Gracefully Truthful

Donna Cartwright

I was Surrounded By Rules.

Trying to live by all the rules was hard, and I knew I was letting God down every single day. As I got older I began to feel I did more things wrong than I did right.

Everyone has a story.
Everyone has gone through something that has changed them.
Every believer has a personal testimony of faith.

I was raised in a loving, church going family. Every Sunday, like clockwork, I attended church with my grandparents and then afterwards we headed to Hardee’s (my favorite part as a child). We attended a beautiful Catholic church and every Sunday we sat in the same pew at Mass. My grandfather was an usher, which I thought was so awesome.

I knew when to sit, when to kneel, and when to stand. I had all the prayers, rituals, and routines down. I dipped my fingers in the holy water, not once, but twice. I wanted to make sure I was covered in His holiness.

I have always known God was real and that He created the heavens and the earth, the people, and that he loved us all…but I never knew HE loved ME!

I was taught what to do as a good little girl, and of course what not to do as I grew up. I remember so well, “Do this, but don’t do that.” I was surrounded by rules! Rules I could not live up to, or maybe just didn’t want to live up to.

Trying to live by all the rules was hard, and I knew I was letting God down every single day. As I got older I began to feel I did more things wrong than I did right. It was like I was spinning out of controlThere were too many wrongs, and not enough rights! I was never going to get caught up as I judged myself, and felt completely behind in what God had truly planned for me. I had shut my eyes, mind, heart, and soul off to understanding and receiving the Holy Spirit. I felt so ashamed and like there was nothing that could erase my sins to regain God’s love.

I began to attend church less often. I was more engaged in how everything affected me and what made me happy. Yet, I was always asking myself the big questions…Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose? I was going to church, I was going through the motions when I attended, but HE was not in my heart.

I was living as though I needed to think about me and only me. I was seeking personal satisfaction in a big way. Looking back, I know it was my “wild phase,” of partying and drinking when I got myself into more shenanigans than I would like to admit. But in my heart, I still remember feeling like something vital was missing.

In 2007 I met my husband and by November 2009, we were engaged. We got pregnant in January 2010 and had our first child that October and were married in 2011.

However, prior to getting married, Joey was my partner in crime. He loved me for me despite all my wrong doings. Heck, we got into more trouble together than good! Through it all, I knew God had a plan for us and that this man was my soulmate. Joey was wonderful to me because he loved me for me and I felt no judgement from him in any way. He knew my heart and my troubles yet, he still accepted me as I was. In a lot of ways, Joey showed me God’s true character before I even realized what God’s heart really looked like.

Our first year of marriage was the hardest and we went through a lot. We endured things most married couples don’t face even in 50 years. When we got married, I believed it was the three of us and I meant every word, as I said my vows. It was us and God! We had to have God with us at all times, for us to survive as a couple and as a future family.

As we looked back on our past and all the things we had gone through, my husband and I decided we were going to start our spiritual journey and walk with Jesus Christ. We wanted to find the right church, the right people, and the right community. It did not take long and God made it happen…we found it all.

Since then, our lives began to flourish!
We struggled, but survived, through our first year of marriage.

The second year of marriage we experienced a heartbreaking miscarriage. We were so excited, until the 3rd sonogram, when there was no progress. Then the 4th sonogram, no progress. The 5th sonogram, no progress and no heartbeat. Our loss felt overwhelming.

Our third year of marriage we had another miscarriage. It was an ectopic pregnancy and another trial that God gave us the strength to endure, despite how difficult it was. We were walking through such deep sadness, carrying burdens so heavy I didn’t think we could bear them.  We heard the gut-wrenching news that we only had a 1% chance of ever getting pregnant again. I was grief-stricken.

I’ll never forget the day we heard that news. I was sitting on the edge of the bed thinking “we are being punished for all the things that we have done wrong.” Looming in front of me was the heavy guilt of our past, our mistakes, and our wrong doings towards one another. Even after the meaningful vows we had said before God…was He still going to punish us for it all? I cried and prayed so hard and eventually, by God’s grace, I let go of the past. I let go of the hurt. I was willing to forgive, and I gave it all up. For the first time in my life, I surrendered, and God graciously began to restore.   

I learned that God is not a vindictive God, but rather a jealous God, and He longed for me to surrender and give my whole life to Him.  He demanded my attention for He wants my love just as He loves us.

He restored me, my marriage, my heart, my family and even gifted us with a new, healthy baby boy. During every up and every down…we persevered in Christ alone. We are stronger and we are redeemed, but most importantly, we are anointed by His restoration.

If we can make it through those moments with God, then the devil cannot reach us. It is Jesus…He restores all things. He does everything for the good.

God answers prayers, He is faithful, He delights in our love and joy for He and His love are everlasting.

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