I had originally posted my testimony here, but I wanted to update and expand upon it. To go back a bit further, and tell my story from the beginning. May 15th, 2007 wasn't the beginning of my journey, but it was a new beginning for me all the same.
I was born into a family that was Italian/Hungarian on my mom's side; they were Catholic, and so my brother and I were raised Roman Catholic for the first 14 years of our lives. After we made confirmation, my folks said we could choose what we wanted (but I knew my mom hoped we would stay Roman Catholic). They weren't too pleased when I told them the results of what happened to me a few years earlier...
When I was around 9-10 years old though, my folks and I were shopping at K-Mart in Southngton. In the men's room, I found a tract that explained the gospel and a bit about Christianity. My mom found that I had it, and made me put it back. But I went back and got it later, and read it. My mom got ticked off when she found out i had it, and tore it up. Next day, my dad started finding them and bringing them home,. They were the chick tract ones, and he thought they were comics!!!
My mom threw her hands up in despair.
After reading the tracts for some time, I "repented" but it was shallow; I only wanted to avoid hell. I didn't realize it at the time, but I only wanted a saviour; I had yet to give my heart to him as my Lord.
Because I was a kid from the "projects", that was pretty much a social death sentence' at school and the kids made sure I never forgot it. Jokes about roaches, government cheese, being on welfare, you name it, all flew. The popular kids all made sure they had their fun at my expense; it got so bad at school that I ended up walking out of class and going home.
But if school was torture, then home was a living nightmare...
Allow me to explain about my brother.
My brother was a 300 pound monster ( I was only 229 at the time of our last fight), who would get into fights with me, and after he pounded me into the ground, my mom claimed I started it and punished me for it. This would cause arguments between her and my dad, who felt she listened to her mother too much. In her family, the eldest could do no wrong, NO MATTER WHAT. He got away with a lot of things that normally would have been punished, and it only emboldened him to cause more grief. If I fought back to defend myself, I got beaten. If I didn't, I got beaten. I went to the police once after being beaten by my brother, and was punished by my mom and ostracized by my grandmother and uncles afterwards for "being a liar". So, going to anyone was pretty much useless because my brother lied SO OFTEN, he can do so without the telltale signs of it, and had a family who would back him up.
A pathological liar, enabled by his folks.
Sadly, in all of this, I didn't rely upon the Lord, and only knowing the scripture verses from the tracts and not the whole bible, I had no firm ground to stand on. I became dark and brooding, and began wearing black and scowling at people.
Needless to say, I wasn't a nice person at all!!!
I may have "claimed" to be a christian", but I'm convinced that I was about as saved as a turnip, and about as half as appealing. I looked evil, and acted like it as well. Even now, I shudder at my thoughts and feelings from then. I spent several years like this, generally angry at the world for my lot in life. It took the Lord a LOT of time to draw me to him; but slowly, he did. It wasn't all at once, but in several small steps. The first was meeting someone who was a fellow artist, who accepted me into his circle of friends. While they weren't saved, I believe the Lord used them to start getting me past the bitterness and feelings of rejection.
The second was to get me reading scripture; I had begun attending church with my friend Jim, but while I knew the plan of salvation and all that, I still didn't know his word. Over time, I had wanted to get to know the Lord more, but this was because i heard that those who didn't know him would go to hell. I was still more scared of going to hell than remorseful of what I had done to Him. I had been having trouble reading scripture, and could never get past chapter 5 in Genesis before simply giving up. One night, after being frustrated yet again, I asked the Lord to help me to read and understand his word.
He heard me alright...
I began reading It again, and got to chapter 15!!! The next night, I finished genesis and got to Deuteronomy. Within 9 months of starting again, I completed one total read-through in scripture, which I had NEVER done before. It was also during this time that i had been the head usher at a local church i had been going to.While i was excited to have the opportunity to do so, I know now that it was not where the lord wanted me to be, and after an incident between myself and the pastor (he insinuated that God would take my hands away from me for "not getting my old fire back"), the Lord took me out of there. My family ended moving to another part of the state, separating us from most of our friends (except for phone calls).
This is where the Lord would start the third step, and the most crucial...
On May 15th, 2007, my mom was in ICU at New Milford Hospital (we lived in Danbury at the time, and NM Care and Rehab, right next to the hospital, was the closest nursing home that had an opening for her when we moved) with a severe lung infection. It was fairly common for her to suffer infections, but this one would prove different...
After a few days passed, the doctors had grave news for us: they had done an MRI on my mom, and found what they believed were nodules of cancer throughout her lungs. They asked us if we "just wanted to let her go quietly." Needless to say, we were shocked and horrified. To make matters worse, my brother made matters worse by making threats against the hospital if they didn't save Her life. He threatened to "blow the place up."
My brother had started his garbage again...but this time was DIFFERENT:
After he made the threats, a family friend of ours ( my current advocate) who had connections to law enforcement was forced to turn my brother in to the NM police, who took great exception to his actions. After he returned to the hospital to visit my mom, they arrested him and searched his room at our house; they found THREE PIPE-BOMBS!!! Needless to say, me and my dad were horrified.
In any event, we ended up asking the doctors to do a biopsy on my mom's lungs, to see if the cancer was malignant or benign. From there, we would be able to make a decision on how to proceed. Meantime, All we could do was wait, and all i could think about was my mom.
She had always held the family together, even when my brother caused trouble. yeah, she defended him, but still, she was my mom. (we call her "Mommy Penguin", after a nickname my dad gave her!). Now, we were about to lose her, and I couldn't do anything to help her but stand there like a twit! Whatever strength of my own I had at this point finally gave out; with the situation we were facing with my brother and all, it was more than I could take.
I had no ability to deal with this, and finally saw myself as I was; small and weak. I was in control of NOTHING, and God's word struck me hard.
I spent my time in prayer over all of this, weeping and blubbering before the Lord, and not eating a thing for pretty much three days. I had been selfish, self centered, arrogant and conceitted, and it had led to all of this. Worst of all, compared to the Lord, I was akin to the slime that grew on pond scum! My world was over, and everythign that meant anything was in ruins.
I didn't fully realize then what I do now, but I knew I needed Christ, and just surrendered to him.
But the Lord was just starting, and his MIGHTIEST work was yet to come..
After the three days, we went up to see my mom in ICU, and the Doctor in charge of her case sat down with us. they found that the "cancer" in her lungs was actually INHALED FOOD!!! The nursing home had fed her too fast, and being that my mom has COPD, the food went into her lungs. When they did the MRI, it showed up as organic lumps. After removing the inhaled food, my mom began to improve rapidly. She didn't regain consciousness right away, but to our relief, when she did, there was no brain damage that we knew of from oxygen deprivation.
But while she was in ICU being worked on by the doctors, God used the time to deal with my older brother: He got a year in jail for possession of explosives (I think he agreed to a plea-bargain). During that year, my dad and I, with the help of our advocate, used the time to find a new apartment, and I continued on in my studies in scripture, completing a SECOND time through the whole Bible!! More importantly, i learned even more about the lord, and delved deeper into the scriptures. When my mom was well enough, we broke the news to her about her eldest son. Of course, she was upset, but she was also thankful that he didn't get a lot WORSE (Later on, he would get in trouble again with the law, but that is for another day).
Nearly a year and a half later, we moved to a new city, and my mom shortly thereafter joined us, moving to a nearby nursing home. I finally managed in September of 2008 to get internet service that wasn't monopolized by my brother or his wife, and I found the Christian forum sites RR and RF online. I had wanted to serve the Lord, but had no idea how to: aside from my art, I wasn't particularly good at anything, and my art is mediocre at best.
All I can say is... the Lord had other ideas for me. And I praise him for having mercy on a worthless piece of garbage like me.