Tuesday, July 5, 2011

AMEN! ~By Fern Soderstrom

When Ronda sent me a message and said, “Your Turn” I started to panic (*:*) How would I pare down nearly 60 years to something worth reading in just few minutes?

I asked the Lord for guidance, took a deep breath, waited a few days, then began . . .

I was born and raised in Long Beach, CA. I have one sibling, a twin brother, Forrest Kendall. He and his wife, Carol are serving the Lord as full-time missionaries in Antiqua, Guatemala (pictured below). Together, they run a non-profit organization called Servants 4 Him. Our parents had quite the sense of humor, don’t you think? I mean, Forrest & Fern – Seriously? We had an uncle who called us “Field & Stream” – Cute, eh?

I grew up thinking I was a Christian. I went to church on Sundays, sang in the choir, participated on Wednesday nights at youth group, etc. I was even baptized by sprinkles of water on the forehead when I was an infant. I didn’t have anything to compare it to, so I thought I was “good with God” and that if/when I died, I would go to heaven. I mean, that’s where all good people go, right? I didn’t take my Bible to church. Rather, there was a reading of Scripture each week and then we heard a message about some practical application of the weekly Scripture. We were basically taught “how to be a nice person” then we were released to do whatever we wanted the rest of the week.

After high school, and a short stint as a character at Disneyland, I started working in corporate America. For the next 18 years, my life was a mess. I ran away from God. But, I still thought I was a Christian – Still believed I was a good person. By the world’s standards, I was well-adjusted, well-educated, had a good job, made good money, was responsible and respected by my peers. In reality, I was date raped – started partying and drinking – Got pregnant and our youth pastor took me to have an abortion – graduated from college – started living a life of serial monogamy – snow skied competitively – went to aerobics classes – played tennis – got married and divorced – ran in 5k and 10k races – went back to school and got an MBA – participated in Toastmasters International – bought my own home - traveled for business – wore nice clothes and shoes – had a very active social life. I still thought I was a good person; that I had it “all together” – my life was comfortable, and on the surface I looked great. But, there was a big hole in my life and none of my so-called friends could tell me what was missing. None of them could see any reason for my restless feeling of emptiness.

Then, in the late 1980’s my brother was visiting and suggested that we attend church together. He knew of a church in my community in Thousand Oaks, CA (where I had moved because of my work in 1984). There, for the first time I actually attended a church where the congregation was asked to open their Bibles and learn what it said. One Saturday evening service I went forward during an alter call and asked the Lord to forgive my past misunderstandings about who He was, to forgive my years of sinful and immoral behavior, to forgive me for thinking I was one of His when I didn’t know Him at all, to come into my heart, to guide my path from that day forward. I began attending Bible studies, home fellowship groups, women’s studies, training classes, etc. I affixed a fish symbol to the trunk of my car and even bought personalized license plates that read: MBA4GOD – I wanted everyone to know I was one of His.

My life verse became Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I am so thankful for the friends and family members who continued to pray for my salvation during all those years. It seemed so unbelievable, after everything I had done to disappoint the Lord, that He would still love me, still give me a chance to love Him, still care about my future. But, Scripture teaches us that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

In June 1990 I was assigned to a 6-week position in the Puget Sound area. I met my husband, Starr during that time. The Lord gave us both a chance to do marriage the way He intended it, with Him as the focus. It is overwhelming for us both to think God loves us so much that He would allow us this opportunity and blessing of a union in Christian marriage. We were married in Sept 1991. Wanting to publicly identify ourselves as believers, we exchanged wedding rings with the fish symbol circling the bands. God had changed my heart so dramatically, I openly wept as I walked down the aisle to The Lord’s Prayer. What a blessed day and how gracious is our Lord to give us this opportunity. I moved into Starr’s home and became an instant step-mother to two young boys, Erik 14 and Alex 10.

We immediately began “church shopping” and visited many churches in the Everett, Lake Stevens, Snohomish, Marysville, Granite Falls & Monroe communities. Something kept calling us back to Machias Community Church. We finally realized one day that it was the Holy Spirit calling us to be part of this local church body, under the pastoral leadership of Ron Sallee. We have been there for about 18 years.

After following Christ for decades, I felt the Holy Spirit was gently nudging me to take another step in my Christian “walk” and on Resurrection Sunday (Easter) this year, I was baptized. As I was asked to say a few words before the baptism, I let the congregation know that I have been a Christian for a long time. I thought that baptism was not necessary because I had been “sprinkled” as an infant. But, through the classes I have attended at Contender’s Bible School, the lessons from adult Sunday School, the Bible Studies and home fellowship groups, I came to the realization that I was too young to understand at the time of my sprinkling what baptism by immersion symbolizes. I did not connect the symbolic death, burial and resurrection.

After all these years, as I approach my 60th birthday, I took that step of obedience. I realize that no matter how old we are, no matter how long we have known Jesus as our personal Savior, we are all works on progress. Scripture tells us that He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6).

Part of my daily routine now includes praying the “whatever” verses (Philippians 4:8) to the Lord. I usually do this as I am getting ready for work in the morning. I ask the Lord to help guide me to: Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

Recently, I began (along with others in our home fellowship group) to pray Romans 12:1&2 back to the Lord, asking Him to guide me. Lord, I offer my body as a living sacrifice, holy to you. Lord, I no longer want to conform to the pattern of this world. Please transform me and renew my mind. Lord, I seek your good, pleasing and perfect will for my life – Amen

So, while I was momentarily panic-stricken at the thought of sharing my testimony on Ronda’s blog spot, I quickly embraced the idea and was reminded that we are called to sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15)

Fern and Starr, Everett, Washington

I have a high school friend who has been a pastor for 30+ years. A few years ago he told me that when he found out I was a Christian, he was “shocked” – Hey, no one could be as shocked as I am! For it is only by His amazing grace and mercy that I am saved – yes, even a wretch like me.

When Satan tries to get me to start remembering all of my past sins and tells me I am not worthy to be a Christian, I open God’s Word, I sing the words of hymns and songs of praise to Him. I pray Scripture back to Him and He is faithful and always brings me back to the same place – Any doubt that He loves me, was settled at the cross – AMEN!

I pray for softened hearts and opened eyes as others read these testimonies Ronda is posting. Each story is different and unique, and yet each is the same – we are all sinners, saved by grace through faith. We all need to continue to pray and to keep praying for our unsaved loved ones and family members. I know my salvation is an answer to the prayers of many.

Note from Ronda~

Dear Fern,

I am so grateful for you.  Thank you so much for sharing your testimony here.  You survived!  And you are going to bless so many.  God has been working on me so much this weekend.  And I know that I say that all the time, but it is true!  So thank you so much again, this ministered to my heart.

xoxo Your Sister in Christ,


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