Second Chances, new beginnings, new visions.....ever thought of those? Sure at one point or another we all have had them. In my lifetime I never thought I could have that second chance, but God had his hand on my life and a different plan for me.
I was saved at the age of nine. I was raised in a Christian home, which meant that morals and values were important to my family. I was a typical teenager with all the struggles with school, peer pressure. I couldn't wait to go to church where I felt safe and secure. I was involved with our youth group as well as being a member of the choir. Summer camps were a great time for me... a time to look into my life, make goals for myself and find a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.
At the age of 20 my life changed. I met a friend of my brothers while visiting in Tennessee one summer. When I met this man I thought to myself, he is a nice man, nice looking, and he was a Christian. In the next few months we began to write letters back and forth. Throughout the letters we began to have feelings for one another. He traveled down to Florida to visit my family and me. By the end of the week he had proposed to me and I said, "yes".
I found myself packing and moving to my grandparents in Tennessee as I was preparing for my wedding. We were married in a country church in Johnson City, Tennessee in January of 1977. After the first year of marriage things appeared to be great, then l began to notice things that I did not know about this man before. As a young bride, and marriage being a new venture for me, I did what I could to please my husband. We began attending church with his parents every Sunday after church, having the Sunday meal at their home and spending the day. This happened quite often and for me too frequently.
After two years of living in Tennessee we decided to make a change and move to Florida. I was thrilled knowing I would be with my family and friends. Things were going well for a while, then problems started to erupt once again. He became very selfish and controlling in his ways. We did not have much money, and yet he wanted his things. He began to be controlling in our finances. Yet, he had the best of everything...his fishing tackle, his remote control, boats at $300 each. On a soda pop budget I could not understand where the money was coming from. If I wanted to spend money he had to know where I was going and what was I spending it on.
As I look back now this was where the manipulation and lies started in my marriage. Later on in my marriage I was ridiculed for attending church so much. Rehearsals in choir and drama kept me busy. However, I always made sure I spent time with my family. The manipulation continued for many years this was only the beginning. With all the lies and manipulation going on there were so many times I did not want to come home from work. I was so hurt and felt unloved, lack of respect and never appreciated. I become very bitter and I was searching for answers to my marital problems. At this time in my life I received an invitation from a good friend, Jackie, who invited me to visit their church. She also suggested I speak to her pastor, that he may be able to counsel me and help me to understand things within my marriage. I made an appointment to speak to the pastor because I knew my marriage was in trouble. I arrived at my appointment and I shared with the pastor the problems within my marriage. In my conversation with the pastor I also told him I was considering divorce. He encouraged me and gave me spiritual advice, along with an invitation to come back to his church.
I went home and I discussed with my husband what the pastor shared with me. My husband was not happy with me anyway. He knew I had the appointment with this pastor; however, he did not want to go to the appointment with me. My husband was in much denial that we had problems. He constantly blamed me for the problems we were having. I shared with my husband that I thought we should attend this church and that a fresh start with young people our age would be a great new beginning. I was hopeful that there might be a second chance for us. I thought by making this change we might be able to find answers to our problems. We decide to visit the church and loved it immediately. The pastor was wonderful and the music department was great. I enjoyed the choir so much. I felt anxious and wanted to join the choir. As a couple we made a decision to try on our marriage again and began attending on a regular basis. In a few months we joined the church.
Our marriage seemed to be improving and we were enjoying our new friendships, especially with other couples. I immediately joined the choir and was so excited about the production department. Several months had gone by and my husband started to manipulate me once again. If that weren't bad enough, Satan would get me aside and tell me "What do you think you are doing"? You are not good enough to sing". This was very confusing for me, however I continued on with choir and was determined that Jesus Christ and I could work this out. My self-esteem was low and my personality began to change. More verbal abuse kept crushing my soul. I felt worthless. My friends were having a very difficult time with me because I was becoming bitter. My parents and family had a very difficult time trying to understand me and no one wanted to be around me. At this point in my life I felt no one cared, I felt unloved, unappreciated and I yearned to be belong as well as to be loved.
In the past I had tried to leave my husband on a number of occasions. When this would happen he would always tell me he would change and things would be different. Yes, things would change for two or three days and unfortunately he went back to his old ways. As I was getting ready to leave him again I found out after 10 years of marriage I was expecting our first child. Nine months later a baby boy came into our lives, Stephen was born. I thought to myself, God must have other plans for me. Ok, Lord we will try this again.' Working a full-time job and coming home taking care of my husband and a new baby was very hard for me. Yet there were days I thought to myself well surely God would heal this marriage. I prayed for a miracle for my marriage because I knew we both had a greater responsibility...a son to raise. Stephen's father did not want children, but God changed those plans. My husband did not want to take care of our son for me go to rehearsals at church. He would want me to find a sitter, preferably his mother. His parents had moved to Florida and three years later we moved here, too. This was even another issue in our marriage.
I tried so hard through scripture, prayer, tears, and conversations with friends to find out what could I do to save this marriage. So many times it was brought to my attention that my husband would have to make changes. I knew in my heart I needed to make a few changes too. I would go along with things even though I knew this was not right. I did not want any more verbal abuse, so I tried to get along to the best of my ability. This just caused more resentment for me. He did not want counseling, but I did think that this would help us. I went to my pastor on several occasions for advice and tried but I knew this was over. I did not want to disappoint my church family, my own family or embarrass anyone, but I could not go on like this. This was eating at me 24 hours a day. After 14 years of marriage I filed for divorce. The next two years were very hard, I was lonely and miserable but I had to work through it. I knew Jesus loved me and if it had not been for his divine grace and mercy I do not know where I would be today.
I trusted Christ to show me a way through all this heartache. He gave me friends to help me through a very difficult time and some of my friends had been through similar circumstances. Their words of encouragement, prayer and God's Word kept me going. I did not know what I did to deserve such friends, I felt very blessed. My family was there for me; my brother, Gary, and his wife ,Becky, were a phone call away. There were many times I would pick up the phone and they were right there with advice and encouragement.
But you know God had his hand on me when I felt so alone. God was holding me and comforting me when I was lonely and empty. Mistakes? Yes, I made them. Why do I share my story with you to let you know our God is a God of a second chance? Why? Because he did it for me. What happened for me? Forgiveness and a second chance at happiness and a re-commitment to Jesus Christ.
Later on God brought a wonderful man in my life, which changed my life dramatically. His name is Ray Glenn we met at Seminole Park on a Sunday afternoon. I had taken my son to the park and I was just enjoying my day. My son was just playing and having the best the time in the world. Something had caught my eye for a moment and when I looked around and he had fallen off of the merry go round and fell at Ray's feet. I went over and saw this man and he was dusting off my son. By the time I reached my son, he had run off and was playing once again without a care in the world. I introduced myself to Ray and five hours later we realized just how much we had in common. Time passed and within one year we were married. Last week we celebrated our anniversary of nine years. God is so good and so faithful. The most amazing thing is God's mercy and grace on my life. He looked down at me and gave me a second chance at a happier life.
The miracle that occurred throughout this situation as well was that I was given a chance to know my Heavenly Father in a much deeper relationship. How did that happen? Through counseling, encouragement and time in prayer. God word tells us in Matthew 6:14-15, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your father will not forgive you." Because of God's grace I was able to forgive the ones that hurt me throughout my first marriage. You may be asking yourself this question, "Why should I forgive?" Because our God is a forgiving God and he loves each and every one of us that much.
My ex-husband came to me and told me he needed to talk to me. That day was a day I will never forget; the great power of God was with me. My ex-husband told he just finished a class at his church called Divorce Care. Ironically my new husband and I were going through the same class and just finished it as well. These were the words my ex-husband said to me, " If I only knew then what I know now things would have been so different and I am so sorry for what I put you through." I accepted his apology and God's healing came through me so sweetly.
Just recently my ex-husband's mother apologized to me, which caught me off guard. Her kinds words were, "I just want you to know how much I love. You and I have been through a lot together and I want you to know I will always love you". That was her way of apologizing to me. There was such a sweet spirit in that room and I told her I loved her too. We cried and held each other close and to this day are still friends.
Forgiveness plays such a big part in our Christian walk. Without it we hold things back, grudges, jealousy and resentment can creep in. God's word is so faithful and we must be open to the scriptures and look for the answers me need. In Mathew 18:21-22 Peter asked Jesus "Lord how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? Jesus responded and said, "I tell you, not seven times but seventy times seven times".
Is there a relationship that needs mending in your life? Do you need forgiveness from someone else? Is there brokenness in your life that you just can't let go of? Know that Your God and mine is a God of a second chance. Seek a new beginning, go to God in prayer, and mend that relationship. When you do, God will give you peace and understanding and that second or third chance will lighten your load and brighten your world. In Psalms 51:10 says, "Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me."
St. Petersburg, FL
Excerpt from Enduring the Fragrance of Christ