Being raised as an only child in a modest home with a stay-at-home, Hispanic, Catholic Mom and a hardworking, Anglo Episcopalian WWII Veteran Dad, I grew to always love and respect God and to have a consistent, strong work ethic. These were daily observations for me during my growing up years.
I was driven, dropped off, and picked up by my Dad every Sunday to and from our local Catholic Church, with my Mom along for the ride too. When she could no longer attend due to health limitations, I attended alone. And when I was able to drive myself, I made sure I was there at the 6:30 AM mass. Done by 7:30 AM; home by 8 AM.
Wanting to draw closer to the church, I tried to connect with other teens by bravely going to one of their evening Youth meetings. Since I did not go to the parochial school on that campus, they did not know me from ‘Eve’ and my evening proved to be less than fun. I felt I had tried to put my best foot forward but felt alone in the midst of them. I never went back, and no one ever called.
The Restaurant Encounter
My first job at 18 years of age was a hostess position at a local Mexican restaurant which was owned by a couple who had close ties to that same Catholic Church. The head parish priest came in with two guests for dinner. I thought I would be brave again, write my name and phone number on a piece of paper, hand it to him at the end of their meal, and ask him to have someone call me about becoming an actual member of the church. I never made my First Communion and was never Confirmed so I was clueless on what to do as a young adult. That was on a Monday.
I found out that this priest died three days later after my encounter with him at the restaurant. I was at his well-attended funeral a week later. So sad.
But wait, what about that piece of paper with my name and phone number? Did he ever give it to anyone? Did someone find it in his pocket and wonder who I was and what it was for? No one ever called me. No one from the church reached out to ask me about it. Here I thought this was finally going to be my way into the church, really get connected, and become a member. But it was like God was saying, “No, this is not your path.”
My TV Conversion
I was blessed with a small black and white TV in my bedroom stationed near the foot of my bed, the kind with ‘rabbit ears’, a channel changing dial you turn by hand, and a separate dial for UHF stations. One evening I found Channel 40 broadcasting TBN with Paul and Jan Crouch. I’d never heard the Gospel presented so personally, so fresh. Near the end of the broadcast, they asked anyone watching to place their hand on the TV screen as a point of connection, and to repeat a prayer with them.
9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10:9-10 NIV
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:13 CSB
During the years following that TV encounter, my time in church dimmed. I didn’t fit there anymore. I did fill my days with working with children at a day care center and going to school earning a BA degree, a child development credential, a MS degree, and a counseling credential. I met, dated for 6 years, and married Dave, the love of my life, at age 24.
Through those years I learned and grew in my faith, including buying my first Bible. In February of 1981 I was invited by friends to be ‘ocean water’ baptized. I had been baptized as a baby, but I knew that I needed to do this as an adult. It was the perfect opportunity even if the Pacific Ocean water seemed freezing.
Our daughter Dawn was born in 1981 and then our son Dane three and a half years later. I was a content stay-at-home Mom and knew I wanted to raise our children to know Jesus. A friend from high school had her daughter invite Dawn to a Living Waters Children’s Crusade. Dawn raised her hand for salvation at the end of that week and then insisted that we keep coming back. It was a perfect fit for our family. I raised them both in church with good, solid, foundational Christian blocks to stand on.
For the last 35 years we’ve been attending. I’ve grown so much being a part of a friendly, loving fellowship. I was invited and have been the office manager for 26 years, and Dawn has been singing here since she was 16. She is in the choir and sings on the worship team. Dane is married, lives an hour away, has three children, and they all attend a wonderful Bible believing church in their area.
When I look back on my life, I see how good God has been, full of love, and now how blessed I am to be where I am in life. God has been so good to me. Life has not been perfect, but through the ups and downs, valleys and mountain tops, God has been faithful. I trust Him every day.
My prayer for you is that you too would see the good, remember it, and call it blessed.
Debbie is a second generation born and raised in SoCal; OC transplant since 1978. Graduate of CSULB – BA Psychology ’76 & MS Education ’80. Loves being married. Birthed, raised, and launched two amazing children. Church office manager. GRANDS are GRAND. Good listener and enjoys vacationing. Favorite Bible verse: Psalms 19:14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. Debbie invites you to connect with her on Social Media – https://www.facebook.com/dtjohnson2of4/.
Your words of hope and encouragement are as loving and warm as you are, Debbie, and we thank you for your contribution in this publication of Testimony Thursday on Titus-two.com.
You are loved to Heaven and Back, Debbie ~~
LindaRJohnson, TitusTwo Visionary