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   Shawna's Testimony                       

I grew up, "in the system".  

I was shuffled around between my parents,  foster homes and the care of relatives from the time I can begin remembering. I grew up without knowing my older brother and my older sister took it upon herself to "raise" me as we went here and there in what we called, "homes".   As I got older, my sister aged out of the system and I was eventurally returned home, into my parents care, going back and forth betwen my divorced parents.  There, I endured my life, and my younger sister was born.  My biolgical parents were drug adicts and alcoholoics and I was often left alone to care for my much younger sister and nephew.  I remember hearing about Jesus in certain foster homes that would take me to church with them, but I never had a personal relationship with Him . Even though I didn't know God,  there were times that I prayed as a young 8 or 9 year old girl, begging for Him to have my mom be the next car to pull in the driveway, or have this be the last time she was gone for two or three days....... but, those things never happened.  So, in my mind, it made me believe that God was for the perfect people and He wasn't listening to me because we weren't even close to that. 

Fast forward to the age of life had spiraled out of control and I was knee deep in sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

I was broken!

My younger sister and nephew had been taken into foster care and I was living in my biological father's custody.

I had witnessed things that no one, even triple my age, should have to.  All my hopes......... were gone. 

I had begun to come to terms witht he fact that this was the life that I was supposed to live. I didn't want to!
I felt that there was something that was supposed to be more, but how do you see the light when your entire world is darkness? 

A few years later, when I was 15, I started talking to my younger sister and nephew's foster mother, Rachel, on the phone. I met her and Chad when my biological Mom took me to their church to see my nephew and sister in an Easter show.  I continued developing a relationship with Rachel over the phone as she tried to counsel me about my behavior. One weekend things got really bad at home with my biological father' girlfriend and me. My father called Rachel and asked her to come and get me because he was fearful that someone was going to get hurt.  She came right over and took me to their house.  What I remember as soon as I walked in, was the feeling of warmth, I remember feeling.........THIS was a family.  

My second night there, they were having "family movie night" and I remember looking at Rachel and saying, "I want this!"  We talked that night about what family life was like in their house and what would be expected of me. They said they would see what they could do and asked me if I wanted to change, did I WANT to be different?  I said yes.  

I will admit, my motivations were not all pure.  I was used to being shuffled from foster home to foster home, so I was just planning on living there, having fun, and then moving on.  But God ........... had His own plan.   

He had BIG plans for me! 

I came to live with them in April of 2005. Here I was, a 15 year old girl that had lived in a flesh filled life, and they were brand new believers trying to figure this out.

God is gracious. He is merciful. And His love has no boundaries.

The first time going to church, I sat in the pew with my arms folded thinking these people were brainwashed crazies!

But slowly.......... slowly, God was working on my heart.  Slowly He was using the love of believers around me, the example and transparency of my foster parents, and His word, to chip away at the hardness in my heart.

On September 9, 2005 I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. God knew I was going to be His daughter.  He created my inmost being, but I had to choose to have that relationship with Him. And I did. I remember praying and instantly feeling different. That doesn't mean life was easy and that I was perfect after that...far from it, but I had the Holy Spirit living inside of me and I had that conviction, that desire to be a hearer AND a do-er of the Word. So, I was spiritually adopted and changed in 2005 and by 2006 I was physically adopted by the Strongs. I was given a physical new name to go with that relationship I had with Jesus. God is so good and so much bigger than us! 

In 2008 I graduated Windsor High School. I attended Summit University (formerly Baptist Bible College) that fall. In 2009 I met my now husband, Kyle. He has led a much different life from me. He was saved young, and had God fearing parents. He was the kid standing up on the back of his high school bus preaching the Gospel and spending all his time at church.  Growing up, he never saw the side of darkness I did, and for that I am grateful. He was a year ahead of me, and I knew that he was going to be "the one". We got married in 2010, just one week after he graduated college, and we moved down to Perkasie, Pennsylvania.  Kyle serves full time as one of the student ministry pastors at the church that he spent his tween/teen years in. Kyle is such a faithful man of God. He loves Gods Word, is a visionary, and he truly loves showing the teens God's love. It is an honor and an encouragement to be his help mate. By 2011 we had our first daughter, Raegan Grace. She truly is an example to me of how big our God is and just how Gracious He is. She is SUCH a energetic, compassionate girl. In 2013 we welcomed our first son, Calvin John. He is so sweet, so sensitive, and very loving. And now we are preparing to welcome third child, a little girl in November of 2015! 

God has done and IS doing big things in our life. We are SO excited to see where He takes my parents, because we have seen first hand that His plans are not ours.  But His plans are ALWAYS infinitely better than anything we can ever imagine. 

I will leave you with one of the verses that is a constant reminder to me of God's plan for my life; 

Acts 20:24, "However I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given to me--the task of testifying to the good news of Gods grace."

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