My Mother: Celebrate Recovery

11 07 2011

This past weekend I was honored to attend the Celebrate Recovery class at Life Church in Houston to hear my mother give her life changing testimony. I did not feel like the only people that should hear or know her story were the people at that meeting so I am posting it here. These are my mother’s speaking notes:

Hi! I’m Charlotte and I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with trust.
The process of writing this has been a blessing to me and I hope I can say something that will bless you.
My mom taught me a love for Jesus. My dad was proud and harbored a lot of feelings about God that I found difficult to understand. He had hardened his heart toward the things of God and that was obvious in some of his behavior. Things like jealousy, envy and an incessant worrier to name a few. I knew he loved me, but I could not comprehend why he did not love Jesus.
The house I lived in growing up was directly behind the church I attended. Our property practically joined the church property. Oftentimes, our yard was used as an overflow for church functions, like Vacation Bible School. I did everything I could to be involved in my church as a child. I remember walking through our backyard to go to church and gazing at the stars when coming home after a service and marveling at the greatness of God. I wanted to know more about this God who hung the stars in the sky. And little by little I was learning more about Him. Around eight years old I attended Vacation Bible School. Each morning we would start our day by quoting Psalm 24:7, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.”
I didn’t realize it then, but looking back now, I know that I was lifting up my heart and opening it wide for the King of Glory to come in and I felt His presence. Around 9 years old I was baptized and I had never felt so clean in all of my life. God was very real to my heart.
While these great things were happening, evil was still present in my life. I witnessed my brother being physically abused and I, myself, though I’ve never said this in a public setting, was molested as a child, by a neighbor.
As a teen, God was speaking to me and I dreamed one night that God was pointing at my house saying He wanted me to be involved in His Kingdom and while I was having the dream lightning struck the stove in our kitchen. The next morning I recommitted my life to the Lord because that’s what you did in the church I attended, when you felt God dealing with you. The pastor’s wife told me that morning that someday I would be a pastor’s wife, but soon I began to wonder and doubt her words. I also speculated on how many times it would be acceptable for me to walk the aisle and recommit my life to the Lord. I knew I wanted more and that I needed more. I was told I would marry a preacher and as a young teenager I prayed that I would. However, in the midst of my wayward ways I was drifting further and further from the heartbeat of a young girl in love with Jesus. At this point, I began dating guys who were not Christians. I became involved with drugs and the political unrest of the sixties and early seventies. Yet God was true to me even when I was losing my own way. Even though I was losing sight of Him, He had not lost sight of me.
I fell in love with a guy who my dad said wasn’t worth the bullet it would take to shoot him. Later after we were married my dad would tell the story that when he asked my future husband how he planned to take care of me financially my fiancé replied, “She’s going to work.” (I’m not sure that this conversation ever really happened, but it’s the story my dad stuck to.)
My husband had several friends who died of drug overdoses. He had friends whose wives were prostitutes and sometimes it was solely to support their husband’s drug habits. Those were our friends; the people we hung out with and were closest to. Yet God spared us from becoming too deeply involved in illicit drugs and sex. My involvement in all of this was because I just wanted to be with my husband. He was a great salesman and I believed and trusted him and gave no real consideration to the consequences for the way we were living our life. We were co-dependent and in denial. We were fortunate not to have criminal records during this time in our lives. On this road of destruction we were traveling, our marriage was destined for failure. My husband loved me but he knew that within himself he did not have the power to be a man who was true to his wife or to the man he wanted to be.
Paul spoke of this problem several times in the Bible. Scriptures such as: Romans 3:10-12, where it says:
“10There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless.”
These scripture describe the state we found ourselves in – far from God and full of deadly things. But there was still a part of our hearts that wanted to do the right thing. And for me I just loved my husband so wherever he led I followed even if deep in my heart and mind I knew better.
My husband’s life was truly an example of the scripture in Romans 7:21-25 that says: “21 Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Wanting deliverance from sin more than he wanted to sin, my husband earnestly and desperately began to seek God. He prayed one night in our yard and said, “I don’t even know for sure if there is a God, but if you are “real” please reveal yourself to me.” That prayer put him on a spiritual journey that I was able to hitch a ride on. God began to manifest himself to him. Blinders were removed from his eyes. The chains that had him bound no longer had the hold they once did. Everywhere and in everything around him he was seeing God. My husband was reading the Bible and wanted to know what I thought about the scriptures. I was able to say that even though I knew I wasn’t living a life that Jesus wanted for me I could say with certainty that God was real and the God of the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament. Soon on the request of a friend, who was a new Christian, my husband and I attended church together for the first time. Because God had been working on him for days, by the time we made it to church my husband was ready to humbly ask God to remove all his shortcomings. Just like in Step 7, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9.
A miraculous change took place in my husband. Before he turned his life over to God every other word from his mouth was a cuss word. After that night, he stopped cussing. He smoked a pack of cigarettes a day and he never smoked another one. All drug use stopped. (He did want to celebrate by having a beer, but I explained that I didn’t think that’s how God wanted us to celebrate.) It was a powerful transformation in both of our lives!
My sarcastic daddy said of my husband, “He went from a devil to an angel overnight.” And this time my daddy was so right. As for me, my husband would tell people that when I became a Christian it was just confirmation of the sweet angel I had always been. I think that’s what he truly believed about me.
In our hearts we knew that someday my husband would become a preacher, especially since he was preaching anyway, everyday to anyone that would listen. Those who knew him did listen due to the powerful change they all could see in his life. We started our family and we had a beautiful life full of heaven on earth and that’s the TRUTH. Fifteen years after becoming a Christian my husband was called to preach. Somewhere along the line I recalled the words I heard as a child from my pastor’s wife and I couldn’t help but be amazed that God answered the prayers that came from a young heart desiring to do whatever I could for God and the prophecy of my pastor’s wife who said that someday I would marry a preacher. Jesus was present and working all the time even when I did not acknowledge it. He had never left me alone!
After 25 years of marriage, four beautiful children, and starting a church in the city of Katy, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. The doctor said it could possibly be from years of smoking in his formative years – from eleven years old until he was twenty-five. After years of treatment and lots of prayers, God decided to take him home.
Before I continue with my story, I want you to know a little bit more about my husband so you can understand the pain I’ve endured from losing this great man. He always made me feel cherished and loved. As a father, I do not remember him disciplining our children while angry at them. He was the one who after my daddy died would ask me every day if I had called my mom to check on her. (Let me remind you he was considered the worthless son-in-law at one time.) One night my mom fell and my husband said, “Okay, that’s it, you have to go get your mom so she can live with us.” So I took care of my mom in our home and with my husband’s support for the next three years until she died.
I cannot begin to tell you the beautiful positive way that my husband viewed life. He refused to entertain negativity in his life. He didn’t want to fill his mind with anything but what Paul talked about in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” He practiced this every day after he became a Christian.
Doing this served him well, especially since he spent three years of his life unable to eat food. He survived on a feeding tube. He could not eat yet he would wait on our table and bring us our food and fill our drink glasses. Can you imagine? I still struggle to understand God’s greatness that dwelt within my husband. During all those years he had practiced his entire Christian life to think on good, godly things. When he was dying it was an intense struggle for him because he loved us so much and didn’t want to leave us.
Maybe you’re thinking she has certainly spent a lot of time dwelling on her husband’s testimony, what about hers.
So, let me tell you a little more about me. I would like to think that I did a good job as a mother and a wife. I supported my husband and loved my home and my children. Sometimes I must admit I was distracted from concentrating on developing my love relationship with Jesus because life was coming at us very fast and it was very good. Occasionally, I would pray and cry out to the Lord when I felt like I was in a crisis but I cannot say I developed the relationship with the Lord that I should have. I was dependent on my husband for many things – provision, counsel, communication, financial and spiritual direction and security to name a few. When I lost him I lost my identity. Some people only knew me as Skippy’s wife and that was okay. I was happy with my role but with his passing I had to ask myself, “Who am I?” I also worried and was afraid that if I earnestly prayed to the Lord; He may see fit to have me suffer, too.
My husband passed away in 2003 and it has taken me a long time to get the point where I can say beyond any doubt that I trust God completely. For many months after Skippy’s death if I felt the presence of the Lord in my heart I was glad about it but I would reason that it was because of my husband’s love for Jesus that Jesus was still allowing me to feel His love for me. In my mind I thought I was trusting God but when I truly starting examining my heart I realized I had doubt and fear. How could I completely trust this God who allowed this tragedy to happen to me? I will tell you some of the things I have realized through the pain of losing someone as memorable and as loving as my husband. I know that I had more sweetness and joy in my years of marriage than some people ever get to experience. I realize that’s what makes the loss greater. Maybe had he been different I wouldn’t feel the intensity of this loss as much as I do. None of this is in any way a pity party, but I hope that it can bless someone if you know a little about what I have learned about Jesus in the last few years.
First of all, I find it helpful if I see in my mind’s eye an image, an illustration of sorts. When the days were the darkest for me and my kids I would envision a rocky mountainside and in the mountain was a crevice between the rocks and I would see myself in the cleft of that Rock. (Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee.) It was a place Jesus had just for me.
But restoration and peace did not truly come to me until I started studying the Bible in the light of the fact that God loves me for who I am. Now I can say with confidence that I do trust Jesus.
Life is short and eternity is forever and I want to make heaven my home. I know I am a product of ——
My history<>>my destiny
I know that death is not the end for any of us and, that for my husband, it is a door that opened and brought him to the next level of his life and it will do the same for us someday.
So, what was God doing for me all of those years? He was keeping me and loving me and leading me.
What was I doing for Him? That would be a better question. I have solemnly examined my life and Jesus has been my constant in a world that has been ever changing for me. I have seen Him as a strong, golden cord running through the timeline of my life and I am thankful I have been witness to it and that I can recognize Him.
I have learned I cannot view God from the perspective of the trial, or situation I find myself in. An example would be looking at a painting and when you are very close all you can see is one small part of the picture. As you back up you are able to see more and as you continue to move further away you see more and more of the painting. I will never see the entire picture of why death is a part of this earthly experience, but I know I will see and understand someday.
To begin recovery from my fear and doubt I had to realize I was not God and that His ways are far beyond my ways. Just like in Step 1, “I had to admit I was spiritually poor.” Matthew 5:3
I challenge you to look at your life in the light of the gospel of Jesus and think about all the times that Jesus was trying to get in and love you and lead you and all the times that He has. I have done this and I am amazed. I know the love God has focused on my life is an everlasting love. From that love He has pursued me my entire life. He has drawn me with Golden Cords of Love. He did this even when I was not His friend but His enemy. His love is greater and deeper and wider than I can imagine.
My struggles are not over but I have a greater understanding and greater love and appreciation today for the Lord than I think I may have had my entire life. During the waking hours I find I busy myself with my job and other responsibilities but subconsciously worry does enter into my mind. Several weeks ago I had a dream that I was going very fast and that I was about to fly off an overpass and I asked myself why didn’t I slow down and now I was going to die. Then the car eased to a stop and I woke up. Jesus spoke to my heart and said, “Have I ever let you crash? I am here to take care of you.” So when I think I have myself under control these thoughts of fear and doubt try to creep back, so I know it is a daily work. A work that requires that I study the Bible, pray and truly reflect on my thoughts. Celebrate Recovery is assisting me in this “good work” and I want to be successful. I have a God who I know believes in me and loves me. The leadership of this church has so wisely given me the liberty to seek God and grow in my walk with Him. My prayer tonight is that each one of us can allow ourselves to acknowledge the God who is alive and working in and around us and that we can allow Him to do the work in us that He died to establish.
“If we repent and turn to the Lord, we have hope because He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he doesn’t want to send calamity.” Joel 2:13
Also in Acts 3:19-20, we find that He has already made the provision for us by sending us Jesus. The scripture tells us to “repent that our sins may be wiped out and that times of refreshing will come from the presence of the Lord.”
His blessings are ours to have. My journey is not complete and He is still writing my story. I want to claim what Jesus has for me and walk with Him and see His grace abound in my life and in yours.

My mother is the most amazing woman I know.

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One response

12 07 2011
Kay Miller Horne

Jonathan: Your mother is amazing, and she has some really incredible children too! This blessed my day…

Kay

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