A Broken Hallulejah: In Case You Need a Heap of Hope

306112_10150822092992271_1293088094_nMy Ma and Pa married each other on May 28th, 1969. That was forty-five years ago. They were recently asked to share their story with a big group of friends in order to encourage and give some hope. And couldn’t we all use some hope? That’s why I’m sharing this story of theirs here with you. We’re all a bit battered and broken and it’s hard being married and staying married, especially in this culture.

So, whether you’re married or not, hang on to this. It’ll help.

And thank you, Ma and Pa, for clinging to Jesus, Hope Himself, and for sticking together and being there for me.

My dad’s part of the story is italicized. They tag-teamed. Here goes:

I grew up in a very loving, secure home.  My dad was a bi-vocational pastor. Mom stayed home and raised the kids.  We went to church a lot, Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and seemed like revivals every other week.  This also meant A LOT of chicken for the pastor and his family.  I DO NOT EACH CHICKEN NOW!

I grew up very poor, with an abusive, alcoholic, “God hating” father.  No church!  We moved to Heber Springs when I was 12.  My dad died three weeks later.  That summer I was given a “scholarship” to First Baptist church camp, was saved, baptized and NEVER missed anything at church.  They had good parties and cute boys.  I was a “good” girl, afraid of God if I wasn’t.

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Maria and I met in high school and were friends.  I was pretty shy and didn’t date much, mostly did church stuff.  Maria was a cheerleader and “popular”, with many boyfriends.

School and church were my life!  ANYTHING to not be home!  I “worked” hard at being liked;  I wanted somebody/anybody to validate me.  Inside I was full of fear and insecurity.

My parents moved to southern California my senior year and I stayed in Heber, living with my grandmother, graduating in 1968.  I played in a rock band and noticed girls, even dating one my senior year.  I noticed Maria too;  she was VERY popular, but we were friends.

 After graduating, I moved to southern California but wrote letters to my friends, even Maria. When I came back at Christmas to see “that” girl…she dumped me!!!  Maria was in between boyfriends and needed rides, so we started spending a lot of time together, just talking. We’d talk and listen to each other for HOURS in a way I had never done before.

I had never, ever told ANYONE what my life was like. Who would like me if they knew?  But Al would listen and say he was sorry.  He was “safe”, kind, and gave me nice gifts.

385524_10150966807792271_980183449_nI was not a hit with her new step-dad (he only let me in the house one time), so I’d just pull up and honk to pick up Maria.  We went to all the basketball games, the Dairy Queen, “hung out” with friends.  Maria was a cheerleader and VERY popular (did I say that yet?), and WOW! She was hanging out with ME!  After I went back to California in January, Maria and I continued to write and sometimes talk  long distance on the phone.  We became engaged “in the mail” and married May 28, 1969, the day after her junior year of high school ended.  (Obviously I married UP!)  A week after the wedding, we moved to California together and lived happily ever after…NOT!

At first life in California was like a fairy tale.  There was always plenty of food, money to buy anything I wanted, go anywhere I wanted.  California (with money) was a nice place to get “lost” in the crowd.  I would occasionally visit a church when I felt guilty about the way I was living.  I didn’t drink much, but I did like to party and dance, even though Al did not dance at all.  “I” did!!

It was fun at first, but soon, not so much.  We didn’t know what we were doing.  I was drafted into the Army on our first anniversary, and later sent to Germany working with NATO (during the Vietnam era).  Maria was able to come to Germany for six months.  In 1972 I was discharged, came back home to resume work in our family gas station business, we had our first son, bought our first house, and in 1974 had our first daughter.  The American Dream, right?  Where was God in all this?  Where did God fit into our lives?  We were not looking for Him. We didn’t need Him.  WRONG!! 

I describe the first 10 years of our marriage as Al “absent” — working, playing, always drinking, and “checked out”, detached from me and the kids.  I felt like an obligation.  I did a lot of fun things with the kids, spent many hours at the beach, traveled with the kids or my friends…basically I entertained myself.  So why was I so unhappy?  Al didn’t hit me or yell at me, there was lots of money, nobody dared try to tell me what to do…I was an independent “liberated” woman!

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The next years became a lot of work at my job and hard play in MY TIME off, which included heavy drinking, drug use and “checking out” emotionally.  I was “hard” in those days at work and sometimes with Maria and the kids.  Mostly I was just “gone”, doing my own thing.  We each competed for our OWN time.  After all, “I” provided a check, wasn’t that enough?  Maria had “had it”!  In the late 70’s we separated, filed for divorce, and I gave up on life, even attempting to end my life more than once.  I had lost it all.  Work didn’t matter anymore, or anything else.  It was my TURNING POINT.  I got secular counseling, we got back together, and decided California was the problem, so we moved back to Arkansas in 1979.    And God?  I still didn’t need Him.

A few months before we moved, I attended my first ever Christian women’s retreat hosted by a Lutheran Church, held at an active Catholic monastery on the beach, led by a Bible Study Fellowship teaching leader.  (God is very creative!) And there, alone, in response to the Word, I repented and began my walk of “surrender” to Jesus as the BOSS of my life.  Jesus saved me at 12.  I began a life of surrender at 27.  God loved ME!  G-O-D loved me!!!   It didn’t matter how I dressed or what I looked like…if anyone else liked me or not…GOD LOVED ME!!  And I wanted to know HIM!!!

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A year later (1980) Jesus became my Lord and Savior.  Maria was already walking with the Lord. Even though I failed to be the priest of my family, the Lord continually forgave me. (1 John 1:9)  We were in church, trying to figure this marriage thing out, and “do right”.  The Lord was softening my heart.  In 1987 the Lord gave me the desire for more children and brought Maggie and David into our family!   They were 7 and 5.

The Lord has answered many prayers in regard to our marriage, first by answering my parent’s prayers and those of their entire church, Maria’s prayers for our marriage when I wasn’t, and then ours together.  THANK HIM FOR HIS FAITHFULNESS!

My life again revolved around church, but now more importantly, knowing God through His Word, Christian women who spoke Truth into my life, and seeking God’s way to “do this”.

Another turning point occurred when Maria and I took “divorce” off the table;   out of our vocabulary, forcing us to look for other options to make our marriage work.  It is on-going.

During the next 20 years of our marriage, we were all in church together, trying to live right. I describe this season as “stepping stones”.  Whether through books, seminars, marriage conferences, sermons, and the Word, the Lord provided “stepping stones” to get us through til the next bump.  And there were many!  The Lord would not let Al or me live a double/secret life.  Each time HE revealed and exposed, and we had to learn to deal with the pain, His way… repentance and forgiveness.  I was also involved in a Bible teaching/speaking ministry during these years. (God has a sense of humor!) I spoke “from the trenches.”

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We are still total opposites in almost every way, but finding more ways to enjoy our time together.  The Lord has led and protected us, even when we did not acknowledge Him.  He has blessed us, our children, and grandchildren beyond our expectations!  We are thankful to have been blessed with tools to help our marriage, including counseling as recently as 15 years ago.

Because of the trauma of my childhood, I also received extensive spiritual warfare counseling and healing in 1998.  This “freedom” ministry was HUGE for me and led me into that work for 7 years at a previous church.  Fifteen years ago, I began to learn that it’s okay to be “different” by God’s design, yet both equally valued by our God; that it’s okay to have an opinion as long as I didn’t expect Al to agree with me on the spot.  I’m learning to pray and give God time to work.

 After almost 45 years of “trying to figure the marriage thing out”, NOW is the most fun and rewarding.  Not in the ways of when we first married, but better.  To quote a passage from the 1992 movie “A River Runs Through It”, the reverend Maclean says as he is walking away from the river, “The Lord blessed us all today, it’s just that He has been particularly good to ME.”  That’s what I feel when I thank Him for His gift to me:  Maria and our life together and our family.  Don’t tell her, but I’m not perfect. (I think she has known that all along).  The Lord has delivered me from drugs, alcohol, addictions, tobacco…you get the picture, throughout which Maria “endured”.

I like to say that I “entertained” myself through those years, because at times I was still very lonely, angry, bitter, harsh, critical and tempted by unhealthy “emotional” friendships.

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My advice to others: realize there IS an “ALMIGHTY GOD” Who loves us and wants to show us the “way” of Life and how to make marriage work.  Draw upon Him. Live in Him.  COMMUNICATE with God and each other; talk AND listen. 

My advice:  let God love on you.  No human being and or “thing” can EVER complete you; not spouse or child. Ever!  KNOW Jesus through His word and by His Holy Spirit.  Learn what pleases the Boss and by His grace and power of His Holy Spirit, do it!  FORGIVE. FORGIVE. FORGIVE.  Let it go. Trust God is Who He says He is.  Get over yourself. Get help! And did I say “forgive”?  For those not saved or walking In obedience to God, PRAY for them and keep praying!  I know we are here sharing with you today because of the prayers of Al’s parents, even when we would have been M-A-D if we’d known they were.  Pray for those in trouble.  God loves them!

Finally, the Lord has blessed our family.  All of our children know the Lord, and all nine grandchildren are being raised in God’s Light and Truth.  Thank You, Lord, for that; I am humbled and thankful because I came dangerously close to missing the last 34 years!  Thank you, Maria, for choosing ME.  Thank You, Lord, for life…YOUR will. YOUR way. Always. 

“Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In ALL your ways acknowledge Him (Lord, I need You.) and He WILL direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

 

1 Comment

  1. by Norma Miller on February 6, 2017  10:21 am Reply

    What a wonderful story if he love and grace of God works in and through human beings who allow His access!

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