Sheila Culver

           

           

AMAZING GRACE

Personal Testimony of Sheila (Gibson) Culver

I was raised up in church all my life.  I went to Calvary Baptist Church in Arkansas where Bro. Charles Shipman was Pastor.  I considered myself a good kid, because I was always in church.  My parents made sure we were in church.  We were taught right from wrong. 

          I guess I was about 14 years old when God first started dealing with me.  I thought at that time God had saved me.  I did not realize that He hadn’t until I was older.  When I turned 18, my life fell apart.  In my mind I was grown, and no one was going to tell me what to do.  I didn’t like rules, so I moved out of my parents’ home.  I thought once I was on my own things would be better.  I thought I was missing out on a lot of things of the world, and  I made some bad decisions. 

At the time I thought I was having fun and not thinking about the consequences of my sin. I messed up and jumped into a marriage, got pregnant, and then left shortly after.  I went back home, because I wanted to go through the pregnancy with my Mom.  I started going back to church at Calvary.  I felt that I was where I was supposed to be. Then in February of 1998, I thought I got saved again, and it was great for a while. 

My daughter, Abbie, was born in April, and I was determined to raise her in church and around the things of God.  Things were going good for awhile and then I went back to my old ways and wanted to do my own thing again.  I started doing things a saved person wasn’t suppose to do.  I would go to bars and drink thinking things were good.  That’s when I met James (my husband now).   I continued to live a life of sin.  We went out for a while and then decided we would live together instead of getting married.  I was afraid of marriage, having already had one that failed, plus he was a lot older than me.  I wanted to make sure that it would work between us before I took such a serious step as marriage.   I knew I was doing wrong, but I didn’t care.  I was thinking only of myself.  I was trying to make myself happy. 

I remember going to Bro. Claude Mills’ church a few times, but I couldn’t make myself keep going.  I knew I was lost.  I knew if I didn’t do something, I was going to hell, but that still didn’t make me want to go.

James and I had a lot of problems, so I moved back to Arkansas instead of dealing with my problems.  I decided we were not living together anymore.  We were either going to get married or we were through.  I was tired of living like that, and I wanted to make it right.  We got married in 2001, and I moved back to Mississippi.  We still had the same problems - nothing changed. I moved back to Arkansas in 2003, because I thought I couldn’t take anymore. 

During that time, my Mom found out she had cancer.  That was devastating news!  Nine months later, she was gone, and I didn’t know what to do.  Things were so hard; my life was crazy.   My Mom always knew how to pick up the pieces and make me feel better, and now she was gone.  I was so upset.  I hated and blamed God for taking her.  I couldn’t understand why he would do that to me.  I needed her and I felt so alone.  I couldn’t get along with anybody.  I was just miserable. 

I decided I needed to get away from Arkansas, so I went back to James.  I couldn’t live in Arkansas anymore.  I was determined I was going to make my marriage work.  I loved him, and our marriage had to be fixed.  I was tired of running.  Things were going good, but I was still in a lot of pain, and I still blamed God.  I knew I needed to be in church, but I didn’t want anything from God.  I had a lot of issues.  I also knew if I started going to church I would have to change my life and I didn’t want to.  I would try going to churches around my house, but I got nothing.  I knew where I was supposed to be, but I kept using the excuse that James wouldn’t go so I wasn’t going either. 

Around August or September of 2008, out of the blue James suggested we go to Bro. Claude’s church.  I agreed I would go with him.  This time when we went I looked at things differently.  I saw what God was doing among that group of people.  Tia and Jeremy Hall were expecting little Abbey Grace. In the womb, she had serious medical problems diagnosed and it was uncertain if she would even make it to term.  I needed to stay and see God’s work accomplished in her.   I knew then I had to quit blaming God for taking my Mom.  I had to quit hating Him and realize He didn’t take her to hurt me.  He was doing a miracle right in front of me with Abbey Grace. 

We started going regularly. The more I saw the more I wanted.  I was hoping it was not too late.  He used the miracle of Abbey Grace to keep me coming.  She was born absolutely perfect.  I started doing whatever it took to get saved.  I couldn’t understand why it was so hard.  I went and talked to Bro. Claude, and he kept telling me I was trying to save myself.  He said I needed to just do what God wants me to do like being the wife and mother I’m supposed to be and leave the rest up to God.  I started doing that.  Then Bro. Claude said “I” was what was standing in the way.  I didn’t want to give myself up to God, and I loved myself more than God.  I thought he was crazy. 

On December 28, 2008, Bro. Claude was preaching on the gifts that God gives us.  That night he brought beautifully wrapped gifts for each one of the lost to open up.  Each gift contained a special verse from the Bible.  As each box was opened and the verse read, God would stir my heart.  The one that I opened is the one that really got to me.  It said, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God...” (Eph. 2:8).   When I read that verse, I knew God gave me that one for a reason. 

When I got home, I put the verse on the table next to my bed so I could see it.  I kept looking at it and started thinking “all this time I’ve been trying to save myself.”  I couldn’t go to sleep, so I went to the bath tub.  That is where I go to  relax.  Well, God was there.  God showed me the real reason of why He came on this earth, and why He died on the cross.  It was so weird, because I had never seen it like that before.  I knew the story in my head, but when I saw it through my heart, it was like I was actually there.  I started crying and praying.  Then God started showing me myself, and I couldn’t believe that was me.  Everything Bro. Claude had told me, God was showing me, too.  I was so ashamed and embarrassed.  I couldn’t understand why God would love somebody like me.  I told God if He wanted me, He could have me, but I didn’t know why He would.  I told God there was nothing I could do; He had to do the rest.  I shut up and didn’t do anything.  The next thing I knew the words, “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, I once was lost but now I’m found” came across my heart.  All I could do was sit there.  I didn’t know really what happened.   I was thinking surely it wasn’t this easy.  All I had to do was “nothing.”  

It was around 12 o’clock at night, but I had to talk to Bro. Claude.  I called him and woke him up.  He was half asleep, but he said it sounded good and we would just have to sit back and see what happens.  I wanted him to say more than that. 

I couldn’t go to sleep.  I wanted to run around the house shouting, but everybody else was in bed asleep.  I kept thinking this is too good to be true, and it was so easy.  All I had to do was shut up and listen.  I had decided I wasn’t going to tell anybody just in case it didn’t really happen.  Wednesday night I asked Bro. Claude if we could sing, “Amazing Grace.”  He had Tia sing, “Amazing Grace, My Chains are Gone.”  I never heard that song before, and it really stirred me up.  I almost exploded, but I still wasn’t ready for anyone else to know.  I was afraid things would change if I said it out loud. 

Sunday came and Bro. Claude had everybody tell what they had gotten out of church that year.  I had memorized what I was going to say.  I was not going to say anything about getting saved.  When it came to my turn, God took over and I told everyone everything.  I was shocked and excited.  I realized there was a big difference in what happened to me this time than what had happened in the past. I went by feeling before, and this time it was all about Christ and what He did for me.  I had always imagined getting saved at church not in a bath tub.  Everything that happened was nothing like I had imagined it would be.    I know God knew that’s the way it had to be for me. 

Now that I’ve been saved, I can sit back and look at all the changes in my life.  The drinking and partying are gone.  I don’t even think about doing them anymore.  I stopped smoking.  I don’t hang around the people I used to anymore.  God has changed my life in so many ways.  God has been showing me a lot of things.  He has brought a lot of preachers in my life through the years to get me to the place where I am today.  He constantly reminds me where He brought me from, and I am so thankful that He never gave up on me.  He has given me a wonderful church and wonderful friends that I love very much.  I am so excited to see what else God has planned for my life.