I was raised a Christian. I have never knew what it felt like to have no faith.
Touch and Go
My Mom and both Grandmas were great examples of strong Christian women. I went to vacation bible school every summer, but not to church every Sunday. My dad played in a band so my mom was always up really late on Saturday nights waiting for him to come home. It was just too much for her to get all three of us out of bed and to church on time. She still taught me to pray often, rely on my faith for peace and strength, and to love everyone.
When I graduated from high school my grandparents asked me to go to church that Sunday so I could be recognized for that accomplishment. It was the first time I had been in a long time. Then I left for college a few months later. The next February my grandpa had a heart attack and passed away 2 weeks later. I was stunned. Soon after he died, I started going to church with my grandma about once a month. I still made a lot of mistakes, and didn’t let myself grieve for him or lean on God for strength. At the end of that semester of college I had a 0.0 GPA and had given up on school so I moved home.
Sowing and Reaping
I continued to ignore my grief and kept making bad decisions. I only thought about what felt good in the moment, not caring about how those decisions would affect my future. Sin was just that thing that bad people did. I didn’t think of sex outside of marriage as a sin. I was in denial about how my actions were at odds with my faith.
When I was 19, I met Neil and less than six months later I got pregnant. I wasn’t ready for a baby. I remember my grandma telling me that having the baby wasn’t my only option. She didn’t give me a list of choices but she was starting a conversation about what those choices might be. I told her that God had given me a gift and I felt like I couldn’t throw that gift away.
She showed me that day what being a godly woman looks like by showing me compassion and love without judgement. She would have been heartbroken if I had made any other choice, but I knew in that moment she would have loved me no matter what I chose. I thought I was supposed to get married so I did even though I didn’t love him. I knew he did drugs but I thought it was for “fun” on the weekends and that I could overlook it.
The Surprise of Reality
After we moved in together I realized he was an addict and he sold drugs. He cheated on me from the beginning and became verbally abusive. I thought I couldn’t leave the marriage, because I promised, in front of God, that I would stay married . I moved to Louisiana to make an effort to stay married even though I was miserable. Here, I prayed so many times and waited for God to show me what to do. I had been married about a year and a half when one day I asked Neil to buy some groceries so I could cook dinner.
He got so mad and yelled at me saying we couldn’t afford to buy food and stormed out. Pretty soon he came back with a 6-pack of beer. That was the first time I considered divorce but it seemed like too big of a decision to make so quickly. So my mom and brother bought me a plane ticket to visit home for 2 weeks. When I walked into my mom’s house it was like a huge weight was lifted. It was then that I realized that being married to Neil wasn’t God’s path for me from the beginning.
He never intended for me to be married to a man who wasn’t willing to become a godly husband.
I should have listened to Him sooner. My pastor’s wife called me the night before I told Neil I was leaving. She reminded me of Ephesians 6:10-17, about the full armor of God. Knowing I had that armor made me strong and confident.
In that season, I spent time at my parents house before I left Neil. It took two weeks for Kristie to warm up to my brothers and dad. She was only 10 months old and scared of all men, except Forrest.
Forrest was my high school sweetheart and childhood friend and eventually my best friend. He was always the man I loved, but when he left for the Army in the summer before my senior year in high school I was scared and selfish and broke up with him. Even though I broke his heart, he would still come visit me every time he came home on leave.
The day after I left Neil, Forrest unexpectedly came over to visit and as soon as Kristie saw him she held out her arms and wanted him to pick her up. She had never met him before so I was shocked. God sent him to us at the exact moment we needed him.
A New Chapter
He and I got married just over a year later. Forrest was so good to us and loved us the way God intended and I loved him the same way. He became Kristie’s father. Neil wasn’t capable, so God gave her Forrest to fill that void.
Evie was born the day the war in Iraq started and he deployed 3 weeks later. I moved to my mom’s for support about a week later. Forrest was a scout, which basically means he went looking for the enemy so his job was pretty dangerous when he was deployed. I had a lot of anxiety so the doctors would always give me medication. I hated taking it.
Prayer was the only thing that would calm my fears.
The Power of Prayer
I would just stop, take a breath and ask God for help through that moment. My prayers would be for my girls to have peace and feel God’s love and grace. I would pray also that He would wrap His arms around Forrest and his soldiers. After 12 months, he came home.
A few months later we moved to Ft Campbell, KY. He deployed again to Iraq so my brother came to live with me and help with the girls. Kristie was 6 and Evelyn was 3. We lost a friend that time but he came home to us again.
Eventually Forrest deployed again. He went to Afghanistan as a platoon SGT this time. Kristie was 8. Evie was 5. Alia was 6 months. Our dog Scout was about 2 years old and had 9 puppies the day he left. This deployment was hard and came with lots of injuries. One of his soldiers got 3 purple hearts in a 2 week period. 2 of them in one day.
It was hard to lean on my faith because there was so much stress and I wasn’t going to church and relying on God.
Retail and Chaos
I was struggling with Kristie’s behavior. She was angry, getting violent, and cussing a lot. She was so young but I had completely lost control of her. Everyday was such a roller coaster and I was trying to be the strong supportive army wife but I felt like a single mom and was completely falling apart.
I started taking her to a counselor and was praying something would work to help her. It was another pretty stressful day, but I still had to get some things at Wal-Mart. I grabbed a package of 2 toothbrushes: one for Kristie and one for Evie. Kristie didn’t like the colors so she screamed and yelled and cussed all the way from the toothbrush aisle to the garden center cash register. I mostly ignored her until we got in line to check out and that is when she hit her sister. This brought me to get in her face and tell her to never hit her sister again. I could see a woman standing off to the side staring at the situation.
Peace in Chaos
As I finished my transaction I was going over all the ways I could tell her to mind her own business. When I left the register she stopped me and said I was doing a good job in not letting her hit her sister. I was blown away because I was sure she was going to read the discipline of my misbehaving kid as a riot act. Then she asked me if she could pray for us. I almost cried. We stood there just inside the doors of the Wal-Mart garden center while she prayed for us.
God meets us where we are and He stops us in our tracks when we least expect it.
The next day I started going back to church. I began to lean more on God. I drew strength and support from my faith and our new church family. Forrest came home from Afghanistan and we moved to Pittsburg, KS to have a stable home environment for a few years.
I found a church soon after we moved there and kept praying that we would get some answers for about how to help Kristie. I eventually had to put her in a mental hospital for 2 weeks and that is when she was diagnosed bi-polar. She spent another 2 weeks in the hospital the next summer. We struggled with Kristie for 2 more years before she stabilized and things got better. I graduated from college and Forrest was excited to get back to the “real army.”
The “Real Army”
We got orders to Ft Riley, KS and were so excited to finally be moving home. The girls and I moved to my mom’s and I started looking for a house and a job. A few weeks later his orders were changed to Ft Stewart, GA. My heart was broken and I didn’t understand why but I knew it was God’s plan.
We got there in November and Forrest deployed in February to Afghanistan. I remember after I dropped him off thinking, if that was our last kiss, it was a pretty weak one. This almost caused me to go back and get another one but I told myself that it was silly. I cried most of the way home, praying continuously that it would be in God’s plan for Forrest to come home to us.
I found a job I loved in March. In May, Forrest was put in a desk job that he hated, but at least he was mostly safe. He got another platoon about three weeks before he was supposed to come home. He called me on a Friday and he was so happy. It was like his voice was smiling if that makes sense. He said his new guys were doing a really good job.
That Sunday my doorbell rang and I opened it to two men in dress blues. I was speechless.
I was standing in my worst nightmare. He was gone.
Looking back now I can see God had a hand in all of it. Even if Forrest had been on a surgeon’s table instead of in the middle of a firefight, he still couldn’t have survived his injuries. God took him home quick and most likely he didn’t suffer.
The Blessing of Community
I have this image in my head of Jesus standing over him as he laid on the ground with a hand held out saying “Ok let’s go home now.” God provided so many things for us that first few weeks from our Friends, Family, Army Family, the USO, and our local American Legion. People brought blankets for last minute guests, food, and even coats for my kids(it was 70 degrees in Georgia but only 17 degrees in Kansas). There was a man who brought 1400 flags to our hometown to line the highway on both sides from the church to the cemetery. The American Legion supplied 500 more flags and riders to hold them. The list could go on forever. The love shown by so many was so overwhelming.
We moved back to Wamego and remodeled my mom’s basement because I didn’t think I could do it on my own. A contractor volunteered to get it done quick for us and the subcontractors started giving big discounts. A few did the job completely free. By March we had a home. Mom took care of us. Our church took care of us. God took care of us.
The Faithfulness of God
Over the last 3½ years God has provided me with a new home, new friends, and a new church family. I even made a big life decision and decided to go to graduate school. I am so blessed to have all those things, but I still have that strong desire we all have to find someone to spend my life with. In some ways, those deployments prepared me to be a single mom but I still get angry because I have to do it alone. I struggle with being single because it wasn’t a choice or a mistake either of us made that ended our marriage.
One day I was married and the next I was a widow at 34 years old. Recently, I shared this difficult fact with a good friend and I was a little weepy. As the words spilled out I broke down. I told her “It’s not fair; I am supposed to be a wife not single”. These deep concerns will not be understood until I go to heaven, and find out why this happened.
I just have to hold on tight to the truth that my faith will carry me through whatever struggle I am dealing with.
Someone reminded me a few weeks ago that God will provide that man for me when I am supposed to have him. I have to keep walking in the light and not let myself get sucked into the dark idea of what it means to date in our world today, which is not at all easy. I have faith that when the time is right a wonderful godly man will come into my life. It took me close to two years and a lot of mistakes to get to that place.
The World or Freedom?
The world wants us to think that dating and sex go together and there isn’t a way to remove sex from the equation. I had built up walls around my heart, but I met someone that I thought I loved. He manipulated his way into my bed and then into living with me. The longer he lived there the more my joy faded. Then I started to feel convicted that it had to end. It took me about 3 months to finally break things off but when I did it was like that weight on my soul disappeared.
After I asked him to move out it still took a few months to completely end things, but once I made the choice to stop having sex and save myself for the man God chooses for me, everything changed. I have so much peace and joy in my heart.
Once I decided to walk in the light, I saw how truly lonely the dark really is.
I still struggle with that decision when I feel lonely, and second guess myself. The world wants me to believe that dating without sex is not realistic. I just keep reminding myself that God does not want us to be fooled by those lies.
Tragedy to Encouraging Life Change
Since losing my husband, I have had the chance to share my testimony with the women at my church, shared with other widows about how Jesus carried me through my journey, and showed my children how to lean on Him.
In May I sat and cried with a woman I have known since she joined my 1st grade class. Her boyfriend had been murdered 5 days earlier. You never know where God is going to send you or understand why He sent you there, but in that moment I was able to look her in the eyes and tell her I know how she feels, and give her hope that she will survive this. It’s not fair, and if I could have turned down the job of knowing how she felt I would have, but just like He put all those people in my path toward healing, He put me in hers way back in the first grade.
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