Sometimes we forget how powerful words can be. We use them with little thought most times, and with little consequence. Well, I am guilty, and I know just about everyone that reads this is too. We can take the simplest saying, and never even think of what we are saying just because of its common use today. Our language is often offensive, no matter the intent behind it. We simply just don’t think before we speak. My good friend, SD, asked me to share my story on her blog. When she did this, I was shocked a bit. I asked myself “Can my story really reach others? Is it worth telling?” A couple weeks later, a one line status update from my mother tonight, which sent me into a torrent of emotion and self-reflection, God spoke to me. He told me to write my story down. And I can’t speak for you, but when God tells me to do something, I do it! So, here goes my best attempt to share what I can. May God lead my fingers!
My older brother and I grew up in the country. Our father and mother were blue collar workers and raised us as such. My father was a strong and good man, but with his flaws. My mother was loving, firm, but never forgot to let us have fun. Of course she had her flaws too, but who doesn’t? They did their best to raise us, and if you ask me, they did pretty good. Starting at an early age my father did his best to teach my brother and me all the vocational skills that he knew. And let me tell you what, he knew a lot! I like to think I am a testament to that. I can build it, fix it, and break it, if necessary! My mother taught us what she knew too. She is where I got my passion for cooking, reading (although not till later in life), mending clothes, and my first taste of God’s love. How I regret that I did not receive it then!
My brother and I attended Sunday school till we were old enough to tell our mother that we wished not to go. Now, the reason for us to feel that way is unclear. If I could remember, I am sure it had something to do with having to get up early on a Sunday, what seemed to be our only true day off. But due to some memory block that I have, that’s the best I can guess. 20 or so years later, I am really wishing she would have just put up with our bickering, and made us to keep going, lol. Anyhow, we stopped, and that is all I can remember up to the day.
The day will be in my memory for the rest of my life. That is the day that many things happened. At the time, only one thing consumed my life, every thought, every action, and every reaction. Finding my brother, shot to death, on our garage floor. I was 12 years old, facing a reality that you should only find in the movies, my brother has been murdered! On the phone with 911, scared beyond words, and my brother, lifeless, staring at me, not responding to my screams; watching him being rolled away on a gurney. My parents, showing up after the emergency personnel, screaming and crying were another factor to handle. They were at work, you see. I had to call their bosses, after calling 911, to get them home. By the point they got home, I had emotionally shut down, giving off the “strong one” appearance.
This “Strong one” appearance never left. For the next 2 ½ to 3 years, I didn’t have a choice. Both of my parents slipped, well, more like dove into alcoholism. It was to the point that I had to make sure the checks were getting signed for the monthly bills. All along, on the inside, I had rejected God, was facing alcoholism myself. I made the classic mistake of “How God could let this happen” overtake me without listening for His response. This is also the time frame where I sought after everything a young man seeks to fill the hole in his life when he does not have and know Christ. I met a young woman, who I will call my false hope. I dated and stayed together with this false hope for many years, and eventually ended up married to her. At this point, most people looking in from the outside would see a college graduate, married, happy, with a good job, on his way for a happy life. Most who know me would say things like “You are so strong and have done so well." But had they any insight, they would have wept for me instead.
Everything was a show, a mask that I had put on for the world, for myself. It was my coping mechanism. I had been doing it so long, I had no idea it wasn’t the real me. I had become the mask! Then my false hope showed itself as just that, a false hope. Just a short eight months of marriage, she told me I would be happier with someone else. Devastation took on a whole new meaning! I had based my entire life on this false hope, and now it is telling me “so long, good luck, find happiness elsewhere." So, like so many other men without God, I took to strong drink and loose women. I didn’t even wait for the legal process to start. Two weeks after false hope waked out, I was so deep in sin; I might as well have been walking on coals.
So, with no end state in sight, I decided that I needed change. I enlisted in the United States Army on June 14, 2004. I had no idea it was the Army’s birthday, just the day I went in. So I set my sights on the last summer as a free man, and continued on my self-destructive path. But, as it is God’s way, He used this pitiful state I was in to lead me out of it. He took my path across another’s, my lovely wife. Although, I must admit, my intentions had not changed yet, but God’s plan for me was set in motion.
After basic training, she and I were married. It was short noticed and didn’t make either of our families happy. We had something amazing, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all sugar and spice in the beginning, but we both had that feeling of something more. Something other than us holding us together, another power stronger than either of us, it was God. Of course, at that time I had no idea what it was. My wife, who was already on her walk with the Lord, might have known, but I know I was clueless. She was crazy enough to follow me to South Korea. That should be enough said, hahaha. It was also at this time God gave us our first trial. My wife and I had been trying for many months to get pregnant with no avail. Doctors basically told us, when we get stateside, we could continue testing and figure out who or what the problems were.
After Korea, we got stationed at a rapidly deploying post and knew that we would have to face a deployment sooner than later. With children still on our minds, we pursued diagnosis for our infertility problems. At this point, we had been trying for children for almost 2 years. This was a very trying time. It was a lot of hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait. Then we got the news that we knew was coming, I was to deploy in less than 2 months. Worried that we would have to start the pursuit for the infertility issues due to health insurance regulations, we pressed forward as fast as possible for a diagnosis. This was all taking place around Thanksgiving, 2007. On top of that, my grandfather, which I truly loved and adored fell ill and had to be placed in a nursing home, leaving my grandmother to take care of the family farm, basically by herself.
With a yearlong deployment looming in the darkness of January 2008, we desperately pressed the doctors for answers. Just a few days before I had to deploy, my grandfather died. It hit me horribly. Then I got hit with the doctor’s visit where I learned the news I feared more so. Our infertility issues laid on ME. I was crushed! I had just lost my grandfather, someone I truly loved and looked up to, and then my manhood felt like it had been ripped away from me! I couldn’t be a father; I would never get to teach my skills to my offspring. My brother, gone, and me, unable to reproduce! My family line stops with me! All this days before leaving for war was almost too much to bear. That all too familiar mask manifested before I know what happened. So “Hide your feelings, Nick, that’s what strong people do”; continued my unhealthy way of coping.
Simply one of the hardest years of my life and my marriage, that almost ended in divorce. Praise be to God it did not! The hard times did not stop once I got home unfortunately. We continued the pursuit of children for the next two years, even though we knew that it was going to be very expensive to make it happen. We would have surgeries and procedures that did not have a good success rate and came with a hefty price tag. Along with that, I had to change units which was going to come with an all new set of challenges to face. The one good thing that came from all this was my wife found a church that she thought I could come with her to and be “okay” with, but we just never made it there. As is God’s way, he knew I was going to need more than just the thought of a friendly church to start going, he gave us a miracle. I received a phone call from my wife while away from home on a training event, “Baby, I’m pregnant!” is all I heard as I dropped the phone.
Happy times were short lived though, I was deployed again less than 5 weeks later, just to come home and have to go to an ARMY school that my leadership failed to get me out of. All these hardships and trials, finally pregnant, and now I am going to be half way across the country in a school when our baby is born. God once again smiled on us, while home over the New Year holiday, my beautiful baby girl was born on December 31. Her original due date was January 15th! 30 hours later I was on the road back to school to finish the last 2 weeks of the school. You see, I would have missed my daughter's birth had she not came early. Back from school, with the promise of some well-deserved time home, we tried to settle into the shock of finally being a family.
Once our daughter was a couple months old, after many long talks, we decided to get her baptized and dedicate her to Christ. In doing so, God spoke to me for the first time that I can remember. He told me “I accept her, but what about you?” Which, I did not receive for I heard it as my own thought, not His voice. You see, in my head, I thought I accepted Christ as a child. We started going to the church my wife found; I had cleaned up my life and my lifestyle. I was wrong!! The key word from the last sentence was “I”. So, plenty of good family time and church going was my answer. Wrong again! The true seed of belief was planted on my next deployment during a Bible study. A good, godly friend of mine was witnessing to a new member of the group and I was struck by his story. He then turned and asked me, when did I give my life to Christ. Realizing in that moment that I had no clue, I blamed it on the memory block I have from the time before my brother was murdered.
All this time, I had been going to church and believing I had givin my life to Christ so long ago that I couldn’t remember. So now, I had doubt in my heart. So I continued to go to church and it seemed like every Sunday, the pastor was asking for people to come forward and give their life to Christ. During that time of prayer, I was praying as hard as I could, asking God “should I raise my hand?” Never hearing a reply; the doubt still there though. Fast forward through another deployment; with another awesome Bible study. The first Sunday home in June, I know our church was having a baptism and I want to participate, never being baptized as an adult, under my own decision. So, like so many other Sundays where the pastor asked for people to come forward to pray and accept Christ, I was praying my heart out for an answer to my question “Lord, do I need to raise my hand?” Then as if I was the only person in that room, a voiced boomed “Go!” My hand shot up so quick, I almost jumped out of my chair! I was the only one that day to come forward. I was saved and baptized that day and will never forget June 10, 2012!
I have to say God has worked long and hard on me. This is my testimony to how how He will never stop seeking us, we just have to turn around with open arms and He is there ready and waiting for us. God started using me right away after that. First of all, He has laid it on my heart to be the responsible, Biblical household leader. I still have a lot of work to do, but I am now striving for it. He has also used me to spread His word and counsel others. I was scared and still and scared to do this. But, who am I to question God’s will. I may not have the hottest fire burning in faith but I throw another log on the fire every chance I get. God continues to bless my family and I. Just one month after giving my life to Christ, He blessed us with a second child; our second daughter will be here this April!
So in closing, if God can accept and use a wretch like me, He can accept and use you too! Listen to the Holy Spirit, when He pulls you one way, don’t fight it. Embrace it! None of us know when the end is coming, don’t gamble with your soul. When Jesus comes again, you want Him to know your name and have written it in the book of life. If you don’t believe me, read the last book in the Bible. It tells us what is in store for both sides; it is up to you which side you are on. God bless you and I hope my story inspires you.