James writes to count it all joy when we encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance…that we may be perfect and complete in Him. In my story I am now looking back, somewhat, to what I have endured and marveling that I am still in tact. I am beginning to see that life goes on and that Jesus never left and indeed still has a plan for me.
As I adjusted to my new life I began to change; I was no longer the same person. The fires of the desert place had burned a lot of chaff out of my life. I had been through a mighty stripping and now I was ready to move forward. I didn’t have a clue as to what was ahead for me. I remembered that first day in the apartment when we had just lost our home. My son walked to the window and looked out. He said to me, “Mom, how long do you think we will be here? Where will we go from here.” It broke my heart. I literally felt the pain in my chest. I didn’t have an answer nor did I have a vision for my future. I knew he would soon go out on his own, but I knew he was feeling responsible for his mom and didn’t want to leave me without making sure I was doing okay with this new, strange life. The impact of all of his loses had hit him at that moment. I later learned that as he made the last sweep in our old house he walked through every room and let himself feel all the memories that were good and grieve the loss of his family as he had known it. My mom’s heart could hardly take it. All we had known was gone.
Now, here I was, a few years later. My children were out on their own and I found myself alone. I had gone through the empty nest syndrome knowing my babies were safe and growing in the Lord. I was content with Jesus to keep me company. I honestly thought that would be the end of the story for me. But God had another plan and a man for me to marry. I would not have received that piece of news had it come from a prophet and God knew it. I was determined that I was finished with that part of my life.
Greg moved in the apartment underneath mine and we developed an interesting relationship. He was fully dedicated to his 8 year old daughter, Christina, and he had just gotten full custody of her. I was unimpressed that he attended an organized church and very active in ministry. As we talked and became acquainted I found out that he had been a pastor for many years, though was no longer. Before becoming a Christian he had been an outlaw biker who rode with a pretty rough gang for many years. Being of Greek heritage he came from a very passionate, loud family and I was quite intrigued. And he was and is now a Private Investigator by trade. This combination, along with his charm and obvious passion for whatever he put his hand to do, quickly drew me in. I hate to admit it but the “bad” boy image along with his strong passion for God that he portrayed attracted me to him. My ex-husband was soft spoken and passive and Greg was totally passionate. I went from one extreme to another. He was a talker and someone with whom I could converse for hours. We became fast friends.
Interestingly, when he told me about his past with his church issues and his powerful testimony of wrecking his Harley and it ultimately bringing him to God, I remembered my first husband coming home from a Men’s Prayer Breakfast years before. He told me how impressed he was upon hearing this man speak who was now a pastor, but had been from an outlaw motorcycle gang, and his miraculous transformation in Christ. If anyone would have told me then that He was talking about a man who I would eventually marry I would have told them they were crazy. I was happily married and in my bubble of denial with small children at the time. God always has a plan and he knows where our lives are going.
As timing would have it Greg began to have the same issues with control in his church and we would talk on the phone for many hours trying to figure out what the problems were. He knew I no longer attended church and he was intrigued by my personal and strong relationship with the Lord even though I didn’t go to a church building. He told me later that he judged me in his heart wondering how on earth I could be a Christian and not go to church. But he was quickly having very similar issues that I had had within organized religion which gave us a lot in common.
We were friends for five years before we even started to date. By that time, I was ready for a friend with skin on to hang out with and do fun things. Greg loved Jesus too, so we had lots to talk about. I make it clear I wasn’t marrying again to ensure he didn’t get any ideas and he readily agreed that with his past failed marriages he wasn’t interested either. But when God has other ideas our plans somehow begin to change to match His. We began to grow together and saw that if the church is something we are, not someplace we go, how can we leave it unless we abandon God himself? And we weren’t about to do that. And if we thought only of one denomination or congregation as our church, haven’t we separated ourselves from a host of other believers who do not attend the same place?
Greg and I eventually ended up getting married. I really didn’t want to raise another teenager as Christina was only 15 by that time because I had been through so much with Heather, but I eventually gave in. I now had another child to help raise. It was real touch and go for us for a few years as we worked to combine our families, even though mine were out of the house. Raising another teenager from a broken home who was very strong willed was difficult and I am sure I didn’t do everything right. Christina needed to continue feeling safe with her Dad and I think I got in the way. But, we made it and we are wonderful friends today and she is Mom to Juliana and Gabriel, which now gave us five grandchildren. I realized that at the time Greg and I met God was still teaching me some things. Some of those things were through my own trips around Mt. Sinai, like the children of Israel who wouldn’t learn to trust God and had to keep going around and around in the desert until they finally learned and were released into the promised land.
Next: Chapter 20: Back to My Calling