I grew up in a Lutheran church in the Midwest. My family went every Sunday without fail, and my sister and I always stayed for Sunday School. I was so relieved when I finished Confirmation classes because that meant I could go right home after the church service. I knew my parents believed in God. After all, they were good, law abiding citizens who said grace every night before we ate dinner. As far as I knew, that was what being a Christian was all about.
As a rebellious teenager I constantly disappointed my parents and I figured God pretty much felt the same way. Two months after my high school graduation my parents and younger sister moved to Georgia due to a job transfer. I went with them only long enough to move into my new bedroom before going back to Illinois with my boyfriend to begin my freshman year at college. Leaving home didn’t bother me. I was just happy to be “free”.
College life was harder than I’d anticipated. For 12 years I had breezed through school with nothing less than A’s and B’s. I was shocked when I discovered my usual study habits (showing up for class and using short term memory) were not going to get me far at this level. I felt a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety.
During a time when I needed a friend more than ever, I had no one to depend on. I was too prideful to tell my mom how sad and lonely it was at school. My boyfriend lived 2 hours away and it was long distance to call him. I longed for Friday nights when he would arrive and stay until Sunday, which is crazy because we didn’t even have fun together anymore. All he wanted to do was get drunk and party on campus. I never took one sip of alcohol outside my parents home and I wasn’t about to start there. We’d fight about it and when he’d go home, I would cry and cry.
As my freshman year came to an end, I felt sort of relieved to be going home for the summer. My boyfriend was completely consumed with drinking. The last day at school, with all my belongings packed, he forgot to come and get me. I waited for hours and no one knew where he was. His mother came to get me at 10 o’clock that night. It was humiliating.
During the summer my parents told me they could not afford to send me to the private college I planned to attend in Illinois that fall. We started looking for a school in Georgia. I don’t remember complaining about the situation to them, but I remember many nights on the phone with my boyfriend, 750 miles away, making plans to get married. It seemed my only way out. My only way to happiness.
At this point in my life, stress and anxiety were common place. I hated it at home. I was disinterested in school. I really didn’t even like my boyfriend much anymore, but he was my ticket to independence. I guess that’s why I ended up marrying him when I was 21.
I had graduated from a medical tech school after 7 months of training and was working for a local dermatologist. They respected me there. I was thrilled to be getting a paycheck. The next logical step for me was marriage.
It was a year in planning. A year of unrest. No peace. I was desperately trying to find my smile, but it was no where to be found. I questioned if he was the right guy for me. Since I was living at home, I had been going to church with my parents again. I tried praying for guidance. I asked God for a sign. “Lord, if he’s not the one for me, please show me. I need to know.” In the year of our engagement, he got fired from his job, lost his apartment, took a job tending bar, and cheated on me with a girl he worked with. God answered my prayer and I couldn’t even see it. I was married on April 24, 1993.
I will never forget the phone call I answered 6 months after our wedding. The girl with whom he’d had the fling had a baby and wanted child support. He and I were knee deep in buying our first home and money was tight. The lawyer wanted a check written right away for half of all her hospital and doctor bills.
It was at this point that I got angry and started placing blame. It was her fault she got pregnant. It was my mother-in-laws fault my husband was irresponsible. It was God’s fault I was in this mess. He could have prevented all this from happening.
I was so confused about God. His mercy. His love. His grace. I spent the next 3 years in my own personal living hell. My husband spent money like it grew on the trees in our backyard, but he couldn’t hold onto a job for very long. He would party into the early morning hours while I stayed home wondering where he was. There were big, huge, ugly fights about money, booze, lying , and girls. I didnt’ trust him and sunk into a depression. I sought counseling and was put on prescription antidepressants. They made me loose weight and I actually thought, “well, this isn’t so bad”.
The breaking point for me was when I began to think I might want to have kids someday. I took a long hard look at what my future children’s environment would be and what they would have as a father, and I immediately filed for divorce.
It wasn’t easy. I had to move back home until my credit cards were paid off. It was an extremely humbling experience for me. My parents didn’t have any idea what was going on. (There are some parts I haven’t shared with them to this day). At least some of my burden had been lifted. It took me 6 months to pay off my debts, then I got an apartment, something to call my own, that I achieved on my own. I still didn’t understand God’s place in my life. I became overly dependent on myself. I threw myself into work and school and was determined that I would never need anybody for anything ever again. Whatever I wanted, I would get on my own.
I was lost and searching, but at least I felt in control. I made a new friend, the first I’d had in years, and it lifted my confidence. We’d go out to bars and clubs and the attention I got from the guys became an addiction. It was validating. I loved it.
In the midst of my self centered party days I was unexpectantly swept off my feet. Neither Jeremy nor I were attending church when we met. I knew he came from a Christian family and as I got to know his mom and his sister-in-law better, I saw something in them that I had been searching for. They had Jesus! Gina talked about Him in a way I had never known before. He was someone she talked with, who spoke back to her. She’d tell funny stories about conversations she had with Him, especially when he was telling her something she didn’t want to hear. She would always obey, sometimes reluctantly, then speak about how God blessed her in return. She was a continual witness to Christ, and his goodness and mercy.
My mother-in-law inspired me in a different way. She grew up in the Word and used the Bible as a constant reference to life’s daily dilemmas. I had no idea there was anything but old stories and the 10 Commandments in there. If I questioned buying something, she had a verse on spending. If I was upset with someone at work, she had a verse on love. If Jeremy and I had an argument, she had verses on marriage! It was an incredible testimony to me about how to live my life.
I began attending church again. First on my own, then Jeremy came too. I took small steps towards learning how to read God’s word, really study it, and then being able to hear His voice. One morning during my quiet time I knew He was asking me to get baptized and dedicate myself to living His way. I questioned this because I had been baptized as a baby. I said the “sinner’s prayer”, just to be sure, anytime it was offered to me, but I never felt I was truly saved. God was telling me that this was it. I didn’t have to wonder anymore. I really belonged to Him and He had forgiven me. If I would just step out in obedience to Him and get baptized, I could be confident that Heaven would be my reward. So in October 2002, 7 months pregnant with Savannah, I submitted to the Lord and was baptized.
I cannot say that since that day my life turned completely around and I have had no more sadness. The girl friend I had made a few years back did not like the new me and could not accept the person I was becoming. She blamed Jeremy and before our friendship ended, said some things about him that still hurt to this day. I also struggled a lot with control. I had been in charge of my life for more than 5 years, and now I was married, not only learning to compromise to live in peace with another person, but I was reading God’s word about wives being submissive. “What?” I really had a long way to go!
I am now 34 and when I think back over the years when I felt the most emptiness, sorrow, and anxiety, God had placed people close to me to offer hope and love. Unfortunately I was so wrapped up in myself I could’t hear Him speaking to me. I will always be regretful that I wasted so many years in a turmoil that didn’t even need to be present in my life. Thankfully, I have learned that I do not need to dwell on the past. God forgave me when I accepted Christ into my heart. I receive His blessings daily even though I will never be good enough to deserve them. Romans 10:13 says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.
Music Video Codes By Music Jesus.com