I grew up in a Methodist pastor’s home, so I can relate to other PK’s (Pastor’s Kids) in the world who are saturated with the church experience and often feel as if they are in a fishbowl. But thankfully, my parents knew that just growing up in a church would not save me. I had to make that decision myself and, thankfully, there were people in those churches who knew this and ministered to me. I recall several stages of accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior, with the first probably being around 5th grade and the most memorable fully informed decision around age 13 or 14 in youth group.
My teen years revolved around youth group and Campus Life (Christian group in HS) with some diversions into a snarky, flippant, “I’m too good for my parents” attitude which eventually got out of hand. Vividly, I can recall one particular weekend when I was supposed to accompany my mother to our cabin in the woods near Berkley Springs, West Virginia. We were living in Ferndale near BWI airport at the time. Giving her some serious attitude about going with her to meet my dad at the cabin, I managed to convince her to let me stay home. About four hours later (the trip to the cabin took about two hours), my mom and dad showed up at the house! Quite sternly, my dad told me to pack my bags and get in the car. When we arrived quite late that night, he told me to get some sleep . . . we would talk in the morning. The next day, my dad directed me to step out onto the back porch with him. He explained that he loved me but that my attitude was not acceptable and proceeded to inform me that he had made a switch from a thorn bush in the woods. My heart started pounding at that point because my parents had never used physical punishments on me. Noticing my fear, he said that he was going to remove his shirt—I was to strike him as hard as I could across his back or else this is what he was going to do to me. I was a wreck. I did not want to hit him, but I was not interested in getting hit with that thing. Shaking, I picked up the switch as he removed his shirt, turned around, and leaned over the railing. I decided that I would just give him a light swat and get this over with, so I raised the switch but then barely made contact with his back as I made a halfhearted attempt to strike him. He turned slightly and said, “That is not hard enough.” At this point I was crying and, as I raised my arm to hit him again, the emotional damn broke and I fell to the floor sobbing. My father raised me up and hugged me. I don’t recall exactly what happened next, but I do know that I was different after that point in my life. He showed me in a tangible way what Jesus was willing to do for me. It was a powerful experience.
Just before my senior year in high school, the Methodist church transferred my father to Frederick to pastor a new church. Knowing how hard it would be to leave just before my senior year of high school, my parents agreed to let me live with my best friend (they knew her parents well from our church). After my dad left the church in Ferndale, people started leaving because they really missed him. I ended up attending a new church with the family with whom I was living. It was at Trinity Assembly of God in the youth group that I met my husband, Rod. We were both serious about our faith and were married when I was 20 and he was 22. For the next few years, life was great. We established our life together and remained active in the church including forming an amazing young married small group that lasted for five years, meeting every week! But life was about to take a very heartbreaking turn.
After being married for about two years, we were ready to start a family, but sadly I miscarried at four months and was not able to get pregnant again until one year later. I miscarried again. We were devastated and, for the first time in both our lives, started questioning this God we served. Somehow we worked through the heartache and learned to trust that He had things under control. It was at this time that I found my life verse: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3: 5-6). I was also at this time that I learned personally what the scripture meant: “When I am weak, He is strong.”
You see, my brother- in- law was watching us go through all this; he had just recently given his heart to the Lord. He wrote us a letter explaining that one of the biggest factors in leading him to Christ was watching how we did not lose our faith during our pain. I couldn’t believe it! I did not feel like a good role model at all—I was sad, confused, and angry; but I guess I made an impact on him because I was sad, confused and angry with a personal God with whom I had a relationship. He watched Rod and I work out our relationship with God and not turn our backs on Him in the end. A year later we had our first daughter, Laura. Was that pregnancy ever a walk of trust for me!
For several years life was good. We wanted to expand our family, but again I miscarried! What in the world is happening, Lord? I thought we were past this! Another year went by with me wishing that every pregnancy test would show that Laura would have sibling. Finally we were pregnant again. I recall going forward in church asking for prayer. The person who prayed with us said she had a word of knowledge from the Lord: “I have your three children in heaven with me but this one is yours to keep.” We were overjoyed, but two days later I miscarried again. Why would He give us the message in church just rip it away from us? The anger returned, pounding against the wall screaming at the ceiling anger. But I knew the Lord could take me “pounding” against His “chest” because He loved me dearly. After I had recovered physically, we talked with the lady who had given us the Word in church. She was so overcome with sorrow that she had shared something from her emotions rather than a true word from God. We forgave her, and I let Jesus comfort me as I healed, but the future would hold heartaches that would leave me bitter and questioning God once again.
In His goodness, he did bless us eventually with our second daughter, Amy. During her pregnancy, I was told that the screening indicated Down syndrome and that I should have an amniocentesis to verify. That procedure has a risk of miscarriage and there was no way I was about to chance that, so I declined; but the remainder of the pregnancy was filled with questioning and fears just under the surface. I recall when she was born looking carefully at her hands for the telltale signs of Downs. The doctor noticed me examining her hands and said, “You really had that on your mind, didn’t you?” At this point in my faith journey, I had learned that God does not always shelter us from trials and heartaches. I knew that I could pray that she would be normal, but instead I just prayed that God would give me strength for whatever lay ahead. That started a pattern with me. It’s not that I didn’t believe in miraculous healings, but I felt more at peace praying that the Lord’s will be done.
Several years later we had Carrie about the same time that God put in on my heart to start homeschooling which was huge leap of faith for me. Two years later, I joined the small group of moms to help launch CHA in the fall of 2001. In faith, we began an incredible journey of growth as we trusted God to help us. Over the years we need to trust Him more and more through many trials but the vision He gave us united us and inspired us to keep pressing on.
Jenny came along a few years later, even though I told the Lord that three children was more than enough (I was feeling a bit overwhelmed as a mother). When Jenny was about four months old, my mother in law, with whom I was very close, was diagnosed with cancer (it was very late stage and she thought she had been feeling poorly for a different reason). Six weeks after her diagnoses, she went home to be with the Lord. We were devastated! I must say that while I had prayed for God’s will to be done, I had also begged him to spare her. She was such an important part of our lives. Two weeks after her funeral, my best friend moved to Florida. It was one of the lowest points in my life. But my faith grew as I learned to worship Him through the pain.
Just after my mother in law’s passing, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, another challenge to my faith. Why, Lord, would you have this man, who has served you as a pastor for so many years, end his life in such a devastating manner? I’m still not sure, but at that point in my life, I just knew that even though I did not understand, He did and that would have to be enough.
It also had to be enough when several years later Rod’s back surgery turned into a scary nightmare, complete with life threatening blood clots and a hospitalization that felt like an eternity. I have to admit that trust was not one of my better features at this time. With all the miscarriages and losing loved ones to cancer I had experienced, I was just sure that the Lord was going to operate in a similar manner. I was not so much convinced that Rod would leave me, but I did feel that he might be left with a debilitating problem. I was finding that my faith in miracles was pretty low. But God had other plans that time and He saw fit to bring Rod through with no real impairments. Thank you, Lord!
Several years later in 2012, my brother was diagnosed with an aggressive skin cancer, this on top of the challenges he already faced with mental illness. I honestly did not know what God was going to do with this one, but my main concern was my brother’s salvation. Thanks to the prayers of many and the faithfulness of the Lord, Steve did accept Christ before the end. He went home to be with his Savior in June of 2014. I must say that in this trial I did find a balance between beseeching God for a miracle and accepting His will. I would say that salvation is a miracle, so I am eternally grateful!
In that last two years, I’ve started dealing with struggles of a different nature: feelings of failure as a mother and feelings of rejection from close friends. These struggles in some ways have been more challenging than physical health crises. Unfortunately, these emotional struggles were still largely unresolved when I was diagnosed in Sept 2014 with breast cancer. I don’t think I even asked “Why me, God? “ I just figured that God had His reasons and I hoped that I would learn what He wanted me to learn through it all. Unfortunately the “Why, Lord? “ hit me late in the game (months after my surgery) along with the unresolved emotional issues (almost forgot the “What ministry am I supposed to be in?” and “Am I missing something big God wants me to do? “issues). But he has been slowly, patiently, and lovingly been carrying me through leaving one set of footprints in the sand while I rest in Him.
All I can say with certainty right now is that I don’t know what my future holds, but I know who holds my future and He is a good, good God who happens to be my best friend. I realized recently that my life verse about “trusting the Lord with all my heart and leaning not on my own understanding” is not so much about an area in which I have victory but an area the Lord knew would be challenging for me. He knew that I would need to hang onto this verse as a life rope.