SOMETHING UNUSUAL HAPPENED, ALRIGHT!
The earliest memory I have of something unusual happening to me is when I was three years old. I remember waking up in the middle of the night scared. I was going to walk into my parentís bedroom when I noticed something in the window staring at me. The window itself was closed but the blinds were open. I canít really explain the terror that I felt except that I felt it all the way to my core. I remember something/someone black with red eyes peering in at me. I donít mean black as in African-American -- I am talking black as in the actual color black. I was so terrified that I couldnít move, and it was as if my eyes were burning just staring at it. Eventually it disappeared and I ran into my parentís bedroom. They obviously thought I had a bad dream and tried to calm me.
Since that day I cannot have a window open at night without feeling paranoid. As soon as my sister moved out of the house, which wasnít long after that incident, I switched bedrooms and I have a hard time walking into that bedroom at night even now. At that age I didnít know much about God or demons, but I knew a little from Catechism and I had the strangest feeling that I had seen Satan.
A few years later when I had no more encounters, I started to believe that I had just had a bad dream. I still wasnít about to sleep in that room again or have windows open at night, but I figured it was all just my imagination.
Shortly after I got that mindset I started to have new encounters. These were not the same terror that reached deep into my soul, but unusual and scary nonetheless. I started hearing things in the house when no one was around. I also started seeing human shadows downstairs when I was the only one there. I was seeing ghosts. I tried to tell my mom about this but of course she thought I was imagining things.
By the time I was in 5th grade the encounters would come and go, and I just kept them to myself. When I wouldnít have them for awhile I would start to doubt that they ever happened, which would always trigger another, almost like I wasnít supposed to forget.
That year I wanted to have a Halloween sleepover party. We were supposed to be sleeping in the basement bedroom. Everyone wanted to play a spooky game so we had decided on ďlight as a feather - stiff as a board.Ē Usually when kids play this game it is all for fun and it never really works. Well that evening it really did work. It was my job to do the temples, tell the story and put the girl that was going to float into a trance. Well, it seemed that she was in a trance and we figured she was just joking, but we tried to lift her with two fingers of each hand and the unbelievable happened. We lifted her until our arms were outstretched! This was not a heavy girl by any means but definitely not small either.
We all looked at each other in shock and let go and there she floated down to the mattress like a feather. It took a minute for her to wake up - meaning she was really in a trance and she didnít remember anything. None of us knew what to do.
After this we decided to go to bed. Everyone was a little frightened; not sure what had happened, but I was terrified, having a very good idea what did happen. We had tapped into the demonic spirit realm.
For the Halloween party, we had turned our basement into a haunted house maze. I went down there to start cleaning some stuff up and had another encounter. I decided to try my mom again and tell her what happened. Again she said I was seeing things, but this time she had an encounter as well! She freaked out and wouldnít go back downstairs. My dad said we were both just crazy. However, from that day forward, Mom no longer doubted me.
I donít think it is necessary to go into all of my encounters, but I would like to share a few more. Most of the time it was a feeling that I wasnít alone, or I would hear something. My dad worked out of town during the week and was only home on the weekends. I remember one night I was in my momís room and we heard a voice from the kitchen asking if pizza was for dinner. It sounded like my dadís voice, but then we realized that my dad wasnít there.
Many times - late at night - we would hear coughing, like my dadís smokers cough Ö knowing full well he wasnít there.
The encounters werenít all bad, because God was obviously watching out for us and sent a guardian angel. One time in the middle of the night my mom had a feeling to get up and check the fire in the furnace downstairs. When she got down there the hatch had been left open and the house could have started on fire at any moment.
By this time I was getting frustrated with the encounters because I didnít understand them, and I wasnít getting an explanation from God. I had stopped attending Catechism and the Catholic Church a few years back and was starting to turn from God.
More things continued to happen throughout that year. One of my best friends at the time didnít believe me that ghosts (spirits) exist. He had been cleaning his grandmotherís attic and discovered an old Ouija board. When he asked his grandmother where it had come from, she didnít know and said it must have been up there when she got the house. This didnít look like one of the boards you can buy in the store -- this looked old. Naturally this sparked interest with us and we figured we would try it.
Three of us sat in a dark room with candles and the Ouija board. My friend was mocking it, obviously not believing in it, when the eyepiece on the board started moving, not spelling anything Ö just moving around the board. We all figured it was someone else, but then the board started to lift off the ground on its own! We quickly let go and it stopped, but that was the last day that they didnít believe me.
For the next couple of years nothing happened, although this time I tried to not allow myself to think that it was all my imagination.
At this time my niece and nephew were born and really took the focus of my life. I loved them so much and they were so incredible to me. Middle school is a hard time and I spent almost every day at my sisterís spending time with her and my niece. This seemed to put a positive light back into my life, although I still was drifting from God.
I would tempt God to prove to me His existence, by asking Him to make selfish and stupid things happen, but he seemed to always come through. I donít know if He was that moved to reach me, that he answered my stupid and selfish prayers or what, but he did.
One in particular that I remember was - - I was trying softball for the first time, and it had been a couple of friends of mine who had played for years that talked me into it. Somehow when the teams were made I ended up on a different team, which defeated the point -- which was that I was joining because of my friends. We tried to get me switched but they told us that the teams were already created and the one I wanted to be on was full. I prayed that I would get put on the team with my friends and a couple of days later I received a call saying that they had made an exception and I was put on that team. That was the first time one of my prayers were answered like that so I continued to pray for things and God answered me much of the time.
By 8th grade I was starting to drift farther from God -- not understanding why these things happened to me. I met a girl that had encounters also and we started getting involved in witchcraft. We started renting books from the library on it and buying candles for spells Ö diving into the stuff head first, so to speak. It was weird though because through all of it I never felt like God was far away. I was just angry at Him for allowing me to go through all of the things I had without giving me much comfort or an explanation. I felt like there was a battle for my soul and God was losing.
As I got into high school and cheerleading, the witchcraft phase seemed to fade, but I didnít forget the things that happened to me. At this point I was convinced that the Bible was nothing but contradictions and that it couldnít be trusted. I felt like a know-it-all, even though I had never actually read the Bible except what was taught at catechism when I was little.
By my second year in high school I was falling deep into depression; having regular thoughts of suicide. I kept a diary most of my life, which was more like me talking with God than just a diary. I constantly put in there ďGod help me!Ē I didnít want to kill myself but I was being engulfed by my depression.
One night I was truly contemplating suicide, thinking about exactly how I would kill myself. I remember that I felt like no one would care that I was gone. Then I turned over and saw my niece lying next to me sleeping so peacefully, sucking her thumb and cuddling with her blanket, and I knew she would miss me Ö and I just cried.
Around this same time for cheerleading I had to take gymnastics classes to try and get my back handspring for competition. A small group of us joined a gym and that had a small private class geared toward competitive cheerleading and tumbling. As it turned out, the Program Manager and one of the instructors at this gym was also the Youth Ministry Leader at a non-denominational Christian church in the area. We had tried a couple of other gyms in the area and had never been satisfied with the gymnastics trainers until we came here.
I donít think there is any coincidence that we were unhappy in the other gyms and ended up at one where I would be in direct contact with a youth minister for a Christian church. God knew that I needed help and He gave it to me.
Our class was the last class of the evening. Our group in general had trouble with gymnastics from fear of going backwards, making the task of learning to do a back handspring rather difficult. We would sometimes be there late trying to get up the courage to ďjust do it.Ē A lot of the time I got into religion conversations with the youth minister. Looking back on it I am not sure how he was able to keep his cool when I would argue with him about the Bible, but he did.
He gave me a student Bible as a gift, which was my first personal Bible, and I decided to read a little each night. Over the next year or so I read through most of it, but since I still wasnít attending church I didnít understand everything I read. I had asked some friends and family to go to the non-denominational church with me, but no one was interested.
My senior year I became friends with someone who hadnít been to church for a while, and had become an atheist. She had read a book series: The Left Behind series and said it was making her wonder what was really out there. I told her of my encounters that I had up to this point. She expressed interest in going back to church and I told her of the church that I liked, so we went almost every Sunday for a while.
After high school I moved away to a big city about four hours away from home to go to The Art Institute. When I moved there I had hoped the encounters would stop, since everything had always happened in the house I grew up in. That was just wishful thinking. The first month I was there I had another encounter.
My roommate was a waitress and she was usually home really late. I was up late getting mail ready to send out and I decided to just bring the mail down right away so I wouldnít forget. I had been having weird feelings all night that I was being watched, but I tried to ignore it. I had the mail in my hand and I was in the hallway closing the door and getting ready to lock it, when from inside my apartment I heard a male voice yell, ďHey!Ē
I freaked out and ran to the elevator. I figured it was either another encounter, or someone had broken into my apartment. I wasnít sure which I had rather it be. I knew I had been alone in my apartment. After an hour or so pacing in the lobby, I finally got the nerve to go back up to the apartment. I searched around and no one was there. I searched my bedroom thoroughly and locked myself in with the phone and a night light. I laid there until I heard my roommate come home and then I went to sleep.
When I moved to the city I had to get a job, and I ended up as a supervisor at Starbucks in a busy shopping district. I had to work there full time so I didnít have the option to have Sundays off.
I did continue to pray every night and God seemed to always answer. Every quarter I would start off by not doing so well because I would forget to pray. I then started getting in the habit of praying about ever project and test, and I always ended up doing well. Sometimes it felt like I was cheating and had a secret weapon, but all it was is that I was getting help and inspiration from God.
When I did finally graduate and got a real job that gave me weekends off, my husband was still working retail and I wasnít interested in going to church by myself.
I lived in the city for five years, and after being separated from any church activity, I started to doubt all of the things that happened to me in the past. I was starting to entertain thoughts that maybe God didnít really exist like the Bible claimed, and maybe people had a point when they denied the Trinity and the deity of Jesus. I never started doubting that God existed -- just all of the technicalities and the Christian doctrines.
In the mean time, while I was in living in the city, my sister came to Christ and had become very involved in her church. She was very eager to get me to find a church in my area, but I always made excuses. I did attend church with her here and there when I was home for a holiday, but I didnít ever get too much out of it.
At this point I still didnít quite understand the idea of Salvation, even though I had read most of the Bible and attended the Catholic Church and Catechism when I was young. Since I wasnít part of a church or a Bible study, I didnít really understand what I was reading. I still had the mentality that when it came to Salvation, what really mattered in the end was if you were a good person or not. I didnít want to believe that good people could go to hell just because they dismissed the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ Ė which is that they need to trust that His death on the cross is the only means by which their sins are forgiven, and that the righteousness of God is imparted to believers, again because of His sacrifice on the cross, and that He took their sins to the grave and left them there.
For my lunch hour, I would usually go to lunch at Panera Bread and read. I was sitting in the same spot I always would sit at, right by the fire, and reading Ö when I heard someone laughing with the creepiest laugh I have ever heard. When I looked up, I saw this old man who looked homeless. I made eye contact, and for the second time in my life, I was terrified to the depths of my soul. Once I made eye contact he started saying my full name in between the laughs. I do not wear any kind of nametag for my job, and I had never seen this man before. Also, his lips didnít appear to be moving. I decided I would ignore him and keep reading and not allow myself to look up. He continued calling my name and laughing, and I looked around and noticed that Panera was extremely busy, but not one person looked up or even seemed to notice this man. That is when I realized that no one else was hearing this. I freaked out, wondered if I was losing my mind, and ran out to my car and back to the office!
After that, I decided I needed to get to know Jesus, and that I was no longer going to entertain those thoughts again. A book series kept popping into my head that one of my friends from high school had recommended, but I couldnít remember what it was.
The next weekend I went back home to visit my family. My sister said she had a new movie and we sat down and watched it. It was called Left Behind. After the movie I realized that was the book series I was trying to think of. I decided I needed to read them. I went on eBay and ordered the whole series. I read all 12 books in six months and for me that was amazing. The books were so good it was hard to put them down. I have always been a slow reader and hated reading. I didnít think I would have ever read that many books in my whole life let alone six months.
The series didnít talk about anything I hadnít heard before but put it in a way that touched me deeply, and made me understand how it all works together. For the first time in my life I actually understood what Salvation was. Throughout the series the characters talked about being thirsty for Godís Word and I so desperately wanted to feel that. I then decided that night to receive Christís gift of Salvation and let Him into my heart. Slowly I started to feel that thirst the characters in the book had talked about. After I read the series I started to read other books that helped me to understand what scripture means, and read my Bible as well.
I still didnít get involved with a church because even though my Sundays were free now, my husband usually worked on Sundays and I didnít want to go alone. There was one church that I drove by on my way to and from work everyday that seemed to be calling me, but I never made it there.
I kept feeling like I wasnít Saved. I continued to ask for Salvation and I felt like I wasnít changing, I didnít feel any different and I wasnít certain I was Saved. I was worried that maybe my heart wasnít true. Thoughts kept popping into my head that God wasnít real. I would immediately push those thoughts away. It was like Christ put a lock on my door but Satan was still right outside it whispering thoughts to me. I wasnít sure what else to do so I continued to pray about it.
Finally I realized I needed to ask Christ to keep those thoughts away and to not allow me to give them the time of day, or acknowledge them, when they would pop into my head.
I eventually received Christ but I had no desire to help evangelize Ė tell others about what Jesus did for them on the cross, in other words. People often donít like evangelists (until they get Saved anyway!) because of the spiritual conflict that can come from confrontation with Biblical Truth, and I didnít want to be humiliated, put down, or offend someone.
One weekend I was driving back to the city from a weekend visiting family. My husband had to work that weekend so I was alone. About halfway there I was listening to a mixed radio station I liked, but all of a sudden that station cut out and a Christian station came in clear as day. It wasnít music, but a talk show. Something kept me from changing the station. They were talking about the tragedy of Katrina (which had happened only a couple of weeks before) and about the importance of evangelism. How it is the responsibility of the believers to spread the word of Truth to people who donít know it. As I was listening to this I had those same thoughts that I absolutely did not want to be an evangelist.
Well, right there in the middle of city traffic on one of the busiest highways in the U.S.A., in a bad neighborhood, my care froze up. I had enough time to get to the left lane but there wasnít a shoulder on either side due to construction. My car shut down to the point that I couldnít even turn my hazard lights on or roll down my windows. I had to open my door just to let some air in since it was afternoon and mid 90ís outside. Since there was no shoulder, I was blocking a lane, and if you have ever driven on that road you know that drivers are not happy about that. I had drivers swearing at me as they drove by and calling me names. As if I could help it Ö
I immediately called my husband to send a toe truck, and to help calm me down. I didnít, however, tell him what was really going through my mind.
I know that without a doubt God was communicating to me about the need for me to help spread the Truth of His Word. I was crying and talking to God. I told him I was sorry, and I would learn more about how to spread the Word. I promised. Right then and there my car started up! I knew I had made a pact with God.
Since where I was broken down was a little bit of a shoulder, and absolutely none ahead for miles, I didnít dare drive more for fear that it might break down again in an even worse spot. My car was getting to the age of breakdowns. I decided to wait for the toe truck.
After several horrible hours, I finally got home. I broke down and told my husband that I know God wants something from me, but I didnít know what. I told him I didnít want to be an evangelist and why, and just cried for hours. He tried to calm me and it helped - just knowing he loved me. He told me we could find out together, and he would support me, which was a huge relief.
A couple of months later, we knew his job might be in jeopardy and we couldnít afford to stay in the city on one income. We had always wanted to move back home to be closer to family, so I started applying for jobs.
I got a job and I felt that God was telling me to take it. I knew I was being compelled to move back home for a reason. I just wasnít sure what that reason was.
When we first moved back, I decided to try my sisterís church again. This time it truly touched me, and I felt like I had a home. I have continued to go every week with my sister and I love it. I have gotten involved with Bible study groups since then and I am well on my way in the journey of my spiritual growth, and with helping spread the Word of God.
It was a gradual process because there were old thought systems and ways of life I didnít want to let go off. For example, I loved listening to alternative and rock music, and I had no interest in Christian music. My sister was telling me that I should listen to it because eventually words would get stuck in my head and I could use it to praise God. I decided I would give it a try.
I asked God to please use the Holy Spirit to take over my life. I wanted to view things from His point of view and have His opinions instead of mine. I was welcoming Him in to guide me and use my life according to His will. I was doing the study of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, and was starting to have a clearer understand of what this meant.
I started noticing a change in my thought process, my opinions in all areas, and the way I felt. I started to love the Christian rock music and it began to be the only thing I listened to. I also started to notice things that I hadnít before. When people would say things that went against the Word of God, usually without them really knowing that what they were saying was wrong. Things that would have never offended me were starting to. The people werenít offending me and I wasnít at all getting angry at them but at Satan for having so many lies and deceptions that it reached around the world and turned people from God. This is when I started to understand why it is so crucial to evangelize. Just because someone seemed Christian doesnít mean they are.
I had never understood when people said ďwhen you surrender your life to God He will work in you and change you from the inside out.Ē Even when I first surrendered my life to Him I still didnít understand, until everything about my life started to change. I am a rather opinionated person and I had always had a bad temper and both were dissolving. It was like all of the colors in the world were brighter, the sun was shinning more, and I was seeing life through the eyes of God.
When I think there is nothing more that can change in me, God surprises me by changing me more. I know that He will continue to work in me because no matter how different I feel, I will never be perfect and His work will never be done in me. I am so thankful that God has taken over my life because I never did a very good job at running it myself.
I knew the next step was to be baptized in my church. That was the most exciting day of my life! To stand there in front of thousands of people and declare my faith was scary, but so fulfilling.
I still feel pain and endure suffering, get angry and do stupid things but there is one difference than before. I always feel God there holding me, helping me through it. I still suffer the consequences of my bad choices, but God has an awesome way of using them for something positive. He can see the big picture and uses my mistakes toward my spiritual growth.
If anything Ö I face more challenges now that I am a follower of Christ than before. The difference is that now I donít get terrified and hopeless. I just turn to God and He shows me the way. The rewards when I find the way and follow it are much greater than any challenge I could face.
I wish there were words I could think of to explain the differences in my life now that God is in control of it, but I canít. My life before and after is like night and day. When I think back of my years of horrible depression Ö I canít even fathom being in that state now.
Now God and church have become a huge part of my life. I want nothing more than to spread the Good News of Salvation. I am still apprehensive because I donít want to offend people, especially people I care about, but I would rather them be angry at me and hear the Good News than be my friend and not hear it. I am still continuing to grow in faith and as a child of God, because I am finally on the right path.
Throughout everything God never left my side. Even when I wasnít yet Saved but had embraced God, he kept inching me along. For every couple of steps I took forward, I would take one back. I now see that the important part was that at least I was facing the right direction.
When I look back on my story, I find it so difficult to believe at times that Jesus didnít give up on me. I've come to the conclusion that if He didn't give up on me ... He won't give up on anyone else either, unless they demand He do so.
Ginger can be emailed at: email@example.com
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