A Place of Peace
It was back in 1974, in a little church in Fort Smith, Arkansas, when Jesus transformed my life. I was a miserable young mother at the time, having failed to find the happiness I longed for in life.
I was not born into a Christian home. My parents divorced a couple of months after my birth and the first part of my life was unhappy. When I was eight years old, though, my mother was wonderfully saved and our lifestyle became completely different. That change helped me realize that there were two kinds of lives, and that God was the answer.
When I was eleven years old, my mother died, and my Christian grandparents became my legal guardians. They were quite strict, and as I grew into my teens, it seemed to me that my friends were having more fun than I was. God was calling after my heart and every time I did something wrong, I felt condemned for it. I thought if I could just go to a different church, maybe there wouldn’t be such conviction on my heart. However, I discovered that no matter what church I went to, God was there. I kept thinking, One of these days when I am married and leave this strict home, I will be happy.
I graduated from high school, and married Larry soon after. It was not long before the two of us were arguing about almost everything, including religion.
At the age of seventeen I graduated from high school, and married Larry soon after. It was not long before the two of us were arguing about almost everything, including religion. Larry had been brought up in the Apostolic Faith Church, but he was not a Christian either. Though he rarely attended church, he knew where he wanted to go when he was ready to seek salvation. I told him I didn’t see it his way, but would go to his church sometimes.
I thought perhaps becoming a mother would bring happiness. However, our first child was born prematurely, and we did not know if he was going to make it. Lying there in the hospital bed, I promised the Lord that if He would help our baby live, I would find a church to attend. Our little boy did live, and I kept my promise and found a church. I even began singing in the choir, but still I had no happiness inside. I remember singing the song, “Do You Know My Jesus?” and feeling terribly convicted because I did not know Jesus personally.
Our marriage was fast becoming a wreck. In time we had a second child on the way, but Larry was running around with his friends and racing motorcycles. I was home alone a lot and was getting bitter. I began to think that maybe if I left our marriage, I would be happy.
God was watching over us though. One Easter Sunday morning, my husband wanted to go to his church because it was Easter, and I went with him. I felt so miserable sitting there in the congregation, thinking I must be the worst sinner in the place. I wanted to get out and not come back for a long, long time. We went to his grandmother’s house for lunch, and she invited us to come the next Sunday because revival meetings were starting. Without checking with me, my husband said, “We’ll be here,” and I was so angry at him!
A tug-of-war was going on in my heart. God was dealing with me, and at the same time, the enemy of my soul was telling me I couldn’t live like a Christian.
That whole next week, it felt like a tug-of-war was going on in my heart. God was dealing with me, and at the same time, the enemy of my soul was telling me I couldn’t live like a Christian and that I would have no friends—I might as well wait until I was old and couldn’t have any fun to give my heart to God. By the time I pillowed my head on Saturday evening, I had made up my mind to fake a headache the next morning as an excuse not to go. Thankfully, the Lord worked on my heart and I got up, got our little boy ready, and went with Larry to church.
That morning the preacher talked about the Lord’s coming. I had never heard about that before, and God really tugged at my heart strings. When the congregation was singing the last song, my husband turned to me with tears running down his face and said, “Honey, do you want to go and pray?” I am not sure if I even answered him. I probably ran to the altar of prayer, because I knew that was my chance. There I poured out my heart to the Lord, telling Him I was sorry for the life I was living and the sins I had committed. I promised Him that if He would give me peace and happiness like the people in the church had, I would serve Him. The Lord came down in a moment’s time and wonderfully saved me, wiping the slate clean. He saved Larry that same morning as well.
That day God gave me a new heart, a new life, and a new beginning, and I finally found the true happiness I had been searching for. Later, God sanctified me and filled me with the baptism of the Holy Ghost. In the years since then, He has answered many prayers. There have been some difficult times and hard trials—the hardest one being when we lost our eighteen-year-old son due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound. I can’t imagine a more difficult trial, but the Lord truly was my Comforter. I felt my joy was gone forever, but having two other children, I knew I needed to be strong for them. I do not know what I would have done if God had not been there to turn to in prayer. He answered, wonderfully restoring my joy. Today, it is a privilege to share with others the joy God has given me. I love Him with all of my heart, and I want to be ready when He comes for me.
God has shown great love and mercy toward me. He spoke to my heart when I was a young boy. Some veterans from the Apostolic Faith—Jim and Naomi Williams, and Elton and Sarah Hamilton—brought this Gospel to our part of Arkansas; they used to come to my grandmother’s house and hold cottage meetings. As just a little child, I would sit there and listen as they sang the old hymns. Those songs touched my heart and sometimes I would cry while listening. I did not understand that God was speaking to me.
My mom and dad were very strict and, my younger brother and I could not do anything without someone letting our folks know. However, I have no regrets whatsoever about that. I don’t feel like I have missed a thing in life. I have never smoked, never been drunk, never took the Lord’s name in vain, never used drugs. In fact, there is a whole list of things I never did, but living a life that looked good from the outside did not make a Christian out of me. I still needed to be saved.
I spent three years in the military and was overseas in Germany for about twenty-two months. Though Kaye and I had married and she was with me, there still were plenty of chances to do anything I wanted. However, God kept His hand over me and I did not go deep into sin. In fact, one time while I was in the service, a man asked me, “Are you a Christian?” I would have liked to say yes, but I knew the love of God was not down in my heart. Through the years, the Lord talked to me and I knew my need for salvation, but I put it off, thinking that some day when I got old I would turn my life over to Him.
How thankful I am that God kept dealing with my heart. In April of 1974, my grandmother invited us to a church service in Fort Smith, Arkansas. That day God let me know that I needed to pray. Before, I had always counted the cost and turned away, but that day it was clear to me that I just needed to make things right with God. I am so glad that I found my way to an altar of prayer, and there God came down and made a wonderful change in my heart. I have never looked back or regretted that decision for a minute.
Kaye was saved the same day. God restored the love in our marriage and blessed our family as we did our best to serve Him together. We used to sing a song sometimes about doing whatever it takes to draw closer to the Lord. Part of the lyrics said you would be willing for God to take the dearest things in your life, if that would make you more like Him. Though I hadn’t personally experienced all of the words, I sang it from my heart and I meant it.
One day, when my wife and I had been saved for about fourteen years, the Lord allowed one of those dearest things to be taken from us.
Then one day, when my wife and I had been saved for about fourteen years, the Lord allowed one of those dearest things to be taken from us. Sometimes we think we would like to be able to see down the road a ways, but it is better that God did not show me what was going to happen because I might have told Him I could not handle it. It is hard for me to convey the feelings that surround this part of our story, but from my perspective, there is nothing in the world harder than losing a child. The Word of God says that God’s grace is sufficient and His strength is made perfect in weakness, and that really is true. I do not know what we would have done without the Lord.
The evening that a military officer came to our house, we had no idea what was happening. After he greeted us, he told us, “You had better sit down.” I said, “I don’t need to sit down . . .” but he insisted, “Yes, you do.” When he told us that our son was gone, my chest felt like someone took a big chunk out of it. If I had not been sitting down, it would have knocked me to the floor. The pain was indescribable.
When the officer left our house, Kaye and I hugged each other. We got down by the couch and opened God’s Word to Psalm 121:2, “My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” We knew God was where we must turn. But how do you continue on with life after something like that happens? For many, many days I was in a fog. I had a job and had to go back to work, but I hardly knew what I was doing; it was hard to concentrate. Sometimes while driving around town, I would think I saw my son. People reached out to us, sent us cards, and tried in every way to help. We appreciated all of that but they could not really provide the comfort we needed. It is only God’s grace that helps in hard times like that, because you are not able to pray. You are hardly able to function. How grateful I am that God was there.
My prayer was that God would not take all the pain away. I did not want to be so hardened I could not recall my pain anymore; I wanted enough left to give me compassion for others going through a similar time.
One Sunday morning at church, something in my heart said I simply could not go on living like that for the rest of my life. I remember nothing about that meeting except that it seemed there was just too much sorrow and pain to bear. As I began to pray, I told the Lord I was not going to leave until He did something to help me get through this. There was no bargaining with God, just a desperate need. Even as I prayed, though, my prayer was that God would not take all the pain away. I did not want to be so hardened I could not recall my pain anymore; I wanted enough left to give me compassion for others going through a similar time.
The Lord came down and met me that morning. I cannot explain what He did, but somehow He replaced whatever had been taken out with His own presence. It was a new experience. I knew exactly when it happened; it was that real. God had filled my heart. Did I know exactly how things would go forward from that point? No, but I knew it was going to be different, and it was. Truly I can say today that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Through the years since then, Kaye and I have been able to talk to folks along the way who had aching hearts and tell them that God will hold them through the storms. God has blessed our lives and although we never forget our son, we thank God for our daughter and her husband, our other son and his wife, and our six precious grandchildren. We have found that God is always there, working in our behalf, helping us along, giving us strength for our day.
It is good to serve the Lord. This Gospel is the most wonderful thing in our lives, and we look forward to the day when “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death” (Revelation 21:4). Until then, I want to be all that He would have me to be, and follow Him every step of the way.