Thursday, December 16, 2010

The unceasing call of Love - Part II

Although I was walking through a lot of darkness at this time, I had also begun going to church/youth group.  I had a friend in high school who invited me to their church.  I attended the youth group there for awhile as well as the Sunday services.  Just before I turned 18, I was asked by the youth pastor if I wanted to accept Jesus into my heart as my savior.  I said I thought I had probably already done that as a child.  I was told I could pray it again as a "rededication" to Him, so I did.  I was welcomed in as a "new baby Christian" and given books to read and scripture to study.  In college, the next fall, I joined Campus Crusade for Christ to continue my walk with Jesus and was with this group for almost 2 years.  However, my "Christian life" and my "real life" rarely intertwined.  I did not feel any "inner conviction" about my choice other than I really did want to live a good life according to God's Will and, if possible, avoid going to hell.  But I had NO clue how to live that in any practical way.  So I went to bible study and church but the rest of the time, I spent in what I felt was the "secret darkness" of who I really was inside.

Then in the spring of my junior year in college, I met Jerry.  I wasn't looking for a boyfriend, but he sure wanted me to be his girlfriend!  I went on the token "first date" and then promptly avoided his calls/attempts to contact me.  But he was one persistent little bugger and he eventually got me to agree to go on another date.  We ended up dating for 2 1/2 years before he asked me to marry him.  During this time, I was still battling with depression and the darkness I now felt was a permanent part of who I was.  I had no idea how Jerry could love me or why he would want to marry me.  He knew the struggles I was going through but he stayed anyway.   So in Oct. 1991 we were married.  We were married in a lutheran church that we had begun attending just after we were engaged.  Jerry had been a Christian since he was a teenager but he had not been attending a church for some time. Our engagement prompted us both to begin going again on a regular basis.

During this same time, we were fighting for custody of his 2 boys and ended up going to court the week after our honeymoon.  We were able to get custody of his oldest son (10) but his mother made one condition that we find a Nazarene Church for him to attend.  So we left the lutheran church we had been at and found a Nazarene one.  I then became pregnant with our first daughter, Sarah who was born in May 1993.  By this time, we were regular members of the Nazarene church and we really loved it.  We made many friends and became very involved in the functions of the church.  Jerry became a member of the church board and our daughter was baptized there.  Jerry and I even took it upon ourself to paint the entire nursery room walls with floor to ceiling murals of biblical scenes.

 However, this last one of Noah was never completed by us.  And there was a reason for that.


For the first 2 years after my daughter Sarah was born, the dam I had built up to hold back all the pain from my childhood had begun to leak.  I spent some time in and out of the hospital for depression and began seeing a counselor.  I even started taking anti-depression medication which in retrospect I KNOW made things MUCH worse than they needed to be.  But that's a whole nother topic.  :)   It was becoming increasingly difficult to function in my daily life.  The one thing I did manage to be consistent with was being a mother to Sarah.  When she was around, somehow, all of the inner turmoil went to the background and I could focus on her.  But by the fall of 1995, even this was becoming hard to do.

Then, just before Christmas 1995, I was at home alone one evening and out of sheer desperation, I got on my knees on my living room floor and cried out to God like I never had before.  I screamed and cried and pleaded with Him.  I told Him, "I cannot FEEL you!  I know you are there but trust and faith are just NOT enough for me right now...please please PLEASE send me something tangible that I can know is you so that I can reconnect with you in a real way.  I NEED you so much and I cannot do this alone."   I cried and prayed this for a couple hours until I dropped exhausted into bed.

The next day, I went to the church to work on the mural.  While I was there, the pastor came up to me and asked me to come into his office to talk.  He explained that the evening before, he had heard from God in a way that, in his words: "I can count on my hands how many times I've ever heard Him so clearly before."   He said that God asked him to connect with me and help me.  He asked me if I knew what that meant.   I cried and told him yes, I knew exactly what he meant and I told him about my prayers from the previous evening.

Since it was almost Christmas, the pastor suggested that we set up some time to talk each week beginning after the New Year.  However, we were not able to begin those sessions as planned as I ended up in the hospital again the day after New Years.  This time, it would not be a short stay as the doctors felt that I needed longer term care and more intense therapy to deal with the issues I was having.   They had me committed to a long term facility which I stayed at for 5 months.  During this entire time, the pastor came to visit me, sometimes 2 or 3 times a week.  We would talk for several hours.  Sometimes I was able to get a pass and he would take me out to eat or just to drive to a park where I could get some fresh air.  I was so incredibly grateful for his support, as was my husband since he was now having to be a full time "single" dad for Sarah.  He would also pick me up and bring me home for my occasional weekend passes when Jerry could not come to get me.  (facility was over an hour from my home).   We talked about everything and he listened and listened and let me just ramble. He also shared things from his own life that had happened to him, which, he explained was why he could relate to my pain.   I couldn't believe God had answered my prayer so completely!  I told the pastor about my struggles with God and even about the special time out on the hill when I was 6 1/2 years old.  To keep my spirits up, pastor told me that when I was discharged, we would find a place that resembled the hill from this memory and we would go there to reconnect with God once again.

I was FINALLY feeling like life was moving forward again.  God had answered my prayer and I was getting stronger and was feeling that darkness within me really start to diminish.   And by God's grace, (and a very special husband/father) Sarah was adjusting very well despite my absence.   In the late spring of 95, I was discharged and went back home full time.  Pastor and I then began our weekly meetings to continue our talks.  These weekly meetings quickly turned into 3-4 days a week meetings.  We would sit in his office in 2 chairs facing each other by the window and he would just let me talk, about my past, about my pain, and about God.  Since I was not working and Sarah was in daycare during the day (until I felt strong enough to care for her consistently on my own again) I had the time to do this.  I was also seeing another therapist that I had been assigned to while I was in the hospital.  He felt that I was spending too much time visiting with the pastor.  Since this therapist was Jewish, I chalked it up to him not "understanding" how God had answered my prayer and had brought us together.

I asked the pastor about finding the hill as we had discussed so many times while I was hospitalized and he would keep telling me he was still searching for the perfect spot.  It never dawned on me that there was no way for him to know what that would look like.  I just trusted that God was guiding him and I had faith that he would find it.   By midsummer, he stated he had found it and so we arranged for a time to meet so that we could go there.   When I got to the church, he met me outside and asked me to follow him in my car over to a parking lot at a small shopping center down the road.

He said he wanted me to park my car there because the church ladies were having a big function that day and he didn't want them to wonder why my car was there but I was not inside attending the function.

I then got in his car which was a convertible that he put the top down on as we drove down a main road south of the church.   We drove about 15 miles and then he stopped at a small trucker rest stop and suggested we have breakfast first.

After finishing breakfast, we got back in the car and drove a ways out into the country.  He turned off the main road onto a small gravel road that went into a wooded area.

Finally we came to a clearing that looked like a small park on the edge of a small lake.  The trees were very tall and did not really allow one to look clearly up at the sky, nor was there really any kind of "hill" to speak of.

We got out of the car and he went to his trunk to pull out a large blanket for us to sit on.  We went over to a grassy area and spread out the blanket and sat down.   We talked for a bit and he told me that today would be the day I would experience my reconnection with God.   He asked me to lie back, close my eyes and go back to the time when I was 6 1/2 on the hill and begin telling the experience again. 

So I began to do so and I imagined the sky, the clouds, the wind as it blew my beautiful puff the magic dragon tree, the grass as it tickled my body.  I began to feel what that little girl felt so long ago and tears started rolling down my face.  I felt like I WAS that little girl again!

Then suddenly, I felt a heavy weight on top of my legs and left shoulder.   I opened my eyes to find the pastor had rolled over and put his head on my shoulder and draped his legs over mine and one arm draped over my chest and onto my other shoulder.  He was lightly sobbing.  I asked him what he was doing and he said "I was just so overcome by the beauty of your story I just had to hug you, please continue."   I told him I wanted him to please get off of me and I tried to sit up.  He resisted at first and then reluctantly moved over and laid on his side propping his head up with his hand.  He looked at me and I was SHOCKED to see anger in his eyes.   He told me that clearly I was not at all interested in reconnecting with God if I was going to push away the messenger whom God had sent to help me.  He said a few other really horrible things (that I will not repeat here) when I tried to tell him that I thought this was all wrong.   And then I burst out with "WHAT WOULD YOUR WIFE THINK IF SHE DROVE UP RIGHT NOW AND SAW US!"  And then he sat up, looked at me straight in the eyes and said "who do you think she or ANYONE would believe, a pastor, or a mentally ill woman?"   That stunned me into silence.

We sat for a bit and suddenly his mood shifted and he said "look, this didn't go as we had planned today, it probably isn't the right time for you yet, no use in pushing things when you are not ready, why don't we call it a day and we'll wait until you are more prepared to receive God."  And we picked up our stuff, got in the car and began to drive out of the park.  Just before we did, he stopped at the bathrooms they had in a building at the entrance.   He went in, was in there for some time, and when he came back out to the car, he turned to me, put a hand on my cheek, told me he cared about me and then kissed me on the side of my other cheek.   We were silent the rest of the way back and he dropped me off at my car and said "I enjoyed spending time with you today, we'll plan a time to do this again soon, ok?"
I just nervously smiled and nodded and got in my car and drove home.

The unceasing call of Love - Part 3 

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