"Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God."
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Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Who I Was - Who I Am
This morning I was reading some of my blog-friends ruminations and when I got over to Dawn's blog Beyond Grace I was moved to tears. She was rejoicing in her mom & dad's life together & how they have influenced her. Rather than retell her story, how about after reading my post why don't you go on over to Dawn's, if you haven't already. That was an awkward sentence, but I hope you get the gist. (Just click on her blog name above, and it'll take you over there.)
Dawn's post made me think back on how the Lord has truly blessed me.... In many ways, but in one way in particular, is how He brought godly, Christian people into my life, before I knew Him. Before I knew Him I was a real libertine. To the point of being hateful toward religion in any form, but mainly Christianity. I mean, I was a foul mouthed, dissolute, feminist who would spit the word Christian out of my mouth like it was hot vinegar. Went to a Christian wedding with my best bud, Maria, in California and her sis & I sat through the whole thing making fun of the vows. Anyway, you get the picture. I supported my children...was a "self-made" woman who wouldn't accept money from my well-to-do parents. I was P-R-O-U-D. Had been through a few really bad experiences in love. Married. Divorced. Married. Divorced. I was H-A-R-D. No man was ever going to hurt me again. I was W-I-S-E. (Not at all!! But I thought I was.) But you know what? When my 3rd (yes, 3rd) husband flew the coop in 1983 while I was working at an electric generating station in Northern Arizona I transferred back down to Phoenix to be a power plant operator (hard hat job). My 2 kids were in Pennsylvania for the summer with my parents, but when they returned I needed to find a babysitter for Jessica who was under 3 yrs. old. It "happened" that the sitter that I found close to my home advertised as Private Home Christian Childcare. The lady, Connie Calderone, was a Mexican-American and I just figured she was Catholic. She didn't scare me! She totally loved Jessica and hauled her around like she was one of her own children. My Aunt Annie came to visit from PA & since she was a Catholic I called Connie to find out where she went to church. Connie informed me that she was not a Catholic, but a born again Christian. I was shocked. She was Hispanic! Talk about stereo-typing!! Well, the next Christmas when she asked if she could take Jessica to some kind of a Christian Christmas show I told her okay, but that the first time she tried to talk to me about Jesus I would not allow any more of this Christian stuff. Connie said okay. There was no problem.
Now years passed and I dated like crazy. A bunch of 10's on the outside and 0's on the inside, just like me. Swore I would never marry again. When I started seeing Patrick in April 1987 it was kind of on a lark. He worked at the power plant and word had it he was a committed Christian. Aha! I would see about that. (This is a long story, so if you'd like to get yourself a cup of tea now, I'll wait.) Anyway, we had our first kiss after about 2 months of dating...that in itself was really weird for me, but I won't go into that. He took me to all of these family gatherings---no joke, about once a month. (My family all hate each other. I mean there is lots of jealousy and never a reunion, heaven forbid! Don't get me wrong. There are/were some nice & good people in my family, but not so much in my immediate family.) I noticed how he was such a different guy around his family. Most of them were also committed Christians. His mom & dad were like Ozzie & Harriet, but the poorer (in material goods) version! He had asked me to marry him quite early on in the relationship and I said yes, but really had no intention of that happening. I'd break up with him off & on if I felt like going out & cutting loose. (He never broke up with me though.) Anyway, I felt pretty much like I'd broken him down. He was smitten with me.
Well, on July 1st, 1988 Patrick was so majorly convicted by the Holy Spirit that I was not & never would be a Christian that he had to break up with me. He did not want to be unequally yoked (again---1st wife deserted him) and told me he could never put me first, that God was first in his life and I'd never understand this. I was in shock. Here this super kind guy, who wouldn't hurt a fly, was blowing me off! AND he had the nerve to tell me that I'd never understand!! At first I was bewildered. Then I was angry. Then I wanted an explanation that made sense to me. Patrick could only say that he did not like the person he was when he was with me. That the person he was when he was around his family was who he wanted to be all the time. He then said he knew I wouldn't understand. He was sorry. We were over.
The first 2 weeks I starved 20# off my already small frame & was in the low 80's. Unlike my normal behaviour, when the guys I worked with wanted to take me out to wash away my troubles, I said no. I also did not turn to any "other" substances which I had been known to partake of. I was broken hearted. I called my friend, Elaine, and asked her what was wrong with me? Is it me? Elaine was always very sincere, but rarely ever said an unkind word. She had been through some extremely rough times herself and kept a lot inside. So, when she told me the following,I listened & wrote her words down---in RED INK!!! "You are a very opinionated person,Cas. And on this religion thing, I've noticed that you are very defiant. You keep using words like 'will not','never'. I've known you for quite a while now, so I can see through the talk, but not everyone else can." I had to meditate on her words: Very opinionated. Defiant toward religion.
After that, I started to write down my thoughts and oddly, started to talk to God...if He was really who he said He was, could He please help me out here. It really wasn't that Patrick had broken up with me, it was that I obviously wasn't worthy of being loved by ANYONE. I wanted to die. Could have easily taken my own life, if not for the fact that I didn't want my children to hate me for it. I was broken. Cut off at the knees. Just where I needed to be.
This is a very long story, so the middle part about where I go to see Pastor Curt Snell, a pastor from Pat's Bible church to squeal on him; and how the pastor was so wise and kind to me, I'll skip for now. I told the pastor that Patrick said there was no hope for me and he said that God used a prostitute and even an ass to bring glory to Himself! The pastor sent me on my way after reading Jesus' genealogy to me (Matthew 1) and telling me that no one is beyond hope. Wow! He also gave me a New Testament and a referral to a Christian counseling service.
The song Amazing Grace kept ringing in my ears. I didn't know the words so pulled out an old Joan Baez record & wrote them down. I didn't know what they really meant at the time.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.
Okay, now cut to July 12/13, 1988, the day I was touched by grace. (That link tells about when I was born again.) I tried to think of anyone that would be happy that I was a new creature in Christ. I thought my friend Elaine would want to know. I called her at 5am (I knew she would be up exercising) and told her I had news for her, but needed to see her in person to tell her. Then when I got off work I went to Connie's house and when she opened the door I told her I had been touched by grace. She raised her hands & said, "Hallelujah girl! I've been praying for you for 5 years!"
God put Connie in my life to pray for me (boy would I have been mad if I knew it then!!). He put Elaine in my life to tell me the truth about myself in a gentle way. He put Patrick in my life to help give me the flat iron along side of the head that I needed to come to my knees. He put Patrick's parents in my life as an example of a godly marriage. He put Pastor Curt Snell in my life to read the Bible to me & let me know that no one is beyond hope.
Hello!! Are you still there? Anyway friends, this is a small part of my story. I thank The One who loves me more than I can imagine, for loving me & giving me a second chance at life. Amazing grace. Blessed.