California Dreamin’

I’m up from my deathbed. Thank you for all your prayers and well wishes. I think it had something to do with a yeast cleanse I just subjected myself to. But that’s another post for another day. Thank you to everyone who is participating in this carnival. I’m sorry I’m late.

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Prequel: This is week #2 of The Busy Mom’s Club. Not coincidentally, this week Lisa Bergren is talking about new beginnings. Albeit a New Year, new morning, a new life. What I like to call “do-overs.”

Tears were flowing freely as I waved goodbye to the neighbors in the apartment complex in Dallas, where I had called “home” for last 4 years. These neighbors had all become surrogate family to me. Friends I would miss dearly.

The decision to move to Los Angeles was an easy one. The actual driving away, was harder than I ever imagined. My mother, knowing how difficult the move would be for me, flew in to accompany me across the country.

My dependable Honda Civic CRX hatchback was loaded down with priceless possessions, an angry cat, one sandbox, perched precariously atop the 13 inch color television, and my mother riding shotgun.

The year was 1988.

I felt secure about the move because I already had friends out there, that I knew would watch out for me. And feed me if I were starving. My best friend, Kathy, was already there. I had called her a few days before leaving, beginning the conversation with, “Watcha doin’?”

She floored me with her answer. “I’m getting ready to go to Bible Study.” I’d known her for years already, and we had never discussed faith. Except to say that we were both raised Catholic, but had bolted the minute we were out of our parent’s houses. And we were both still more than a little afraid of rulers.

While Catholicism instilled a great sense of faith in me growing up, I did not have any kind of relationship with Jesus. I had never opened the Bible, and the only praying I did were nightly rote prayers at the dinner table. Oh. And the occasional, “Please Lord, don’t let my parents find out about that.” All right. God heard that one more than occasionally.

The only exposure I had to anyone with a strong relationship with Jesus, was my Grandfather. Who prayed loud and often. And sang praise songs to anyone within earshot. He went to one of those “Pentecostal” churches. You know. Where the people raised their hands, spoke in tongues, and Lord knows what other weirdness.

That scared me. He often would ask me to go to church with him. My answer was always the same. “Um, no. I’ve got to, um, wash my hair.”

But he and my grandmother prayed for me. Especially when they learned that I wanted to be an actress. In Hollywood. A land filled with sinners. And earthquakes.

And on that day, when my best friend said that she was attending a women’s Bible Study, something unexpected happened to me. As if someone whispered into my ear, and I was powerless to do anything but repeat it.

“I need that.”

After I had settled in Los Angeles, my Kathy invited me to attend this Saturday morning study with her. I loved these women. There was no judgment. No condemnation. They were very real with one another. About their struggles, their battles, their pasts. The group was lead by a woman named Gail. She didn’t mince words. She talked to us about how Jesus wants us to live our lives.

And I, for one, didn’t want to hear it. I was a lost soul. Lonely. With a God shaped hole in me, that I was trying to fill with everything BUT God.

And yet, I continued to attend that study, because I loved these women so much. All the while, looking for loopholes so that I could continue to live my life any way I wanted.

The harder I looked, the more it became apparent that there weren’t any loopholes. Which was unfortunate. For a time.

I’m skipping to the chase when I tell you that one weekend, we all went away on a retreat. It was there that I gave my life to Christ. I made a promise to turn from a life where I made up the rules as I went along.

I was loved into the Kingdom of God. And it took years.

If those women had harangued and pointed bony fingers at me, all the while thumping their Bibles, I would have run in the opposite direction. I think that’s a huge mistake that some Christians make. The finger pointing and Bible thumping, that is.

It should come as no surprise that I ended up getting baptized in one of those “Pentecostal” churches. You know, the ones where people raise their hands and speak in tongues. My grandparents never got to see the fruit of all their many prayers. But, somehow, I’m sure they knew. And they had a really good chuckle.

This is the part where I’d love to tell you that becoming a Christian, was like signing on for a cruise. With perks. And that all of my non-Christian friends and family embraced my new lifestyle with open arms.

But that would be a big fat lie.

Now frowned upon.

I had an especially difficult time with friends and family. Including my poker buddies. I continued to play, but I ceased all the drinking and cursing.

And btw, when I talk about my cuss jar now, I’m filling it with loose change mostly because of the cursing that still goes on in my head. Because thoughts count. I say mostly. Because, that’s an area where God is still refining me. And I’m usually good. Unless I fall over a baby gate. Or my husband scares me.

But over time, years even, my friends embraced the change in me and what a positive it was in my life. And yes, I witnessed to anyone who would listen.

In love.

Not condemnation. Because who am I to judge anyone. I still make mistakes. Colossal ones. But, I have a very clear direction in my life. And a good set of rules to live my life by. And I’m never alone. I feel God’s presence with me, especially in the difficult days.

After a time, I left the acting profession. I told my agents that I didn’t want to audition for anything that my future children couldn’t watch. Not all believers are called to make such a drastic change. But I was. Doors were closed. Wonderful windows were opened.

I met my husband in a Christian acting company. I made lifelong friends, there in Los Angeles. And you’ll be comforted to know, that there are many many praying people in the city of angels. Striving to make a difference in the type of entertainment that comes out of that place. Patricia Heaton was one of those women in that first Bible Study. And she still is making a huge difference in what gets produced. I heart her.

Yesterday, Emme asked me if I had any friends who were not Christians. I said that yes, indeed I do. She asked me if I have ever told them about Jesus. I said “yes, I have.” “But Mom, they still don’t believe in Jesus?” she asked incredulously.

“Sometimes, no. But the seeds are planted. You never know what will happen once those seeds are planted.” She was okay with that.

That’s the hard part, sometimes. Letting go, and letting God do the rest.

My grandfather planted seeds in me, that he never got to see grow. And I’m so grateful that he didn’t give up on me.

I’ll close this with one of my favorite Bible quotes.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Jesus has always loved me. Even when I was as far from Him as I could possibly be. And he loves you too. Whether you are near or far.

God bless you my friends.

April 28, 2008

37 Responses to California Dreamin’

  • I hope you feel better soon!

  • oh, i almost accidentally mr. linky-ed. glad i caught that!!

    hope you get better soon. and maybe a “get behind me satan would work.”

  • Hope you feel better soon! Can’t wait to read! 🙂

  • I pray that you feel better very soon, and I look forward to reading your testimony. 🙂

  • Oh, I hope you feel better soon. That is the worst! Try to get some rest, although I know moms do not get sick days!

  • I could think of a few reasons to be throwing up other than food poisoning.

    Oh heck.

    lLet’s start a rumor.

  • I’m with you, girlfriend.

    I had “Write faith post for DeeDee’s carnival” on the top of my To Do list yesterday.

    But my husband left yesterday morning for yet another business trip and I had all three kids by myself all day and the mastitis was attacking me again — and when it was midnight and I still hadn’t written the post, I decided to go to bed anyway and pray for God’s mercy to do it when I could.

    So maybe you’re sick so I wouldn’t feel guilty?

    Sorry. (Feel better soon.)

  • Yippee! Something’s going around and I DON’T HAVE IT!!

    Sorry, but I’ve been sick a few too many times this year! Hope you are better soon, for your sake and ours!

  • Feel better soon!! I’ll try not to cough on you.

  • I hope you feel better quickly!!!

  • Yuck. I just had the flu last week and lost 3 pounds. So the moral is…it was soooo worth it.

  • DeeDee, THANK YOU for being bold and sharing that!! I know you were nervous about it, but you made Jesus smile today by obeying Him and giving us the opportunity to stand up and testify, too. (you may have noticed I took 2 opportunities – sorry) Hugs, Carol

  • I <3 your testimony…mine’s boring, but I think I’ll post it anyway.

  • Dee Dee that was the best story I’ve read in a long while, honestly! You know what story was the last one I read that I really enjoyed? Bruchko!

    Thanks for sharing your life! you are a GREAT writer. Love reading you !!!

  • Thank you so much for sharing that very personal part of your life with us.

    If I had a blog I would share my own story of how I really came to believe and understand what it means to be a Christian & how much I still struggle every single day!

  • Wow, I get goosebumps reading all of these! What an inspiration to us all!! From Florida to Hawaii, we see how Jesus touches all of us! Thanks DeeDee!

  • Thank you for sharing – and making the boldness of sharing contagious for the rest of us! I enjoyed reading all of these!

  • Dee Dee, thank you so much for sharing your testimony. How totally awesome is God?! 🙂 Kudos to you for being so brave by turning down roles that would not honor God, and your children couldn’t see. 🙂 You are an inspiration. 🙂

    Also, thank you for hosting this carnival. I believe that God has been glorified through all of this, and I have been very blessed reading all of the testimonies. 🙂

  • I LOVE this testimony – wow Praise Him! I left my link to a post I had written in February – sort of my testimony squeezed down in response to something I had read on another amazing blog. I hope you are feeling much better – thank you SO much for doing this! Sunshine

  • Wonderful testimony DeeDee! For what it’s worth – I’m betting your Grandpa did get to see those seeds grow – just not from here..Don’cha know he’s got a big smile across his face right now!
    Glas you’re feeling better!

  • Um…that would be “glad”

  • And you were nervous because why??? Well done DeeDee!

  • That was awesome. There is no better way to get to know a person than to hear how they met God. Love it.
    I had no idea you were doing this this week, and I have this big ol’ bloggy carnival at my blog planned for May 13th. Yikes…..Come visit if you’re not too busy. 🙂

  • Awesome testimony!! I’m so glad that you shared it. I know that it’ll make a difference in someone’s life!

  • Praise God for praying grandparents!! My grandmother’s prayers saved my life, literally!

    This was so great. Thanks for providing the opportunity for us to get to know each other better.

  • Wow! Just…wow!

    Wonderful lessons there for me.

  • Thank you for sharing your testimony with us! I’d write mine, but I’m afraid it reads more like a soap opera.

    And a little bit of “I once was lost and now I’m found…oh wait! I”m lost again!”

    I can’t put my finger on my actual salvation date, but I’m pretty sure I prayed the sinner prayer every day in the third grade. I was raised in one of those pentecostal churches, and man was I afraid of hell.

    I love reading everyone’s stories, though. Thank you again!

  • Deedee, thanks for sharing your story AND for hosting the Stand & Testify Carnival. It is blessing my heart. Hubby and I love to hear people share how they came to Christ. Everyone’s story is different and it causes us to realize what an awesome God we have, who uses so many ways, so many people, so many situations to turn hearts toward Himself. He is good!

  • Wonderful testimony! God is SO good and SO faithful!! I hope the person standing behind Jesus when you enter heaven is your grandpa.

  • I know you stated that wasn’t easy for you, but it was wonderful. Truly.

  • Dee,Dee, what a beauitful testimony you have! the Lord just use you to open the doors for others to share like me b/c had you not done these I would have not felt lead to share thanks for alllowing God to work through you, blessing marina

  • DeeDee, I loved reading this. You have such a gift for writing- all the time- and this was no exception. I’m so thrilled to know more of your story.

    And I like that girlie Patricia Heaton, too. I had one dream day in NYC and went to the Letterman show; she was a guest. Loved her.

    How do you feel after writing this and putting it out there??

  • I am late as well…I had seen the original post but hadn’t gotten back to it since you wrote your testimony til today. God is so faithful! I was glad to see the way He worked in your life.

    I have my testimony in a link on my sidebar, so I just linked to that, if that’s ok.

    Glad you’re feeling better!

  • I am sorry you did not give the Catholic Church a chance upon “growing up”. You only get out what you put in and with age comes wisdom.

  • Hi Karol,
    Thanks for your comment. I grew up in the Catholic Church, attending Parochial School through most of my grammar school years. Something I carry with me, because of that upbringing, is a tremendous sense of faith. I will always be grateful for that.

    And I have practicing Catholics all about me. My in-laws are devout, and are two of the most wonderful people I’ve ever known. However, I very much feel like I have been planted in a church where I belong. And I am growing. You’re right, with age comes wisdom. And I know that I’m exactly where God wants me. For now.

    I know Catholics take a lot of bashing. Especially from Evangelicals. I hope I didn’t come off as disrespectful. I have an awful lot of love and respect for the Catholic chuch, even still.

    God bless you,
    DeeDee

  • Very Beautiful!

    Being Loving, instead of judgmental, opens SO many more doors with those that others just sniff at! I love, love, love your testimony!