A Conversion {Rags to Riches}

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20

A testimony of when I breathed my last…

According to the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible the word “Testimony” (Greek marturia) comes from a root word Martus which in its various forms in Greek means “testifying,” “testimony,” “witness,” “martyr,” “record,” and “report.” It states, “Generally, one who testifies or can testify to the truth of what he has seen, heard, knows.” Below is a testimony of the day I heard God, asked for forgiveness for my sins, repented and surrendered…

Like you, I was born into a sinful world with a defiled heart full of disobedience. I knew I was created for intimacy but I just didn’t know with Whom yet. I also knew I was created for a purpose, but I didn’t know what.

As a bitter teenager I drew a picture of a broken heartdripping blood held together with a band-aid with one piece missing. For thirty years I tried to fill that missing piece in my black hole heart with love and affirmation from others, career achievements and money.

I was in bondage to my feelings of rejection, anger, jealousy, envy, and hatred fueled by insecurities and perfectionism. This perfectionism and determination was lauded by others and encouraged me to ‘achieve my dreams’ and worldly ambition. So I did.

I was happily married, with two children (boy and girl), a beautiful home, and a loving nanny for the kids. We had a nanny because I always said I could NEVER stay home and raise children because I wasn’t raised by my mom and I would be bored to tears. I was so insecure as a momma that I became an internal persecutor of stay-at-home moms, I thought they did nothing but watch T.V. all day {the truth was I was envious}.

My husband and I had great careers and were making a combined income of $243k/year and we were consumed by our own desires and dreams numbing ourselves to the things of God. We were known as generous people and gave to charity but that giving was done apart from the love of God.

I see now, I had artificial fruit. I chose to walk in death…I was a walking dead person fulfilling the desires of my flesh.

But on February 12, 2009 I breathed my last breath….

That was the day I died, the day I began to walk in newness of life. The day I ‘committed my spirit to God’ and began my journey to follow Jesus Christ and learn to yield and walk in the power of His Holy Spirit and deny my flesh.

When I reflect on my life before I followed Jesus Christ, I see how even though I was faithless and un-deserving, God was faithful and had been drawing me to Himself and trying to get my attention for many years. I cannot list the number of people He put in my life that sowed or watered seeds but those seeds either landed on my hardened heart, or soil that was full of weeds and rocks–I was more focused on the cares and desires of this world than God.

What did these obedient Disciples of Jesus Christ tell me?

“…Jesus Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

I didn’t ‘get’ it.

And even when I said I ‘got’ it, I did not ‘get it’ because I still chose to walk in my fleshly desires and pursue MY dreams. I was a selfish believer and thought it was MY life, and God was there for me, I had no reverence for God—I just gave lip service and my heart was far from Him.

In 2008 I began to read the Bible. I did not understand or ‘get it’ but I kept reading anyway. That summer I joined a neighborhood Bible study and at my first visit I unloaded on these ladies, sharing the deepest longings and frustrations of my heart. They prayed for me, and we studied Philippians. These sweet vessels of God kept inviting me to their Church, and after a few months my husband and I went.

My husband and I studied the book of Hebrews together with other couples. There were so many things about God I did not know and He was using these teachers to sow and water seeds on a now soften heart.

What was different this time?

My heart was soft because of the love from all these people willing to pray for us, and to teach us. God had me in a Bible study to work on my own relationship with Him, He put our family in a Bible preaching Church, and then He sent us a woman after God’s own heart to be in our home as a nanny to help us raise our children and disciple me.

Oh, she did that and so much more! This woman, Anna LOVES Jesus! I remember our first meeting… she would not stop talking about Jesus and I was very uncomfortable and somewhat frustrated because I loved Him too but I didn’t think we should talk about Him. Everyday she had something to share with what God had been teaching her. She seemed as if she knew Him, like she just had coffee with Him. I didn’t understand. I began feeling insecure about my relationship with God. I was jealous for the relationship she had with God.

I was baptized as an infant, made my first Holy communion, walked down an aisle when I was 19, was baptized again at 25, and my journal was full of entries to God I–talked to Him too, but He never talked back–at least I never heard Him–and then I asked God:

What does Anna have that I don’t? I talk to you God. I want what she has with you!’

One month goes by and that’s when I ‘hear’ Him. It wasn’t an audible voice, He spoke to my heart and He spoke through His Word….

He wakes me up at 2am on February 12, 2009 and I feel this prompting to get my Bible and journal and go to the guest room of our home. He speaks to my heart:

Arcelia, you want to know what Anna has that you don’t? I want you to go through the Ten commandments and don’t move on to the next one until you perfected the first’

I didn’t even know where to find the Ten Commandments but I find it in Exodus 20

You shall have no other gods before Me…”

I respond. I don’t have any other gods before you…then His Holy Spirit takes me to Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

I tell God, “I do love You! I do love You with all my heart, soul and might and Anna is ‘diligently’ teaching my children Your word. She knows the Bible better than I do. Besides, this is the Old Testament anyway, what did Jesus say?”

Then I see what Jesus said about the greatest commandment in Matthew 22:37-40 as He quotes the Old Testament:

‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVEYOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

My heart drops…I say again, I DO love you God. Then He speaks to my heart:

Arcelia, you are passionate about your job, you are passionate about serving in the Church, you were passionate about the military, you were passionate about creative memories….what about Me?’

God through His Holy Spirit began to convict me of all of the idols in my life.

I see for the first time. I did have other gods.

But I wanted to love God with all my heart mind soul and strength but how? How can I ‘perfect’ that? I wept andcried out to God. I cried because I was frustrated, how can I love? What was love? He took me to 1 Corinthians 13

I saw my inability to love God the way He was asking me. I saw my sinful state in contrast to His holiness and I wept. That’s when I began to understand the good news:

I can’t perfect anything, that’s why Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He is the perfect sacrifice. He is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Through Jesus I have access to God the Father. 

I was broken, my heart soft, repentant and ready to receive the gift of salvation.

I sorrowfully cried because I finally understood! I understood I was a sinner, disobedient, unwilling and unable to obey God in my own strength. I asked for forgiveness for my sins and had a change of heart and saw my need for Jesus Christ. There and then I loved Him as never before.

I didn’t get ‘it’ I got ‘Him’, His Holy Spirit and a new undivided heart devoted to God. Just as it is written in Ezekiel 11:19-20:

And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.”

I told God I am His and I would go anywhere He wanted me to go, do whatever He asked and I would talk to whoever He wanted me to talk to. It was more than just believing in Him, I told Him I would follow Him all the days of my life.

That was the day I breathed my last and surrendered. I was literally a new creation from that day forward living for Jesus Christ, as His witness. I couldn’t stop telling people about Jesus Christ and I began sharing in my own family starting with my closest neighbor…my husband of 9 years.

With this new heart I was no longer numb about leaving my children to pursue a worldly career and I would cry when I drove to work. I was beginning to see my calling and purpose as a wife and mother. I told my husband I would like to stay home with the children. He thought I was crazy and reminded me of all the years I told him I could NEVER stay home. I shared with him how God spoke to me and I no longer believed the lie that I am a better momma if I work. I told him I now know I am supposed to be home to raise them and teach them God’s Word.

He said I should have told him years before because we now had the ‘golden handcuffs’ of debt and I would NEVER be able to stay home, it was impossible. I wept and cried out to God to change my husband’s heart. Every morning I got up and prayed over my husband while he was asleep. I realize now God was teaching me submissiveness to Himself and my husband—a word I could never say because I was very strong willed but now I was learning to submit…trust and obey God.

Just six months later God led us to a marriage retreat in Northern California where we went up a mountain as two and came down as one in Jesus Christ. One of the most memorable moments is when we were baptized as a couple! When we came up from being immersed, my husband whispered in my ear:

Someone took a picture when we came up from the water...this is the moment your Daddy took a stand to lead our family to live by faith.

Someone took a picture when we came up from the water…this is the moment my husband took a stand to lead our family to live by faith.

God has been talking to me this whole week, and everything we have is not ours; we are just stewards. It is not our house, it’s not our car, and they are not even our children. God entrusted everything to us! I am tired of this family investing in the things of the world, we are going to invest in God’s kingdom and it begins now….I want you to stay home full time with the kids so we can disciple them. I don’t know how it’s going to happen, I don’t know how we will do it financially but the Word God gave me is in Habakkuk 2:4 ‘But the righteous will live by his faith’ and that is what we will do.”

Five months later God moved us to Alabama in the Spring of 2010.

We can see God was performing His Word in Habakkuk because we have been given many opportunities to live by our faith and trust in God: we had to overcome an overwhelming amount of debt from years of disobedience, experience a drastic reduction of income, two car wrecks (one nearly fatal), and a near miss foreclosure of a house and unexpected unemployment.

“For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…” Philippians 1:29

We are learning not to put our trust in money or man, but God. We are learning our identity is not in what we do, where we live, how much money we have (or don’t have), but our identity is found in Christ.

Through these entrusted trials, testing and discipline my husband has led us in praying:

Lord may we seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness, may we trust in You and live by faith.’

In these fiery ordeals we are learning to lift our hands, praising and blessing God and we learn of His faithfulness as He responds as He said He would (Psalm 50:15)!

Old Rugged Cross: photo taken by my husband

God is also teaching us to be content in all circumstances, empowering us to disciple our children and to “pursue peace and the sanctification without which no one will see The Lord.”

I am in awe of God! Not just for what He has done, but for Who He is. God is faithful, truthful, compassionate, abounding in lovingkindness, and righteous. We know He has done this for His namesake and are desire is to remain yielded to His Spirit and to continue to seek first His kingdom and righteousness.

My spirit can testify how I love Jesus Christ and I have a passion for Him that burns like fire within me, His purposes are my heart’s desire. We are not perfect, and life as a disciple is not easy but we are learning more each day to rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ, to rest in God’s grace by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are so thankful we have gone from ‘our filthy rags to God’s glorious riches’! God has made us righteous through faith in Jesus Christ,and that is how we are able to live by faith—to God be the glory!

Dear reader,

If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior I pray for the day God will claim you as His own and you will enter into a covenant with Him–the the One True God. I pray this not so you can have a ‘good life’ but so you will know Him for yourselves and you will serve Him and seek first His kingdom and righteousness all the days He ordains for you. If you do know God I pray you continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“…Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved—you and your household” Acts 16:31

Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exerciseslovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD.

Jeremiah 9:23-24

Family of God

Our new life following Christ began in 2009

image

Our family today 2015 (This season we are serving in CA. My husband plans to graduate seminary in December; I’m encouraging and helping him, and training and discipling our children full time; Our family is willing to serve in God’s strength wherever we are sent)

All Things Are Possible With God! Read Luke 18:18-30

 


38 responses to “A Conversion {Rags to Riches}

  • Lynn Epp in Vallejo

    You continue to be a blessing to me through your blog. Your careful, willing vulnerability is inspiring and instructive. You teach me how by sharing your thoughts. Thank you!

  • Ab Abercrombie

    Dear Sister in Christ,
    Thank you for your faithful conveyance of “truth in love” (Eph 4:15) through your writing and within your life. You offer a very humble, Spirit inspired expression of Heaven that touches the heart and nourishes the soul.
    Praise God for His imprint in your life. We are grateful to know you, Billy, and your wonderful children. We have great gratitude for God’s grace to place us in proximity of one another and look forward to reading and sharing many of our Father’s great mercies throughout the years.
    Your friends and servants,
    Ab and Karen

    • altarofheaven

      My Brother and Sister in Christ,
      I am very thankful for you both! For your humility, for your love, for your passion for Truth (Jesus Christ) and commitment to the ministry of reconciliation and restoration. God has knitted the hearts of our families together in love and I am still in awe for how God has brought our families together.

      I understand the meaning of when Moses tells Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:6 “…The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

      We look forward to growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with you too!

  • Emily

    I’m looking forward to it.

  • velma

    My heart jumps out of my body, when I read this. You are great blessing.I thank God for you and sisters and brother.
    I have left God and I am climbing out of my hole that I dug for myself. Seeing my daughter walk with God I want what she has. What I had! I feel that God has a big plans for me and I walked away for Him. One of the plan was to Arcelia so that she can do what God needs her to do. She is doing it with so much love. James is my book. I love to read it. Can’t wait till you can write about this book. I have shared all what you have written. I am very proud mom, keep letting God use you. You are very blessed. Love Mom

    • altarofheaven

      I love you Mom…God has given us a wonderful testimony of redemption and restoration and I’m thankful you are allowing me to share. I am thankful and humbled God would use me to encourage you, as I remember my first Bible, was the one you gave me–that was the one I was reading the night God’s Word illuminated.

      I used to lament the mom and daughter days I didn’t have with you but now I see you gave me the one important tool I could ever need–the Bible. All those years you tried to tell me about Jesus Christ–you sowed and watered many seeds that God is causing to grow. And now I have a fellowship relationship with you that is stronger than the Mother/Daughter I ever imagined proving God really does restore what the locusts have eaten. I love you Mommy, my sister in Christ 😉

  • Christie

    I’m moved to tears, Arcy. I need to talk with you personally some time. I love you, friend!

    • altarofheaven

      I love you too Christie!! Thank you for sowing seeds into our lives! I remember the day at the women’s conference you stepped away during a ‘World Vision’ presentation and I went to look for you and you were sobbing because you allowed your heart to break for others–I didn’t quite understand then, I do now. Your light shines brightly and God is glorified. I enjoyed your Christmas letter and miss our family parties, call when you can and so will I my sweet sister in Christ!

  • Emily

    Oh, sweet sister…I’m not sure what happened but your story wasn’t here when I commented I was looking forward to it. (It read something like coming soon…but now that you say that there were other commenter like Ab Abercrombie already. ??? ) However, now you have me waiting for the transformation. ;P
    I can’t say when my surrender was, I don’t think it was one given moment or day, more like a season…I am rebellious. I can say first I was COMPLETELY released from a bondage of alcohol and drug abuse. And then with the birth of my firstborn son, the passion to die myself and live for HIM took over, vowing to raise my firstborn for HIM. It was so freeing!
    Years later, I too experienced HIM wooing me to love Him with all my heart, soul and mind. Do you think this is where the transformation begins? We recite the Shema (aka Duet. 6:4-9) everyday before we do school. Kind of like saying the pledge, if you were a public school kid. 😀 It begins our day with such joy and it writes it on the tablets of their hearts.
    I so enjoy coming here!

    • altarofheaven

      You are correct! I was praying about what I was supposed to share.
      Praise God for releasing you from the bondage of drug and alcohol!! That is such a strong testimony of our powerful God!! I am glad you are blogging, you are shining the Light, and others (like myself) will glorify God because of your good works!! I’ve heard of other Mothers say it was the birth of their child that helped them too–and you are right that does help us die to self–if we don’t resist Him.
      I wonder about the wooing and transformation too–that is when I did choose to love Him and I wanted to do whatever He said, just as Jesus says, “if you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). I like how you recite the Shema everyday with your children, I shall do that too! Thank you for sharing and stirring me to love and good deeds! I’m glad you come here! 😉

  • faithfulnibbles

    I am so blessed by your testimony and reading of your total surrender to Jesus – giving him all of you. I am thankful that you located my blog and that God has led me to yours. I look forwad to spending more time here.

    God’s blessings always.
    Marilyn

    • altarofheaven

      Marilyn, I have no idea how I missed this comment so long ago 😉 But I am so blessed by your blog posts, especially because you share His Word! I’m thankful you read the testimony, I like to hear how God captures hearts. I’m going to share the transformation that has taken place since that day…God reminds me it’s not just how we start but how we finish. I pray I finish well…hugs to you Marilyn

  • Augustine Offu Ewa

    Thank you for blessing my soul with this wonderful testimony.

  • Mark

    I like the “breathing my last breath.” It is a great line to go with a great experience.

    • altarofheaven

      Yes! God be praised!

      “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” John 3:5-6

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  • Lyn Leahz

    Thank you for stopping by and liking my post on Lyn Leahz. You might like my other website I recently started a little over a month ago, http://PromiseBook.net God bless you dear sister and thanks again!

  • Harmony

    I am deeply moved by reading this—it’s so RARE to read words that so loudly proclaim the sovereignty/goodness/persistence/grace of God. THANK YOU.

  • Unshakable Hope

    I love reading/hearing testimonies. Yours was excellent! Thank you for sharing this!

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  • Nicole

    Wow, what a fabulous story! I think most Christians aren’t aware that they need a changed/sanctified heart and this experience.

    Arcelia, I wanted to recommend a book to you I think you’ll love. My mom loved these books so much she bought a whole box to pass out to people. It’s about a woman in Texas who discovered the truth that those who trust in God will not be disappointed. She had this epiphany about this and began put it to the test. She fills the book with testimonies about how you can trust God even if it looks like there is no way He could ever work it out – and her stories show every time God turns around bad situations for good. After reading story after story, when you put the book down, somehow you begin to feel like you can believe too. It’s one of those books that really builds you up.
    It’s called, “THOSE WHO TRUST IN THE LORD WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED” By Peggy Joyce Ruth. If I knew you, I would give you a copy!

    Also, about your testimony … I love that you became convicted about staying home with your kids. I was fascinated that you just saw things differently. You know how you hear all these famous moms and news women say that you can have it all. And that is a phrase going around now … but it’s not right and one mom told me that those women don’t know what they’re missing because they’re not home. They think they’re not missing anything but they are. So proud of you for doing the right thing! Take care! Nicole

    • altarofheaven

      Nicole, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! Thank you too for the book recommendation. I like to read/listen to testimonies of God’s grace in the lives of others. It does strengthen our faith! Just this week, God allowed for that to happen to me with two other Christians in the grocery store 😉

      About the WORLD’s lies of ‘you can have it all’….I bought into that for too many years and I’m thankful to have my eyes opened! However, for me it’s at least a weekly battle to remind myself how quickly time will pass with my children and that I am where I need to be for now–there are many distractions and ‘opportunities’ trying to compete with my role of a wife and mother.

      For me, it’s not even so much the time spent with my children on a personal level that matters the most to me, but being a good intentional steward of the time I have with them and their lives God entrusted me with. To train and disciple them in God’s Word. They will still have their OWN experience with God drawing them, but God has given me an opportunity to teach them to hide His word in their hearts. I am so thankful to be in this season with them. Thank you again Nicole!!

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