Watchin' God Book One - Listed Alphabetically

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"Listed Alphabetically" draft (you can translate it!)


Just wanted to make a note that this book has been updated and retitled as "Watchin' God Book One: Listed Alphabetically -The Prodigal Daughter".   Trust me, the updated version is much better and more organized.  If you don't have the money to buy one, then this will give you the gist of the story, though.  Either way, enjoy!
On this page you can read my entire book.  The first several chapters of the new edition are available here:  http://itsomuchfunwatchingod.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_14.html

 
'Come Home - A Prodigal Daughter's Story'.  (Watchin' God Book One: Listed Alphabetically - The Prodigal Daughter)
The best thing about that is you can translate it into one of a zillion different languages by using the 'translate' drop-down on the right!  I can't promise the translation will be accurate, but it should be halfway accurate.

I would love it if you would leave a comment.  It would seriously make my day to know that someone actually read this. Even better if someone, somewhere were to realize that Jesus paid for their sin - the greatest being unbelief - and is willing to welcome them into His Home!
Thanks!

Is there a way to make separate entries on pages of this blog?  I don't know...  so it's gonna be one long page.  If anyone knows how to make individual posts on a page other than the home page, please let me know!  

To go to a particular chapter, hit Ctrl+f at the same time.  That will bring up a box/bar on the lower left of your screen.  Type in 'Chapter xx' (replace the xx with the chapter number).  



 



page 4 - Copyright

© 2010, 2013 by Nancy C Carlson.  Except as provided by the Copyright Act 1989, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means.  Short excerpts of 300 words or less, for use in reviews, may be used without the prior written permission of the publisher.  Excerpts must list copyright information.

You may contact the author at with comments or for permissions at https://www.facebook.com/pages/N-C-Carlson/137187809674306  or itssomuchfunwatchingod@gmail.com (use the subject line 'Book Comment' or 'Book permission')

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Easy Reading Study Bible, KJVER®, © 2001, 2007, 2010 by Kings Word Press.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.
Emphasis added by author.

page 5 - Dedication

For my sons, that they may know the love of God and Come Home to the Father



page 7 - Thanks

     Special thanks to Connie Streich for being there to help me get this started.  Without her encouragement it would never have happened.  Also to Janice Cluxton for saving my sanity more than once.  To Bev Horner who literally saved my life when I was about to end it. 
    Several other people took the time to read and comment on the many drafts, offering encouragement and suggestions along the way:  Ed Thompson, Lucy St. John, Jen Wunder, Bessie Thompson, Gil D'Armus, Paul Carlson and Linda Derr.  The second edition was inspired by Marianne Plenge, who suggested I take out a few "!!'s", correct a few typos and use better sentence structure.  Kat Savyannah assured me it would be okay to make the changes Marianne suggested without destroying my ‘voice’.  Thanks Kat! 
    I tried not to miss anyone, but it's still possible.  Thanks to all of you.  I never could have done it without you!

page 8 - Table of Contents

Preface     -     13
Disclaimers     -     17
In the Beginning     -     19
I Have Wings!    -     25
Here We Go     -     33
Albert I     -     41
Barney     -     49
Charlie     -     59
Dooley     -     67
Edgar      -     77
Fred     -     83
My Friend     -     97
Just To Be Sure     -     117
Albert II     -     125
George     -     133
What Next?     -     141
What I Learned So Far     -     145
Okay, I Said The Prayer     -     157
The Prayer That Can Send You To Hell     -     163
Paying It Forward     -     173

page 10 - The Ultimate Story of Coming Home

     A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me. And he divided unto them his living. 
    And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave to him.        
    And when he came to himself, he said, "How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before you, and am no more worthy to be called your son: make me as one of your hired servants."
    And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight, and am no more worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:  and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

Luke 15:11-24

page 11 - Scriptural basis for writing the story

This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
Lamentations 3:21

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us.
Romans 5:3-5

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
I Thessalonians 5:14 

(I have the first parts down fairly well, but the last… not so much!)

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
2 Corinthians 1:3, 4

page 13 - Preface

     God has been pestering me to write this story for years so I could tell someone else there is hope. “Who wants to hear it, Lord?  It's a mess.  It can't possibly be anything You want the world to hear.  Look at how I've dragged Your name in the dirt!  Sure, if I put in all the details - and put a fake name on it, and took You out of it - I could make a million dollars.  It would make a good soap opera.  But You don't really want me to tell the world how bad a Christian can get, do You?”
    On January 18, 2007 God said “Why don’t you write it yourself”, in the voice of a nice lady who was taking my phone order at a bookstore.  I was looking for something similar but they didn’t have anything along this line.  The book was her suggestion.  There was no question it needed to be written, and soon.
    I put it off.  “It's too hard, Lord.  It hurts!”
    He sent me a friend to help. 
    What follows is an e-mail conversation with Connie Streich, when the bulk of the story was finished.  She's a gift from God, no doubt about it.  Without her, this never would have been written.

Me:  The thing that boggles my mind is that my friends who have read this don't seem to be disgusted with me. I don't understand that.  I am disgusted with me. 
Connie:  God allowed you to experience ALL that you've experienced in an effort to bring YOU to where you are now - acknowledging His work in your life - therefore - perhaps you should not be disgusted by you (I am not!) and what you've done but rather keep using those experiences to bring others to Christ as well.  Can you honestly say that WITHOUT those experiences you would still be as strong in faith as you are today?  You have personal experiences of God providing for you.  God lets us go down into that pigpen for a purpose you know - not to break us but to strengthen us before He takes us back up out of there again.  And then when we're out - we're more ready to do His will, which is what He wanted in the first place - He just had to get our attention first, and what better way to do that then to allow us to wallow in the pigpen?  You're not taking pride in what you've done but you are letting God's will shine through and sharing that!  And that's what it's all about - sharing Jesus and God, giving others the opportunity to come to faith through your experiences as a real, living, first-person experience rather than just some book people preach at ya.  Yours is NOT “preach at you from a distance” but it's up front and personal!
Me:  To answer your question about my faith being so strong - there is no question it's that way because of all the times I've had to rely on God!!
Connie:  Then you have no right to be disgusted with yourself as that would take away God's glory!  And THAT would be the greater sin!
   
    I finally put this on paper for a divorced, retired preacher friend, who, when I asked where he had been all these years, said “It will sound bad, but most of that time I've been in hell.”  I didn't know what he meant exactly, but I recognized the sound in his voice.   
    And for all the other Christians out there who have “been in hell”.  You are not alone.  You are not the only one who has failed God so miserably.  No matter what you've done, or where you've been, no matter how many of His rules you've broken along the way, or are currently breaking, He thinks you're worth it, even if you don't!  You take the first step to get out of the pigpen and He'll be there to help you take the next.  And the next.  And the next.
    This second edition was written to add some detail to the story so it flows better and to fill in some blanks.  Also, stepping back from the story by a few years, the lessons I’ve learned have become more clear.  Separating medical issues from personal responsibility is a little tricky, but in the end, it must be my responsibility how I acted, and what I learned.     It’s my prayer that if you have read the first edition, or even if you haven’t, you will find this new edition helpful.

With prayers that this will help you,
NC Carlson

page 17 - Disclaimers

     I've tried to be fair to both sides in this story.  Please know that I have tried to portray myself as guilty.  It's no less than the truth.  Most of my problems I caused myself!
    Since this book is about my mistakes, not anyone else’s, I have changed the names of all parties, except Paul, who said I could leave his name in here. Husbands and/or boyfriends will be renamed; same with locations.  Wish me luck trying to keep them straight.  I’m gonna get lost!
    The journey isn't a pretty one, nor one I'm proud of.  Oh! But God...!!!  Why He loves me, why He would say “Come Home,” and be there waiting with open arms is beyond me!  But thank God for His love and the blood of His Son Jesus Christ! 
    Drinking and drugs were not my problem.  This is all about trouble with men, just to warn you ahead of time.    (It’s a G-rated book, though.)
    Read on – knowing that it ends well!

 page 19 - Chapter 1: In The Beginning

     A newspaper editor told me years ago that the best way to start a story is to write  “It was a dark and stormy night” and then get on with the story.  "You can fix the first sentence later," she said.
    Well, it wasn’t a dark and stormy night.  It was actually a sunny day.  I was four.  Two neighbor boys invited me into the bushes on the side of the lonely road across from our house.  They were maybe eight and ten.  There was a wonderful soft cover of moss on the ground.  Lady slippers were in abundance.  The picture isn’t pretty after that.
    My family moved away, and then moved back.  I was ten on another sunny day when those same boys tied me to a tree to “check out my anatomy”. 
    I learned early that males were stronger than me, and trying to resist was futile.  I always knew there was something wrong with boys doing such things to me, but there was no will to resist…
    The first time you are involved in any particular sin, intentional or not, demons and temptations enter your life that will plague you forever if you let them. If you don’t resist, they’ll multiply and the sins will get worse.  I didn’t realize for decades that the Holy Spirit will kick those demons out if you’re His child and you ask Him to!  Thank You Jesus!  And thank You God for Your power!
    Okay, back to the story…

~*~
   
    The summer I was twelve things began to change drastically.  The death of our cousins' parents increased our family of seven by six cousins, making 5 sets of "twins" and one cousin three years older than the rest.
    And I met Jesus.
    It was yet another sunny day.  Instead of being outside playing like most of the kids in the very small northern town of Moose Run, Maine, I was laying on my bed - mattress, really - in my unfinished attic bedroom. In my mind I was having a conversation with the rebel foster boy who lived with a friend's family. 
    It wasn't so much a conversation, as a litany of verses:
    "For God so loved the world"  John 3:16
    "All have sinned" Romans 3:23
    "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord."  Romans 6:23
    "And in hell he lifted up his eyes"  Luke 16:23
    "That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved."  Romans 10:9
    "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!"  excerpts from Romans 8:35, 38, 39 
    "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."  Romans 8:28
    I memorized all those verses, and many more, beginning at the age of seven.
    But I couldn’t remember when I had asked Jesus to save me from my sins.  That "all have sinned" meant me in particular.  No doubt; even by the age of twelve I had lied, stolen at least a candy bar a few years earlier, cheated, wanted something that belonged to someone else, and didn’t put God first in my life.  God is holy, and He cannot allow sin in heaven. I was a sinner, and there was no doubt I would go to hell if Jesus didn’t pay for my sins.  Right then I asked Jesus to save me.
    My mother has a note I wrote in Sunday school when I was ten that says I asked Jesus to save me when I was eight, "the same time as my big brother got saved".  That I couldn’t remember such an event four years after it supposedly took place makes it probable that I was just copying my big brother. 
    Oh, dear reader, please beware of such a testimony of salvation!  Just “saying a prayer” to please or copy someone can be the cause of you going to hell, especially if you think that’s all you need to do because “once saved, always saved”!
    Now that the Holy Spirit was influencing my actions, my citizenship grade went from D to B.  “Doesn’t get along with others” in the fourth grade was no longer an issue.  I spent more time reading, less time being aggravated by people.  Friends who knew me then say I was always concerned about things of God as a teenager.  It never occurred to me that decades later anyone  would recognize or remember the Holy Spirit in me, as did a friend from that era.
    It's been a long journey.  Sometimes I walked with God.  Sometimes I was in the pigpen, when I’m sure decent Christians would rather I hadn't said I was saved.  Sometimes I tried to straddle the fence.  Even when I was living far from God’s standards, I never could ignore Him or deny Him.  Always, God was there; loving me, helping me, chastising me. 
    Always, always, loving me.

page 25 - Chapter 2: I Have Wings

     After graduating from high school, my daddy offered to send me to Bible school in Michigan for a year.  Having made no other plans, I agreed.
    I did enjoy some of the classes; studies of the books of John and James were my favorites.  Piano was a challenge. Old Testament History and Christian Education were not my favorite classes.  I must have stopped attending CE soon after the beginning of the semester, because one of the few times I attended, the instructor asked me who I was and what I was doing in her class.  She couldn’t find me on her class rolls, so I got up and left the room.  I found OT History boring then, but now I love it!
    I kept to myself and didn't have very many friends at school.  Paul, a junior that year, is one of the few friends I recall. At least once he and I went to the lake with my cousin who lived an hour from school.  But that's all Paul and I were - friends.  I  don't even remember when I met him. 
    Three weeks before the end of school, I was practicing piano in a small practice room when I felt someone watching me.  What a surprise to see a casual friend from my home church with his face framed in the window of the door!  He hitchhiked from several states away to come see me.
    I asked someone if he could stay in their dorm for a few days and we spent some time together.  The day before he returned home he asked me to marry him, to my complete surprise.  I told him eighteen was too young.  He insisted I should “stop listening to all those other people,” and do what I wanted.  He was a nice guy, don't get me wrong, but I wasn't interested in getting married.  However, I let him talk me into agreeing.  That was the first of a very long line of such mistakes... 
    When we talked on the phone after he went home there was no excitement, no anticipation.  Being engaged seemed entirely surreal.
    At the end of that year, Paul was going home out East for a week and had another rider along.  I chose going out East in company of Paul and another guy from school over the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with a female dorm mate.  Paul called his parents and asked if I could stay with their family for a week.  What’s one more kid, when there are already eleven?  They said it would be fine.  One of his brothers thought it was really cool that Paul was bringing a girl home.   
    We planned to drive straight through, saving money on separate hotel rooms. 
    With no thought on my part about what my fiancĂ© would think, off the three of us drove, stopping only for gas and food!  Paul and his friend drove most of the way, but eventually they were both tired, so they let me drive. 
    Wouldn't you know it; I was driving when the yellow VW Bug engine blew up!  It wasn't my fault!  Honest!  The engine had just been rebuilt, and for some reason there was an oil leak or something and none of us realized it.
    My story is a little different than Paul's, but that's the nature of memories, I guess.  Recently Paul informed me, rather indignantly, that it was a black Bug!  Said he wouldn't be caught dead driving a yellow one. They remind him of flower decals and peace signs, and that definitely was not his style.  He also doesn't recall me driving when the engine blew up, but it's a safe bet I was, else I wouldn't claim such a disaster in my memory.  Besides, I told him with a smile, it's my story, and I'll tell it how I want.   
    The three of us hitchhiked to the nearest bus station when the car finally stopped running right outside a junky yard in the middle of New York.  We were traveling light and didn’t have much money, but for some reason I had enough babysitting money with me to buy three bus tickets.
    I had a grand time that week out East.  We all visited the local highlights.  Paul and I rode bikes around town.  I have a clear picture in my mind of riding down a white-picket-fence-lined hill listening to a radio, both of us singing “Billy Don’t Be A Hero” at the top of our lungs. 
    I had a grand time that week touring the area and taking lots of pictures. 
    I was eighteen, remember.  It didn't occur to me for a few years that guys didn't bring girls home to visit unless they had plans. For many years, when I thought of that trip I wondered if I broke Paul’s heart. 

~*~

    Next, I headed off to a summer job in Alabama selling cookbooks door to door.  On the way I stopped to surprise my fiancĂ©.  Thankfully, he had enough sense to realize neither one of us were ready to get married.  And I had enough sense to realize the summer job wasn't for me.
     With no job and no plans to be married, that left me wondering what to do next.
    I decided to visit my grandparents in Chicago.  They sent me money for a bus ticket.  Seems to me I got on the wrong bus and was late arriving.  When I left to go to my cousin’s house, I got on the wrong bus, too!  Backwoods country girl… 
    But eventually I did manage to get to my cousin’s.  Her husband was away on a hunting trip in another state, so we hung out being as lazy as possible with her two young kids in the house.   
    I experienced several new things:  dyed my hair, rode a horse bareback, took a city bus and just rode around town - like Shirley Hollister of Grace Livingston Hill's ‘The Enchanted Barn’.  I recall the bus driver stopping to pick me up, not knowing if I was waiting for a bus or not.  He informed me if I wanted the bus to stop, I had to stand closer to the bus stop and look like I was waiting for it, not just hang around the general vicinity.  What did I know?  I'd never done such a thing before!
    One day I was riding my bike past an Army recruiting office and on impulse went in, still having no plans for the future.  I'd just received a letter from home saying my big brother had enlisted in the Army.  Even though we pretty much ignored each other, except when I had money and he didn't, I still subconsciously followed him. 
    After a bit of tracking down the proper paperwork, the recruiter took me to the induction station in downtown Detroit, leaving me to do the required testing and get a physical.  With all the paperwork finished, I was ready to go back to my cousin’s house, since I had signed up for a delayed entry date so I could get the medical records specialist school I wanted.  (Looking back, that position would have been a complete disservice to the patients, since my typing is horrible.)  The last bus back to my cousin’s house was due to leave 30 minutes after the testing was finished.  The sergeant who was responsible for making sure I either got on the bus or to a hotel for the night said the taxi wouldn’t arrive in time to get me to the bus station. 
    I wanted to get home.  I did not want to spend the night at a hotel.  I asked the sergeant how far it was to the bus station, and got directions.  “You get the bus ticket, and I’ll make it to the bus.  I can walk the few blocks and be there in plenty of time” said I, foolhardily. 
    The sergeant looked at me like I had lost all my marbles, but he handed me the ticket.  I did make it to the station on time.  I didn’t consider that a young girl walking alone in downtown Detroit at 5 o’clock in the afternoon wasn’t the brightest thing to do…  I wonder if some would-be attacker saw those angels God has surrounding His kids?  Such stories have been told.

~*~

     Eventually I decided that living at my cousin's house wasn't where I wanted to spend the next 3 months waiting to join the Army, especially with her two young kids. 
    I found a job as a maid at a local motel so I could earn enough money for a plane ticket home.  I'd worked there for all of 3 hours when the lady who was training me in the fine art of making beds and cleaning toilets found out I wasn't planning to stay.  She told the boss, who promptly gave me my pay and sent me on my way.  To this day, I still twist the plastic trash bags tight around the top of the can.
    I'm not sure how I got the money to go home, but I did get there.  The plane was late arriving, and I missed watching my favorite third-baseman in the last farm-league baseball game of the season.  As a “welcome home” surprise, Momma cooked my favorite supper of pot roast, potatoes and carrots.  I missed that, too.

page 33 - Chapter 3: Here We Go Again

Cleaning house is not something I do well or enjoy. What little I earned as a motel housekeeper when I returned home wasn’t enough to recommend the occupation to me for the 3 months before my Army school started.  I went down to the recruiter's office and arranged to leave as soon as possible.  To accommodate my desire to leave immediately, it meant giving up my training as a medical records specialist for the more generic clerk typist.  Only in the Army could I hold either job.  I can type fast, but only if you don't consider how many errors I make.  For that I love computers!  

~*~

    The morning I arrived at Basic Training in Ft. McClellan Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd was rockin' on the radio with "Sweet Home Alabama".
    For some reason all my friends in basic training were lesbians.  I never have figured out why.
    When we went to the field (camping) one of the younger lesbians suggested we share a tent.  Being completely naive (and yes, a lifetime of experience later, I still am), I agreed.
    “Let me show you something you'll enjoy” she said.  I had no idea what she had in mind.  Though she didn’t do much, I must say, she did show me something I enjoyed.  I immediately packed my bags and moved to the big tent with most of the rest of the ladies.  I wanted no part of such a thing as what had just happened!
    That was the only time anyone ever tried anything like that, and I have never pursued the activity.  In retrospect, I can see where a young girl whose first pleasant experience with sex was with another girl could easily assume she must be a lesbian, because she enjoyed it.  Sin, however, usually is enjoyable at first.  Oh, but the cost!  Not worth it, let me tell you!    My up close and personal observation of such relationships much later in life would show me that if the thought was to make life easier by being involved with the same sex to avoid the heartache of being dumped or abused by the opposite sex, it just ain't so.  The jealousy and mistrust is multiplied in a same-sex relationship, because you both now have everyone to be jealous of, not just the opposite sex.  And the physical abuse is no less and maybe worse, from what I've seen.
    Jealousy and mistrust are terrible things.  They frequently lead to violence - either physical or verbal, or both.  And that's not even considering the effects of a same-sex relationship on your conscience, whether you personally consider it a sin or not.  God's laws are written on your heart, and initially your spirit knows the difference.  In my experience with friends and relatives over the years, the emotional effects are devastating.
    Sorry, I didn't mean to get off on a rabbit trail.  
~*~
      
    I'd like to say I didn't get involved with sex until I got married, but that would be a lie.  The first time was the result of pure unsuspecting naivety.
     I frequently hung out in the dayroom of one of the first co-ed barracks in the Army, playing pool and cards with the guys and ladies at my first duty station in Oklahoma.  One night several of us were playing cards, when, upon everyone else heading off to their rooms, two of the guys who live off post asked me if I wanted to go to their house and play more cards.  Not being tired, I agreed.
    How totally stupid!
    Hey, I was nineteen and for some reason didn't even consider that they might have had other plans.  And this was before my head injury, so I can't use that for an excuse...
     Anyway, when the guy discovered that was my first time, he apologized, and said “Go to sleep.”
    I have no explanation for that incident, other than pure naivety.  There was no passion involved, no intention of being in such a position.  He assumed I knew what he had in mind, and acted that way.  I didn't even think to question him.  How could I have been so stupid??  At least he was decent enough to make sure I wasn’t pregnant a month later.  And God was kind enough to have prevented such a catastrophe.

~*~

    A few months later I woke up at 2:36 AM with a cramp in my leg and sat up on the edge of the bottom bunk bed.  Next thing I knew I woke up on the linoleum-covered concrete floor at 5:30 AM laying on my back with a very bad headache.  Best guess - I started to stand up to stretch out my leg and hit my head on the top bunk. My roommate wasn’t in the room that night, so no one was around to help or even notice.
    It was two weeks before my friends, who noticed something was wrong, convinced me to go to the doctor.  When I finally did, the physician’s assistant said I had a “slight concussion - if you get more headaches, take an aspirin.”  A friend I located twenty five years later said I was a basket case. “Totally different person,” he said.  I have no recollection of the personality changes.
    I do remember laughing when that same friend asked me to marry him just a week or so before the head injury.  We had been quite friendly for a while - without ending up in bed - so it’s not like he just walked up to me one day and asked me to marry him as happened when I was in college.
    However, I knew he was on orders for Korea and he didn’t want to go.  My job was such that I could have pulled some strings to possibly get him out of those orders.  I assumed that was his motive.  It’s amazing the things that can flash through your mind in a split second.
    I laughed in his face.  Not a brilliant or kind thing to do.  But it was an instant reaction.  Honest!  I wouldn't have done such a horrible thing otherwise.  Evidently, though, I learned from my previous experience from Bible school about getting married.  
     Until I hit my head.

~*~

    Two weeks later, Albert, one of the guys I hung out with, returned from being on leave for a month.  He asked me to marry him in a make-out session that didn't interest me.  I said “Let me think about it.”  When he invited me to his room to check out his extensive collection of Louis L'Amour books, I agreed.  What was I thinking?!
    Once I was in his room, Albert asked me to spend the night, against every rule in the book, both Army and Bible.  I agreed.  Don’t ask me why.  You can't “think about it” objectively, sleeping next to the guy, even if you weren’t doing anything else!
    The next morning, Sunday, I went to my room to get my Bible that I wanted him to see.  I was reading it  in his room when someone official came to check out what I was doing there, since women weren't supposed to be in the men's rooms.   They were surprised to see me reading my Bible, and left with no reprimand.
    At least I thought to read the Bible to get an answer for such a life-changing event as getting married.  Not that I got the answer from reading the Bible.  I knew the verse in 2 Corinthians 6:14 that said “be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” and considered it in passing.  Albert said he was saved,  so I figured marrying him was okay.
    At some point that morning I said “Sure, okay.  When do you want to get married?”  Just matter-of-factly, like it was a reply to “Do you want to go to a movie?”    Hello-oo!  I was nineteen.  Never gave a serious thought to the question.
    Albert had a silly gleeful gleam in his eye that I didn’t notice at the time.  Sex was what he was after, and since we were now engaged, it didn’t seem quite so wrong to let him talk me into bed.  The conviction of being wrong was there, but thinking “I’m going to marry him, so it’s okay, right?” would lull me into submission.     
    Wrong!  Oh, the price!

~*~

    I began to doubt my salvation around that time because of my sexual sins.  I knew better, but it didn't seem to make any difference. 
    It would be years before I could truly accept that God loved me and would never give me up. He would, however, chastise me severely, thereby proving my relationship as His child.  (Hebrews 12:7)
    By the time I was in the Army, going to church was a rare thing.  No particular place to go.  No transportation.  I'd grown up going to church, even by myself, but I didn't realize how dangerous it was for a Christian to try to live right without the fellowship of a good church.  I missed being in church and was expecting my soon-to-be husband to attend with me. 
    But I was only nineteen and completely clueless...
    By then, being in the Army, I was sure I was “grown up” and could make my own decisions.
    Hmph!  What an excuse, “youth”.

page 41 - Chapter 4  Albert I

After a few months of living with the idea of being married, I tried to end the engagement with Albert, but he said “Well, now is one heck of a time to change your mind.”  I just shut up and did what I was told.  I remember thinking “If he is going to be my husband, I need to learn to do what he says.”
    The problem with that logic is the scriptural injunction for a wife to submit to her husband doesn't start until after he is her husband.  More than once over the years I would let what someone else thought I should do override my good judgment. 
    Six months after Albert and I were married he decided he wanted to go back overseas.  Life was okay the summer we arrived in Italy.  That is to say, I remember things in color and I wasn't obviously depressed. 
    A lonely fifteen-year-old girl went with us everywhere.  I didn't mind, because she kept me from having to be alone with my husband.  Albert didn't mind because ...  well, he didn't mind.
    After school started and the girl wasn’t with us nearly every waking moment, a man I worked with started chasing me.  When I wasn't working, I was writing - to God.  Please forgive me.  Help me to get out of this.  I hate being involved with another man.  Even though there was no physical involvement, my heart was very involved, which is just as bad.  (Matthew 5:28)
    Depression coincided with bouncing off the walls.  Back and forth, up and down, sometimes hourly, frequently at the same time.  It’s very tiring being both depressed and overexcited at the same time.  The depression ruled my emotions and clouded my judgment severely.
    Albert started spending all his time at work or playing sports.  I felt neglected, but he said he did that because I wanted to be left alone.  He was probably correct.     
    At one point, I asked Albert why he married me.  His answer shocked me.  “To get you in bed” he said, without shame.  “But once we were married, I learned to love you and don’t want to lose you.” 
    The “but” didn’t mitigate the first part of the answer.  With shame for falling for the trap, I never forgot it.

~*~

    Eventually, I invited the man who was chasing me home to bed during our lunch break in retaliation for some now-forgotten hurt.  Turns out he had just taken a muscle relaxer though, so nothing much happened.  When he said later that “of course sex was what he was after,” it very nearly devastated me.
    That was the first time I recall thinking about running our sports car into hard immoveable objects on the side of the road.  My plan was to watch for traffic on a very long straight-stretch lined with huge old oak trees.  No traffic being in sight, when the speedometer reached 90 MPH, I would jerk the steering wheel, and my life and the pain would be all over.  The thought that maybe I wouldn’t be killed, only maimed, didn’t stop me thinking about it.
    On at least one occasion, I purposefully watched the speedometer climb steadily to 90 MPH…hands gripping the wheel…heart beating rapidly…I almost, almost jerked the steering wheel.  No room for correction at that speed, unless God intervened, and I was hoping He wouldn't.
    I chickened out.
    Not long after that incident, another man I worked with invited me to go to the market with him on a day we both had off, but our spouses didn't.  It never crossed my mind to think he might have any intentions other than going to the market.
    Lord, what is wrong with me?  How do I get into these situations?
    But I liked this guy.  We talked all the time.      Albert returned to the States early to be closer to his father in South Carolina who was very ill.  I re-enlisted to keep from having to live with him again.  I would go back to military school to learn how to fix survey equipment, and then return overseas after five months at school. 
    Once you're separated by distance, it's easy to stay that way.
    After I re-enlisted and was scheduled to leave several months later my boyfriend simply stopped talking to me.  He said there was no point continuing the romance since I was leaving.  Like we didn't know that all along!  At least he explained his logic to me.  I didn't understand, but it was easier looking myself and God in the face after that.

~*~

    Before I returned to the States, I decided to visit an English-speaking Baptist mission church. Finally being free from illicit relationships, I felt comfortable going to church.  I missed it. Being in church was the only time I felt decent or even close to happy.  It was like being home.  God was there in my heart, and it was the only time I felt at peace with Him or myself. 
    I’m not sure why I didn’t continue attending.  Having friends at church would have helped.  I needed the accountability.  But no one came looking for me, and going to church wasn’t a habit.   
    One Sunday I attended the Protestant chapel services on post.  Services ended, and the sanctuary was being setting up for Catholic services, which are held in the same sanctuary.  When the crucifix was uncovered, my heart stopped.  There was my Jesus, Who had to die for my sins! 
    And there were so many by then.
    I stayed for the Catholic service, never moving from my seat, just looking at that cross with Jesus hanging there for me.  For me... for me…  I was so ashamed of myself…

~*~

    Seeing the pain I’d caused Jesus gave me the strength to be more careful of my behavior.  After that, the parade of men stopped, though I still did stupid things that put me in compromising situations.  For instance, there were two guys I was working with who were in town on business.  They needed a place to stay, and didn’t want to stay at the hotel.  I shared my house with a lady who didn’t want to live in the barracks.  There was room enough for the guys to stay the night without being too crowded.  Ever the one to try to help when I can, I offered to let them stay the night.  My plan was to share my king-sized bed with my roommate and let the guys crash in the living room.  I thought better of it after offering to let them stay, but didn’t know how to get out of it, so they stayed. 
    In the end, I preferred the thought of being accused of sleeping with a man, as opposed to sleeping with a woman – though from the outside looking in, no one would know the difference.  One of the guys was rather friendly with my roommate, so I shared my king-sized waterbed with the other guy. 
    I put my friend in a compromising situation just to make myself feel better?  How totally (you fill in the blank). I’m ashamed to think of it.
    I don’t know what went on in the other room, but I wouldn’t let the guy in my bed mess with me.  We slept as far apart as we could.  At least he respected my wishes.  Not very many men had up to that point.
    He bought me a silver cross necklace before he left town.  He said it fit me.  Given that, perhaps there was a change in my behavior.
    For a while.

page 49 - Chapter 5: Barney 

     When I returned to the States for military school in New Jersey I brought the sports car back with me, of course.  Since I made all the payments on the car except the first one, and Albert used my birthday as an excuse to buy it, I transferred the title to my name.  When Albert arrived on the bus to see me, I felt badly about transferring the title, and gave the car back to him, since it was his ‘baby’.  That left me without one, though.
    While Albert was visiting me at school he got the impression we could work things out in our marriage, but I don't remember having said anything to that effect.
    After he left, the guys at school started chasing me.  Why is that?  There is nothing special about me.  Did I have “easy” written on my forehead?  What?!  No emotional attachment. They just took and I offered no resistance.  Once was out of compassion.  What an excuse.  The devil will supply them as long as we'll accept them!
    After a while, the conviction of the Holy Spirit reached my heart and head.  There was a guy who had no romantic or sexual interest in me, and offered me a ride to church.
    By the end of the service the Spirit had gotten hold of me, and I went up front to the altar.  That's the first time I ever remember doing such a thing.  The preacher, not having seen me there before, asked if I was saved.
    “Yes.”
    “Have you been baptized?”  A good Baptist question, surely.
    “No.”
    So the preacher decided what I needed was baptizing.  He was right, so I agreed, gladly.  It was scheduled for that night, and my friend with the car happily returned with me.
    But that's not why I went to the altar.  I wanted to tell God I was tired of my life, and I wanted to come home.  Sometimes in our effort to help, we get in the way.  I've done it myself.
    After being baptized I changed crowds.  I don’t have much interest in the things women usually talk about, so my friends were mostly men.  Instead of only one or two guys, I was "adopted" by a group of five or six.  There is safety in numbers, I figured.
    Well, maybe not.   Two of them decided they were interested in me.  It was ironic: one guy accused me of flirting with Barney, when it hadn't crossed my mind.  But, since he mentioned it, Barney was a pretty likeable guy.  We spent a bit more time together.  My heart got too involved.
    When my course was finished I tried to arrange my next duty station to be near where Barney was going to be stationed.  The clerk I talked to about my assignment reminded me that the only way they would consider it is if Barney and I were married.  When I explained that to Barney, he asked me to marry him.  I agreed, pending a divorce.   Technically, I didn’t have to go back overseas for a year.  Using that as a reason to change my orders, I requested to stay in the States, ending up fairly close to Barney’s next duty station.
    I took 30 days leave and stayed in a motel with Barney.  Believe it or not, we slept in separate beds.  We bought a house together, planning for a compassionate reassignment once we were married.  We’d have a place already, and with both of us in themilitary, the payments would be no problem.
     Barney moved into the house, and I flew up  from my duty station to see him sometimes.  Months later I got pregnant, having lost the battle of the flesh both of us were fighting.
    In those days a woman could get out of the Army if she was pregnant.  I had to drop out of the early morning company run because my stomach was bouncing around too much and I was afraid I’d be sick.  I filed for a discharge that morning.  It took 6 weeks to actually get the paperwork finished.   I almost cried when I turned in my ID card.
    Barney flew down to drive me home.  The old Volvo I’d acquired wasn’t in the best of shape.
    Not long after making the trip I discovered that the “kick down cable” (accelerator cable) was in such bad condition that just touching it made it disintegrate.  And we drove that car through a blizzard!  Have you ever wondered what an angel looks like?  I’m sure there must have been one riding shotgun.

~*~

    I divorced Albert finally and married Barney before our first son was born.  He was such a beautiful baby!  Looked just like the Gerber baby.  Ladies at the commissary would stop me to comment on how cute he was, and ask if they could take him home with them.  I just smiled and said “you’ll have to stand in line!”  Besides being cute, he was also a very quiet and mellow little thing.
    One afternoon the three of us were out driving around. We were in the neighborhood of the house we had to sell after I got out of the Army.  We accidentally left a special box for a grandfather clock in the basement.  Since we were on orders to move back overseas, I wanted the box.  There was a truck in the driveway, so we stopped and I went to the door.
    A nine-year-old girl answered the door at  2:30 in the afternoon on a school day.  I asked if her mother was home.  No.  Nor her father.  Just her younger sister.  I have no idea why I asked to come in and see what they had done to the place.  But I did, and the nine-year-old agreed.  I walked around the house and picked up the phone receiver to take note of the phone number on the dial so I could call them later to arrange to get the box.  Then we left.
    An hour later, three police officers were knocking on our door insisting that we had to go to the police station with them.  None of the officers would say what the charge was.  I walked out with my three month old son to take him to a friend.  One of the officers questioned my exit, since I didn’t bother to ask.  He evidently wasn’t worried about me escaping, and let me go.  When I returned, after explaining the situation to my surprised friend, my husband and I were escorted to separate police cars.  Barney was in handcuffs, but I wasn’t.  Interesting…
    At the police station an officer from the jurisdiction of the house was called in to arrest me.  The owner of the house, who was involved in our "capture", couldn’t make the arrest.  
    And Happy 25th Birthday.
    In the end, I paid a $75 fine for “trespassing in a private residence” instead of “attempted burglary” that the owner/officer wanted to charge me with.  I was thankful for the other officers involved in the arrest for taking him out of it.
    We never did get the box.
    It was years before I stopped being angry over the total injustice of the situation.  It was stupid of me, but not criminal.  What were the kids doing home alone?  Why did the ….
    Oh, never mind.  It doesn’t matter any longer.  If I’m supposed to have forgiven them, it shouldn’t be making me angry.  So, Lord, help me completely forgive them.

~*~

    We returned to Europe within days of paying the fine.  In Europe, we had a good time going to volksmarches and sightseeing.
    Our second son arrived on a snowy night with just enough gas in the car to get to the hospital and home again.  The doctor didn’t think the baby was in any hurry, and wanted us to go home.  Since all the gas stations were closed at such a late hour, and it was two days before payday (read: broke), we decided to stay.  Good thing, too, because when it was time, it was time!  The doctor almost didn’t arrive in the delivery room before our second baby was born.
    I worked hard at honoring my wedding vows.  I kept myself from getting too interested in a friend of my husband's who seemed so much more interesting, and was generally content to be a wife and mother.
    We didn’t go to church, though Barney also claimed to be a Christian.  We lived “on the economy” in a small local village.  Packing the boys in the car to drive to the chapel on post would have been – normal.  However, going to church was never discussed.  I don’t even know where the chapel was on base.  We were in a foreign country, so going to the local church down the street wasn’t going to be much help.
    I didn’t know of any.  I would rather have gone to church but since that wasn’t happening, I just wrote to God like He was my best friend.

~*~
Barney and I discussed how to pay for a trip home so I could take our two small sons home to attend a family wedding.  The military would pay for our tickets to return to the States, but not for a vacation.   We decided that I would return early and go to school.  In the end, I missed the wedding waiting for the paperwork for the two boys and me to return to the states.  Eventually, the orders and plane tickets arrived.  We stayed with my parents in Maine.
    There was that “separated by distance” thing again.
    I did go back to church with my parents, which was a lifesaver.  God was always there, and He kept me from going crazy many times.  I still talked to Him all the time.  He was, and still is, my very real invisible friend from childhood.
   
~*~
   
    A high school boyfriend showed up to visit me at my parents house, hearing from somewhere that I'd returned to town.  To this day I have no idea how he found out.  When Momma and Daddy left on an extended vacation, he acted like he owned me for old time's sake.  Where was my head?!
    Barney came home from Germany.  I asked for a divorce.  He took our oldest son down south to his next duty station, and left the youngest with me since “he doesn’t know me anyway.”     
    After being emotionally abused by my boyfriend, with threats of physical violence if I didn't toe the line, I decided to leave and rejoin my husband in Louisiana, not having filed for a divorce after all.  I guess I was learning, bit by bit.
    The day after I decided to leave, my cousins got an unexpected payoff from the sale of estate property.  I asked one of them if I could borrow the money to fly south.  It was my first experience with God coming through with exactly what I needed, right on time, when I was ready to get out of the pigpen.
    However, being reunited with Barney wasn't going too well.  He still drank and smoked, and my personality was much stronger than his.  I could push him around any day of the week, which made me have no respect for him.
    Twenty five years later, I can say “strong” is more like “stubborn,” which is nothing more than a polite word for “pride,” which we all know “goes before a fall”.  Not to mention just how close that is to “rebellion.”  And God considers “rebellion as the sin of witchcraft.”     (1 Samuel 15:23)     
    I truly had no concept that Barney loved me so much that he would do anything I wanted. I didn’t feel like I was anything so special.
 

page 59 - Chapter 6: Charlie

Enter my nemesis, Charlie.  I met him at a store shortly after moving to Sunshine, Louisiana with Barney.  It was like something you read about in a fairy tale.  I looked up, and I was hooked.   
    I understand now that if something takes over your life like that, and it's not making you closer to God, it's a “strong hold” that you need to run away from as fast as you can!  (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
   
Charlie asked me to come back to the store for business purposes, and that was a logical request.  However, after the business was transacted, he insisted I come back over and over again.  I'd like to say it was all his idea, but it wasn't.  He had some unknown power over my mind and heart.  He would dictate his wishes and I would comply; sometimes willingly, sometimes only because I said I would, even though I didn't really want to.
    One day Charlie decided he wanted to get me in bed.  He just walked in my house, locking the door behind him, leaving my two young kids in the yard.  For fifteen minutes, as he held me tightly on his lap where he had pulled me, I foolishly tried to make him understand that even though, physically, I wanted the same thing, the answer was still “No!”  I was married, and I planned to stay that way.  What I wanted and what he wanted didn't matter.
    Charlie didn't listen.  He picked me up, tossed me over his shoulder and hauled me, kicking and hitting him, into the bedroom.  I went into the master bathroom to find birth control, and came back to bed.
    He insisted I was willing.  But what would have been the point in staying in the bathroom?  Charlie had already proven he was stronger than me and wasn't going to leave without getting what he came for.  Considering what had already happened, I expected that he would come in to drag me to bed.  What was the use in fighting and scaring the kids to death?  Might as well let him do what he was going to do and get it over with so I could get my children in the house.  The birth control would keep me from getting pregnant.
    To this day Charlie insists it wasn't rape, unless of course, the situation applies to someone else.  Part of me says it was; part of me says it wasn't.  
    The birth control failed.  I ended up pregnant, with no doubt about by whom, since Barney and I slept on our own side of the bed.  Talk about depression!  Later the blood tests proved paternity.
    The doctor suggested I have an abortion because of the severe depression.  There was no way I would even consider such a thing.  First, I loved the man and couldn't imagine killing his child.  Second, the depression would have been made much worse because of such an act, and would have lasted a lifetime.
    About “I loved the man.”  Love?  Lust?  We had little in common, I didn't trust him, had no respect for him because of his actions (and mine) and his business practices, so how could it have been love? It wasn't sexual attraction, really.  It was pure chemistry, I suppose.  But at the time it passed for love.
    Eventually my husband found out I was pregnant - he read one of my journals.  He took the situation fairly well, calling it rape himself, without me having to say it.  We agreed that it would have been pointless to prosecute.  Maybe not right, but pointless.  We were in the South, and I was a Yankee.  Charlie was the son of a respected family who had been in the area for generations.

~*~
      
    As is the nature of a strong hold, I suppose, I continued to see Charlie when he asked me to.  He was very good at forcing me with words to do things I didn't want to do.  When I stumbled across this verse in Proverbs 7:21, calling his actions "rape" became a lot easier:  “With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him.”
    When Barney retired from the Army a job was available in the town where Charlie lived.  We had no plans, so we just took what was offered.
    Mistake.  It was too close to Charlie.  One should always run from temptation, not see how close they can get and still resist.  I fell, kicking and screaming against what I knew to be totally wrong.
    After the baby was born, I started going to church.  Still, after all these years, the only time in my life I felt at peace or at home was in church.
    I was ready to put my heart back into the marriage with Barney.  Then, out of the blue, Charlie showed up in my life again.   My heart went into a tailspin.
    The week between Christmas and New Year's Day I left both Barney and Charlie and went to a shelter with all three boys.  No one at the shelter had suggested welfare, and I wasn’t familiar with the system.  How different things might have been…
    We moved back in with Barney because I didn't like living in a shelter with the kids and had no other place to live.  Within two weeks it became obvious that my marriage to Barney was essentially over.  My husband said he would move back in with his parents in Alabama.  He said he would have the trailer repossessed, because he wasn't going to support some other man.
    Like I had plans to have Charlie move in!  I was through with men at that point.  They were nothing but trouble.  
    Believing Barney, I told him to take the trailer, and better take the kids so they would have a place to live.  That about killed me.  I missed my babies a lot.      Charlie's wife had just left him so he asked me to move in with him.  I had no other place to go, so I took him up on his offer.  Of course, I quit going to church.
    I had forgotten about the plane ticket God supplied a little over a year earlier when I decided to do what was right.  Welfare was out of the question, because Barney had the boys.  Sometimes I  wonder what miracle God would have sent my way if I had given Him the chance.

~*~
Charlie drank worse than my husband. Life was barely tolerable, but it was still a place to live.  Six months later, after convincing Charlie my youngest son was his, we went to Alabama to get him.
    A year later, I finally got tired of living in sin.  I couldn't stand the guilt any longer.  I wanted to get out of the pigpen and go back to my Father's house. 
    A friend arranged for me to live in an old store owned by a family from church.  The one important rule was that no men stay overnight.  Hey no problem.  Why do you think I'm moving??
    Charlie came over that first night, so drunk he passed out on the floor.  He was still lying there about midnight when one of the landlord's children noticed the car.  The landlord and his son-in-law came barging in, picked Charlie up, poured him into his car and sent him home!  Dead drunk!
    I had already weighed the options:  drive Charlie home - but there wasn't enough gas in the car for me to get back home that night and take his car back in the morning - or let him stay passed out until he woke up and left by himself.  Which would be worse, him staying there or me staying at his house?  There was no way I'd let him drive in his condition.  Either way, I was going to be in trouble with the new landlady.      Needless to say, the landlady demanded I leave first thing in the morning.  We ended up back at Charlie's.  Where else could I go?
     It took me a very long time to forgive that landlady, who was the one to insist Charlie drive home in his drunken state.  Only after I met her again decades later and told her about how I had held a grudge against her all those years did I let go of the anger.  She didn't even remember the incident.
    Life at Charlie's was barely tolerable.  I tried to go to church, where I was still a member.  One day a deacon came to my house and informed me that my son was welcome to ride the church bus, but I was not welcome back at church, and had been voted out of the membership.  No one had come to discuss the situation with me, except the lady who arranged for a place for us to move.  For her I was grateful.  Had someone else offered any real help, with compassion and understanding, I'd have been out of Charlie's house so fast!

~*~
    
    Well, so long as it wasn't too far away... 
    My daddy drove for two days to take my son and me back home with him, but in the end I couldn't go.  I would be taking Charlie's son away from him, and I'd have to leave my other two sons hundreds of miles away.  I couldn't do either.
    But I did leave and stay with another friend.  While I was there, I put in an application at the housing projects in Myrtle, 30 miles away from Charlie.  The waiting list was a year. 
    I only stayed for a week or so.  The situation at my friend’s house was too much like living at Charlie’s house, except at my friend’s place I had no right to complain. 
    I moved back in with Charlie.  I guess he must have loved me to let me keep moving out and back in again.  But I didn’t want to be there.
    When I asked the preacher of my former church for help, because I wanted to get out of the sin, I was informed that I got myself into the mess, and neither he nor God were going to help me get out.
    Oh, but he didn't know my God!!                
    One day, I finally got scared.  Charlie's beer started looking good.  When that thought crossed my mind it terrified me, and I got right up from the front stoop we were sitting on and went in to start packing.  I had a tent.  I knew where I could camp, and intended to move out the next day. 
    My two oldest boys were visiting at the time.  I called their dad in Alabama and he came to get them.  One young boy in a tent wouldn't be too bad, but three of them would be too much.


page 67 - Chapter 7: Dooley 

     My belongings were packed; my plan was made to move.  Unexpectedly, I got a call about the housing project in Myrtle.  After only three months on the waiting list, there was an apartment!  I needed money for a deposit, and to pay an outstanding electric bill. 
    That afternoon, my long-overdue income tax return arrived in the mail. It was enough to tithe, cover all moving expenses and get some food while waiting for the welfare check to start.      Thanks Lord!    Before moving, I asked someone at the church in Sunshine for the name of a good church in Myrtle.  I got a list of three churches.
    I hadn't been in my new apartment for more than two weeks when the preacher and another man from one of those churches knocked on my door on a visitation campaign.  They looked shocked when I threw up my hands and exclaimed “WOW! Thanks Lord!”
    When I explained, they arranged with a church member who lived not too far from our apartment to pick us up for church services.
    Life went on.  I lived alone with my son.
    Until the food stamps and welfare arrived we were broke and had very little food.  It never crossed my mind to mention that fact to anyone at church, or to expect any help from them.
    A week or two after we started going to that church the preacher's wife knocked on my door.  She had a bag of groceries.  She said someone had given them two large roasts, and she thought she'd share one with me, adding a few other things.  “Do you need it”, she asked.
    Did I need it?!  God was showing me He would do what He does so well, if I did what He asked – He would take care of me.
    God furnished my apartment with things I found in the dumpster at the apartment complex, since I had no car to haul anything home from the side of the road or other dumpsters.  Someone said my apartment looked like a Greenwich Village apartment.  Just the look I was going for.  Seriously.
    Whatever I needed, God provided.  Little things.  Big things.  Things I wanted, but didn't need.  The way God took care of me amazed me and other people as well.  It amazed me, because I couldn't figure out why He loved me that much.  It amazed other people that God really took time to answer such small prayers and desires.
    Living alone with no job and a young hyper-active child is – rough.  Charlie came over sometimes, but he would never take his son for even 30 minutes so I could have a break.  He would always say that if I’d move back he’d be happy to let me have a break.  But there was no way I’d do it.  I didn’t want to get back in that pigpen.
    While we were living in Mrytle, my son, now 3 years old, was diagnosed with ADHD.  No kidding?  Or maybe he was just a little boy.
     The child psychologist commented that it would be a good idea for me to be evaluated for bipolar - a chemical imbalance of the brain, the doctors say.  And, indeed, that diagnosis was made.  Easily.  Immediately.
    On my first appointment with a counselor she said there was something I needed to know right at the outset:  “You’re not crazy.  You’re not crazy.  You’re not crazy.”  Just like that.  Three times, so maybe it would sink in.

     Of course, I refused to acknowledge the diagnosis or take medication.  That’s typical of the condition, the doctor said.

~*~

    Because Barney was retired from the Army, I had a military ID card, even though we were separated.  There were bus routes to and from the military base to off-post housing complexes for military families.
    Dooley was the driver on the route that stopped at my housing area.  He started to come over to see me after work.  Then he came to church.  We talked about church, about witchcraft as seen from a Christian perspective, he introduced me to Southern Gospel music. 
    It was nice to have company, but Dooley was much younger than me and he drank.  Besides, I was still married, which didn't seem to concern Dooley.  Eventually, he asked me to marry him, and, unaccountably, I agreed. 
    Barney and I were finally divorced after a 4-year separation.
    Against my expressed wishes, Dooley and I ended up in bed before we were married. That was the worst thing he could have done, especially claiming to be a Christian.
    I should have ended the relationship immediately, but I still felt like an engagement was reason enough for me to obey him.  I wanted so badly to obey God and not give up when things got rough.
    We started our marriage with a huge handicap and it was mostly downhill from the first day.  I lived with guilt and anger at the lack of respect Dooley showed me before we were married.  It was made worse because Dooley didn’t consider that it was wrong to sleep together before we were married.
    While we were engaged I explained to Dooley that I tithed as a matter of course.  God gave me everything I had so it all belonged to Him anyway.  Ten percent seemed like such a small thing to me.  I asked if he would continue the practice after we were married.  He agreed.
    After about a year we were suddenly broke all the time.  When I asked Dooley about tithing, he said he had quit and had no intention of starting again.  We were broke, and needed the money, he said.  Never mind that we weren't broke before he stopped tithing!
    Since Dooley refused to give the money to God, I asked him to buy a used car for me.  The payments were about the same as the tithe would have been.  He bought the car, and it lasted for several years.
    At least Dooley went to church with me regularly.  One day in Sunday school the preacher said something that sounded very much like what I'd heard called  “Christian witchcraft” – speaking bad things about your neighbors, and casting “spells” on them thereby. I said as much.  The preacher stopped, looked at me like I was from another planet, and said “I don't believe in witchcraft.”  I guess I should have explained the term as “giving demons ideas about how to cause trouble.”
    The preacher had related a personal experience to me earlier, when dealing with a friend of mine who was being harassed by family who were involved in witchcraft, so I knew he believed in the power and existence of witchcraft.  But I'd made such an unexpected comment that I'm sure the preacher was caught completely off guard.   
    Because of that  statement, my husband decided we would not return to that church.  We visited a few others, but didn’t really like them.   
    A month later, one of the deacons from our former church came to see us.  We had been blackballed from the other churches in our circle unless we would come back to our church and - do what I don't know.  The deacon said if we didn't, we could expect our marriage to fall apart.
    Speaking of Christian witchcraft!   That was a perfect example of what I'd said, and shortly thereafter, our marriage did fall apart.  Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”  Be careful what you say!


~*~
   
 
   One day, being completely disenchanted with Dooley and his lack of spiritual leadership, amongst several other things, I closed my eyes and picked a spot on a map.  A few days later, after he went to work, I loaded up my car and my five-year old son and I headed to Washington state.
    On the way out of town, I stopped to tell Charlie we were leaving.  Out of the clear blue sky I asked Charlie if he wanted to come with us.     He did.  That was a fiasco.  Truly, I hadn't even given it a second's thought.  I have no idea where the words came from!   
    After three weeks and a few unsuccessful stops to look for work and a place to live, we returned to Sunshine.  Charlie and I parted company.   
    While Dooley was enroute to a new assignment in Germany he and I reconciled by phone.  We wouldn't be going to Germany, so my son and I moved into the house Charlie had moved out of, since it was empty and I liked it a lot.
    Life settled into a routine of doing nothing all day.  It's amazing how much of nothing one can do and still not watch TV or get in trouble.  Charlie didn’t come looking for me, either, for which I was thankful.
    Several months later, about 2:30 in the morning a rat landed on my pillow!  I almost passed out getting up to turn on the light.  You know that freight train you're supposed to hear just before you pass out?  I heard it.
    I called the landlord after daybreak.  His idea of pest control was putting rat poisoning in my five-year-old son’s bedroom, where the rats were coming in through a hole in the closet ceiling.  He didn't offer to patch the hole.
    In the end, the landlord and I didn't agree about his method of treating the problem, and he suggested I had three days left on my rent.  “By golly, you're right!” I said.
    That was on my birthday.  Birthdays aren't always my friend... nor 2:30 in the morning.
    I called Dooley in Germany, and then my parents in Maine.  Would it be okay if I moved in with my parents until I could find a place to live in Maine?
    Okay.
    Thinking back, I wish I would have just moved to another house in Myrtle, or better yet, moved to Alabama where my other two boys lived.  Think of the difference it might have made in their lives…  No.  Don’t think.  I can’t go back to change it.  Besides, there is no way I could have afforded to live where they lived.
    I packed and sorted stuff and had a huge yard sale.  I asked God to provide me with enough money to pay my tithe, fix the car, mail boxes of stuff to my parent's house, and have at least $1000 in cash to take with me.  If that didn't happen, I'd stay in the area.  Twelve days later we left with $1250 in cash, everything else being taken care of.
    It looked like God wanted me to leave.  And so did I.    


(posted Oct 11, 2013)
 page 77 - Chapter 8: Edgar

     My son and I arrived in Maine a few days before Thanksgiving.  My parents no longer lived in Moose Run.  They lived even further north!
    Staying at your parents' house with your kids is never an easy thing for anyone involved, especially when there are other siblings in the house under the same circumstances.  Good thing it was a big house.
    After Christmas a family friend called.  She knew of a very small (12'x16') place where we could live in Moose Run, that little backwoods town where I grew up.  The rent was $200 a month. I was getting support from my husband, and could just barely afford $200 without having to work.
    The cabin had electricity, phone, heat, but no water or toilet facilities.  I learned that was pretty standard, and having electricity was a plus for rental cabins in the area.  But it would be mine, and I didn't have to share it with anyone but my son.
    The landlady wanted a 6 month lease.  I talked her into letting me rent for a month first, to see if I could handle such a small place with a six-year-old.

~*~

    Lord, where do these men come from??
    Edgar, a former boyfriend from high school, knocked on my door.  I didn’t know who he was at first, and didn’t know he lived in town.  Someone must have told him I was back.
    Unbeknownst to me, he kicked out his live-in girlfriend and her two teenage children from his tiny trailer so he could invite me over.  My son and I spent a lot of time at Edgar’s place - too much time.
    About the time I decided I'd had enough of more or less living with him, my landlady decided not to rent the cabin any longer.  I would have to move immediately.  I was in shock.  I packed up and moved in with Edgar and his two sons.
    It was in the middle of the winter.  The rental market is tight, and I didn’t have any spare money.  What else could I do?
    It was pure misery.  Edgar didn't want anything to do with God.  His kids tormented my son.  But I didn't know what else to do...   And I forgot yet again how God had taken care of me so many times before.
    I did file for a divorce from Dooley, though.  My third divorce.  I felt terrible.
    Edgar had no faith of his own.  And it was no wonder that he had no respect for my faith in God.  There I was, living with him, not married to him.  How could I expect him to have any respect for my faith, or for me?
    Eventually, when his kids were gone with their grandparents for the summer, Edgar asked me to marry him.  Things were good between us with his kids out of the house, and it sure beat living in sin, so I agreed.

~*~  
   
    That lasted about seven months.  At that time, it was about as close to hell as I could imagine. We were both full of anger – at each other, at life in general, at ourselves.
    One particularly bad day, with the bedroom door closed, my heart and mind almost to the breaking point, I was on my knees beside the bed praying that God would give me strength.  In my heart I could hear God saying “I love you, I love you, I love you!”  I could almost feel His arms around me, comforting me.  That helped a lot.
    But our marriage didn't get any better.  Two weeks before school was out I packed my car, my now seven-year-old son, and what money was left in the bank from the welfare we were collecting, and left the state.
    On the way out of town I checked the oil in the car.  Two quarts low, but the car was still running fine.  Thanks Lord!
    A town in Washington Charlie and I had been to was my destination.  The drive was beautiful, but long.  I drove for days.  Thankfully, it was summer, but traveling with a seven-year-old is still a slow process.
    We arrived on a Saturday night.  I had looked up a church, so we spent the night close by.  At the Memorial Day service at church the next morning the preacher asked all veterans to stand, to honor us in the service.  I was one of only two women veterans there.
    After church, the other lady came over with her husband and we talked for a bit.  On hearing that had no family or friends in the area, they invited me to say with them for a few weeks.
    In my search for a job, I stopped and asked for help from a stranger who was sitting alone in a car in the middle of a parking lot.  Looking back, there is no logical explanation for doing such a thing.
    The man seemed quite shaken with my request for help.  He asked me if I was an angel!  Then it was my turn to be shocked.
    “No, trust me, I’m no angel”, I said.  “Why would you ask?”
    He was a preacher, but had quit the ministry.  Between him and God, my asking him about a job must have touched a chord.  He said he just realized it was time to stop running from God, and my part in that realization was so unexpected that he was sure I must be an angel.
    He gave me directions to a state office, hoping they would be able to help.  They could not, because I didn’t sleep in their jurisdiction the night before.
    I had cash, but couldn't find a place to rent or a job.  Nothing was working.  I made some calls back home and located a place to live.  It wouldn't be quite ready when we arrived, but I could stay with my lifelong friend for a few days.  I thanked our hosts profusely, the husband changed the oil, and we packed up and headed back home.
   
~*~

    Edgar saw me drive into Moose Run.  He followed us to my friend’s house and asked me to come home.  Believing it to be the right thing to do,  I moved back in with my husband.
    We never did discuss anything when I moved back, just took up where we left off like nothing had happened.  The living arrangement lasted about two months before I had to leave or one of us was going to get hurt.  I don’t know who was responsible for the final breakdown of our marriage.
    Shortly after we moved out, Edgar was shacking up with his former girlfriend.  It me took several months to file for a divorce.  Obviously I had every right to one, but I hated to admit failure yet again.  At least this time I had been faithful to the very end.
page 83 - Chapter 9: Fred

     After we moved out of Edgar's place I needed some technical help.  A friend recommended a friend.  How was I to know it would turn out to be another situation like Charlie…?   The difference was that I did not intentionally give Fred any reason to believe his attentions would be welcome since I was in the middle of a divorce and he was married. 
    It was 3 months before Fred walked through my unlocked front door at 5 in the morning, dropping clothes on his way to my bedroom.  His presence in my room was quite a surprise.  I didn't know what to do, and he didn't give me opportunity to question him.  My son was one thin wall away, and I didn’t want to wake him, so I didn’t say anything. 
    No disagreement or fighting is considered consent to some people – Fred included.  Even when I did put up a fight on other occasions, both verbally and physically, he always ignored my wishes.  There isn’t one time I can remember him leaving without getting what he came for, regardless of what I had to say about it or where my son was.  Too often, I didn't even consider arguing about it.
    Sadly, locking the door didn’t make Fred understand that he wasn’t welcome in the middle of the night.  He, like Charlie, used words to force me.  And I allowed it…
    When I allowed Fred to use me without putting a stop to it, my car that Dooley bought broke to the point it would cost too much to fix.  The used car that replaced it also broke.  I was without a car for forty-five days on three separate occasions.  For me, that’s one of the worst possible punishments.  God was not too happy with me…rightfully so.  Eventually I did get another car that lasted for seven years.     
    Seven years.  Seven years of trying to break away.  Seven years of begging God to get me out of town, out of “love” with the man. 
    As with Charlie, I didn't like the way Fred conducted business, didn't respect him.  I don't know what kept me involved.  If it wasn’t love, at least it seemed like the real thing at the time.  At one point I would have married him if he would have agreed to the divorce his wife asked for several times before and after Fred and I became involved.
    When Fred and his wife moved one town south, I moved north. Instead of helping.  That only made it possible for Fred to spend the night at my place, since we no longer lived where we had mutual friends to report back to his wife.  My whereabouts were supposed to be a secret from him, but he found me.
    Eventually I moved back to Moose Run, hoping that would put a halt to things, as it would be too public.
    It didn’t help.  Even though I told him it was over several times by then, he ignored me.  My heart wasn't ready to give him up yet, only my spirit and he knew it and used it.
   
~*~
   
    The summer my son and I moved back to Moose Run I decided to open a small store.  “On the advice of the doc I got me a shop.  I had to have something to do,” as Jimmy Dean sings in Grasshopper MacClain.  The plan was to be too busy to see Fred.  God provided a place for the store and a bit of money to buy merchandise.
     That summer we lived in an old school bus on my daddy's property - no water, no electricity, no phone, no toilet at all, not even an outhouse.  Kinda makes me wonder if we should have moved back after all.
    The store didn't support me, but it supported itself.  I tithed on the amount of money that came in, not the profit, and God honored that.  Every week I was able to increase the stock without spending any of my own money.
    The first summer was good, in terms of mental health.   The second summer - not so much.
    In spite of eventually agreeing to try many different medications over the years, none of them worked.  The depression was debilitating.  There were weeks when my fourteen-year-old son worked more than I did.  He and a friend of his worked for me for free most of the second summer.  The store would have closed without them.
    Realizing that holding a steady job with my medical condition – medicated or not – was unlikely, I was advised by friends to apply for Social Security Disability and also compensation from the Veterans Administration (VA), because the problems started while I was in the military.  In the medical process involved with that paperwork, a neuropsychologist diagnosed me with a severe frontal lobe head injury, caused by the fall in the barracks some 25 years earlier.        
     That diagnosis explained a lot.  The frontal lobe regulates social functioning, and mine was broken!  However, it also gives me an "excuse".  Most acquaintances and relatives refuse to credit the medical issues because it's not something you can see, like a broken leg.  Accountability and medical issues are hard to reconcile. 

~*~

    Life wasn’t always so hard during those years in Moose Run.  Through it all, God still provided for my every need, and many wants. 
    One of the local churches had a location where people could drop off their unwanted stuff, and take home whatever they wanted.  God used that place to provide for my son and me for ten years.  I'm sure He wanted to provide much better things for us, but my sin kept Him from doing it.  Thing is, it also kept my son in poverty.  Our sin definitely affects other people.
    One of my favorite stories involves “manufacturing” money.  I don't remember exactly what the need was, but I told God I needed money for something.  While hanging out at a friend's store, the idea came to me to clean out my purse.  I pulled out an old envelope.  Twenty dollars.  Dug through my wallet.  More money.  Found a money order I forgot to mail, and didn't need to send any longer. 
     Money in this pocket!  Money in that pocket!  All told, it was $125!  Mind you, I was on welfare, and had no spare money.  I still don’t know where all that money came from!  Only God.  No other explanation.
    Another thing.  My son is a good kid.  He doesn't get in trouble, doesn't smoke, drink, chase girls, do drugs.  He even likes Frank Sinatra and Southern Gospel music.  When he was old enough to hang out without a lot of supervision, I didn't worry about him much.  However, sometimes I needed him to come home, but had no way of getting in touch with him.  (This was before cell phones were popular, and we couldn’t have afforded them anyway.)  I would ask God to send my son home.  It was rarely long before he arrived.
    Then there was the car (the one that I had until we left town.)  The transmission started slipping out of gear.  "Lord, You know the situation.  I just bought this old car, I can’t afford to fix it and can't afford payments on something that doesn't run.  What can I do?"  I prayed for the car to get fixed somehow.  Then I pretty much forgot about it.  A few weeks later I realized that the transmission was working fine!  Mechanics tell me there is no way a slipping transmission will fix itself.  I tell them it didn't.  God fixed it!  They have no other explanation.

~*~

     There was a newly formed church in town that I started attending.  One of the founding members suspected the affair between Fred and me, but he didn’t say anything to Fred, me or the preacher.  I wish he would have… 
    I wonder how my life would have been different if someone would have held me accountable for my actions and asked me to stop.   I’d like to think it would have helped.  “Brethern, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you which are spiritual, restore such an one, in the spirit of meekness…”  Galatians 6:1  They had the right to hold me accountable.  That they didn't doesn't justify my actions, though.
    My relationship with Fred was no secret in town, but no one acknowledged it to either of us.  It was a terrible testimony for me, and for the church.  I shouldn't have associated them with myself...but I needed them.  While I was there, I could believe God really did love me; that He knew I hated the hypocrisy of having an affair with a married man, whose wife could have been a great friend except for the situation.
    If the church members knew anything about my private life, they didn’t say anything.   If there was a service at church my son and I were there.  No one there seemed to see the despair or the shame.
    Ah, but God could!  And He was working in  my heart to get me to "come to myself."

~*~
   
    After living in the bus in the summer, we spent the winter in a neighbor's 16'x20' shed with a loft and rooms as well as insulation that I added in the empty building.  The only heat was a kerosene heater that almost killed us when I forgot to clean the wick.  We had to move the next summer when the out-of-state owners decided they wanted it for friends.
    Suddenly we had no place to live at all.  The bus had been returned, since I couldn't pay for it.  God knew I wanted out of the pigpen, but I wasn’t ready to totally give up, so I was still there.  He wasn't going to provide anything much because of my sin.  But He did provide something.
    Only by an act of God did I get credit at a hardware store.  With that, I bought enough material to build a 12'x16', 2-bedroom cabin with a hole in the ceiling for access to the second floor bedrooms.  My daddy let me build the cabin on his property. 
    Two men from church put up the frame after I built the floor on a moveable foundation.  Another friend put on the roof, and I fixed the inside.  The two windows downstairs were old single-pane salvaged windows, and only one sash.  They didn’t open.  The two windows upstairs were double layers of plastic sheeting.  We did have electricity and phone, but no water, and only a donated outhouse beside the cabin with a 5-gallon bucket.  Nothing to brag about, but it was mine.    

~*~   
   
    The effects of the head injury from years ago and the resulting bipolar made working very difficult.  I seemed to be constantly doing stupid things that created so much anxiety and chaos.  Several different medications for bipolar hadn’t helped – as a matter of fact two of them almost killed me.  I'd tried working for other people for short stints; I'd tried working for myself.  With the new five-year lifetime limit for welfare, we would soon be without an income and there was no prospect of money to take care of my son or myself.  The depression nearly overwhelmed me.   
    In such a state I forgot about all the things God had done for me over the years.  I could only remember all the pain, and the sin and the shame, compounded now by sheer desperation.
    Looking back, it seemed God was tired of my sin, and was punishing me, as He should have.  As a matter of fact, I was surprised that God hadn't taken me Home yet.  He'll do that if a Christians drag His name around in the dirt too long.  I was His child, no doubt about it.  The proof was in the many things He had taken away, trying to get my attention, and the pure misery of doing what “everyone else” was doing.
     I was doing plenty of what “everyone else was doing.”  Sleeping with someone you aren't married to is acceptable to most people nowadays, especially where I was living, but I knew better.  Aside from the numerous instances that God says not to "fornicate"the Bible also says in Romans 13:13 that we aren't supposed to be “chambering”, which means “shacking up”. 
    In my soul's eyes I was the most horrible sinner that was ever pardoned by the blood of Jesus Christ!  How could God love me when I had taken such advantage of that love?  Why would He take care of me?  It was no wonder to me that He punished me.  No amount of justification I tried to use would change the reality of my sin.
    My lifelong friend will tell you how much I hated what I was doing.  She had to listen to me rant and berate myself more times than I like to remember.  The guilt was unbearable, and the complete hopelessness of the financial situation compounded the situation. 

~*~
   
    I had been taking vitamins for a while that were supposed to help with depression, but I didn’t see any difference.  I quit taking them and gave them to a friend who lived next door.
    On April 28th, a letter arrived from the SocialSecurity Administration, denying my  claim for disability for what I thought was the last possible time.  Even though every doctor I had been sent to said the problem was "severe but not expected to last 12 months" (five years in a row!) I was deemed not disabled.  That was the last straw in the heavy pack of troubles. 
    At 8:30 the next morning, angry at the injustice of “the system” and completely without hope, I went to my friend’s house next door.  My son and I had the run of the place, so it wouldn’t have been unusual for her to hear me open the kitchen cupboard door. I reached in the cabinet and took out a bottle of her husband’s anti-seizure drugs.  I'd taken that particular drug before for the bipolar, and it almost killed me.  I expected it to finish the job this time. 
     I really wanted to take them.  But the Holy Spirit stopped me.  Thankfully, those vitamins I gave my friend were in the cabinet right beside the medication.  I was at least coherent enough to think for a split second what I was about to do.  Shaking like a leaf, I put the medication back in the cupboard and called my friend who was in another room.  I was hoping she didn't have any idea what I'd almost done.  I wouldn’t bet on that, though.
    By the time she arrived I had the vitamins in my hand.  I asked her how many to take and she said to take what it said on the label.  I was still shaking as I opened the bottle.  When I took the vitamins, the desperation and depression lifted  in about forty five minutes.  No kidding! 
    Thank God and my friend for being there!

~*~
   
    The vitamins eased the depression a lot.  My moods began to stabilize to the point where I could give some serious thought to life and my relationship with Fred.    I discovered that I could request a court hearing regarding the Social Security claim, with a judge, a rehabilitation specialist and a doctor present.  Of course, I requested it.   
    As for Fred, I re-evaluated that too.  He did a lot of work for me. I paid him cash for his material costs and traded labor by sewing for him.  That arrangement was handy, but it made me feel obligated to him, like I wasn’t giving him enough to compensate for his time.  It took me years to realize that sex and gratitude are not love.
    Eventually Fred started accusing me of having another boyfriend.  He heard from several people that I was "cheating" on him.  They were all lies, but he believed them.
    Which was the final straw.  For seven years I had been completely true to one man - an unheard of thing for me - even though he didn't have the right to that commitment - and he refused to believe it.  I really can't blame him, considering my history.    I asked Fred if he believed “them” or me.  He said it depended.  “No,” I said, “it doesn't.  It's them or me.  Period.”  He insisted it depended.  I insisted he get out of my life. 
    No heartache.  No tears.  It was simply over.

page 97 - Chapter 10: My Friend

     God took away things to encourage me to leave the pigpen, and I heard Him.  But it took me getting sick and tired of my sin before I had the gumption to walk out of that pigpen.  And then the blessings multiplied!  Good story coming up.
    Now that Fred was completely out of my life, I considered moving, but didn't know where.  I wanted to move out of the frozen North Country.  However, since nothing was jumping out at me to indicate God had a particular plan, we stayed in Moose Run.
    Meanwhile, my son convinced me he needed a computer and internet “for school”.  That opened up a whole new world!  I got an e-mail address.  My son immediately hooked up to some online game or the next, which was probably why he wanted it in the first place.
    Since I now had a computer and a son who could show me how to find things online, I located my first husband and the former boyfriend whose unexpected marriage proposal I'd turned down when I was nineteen.  I needed a letter about the effects of the head injury I suffered in the military for the VA disability claim I'd filed three years earlier.  They both knew me at the time I fell and hit my head.  I was hoping they could remember something pertinent and would be willing to write a statement.
    The first thing I asked both of them (separately, of course) was if they were married or engaged, or even had a girlfriend who would be upset about them talking to me.  They both denied any such relationship.  I found out later that Albert had a girlfriend of twelve years.  He wouldn’t marry her because “if you were to come back, I’d walk out on her in a heartbeat.”  The former boyfriend had just lost a girlfriend to a violent death.
    Albert and I talked for quite a while, apologizing for our sins against each other.  I didn’t hear from him again for months.    
     Not so my old boyfriend.  We talked for hours about our life since we'd seen each other last.  There were an awful lot of the same kinds of stories.  I told him where I’d been stationed in Italy for three years.  He said he’d passed through that location once. 
    A rather strange thing happened while I was in Italy.  At the base liquor store a delivery truck was loading liquor into the truck instead of taking it out.  I didn't tell my friend about it; he told me!  He was on the base at the time, and the truckload of liquor was being delivered to his company.  They were on their way to a combat zone, and everyone was getting drunk.  It was his first trip into combat and he was really scared.  When he told me about that incident it felt a bit like “fate” that our paths had crossed without either of us knowing it. 
    We talked every day, two and three hours at a time.  He recognized that I needed to get away for a short vacation and offered a plane ticket and a bedroom in his three-bedroom house in Tennessee for a two-week vacation.  I wasn't so sure about having him pay for my ticket, but he insisted, so I accepted his generosity graciously. 
    I was uneasy with the plan to spend two weeks alone in his house with him. We talked about that, too, and agreed that there would be no hanky-panky.  I remembered him well from our younger days, and trusted him.  
    Things were progressing rapidly to a serious state.  Over the phone, he asked me to marry him.  I don’t recall if I agreed or not, but a few days later when I suggested we slow this train down a little, he got angry… I should have paid attention.  
    Looking back, what I should have done was cancel the vacation plans as well as the phone calls, but my friend had already paid for the tickets, and he would have been out all that money.   And I was really looking forward to the trip to see him as well as doing some scouting for a place to live until such time as we decided to get married.
    I began to make plans to move, no matter if the relationship went any further or not.   It was just time to move.  Life wasn't going to get any better where I was living.  In a few months I expected enough money to leave the state, if I spent it wisely.
    I had a small cottage business with supplies that I could take with me, but didn't really want to.  After making 150 or so shirts, you tend to get tired of it, ya know?  A lady from church was looking for a way to make a few extra dollars, and shirt-making generated decent spending money.  The lady was an accomplished seamstress, so she bought my supplies, which gave me a few hundred dollars toward travel expenses.
    She suggested I use the money to pay for a hotel while I was visiting my friend, and I should have.  Even though my friend and I were both committed to the idea of staying out of bed, we were both lonely adults.  It was very difficult and created a lot of tension.
    I should have remembered 2 Corinthians 10:12, 13 – “Wherefore let him that think he stands take heed, lest he fall (into temptation)” - and used the money from my business to escape from the temptation, not create it.  Because we thought we could handle the temptation and I stayed with my friend, it probably altered the outcome of the trip.  Under no circumstances would I recommend anyone else doing that.  You may be able to handle it, but you may not.  It’s not worth the risk.
    My friend and I were so much alike I think he found it very disconcerting.  Not so much for me.  I found it refreshing that a man could actually finish my sentences for me; one who could ask me a question, and if I didn't tell him exactly what I was thinking because I didn't think he really wanted to hear it, he'd call me on it and tell me what I was really thinking.  Up until then there hadn't been a single person I’d known who truly understood how I thought and felt.  They all insisted they did, but usually it was totally opposite of the truth.  Not so this guy.
    But my friend had been through too much in the military.  For some reason he perceived me as a threat, and treated me as such after a while.   When I called to let him know I arrived home safely, he said I was “too crazy for him” and broke the engagement over the phone.  He was willing to help us if necessary when we moved down there, but that was all.
    Still, I moved hundreds of miles away from home to a town close to my friend in Tennessee.  And that's a story!  Hang on for the ride.

~*~
   
    Daddy had a faded “For Sale” sign on the property where I'd built the cabin.  Shortly before my son and I left the state I heard of a guy who was looking to buy property.  I called daddy to see if he was still interested in selling.  He was, so I told the guy about it.  I asked him if he was interested in buying my cabin, also.  He wasn't, so I tried to sell it to be moved.  No luck.  I left it there, with a lot of stuff I couldn't take on the plane.  The buyer would just inherit a furnished cabin.  What else could I do?
    About a week before we moved, I called the legal representative who was working with my VA disability case and was representing me at a hearing to determine my eligibility.  He had no information as to when my hearing would be.  I told him I was moving out of state, but would keep in touch, and would pray I had the money to come back up for the hearing.  I gave him my friend's phone number and address to contact me if he heard anything about the hearing before I had an address of my own.    
     My son and I arrived in Tennessee on Thursday night.  I rented a car at the airport and we drove past my friend’s house.  I suppose I should have called to let him know we had arrived safely instead of driving over, but I needed some physical point of reference to get my bearings.                         
    I didn’t expect him to be home, actually.  He was supposed to have a date that night (I suspected so he would have an excuse not to meet us at the airport as he originally offered) but he was feeling poorly and stayed home.  (I also suspect he knew I’d drive past his house, and he really did want to be there, but his macho attitude wouldn’t allow him to acknowledge that.  His reaction to an event a few months later tends to support that thought – in my mind at least.)
    When he answered the door he had his rifle beside the door.  He said it had been pointed at me when he saw me in his yard, and he would have used it, except my son was in the car. (And I’m the one only one who was too crazy?!)
    My son and I left and looked for a motel in the vicinity as originally planned, since it was getting late.  The next morning we had an appointment to go see about a boarding house downtown that I found online before we left Maine.  Since I was a romantic teenager I'd wanted to live in a boarding house - just like the down-and-out heroines of those Grace Livingston Hill romance novels I used to read.  I guess I’m just a silly romantic at heart, huh?    
    The boarding house didn't look very inviting on the outside.  There was trash in the yard and the place was a ramshackle, rickety mess.  Next door was
a rescue mission.  It seemed a good idea to talk to the staff and get their opinion on the boarding house.
    Their opinion wasn't good.  The director called a motel for me and arranged a discount rate for a week.    
    Thanks Lord!  That gave me time to look for a better place to live and a job.
    The next day I headed to Gunner. My friend worked there, and even though he wasn't speaking to me by then, it felt better knowing that at least I knew someone in town.  I didn't find the town very interesting, but stuck to that location to putter around for a few days, looking for a job, a place to live and a vehicle.
    Remembering the trouble I had in Washington finding a place to live without a job, I concentrated on a job first.   Kentucky Fried Chicken hired me as an assistant manager.  They were impressed that I had owned my own store for two summers.  That was on a Wednesday.  I was to start on Monday.
    Later that morning I found an apartment.  The rent was more than my son's Social Security check he got from his disabled father, but with a job we'd make it.      
    After a bit of searching and spending $100 to have it inspected, I located a $1500 car the next day.  Since my debit card only allowed me to get $500 a day, I gave the salesman $100 and said I'd be back in three days with the rest.
    That night, Thursday, I got the feeling I should call the representative who was handling my VA case to ask him if he knew anything more about the hearing.  There was no reason he would have since I hadn't heard anything from my friend to indicate I needed to call the VA representative back home.
    Well, don't you know that sometimes I pay attention when God tells me something.  The legal representative said my hearing was scheduled for the following Tuesday!  The letter was sent to my former address, arriving probably the day after we left the state.  If I hadn't called, I would have missed the hearing!
    I had enough money in the bank to pay the rent on the new apartment for a month , buy a round-trip ticket to go to the hearing and spend a few days getting stuff from my old cabin that I couldn't bring with me when we left.  If I had been able to get the money for the car all in one day, I wouldn't have been able to go back for the hearing!  God's timing is perfect.              
    But the job at Kentucky Fried Chicken wouldn't be there when I got back.
    Well, Lord, You had me call to see about the hearing when there was no reason to do so; You kept me from buying a car when I was going to need the money to go back for the hearing; so I'm sure You will provide some way for me to pay the rent.  At least I have a month to find something.
    I left my sixteen-year-old son at the apartment with the promise from my friend to keep an eye on him by phone if nothing else.  He agreed to check on him every day after work, and take him to his house on the weekend.  I knew my friend would help me when he could even if he didn't want to be romantically involved with me.  He's an honorable man.
    When I arrived for the hearing back in Maine, the rating officer said it was an open and shut case.  The head injury was all over my military records.  No problem.
    But the medical problem I was hoping to have them rate was bipolar, caused by the head injury.  That would take me back four years in pay.  When I originally filed, I knew nothing about a head injury and had only added it to the case a year prior to the hearing.  If the case was rated on the head injury, the back pay would only be a little more than a year.        Well, Lord, You know what You're doing.  You've always taken care of me, if I would trust You.  I'm sure You'll do what's best for me, so I'll trust You this time, too.
     When the hearing officer offered me 70% based on the head injury, he said I would have to go back to the psychiatrist. They'd let me know when the appointment was scheduled.  I told him I'd just moved out of state, and came back for the hearing.  I wouldn't be able to go to another appointment there.
    “Okay.  Did you like the psychiatrist you saw when you filed the claim four years ago?”
    “I did.”
    “Good.  We'll just send the file back to him.”
    Now, I was thinking that could be a good thing.  That psychiatrist told me four years ago if I could prove the bipolar started when I was in the military he would give me 100% in a heartbeat.
    I'd tried for all those four years to find someone who could verify that.  No one could.  My first husband sent three letters that I never received.  My friend only knew about the head injury, not its effects, though he did write a letter for me.  
    Out of desperation, I asked a life-long friend to write a letter.  She had seen me just two weeks before the head injury, and could verify that I hadn't even so much as mentioned the man I agreed to marry a month later.  She could also say what I was like now as compared to before the injury.  I didn't know if it would do any good, because the VA raters prefer military friends and co-workers, but I turned it in with the rest of the paperwork at the hearing.
    I asked God to get me the 100% if He didn't mind.  That way I wouldn't have to work and would have time and enough money to do and go and give whatever He wanted from me.

~*~

    When I arrived back at my new home in Tennessee I had no idea what we would do for food.  We had a little, but not much.  At least the rent was paid for a month.
    The Saturday I returned I found a little Baptist church three quarters of a mile away from the apartment.  There were a few guys working there, so I talked to them about the church.  It sounded like something we might be interested in, so the next morning my son and I walked to church.
    Less than a block from the apartment was a Methodist church with homecoming that morning.  “Homecoming” at any church in the South means food, and we didn't have much, and hadn't eaten breakfast and probably not supper the night before.
    I suggested we could save ourselves the walk and go to church there that morning.  My son looked at me like I'd lost all my marbles.
    “MO-om!  That's a United Methodist Church!  We are Independent Baptists.”  (The things kids pick up when you don't think they're listening!)
    “Okay,” I said with a deep sigh. “Let's go to the Baptist church,” as I kept walking that three quarters of a mile in my high-heeled shoes.
    Though I hadn't attended church much over the years, there are still several doctrines I look for in a church.  Between two services on Sunday and the Wednesday night service, the preacher touched on them all in passing.  I was sure that was where God had in mind for us to attend church.  We both enjoyed the services.

~*~
   
    One night I was about to leave for  a Ladies meeting at church when my friend called.   What he asked I dearly wanted to agree to.  The thought crossed my mind “How will I explain a weekend away to my friends at church?”  God somehow gave me the strength to say “no”, even though I told my friend I really wanted to agree to his offer.  And being the honorable man he is, my friend didn't push.  To my dying day he will have my respect.
    I left the house on my way to that Ladies meeting walking on clouds.  God had given me victory in a huge battle with the sin that so easily besets me!  Being involved in church, reading my Bible every day and maintaining accountability was a huge help.
    Thanks Lord!

~*~
     A few weeks later there was a privacy issue involving my friend and the apartment manager. I started to leave the apartment to go talk to her about it, but first a phone call and then a knock on the door kept me from getting out the door. Finally, the third try, I managed to head out to have that talk with the apartment manager.  
    I was about halfway to the office when I saw the preacher's wife drive up.  She had a strange look on her face.  She also had bags of groceries for us.  She said she'd argued with God about bringing us food.  She had no idea which apartment I lived in, so how was she going to get the stuff to me?  She'd argued about taking me anything at all, because I hadn't said I needed help and she didn't want to offend me by bringing food, like I was poor or something.  Amazing the excuses we use to ignore God.
    Well, don't you know, I was thrilled to death to see her.  God had done it again!  She found me against all odds, and we got food we desperately needed.
    Through circumstances, God kept me from a potentially unpleasant confrontation with the apartment manager.  It seemed God didn't want me to talk to her, considering the trouble I had when I tried.  We never did have that conversation.  Thanks again, Lord.  On both accounts.
   
~*~
    I still need a job, Lord.    
    A few days after making that request of God,my son and I were walking downtown and saw a Kirby store. Now, we both love Kirby vacuum cleaners.  We went in just to see what there was to see.  The owner and I discussed the merits of their product over other brands.  She offered me a job as a telemarketer, beginning that night.
    I told her I'd be happy to have the job, but I didn't work on Wednesday nights, as I needed to go to church.  She agreed.  WOW, Lord!  How unusual is that?  They were closed on Sunday, so that wasn't a problem.
    It wasn't much for pay, and only twenty four hours a week, but it would be enough to tithe, pay the rest of the rent my son’s check wouldn't cover and pay the utilities, with just a bit left over for food.
    So, now we had a church and I had a job I could walk to.  The grocery store was literally out the back door.  Still no car, but we didn't need one, and couldn't have afforded one.  God was working overtime taking care of me, giving me only what we needed, and not burdening me with things we didn't.
    After a while there were things going on at work I didn't feel were being done in a very ethical manner, but I needed the job.  I really didn't want to have to tell the boss lady I didn't think they were doing things the way I felt they should be done.  It wasn’t my place.  I asked God to show me what He wanted me to do.
    One night the other woman who worked with me decided I wasn't doing my job, so she called the boss to “come in and make me get to work.”
    Now, one does not have to be overly energetic to dial phone numbers no one answers.  Trust me; I was working as hard as she was.  She was making contact; I was only getting answering machines, and we weren't supposed to leave messages.
    When the boss arrived and heard the other lady's story, she asked me privately what was going on.  I told her working with that lady wasn't going to work, and I quit right then and there.
    She understood, I think, because another lady had already quit for the same reason.  And I didn't have to say anything about ethics.
    But now I had no job and the rent was due.    When I explained the situation to our new apartment manager, he said he understood my situation;  he was very sorry but he could only give me twenty days to pay the rent.  After that I'd have twenty four hours to move.
    Help Lord…  
    No one at church knew about the money situation.  I'm not even sure I told my son about the possible eviction.
     A week later, on the second of the month, I got a call from the legal representative for my VA disability case.  He said it had been approved - at 100% on the bipolar!
    That would be one very large chunk of change!  The back pay would commence from the filing date four years prior.  If it had been approved on the head injury that would have only given me seventeen months of back pay, because that’s when that diagnosis was made and I had added it to my VA claim.
    “Thanks Lord!” I shouted.  The man on the phone probably thought the award was well-deserved!
    Moving out of state had been a good thing.  If we hadn't moved, there is no telling which psychiatrist I would have seen.  Granted, God could have arranged it to be the same one, and in effect He had when we moved.
    Not that I had any idea when the money would arrive.  This is the government we're talking about.  It could be months.
    So, the countdown to being evicted began.  I didn't really look for a job because I was under the impression that if I got 100% I wouldn't be allowed to work (which years later I found not to be the case).  What would be the point in getting a job only to have to quit when the disability started?  If I managed to find a job within a week, I wouldn't get my first paycheck before the rent was due, anyway.
    I paid the utility bills and bought food with what money we had and saved as much as I could.  The rent had to be paid in full, no partial payments allowed.
    I waited and prayed.  I don't remember worrying, though.  I'd seen God work so many miracles since moving there that I didn't even begin packing to move, or arranging for help if I needed it.  I just knew God was going to come through for me.  I did wonder what I’d do with all our stuff if He had other plans for me.  The sidewalk outside the apartment would be pretty full of stuff.
    On the morning of the 20th I walked to the mailbox, hoping the check would be there.
    No check.
     I was finally beginning to wonder what was going to happen next and began looking at our possessions in terms of what we would be able to keep, wondering where we would go.  I didn't even consider asking my friend.
    My daddy called in the early afternoon of the 20th, just three hours before the rent had to be paid, or we'd be out on the street the next day. 
    "The man who is buying my property also wants to buy your cabin.  He just sent half the money for your cabin.  Where would you like me to send it?”
    “Wire it to my bank here, please!  Now!”  For the first time, I explained the situation.
    Eventually the money from the VA did come in the mail.  In the meanwhile, God changed the heart of a buyer and the money daddy sent paid the bills.
    God had done it again!
 
page 117 - Chapter 11: Just To Be Sure

     We had been attending that little Baptist church for two months.  The preacher regularly ended each service with old-fashioned altar calls.  For years, altar calls made me wonder if I was truly saved.  The external “Christian” evidence was missing because of the outrageous sin; but the extreme difficulties in my life and the intense emotional and spiritual misery over things that the world considered acceptable were proof of my salvation.      However, my heart wasn't sure.    
    One Sunday morning, January 7, 2001, the preacher stood up there at the altar call, saying “I know there's someone in here that needs to get it settled.  I can feel it.”  I wanted so badly to walk up to the preacher, who thought I was saved and one of the most spiritual people in his church (he said that, I'm not making it up) and tell him I wasn't sure.
    I chickened out.
    I went home and wrote this:
    Today at church God was whispering to me again.  No, actually, He was shouting.  For long over a year I have been unsure of my salvation.  I keep feeling the Spirit telling me I need to get saved.  I keep feeling this burning in my soul when someone says they thought they were saved, and discovered they weren't.
    I talked to the preacher for a few minutes after church, and said I wasn't sure.  He tried to convince me I was.  It's a usual thing to do.
    “When did you ask God to save you?”
    “In my room when I was 12.”
    "Well, God was convicting you, wasn't he?”
    “I don't know.  I was going over in my mind how to present the gospel to someone else, and I realized I couldn't remember when I had done it myself.  So I asked God to save me."
    “Then you must be saved,” he said.  “The Bible says you are.”  He started to quote some verses.  I said I could show him all those verses and then some.    I have the knowledge.  I have plenty of knowledge.  He's seen it; his son, his wife, they've commented on it.  But is it only knowledge?
    Then the preacher said the natural man cannot understand the things of God, and if I do, it must be from the Holy Spirit.  And “The Spirit bears witness one with another.”  He said he can feel the Spirit in me.  (Since I've been here there have been two ladies saved.  I remember watching then during church, thinking they weren't.  I didn't know they said they were.)
    So, if all that is true, WHY DON'T I FEEL SAVED????
    I don't trust the knowledge.  I have asked God to give me some peace about it.  I have looked up every verse I can find.  They all say I'm saved.  The very Word of God says I'm saved.  But how do I reconcile that with the preacher saying at the invitation that if you feel the Holy Spirit convicting you, it's not the devil telling you that you're not saved.  It's God.  He said maybe you've said the words before, but they were only words.
    A year ago when I ran into an old friend who always thought she was saved, but couldn’t understand why she didn’t “get” the scriptural logic of her husband and friends at church.  One day at church the Holy Spirit convicted her so badly of her lost condition that she went down to the altar right in the middle of the sermon and said she needed to get saved!  Suddenly, spiritual things made sense to her.  I keep hearing that, keep reading that, keep finding more and more people who will tell you the same thing: they thought they were saved because they said some prayer, or attended church since they were a kid, or some other thing they had done.  And that burning in my body at some invitations keeps making me question my salvation.  The white-knuckled standing there, refusing to give in to the pride, to admit to the rest of the church that maybe I've only been saying the words, keeps gripping me in the heart and soul.
    I keep saying that once you're saved, you're always saved (which is true).  That to doubt it is to call God a liar.  To ask God to save me over and over is to say that God is not only a liar, but that the death of Jesus, His sin offering, wasn't enough.  I dare not call God a liar.  So I won't say the words again, won’t ask God to save me again, lest I am guilty of calling God a liar.
    But actually, I'm too proud to stand up and admit I might have been wrong all this time, because everybody thinks I'm already saved.
    I know the words.  I know the way.  I can tell you when I first said the words.  I can even tell you when I got baptized.  For a while, every so many years, I've managed to live like I believed what I say.  And since I got baptized I've definitely grown in the knowledge of the Word of God.
    I've wandered far away from God, and I want to come home.  I keep trying to do it on my own.  I even try to do it with God's help.  I always fall again.  And again.
    Saying “No” when I wanted so badly to say “YES!!” to an offer of raw lust in November is the first time I've been able to stand in the face of the particular temptation that always seems to get to me.  (And I'm so very thankful I said “no”!)
     There are people who would disagree with me that I don't reflect Christ.  They think I have wisdom, and faith, and spirituality, despite what they know of my private life.  I don't feel like I have any of those things.
    Is that is?  I don't FEEL like I'm saved?  But being saved isn't a feeling.  It's a fact.  It's an act of the will.  To make my feelings more important than what God says… is pride and sin. 
    So we're back to the pride thing again.  Jesus paid the price for my sin, I accepted it, and I can't lose it, whether I FEEL like I have it or not.   
    For several weeks God has been telling me I need to stand up when the opportunity presents itself in the service and share some of the stories I have of how He takes care of me.  I keep refusing to do it.  “I'm chicken.  I'll mess it up.  I'll talk too much.  Next time, Lord.  After this person, Lord.”
    Tonight, this night, January 7, 2001, if I don't go to the altar and admit I'm not sure, I'll wonder why God lets me continue to live.  He has given me every chance.  He has saved me from so many near-death experiences. He has taken care of me, sent me to this church where they don't look down on you as a hypocrite if you claim to be saved, and then realize you aren't; but rather they rejoice with you that you have the guts to admit it.  God has me here for a reason and I know it. I need peace, and I can get it here.  It's the pride that won't let me do anything about it.    Oh, but I want to come home.  I've wandered so far away from You Lord.  I've been on this path far too long... I'm coming home.

~*~
   
    That night I was the first one at the altar.  The only one for all I know.  The preacher's wife came to talk to me, but said she didn't know what to say that I couldn't already quote to her.  I knew all about the sacrifice Jesus made by dying on the cross for me, about His resurrection three days later to prove He is God and can save me.
    My heart was crying “Lord, according to your Word, I'm saved, but my heart condemns me.  Look at my life!  How could it be true?”  All I managed to say out loud was “Lord, I'm tired of playing games.  Just save me!”
    According to Scripture, I was already saved, just not living like it.  However, I didn’t walk away from the sin.  I wasn’t ready to give up control of my life.  Some people say it was unnecessary, asking again, or a slap in God's face for doubting.  Some even say that's when I got saved.  Regardless, the fact is the peace of God has driven away the doubt since that day, with one exception (story later).  I have a time and date I can write on the calendar, and it helps when the devil tries to tell me I'm not saved, not worth saving, that I've done too much, gone too far, that God will never save me if He hasn’t already.     If there is any doubt in your heart, if confessing your sins to God when you're under conviction for the sin in your life and getting out of the sin doesn’t help with the doubts, far better to publicly admit it and ask again.  Then you will know that you know that you know.  Don’t let pride, or someone else’s opinion of your salvation, get in your way, and risk not being saved and on your way to hell.
    (Please make sure to read the chapter at the end titled ‘Okay, I Said The Prayer, But How Do I Know I’m Saved?’)
    Letting someone talk you into “rededicating your life to God” instead of accepting God’s salvation if that’s what you think you need to do, is also dangerous.  You can’t “rededicate” yourself to something you don’t possess.  Follow the Spirit of God that is speaking to you!  
    No matter how many times you say the words, remember, God knows if you're serious.  I'd asked God to “save me if I'm not saved” more times than I can count.  But it wasn't the same as going up to the altar and telling someone else that I wasn't sure I was saved.  There's something about going public that makes the assurance stick in your heart and mind.
 
page 125 - Chapter 12: Albert II 

     Albert called to wish me a Happy New Year, and then he called several times a week.  After a short reunion, he asked me to marry him.  Knowing what I knew about him from the old days, I asked if he was saved now.  I may have said “a Christian.”  He said he “didn't consider himself a Christian.”  That should have been a huge red flag, but it was romantic so I wasn't paying too much attention.
    To remarry Albert was in direct violation of two points:  if you get divorced and remarried, you cannot go back to your former spouse.  (Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife; if she has remarried.  (Deuteronomy 24:4) There is also the quintessential Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.  (2 Corinthians 6:14)
    Ah, but the romance of remarrying your husband who had “waited twenty one years for me to return!”  (Not.  You don't want to hear the stories he told me about his dalliances while he “waited.”)
    While I was reading my Bible one day Hosea 2:9 stood out - “I will return to my former husband”.  The devil will use Scripture to cause you to fall if he can.  Keep that in mind and search the scriptures to see if what you are hearing is accurate.  Better yet, have a "multitude of counselors" who will keep you on the straight and narrow.  I rarely have close girlfriends, or friends who will tell me I'm wrong.  That's a problem.
    Albert and I were married in that little Baptist church in Tennessee.  I arranged it for a Wednesday night, partly because I didn’t know if any of his family or his best man might be saved, and I wanted them to hear the gospel, and partly so all the church members would be able to attend.  I didn’t have any family at the wedding except two of my sons, so the church was my family.  It was nice.  (I didn’t invite my friend who lived close by, but a mutual friend from church told him about it the next day.  I hear he turned kinda white and shaky… made me feel a little better, like he unwillingly admitted he had been wrong.)
    Albert wasn’t much different than when I’d married him the first time.  We had no counseling before we remarried, and didn’t even discuss what we would do differently this time.  That was pretty – stupid.
    Not to say I was perfect, by any stretch of the imagination.   It took me a while to really get over my friend.  I shouldn't have married Albert until my heart was truly free.
    We moved up to South Dakota, where Albert lived.  He attended church with me like he’d always done it.  It was accepted that he was saved, since he said he was, though his description of when he was saved went something like “I’ve always been saved, I guess.”
    Evidently when he was a kid he had quite a scare, and promised God he’d do right if God would get him out of the situation…  No salvation there.  No conviction, no acknowledgment of sin, no acceptance of the payment Jesus made on the cross.  He couldn’t carry on a conversation about anything spiritual in nature without changing the subject ever so subtly.  He didn’t seem to understand the spiritual side of a subject.  But hey, he was in church with me, so he and everyone else accepted that he was saved.

~*~
     A new hearing for Social Security Disability was finally set.  Even after sending in the required paperwork that showed I was now collecting VA Disability and received too much money to be eligible for the Social Security program, and that I’d moved from Maine, I was requested to attend the hearing.   Lest there be some backlash over not complying, I went. 
    Besides the judge, there was a vocational rehab representative and a psychiatrist that I hadn't seen before. The psychiatrist and vocational rehab gentlemen both agreed that I was qualified to receive the disability.  The judge, however, ignored them and said “You can walk and talk and you don’t have any broken bones.  What do you expect me to rate?”  Oh my!  Off the record, I let the judge have a piece of my mind!  And people wonder why it’s so frustrating dealing with Social Security?!
    After I returned to South Dakota I received a check for travel pay – based on the 125 miles from my home in Maine to the hearing.  Even at that, it wasn’t accurate.  After a long letter with supporting documentation requesting travel and expenses, paid from my home in South Dakota, I received a check for the proper amount.  The accompanying letter was kinda funny:  “I don’t think you deserve this, but here’s your money.”

~*~

     Eventually the company Albert worked for lost most of their government contract, and we had the choice of two places that were still available.  Albert called me and asked which one I wanted.  In a split second I thought “I’ve already lived in the first place twice; the second place is only 4 hours from my two grown sons.”  I picked the second one.  And I could hear God laughing, because I had sworn I would never ever move back to Mississippi!   
    And perhaps we shouldn’t have…  It was too close to Charlie.  That may have played into my thought about moving there, but not for my sake; rather for the sake of his son, so they would have a chance to get to know each other.

~*~

    I still had some trouble with Charlie when we were transferred to within thirty five miles of his house in Mississippi.  The old attraction was still there even if I refused to do anything about it.          Charlie, on the other hand, still acted like he owned me.
    When his father died, he insisted he needed me to keep him company.  He played on my sympathy very hard. 
    The temptation was strong.  The fight was hard, but I didn't fall into that sin again.  From the outside looking in, though, one would never know it.  I broke the rule of “abstaining from (even so much as) the appearance of evil.”  1 Thessalonians 5:22   Charlie would insist I come visit him; I would comply; Albert wouldn’t say no.
    At one point I had to leave a gathering because the guilt so overwhelmed me that I couldn't believe I was saved.  Literally, I went out to the car and broke down, sobbing.  I told God that I'd done everything I knew to do, I knew there was nothing I could possibly do to earn salvation, I'd trusted Him to save me, and look at me now!   
    I called that preacher of the little church in Tennessee where I made sure I was saved several years earlier.  But he couldn't quiet the terrible doubt and pain in my heart.
    A hardness settled over me.  A horrible thought come to mind!  I'd done everything, believed everything God said was necessary for salvation.  If I didn't have it by now, I might as well do what I wanted to do, because I was never going to get it and I was going to hell anyway!
    “OH!!” I thought, hands on my face in shock!
    I stopped dead in my thoughts. Satan doesn't have to work at getting his kids to sin.  They just do it naturally.  A Christian will have to fight the Holy Spirit all the way!  The devil doesn't mess with his kids like that.  He doesn't have to.  Nor would a lost person be in so much agony over even perceived sin.
    It was so obviously the devil trying to destroy me that I instantly knew I was saved!
    The next week, the Monday after Easter, I was bowling and fell and broke my wrist.  Driving my car was impossible, since it was a 5-speed.  I knew without a doubt that God had broken my wrist to keep me from getting too far away, and falling back into the trap the devil set for me in the person of Charlie.
    I had to be honest with Charlie and myself and be more mean and hard-hearted than I'm good at.  I told him to deal with his own life, I wasn't going to walk anywhere near that line in the sand bordering on adultery again.  It was hard to break his hold on me, but the struggle was worth every bit of the effort in what it did for my self-respect.

~*~

    Albert and I were eventually divorced, for the same reason as the first time - he refused to honor my request to stay out of bed before we were married, which created a rotten foundation.  It took a while to fester, like it did the first time, but the result was the same.  The shame and guilt, and his lack of respect for me killed our marriage from the beginning.  And there were suspected but not proven dalliances on his part.  The circumstances left little doubt, though.      
     It took me 4 years to leave.  Contrary to what some people have said, I don’t file for a divorce lightly.
    When my marriage to Albert fell apart, I moved back to that house my son and I lived in back when he was first starting school.  I knew the area, and it felt comfortable. 
    It was a bit difficult dealing with Charlie,  because I was still married, and still didn't want any kind of relationship with him. He hadn't gotten any less insistent on getting his own way, either. 
    My son and I lived there for six months or so before I bought a house.  That was fun!  I made sure it was small, and my son didn't like it.  He was nineteen by then, so I left him in the rented house, since there was still a lease. 
    How's that for funny?  I bought a house to run away from my kids!

page 133 - Chapter 13: George

     After being separated from Albert for over a year, and agonizing over the step, I filed for a divorce.
    And refused Charlie's request to marry him.
    We are very comfortable in each other's company when I'm not being angry at him for those things I refused to forgive.  But there is no spiritual connection.  I cannot live without that.

~*~

     I met George, that divorced, retired preacher who was the cause of me finally putting this on paper.  Against God's express instruction as to timing, I married him.     
    Many times in the preceding years I have done what it seemed God wanted me to do.  I'd do something that didn't make sense to other people, but turned out to be exactly the right thing.  It would seem to me God was telling me to go ahead, based on many things.  As I was reading my Bible, words, verses would just about jump off the page in answer to a question I had asked God - about what to do, what was going to happen, why, when. And I wasn't looking for the answers at the time.  They would just show up, the obvious answer. 
    All these things were evident in the circumstances before George and I were married.
    The thing I didn't pay attention to was “Wait.  Get out of My way and let Me work first.  Then you can have what you want, when both you and he are ready.” 
    I needed to learn to forgive, as did George.  There were a few other things God had to work on with George, but the root of bitterness and unforgiveness played a major role in all the rest.  Be careful to wait for God to make a man of your intended husband first.  A critical piece of advice that I hadn't heard or learned yet.
    My mistake was trying to rescue him - a tendency I have had since I can remember.  He was in trouble financially, as well as destitute emotionally and spiritually. 
    I had the money to help him financially, so I did.  It was a bad mistake on several levels.  First, a woman should never bail a man out of financial problems: that degrades the man and makes him feel worth less than he is; second, it put me in debt to the point where 6 years later I am still paying for it, both monetarily and in terms of credit scores.
    Emotionally, my help was not effective, and cost me tremendously in terms of my own emotional stability.
    Spiritually, what he needed could only come from the Holy Spirit.  Yes, we are supposed to restore our brethern when we have the opportunity, but I failed to pay attention to the "lest you also be tempted."  (Galatians 6:1) 
    Up to that point George was the only man I ever really wanted to marry.  But I got in God's way of bringing George to a place of repentance, and got tremendously hurt in the process. 
    George had many reasons to be a "retired" preacher, some I knew about before we were married; some I found out the day after, when I overhead him and a friend (whom George insisted live with us) trying to figure out how to get me to stay at my old apartment the night after we were married, so they could “have one more night together.”    
     Obviously, I had reason for divorce immediately.  But I tried so very hard to keep that from happening.  I really wanted to be married to him.  I loved him in spite of what I knew. 
    Or, instead of love, was it a stronghold and childhood (childish) dreams? Probably that, to tell the truth.  You see, I always wanted to be married to a preacher, but with my history it would be unreasonable.  A former preacher – that was a different story.  At least he would have the biblical knowledge that I so wanted in a husband.  I was hoping for many good conversations based on spiritual things.  My heart longed for such a life!

~*~
   
    That didn’t happen.  Quite the opposite, actually.  Any comment on my part was considered an argument, if not outright blasphemy.  There was no discussion about anything, least of all spiritual things. 
    I never did figure out what my role was supposed to be, because no matter what I did it was considered wrong at best, and assumed to be antagonistic or criminal at the worst.
    I knew when I married George that I should have waited until God did whatever He was going to do in his life.   I got ahead of God and messed things up.  I'm not one to say that “whatever God wants to happen will happen.”  We can mess up God's plans.  Ask me, I did it!

~*~

    After the emotional abuse George put me through I was in such a state of emotional distress that I did a very uncharacteristic thing;   I called my psychologist and told her I was ready to take her advice and check myself into the mental ward at the VA hospital. 
    She advised against driving myself to the hospital, but there was no one I could think of to call who would drive, so I asked God to do the driving.    There were many opportunities to drive over cliffs or run into bridges on that 40 mile ride.  Thankfully, I was past the point of being suicidal.
    I didn’t actually go up to the emergency room counter to say why I was there; it seemed to me that after being there in the waiting room for 2 hours someone should have asked why I was there.  At one point I went into the bathroom and saw myself in the mirror.  My eyes looked so empty that it scared me.
    I drove home after a while, angry that no one paid any attention to me.  Certainly my doctor would have called the emergency room to notify them I was coming, right?  Anger can be useful, as it kept me awake and alert on the drive back home. 
    Two other times in a week I did the same thing: drove to the emergency room but didn’t check in.  The fear of drugs was worse than the mental anguish.

~*~

    Because things turned out so badly, I've been told that “obviously God didn't tell me anything.  It was just my emotions.”
    I'm not discounting that I did a few things on my own, ahead of when God intended them to happen.  But nearly a year of getting the same answers from God, even if I didn’t pay attention, and then to be told by someone with spiritual “authority,” but no knowledge of the actual situation, that I obviously was fabricating the whole thing, and it was just my own emotions?
    That nearly destroyed me.  It was worse than what George did to me, which was considerable.  I came as close as I ever have to losing my faith in my ability to function, to be able to understand even the smallest things God was telling me.  My mind almost gave up completely.  My friends were very worried about me.  I was very worried about me. 
    I began to feel like there was no use living if I couldn't trust myself to be able to discern even the basic plans God has for me.  I felt like I was a danger to myself, and was messing up everyone else's life.  I began to feel like a fool for even suggesting that God might have told me anything, now or at any other point in my life.  I was afraid to acknowledge that I even had a relationship with God.  After all, what if what I thought wasn't right, and I made myself and God look like a fool?       
    If it had not been for a friend I had known for 8 years who walked with me through the whole thing with George from beginning to end, and Albert and most of my relationship with my friend several years before, I don't know if I would have survived. 
    One day she said “I've known you long enough, and seen you walk with God long enough, to know that you are perfectly capable of understanding what God is telling you.  He doesn't tell them what He wants you to do, He tells you what He wants you to do!"      I think she literally saved my sanity.

~*~
   
    George eventually left me, moving out when I was out of state taking care of business. 
    It took a year, but I finally agreed to a divorce.  It took even longer to let go.     
    The turning point was when I showed up for a meeting that had been canceled that dealt with emotional healing.  The husband and wife moderator team were there for some reason.  They arrived separately.  Both of them told me, separately, they felt very strongly that God wanted me to put aside the desire to restore my former marriage with George. Neither of them knew the other even thought that, let alone had told me such a thing.     It was obviously a word straight from God. They confirmed what many other people said.  Though no one could or did quote a specific verse that said I shouldn’t have been married to him, there was at least the unfaithfulness on his part to allow the divorce.
    It was a relief when I finally let him go.  There was no longer the constant thought in the back of my mind of how to solve the problem. 
    It was God's problem now.  I didn't have to solve it!

page 141 - Chapter 14: What Next?

     Living alone is not my favorite thing to do, and the bills I acquired in the last marriage put me in a position that I’d have to work if I wanted to eat. At one point, the thought crossed my mind that it would be nice to have a female roommate now that I wasn't living with a husband.  Life gets lonely living alone, and it would help with the expenses.
    Since basic training, I have found myself looking at women, not as objects of romantic interest, but comparing them to myself to see if I “measured up” to someone else’s standard of beauty.  The tendency to look has always disgusted and worried me.
    Sometimes I would wonder if life would be easier with a girlfriend instead of a boyfriend.  It wasn't really a thought, but it hung in the back of my mind.  My experiences with men surely didn't endear the gender to me!  And, for reasons known only to them, lesbians over the years seem to find me.
    And I know the devil.  He would have made sure a female roommate wasn't what I intended it to be.  And I can tell you, had I been in such a position, I would have fallen.  There is no doubt in my mind.  It would have been easy.  Too easy.  And I would have been more miserable than at any point in my life previously, which would be going some.
    And I would be counting every breath, because that would be the “last straw”.  God would have every right to take me Home immediately, and I would be expecting it at any minute.  That's one of the reasons He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, after all.  The Bible says in Leviticus 18:22 “You shall not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”  I’m sure it goes both ways.
    A quick observation here:  I've heard it said that once you're involved in such a lifestyle, you're stuck with it.  Oh!  But they don't know my Jesus!  He can and will forgive any sin known to mankind if we are willing to call it sin and ask for forgiveness.
     I know a couple who split up when the wife left her husband of ten years for a woman.  Her husband waited, devastated, I'm sure.  In about three years she came back. They've been married for over twenty years since then.
    I opted not to look for a roommate.  No sense in tempting myself with a sin that could quickly overtake me.
    But money would be tight, so I went looking for a job.  There was only one place I wanted to work.  On a Sunday afternoon, between morning and evening services, I went there.  What’s the likelihood a job would be open in exactly the position I wanted?  None, considering it was summer already and stores were generally finished hiring people for the season. 
    Well, God is greater than the economy; greater than the circumstances.  When I went looking I actually expected to get the job, because God would provide what was necessary in my life – and at that point, a job was necessary, and the place I was going to was exactly what I wanted.  “Delight yourself also in the LORD; and He shall give you the desires of your heart”.  Psalms 37:4   “According to your faith be it to you.” (Matthew 9:29)
    It wasn’t a selfish request.  The job I had in mind would put me in the position to talk to people all day long.  If the subject of Jesus came up, I’d be in a position to continue the discussion to some extent.  I could be a blessing to them; they could be a blessing to me.  Win-win situation. 
    The retail manager was on vacation when I arrived at the store looking for a job, but the manager on duty was impressed, and asked me to call back to speak to the general manager the next day.  I hadn’t worked in 22 years, and told them as much.  But he hired me anyway. 
    Thanks Lord!
    That’s another story.  I’m running out of energy in this book, so it will wait for the next one - "Watchin' God".

page 145 - Chapter 15: What I Learned From All This

   
   
Reading this story over again for the umpteenth time it finally hit me:  I am responsible for my actions!  Some of those who know my history say, as I've tried to tell myself for years, that it wasn't entirely my fault.  Look what some nasty boys did to me.  It warped my mind and actions, they say.  And the medical problems surely are to blame.
    But it ain't necessarily so.  I am still responsible!  I still have the free will to do whatever I really want to do.  I have the Spirit of the living God in me.  Granted, the medical issues played a large role in creating the chaos of my life, and walking headlong, and sometimes blindly, into sin: but my choice to stay there was exactly that - my choice.
    As long as I insist on letting someone or something else share the blame, there is no confession of guilt and sin.  Remember King Saul when he was caught with his hand in the cookie jar? – “I feared the people... pardon my transgression?”  But God said “No!”  (1 Samuel 15:24-26.)
    God doesn't forgive excuses.  No agreement with God that it is sin and you did it, no forgiveness.  Well, if you're saved, the sins are already forgiven.  But fellowship with God is only as good as our heart remains cleansed of sin after salvation.  Kind of like your kid walking away and refusing to admit he's wrong.  He is still your kid, even though the relationship is broken.
    I have discovered the lies Satan fed me all those years, and with the help of a counselor and the Holy Spirit, seen the lies for what they were.  I've forgiven most of the people involved and forgiven myself.  I had to forgive myself, because I was at fault, too.  I held on to the pain and the anger.  Though it was hard to live with, it was familiar and I was afraid to move on.  To not forgive myself would be like saying the blood of Jesus wasn’t good enough; like my opinion mattered more than Jesus and His sacrifice.
    For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. I John 3:20 Our hearts are not the final word!  God's Word is!
    But what we hold in our hearts can affect our lives tremendously.  If you cannot forgive yourself, look at your heart: have you forgiven those who have wronged you, I mean truly forgiven them, because you have been forgiven by Jesus’ blood?  Does thinking about what they have done still make you angry?  If so, you haven’t forgiven them.
    See Matthew 18:23-35 about the servant who was forgiven, but refused to forgive.  He owed his boss more money than he could ever hope to earn in his lifetime.  His boss forgave him because the servant asked, but then the servant went out and demanded payment from someone who owed him money that amounted to almost nothing.  When the other man couldn’t pay, the servant had him thrown in prison until he could pay.
    A Christian, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, is in the same position as the servant forgiven by his master.  When we refuse to forgive others and even ourselves we will be cast into a prison of anger and resentment and remain there until we learn to forgive, ourselves included.

~*~

    Years ago I forgave those boys of my youth, realizing they were possibly acting on either what they had gone through themselves, or simple human curiosity gone awry, or both.  But forgiving grown men who refused to treat me with respect... that's been a bit more difficult.
    God put stories, and instances, and scripture about forgiveness in my path the last few weeks I was writing the first edition.  One author said that lack of forgiveness was a desire for vengeance.  It doesn't seem to me that was what I felt, but who knows?
    I realized the need for forgiving them all, because unless I could do that, I would never be free of the pain they caused me.
    For years I have asked God “How am I supposed to forgive someone who refuses to acknowledge their fault?  Even You don't forgive sin that is not confessed.”
    God reminded me of a principle:  “Don't be upset when lost people act like lost people.  Don't hold them to Christian standards.  Not only will they do the works of their father the devil, they don’t have the Spirit in their hearts to even make them understand that they have sinned.”
    Bingo!  A way to forgive them, Charlie most of all!
    I can forgive them!  They're lost people, in need of forgiveness.  They cannot understand the sin, because they don't have the Spirit of God in their hearts telling them they're wrong.  But I do, and I know I'm wrong in holding the grudge.  Perhaps just knowing they are forgiven will bring them to an understanding of their sin, against me and also God.
    The hard part will be admitting to Charlie that I've been holding it against him all along, which he knows, of course, and absolving him of the responsibility for my anger. I have to acknowledge my sin before I can expect him to acknowledge his.  If he only acknowledges that I have apologized, and never accepts any responsibility, then that’s on him.  At least my heart is clear.  (Which, by the way, is exactly what happened.  So sad.)
    “Okay, Lord, but how do I forgive ‘Christians'?”  To which God said to me “Remember Matthew 18 and the servant who was forgiven but refused to forgive.”
    (The phrase “God told me...” gets me into trouble with church folk.  If I were to say “God impressed upon my heart...” it would sound more acceptable to most Christians.  To me it sounds too nebulous and “spiritual”, which I don't consider myself to be at all.)
    Forgiving yourself can be harder than forgiving other people...
    But the benefits are great.  I no longer lay in bed for hours and hours thinking about all the things I've done wrong, how I should have done it, who said what, what we could have said, etc etc.  I know longer live in the past!  I cannot recall a fit of anger about something stupid since I learned the lesson.  What a relief!  For me, and for those around me.
    I read somewhere that if you hate someone and dwell on their hurtful ways, you will become just like them.  You are what you think.  If you spend all your time thinking about people who hurt you, you will just naturally become like them, because that's the only model you're looking at.  The bitterness and hate will prevent you from hearing from the Spirit, and doing what you know to be right.
    Whoa!  So, that's why I tried and tried to live like I believed, but couldn't! My life was eaten up with bitterness and I was doing exactly what I refused to forgive in other people.  I need to spend more time looking at Jesus, if I want to be like Him!
    It’s amazing how bitterness can affect your view of your whole life, past and future; not to mention making life miserable in the present.

~*~
   
    After losing the battle with sexual purity for so many years, I absolutely refuse to give in to it again!  I have claimed the power in the blood of the Lamb of God (Colossians 1:13) and bound and cast those demons back to hell.  They are gone!  When they come knocking, I send them packing again.  It's a constant decision to follow Jesus and fight the devil.
    It's an amazing feeling to have sinful sexual thoughts cross my mind that used to trip triggers, that don't do that any longer.  I plan to rebuke the demons as needed and walk as close to God as I possibly can.  It’s the only way to win the battle.  And win it I will!  Jesus paid too high a price for me to let Him down again.
    I just figured out what the sin is that “so easily beset me”!  (Hebrews 12:1)  The sex isn’t what kept me bouncing from one man to the other.  I really couldn’t care much less about that.
    The sin is so very basic:  “You shall have no other gods before me”!  (Exodus 20:3) I was elevating men to a position that allowed them to take the place of authority that belonged to God!  That they used sex to express that authority is almost immaterial.  But to the outside world it looks so much worse than simply “putting another god before God.”   
    Oh!  But that is a road I refuse to travel again!  Now I guard my heart and situations as best I can to keep from falling.  I finally assimilated these verses into my life: “Wherefore let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.  There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape that you may be able to bear it.”  (1 Corinthians 10:12, 13)      I must look for that escape route, and take it!  It
can be done!  There is power in the blood of the Lamb!  You can never go too far for the love of God to reach  down and pull you back!! Glory!!  Hallelujah!  Nothing can separate us from the love of God!!!   

~*~
   
    George eventually “came to himself”, restoring his relationship with God, he said.  When he apologizes profusely for the hurt he caused me, I remind him that God told me to get out of the way and let Him work, and I ignored Him, and went after what I wanted.      (OH!! Sounds like what Charlie did, doesn't it?  Remember? Focus on what you hate and you will do the same thing.) 
    George says if I hadn't done what I did, he may have never returned to God. He has thanked me numerous times. I remind him, and myself, that there was a reason, that God can use anything, even if we mess up what He had in mind. 
    Not, mind you, that knowing God can use even our mistakes and that the grace of God covers our sins gives us license to sin.  What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?  Romans 6:1, 2
    To all that pain and confusion I can only say “All things work together for good to them that love God.”  Romans 8:28   
    It truly amazes me that God still uses me to do anything for Him!  I can't count how many times I've let Him down.  But everywhere I've lived since I let go of the pride and admitted that I wasn’t sure of my salvation, it has been evident why God had me there.  He always has something for me to do: little things, big things, things that tie into where God has me in the next place.
    One of the things I do to keep myself occupied is write gospel tracts, mostly directed toward church members.  And surf the web looking for cheap cruise tickets to take stuff to missionaries in the Caribbean.  I did that once.  That’s another story. 
    Still, I’ve never been comfortable living alone, as is probably evident by the fact that there has always been a man in my life, but it’s getting better as the months go by.
    And God keeps me busy, since I have no husband or children to consider.  Whether or not God will allow me the one thing I have wanted all my life - a godly husband - not a perfect husband, but someone I can trust and respect, someone to discuss the Bible with, to be friends with, to laugh with and cry with, to dream with - I don't know. 
    I do know He has provided me with the freedom, time and money to go and do and be whatever He asks of me.  That's more than most people have.   
    That's enough.    



page 157 - Okay, I Said The Prayer, But How Do I Know I'm Saved

    Glad you asked!  When you prayed, did you ask Jesus to forgive you and save you, in so many words?  Did you feel like God was trying to get your attention?  No man can come to me, except the Father…draw him (John 6:44) Was there a change in your heart and life?   A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.   (Ezekiel 36:26)
    True repentance is (I) have sinned, and have done perversely, (I) have committed wickedness: and so return unto you with all (my) heart, and with all (my) soul (1 Kings 8:47b-48a) False repentance is I have sinned...because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice…pardon my sin.  God said I will not. (1 Samuel 15:24-26)  Saul refused to take responsibility for his sin.
    Are you willing to admit with sorrow and shame that you aren’t good enough to get to heaven on your own? Are you convinced that nothing you can do will pay for your sins, either past, present or future? Do you rely completely on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, believing only He can save you? He that believes not on Him (Jesus) is condemned already (John 3:18) God saves such as be of a contrite spirit. (Psalm 34:18)
    Is there a constant conflict about doing right and wrong? For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the others: so that you cannot do the things that you would.  (Galatians 5:17)
    When you wonder if you’re saved, do you have a memory of asking for salvation?  The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:  (Romans 8:17)
    Do spiritual things interest you? Do you enjoy telling and hearing stories of the blessings of God?  Does God give you wisdom when you ask for it?  Does God answer your smallest prayers? Deep down, do you really care what God says? For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.  (Romans 8:14) Does the Bible seem to apply to you?  Do you understand the Bible and believe it to be God’s Word?  The Spirit…will guide you into all truth. (John 16:13) 
    Does living like “everyone else” make you feel like you are doing something wrong? Do crude jokes, drinking, immodest clothing and pictures, lying, stealing, swearing and references to immoral sex, make you uncomfortable? Is your idea of right and wrong different from the rest of the world? For when He (the Holy Ghost) is come, He will reprove the world of sin, (John 16:8a)
    When you sin, are there consequences?  If you cheat someone, do you seem to lose what you gained?  If you engage in immoral activity involving a partner of the same or opposite sex, are you miserable instead of happy?  If you are living a sinful life do you feel uncomfortable around “religious” people? And be sure your sin will find you out (Numbers 32:23)
    Luke 15:11-32 shows what happens when God’s children sin. The stubborn son left the blessings of his father’s house for “riotous living” (Luke 15:13), resulting in famine and misery. God was chastening (punishing) him.  He came to himself, repented and went home, admitting to his father that he was wrong. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons…But if you be without chastisement, whereof all (saved people) are partakers, then are you bastards, and not sons.  (Hebrews 12:7a, 8) The chastisement was proof of his relationship with God.  Is there any proof of your relationship with God?
    If you have been answering yes, but your sins are causing you to question your salvation, follow the prodigal son’s example and REPENT, lest God chastise you more.   Thank God for His keeping power and great love! And him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out.  (John 6:37b)
    If you have been answering no, God says you are NOT His child.  Why do you not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word.  You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do.  (John 8:43, 44a) 
    If God has made you realize that the prayer you repeated earlier in life was just words to please someone else, RIGHT NOW is the time to ask Jesus to forgive your sins and come into your heart and make a change in your life. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2b) There is no “proper” prayer.  Just talk to God like He's right there.  He is, you know. 
     If you put it off, the devil will steal away the desire. He doesn’t want you to admit your need for a Savior, or believe that Jesus died, was buried and rose again to prove He’s God; that He can, and will, forgive your sins.  The devil wants you to spend eternity in hell with him.  That will break your momma’s heart and God’s as well.  God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9b)



page  - 163 The Prayer That Can Send You To Hell


     Strange as it may seem, there is a prayer that can send you to hell!  And it’s the “sinner’s prayer.”
     I can hear you thinking “What are you talking about?!” 
     If you believe that “once saved, always saved,” repeating the sinner’s prayer – or asking Jesus to save you – can actually keep you from getting saved.  The reason is that many people think just saying the words will do the trick.  Bingo! You’re saved!  Now no matter what you do, or don’t do, you’re going to heaven!
     It’s not so easy.  There are conditions.  Yes, conditions.  You must see yourself as God sees you – a sinner.  No excuses, no “I’m doing the best I can,” no “I’m not as bad as the next guy, even though I am bad.”  Also, you must be willing to trust Jesus Christ to save you.  Trust involves being willing to put your life on the line, and actually doing it.  You can believe the airplane can fly without you flapping your wings, but until you are willing to actually get in the plane and let it take off with you inside, you don’t really trust the plane.  Same with knowing that the blood of Jesus will wash away your sins, and His resurrection will make it possible for you to live with him for eternity.  As long as you think you can do anything for your salvation, you aren’t trusting Jesus Christ.  You can’t flap your arms and help the plane stay in the air.  Neither can you do anything to help Jesus save you.
     Until you are willing to acknowledge and accept as life or death fact, and reach out and take the payment offered, without trying to help, you are still on your way to hell!  Repeating a bunch of words isn't what saves you.  It’s transferring your sin and trust from yourself to Jesus Christ that saves you (repenting). 
     If you’ve “said the prayer” and there is no change in your attitude about God, no little voice inside that says “you did wrong” when you cross the line the Bible draws about sin, no desire to know more about Jesus Christ, and you think that prayer has saved you, you’ve prayed the prayer that can send you to hell.
     The reason?  Because you think “once saved, always saved.”  Which, by the way, is true.  God said “have everlasting life” and “is passed from death unto life” – that’s forever - you get it, you got it.  The kicker is that you must be saved in the first place.  Are you?

         If you’ve been relying on a prayer you prayed, no matter your age when you said it, but there is no evidence in your life and heart to support such a claim, don’t just say yet another prayer.  Ask God to show you.  When you are convicted (you can’t get away from the thought that you need to be saved), then tell God that you are tired of leaning on yourself, and accept the payment Jesus made on the cross for your sins.  Jesus is waiting for you to acknowledge your doubts and fears, so He can give you peace and complete assurance.  And maybe the salvation you thought you had in the first place.  You’ll go to hell without it.

Question:  Are you 100% sure you're saved by the blood of Jesus Christ?  Are you trusting Him completely, without any thought of what you can do to make sure you go to heaven (besides asking for forgiveness?)
    If not, now is the time!  You don't know for sure you'll be alive in the next 5 minutes, let alone the next 5 years!  I'd really like to see you in heaven!
    I hesitate to give you an example of a prayer, because then it will be my prayer not your own.  In your own words:

~ Admit to Jesus that you are a sinner and deserve to go to hell.

~ Tell Him you believe He died for you, rose again and is in heaven ready to help you live your life to please Him.
~ Ask to have the blood He shed to save you from your sins applied to your account, because you cannot do anything to pay for those sins yourself.
~ Thank Him for what He has done for you, and will do for you!
   
    If you asked Jesus to save you and really meant it, not just read the words I wrote, I'd love to hear from you.  You can contact me at https://www.facebook.com/pages/N-C-Carlson/137187809674306.  



page 173 - excerpt from 'Watchin' God'

 Paying it Forward
     September 14, 2009

    The morning started slowly.  It’s been a long time since there was nothing on the agenda that had a specific time attached to it.  Three weeks or so.  I tossed and turned in bed after the alarm went off at 8 a.m.  The longer I stayed in bed, the stiffer my joints got, not to mention the weird dreams, so at 9:39 a.m. I finally rolled out of bed.
    The only things I planned to do today were mail a money order to Connie, go to the library to check my e-mail, and at least buy mulch, if not dig up the grass for the path.  On the way to the credit union I stopped at the pet store to look again at the dwarf hamsters and houses for same.  I think I’ll end up buying one.  They’re cute.
    After I got the cedar mulch and delivered it to the house, I was feeling a bit hungry – rather, a bit like eating something.  Not the same, the latter being much more unusual than the former.
    I don’t like to cook for just myself so I thought I'd go somewhere to eat.  For the life of me I couldn’t think where to go.  None of the usual places interested me in the least.  I wanted to go somewhere local, as opposed to a fast food chain store.  Then it struck me – Gooey’s Pizza!  Never been there, but a pizza sounded good.  Away I went.
    It’s a cool place.  Dark paint on the concrete block walls.  Booths on 3 walls, tables in the middle.  Everything is decorated in primary colors – very energizing.  There is a pool room with one or two arcade games.  There is a white fake Christmas tree with colored lights that I understand is decorated for the current season.  At the time it wasn't decorated.  Looked great with just the colored lights.
    I placed my order and sat down to wait the 10 to 15 minutes until it would be ready.  When it was, Iheaded out, debating where I could go to make a picnic out of the occasion.  But I figured I’d just go home.  It was pretty muggy.
    As I was going through the light on my way home, a strange thought crossed my mind. There was a young couple from church who lived just around the corner.  The Holy Spirit suggested (“suggested”, don’t you love that?!) that I take the pizza to them.
    “But Lord, I was really looking forward to that pizza!”
    “Turn around.”
    I’ve had similar conversations with God before, and I know in the end I must do it.  Things always turn out the way He said, and if I don’t I end up kicking myself for days.  I turned into the parking lot that took me back to the required road.
    “But Lord, I don’t know which apartment they live in.  And I really want that pizza.”
    I felt quite stupid, driving somewhere I had no clue how to find, with food they may or may not need – or even be home for me to deliver it.  (Sound familiar?)
    So I made God a deal.  “If I can’t find them, or they’re not home, I’ll go to Audrey’s apartment just down the street.  It would be nice to have someone to share it with anyway, and maybe she needs it.  But I guess I really should at least try to find them.  After all, You sent someone to me once with food when I really needed it.  They didn’t know where I lived, either, but they brought it anyway, and You had me walking down the sidewalk as they drove by.”
    I dutifully drove into the apartment complex, looking for a vehicle that looked familiar.  Nothing.  Even if I had seen it, there would be no way to determine which apartment was theirs.  Relieved that I wouldn’t have to explain what I was doing there, I drove away.
    As I was looking both ways at the traffic before pulling out of the complex, a truck was turning in.
    You guessed it.
    I wouldn’t have suspected they would recognize me, and for a bit I wasn’t sure it was them.  They stopped and backed up beside my car.  Shor’ nuf was them.
    I couldn’t help the grin that was plastered on my face as I reached over to pick up the pizza from the seat beside me and got out of the car to give it to them.  Both of them looked a bit puzzled.  I explained about the preacher’s wife and her conversation with God many years earlier.  I probably left out that I’d just had the same conversation with God, but maybe I remembered to explain myself.  Hard to say.  I was having so much fun right about then that I could have babbled something totally incoherent as I handed them the pizza.
    Having more money in my pocket, I headed back to the pizza place and ordered yet another pizza.  And of course I had to tell the story to the surprised cashier.  Who knows, maybe she needed to hear it as much as the kids needed the pizza.  Two for the price of one!
    It’s so much fun watchin’ God!!




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