It wasn't a pretty day, at least it wasn't to me, but then that might have been because nothing would have been pretty to me that day. I was at the end of my rope. There's a cliché that says when you reach the end of your rope to tie a knot and hang on, well, I didn't have what it took to tie the knot. I was rapidly sliding right off, and didn't much care how far I was going to slide, or where I was going to slide to. I just wanted, well, I wasn't at all sure what I wanted.
Bill was gone. I guess I should clarify that. He was more than a thousand miles away and that pretty much qualified as gone. Eric was gone, too. He wasn't nearly as far away, but he might as well have been. I was alone. Really alone. I was also living a lie, and tired of it.
There I was, every Tuesday morning, teaching a Bible study on self esteem and weight loss, and I hated my life. Okay, it's out. I've actually admitted it. To myself, anyways. The class was very successful. We were all losing weight, we were all very involved in each other's success, calling each other daily and checking in with our "buddies" to encourage each other.
But I was sitting here in the bathroom, crying hysterically, because I just couldn't cope any more.
So, how did I get here? It all started over a year ago.
We were living in Bolivar, in central Ohio. In the fall of '80 I was driving a bus for Eric's school. It was a private Christian school. In Canton, 30 miles north of us. The buses picked up students from as far away as 50 miles. I was working all day at the school, assisting teachers, attempting to keep peace in the lunchroom and controlling chaos on the playground. In return for my time at the school, Eric's tuition, bus fees, books, and lunches were paid for. I actually even had a little left over to take home. Not much, it was considered a ministry, so the pay was minimal. But the stress was high. Everybody thinks that kids at a private school are the cream of the crop, but let me tell you, that just ain't so. About half the kids come from Christian homes, with real rules for behavior, the other half, well, they are there because they have no place else to be, the public schools won't have them anymore. Then there are the kids who are there because it's a status symbol. They're actually worse than the delinquents. They act like they own the world, and maybe they do! They're parents think so, anyways.
Well, at that point I'd been doing it for two and a half years, and it got tougher every year. Eric was doing so well, I couldn't even think of taking him out. He was getting all A's, on the ski team, winning cross-country trophies, and had a place in the choir that had just spent several weeks traveling the country singing. This was all really good for him. He was making friends that we thought were a good influence and really coming out of his shell. That very quiet little boy who would have followed whoever the classroom leader was, into anything they were doing, was gaining a value system and the strength to hold to it.
So what was wrong?
A new restaurant was being built just up the road from us. I got this wild idea that I could apply for a job baking. I'd been doing the baking for parties for years, and my pastries were always in demand. There was never anything left after one of the events I baked for. So I whipped up one of my more popular deserts and went in to talk to them over the Christmas break in '80. It did the trick. I was called and asked to come in to talk. They already had a pastry chef, she was actually an Amish woman, well known for her pies, but they needed someone to assist her and possibly do the second shift. We discussed salary and hours and I jumped at the chance. I called the school and resigned. I turned my bus over, cleaned out my locker, and celebrated.
The restaurant opened two weeks later and I was there for the opening. I worked 3 twelve hour days in a row. We didn't have all the equipment yet that we needed, and I was beating whipped cream by hand. I mean literally by hand. I had a hand whip, and needed to beat several quarts to top all the deserts. I was exhausted. My arm was about to break off, but I was happy, happier than I could remember in a long time. I pulled a chair into a corner and sat there whipping, a couple quarts at a time. Then the new assistant manager walked past me, did a double take, and said, "We don't need people sitting down on the job, you're fired." The owner wasn't in, there was nobody to appeal to, I wasn't allowed to make any explanations, and I was ordered out the door.
I went home, and cried. Now what? We lived outside of a small town of 900 people, another job didn't exist. Could I call the school back?
After a few days of brooding I sort of lost it. We were new at being Christians. In fact, we had only just started attending church and come to know the Lord in '77 after my dad's death. We hadn't had much real grounding, and I didn't really know how to call on the Lord for strength. The church we were in was great on Bible studies, but I had no clue as to how to personally apply what I was learning.
I'd had a miscarriage a few months earlier, and that was adding to my "bottom of the pit" feeling. I attempted to take my life, ending up in a mental ward, where several things happened, including the discovery that I needed a hysterectomy. I ended up leading my roommate to the Lord, before the surgery, and being released with the admonition to see a counselor. Oh, did I mention that part of my depression was the lack of money? We had barely been making it, getting groceries at a food bank, before I left the school and then lost my new job. We had no insurance. I was expected to pay for my hospital stay, including surgery, and add counseling to that, and still survive on the small salary Bill was making. We didn't even have a car. Bill walked to the expressway, where one of his fellow employees picked him up every morning.
Well, I'm not going to get into the details of all that, because I've told it before.
So a few days after coming home from the hospital I received a phone call from the restaurant owner. He apologized up one side and down the other, said it was all a big mix-up, and asked me to please come back as soon as I could get a medical release. I agreed.
Ten weeks later I went back to work. I thought the problem was solved. I happily went back to work. By then the rest of the equipment had arrived, well, most of what was needed. But there was a beautiful industrial sized mixer to do things like whipping cream now!
I happily baked for several weeks. Our family got very sick of pies. If I occasionally messed one up, it would get put aside and I would take it home. I think a few more may have gotten taken home than really should have. I was asked to come in by myself at night and bake. I was in seventh heaven. I got to bake all night, making as big a mess as I wanted. I just piled all my dirty dishes in the sink for the dishwasher who came in at 6 AM. I baked, and experimented with what I was making, and whipped up all kinds of fancy dishes I probably never would have attempted otherwise. I heard that people would call from 50 miles away to ask what was on the desert menu, and would come in by the van full for some of my pastries.
Then one day I needed to come in during the day, just for a few days to fill in. So I did. But I wasn't used to the crowds and the noise of a busy restaurant kitchen, or the bustle. I had walked to the ice machine to get a glass of water, the next thing I knew, I was on the floor in a puddle of water, and my blood. My hand went down into the glass I had been carrying and the broken edge cut all the way through my thumb to the bone. I ended up back in the hospital. Surgery was done and I spent several weeks in a cast. We still didn't have any medical insurance, but this was covered by the restaurant's.
While I was gone, they replaced me at the restaurant. I was out of a job again. I called the school back but they had also long since replaced me.
We were living in a trailer at the time, out in the middle of a pasture. We got the chance to move into town that summer. As I said, it was a very small country town, barely large enough to call a town.
Eric was given a scholarship that allowed him to return to school. Since we didn't have to worry about that, maybe we could make it on Bill's pay. We struggled through the next winter. Eric was involved in so many after school activities, that he ended up living in the city where the school was. He lived with one of the families from school, just coming home a couple weekends a month. I really missed him.
Now that we lived within a block of the church, I began teaching a weight loss class. As I already mentioned it was a pretty successful class. The twelve of us in the class were losing an average of two lbs a week, and we were learning more about how God valued us.
Things seemed to be going as well as they could. Then, on Good Friday, Bill lost his job. We took his last pay, paid a month's rent, paid utilities, and bought a plane ticket for Bill. There was a possible job for him in Texas. He boarded the plane with $20.00 and I had twenty. How long would it be before we had any income?
We had gotten a 12 week subscription to a Texas newspaper a couple weeks before Bill lost his job, because we suspected what was to soon come. We said that he would look in Texas for as long as the subscription lasted, if he didn't find anything by then, we would try another part of the country.
Bill didn't get the job he went down for, but he did connect up with Missionary Tech Team, who took him in and helped him. He also did whatever work he could for them. Missionary Tech Team is a group of architects and engineers in Longview, TX, building and designing churches and campgrounds for missionaries around the world, and because they are supported by their home churches as missionaries themselves, they charge very little for their services.
As the weeks went by, I had garage sales; I sold off as much as I could to get by. The landlady was getting upset because I was behind in the rent. The church paid that month's rent when I couldn't, they also brought over bags of groceries. It had been several weeks since I had seen either Eric or Bill. I had to ask for a ride to go visit my mother when she was hospitalized. I was lonely, I was frustrated, and I just couldn't go any further. I was running on empty.
So there I was, sitting there in the bathroom looking at myself in the mirror, crying hysterically because I was sliding off the end of the rope. There was one big difference from the last time I had felt this desperate. I had no interest in ending my life; I just didn't know how to go forward any further. I collapsed on the edge of the tub, hugging a towel. I heard someone knocking on the back door. I looked out the bathroom window and saw my landlady. I was behind again on the rent. I sat back on the tub edge and the sobbing was even more hysterical. How, why, where were we going to live and survive?
Eventually I stopped asking myself the questions and began to ask God. I had been clinging to what I had left of our things. Constantly wondering how much more I would have to sell; refusing to accept that I would have to. I wasn't sure I had much left that was of any value. It was mostly personal items, anyway, who would want them except me?
Finally I reached the very bottom. I realized that my pride was the source of my desperation, depression and fear. I finally gave it up. I got down on my knees and gave it all to God. I was willing to let Him have whatever he wanted. I would live on the streets, if it came to that. I don't actually remember a lot of what transpired on that bathroom floor. I do know that when I finally stood up and looked in the mirror again, I knew things were different. I had made him my Savior three years before, now I made Him my Lord.
When I went downstairs I did the Bible study for that weeks weight loss class. It felt like there was a light on the words I read. I actually felt loved, and wanted and really valued, maybe for the first time in my life. I shed as many tears as I had upstairs on the bathroom floor. I couldn't believe it was possible to have any left.
The next morning I led the class, and it was wonderful, I glowed.
I went home and collected the mail. I was reading a post card I had received, when the phone rang. It was Bill. He had just found a job, and he was sending me a check. I started laughing. "You won't believe what I'm holding in my hand! It's a postcard, from the paper, telling us our subscription has just run out and asking if we are going to renew it."
That is how we came to live in Texas, and how I came to realize just how much God loves me, and cares for me.
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