Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography
For much of my life, I wished for that “Damascus experience” others had described . . . a sudden insight that is overwhelming and life-changing.
It seemed to me that such a transformational moment in time would be the confirmation that Christ had truly entered in, and all things past were gone. But, instead, I was blessed (now I see it as a blessing!) with the early and constant faithfulness of God that has been revealed over and over again in my life. I now understand how God began a good work in me and has refused to let me ever get too far away from His efforts to work in me to completion.
I grew up in a Christian home. My parents were married over 50 years, before my dad passed away in 1993, way too early! I had a great childhood and was surrounded by family who instilled in my brothers and me the importance of acceptance, unconditional love, and constant support. God was always a big part of our family. We weren’t wealthy, but our family sure had everything we needed, and often what we wanted as well. My parents taught us to be grateful for our blessings, particularly for our family. As a result, I am thankful for and treasure relationships. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love deeply. I’m loyal to a fault and when I care, I really care! Although this trait has blessed me immeasurably, it also has its consequences. My depth of love can be equal to depth of grief when relationships are lost or damaged. So, along this journey, I have loved and lost but, in the end, love is always greater!
I have great memories of our church as a child. We started attending when I was four years old, and it’s the only church I have ever attended. It has always been a big part of my spiritual formation. I remember a particular night at youth group, when Jesus became much more personal for me. I made a commitment to give my life to Christ and to try my best to live my life the way God prepared for me. I have not always been an obedient child of God, but my desire has always been to do things His way.
During high school, I met a guy I dated for six years, until the summer of my senior year in college when we married. We began to live the life I had always imagined . . . the house with the white picket fence, two beautiful children, a dog and a goldfish! And then, things changed — dramatically and quickly. My husband became very ill. He was diagnosed with adult-onset type 1 diabetes. He struggled with the reality of that disease, and I found myself trying to own it for him, which was impossible and did not serve either of us well.
Soon after his diabetes diagnosis, he began to use alcohol in excess and became a very serious alcoholic. Alcohol and diabetes don’t mix and, as his life began to deteriorate, so did our marriage. I never imagined being divorced. In fact, my faith wouldn’t let me even consider it for a long time. But the consequences of his drinking became more than I could handle. Although my family and friends were there to love and support me, it was still very overwhelming. I soon learned that it is in our times of desperation that we are closest to God.
About two years after my marriage ended, my ex-husband died. I was 32 years old with two children, ages five and seven. I was lost and confused, but God’s faithfulness prevailed. His grace, mercy, power and love sustained me in ways I still cannot fathom. That faithfulness has been the theme of my relationship with God. It is only when we admit that we can’t do life on our own and completely surrender to God that we experience real victory. I am a bit of a control freak — I like to do things my way — I struggle with that. But I learned that my efforts to control things were really futile. Everything always works out much better when I let God do it His way.
My professional life was always such a gift. I was a health and physical education teacher for 30 years and loved every minute of it. I had such incredible friends who loved and supported me throughout those first months and years of being a single mom, living on a teacher’s salary. And, of course, like He always does, God started showing up in unbelievable ways. I began to receive unexpected income, transferred to a teaching job I had always wanted, and then — the greatest blessing happened.
Some good friends wanted to introduce me to a friend of theirs who they were just sure I would enjoy dating. As I began to live into my new life, I had pretty much decided that dating was out of the question. I remember they told me three things about their friend, Greg: He was a police officer (Are you kidding me?), he was pretty much committed to being a bachelor (Where can that go?), and he was almost four years younger than me (I already had two children). But they also said we had “so much in common” and insisted I meet him. I didn’t say yes or no, but they must have heard yes. A few nights later they arranged a chance meeting that changed my life forever! There he was — this tall, very handsome man in uniform. My children were with me and I remember my son ran over and said, “Man! Can I see your gun?” I thought then, “Well, this will be short-lived.” Greg laughed and didn’t seem to be scared off. Before he left, he asked if he could call me, and this time I did say yes!
Greg called me shortly after that and we started dating. We dated for a little over two years and to say it was a learning experience for both of us would be a real understatement. He had been in only two serious relationships before we met and was scared to death of commitment, especially with two children involved. I had built a secure wall around me and was at a place where I was determined to never let anyone hurt me again. That kind of gets in the way when trust is a cornerstone of any relationship! Then, God stepped in. He eased Greg’s fears, helped me tear down that very unhealthy wall (that sometimes wants to creep up again) and grew a love that has been simply amazing!
In 1985, Greg and I got married. Although neither of us had any idea how to create a new family, we began that journey together. The children had loved him from the start and within a few weeks, they asked Greg if they could call him Dad! Without hesitation he said, “Of course” and I could tell it thrilled him. They also said they didn’t like having a different last name, so we began to talk about how we could change that, too. On the Friday before Father’s Day, a precious friend of ours performed our legal adoption ceremony. The children took Greg’s name, as well as his heart, and it has been that way ever since. As I look back, I see that God was busy working, not to just repair my broken, untrusting heart, but by sending an angel to my children and me. Greg has been an incredible dad, and he is the best “Cappy” I could ever imagine to our six grandchildren.
When we met, Greg was not actively involved in the church or living out a personal relationship with Jesus but, somehow, I knew it would happen. I trusted that God would work in his life. While we were dating, he started going to church with me. We attended a Sunday school class together with people who were older than us. During that time, Greg learned a lot about prayer. I had asked for prayer for his safety and for advancement opportunities at the police department. He was uncomfortable with that because he thought God was too busy for those kinds of things. Gradually he learned just how personal God can be. Although he first went to church to please me, he soon genuinely wanted to go. Worship became an integral part of our marriage. In the midst of all that, he was searching. Without question, he believed in God and that Jesus had come for his salvation. But he hadn’t pursued a personal relationship with Christ. It was head knowledge but not a heart relationship. I prayed for that transformation and knew God would, in His time and in His way, show Greg just how much He loved him.
Around 2000, Greg went through a tough time. He was discouraged about several things and kept it to himself for a long time. I had become overly involved in leadership at church and in my career and didn’t see what I needed to see. I had not made Greg the priority I should have. There was a period when we were struggling and really had to reevaluate where we were going. During those days of difficulty, God was saying to me, “I’ve got it. I’ve got it. Just keep loving him.” And I did. During this time, my prayer was that the Lord would draw Greg to Him and that Greg would allow God to heal and comfort him. I prayed that the power of the Holy Spirit would consume him and bring him to a place of complete surrender. I also prayed to protect my heart from building walls against being hurt, to keep me in God’s arms and not to let me run ahead of where God was going with Greg. I wanted to be a partner in Greg’s journey but I also realized I couldn’t change things, only God could.
To no one’s surprise, God answered my prayers. One day Greg asked me what he could do that would help me. I felt like this was my opportunity to offer him the only solution I knew would work, so I asked him to go see the senior pastor at our church. He agreed and the rest is, as they say, history! They had a great conversation and prayer in the sanctuary and Greg had that “Damascus experience” I had always longed for! He gave his life to Christ and experienced a transformation that has been remarkable to witness. (#193). This was one of those mountaintop moments in life when you realize God is so present and so faithful. When I look back to those few months of “struggling,” I see clearly what was happening. We live in the midst of a spiritual battle in this very lost and broken world. As a result, there are times when the enemy especially targets us. It’s usually when we are doing something pretty right or when we are very vulnerable. In our case this battle became real when we had allowed our relationship to become vulnerable. Satan saw our vulnerability as an opportunity to do his evil work. As we both stepped back and let God take control, He stepped in and squashed it.
I was born to be Greg’s wife. I have no doubt about that. I also know I was born to be the mother of our two amazing children, even though they came to me first. Right now, it’s hard to reconcile those two things but I know someday God will make it perfectly clear! Greg often says I am the reason he became a Christian, but that’s not exactly accurate. It was God’s pursuit and Greg’s surrender that allowed for his salvation. But I will say I sure did want him to know and trust Jesus. After Greg surrendered his life to the Lord, our journey together took off like a rocket ship. He became the spiritual leader in our family and we were real partners in marriage, parenting and everything else God put in our path. God has given us incredible empty nest years with Greg leading and teaching me. Something I really cherish is when we pray together. At first, we would simply ask one another how we could pray for the day ahead. We have continued that practice and the majority of our mornings we begin our day in prayer, thanking God for this incredible life He has given us and asking Him to use us to bring others into relationship with Him.
About 15 years ago we went through a health scare when Greg was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It’s a story of God’s powerful healing love. During that time neither of us had the first fear that things wouldn’t be okay. When he received the cancer diagnosis, the first thing we did was get on our knees and pray. Then and always, prayer has been the wind beneath our wings. We have trusted God with our lives in every way.
Recently God has led us to prison ministry leadership roles. It has been a remarkable experience, one that neither of us could have imagined. We know that like every other “leading,” if we get out of the way, God will be faithful to do His good work in and through us for the glory of His Kingdom. It’s our privilege to watch Him work! Praise God from whom all blessing flow!
When I stand back and look at the life God has given me, it is truly incredible. His faithfulness has been the theme of my life. There is nothing God cannot do. He is so good and so big and so willing to bless us, if we are willing to receive God’s blessing.
In my life, I have found my favorite verse of Scripture to be true:For I can do everything through Christ,who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).