with the orphans all over again. My mom returned with me. She also loved the children and had made blanket beds for them to sleep in. It was so kind of her and I love my mom for her servants heart. We cried pulling away from those precious babies. They cried and said, “Hina, Hina, Hina........we love you.” I came home determined to adopt an orphan named Carmen. She was the most precious child I had ever laid eyes upon. I soon found out that it is next to impossible to adopt from Mexico.  When we arrived from the airport, I listened to my voice mail. Clint had called. I still remember, he said, “I know you won't get this in Mexico, but I miss you and have been praying for you.” I was touched and giddy.  I let my mom hear the message. She was giddy. She said that was my future husband. 

In December, before a date, Clint asked me to be his girlfriend. I was ecstatic and I knew he was the one. I met his best friend, Derek, and his wife, Laura, that day. They had a new baby boy. I so longed to be a mother and wife. I sat there longing for the day that I would have a baby of my own. We went ice skating that evening for a single life social. I was so worried about tearing my jeans. I told Clint that I spent $200 on jeans at Neiman Marcus and after coming home from a mission trip, that made me feel guilty. He later said, “How are we going to explain to our kids some day that mommy wears $200 Neiman Marcus jeans and they wear Walmart jeans.” All I took out of that was at least he know I like expensive clothes and HE WANTS TO HAVE BABIES WITH ME! My dreams were finally coming true. I waited 27 years for this guy!

Dating Clint was easy. We very rarely fought. We had fun. We laughed. We played. We loved each other. Clint waited until one year to tell me he loved me. That was hard. We waited until marriage to be intimate. That was challenging. I said, “I do” to him on March 24th, 2007 at Second Baptist in Houston, TX. It was the second best decision I ever made.....the first being accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior.  Overall, Clint has been so easy to be married to.  He is practical and wise and works hard.  I am emotional and impulsive and passionate.  At times, we have to fight for our marriage, but I am willing to fight. I will fight because I made a covenant to God and a promise to Clint on March 24th, 2007.

We had our first daughter on July 3rd, 2009. That was the third best decision of my life. She made me a mom. I longed to be a mom since I was a child. My second blessing arrived on December 19th, 2011. She made me a mom for the second time. Being a mom is by far the best job in the world. They make me laugh, love, have fun, cry, and get angry. I am just crazy about them.

Today we live in Austin, TX.  We attend Austin Ridge Bible Church.  I go to weekly bible study and MOPS.  I lead an IF Table and a monthly girls devotional group in my home.  I have such a heart for encouraging women to grow closer to Jesus.  I adore being a mom to my two sweet girls.  We do lots of art, playing baby dolls, Littlest Pet Shop, play dates with friends and frozen yogurt dates.      

My life has been one of heartache and pain and tears.......but also of hope and redemption and GRACE.  To this day, I struggle with not believing I am lovable. I am learning that Clint can't fill my cup, the girls can't fill my cup, my family can't fill my cup.  Only Jesus can fill my cup. 

6 comments:

  1. Your testimony is incredible! I'm looking forward to reading more of your blog.

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    1. Maria.....thank you so much for your sweet comment. I'm glad you visited my blog.

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  2. I don't know why I am just now reading this, but Gina, this is so awesome! So transparent and beautiful and such an encouragement!

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    1. Thank you, Dixie. I am so glad!! I love your blog as well.

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  3. Gina, I just now read this after seeing your post about supporting Mrs. Copeland. Thank you so much for sharing your testimony in such a real, transparent and relatable manner. I'm at the other end of life as my children are all grown up and living wonderful lives on their own now. I miss them terribly and can't stop crying as I'm writing this. Thank you for the reminder that Jesus is all that I need when I'm feeling lonely for them and missing them. You live in my town and I hope to have the honor and the pleasure to meet you face to face one day. God bless you and your family always,Gina. Your sister in Christ, Jessica Dodge

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    1. Oh Jessica, You just made my day. I am so glad that you found my blog helpful. I am sure it is hard to let your babies go, but I bet you are an amazing mom. I have a feeling that being a grandma will be the role of a lifetime. I would be honored to meet with you. Maybe we can grab coffee. Hugs to you dear sister in Christ.

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