Ironically, it was Paul who was so instrumental in drawing me back to my roots. My boyfriend went into the Army and was shipped off and I found myself at loose ends. I had known Paul from church but as I said, I hadn't darkened that door in a very long time. We started dating and from the start I was attracted to what I saw as his intense passion and commitment to serving Christ. He was in a Christian band (the beginning of the "Jesus Movement" and contemporary worship) and he and his band mates were busy with their ministry. I realized that I had been longing for something more, even though I'd had no complaints before. I was drawn to Paul and from him to God and I excitedly began to embrace a life that was putting God before myself. Almost without a 2nd thought we got married, fought through our whole 1st year, began to settle in, started having children and before we knew it had 3 kids and a mortgage. We were heavily involved in a church and in ministry. I loved it. I felt I was where I belonged both in the Lord, in my marriage, and as a mom.
And then the bloom began to fade. Our marriage was suffering though I couldn't figure out why. Long story short, one night I found out that Paul had been fired from his very good job because his employer was aware of a cocaine habit that I knew nothing about. My world was shaken. What was I to do? I had 3 young children, I wasn't working at the time, and not only was my husband unemployed but he was an addict. It was a sleepless night. But God met me there, in my worry and my stress. By morning, I was able to reach out to Paul, reassure him that we'd get through this together, and began the enormous task of rebuilding our lives. The next year was difficult as we struggled financially and as Paul struggled with the aftermath of his actions. But through it all I had a faith that hadn't been there before and I knew that, no matter what, God was walking right beside me and I knew I could depend on Him.
Nine years later, Paul wanted to move us to Paso Robles. He was going to work for the same company that he was currently with but would run a small local store. It is a testament to the trust that we had rebuilt that I was actually able to follow him here. We quickly became immersed in life and ministry at 1st Baptist and served in a variety of ways. Two of our daughters met their husbands here in Paso and our oldest daughter (who had stayed behind) eventually left Santa Barbara and joined us. God added to our brood when we took in a 14 year old girl named Tammera who eventually became a daughter. Through her, God taught me about unconditional love and the idea of adoption into God's family became much clearer to me. Tammera is married now, has 3 children, and is living in Tucson, but she remains and always will be, my 4th daughter.
By 2010, Paul and I were shepherding a "Young Adult Group" that met for dinner and Bible Study at our house every week. I loved it and I loved ministering along side of Paul. He was also serving as Worship Pastor at 1st Baptist. Everyone was married and out of the house, we weren't quite as broke as usual, we had time together - I thought life was good. And then I found out that Paul was having an affair with one of the young women in our group and my life blew apart. Paul moved back to Santa Barbara and we weren't able to put anything back together. Only a few months after he left, my dad and I were forced to put my mom in a convalescent care home due to her advanced Parkinson's. Tough times - we all experience them and no matter how our details differ we all have the same choice: Trust God completely or try to go it alone. Once again, I found myself hanging on for dear life to the One who is absolute truth. I was far from perfect but God was patient and gracious. There were countless sleepless, tear-filled nights but the morning always brought God's incredible peace.
I don't really know what God has planned for the rest of my life so I keep trying to just concentrate on taking the "next right step". Recently, God has shown me how utterly unworthy I am of His grace. I don't think I've ever really understood the verse in Isaiah that says,
I have been fairly content with my degree of righteousness. It's also been tempting at times to compare myself to Paul and feel O.K. about myself. But I am learning the depths of my sin and the greatness of God's love and forgiveness. I must not let my failed marriage define my life. I cannot rest on my "own righteousness" just because I didn't commit adultery. My righteousness has no more merit than the rag I use to clean my toilet. I am plenty capable of massive amounts of sin and I need Jesus just as much as anyone else. More and more I am amazed at what He puts up with from me and I am so grateful for His forgiveness. And because of His forgiveness I am able to forgive Paul and many others who have hurt me through the years. Actually, I am more than able. I am commanded to forgive, obligated, in fact. If I can't forgive someone who is no more imperfect than me, how can I accept forgiveness from a perfect God?
My life certainly hasn't turned out the way I anticipated. I never expected to be single, to lose ministry I loved, to watch my mom die slowly and cruelly and to spend years now in a "waiting room" of sorts. I'm a slow learner but God is an infinitely tolerant and long-suffering teacher. He won't be done with me until the day I die.