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.