September 10, 2018

Who Will Cut Back the Hedge?

One of my earliest memories is my mother gathering my sisters and me around her and reading the Bible and our Sunday school lessons, and then praying with us. I am so thankful for my godly heritage and the privilege of being raised in a Christian home.

Growing up, I always wanted to be a Christian, as it was apparent to me that God blessed the lives of those who served Him. However, in my teenage years, the worldly lifestyle looked glamorous and appealing, and I made up my mind that I wanted to wait awhile before giving my life to the Lord. What an unwise decision that was! Those wasted years filled with sinful choices brought consequences.

The Lord was faithful to continue to call me. I married at a young age, and while I was expecting my first child, I often spent time at my parents’ home. My mother would ask me to read the Bible to her, and it seemed like each time, it would fall open to Proverbs 14. The first verse of that chapter says, “Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.” One day I asked my mother if all Bibles naturally opened to that spot, or if it was just the Bibles at her home. She responded that she thought the Lord was speaking to me through that Scripture. He was, but I did not yield to His prompting. For more than two decades, I resisted God’s call.

Years later, when my mother passed away, I was grief stricken. She had been the rock in my life and I thought it would be impossible to quit grieving for her. I would listen to the recording of her funeral over and over; somehow the songs and the words the minister spoke comforted me. During that time of grief, I made a promise to the Lord to meet my mother in Heaven, and God never let me forget that promise.

Holy Ghost conviction

In 1991, the Lord really started convicting my heart. War was going on in the Middle East, and I knew the Bible said one of the signs of the end times would be “wars and rumors of wars.” There was tremendous fear in my heart that the Lord would come and I wouldn’t be ready to meet Him. One part of me wanted to surrender to God right then, but by that time I was married in adultery. My first husband was still living, and I knew I couldn’t be in a wrong marriage and be ready for Heaven. Also, my husband, Christopher, came from a wealthy family that did not believe in God. I knew he would not understand, nor would his family be happy with anything that adversely affected our relationship.

The Lord would speak to my heart and assure me that He would take care of me if I would serve Him.

God’s conviction continued to rest heavily upon me. Though I had turned aside from Him, I often prayed when I was alone. Many times I told God that I didn’t know how I could get along without my husband, but if He would help me out of my marriage, I would give Him my life. Each time the Lord would speak to my heart and assure me that He would take care of me if I would serve Him.

During that period of time, my sister, who was a Christian, was sending me a check each month from our parents’ estate. She always included a sweet note and a Scripture. At times I didn’t even want to open those envelopes because her notes convicted me so! However, I knew if I didn’t cash the check, she would call and offer to replace it.

The note that finally got to me was one I had carried around in the unopened envelope for some time. My husband and I had gone to the beach for a short vacation, and one day I decided I simply had to open it. That time her note included the Scripture, “No man can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). God opened my eyes and I had a real visual image of whom I was serving. That would not leave my mind.

A new determination

Shortly after we returned home, I was driving alone in my car and praying that same prayer, “Lord, help me out of my marriage and I’ll give You my life.” The Lord spoke so clearly to me and let me know that He could come even while I was praying, and I was not ready to meet Him. I was so afraid! I knew it was God’s Voice and I felt like it was my last chance. While I was still driving, I determined to surrender my life to the Lord no matter what the consequences. Thoughts about what my husband might say or do paled in comparison to the thought of standing before God to give an account of my life.

My husband was still at work when I knelt beside my bed and poured out my heart to God, confessing my sins and asking His forgiveness. I told Him I didn’t care what happened to me if only He would save me. In a moment of time, He answered that prayer and forgave me. I knew I was saved! God’s peace filled my heart and I felt such relief that the battle was won. Deep in my heart was such joy!

God did the impossible

I really didn’t know what to do next, but I knew that God had changed my life and given me an assurance that He would help me explain to my husband what had happened. Amazingly, almost immediately after I was saved—I can’t recall if it was that same night or the next morning—my husband said he was so sorry, but he couldn’t come near me; he felt like there was a barrier around me. I know now that was the power of God working out the situation because of the purpose in my heart to honor Him and do what I knew was right.

I remember marking some places in my Bible that explain what adultery is, and the Lord was there as I shared those Scriptures with my husband and told him that God had saved me. God helped both of us through those next few months. We moved into separate bedrooms in the house and Christopher did not hinder me from going to church. In fact, he even showed much respect as I did my devotions at home. Eventually he found a nice house to buy and that year, while I was at camp meeting, he moved out.

Of course, his move meant that I became responsible for tasks he had always taken care of, including yardwork. I could take care of most of the yard, but the hedge along the front of the property presented a problem. It was over seventy feet in length and towered above my head. In times past, whenever it needed to be trimmed, Christopher would spend one day cutting and shaping the hedge, and the next day cleaning up the debris. It was a huge task! And even when he spent a couple of days on the project, there were always clippings left underneath because there were so many small branches at the base for leaves to be trapped in.

One day as I read Isaiah 54, the words of verse five spoke to my heart, “For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name.” I felt like I had found a treasure! I asked the Lord, “Does that mean You’ll be my husband?”

That hedge became a big concern to me. Our neighborhood homeowner’s association required that properties be maintained or the association could hire out the needed work and send the bill to the homeowner. I could not cut back the hedge myself, but because I was on a limited budget, it was out of the question for me to hire someone to take care of it. God used that situation to teach me how valuable His promises are. One day as I read Isaiah 54, the words of verse five spoke to my heart, “For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name.” I felt like I had found a treasure! I asked the Lord, “Does that mean You’ll be my husband? Will You help me with things like my hedge?” While I knew His promises were true, the more that hedge grew, the more concerned I became and the more earnestly I prayed about it.

On Christmas morning that year, as I looked out my dining room window, I saw to my amazement that my hedge had been trimmed and shaped perfectly. In addition, the ground underneath the hedge was absolutely clear of any debris. I knew it was a miracle. I did ask Christopher and the people close to me if they had come over and cut back the hedge, but no one knew anything about it. I wondered if a bill would arrive, but none came. God had kept His promise to me and taken care of that task just as a husband would have done.

As time went on, I continued to seek the Lord. I lived quite a distance from church—about forty minutes or more of travel time. Many nights as I prayed at the altar, the enemy would try to distract me by reminding me of my long drive home. I knew I needed to spend time seeking the Lord, but I also had to get up early and go to work. Finally, I made the decision to sell my home and move closer to the church. The house itself was in good condition, but by that time, the hedge had grown tall again. I remembered that when I had told one family member how the Lord had cut my hedge, she asked, “What are you going to do the next time it needs trimming?” I didn’t want to be ungrateful for what the Lord had done before, but I wondered if God would cut my hedge again.

One night my realtor called to ask if he could show my home the next day. I agreed, but as I walked out to the mailbox, I looked at that hedge and thought, Who will ever buy my home when the hedge is so overgrown? One glance will reveal what a problem it could be. A sob came from my heart and I told the Lord, “You are still my husband!” The next night as I drove into my driveway after work, I saw to my amazement that the hedge had been cut back again—and once more, trimmed so perfectly that I knew God had done a miracle for me a second time. I was overjoyed. My home sold right away and the Lord once again proved to me that there is nothing too difficult for Him.

Pursuing a deeper relationship with God

As I settled into my new home, I had such a hunger for more of the Lord. God would bless me as I prayed, and He gave me strength as trials came along. He also helped me make difficult restitutions, mend relationships, and straighten out things from my past that were not right. On the last Sunday of camp meeting that year, the Lord wonderfully sanctified me. I felt so pure and could hardly speak for several days, just savoring the sweet presence of the Lord.

Then I began to seek diligently for the baptism of the Holy Ghost, realizing my need for God’s power in order to serve Him most effectively. He impressed upon me that it was a serious matter to not believe He would do what His Word promised. Finally I came to the place where I knew I had done everything God had asked of me, and that seemed to boost my faith. On the Sunday evening before Memorial Day, I had not intended to really seek for my baptism after the service. A big workday was planned on the campground the following day, and I thought I would just enjoy spending time in prayer. However, as I joined others in praising the Lord, it seemed the windows of Heaven opened and God filled me with His precious Holy Spirit. It was such a wonderful experience and I am so grateful He fulfilled His promise to me.

Unanticipated blessings along the way

Looking back, it seems that many of my spiritual blessings have come during camp meeting. One year I stayed in a cabin on the campground, and on a Sunday afternoon after a young people’s meeting, I went to my cabin to rest before the evening service. I suddenly awoke feeling my heart beating rapidly and the Lord impressed upon me very definitely that I was going to work at our church headquarters office. That startled me because I had a good job that I really enjoyed at a small plumbing company in southwest Portland. I began to pray about it, but when I received no further instruction from the Lord and no one asked me to come and work for the church, I wondered if I had really heard the Lord correctly.

I told no one about that experience, but shortly thereafter, the business where I had been working began to fail, and in time, God did open the door for me to work at the headquarters office. My tasks there have been such a joy. At first I opened the mail and entered it into the database, and later had the privilege to answer letters sent by prisoners and other correspondents. God gave me such compassion for the prisoners as I read of their distresses. He also gave me a burden to pray for all of our correspondents, which has never left me. I am also blessed to proofread articles, and type sermons and testimonies. Working for the church has truly been a privilege.  

I feel like I have been blessed beyond measure to serve the Lord together with my sons.

A few months before I went to work at the church office, the Lord saved my middle child, Jeff, and several years later he too came to work full time for the church. In 2007, the Lord saved my oldest child, George, and soon after that he began working for our church as well. I feel like I have been blessed beyond measure to serve the Lord together with my sons.

The Lord has continued to be with me in my senior years. Not long ago, God provided an opportunity for me to sell my home and move onto the street that borders our campground. Not only do I live just a half block from our church, but I’m surrounded by lovely Christian neighbors. I love walking to work each day and I also enjoy walking around our beautiful campground. The Lord surely has been so good to me.

Several years ago, I had the privilege to attend the week-long camp meeting in Cajamarca, Peru. I never imagined I would have such a wonderful opportunity. It certainly proved again to me that with God, anything is possible. It was a blessing to meet those loving people, who seem so willing to give their all to serve the Lord, and a thrill to hear their testimonies of how God provides their needs in miraculous ways.

During that trip, I had an opportunity to trust God for healing. Near the end of the camp meeting, I became very sick, possibly due to the altitude. On what was to be our last night there, I could not sleep at all and was so weak I knew I would need a wheelchair to get to the airport. However, my fellow team members prayed for me, and then Brother Sam Ajayi, who was leading the group, asked me to do something I was sure I could not do: to go to the restaurant in our hotel and eat something. I didn’t feel well enough to walk that far, but I thought I should at least try to do what he asked. God helped, and as soon as I ate just a little bit, the Lord miraculously strengthened me, and within moments, there was a dramatic change in my condition. God had touched me and I was even able to enjoy a few additional days of vacation in Lima before traveling back to Portland.

God has been so good to me. As I grow older, I am reminded of God’s love when I think about how He has repaired my life and replaced sin’s damage with blessings and beauty. I can say with assurance that there is no problem too difficult for our awesome, loving Heavenly Father, and my desire is to continue to serve Him for the rest of my life.

apostolic faith magazine