The below post is from the musical testimony I gave at St Charles United Methodist church in October of 2019.
I grew up singing about Amazing Grace and Yes, Jesus Loves Me, but I didn’t truly experience that until I became an adult.
Don’t get me wrong, I grew up in a Christian home. My mom, dad, brother, sister, and I were a close-knit family who attended church regularly.
But we were taught that God desired perfection and in order to earn His love you had to meet my Mom’s expectations. It seemed like she was the one who determined from day to day whether you were good enough.
I worked very hard to be good enough. But it seemed like the rules were always changing, and never in my favor.
For example, I would often sing in church as a child.
If I made a mistake, I hadn’t practiced enough and wasn’t God worthy of more than that?
If I did well, I was arrogant and showing off and not giving God the glory.
So as I grew older, I began to question my faith. I was confused because I would learn about a God who loved me unconditionally at church, yet I would come home to a place where my parent’s love was a reward, not an absolute.
In high school we moved to the New Orleans area and I began to develop friendships with other kids my age. As I spent time with their families, I began to realize that some of my mom’s tactics for keeping me in line were abusive.
I knew I should tell someone but that would mean shattering the perfect image of our family and I couldn’t do it. I tried even harder to be perfect but inevitably I would do something to upset her.
My father came home early from work one day and walked in on my mother in the middle of a rage. She was kicking me, calling me names, and spitting on me as I tried to crawl away to my bedroom.
I was so relieved that my dad was there. I knew that he would do something to stop it now that he saw what was going on.
I was wrong. He told me it was my fault for upsetting her.
When I graduated high school I couldn’t wait to move away to college. I felt like once I had some independence and we had some time apart my family and I could start to have a healthier relationship.
I began to attend church and Bible study on my own and heard for the first time about God’s grace! I learned that God desired to have a personal relationship with me.
I began to realize that I had grown up trying to impress God and earn His love instead of building a relationship with Him and accepting His love.
I still remember walking across campus and looking up at the sky. I was hit by the realization like a lightning bolt—God loves me!
I was amazed at the weight that was lifted when I found out that my sins were truly forgiven and forgotten. I couldn’t wait to tell my family the good news—we don’t have to pretend to be perfect, God loves us just the way we are!
That was a turning point in our relationship, but not in the way that I had hoped. My family did not want to accept God’s grace and mercy.
My mother in particular would not give up her desire to control my life. She wanted me to report to her every day what I was reading in the Bible and praying about. I wanted to have a personal relationship with God, not try to impress my parents with prayer lists and Bible readings.
My family was interested in rules, not a relationship.
Either I would live by their rules or I would no longer be their daughter…So after Christmas of my sophomore year of college, I left home to head back to school – without realizing it would be the last time.
My parents changed the locks on the doors and told me I was not allowed to come home again.
I had no summer clothes and no money to buy any, but the most stressful need I was facing was that I had no place to live when school was letting out for Easter break. I felt so hopeless and lost. My roommate and best friend Traci, recognized what was going on in my life and reached out.
I told her what was going on and she immediately said..come home with me. I was really grateful to have a place to crash during school break. But when I walked in their house, I knew it was not just a place I could stay…it was a place I could call home.
It became obvious during my stay with Traci’s family over Easter break that I had nothing to wear and when I explained what had happened, Traci’s mom was incredulous. She called up my dad, thinking surely they didn’t understand the extent of what they were doing.
When he explained that yes, they weren’t allowing me to come home anymore because I wasn’t good enough she hung up the phone and looked me straight in the eye.
She said, “Well if they won’t take care of you then dammit, we will.”
And then we went clothes shopping.
I call that the best day and worst day of my life all at once. Because God had provided me with a wonderful loving family who took care of me,
but I also lost the only family I had ever known.
With the love and support of my adopted family
~ I graduated college
~ Joined the navy as a singer
~ And married the love of my life
Yet I still spent a lot of time asking God why…
Even though my original family was abusive, I still wanted them to love me, especially on family holidays like mother’s day. And it was on one of those mother’s days when we were singing Our God Saves over and over again at church.
I started asking God why.
Why didn’t you save me?
Why haven’t you fixed them?
Why can’t you make them love me?
And then it hit me like a lightening bold. God said very clearly to me…
I did save you.
Do you really want to go back there?
When are you going to fully accept the people who truly love you?
By holding onto the past, I was totally missing the present.
Our God Saves…if we let him. If we accept it.
Whew! I wish I could say I never questioned God again.
But that is not the case.
Several years ago, my husband and I decided to start a family. When things didn’t happen we went for some tests. We got a diagnosis of infertility.
It meant that no matter how many procedures we were willing to endure, or how much money we were willing to spend, we would never be able to have children the way we always imagined.
I went right back to asking God why.
And for years we struggled with what to do.
During that time so many people surrounded us with prayer. I remember many nights after music rehearsals, standing in the church parking lot and someone would say…you are going to be a mom. I just know it. We’re praying for you.
I’m so thankful that others were believing for us when we didn’t have the strength to believe for ourselves.
As the song says….God, you are only good…so my prayer became…
God, I know you would not give me the desire to be a mother without making a way for that to happen.
So either take away this desire, or show me how.
And then I got on Google…as you do when you are searching for God’s will.
I found out about embryo adoption.
Everything just clicked!
When couples have undergone fertility treatments they have unused embryos that remain frozen. Embryo adoption gives these embryos a chance at life.
Our infertility diagnosis meant that I couldn’t get pregnant.
It didn’t mean that I couldn’t be pregnant.
We found an adoption agency in Washington state and started the process. After many months of paperwork and home studies and background checks we were matched with a family in the United Kingdom with embryos stored in Boston.
In the summer of 2017, thanks to the generosity, efforts, and prayers of people all over the world, we became pregnant.
On April 12, 2018 Henry Joseph Ebeling was born.
Without the gift of adoption, no part of my family story would have been possible.
There truly are no orphans of God.
I shared my story because we all struggle when life isn’t looking the way we thought it would. When things aren’t happening in the time frame you would like or coming the way you always pictured it.
I pray that this has been an encouragement to you that instead of getting hung up on things happening the way you planned, to trust God’s plan.
God is blessing you. God is saving you. His mercy and grace are abundant and available every day.
Additional vocals courtesy of Susan Meyer and Nick Garrison.
Fabulous piano accompaniment thanks to the incomparable Kenny Daniels.
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