My Testimony: Salvation in a Laundrymat

Salvation in a Laundrymat The Testimony of Julie November 27, 2005

Originally published on http://www.fellowshipchurchonline.com/

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table in a laundrymat

When the trials of life got me down

And my angst led to seeking and a new church

It was the outstretched arms of the laundrymat attendant

That led to a decision washing me clean, indeed.

 

That was 1988: I was single and a Christian man had just entered my life. My life was stuffed at the time with full time work in healthcare and graduate school. Dabbling in church attendance and regular Al Anon Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings were fueling a desire to learn more about God and the person of Jesus Christ. I had so many questions, so many unresolved hurts from my childhood. Sitting in the audience of a very large, non-denominational church brought tears and stirred something deep inside me. Something I hadn’t felt in years . . .

I grew up attending a local church, complete with first communions, baptisms, lighting candles, going to the confessional, and the like. As a teenager and in college, I attended other churches of the same denomination and the routine, the rituals, were pretty much the same. But where was God? I could sense Him sometimes on Sunday mornings and in one particular baptismal service for my Godchild, Tommy. Why wasn’t He helping our family on the other days of the week?

My family life was in shambles. My father developed a mental illness and left our home when I was 9 years old. I would later understand that his struggle to overcome his mental illness exposed me and my brothers to sorrows beyond belief. There were inappropriate experiences with other adults as well.

We struggled to survive. My mom went back to work to support us and a few people tried to help where they could. The weekly allowances, ice cream from the Good Humor truck, books from the South Elementary School Book Club, and chocolate milk for lunch ended. My mom struggled in her identity as a single mom. The church fell short in meeting her needs, our needs and we were shamed by others. Some of the neighborhood boys weren’t allowed to play with my brothers. I felt rejected too. We kids fought a lot. And God bless the babysitters who risked losing their sanity by coming to our house!

My brothers, in time, would turn to alcohol or drugs to endure life. Both would eventually spend time in jail and never quite make it in the work world. Neither one married. One died of alcoholism and the other is devoting himself to care for our mom. Amazing! By the grace of God, I was given different responsibilities and opportunities.

A neighbor introduced me to the Warren Jayteens, the teen group of the Warren Jaycees (in our city just outside of Detroit, Michigan). That was the first of many new interests, part time jobs, and classical guitar lessons, and the list goes on. I became a “human doing” instead of a “human being.” My worth came from my activities, my accomplishments. And on the outside, I excelled.

Inside, I was hurting. I sought comfort in dating relationships and dabbled in alcohol and marijuana. My tolerance to alcohol increased. The partying continued when I moved to Illinois after college to start my first job in healthcare. I would later see that my profession was a gift from God. He gave me the insight to pursue a profession in which I would teach others the skill of adapting to any circumstance. I personally benefited from this as I entered graduate school, found Al Anon Adult Children of Alcoholics, changed jobs, moved a few times, and met a Christian man.

That dear man helped me with my many questions about God and the Bible. The witness of his upbringing in a Christian home spoke volumes of what it really looked like to grow up in a stable environment. His father was a leader in his childhood church. The witness of Craig’s life and of his family, showed me more of what it was like to have good clean fun and led to a decision for Christ.

On our third date, he brought me to a very large, non-denominational church. There were 4,000 people at each service! I thought it was a cult! I was wrong. My soul got fed for the first time. Some months later, a laundry mat attendant sensed my needs, my readiness, and witnessed to me. I will never forget that day. I can still see her face. She had so much love in her eyes. That night, alone in my apartment, I prayed to have Jesus come into my life. I repented of the mistakes of my past. I was truly washed clean by the blood of Jesus.

Two years later in 1991, Craig and I were married in that large, non-denominational church. We worshipped there five years. I grew in my understanding of the Christian life. I tried to be a “good Christian” wife and fell short a bit. My walk with the Lord would really begin several years later when Craig led us to a smaller Bible church. It was there that I began to unravel the part of the pain of my childhood that had created a barrier to developing an intimate relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. More tears. More healing. And a faithful man to walk with me. Very cool.

Things changed March 4, 2003. Our marriage had endured several trials and disappointments by then. Craig’s father had died, I was injured in an auto accident with lingering effects, Craig was laid off twice, we lost the court case related to the accident, and my work-related injuries created financial and emotional hardships for both of us. I always returned to work after a setback. I adapted. Craig pursued a new career direction as well in aviation and we felt the Lord’s blessing and provision. Then he had to stop suddenly and was never quite the same after that. He began to withdraw from me. At the same time, he threw himself into church service and became a Deacon. I tried to start a second business and return to work in healthcare. God had other plans.

On the morning of March 4, 2003, I prayed a desperate prayer for the Lord to intervene in my life. Intervene he did! That night I received a phone call and learned that my husband had been in an affair for about a year. I asked Craig to leave for awhile that night and he did. He never came back.

Standing in my living room, very late at night, very alone, I was in shock. I knew my life was about to change but had no idea how it would. A verse came to me from Jeremiah 29:11:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV)

That verse would come back to me again and again at key times over the next three years – at times when no other words could possibly sustain me or give me hope. Like the night of the fire . . .

Let’s just say that major changes occurred in rapid-fire succession from that day forward. (Riddle: What day of the year is a command? Answer: March “fourth.” Geez!)

My grandmother died. I refinanced our home. My brother died. The divorce process became eminent. I sold my home. I moved. I lost my job due to an injury. I was promoted in my home business. I moved again. I got a temporary job then a permanent position. My mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. The divorce was final at Christmastime. Geez! I was in a fire. I moved twice to temporary housing. I moved to a beautiful condo where I now reside. The healing work has begun, from the inside out!

Whew! I thank the Lord for walking with me and for bringing the Army of Believers who have been there, led me, and carried me on this journey to today. It takes an Army and an unshakable faith in Christ to rise from the trials of life victorious. I pray daily for Craig’s repentance and return to the Lord. And I do know this: the choices we make each day determine where we ultimately land in our walk with the Lord, our walk through the days of our lives. Since my prayer has always been for my own sorrows not to be wasted, I remember to seek the face of Jesus each day, especially when the mud flies. I pray that Craig will too. He has incredible gifts of teaching, of reasoning, of physical health, and of loving. May these be used for God’s glory soon.

As for me, I’m called to do what I can with what I have, where I am. (At the time of this writing in 2005, I’d) just had a “Thanksgiving” party to thank all the people that helped me; the evening was wonderful! I pray that the Lord continues to restore me. Through this process, my purpose has become clear: to build something of significance that blesses other people. Gee, that’s what I’ve always wanted in my heart before I could put the words together! To know this purpose is the intervention I prayed for March 4, 2003. I am closer to this dream now more than ever before. And it came this way. This way? Yes, it came this way.

And since this has proven to be true in my life I must say that I really wouldn’t want it any other way!

Thanks.  Just Julie

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ADDENDUM:  It is now 9 years later when I have come across my testimony in an old computer file.  I am amazed at all the Lord has walked with me through!  My mother passed away in March of 2007 and I married my intended beloved, Steve, in November later that year.  I moved to Indiana to marry Steve, to slow things down, to rediscover so many rich outdoor activities, and to enjoy a loving relationship with Steve like none I had ever experienced before.  Even a serious personal illness, my brother’s stroke, and a medical leave from a lifelong profession that I love could not deter the love I experience from my Jesus and my Stevers.  After all:  life goes on.  I am exceedingly grateful that the Lord never changes.  I am exceedingly grateful for so much!

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The most important element in all of this, in all of my life, is my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Thank you Jesus.

That is all.  JJ

When you find your voice again

Perhaps it is a silent presence, a type of mindfulness that can speak as loud as a mountaintop yodel in a life-changing moment.  Or maybe you must shout it out, screeching through a resistant case of laryngitis just what is on your mind.  Then there are those measured words spoken through gritted teeth; oooooh, I hated when my mother uttered those when I was a child!  A crazy person makes sense only to his or herself when the disemboweled utterance emerges from the trouble soul within.  And the most agregious is the spine-tingling barbs of an angry person that can cut to the heart every time.  Sure wish I had more of the first one and less of the others in my history!

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
    but a harsh word stirs up anger.  (Proverbs 15:1)

Yes indeed.

The seizure attacks came quickly this evening as soon as my face hit the head of the bed, elevated with folded blankets to promote sinus drainage and ease the chest compression of a recent infection.  My left arm was tucked along my left side with my head turned to the right as I lain partially face-down.  This position causes less neck and shoulder pain so it is often my go-to position when I sense the episode ramping up.  The head-banging and shoulder trauma are minimized but the wrenching of my neck is nasty.  Oh well, that’s what the chiropractor is for, right?  Sigh.

Eventually I screeched out some “help me Lord” utterances with what was left of my voice box today.  That came whilst straining to cry out to my Jesus with an acute illness on top of the mysterious seizure-like tics that plague me every morning, evening, and after exposure to noxious stimuli.  I can’t even cry right!  Then things got incredibly darker.  In defense of my sanity I won’t go into details here so let’s just say that frightful images passed through my mind.  Then in my mind’s eye I could see the images on my arms.  Just then I noticed that Steve was stooping over the side of the bed beside me in the dark.  Holy crap!  His sudden appearance in the dark scared me further.  My body writhed with seizures, now lying on my right side with Steve behind me.  My arms flailed in the air, my legs flapped together then apart, and the screeching sound of my hoarse voice screaming holy terror would exceed any scene I’ve viewed from a psycho thriller for sure.  But this was not a movie.  This was ME!

A few decades ago some really bad things happened to me when I was a kid.  I spent about 12 years as a young adult in many kinds of therapy, therapy groups, 12-step recovery groups (Al Anon Adult Children of Alcoholics), faith-based and 12-step weekend retreats, and reading tons of self-help books.  True healing came when I got saved and the person of Jesus Christ showed me his love, care for me, and plan for my life if I would follow His lead.  He was restoring the years the locusts had eaten (Joel 2:25) when I met my intended beloved and married Steve.  I felt happy and free at last.  Four years later I got very sick with viral hepatitis, Lyme disease, and Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (related to mold).  I haven’t been able to work in two years largely due to the seizure attack episodes multiple times per day.  They are heartbreaking for both of us in addition to many other folks who have witnessed them too.

Over and over again I have searched for meaning, a purpose for this extended illness.  The incredible expenses of remediating our home for mold in early 2013 surely tested our marriage for sure.  We were living in a hotel while navigating a myriad of details and tough decisions as Steve travelled between work, home, and the hotel; his daughter chose to continue living in the house and help us out during the entire process.  Eventually our dog joined us in the hotel.  Eventually we completed the remediation, opted not to sell our house, and moved back home.  However, the seizure attacks never stopped!  By summer of 2013 they increased to up to 4 hours per day!  No medical professional or online research has found an answer yet.  Somehow Steve and I grew closer through it all as our hearts were breaking; the pain and suffering has been great.

Recently the Lord did show me a few tasks that needed to be completed in our marriage.  The love between Steve and I over these past 2 1/2 years has become strengthened, deepened because of this difficult journey.  We have now turned our residence into a “safe home” which restricts visitors or the conditions under which others may enter our home.  This helps prevent exposures for me that could cause a negative reaction (aka seizures!).  I love that my beloved is helping to protect me in this way so that I can get well.  I love that he has been faithful to the Lord and to me through this entire journey.  Others are watching us and I understand that we are doing some things right!  My own restoration and healing from the past may have provided a foundation for the important growth in me that has happened of late.  I am grateful to be able to recognize the good that is here along with the challenges.  There is always good along with the challenges if we look closely enough . . .

Back to the scene in the bedroom.  I asked Steve to move from where he was stooped behind me to the other side of the bed where he would be in front of me.  The uncontrollable hell that was ravaging my weakened frame was frightening enough not to have a sense that someone, even someone I dearly loved, was lingering over me from behind.  Steve knows all too well that if he touches me during an episode it can magnify the symptoms significantly.  I just couldn’t risk a casual brush of a hand; my distress was already unbearable.  Then the breakthrough began to happen.  Speaking up despite the hoarseness of my voice rose up some inner strength I had never sensed before.  I had to ride out the frightening images and thrashing about, my estimation of what weeping and gnashing of teeth might be like in a Biblical description of hell.  Tears came.  Silence followed.  I was able to ask for what I really needed when scared.

Soon my gracious and godly husband was gently sitting beside me.  I’m not sure if he was more horrified or moved to compassion!  We processed the scene.  His eyes held mind for a long time in the darkness before I was able to reach out and touch his arm.  Soon he was able to reach out with comforting touch for me as well.  Somehow we knew that my intolerance to intimate touch for the past 6 weeks was finally broken.  I was able to lie in the arms of my beloved once again.

My writing this story includes a great deal of literary and intellectual license.  I mean that I think I might know what is going on, the purpose and meaning in some of this suffering, but there is only one person who actually knows the truth:  my Heavenly Father.  I am glad that I found my voice in the darkness this evening.  I am glad that I survived a wretched scene without too much damage or lingering baggage.  I am grateful to have reconnected with Steve and that he could look beyond the ugliness to the beauty imbedded in this crazy journey together.  I trust that the Lord will go before us in the next scene and lead us in His way everlasting for His purpose and glory.  Lord willing it won’t be so bad next time.

Thank you, Jesus, for your redeeming grace.  You make all the difference in the world for me, tonight and always.  Thank you for your enduring mercy, giving me have the strength to do that to which you have called me (Philippians 4:13).  Be my voice in the darkness and in the light.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

A Bridge Still has Value

Recently a friend challenged me on my reading of a popular devotional by Sarah Young, Jesus Calling (2004, Thomas Nelson Inc.)  Since I have referenced at least two of her daily devotions in this blog, I thought I should discuss the book here.  Here is my reply:

Jesus Calling

I re-read the Introduction to Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling plus a few devotionals, listened to Warren Smith’s presentation last year on You Tube about the book (July 24, 2013), and checked out Hank Haanagraf’s remarks from one of his Bible Answer Man broadcasts (November 16, 2012).  I see valid criticisms.  Sarah Young fails to put a clear focus on the sovereignty of God separate from us; by speaking in the first person she blurs the line.  Missing is mention of a clear path to salvation (and the gifts of eternal life in addition to true peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control) that comes only through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  She tends to bring God along with her instead of placing God as head of the body of Christ; this is often the sign of a carnal Christian or new believer.  The book also uses metaphors and popular analogies that are not necessarily Biblical to bring the reader into the perspective of how God might view our daily lives.  Her focus on these types of experiences can be problematic for many reasons including misleading a person who tends to be led by emotion instead of the immutable truth of the Word of God.  And lastly, the book does nothing to point a seeker to the Bible, a healthy well-balanced Christian church, fellowship with other believers, or educate him or her on the basic tenants of Christian faith.
If Jesus Calling were a Bible commentary, it would fail.  If Jesus Calling was intended as a tool for evangelism, it would fail.  If Jesus Calling was designed to be used by apologists to defend the faith, they would lose the debate.  While she quotes relevant verses with each devotional, her applications might not be universal to everyone (and Warren Smith knocks down many of them).  Perhaps she could be more accurate.  Perhaps she was taking a little extra literary license to illustrate the softer themes of life represented with verses that are more easily understood?
I am sad that a warm and friendly book that greases the seeker’s heart with a beginning understanding of the nature of God cannot also be more direct about essentials of the Christian faith too.  Perhaps a Max Lucado book would do better?  He uses poetry and prose with loving imagery to reach the broken hearted as well.  Maybe at some level both authors are similar?  You could say that their feel-good books distract a person from delving into the Bible yet they could also give another person a place to go when the Bible is just too intimidating.  A scholarly book (i.e. the Bible or a commentary) and a scathing review by a New Age fear-monger such as Warren Smith, will not comfort the heart of a person in crisis!
Sarah Young’s book could use some other improvements.  I don’t know why her testimony in the beginning does not include a salvation story per se.  Does this mean that she is not saved?  We just don’t know.  Again it is often literary license that an author uses more general terms of faith so as not to scare off wounded seekers that really need Him!  Jesus Calling may still be useful as an introduction to a more personal God for a lost soul who may have been hurt by religion or a skewed view of who He really is.  Seeing how God really does understand, cares about the details of one’s daily life, and is ever near is clear on these pages.  Reading this could help old wounds to heal.  Women often need this most.  Their minds will still need truth so the seeker should not end his or her search with Jesus Calling, however.  The book should have ended with an invitation to a closer relationship with God through His son, Jesus Christ and encourage the reader in his or her next steps as noted in my first paragraph.  It does not.
Is it New Agey?  The fact that Sarah does not go deeper into essential matters of Christian doctrine could make it look like just another feel good book about a generic God.  One might begin to pick apart themes in the devotionals and say that the God in Jesus Calling is not the God of the Bible.  And if the God in the book is not the God of the Bible then it must be about Satan or some New Age alternative that is neither one.  So the next step could be to claim that Jesus Calling is a New Age book because of this and because of its use of terms reflective of popular culture, the New Age movement.  Yes all of this could be true and indirectly move a seeker away from the One true God that he or she had hoped to find in an empty book.  Or maybe not.  I have more faith in the Lord’s plan for those who earnestly seek after Him.  He calls His own.  Her or she will find Him in a babbling brook if that is His will!
Many would criticize my own bridge to faith in Christ that was built through the 12 steps of Al Anon Adult Children of Alcoholics.  The daily devotional, One Day at a Time, is quite vanilla.  The God of the 12 Steps is generic albeit consistent with the basic tenants of a Christian faith from the Bible.  Tis sad that many stop at “recovery” and faith in a Higher Power in these meetings and never find the God of the Bible.  But the Lord had a plan for me from that feel-good experience and used those 9 years for His glory.  I would have never approached the throne of grace had I not healed from so much while sitting around the tables, held in the basement of many churches and not in the sanctuary.
I make two references to Jesus Calling in my eBook, Hope Beyond Lyme:  The First Year.  In the first I quote a nice encouragement Sarah Young gives about:  1) many of us seeing only a part or the “tip of the iceberg” when faced with confusing situations and 2) our needing to trust God for that which we cannot see or comprehend:  mysteries.  The second time I quote the book I name both Mrs. Young’s devotional along with a secular book of comedy as books with some wisdom but that both are second to the Bible.  I wonder if my friend misunderstood me:  Jesus Calling is not my second favorite book!   I read Jesus Calling over these past 2 years when I was in crisis every day and struggled to hold a heavy Bible let alone concentrate on it.  Because it comforted me I included it when writing the eBook.  I read my Bible most days anyways, of course!  The centrality of the Bible for me and for the eBook should be clear by the over twenty passages of scripture quoted and referenced.
No book is a replacement for the truth, hope, and eternal significance of the Holy Bible.  Today I am grateful to have a Bible App on my smart phone that I can easily hold in the palm of my hand in bed during trying times.  The Lord has opened my mind to more of His Word and the ability to concentrate on it too.  I am grateful for a temporary tool, a small devotional book, that the Lord used to comfort my heart until I could read His Word again.  I pray for spiritual armor to protect me and wisdom to discern any unsound doctrine that would harm my relationship to my King, my Savior, Jesus Christ.  I also pray that the millions of readers of Jesus Calling would continue to seek the Lord and find Him in the person of Jesus Christ alone.  Thank you Lord for my friend’s willingness to dialogue on this important topic.  May it all be for Your glory, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.