Saturday, August 17, 2019
Burgundy, Blush, & White with hints of Gold & Green
My testimony begins in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2013. At that time in my life, I was 30 years old and living an empty lifestyle that was aimless and purposeless with little joy and no hope that it would ever be different. I felt an emptiness that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, and I tried everything I knew to fill that emptiness by running to all manner of worldly desires. In order to avoid facing my sadness, six days a week, I tried to fill up on a never-ending cycle of burying myself in a 12 to 14 hour workday…immediately followed by heading to a local bar until 3:00am in order to numb myself by overindulging in alcohol, cigarettes, food, and a lustful pursuit of sensual desires. I’d wake up feeling exhausted, hungover, sad, and ashamed that I was 30 years old with nothing to show for myself, and yet I’d find myself doing the same thing the very next day. I can remember actually thinking many times that I was “cursed” and destined to failure. Little did I know how much truth there was hiding in that thought. Before I go any further, it is only right to thank God for His mercy in allowing me to find this Church, my mom for having such a heart for God and always seeking Him, and Gwen Lara for tirelessly laying her life down to teach the Truth about God and His Son Jesus Christ, and showing others how to live a life sold out for God. Up until 2013, I had believed there was a God, but no concept that it was possible to have a deep meaningful relationship with the Creator of the Universe. Right around 2013, my mom found Remnant Fellowship through Weigh Down Ministries. During the years that I was wrapped up in my various sinful behaviors, our relationship had deteriorated and had become strained. Through putting into practice the principles of Weigh Down, my Mom found a relationship with God that began a transformation in her that was profound to me. I remember her beginning to steadily lose large amounts of weight that she had struggled for years to lose…and she began to look and feel more youthful and healthier. But what really caught my attention was that along with the external changes came internal changes consisting of a peace, wisdom, and gentleness in my mom that had eluded our relationship for years. I found myself wanting to be around my mom, seeking her advice, and seeing our relationship become repaired. I was intrigued and wanted to find the peace and happiness that she had found. So I slowly began webcasting Remnant Fellowship Church services and Weigh Down classes, and I began to REALLY READ God’s Word. I remember watching a single episode of the Exodus from Strongholds Class alone on my mother’s laptop and it changed my life. In it, I heard Gwen teach about Deuteronomy 28 and that God gave blessings to His people for obedience and CURSES for disobedience. I HAD been cursed all those years, but it was a result of my complete and total lack of love for God and obedience to His ways. I remember hearing for the first time that it wasn’t just enough to acknowledge that there was a God and that I should just “count on” His love for me, but that God desires a RESPONSE to love Him back with all our mind, heart, soul, and strength…and that we can show our love by obeying His will, and not our own will, by turning from sin and following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. I finally had a purpose in life: to serve our Sovereign God…and I had been given the keys to fill that emptiness I had inside of me a close and personal relationship with God. Through this Message of love and obedience, I have been able to put down a life of aimlessness, overdrinking, cigarette smoking, over 40 pounds of weight from overindulgence in food, and seeking a feeling of self-worth based on what other people thought of me instead of what my Heavenly FATHER thought of me. I am so grateful for the life I have now! I feel healthier, happier, and have more friends than I know what to do with, all united by our common love for the Father.
“As the evening wore on, and everyone began to leave, Kelly and I found ourselves talking about why I moved and what I loved about Remnant Fellowship Church. Next thing we knew, we had been talking for hours about God and what I had been learning and how a relationship of love and obedience had changed my life…and we stayed until the restaurant was closing. After that, we began to go out every week to the same restaurant and talking for hours and hours about God and what He was doing in my life.” – Jeff
In this newfound relationship with God, He has provided me such a blessed life. One of my biggest blessings and answered prayers was God bringing Kelly into my life. In 2015, after webcasting and visiting the Church during God’s ordained Festivals for two years, my mom and I felt God’s leading to move to Nashville so we could be more connected to God and like-minded people with a love for God. It was always a desire of my heart to have a wife and raise a family one day, but my sinful lifestyle had always prevented any sort of meaningful relationship with a woman from developing. And by the time I had made the decision to move to Nashville, God had revealed so many things in my heart that He was asking me to change to be more pure that I honestly was not looking for a relationship while I was learning to be introspective in my own heart. When I first moved, God was kind enough to allow me to transfer to a Nashville branch of the job I had held in Ohio. When I showed up to my new employer for my first day of work, Kelly was my manager and in charge of onboarding me as an employee into the system. As we sat, talked, and reviewed my resume, Kelly had asked what had prompted me to move down to Tennessee after 15 years at my previous location in order to take a lesser position in the Nashville location, and I was able to share that I had moved down here in order to be closer to my Church and its members and to grow my relationship with God. Over the next few weeks, in an effort to please God and to stay obedient to my authorities at work, I came to Kelly constantly to ask how I could improve as an employee or how management preferred things to be accomplished. She was always so kind and willing to help that she very quickly earned even more of my respect, and we slowly began to form a friendship. One day, after a few more weeks…with me being so new to town and not knowing a lot of people yet, God led me to ask Kelly if there were any fun places that the staff liked to go to in order to unwind after the shift was over. Kelly generously invited me out to meet up at a restaurant with her and some other co-workers to socialize and get to know one another better. As the evening wore on, and everyone began to leave, Kelly and I found ourselves talking about why I moved and what I loved about Remnant Fellowship Church. Next thing we knew, we had been talking for hours about God and what I had been learning and how a relationship of love and obedience had changed my life…and we stayed until the restaurant was closing. After that, we began to go out every week to the same restaurant and talk for hours and hours about God and what He was doing in my life. It was clear that an attraction was forming between us and we had so many similar interests, but neither of us had been looking for, nor expecting, a relationship. At that time in Kelly’s life, she had not attended Church in many years and had lost her relationship with God. However, God allowed Kelly’s heart to be soft, and she came to attend Church with me in order to find what had changed me so much. Kelly’s first time attending Church was the first day of Days of Awe, and the Message that day was a powerful Message that true worshipers of God MUST put down sin and pick up a life of purity. Kelly left the Church service that day saying that Message struck her to the core and that she had been waiting her whole life to hear that Message. After that, Kelly’s heart began to change and beat for God so quickly and dramatically that it convicted me to remember my own zealousness for God and not become complacent. Kelly quickly lost 70 pounds, quit smoking, and stopped overdrinking…but MOST of all, she had a beautiful love for God and a hunger to get closer to Him. Kelly has such a desire to serve others, a compassion to protect those who are weak and hurting, and she has a deep love for children and animals. But what stands out the most is her love for God. I knew that this was the Godly woman I had prayed for and the one God had set aside for me. I thank God for the Remnant Fellowship Church, this Body of Believers, and Gwen Lara for her tireless example of how to serve God and have a relationship with Him.
I moved to Tennessee from Florida in 2012 for a fresh start. I began managing at a restaurant here in Brentwood, which is where I first learned of the Remnant Fellowship Church. At this time, God was definitely not a focus for me. I hadn’t been to church in years, and the idea of attending didn’t even register with me.
However, I did have an emptiness inside that I couldn’t seem to fill. I thought moving was going to solve the problem, but I quickly realized this wasn’t the case and chose to turn to many vices to feel better. I became increasingly lustful, and when that didn’t work I added an overindulgence of alcohol. During this time I was also overweight and always felt uncomfortable, suffering from social anxiety. I smoked over a pack of cigarettes a day, and I was very vulgar, angry, and rude. Plus, due to how often I was going out drinking, I was unable to pay my bills on time or repair my credit that I had ruined right after college, sending me even deeper into a financial hole. This behavior continued for about two and a half years.
“It has been quite a journey to where we are, but it has definitely brought me much closer to God and to Jeff. My life has done a complete 180 turnaround! There’s so much peace and love, no overindulgence in anything, my finances are completely restored, and every day is another opportunity to fall more in love with God. I look forward to spending the rest of our days here on Earth together, loving God, His Church, and continuing to love and encourage each other.” – Kelly
Then, in May of 2015, I sat down with a new transfer employee from Ohio (Jeff DeFosse – my now fiancé). When asked why he had moved, his response was… “to be closer to my Church.” At this, I had to ask what church he attended. It was Remnant Fellowship. I didn’t think too much about it, and we went on with our onboarding.
After a couple weeks, he went out with a group of us a few times and I started to notice something different. He and I would spend our time talking about God. I was very intrigued by this and looked forward to our talks. I wanted to know more, so I attended my first Church service not long after. I remember walking inside and being greeted with more love than I’d ever experienced. It was the first day of the Days of Awe 2015, and it was exactly what I needed to hear. It was the first time someone told me I could stop sinning and I must. I had to say NO to all the terrible things I had been doing in my life. I was excited about what I had heard but also still fighting off the pull of the world. After a couple months I really started to put my focus on God and listen to the Truth that is poured out through Gwen Lara. In about six to seven months I had lost my excess weight, quit smoking, quit overdrinking, began fixing my financial situation, started feeling true joy, and best of all, gained a relationship with God!
Jeff and I continued our relationship over the next four years. In this time, there was much testing and refinement as God exposed many things in each of our hearts that needed to change. It has been quite a journey to where we are, but it has definitely brought me much closer to God and to Jeff. My life has done a complete 180 turnaround! There’s so much peace and love, no overindulgence in anything, my finances are completely restored, and every day is another opportunity to fall more in love with God. I look forward to spending the rest of our days here on Earth together, loving God, His Church, and continuing to love and encourage each other.
It was Saturday, April 27, 2019. We attended Church that morning where we got the opportunity to hear Gwen’s “Brotherly Love” Message. I was full of conviction during this because for weeks I had been giving Jeff a hard time about us not being engaged yet, especially that morning. I remember specifically apologizing to God for my behavior and making a commitment to apologize to Jeff after the service. I was determined to no longer worry about the timing of our engagement…and only show love to Jeff. God would take care of it. I didn’t need to worry! I had never felt that convicted about this before but there was something different about today.
Jeff’s Dad and stepmom were in town and had attended Church with us. We were all talking after service when our amazing friends suggested getting a family photo. We went outside the front doors where David Rector kindly held the doors closed and Kailee Smith agreed to take some photos. (She just happened to be standing there with her camera, or so I thought…) It was so sweet and I knew how special this was for Jeff to have his whole family together, which brilliantly had me oblivious to what was coming next! Someone suggested Jeff and I get a picture together, after which I tried to walk away! Jeff sweetly said, “Kelly…wait” and pulled me back over (I’m completely confused at this point thinking “Oh no, did I miss something?”) But then he began to talk and the words began to register. It was happening! He got down on one knee and asked me to spend the rest of my life with him! It was so amazingly precious and sweet. But just as sweet was the lesson I learned from God that day. I tried to control the entire situation for so long, and the moment I truly gave it up in my heart and was content with where we were, God gave it back. Within 45 minutes of feeling this conviction…and truly repenting…we were engaged!
I want to offer a special thank you to the Duncans and everyone else who helped Jeff pull this proposal together in less than a week. I am so thankful to God for having mercy on me and my stubbornness and allowing us to be in a place where we can truly change. I pray that our marriage and lives do nothing but bring glory and honor to Him.