My Love

crown.of.thorns.100_4211My entire life was upended by the death of my dad; so much of my stability in life rested on him being so dependable. Too much really. With him gone, after having so many other portions of my life stripped away, God finally had my FULL attention. For the first time in my life. I was in the Word daily. I was in fellowship with other Christ-followers and working hard to build those relationships. At that time, my mom and I started taking sign language classes offered through our church by a deaf man and his hearing wife; they quickly became like family to us. I was also leaning heavily on my Savior in a way I had never done before.

As the months passed after Dad’s death and I began to emerge from my grief, I realized just how incredibly lonely I was, so I began to pray that the Lord would send me my perfect mate–not a perfect man, but the man who was perfect for me. I’d given up on the dating scene since I finally realized after a mountain of terrible relationships that I was HORRIBLE at picking men; even the one time I dated a Christian it was a disaster, so I decided that there must be a better way to find a mate. Somewhere along the way, my pastor and his wife shared how the Lord had put them together without dating. They’d both been married before. Both had been divorced. In fact, the pastor’s wife had been so horribly abused that she vowed she’d never get married again. Yet here they were in front of me, married. To each other. She had been EMPHATIC. NEVER. Obviously, God had changed her heart because here they were — married. I knew that if God could put them together without “the dating game” that He could find someone for me too.  

I began to pray specifically about the kind of man I knew I needed — someone who had a close relationship with the Lord and who knew more than I did. And I was determined that I would NEVER date him. He was going to have to propose to me without ever dating me. I didn’t know how God was going to arrange for that, but I was EMPHATIC. I had a few other requests as well. In fact, I had a short list that I wrote down in my journal; most things were of deep substance–he’d have to have a family I could get along with, I didn’t want to have to leave my church because I was growing there, and things like that, but there were a few things that were personally important to me regarding physical characteristics. It sounds shallow now, but in retrospect it’s where I was, I knew what I liked and I wasn’t afraid to ask the Lord for specifics.

I spent the summer traveling with my mom, who didn’t really want to drive thousands of miles all by herself with just her cat. She’d never lived alone before and she’d certainly never traveled alone. It was good for both of us to get out and see new stuff together. We stopped and visited with some distant relatives along the way; I enjoyed seeing the land where some parts of our family came from and meeting a few of the relatives I’d only ever heard of before. It was also fun to learn some of the the local folklore.

After that, we spent several weeks in the area where my dad had grown up. One of my uncles had a cabin and it was a very quiet, restorative atmosphere. No phone. No TV. Just good company and nature. While we were there, I reconnected with my ex-boyfriend, but I had no plans to get back together with him; I did care about him and I think he genuinely cared for me. He even gave me a dozen roses while I was visiting, but he was still involved with drugs and alcohol, and I remained determined to leave that life behind. It was nice to see my cousins and some of the people I used to hang out with, but it was clear that there was now a great separation between us. Our lives had gone in totally different directions and after a few weeks, I really began to miss my new friends that I had made in the last year. I think my mom was getting a bit homesick as well.

One day, when we stopped in to see my grandmother, Mom decided to phone home to our little church and see how everyone was doing. We’d been gone for a month or more. She talked to a couple of people and finally the pastor’s wife. They talked for a bit and then she passed the phone to me — the pastor’s wife had asked to speak to me. (This was in the dark ages before cell phones and everyone stood around the one land-line listening to half the conversation until it was your turn to talk.) While I was talking to the pastor’s wife, she got almost giddy and said that she thought that interesting times were coming for me upon my return. What the heck did that mean, I wondered??? I asked her what she meant, but she wouldn’t say any more. She’d already told my mom that they had a couple of new people coming to church every Sunday, so then I started to think that maybe the two subjects were related. I didn’t think too much more about it though. I wanted to enjoy the rest of my vacation before the long drive home and getting busy with school again.

As our summer slipped away, we headed toward home, stopping for a just a bit in our old hometown to break the trip up. It was good for me to see that I no longer had a life there either. My life had truly become rooted in the little town where my parents had retired. I was grateful for the nice long break, and both Mom and I were rested, but we were really looking forward to seeing all of our newer friends at home. Little did I know what was in store for me upon our return. There were indeed several new people at church, but only one of them really makes it into my story. While I had been gone for all those weeks, this guy had moved to town, showed up at my church and had made friends with all my friends during my absence. And he was there to stay. This guy… let’s just call him Max.

He was there standing at the church’s kitchen sink washing vegetables when my mom and I walked in for a midweek Potluck Dinner. I remember thinking something like “Aren’t you supposed to fix your food at home first for a potluck?” I found it pretty strange; and that was just the beginning. It got worse. He was a vegetarian. I admit it. I was VERY narrow in my thinking. I felt like Toula’s mom in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. “What do you mean he don’t eat no meat? …that’s okay. I make lamb.” What kind of person doesn’t eat meat? Sorry, where I grew up EVERYONE ate meat and ate dairy. This was just too weird.

For the next few hours, every little old lady in the church came up to me and asked, “Have you met Max yet?!” Our church was awash in retirees; I was the youngster in the congregation and one of the very few singles. These very dear older ladies were just so excited that there were a few new younger singles around and, for whatever reason, they all seemed to think that I needed to get to know Max better. Outwardly, I was polite. “Yes, we’ve met.”  Internally, I was immediately resistant. (He was a vegetarian!) We did spend some time talking at dinner; I couldn’t really avoid him — he was sitting with my friends! Then during dinner I found out that he was going to be teaching at my school! I was really relieved when I found out that I didn’t have him for any classes; only later did I find out that he was in the same department as my favorite instructors. It was like he’d just been planted right in the middle of my new life.

Over the course of the next several weeks, we were thrown together at various events–lunches out after church, carpooling to baptisms and such. It was ALWAYS awkward. For me. (As he reads this, he says it wasn’t at all awkward — for him.) On one occasion though, things turned from merely awkward to totally bizarre. One of my single friends had discreetly asked me to go over and ask Max to go out to eat with us after church; “us” meaning me, her and her “boyfriend” that she was desperately trying to break up with. She was afraid to be alone with him. In all honesty, I just didn’t get it at first, but by the end of lunch I did. (Oh, the things you do for friends!) So, I walked up to Max and made the most ineloquent and awkward invitation to lunch.

We lived in a small town, so there weren’t too many choices for Sunday lunch, but the restaurant we chose had a nice buffet. It worked out well because my mom and our “like family” friends ended up sharing a big table with us too. The more of a group-thing we could make this already strained and strange lunch, the better! We picked our seats and went to go get food. As we were all standing in line, Max picked up a muffin off the end of the buffet table and took a bite. No big deal, right? WRONG! Absolutely wrong. Out of nowhere, “WE HAVEN’T PRAYED YET!”, my girlfriend’s stalker-guy shouts. Yes, shouts. I’m not kidding. There he is, yelling in the middle of a crowded restaurant, and I, who’ve spent my entire life hoping to remain invisible, was just MORTIFIED.

EVERYONE in the restaurant turned to look at us. Max nonchalantly mentions Deuteronomy 28 in response to Stalker-guy — “Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be When You Go Out.” We were eating out; the muffin was blessed. Period. Max wasn’t being mean. He wasn’t loud. He was just being matter of fact. Actually, I was kind of impressed; but mostly I was just thankful that the yelling had stopped. No one was staring at us anymore and they’d all gone back to eating and talking.  

I quickly got my food and went back to the table, intending to keep my head down for the rest of the meal, but that was simply not meant to be. I enjoyed the food. The conversation was pleasant enough. Then out of nowhere, Stalker-guy loses it again. This time Max and my girlfriend had decided to split a piece of pie. More raised voices at our table. More stares from the other diners in the restaurant. This time he was upset that his girlfriend would share a piece of pie with some other guy. I sat dumbfounded. Really??? It’s just pie, I thought. In fact, it was just Shoo-fly pie. It’s not like Shoo-fly pie is some ancient courting ritual. Is it? Did I miss something in History class? More importantly… couldn’t I just hide under the table? (EVERYONE was staring again.) No. Apparently I could not, and it quickly came down to me to defuse the situation — not a role that I was very good at, or one that I enjoyed. So I took a deep breath and quietly said, “I’ll split a piece of pie with you Max.” I didn’t really want any pie, much less Shoo-fly pie, but I was willing to suffer through a whole piece of death by molasses just to finish this scene!

Later that day, Max called me at home to make sure I was okay and to make sure that he hadn’t offended me in any way. Nope. We were good. I recognized who the troublemaker had been that afternoon, and it wasn’t him. In fact, it wasn’t really Max’s fault in any of those awkward occasions when we’d been thrown together. It just seemed to work out that way. I realize now that I was being set up, but at the time I was clueless.

The week after that, I was talking to Max after church and he mentioned that he’d moved to town from out of state with only what fit in his car and he didn’t have any furniture yet. It wasn’t a big deal until he moved into a bigger duplex and began to think he should borrow some furniture. Hmmm. My mom had a bunch of furniture sitting out in her garage that she wasn’t using, so I told him to come by and have a look at it to see if he wanted to use any. I went home, had some lunch and sat down to finish a paper I was writing for my English class. Writing had never been my strong suit, so I sat there, pondering how to finish this paper. The short story we’d been assigned to write about was some deplorable Lost Generation piece. It was just awful and I was totally lost regarding this assignment. I did some free-writing about it. It was absolute drivel and I was starting to get frustrated. About then, Max came by to look at the furniture. We must have started talking about getting it over to his new place in my truck. I’d probably done the hospitable thing and asked him if he wanted to come in for a while. Somehow we started to talk about the assignment I’d been writing. I was hoping to get back to work on it, but he just wouldn’t leave. Time was flying and I started to get antsy, but he just sat there being Chatty Cathy — all day long. I couldn’t believe it. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. The clock kept telling me that my assignment needed me.

All during this time, my mom was in the dining room, engrossed in some church business stuff. I was hoping for a rescue that never came. Finally (my afternoon vanished) I was really at my wit’s end, wondering how to get this guy out of my house. He. Just. Would. Not. Leave. Finally, about dinner-time my mom excused herself saying that she was going over to see her cousin. Gee, thanks, Mom! Just one more awkward situation in an ever-growing line of them with this guy.

No sooner than she pulled out of the driveway, he said, “Oh good! I’ve been waiting for her to leave all afternoon!” By then, I was totally confused. I had NO idea what he was talking about, but the next thing that came out of his mouth was absolutely mind-blowing. There he sat in the chair across from me — where he’d been sitting ALL afternoon and said, “I want to get to know you with the intention of marrying you. But I don’t want to date.”

I sat there dazed. I’m not often left speechless. All I could do was look at him and watch him talk. As I did, I noticed that he had a very nice nose. Yes, that was probably my shallowest moment ever, but that was one of my “requests” to the Lord. In all of my years dating, I could never bring myself to kiss a man whose nose I didn’t like. In fact, I had actually dodged kisses from a couple of men just because of their noses. So I had a thing about noses. There I’ve said it for the whole world to read. I can’t believe I’m sharing it now. But it’s true. And this rather strange vegetarian guy had a really nice nose.

As he sat there talking to me — and I have NO recollection what he said after the getting to know me thing — the Lord began ticking off items on my “list” — one by one. He made it clear that He’d heard me and was answering my prayers. No one else knew about my “list” — NO ONE. This wasn’t  a coincidence. Still, I sat stunned as Max continued to talk.

A few hours later my mom came home — and my Chatty Cathy guy was still there. I really couldn’t say anything about our evening together (I was still in shock) and Mom was completely oblivious. After she told us about her evening, we all started talking about family. Somewhere along the way, photo albums came out and stories of my childhood came up. At one point, she said, “Wow. I really have no idea why I’ve just shared all this with you.” Hmm. Max and I did. It was Mom’s turn to be clueless.

By the time Max finally left, it was probably midnight! As he pulled out of the driveway (furniture forgotten), I told my mom about what had happened. It remains one of my most treasured conversations with my mother; we’d grown much closer after Dad had died and she was truly excited for me. (Mom was no stranger to miracles; when I was quite young, she’d had one of her legs grow out as she was being prayed for about her back problems.) We stayed up for a couple of hours talking about the day’s strange events and Max’s announcement. When I finally got to bed that night I couldn’t sleep.

I am not one of those people that can function on no sleep. The next day was a holiday, fortunately, and I got up with every intention of finishing that English paper for school the next day. For some reason [sarcasm], I was having a terrible time concentrating. Sometime in the late morning there was a knock at the door; it was another friend from church. She was hoping to park in our yard so she could go watch the parade that was coming down the main street just a couple blocks away. She took one look at me and asked what was up. I looked dreadful and when I couldn’t put a sentence together, she grabbed my arm and told me that we were going to the parade.  

I certainly considered her a friend, but we didn’t know each other all that well yet. I was at a complete loss for words. This whole thing just sounded totally crazy. Even to me. We found seats on the curb as we watched the parade and had a good talk. She’s always been a very direct sort of person, so there was no point in beating around the bush with her. I just jumped right in and told her about my strange day with Max and his abrupt announcement; then she surprised me too. She told me that it wasn’t at all strange to her. She and her husband had known a handful of couples who never dated (or even kissed) before they got married! Whew! Thank God! Without that sort of encouragement I’m not sure I could have moved forward in accepting that the Lord was answering my prayers for a godly husband without dating.

After that, my week just FLEW by! By some miracle I finished that English essay on that ridiculous Lost Gen short story, but every time I sat in class I started to space off. I was totally exhausted from not sleeping and then my ex-boyfriend called me — to see if he could come down and visit me. Um. No! Not a good time, and so I told him I was totally swamped in school. It was not untrue. I just didn’t tell him WHY I was so behind in my schoolwork. Yikes. My life had suddenly gotten very complicated. I can still remember sitting at my desk during a Statistics lecture wondering what in the world was going on in my life!

As Sunday morning approached, I began to get panicky. I knew I was going to be seeing Max in church and that I had to have some sort of response about what he’d said to me the week before. As I was doing my hair, I was sort of talking to myself and to the Lord at the same time, “How can I marry a man I don’t love?” and in quick response came the statement, “If you’ll make the decision, I’ll change your feelings.” Anyone might assume that I was simply talking to myself, but MY mind never came up with responses like that! That thought was NOT from my own mind. I’d only had that happen to me once before that I could recall, and I KNEW then (at age 13) that it was the Lord. This was that same Voice. And I knew to pay special attention. “My sheep know My voice and another they will not follow.”

Later that evening, Max came over for dinner. We were in the kitchen, just draining the spaghetti in the sink when he asked my mother for permission to marry me. She said yes and then he formally proposed to me — over a strainer full of pasta. I stood there like a deer caught in headlights. Frozen. This proposal just came at me out of nowhere again, like the announcement from the previous week. It had only been ONE week since he’d announced his intentions. Wasn’t this rather sudden??? Then I remembered what the Lord had “said” to me earlier that morning. “If you will make the decision, I will change your feelings.” My heart was pounding in my chest! It was a critical juncture. I couldn’t bear the thought of going back to my old life and old ways of doing things, but this new way, with this new and very unusual man who didn’t seem to flinch at anything, was just terrifying to contemplate. And I wasn’t given much time to think about it either. (Good thing I’d spent so much time in class thinking about it all that week!)

That “yes” I gave Max forever changed my life in ways I could never have imagined. In the instant after he asked, I decided not to look at the wind and the waves that were roaring around me, but to trust Jesus and His leading; there was no way for me to deny that God had already arranged every single thing I had prayed for and written about in my journal, all the way down to the handsome nose-thing and a no-dating marriage proposal. It was a God-thing and I knew it. And true to the Lord’s word to me, as soon as I said, “Yes” I began to see Max in a new way. This was just the beginning of a wild ride that has continued for nearly thirty years.

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Devastation

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I wish I could say that just moving back home with my parents and going to church every Sunday made everything in my life right and good again, but that would be a HUGE FAT LIE. I was definitely taking steps in the right direction, but I also made a few BIG steps backwards. It seemed sometimes like I spent more time falling down than I did walking upright —you know, kinda like a toddler learning to walk— but I’m grateful He always forgave me both my willful disobedience and ignorant mis-steps. Not too long after I took a HUGE fall (and got back up), my dad’s health took another sudden turn for the worse.

Back up a moment: Let me just say that I’m a daddy’s girl. I’ve always been one. As a toddler, I clung to his leg as if hanging on for dear life. Later, though I probably wouldn’t have described it that way then, my dad not only hung the moon, but the stars as well. But when I was in grade school, he had his first heart attack. A few years later, he had a multiple by-pass surgery and almost didn’t make it; his heart had stopped during surgery and his doctor massaged it by hand for over an hour to get it to start beating again. That’s dedication and determination you don’t really see anymore, and I thank God for that doctor! In my early twenties, after I’d returned home the first time with my “tail between my legs,” Dad had another serious heart attack that left him with a very unpredictable heart problem; he would lose consciousness at totally random moments… and no one knew this until after he’d been released from the hospital. More excitement! We found out about the new condition one night, when he passed out and hit his head during his trip to the bathroom. So there was another ambulance ride back to the hospital.  After they began running tests to find out why he’d passed out, Dad had pretty much given up; he hadn’t told us, but he signed a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate order). After a doctor who was walking by his room saw dad collapse on his way to the bathroom, he rushed in and resuscitated him despite the DNR and there was no keeping the DNR a secret from us anymore. I totally wigged out! Dad was under 60 and, fortunately, his doctors really liked him and weren’t ready to just let him die, so they tried a great many medications to find out what would help his new condition. The tests they put him through to find out what new thing was wrong with his heart were just awful, but I suppose after I flipped out about the DNR, he sucked it up and endured all the terrible testing for my sake.  Even with a pharmacy’s worth of pills to take every day, they couldn’t regulate his heart properly, so they offered him an alternative; his doctor was working on an experimental treatment using implantable defibrillators. That meant another surgery, but it did extend his life a couple of years.

During this medical-nightmare period, I’d divorced my first husband and continued to live a pretty wild life, which I kept hidden from my folks. We strictly followed a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy at home.  I still wasn’t happy. When I didn’t see any real improvements in my financial situation after a year, I decided to move some place I’d always liked when I was a kid. This was me trying to find peace in a place, trying to find peace apart from God. That didn’t go so well either.  After months of deep winter and personal misery, my boyfriend told me I just needed to move back home with my parents. (I wrote more about this in a previous post.) When BF said to go, I knew God was speaking through him, even though I was a personal wreck.

When I moved back home this second time I took a few weeks to get settled in, worked on some projects around the house with my dad, took a job at a local store and signed up to go back college. I stopped partying and was trying to get right with God again; I think I knew instinctively that if I kept doing what I’d always done that nothing was ever going to change. I was doing well in school which was a real confidence booster for me.  I had grown up enough to really put all of my effort into doing a good job, plus it was costing money to do it, which has always been a good personal motivator. (Later, I found out from a friend that my dad told her that he was proud of me for going back to school and doing so well! I just wish he’d told me that himself. Thank you, Friend, for telling me!)

One Sunday after church, Dad and I spent the afternoon watching a football game together — something we’d NEVER done before. Neither of us were sports fans, but it was a great season for our “hometown” team and they were a pleasure to watch. It was more like watching a well-choreographed dance than sports, and I’m so grateful that he sat down to watch with me that day. What a great memory!  Then with no notice, everything changed. The very next day, in the middle of my programming class —wham!– one of the college’s secretaries came to tell me that my dad had just been taken to the hospital. It wasn’t the first time I’d received that kind of message in the middle of my day, but, somehow, it was just as traumatic. I don’t even remember the 10 mile drive home. I’m sure I was speeding the whole way, panicking.

About a week after our football Sunday together (and the many crises following it), the doctor told my mom she should take Dad off life support, that there was nothing they could do to stabilize his heart rhythm.  For my whole life, the doctors had always found a way to pull him through. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from that man! I ran to the chapel weeping and poured my heart out to God, begging Him to heal my dad. There was only silence. When I finally returned to the waiting room, it was my mom’s turn to suck it up; she made the decision to take my dad off life support and had to tell the doctor in front of me. I was in shock.  We went in to hold his hands and say goodbye while he was still warm, but we knew that he was already gone. By the time we left his room, I was inconsolable and completely DEVASTATED; my whole world shattered right then and there. I bawled like a baby the whole way home from the hospital.  It was a LONG drive across the state.

Any depression I’d suffered under up until that point in my life was a minor blip. I left my job and I quit school for the rest of the semester. Although my mom said many times that she was very grateful that I was back living at home with her, I was absolutely NO help during the next few months. Perhaps my presence was all she required, but the bottom line was that I totally crashed and it was a challenge for me to just make it out of bed each day. EVERY morning for weeks—maybe months—I felt like I was scraping myself off the pavement just to get one foot in front of the other as I “walked” through my days.

One of the few things that helped me was music. My mom had a huge stash of Integrity Hosanna praise and worship cassettes — I played them constantly, partly as a distraction to keep my mind from focusing on painful subjects, but I realize now that it wasn’t merely a way to distract myself. It also began to bear good fruit in my thought patterns. It was training my brain to stay focused on Jesus and my Heavenly Father, instead of wallowing in misery and self-pity. Spiritually speaking, I was putting “on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” and as I did, the pain eased.

During the deepest period of our grief, our pastor took the time to regularly visit us at home; this was a LONG time ago. Do pastors even do home visitation anymore??? At that time, our pastor was intent on shepherding his hurting sheep — unfortunately over time, that focus changed, but I’m grateful we got the ministry we needed then. Oh, the blessings of an intimate congregation when pastors actually pastored! (But that’s another subject for other posts…)

After a few months, I slowly started to climb out of my great emotional hole and began to look forward to church meetings. Our church had small groups that met once a week in different people’s homes; these were all flawed people (me, especially), but they were REAL and non-judgmental. We read the Bible, sang and prayed together. We ate yummy snacks and shared life together. One of the things that had always disturbed me growing up was how fake people could be; I HATED it! So, as you might imagine, I never had very many friends, but at this little body of Christ-followers I found real love and acceptance from people who weren’t afraid to to show their flaws.  This was something I’d always craved!

Our pastor was very non-threatening. I mean that in the best way possible. He was gentle, kind and easy to talk to. He, too, had been broken like me and so I started asking questions. I still recall one very important conversation I had with him after church one day; he pointed me to the Bible and told me to dig in and read it for myself, while humbling myself and asking the Lord to teach me through it. He told me the most important thing was to make sure I always remained teachable. It was another of those moments where I knew it was the word of the Lord and this became one of my biggest moments of obedience! I decided then and there to do what he said and I began reading the scripture every day, asking the Lord to teach me.  As I read and listened to what the Lord was telling me through the scriptures, my whole life began to change.

I know now that someone, from some part of my life, had been praying for me; someone asked the Lord to do WHATEVER was necessary to get me right with Him… and that’s exactly what happened. Things started to really crumble in my early twenties, but a few years later when my dad died, it was like the peg that I had hung all of my trust on was removed and everything came crashing down around me. Some of us (who are very stubborn and prideful) have to crash and burn because we are so full of our own ways and thoughts that we won’t willingly yield to Him. That was me. Definitely. My dad wasn’t perfect; I knew that, but apparently that didn’t matter and, though I never realized it at the time, Dad had achieved the status of an idol in my life. OUCH! When he was taken away from me, I began to learn that ANYTHING or ANYONE can become an idol: Parents. Children. Stuff. Ideas. Thoughts. Culture. Country. Even Religious Practice. In Western culture, we don’t generally worship idols of wood and stone; we are more inclined to worship people, personal preferences, ideologies and other “stuff.” Even though I never realized it, my dad meant more to me than God and when he died, I had NOTHING left. There was no where else to turn–I’d already tried most everything else, so I finally turned fully to the Lord. The stage was now set for new adventures.

Renewed

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“Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.”

No need to fear, I’m not going to start at “the VERY beginning,” but I would like to back up and give you an idea of where my life with the Lord REALLY started. I first heard about Jesus from my mom when I was quite young. My family didn’t go to church and certainly weren’t devout, so even when Mom told me His name and that He’d been killed though He didn’t do anything wrong, I really had NO idea who He was. Is. Maybe a year later, a neighbor took me to a summer program at her church and there I met a couple of sweet, round, little old ladies who taught me about Jesus and invited me to ask Him to come into my life, to save and help me. Those ladies, their love and acceptance drew me like a moth to a flame.

We can fast-forward twenty years, skipping over LOTS of heartache, self-destruction and misery, which brings us to my life-transforming beginning. It was a period of great desperation. I’d hit rock-bottom a few months before and the call to return to my parents’ home came through a most unlikely source — a pot-head “lover”— he genuinely cared for me and knew that I was depressed. When he said that I just needed to go be with my parents again, it was like the words were hanging in the air — on fire; it rang so true with me that I just KNEW that was what I needed to do. A few days later, I gave my notice at work, packed up my stuff for storage and only took what I could fit in my car.

Emotionally, moving back with my parents was a fairly easy adjustment — my dad wasn’t in great health and just being back with them made me feel better. Looking back now, I have to say that I’m so grateful that they didn’t hold my mistakes over my head. They may never have been terribly affirming, but they also weren’t constantly criticizing me either. They were just genuinely relieved that I’d come home and I needed that space. I was able to finally begin moving forward again. I began going to church with them; it was a little church where the pastor was non-threatening, quite loving and encouraging. In no time at all, I began to feel very convicted for the way I’d been living, not just because of the Truth I was hearing on Sundays, but primarily because I’d begun reading my Bible every day; I was hungry for change and the Word was changing me and cleaning me from the inside out. Another pivotal moment came as I was reading Psalm 40 one morning before Accounting class and these words leapt off the page at me:

“I waited patiently for the LORD;

​​And He inclined to me,

​​And heard my cry.

He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,

​​Out of the miry clay,

​​And set my feet upon a rock,

​​And established my steps.

​He has put a new song in my mouth—

​​Praise to our God;

​​Many will see it and fear,

​​And will trust in the LORD”

I knew these words for me.

I remember it like it was yesterday and it has proved to be true over the last 30 years. He took me out of a deep, horrible pit and has ordered all of my steps, saving and delivering me, time after time. His love never fails.

Moving Forward

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Let me state plainly (in case you missed my bio), I am a Follower of Jesus of Nazareth, Christ, who saved me from a MISERABLE life and the most terrible end. I’ve known Jesus by name since I was a small child, but didn’t choose to fully surrender to Him until I was in my mid-twenties. Since then, about three decades, I’ve been to hell and back, following Him WHEREVER He leads and He’s never failed me. NOT ONCE. It’s been HARD. I won’t mince words. Some days and seasons have been filled with treachery and nearly complete abandonment (by most family and friends), but the Lord Jesus has guided each step of the way. He’s faithful and that’s why I’m here today. And why I set up this blog as Amour Thana Conqueror. I am “A More Than A Conqueror” and I want to communicate that it’s all about that deep love relationship–Amour. I like to play with words, so it worked for me:

For DECADES we’ve been hearing, “You oughta write a book!” My spouse and I have never felt like that was what we were supposed to do. Who would read it???

Recently, we were reunited with a Sister we’d met about 9 years ago and in catching up with her when she said the same thing to us, I found myself droning my same old response. “Who would read it???” It’s become my “broken record.” But unlike everyone else we’ve heard the encouragement from she didn’t stop there. When I balked at the idea of writing our experiences down, she reminded me that Believers within the Body of Christ are in desperate need of exhortation and encouragement to follow hard after Christ, no matter the personal cost. Especially now.

We’d just been talking about George Mueller a few minutes earlier; George has been a mentor from the distant past to us for the last twenty years. If you are unfamiliar with him, he kept a diary of answered prayer and explanations about why he chose certain courses in his life AND he was responsible for revolutionizing and reforming the orphanage system in England. He was not a wealthy or worldly powerful man, yet God heard his cry — to care for orphans — and met the needs to carry out the vision He’d given him. George’s diary eventually became an encouragement to many other Believers (read ME) to trust Jesus with EVERY moment of life and to lean hard on Him for every decision and action.  When this Sister of ours spoke, I knew it was time.

I would like to state plainly here that I am not hiding behind a Pen Name for my own sake; one of the things that has always held me back from sharing more of my life in a public forum is that I KNOW that the things I need to share could have devastating effects for other people I love–I have family and other loved ones who have not chosen to forsake all to follow Christ and it would be terribly unloving of me to involve them here without their express permission.  As it is quite unlikely that permission would be granted–remember I did say I’ve been to hell and back a few times–a pen name seems the best course.

“Thus says the LORD who made it, the LORD who formed it to establish it (the LORD is His name): ‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’

Jeremiah 33:2-3 NKJV