Wednesday, February 19, 2014

13 - My Story, God's Story - The Joliet Years


After God affirmed to us that moving to Joliet was in His plan, we were anxious to get there.  We lived in a rental house until our chocolate house was completed.  We did all the painting on the house, inside and out, and hung wall paper, and stained trim.  The house was a a tri-level, but then had an additonal basement level another few steps down.  That was a common design in that part of the country.

I was a stay at home mom, and to keep myself busy and the boys entertained, I did preschool at home, with structured lessons.  I mentioned in an earlier blog that Dad introduced the boys to the computer, and they had lessons on the computer as well as games.  Plus we had a beautiful large park and playground with a picnic area that was located just down our backyard.  The boys also had their sand box and tree house to play in.  Once a week we went to the local library for the boys to participate in a children's program which contained story time, music time, and crafts.  It was all a very nice arrangement.

We met good friends at church who also had two sons about the age of our sons.  Sharyl and I would sometimes meet at the mall and walk around with our boys.  Other times we would meet at a McDonald's playland and let them play while we visited.  We took turns going to each other's house with our husbands, and played games while the kids played GI Joes, or Transformers, or PlayMobile sets.  Those four boys were very good buddies and got along wonderfully.

Bill and Sharyl have been life-long friends...friends who came to visit us in other states that we lived in.  Those kind of friendships are rare, at least with us.  We were shocked and saddened a few years ago to hear that Sharyl had died in her sleep.  She was the life of the party, a popular high school teacher and Sunday School teacher, and for years led children's church.  We had to stand in line for over two hours just to walk by her casket the day before her funeral.  I am so grateful to have known her and called her my friend.  This has been a little side-track here, but our years in Joliet found us spending a lot of time with Bill and Sharyl and boys.  

Our Joliet Years were also marked with many childhood diseases and accidents.  Both boys had the measles and chicken pox during those years.  In fact, our youngest one had the chicken pox while his leg was in a cast.  It was an itch you couldn't get to for scratching!  The same leg was broken twice.  Here's the story:

We had gone back to Tennessee for the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville.  We stayed with some friends in Cleveland, and on Sunday we had a picnic at a local park.  Our youngest one was playing on the monkey bars when he fell.  We thought he had just sprained his leg, so we didn't get it examined until the next day.  Then we found out he had fractured it.  He had the cast on a few weeks (a walking cast), and after it was removed and his leg was wrapped in elastic, his father went to sit down on the couch next to him, and accidentally caught our son's foot and fractured the same spot a second time.  What a trooper our little boy was!!  We have movies of him playing ball outside and running around the bases with his cast on!  Nothing was holding him back.

Another time the boys were playing in their bedroom, and the young one had another accident.  He fell and hit his forehead against the edge of the plate where the door latches, and cut his forehead open.  I took him to emergency (Dad was out of town), and they had to stitch his forehead.  I was there when they put a shot in the split to numb it.  He just laid there and bravely didn't say a thing, while the tears trickled down his face.  He has always been strong when it came to pain.

Another time when Dad was out of town our oldest son was running a fever.  He was quite lethargic and didn't want to be up and around, so I kept close to his side.  By midnight his eyes were glazing over and I knew I needed to do something quickly.  I called a grandma type figure from our church and asked if I could leave the young son with her, as I had to take my other son to the emergency room.  She was glad to help.

Ends up I spent the week in the hospital with our son.  Paul was out of town the whole week, but Doris was very capable and enjoyed keeping our other son.  The son in the hospital was severely dehydrated, once again we were close to losing him.  I'm glad I rushed him in when I did, or it may have turned out differently.  I had prayed and asked God what to do that night, as I was so scared about how sick he seemed to be.  I do feel it was God's nudge that had me take him to the hospital instead of waiting to see the doctor the next day.  Another intervention from above.  I knew God had a purpose for this son's survival.  I felt the responsibility to raise him to honor and obey God.

During our years in Joliet, both sons started school.  It was so hard for me to put them on that school bus, yet I knew that was part of raising children.  Paul and I were called into a special meeting at school regarding our sons.  We were told that they were very advanced, and it would be easy for them to get bored in school.  Rather than have them skip grades, they were going to offer them extracurricular assignments to keep them challenged.  

For our part, we were told success in life did not depend on intelligence, rather it came from healthy self-esteem.  It was important that the boys were happy with themselves and not pushed to prove themselves by their grades.  I don't think I am wording that exactly right, but I just know once again I felt the responsibility as their mother to keep their lives in balance.  Being a mother is not an easy task when you take the position seriously, and I did.  I was very privileged to be given these two marvelous sons to raise and guide in their early years.  I did not want to fail them nor God!

After our second son started school, I took a part time job.  I knew I would get restless at home by myself.  My job had me home about an hour after our son got home, so he stayed with a neighbor until I picked him up.  He had playmates there so he didn't mind it at all.  By the end of his kindergarten year, we were moving again.  Paul had received a promotion in his company which took him back to his former plant.  We loved Tennessee, we had good friends back there, and winters were much milder than near Chicago!!  Make no mistake, we had good years in was the perfect setup for our young sons, in the neighborhood, in the church, and at school.  But to go back "home"!  How loving God is!!

Monday, February 17, 2014

12 - My Story, God's Story - Moving to Joliet


Our sons were both born in Cleveland, TN.  When they were 2 & 3 we made a temporary move to Lake Charles, LA.  Since Daddy was working 18 hour days, 7 days a week, Mommy had to be creative to keep the boys entertained, as well as herself.  We were in that temporary move for nine months.  We thought we would be going back to Cleveland, TN, but God had other plans.  

As I write our story, I am not going to track Paul's company positions, for I could hardly keep track of them.  He was a chemical engineer who was fully dedicated to his work, and received many job opportunities and promotions along the way.  Some of those opportunities/promotions meant moving.  

When he and I went on an interview trip to Joliet, we stayed in a Holiday Inn for a couple of nights.  The first day, while he was interviewing, I spent the day with a real estate agent looking at houses.  This was a nightmare.  The country was in a season of high interest rates (16-18%), and houses and taxes in Illinois were so much more expensive than Tennessee.  When I looked at what would be in our price range, I didn't like what I saw.  I didn't want to give up our nice home in TN for poor housing in IL.

We asked the company to let us stay for the weekend and give us more time to research this move.  Church was very important to us.  So not only did we want to find a house that would work for us, we wanted to find a church.  A church that preached holiness...sanctification.  

We believe sanctification to be a second work of grace after a person received salvation from Jesus Christ...a forgiveness of past sins.  It is a work that allows the Holy Spirit to do a cleansing within us.  I like the story I have heard that explains this so simply.  It's like moving into a new house when one becomes a born again Christian.  Jesus wants to come in and live there with you.  You invite Him, but you say to Him, "Jesus, this house is yours.  Only there is one room that is locked, and you have to stay out of that room.  It's MY room.  It's private.  Don't go in there, Jesus."  

But something doesn't seem quite right.  I say I love Jesus, but I won't allow Him into my life (house) totally.  The more I am living with Him in my house, the more I want Him to be able to clean every room, even my private room.  So I totally surrender my whole house to Him...He takes control, and I live with peace, and a desire to always please Him.

Another way sanctification has been explained is that in salvation we are forgiven of our past sins.  Salvation, however, does not take away the desires to keep sinning, so we struggle in our Christian walk.  Up and down, in and out.  We get tired of living like that, and we truly do want Jesus to be in control (through His Holy Spirit).  So we sign a contract with God.  We don't list the details, we just sign a blank sheet and give it over to God.  Whatever He wants to put in that contract is okay with us.  We trust Him completely with our lives.  We want to live in obedience to Him, to please Him, to daily walk with Him in charge of our paths.

I was raised in a holiness denomination.  I was saved at age 11.  I went to church whenever the doors were opened.  My parents were strong Christians, and our family was committed to the church, helping the church in any way we could.  As a teenager I would testify to being saved and sanctified, and I thought I was because of how many times I went to the altar.  But also as a teenager, I slipped up many times.  I didn't always live in truth and purity.  

By the time I had two little ones in our home, I was tired of struggling so much with bad attitudes and anger and frustration...mostly directed at others in the church.  I knew something was wrong with me.  I didn't feel like the Christian I claimed I was.  

We attended the General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene (which occurs every four years) for the first time in 1980, held in Kansas City, MO...the church headquarters.  All of the General Superintendents (there were six of them) spoke at the services, and they all focused heavily on being sanctified...being set apart for God's use, God's purpose.  I began to hunger so deeply for that work in my life.  I was so tired of struggling in my Christian walk.  I began to seek to be sanctified.  I read whatever I could get my hands on that explained it.  I listened to sermons about it.  I went to the altar asking God to sanctify me.  

In my weariness I finally knelt at a very crowded altar (it was lined from one end to the other), and I told God that I wanted to be sanctified.  I told Him I knew it was His will for me according to scripture (I Thessalonians 4:3).  Then I told Him whether I felt like I was sanctified or not, when I got up from that altar, feelings or no feelings, I was going to claim His sanctification.  I started to stand up, and about that time the Holy Ghost train went from one end of the altar to the other, and people started shouting and praising God like I had never heard before.  The Spirit fell on us in a mighty way.  I fell back to the altar and was unaware of anyone else around me. 

I had a vision of being on the sand at a seashore all by myself.  The gentle waves kept rolling in and drenching me.  As they receded out, again and again, I felt so squeaky clean.  I had never felt this way before.  When I looked up (in my vision) I could see so much clearer than before.  Everything was so bright, so beautiful.  My heart was totally at peace, and I felt like I loved everyone and everything.  It was an out of body experience for me.  I knew God had done His work in me.

From that experience when I am asked what is the evidence I received that God had filled me with His Spirit...Sanctified me...set me apart to do His will...I say that He filled me with His Divine Love.  He changed me from the inside, and instilled His love in me for others.  My attitudes changed.  I was given patience and understanding I never had before.  To be sure, I was still human...I was not made perfect.  There would be many times in the years ahead I would not always act out of love and patience and understanding.  However, the Holy Spirit was always there to remind me I was to follow His way, not my own.  Maybe that meant making restitution, making things right.  Maybe that means continuing to develop the attitude of Christ Jesus in me.  I just know that I am surrendered to the will of God.  No matter where He leads me, I will follow.  That is the only way to have real peace.  Thanks be to God, He gives me peace.  No matter what my trials are, when I turn it over to Him, the fear and anger and frustration melt away, and He fills me with peace.  

That is why when we were making our move to Joliet, I wanted a church that believed in and preached holiness/sanctification.  So back to our weekend where we sought God's will on our move to Joliet.

We woke up on Saturday morning and knelt by our bed and asked God to show us His will in this move.  We wanted to find a house that would work, and we wanted a church where sanctification was preached.

We took off driving.  I believe God was in charge of that trip.  We were driving more in the country, and we turned down a road that took us by a new county park with a walking trail with workout stations, a playground, tennis courts, and ball fields.  In front of this park was a row of brand new houses being built.  We stopped and walked through a house that was almost completed.  I was standing at the kitchen sink, looking out the window (Paul was out in the back yard), and I felt God speak to me in my spirit and say that I should trust Him, that if we moved to Joliet, this was the kind of house I would have.  

We called the realtor's number, and found out he lived in that row of houses.  He came over to this house and told us that it was already sold, but that there was another house on the end lot that was almost finished.  It would be an extra large lot as it was at the entrance to the park.  Also, even though current interest rates were averaging 17%, these homes had a preset interest rate of 12%.  That sounds high today, but it was a 5% savings back then!  Plus, if we wanted to do some of the finishing on the house, we could save off the purchase price.  It was an unbelievable deal!!!  It was nicer than our TN house, and located right on a park for our boys!!  The yard was super large, lots of room for a garden, a tree house and sand box, a place to play t-ball beside the house.  A sidewalk for learning to ride bikes.  It was perfect for us with our two young sons.  God is SO GOOD!!  

On Sunday morning we went to a Nazarene church.  They were in the midst of Bible School, having sessions on Sundays through the summer, instead of one week long VBS.  The adult class was having a special study on sanctification.  Did you get that?  Sanctification!!  That was our second fleece.  In our hearts we knew God was leading us to Joliet, and we said yes!

We found a rental house to live in until our house was completed.  We named our new house the Chocolate House, as it was painted a dark brown.  Daddy built a tree house over a sandbox out back near the garden he planted.  Our back yard was sloped, which made for great sliding in the winter.  I enjoyed walking the park trail and taking the boys down to the playground.

I will do a second blog on the rest of the Joliet years.  Next time.