Today is Thanksgiving. The turkey has been cooked, and much of it has been eaten. The Lord has blessed Glen and me with a good day of peace and grace with one another and our kids. By this, I don't mean that there have been no conflicts, but these conflicts, I think, have been for our benefit and perfection, and to God's glory.
I take up now the task of clearly and thoroughly conveying how I got from there to here. What better day to do it, or at least to begin it, than on Thanksgiving? What better to be thankful for than for life everlasting and freedom from the burden of sin and despair?
I was born the ninth of ten children (no..eleven, my littlest sister, Dinah Ruth was born when I was 13, and lived only 13 hours: a dear little redheaded girl). From my earliest memories, I was in church. First (that I remember) was a Church of Christ. As I approached ten, the "age of accountability," I anticipated my baptism with enthusiasm. I was very disappointed that my family left that church just before this would have taken place.
While we attended that church, which was about 30 - 40 miles from our home, we spent Sunday afternoons in the homes of other members of the church, and returned to church for evening service. It was a pleasant time to be a child, and I had other "grammies" who loved me and my family. That church, of course was full of sinners and fallen men. In my youth, I wasn't privy to reasons; when we left, we left.
We went to another Church of Christ for a while, and then we had church at home for a period of time. We had communion and everything.
After that, we went to the Methodist church of my mother's family. Here, from about age 12 or 13 I stayed until I graduated from high school. I was active in the youth group, sang in the choir (because I loved certain women who were in the choir), attended Sunday School and church and on Thursday evenings, went to Campus Life (an inter-denominational Youth for Christ group). My best friend in High School went, without her family, to the Baptist church in town. I wanted to get baptized, and I went to her church for that.
Was I converted at that point? I don't know. I know that I was aware of my utter inability to improve myself. I know that I was burdened with the acute awareness of my own shortcomings. I know that I desired to follow and love Jesus with my whole self and my whole life. But... was that the mighty hand of God, or just adolescent self hatred? I really don't know, but I believe that the hand of God was on me, at least from that point on.
I graduated and began college at the University of Michigan, Flint. This is a satellite campus of U of M; a commuter campus. I went one year and dropped. I got a job at a gift shop in a famous tourist town, working Sundays, of course. I continued to try to go to Sunday School and at least part of church in the Methodist church in this town. I soon dropped this attempt because it was difficult, and seemed futile and irrelevant.
Soon after that I moved out of my parents' home and into a trailer with a friend from high school and her sister. From this moment on, I had little or no thought of God. The girls I lived with were faithful Christians.
I quit the gift shop job and got a job closer to my new home. I now sold candy bars, cigarettes, and booze in a convenience store. I was not prepared by my family, church, youth group, or personal devotion to the true and living God for the lifestyle I now found myself exposed to.
I slept little, ate poorly, popped no-doz, and flirted with the guys who came in to buy their beer, cigarettes, and booze. That was what they thought I was there for, and it was easier than being myself. I even accepted a date. A guy named Roger took me to see a movie called "My Bodyguard." Then I took him to meet my family. We then went to his place, and when I refused to have sex with him, he took me home, completely rejected me, and I never, ever heard from him again.
My hope at the time was definitely built on much less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. I could have learned about looking for integrity in potential mates, or recognizing character and speaking my mind with confidence, or not being found alone with a date... But instead I learned what it is that men want, and, why was it that I wasn't in the game, anyways? It is just too hard to play by different rules, unless you are aware that you are actually playing a different game.
So I switched games.
This is much too ugly for me to wrench out of my keyboard. I cannot find sufficient reason to go into details about this, but, since God has allowed it, I am willing to expose my past if it will help anyone.
Suffice it to say, for now, that I strayed further and further from God. I even denied him. At the same time, I sometimes marveled at the pleasures that He created, at His sense of humor (ie: red hair--try getting an evolutionist to explain that one!).
I did not have a rock to stand on. I dishonored my parents. I denied the existance of the God who created me, sustained my very breath, and died for the sins in which I wallowed. I completely humiliated myself for the fickle approval of men. I convinced myself that by doing so, I freed myself from guilt, shame, inhibitions, convention, and ties that bind.
As I look back, I see God's hand in the details. Because of my rebellion and reliance on myself, and not His strength, it was a long, ugly road, but He worked all things perfectly together.
After an ill-advised marriage and divorce, I found myself married again. This time, God graciously opened my womb and gave me a daughter. Then He gave me another. Then, by means not to be exposed here, He put an end to the blessing of children. But these children were a blessing beyond expression, and the blessing of them has not seen its end.
One day, while visiting my parents with my daughters, I was talking to my younger sister. I was surprized to find out that she went to church every Sunday. When I asked why, she said that she wanted her kids to grow up in church.
Yes, growing up in church is a good thing. I would take my kids to church. So after a sufficient period of procrastination, I began the difficult task of choosing a church. I went to the first one (a Methodist church) on Palm Sunday. My daughter wore her only dress, a beautiful white dress handed down from her cousin. One of the ladies cooed over it, and commented that she couldn't imagine what my daughter would wear on Easter Sunday. My heart froze. She never found out!
Next I went to an Evangelical Presbyterian Church that my husband's nephew had gotten married in. I sat down and checked out the pew Bible. NIV...hmm... Don't really recognize Zephaniah, but other than that, nothing suspicious. They had all the stuff that I wanted for my kids, and coffee hour between Sunday School and church. There was a lady who found my kids every Sunday and gave them a piece of sugarless gum. She also came along beside me and helped me learn stuff. She held Bible studies, and she just knew a bunch!
One Sunday, while the preacher was preparing for communion, the words he spoke about the purpose of the table and the warnings about eating the bread and drinking the wine unworthily, were used by the Holy Spirit to convict me. I was unworthy. I was the reason that blood was spilt. I had despised the perfect sacrifice of God, and He loved me. I was undone.
When I got home that day, Glen asked me what happened. He somehow could tell that something was different. He realized more than I did at the time the distance between light and dark. He was afraid that our life together was over. In fact it was. The woman he married was gone, and a new creature had taken her place. From that moment on, God's hand was upon Glen's life, and nine years later, God called him as well.