My Life as a Lost Man
I did not grow up in a Christian home although I did grow up in a home with Christian values. My parents taught me to be honest in both word and deed, to have respect for all people, to use manners and politeness, never to cause trouble or start fights, not to make fun of anyone for any reason, to be humble in attitude regarding any accomplishments and never look down on anyone less fortunate than myself, to live a clean life obeying the laws of the land, and to never do anything to bring shame upon the family name. My Dad was also a very firm believer in teaching us the value of a well earned dollar. He put me to work when I was thirteen years old. I started working in the demolition business and later worked at his service station pumping gas. Since the age of thirteen I bought my own clothes. I bought my first car, paid for my own gas and insurance and earned my own spending money. Dad wanted me to appreciate the effort and sacrifices that went into having the things that many kids my age took for granted.
Although it was not a Christian home, it was a home where we all believed in God. My Dad liked to use the phrase, ďThe Old Man AboveĒ. He never attended church, nor read the Bible and therefore was never knowledgeable in Godís word. He had nothing to teach me and my brother in that regard other than His existence is real and His power is great.
Mom shared Dadís values and worked with him in teaching their sons these principles to live by. Her knowledge of Godís word was slightly better than Dadís which probably came from the fact that her parents were born again Christians. Mom shared some Bible stories with me when I was a small child and I found them fascinating. Being a child with a very curious and inquisitive mind, I started to ask questions that was beyond her ability to answer. My maternal Grandmother suggested that she buy me a Childrenís Bible Story Book. I read that book with enthusiasm again and again. I soon became the family expert on stories of the Bible although I was still just a child. On a Summer day in 1976 or 1977 my Mom was brought to conviction through a difficult trial in her life and gave her heart to the Lord. She was saved on Howard Hill while walking from the clothes line to the house after hanging out a wash to dry. By this time I was a teenager and far removed from any influence my Mom would try to invoke upon me.
Through the years I never forgot the stories I read in my Childrenís Bible Story Book and even read the Bible on occasion. Because I knew those stories, I always enjoyed watching any movie of a biblical subject and enjoyed participating in conversations involving the Bible. Even with such knowledge and interest however, I was still very much living in the world apart from God. It may seem that a young man with such knowledge and interest in the Bible would be in church where he could expand his knowledge and indulge his biblical interests. There is a simple reason I stayed out of church; church conflicted with the sinful life style I was living. My interest of Godís word took second place to my sinful and worldly ways.
At this period of my life (the mid 70ís) the Barnette family were our next door neighbors. They were a family of nine children and their mother Kathleen (Mrs. B). I became close friends with the three children still living at home, Joe, Danny, and Joan (AKA Poochie). I was at their home probably as much as my own. My interest in Joan quickly grew to more than friendship though at the time it was very much one sided. Then Interstate 181 took both our homes and each of us moved about a mile in opposite directions. This was a wonderful thing because when we were no longer neighbors, we soon began to date. I guess she had a problem with dating her next door neighbor. It was while we were dating that Poochie was saved. In 1982 we were married in a little country church, Bradshawís Chapel. The officiating pastor was Andy Sensabaugh who just happens to be the husband of my wifeís sister Helen; so in the same moment he pronounced us Husband and Wife, he became my brother-in-law. Following the ceremony, I asked Andy how much I owed him and he said all he wanted was for us to come to church and I agreed to do so.
Our marriage has been a very good and loving one but like most, it has seen itís trials. God has seen us through all of them without us ever separating. Naturally, being married changed my life in many ways. Some of my sinful ways came to an end all together. I had responsibilities as a husband and I took them seriously, but I was still lost.
Despite my sinful ways and even the fact that I was lost, God had a plan for me. God knows all things and he therefore knew I would eventually become His child. I was oblivious to Godís work he was doing in my life at the time and was only able to realize it in retrospect much later when I was under conviction.
The first work I am made aware of regarding Godís plan for me is that He moved me to a new job. In 1998, I was working at TPI Corp. as a Product Designer. TPI had not given any salary increases to their non-union employees in over seven years and they made it quite clear that they had no future plans to give any. They also did not provide any medical insurance for their employees. Like most companies where too much family is involved, favoritism and company politics abound. These are the reasons I wanted to leave the company. There was however a problem with leaving. As a Product Designer, I use a computer to execute my work. There are several design software packages used in industry for this purpose; some are common and some are rare. The software package that I used and the only one I had ever used was called, CADRA which was one of the very rare ones. This meant that it would be very difficult to find another job in my field in this area because my training and experience was limited to this particular software and most companies require a certain level of experience with the software they use when considering hiring a designer.
I researched to find any company in the area which used CADRA as their design software for possible employment opportunities. I found out that TRW in Rogersville, Tennessee, a designer and manufacturer of automotive steering systems used CADRA as their design program. One day in March of 1998, I saw an ad in the local newspaper for employment at TRW. The ad was not for Designers or even any administrative or technical positions; it was for plain old manual factory work. The pay scale was $2 less on the hour than I was presently making. I decided to apply. I received some criticism for that decision. Some people thought I was crazy to leave an office job for a factory job which paid $2 less on the hour.
I applied for a job with TRW and was hired on May 12, 1998.
Pay increases and promotions came much faster than I had even hoped for. Within eight months I had earned several raises for reaching certain levels of training bringing my wage to more than I was earning at TPI. I was selected to be a training coach which provided yet another pay increase. A position became available for a Quality Control Analyst for which I applied and was given the position with another substantial pay increase. God was pouring out blessings on me in great abundance!
For many years I had a desire to live in Carters Valley. I liked the rural setting with the convenience of being only minutes away from the city. For seventeen years I had lived in Bloomingdale and yearned to move but finances and job location had not made it feasible. By this time however, we had paid for many years on our existing home and therefore we had substantial equity built up which could provide a nice down payment toward a new home. With the increase in income the Lord had provided, along with the home equity we had, it was now affordable to seriously consider looking for a new home. Also considering TRW, my new employer, was located in Rogersville, and my wife still worked at TPI, a Carters Valley home was now a reasonable choice. We solicited the services of a Realtor and began spending the few days I had off looking at houses for sale in the Carters Valley area. We looked for several months but could not find a home that met our hearts desire. One day in March of 1999 we saw a house for sale at the corner of Old Hickory Circle and Maple Hill Drive which from outside appearances seemed to be what we were looking for. However, we also determined simply from appearances that it was outside our budget so we did not consider touring the home.
Meanwhile at TRW an announcement was posted on the bulletin board that nearly took my breath away. The Design Services Department was looking for a Designer with CADRA experience. I was dancing in circles when I read it! This is what I had been waiting for. This was why I took the risk of leaving TPI. I immediately turned in my resume and applied for the job. I got the job with another very substantial pay increase. Within thirteen months of leaving TPI , I was once again working as a Designer but this time with a Fortune 500 company who treated their employees very well. The chance I had taken paid off. My cup was surly running over with Godís blessings though at the time I did not have the appreciation for it that I do now.
With the new position of Product Designer accompanied with higher pay, buying the house on Old Hickory Circle became a feasible goal to pursue. We looked at the house and realized it had all the things we had been looking for. We made an offer and it was refused. We made a second offer and it was also refused. We decided it was not meant to be so we kept looking. We found another house which we did not like quiet as much as the one on Old Hickory, yet it was satisfactory. We decided to make an offer and our Realtor suggested we make a third offer on the Old Hickory house first and this time, let them know it was the final offer and if they did not accept it we would be buying another house and they would never hear from us again. It was an aggressive way to bargain but this time we had the advantage. Well, the aggressiveness paid off. Our offer was accepted. We moved in at 600 Old Hickory Circle on May 25, 1999.
Soon after beginning my new position with TRW as a Product Designer, I met a young man by the name of Mark Skelton. Mark was the son of a Baptist preacher and he himself was a deacon at his own church. My work station was right beside Markís. Before Mark and I ever had our first conversation, I knew he was a very knowledgeable and dedicated Christian by overhearing the conversations he had with others. He was always praising the Lord and it seemed he was sort of a mentor to other Christians in the office. People were always bringing their concerns, issues, and questions to Mark for his input and advice. Eventually Mark and I had our first conversation. Naturally our conversation was centered around some aspect of Christianity. Mark was surprised to learn that I was lost because he seemed to think that I had a lot of Biblical knowledge and understanding for a lost person. We enjoyed conversing with one another and continued to talk on such matters when opportunity allowed. I began to learn a lot about Godís word through Markís teaching. Things were brought to light that I had never seen before. Many misconceptions that I had held since childhood were shattered with the truth of Godís word through him. I believe placing me next to Mark was another part of Godís plan.
Through the years I had not forgotten the promise I had made to my brother-in-law who was the pastor that performed our marriage ceremony and had pronounced Poochie and myself ďHusband and WifeĒ. Though I was lost, I still considered myself to be an honest
man with integrity and a man who kept his promises. It was a matter of procrastination that had kept me from attending church. I still had the intentions of making good on that promise, it just never seemed convenient enough to attend because I always had something else I wanted to do on Sunday rather than attend church. I always knew that when I did attend church, it would be at the church Andy was pastoring. Someday, someday.
When I first toured our home on Old Hickory, I had no idea that the church steeple which rose into view beyond the meadow behind my house was none other than the steeple attached to Freedom Baptist Church pastored by none other than my brother-in-law, Andy Sensabaugh! A coincidence? I might have thought so at the time, but due to events that was to follow and my new insight in Godís work, I now realize that placing me in this home, just a stoneís throw from this church was another step in Godís plan. That church steeple is the center of the view from my large dining room window. At night, the light of the steeple illuminates the whole north side of my house. As I walk through the house at night and glance out any window on the back side of my home, that church steeple is the first thing to catch my eye. It is very inspiring. It causes me to think of God practically every time I walk through my house.