My Wilderness Walk

My life, for the most part, has been quite ordinary. I grew up in a typically dysfunctional family in the Midwest, the oldest of three siblings. My earliest memories are of being in Church. Whenever the doors were open, we were there, throughout the week.

My folks started out in the Nazarene Church, where my grandparents went. As a small child, playing on the hard pews, I can still remember the old “saints” marching, wailing, hands in the air as the walked a Jericho March around the sanctuary. My folks tried a few other Churches, then settled in the Assemblies of God. My dad was in a Gospel singing group and traveled considerably, ministering in other Churches, prisons etc.

For all our religious activity, we were a very unhappy family. My father was very abusive to myself and my brother, the youngest. We would get knocked across the room and not even know why. This made me very withdrawn and quiet as a kid. Throughout my childhood, this was normal. I would go home with other kids from Church on Sunday afternoons between services, and their parents acted totally different at home than they did at Church. I observed and took in things, without consciously considering them till much later in life. Hardly anyone was as “christian” at home as they were in Church.

I loved the Lord and gave my heart to him at a very young age. I was praying in a pew one evening after a service and the Lord filled me with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, without anyone’s help. The Church was the total extent of my childhood friendships and social interactions. At school I had a few girlfriends, but never got involved in any activities. By the time I hit my teens, I was well versed in all the teachings of the AOG, and had all the answers.

But there was a problem. I was miserable. I had a hunger for more of God, I knew there was more, but didn’t know how to get it. I went to the Pastor’s wife one day and tried to explain to her my problem. She had no clue what I was talking about, she looked at me and said, “your saved, and filled with the spirit, that’s all there is, you should be helping the younger ones get to where your at.” She might just as well have punched me in the stomach. I was so let down, all I can remember thinking is “I’m miserable, why should I help them get to where I’m at.”

Shortly after that I quit going to Church. I graduated high school, started working, and within a few months married a young man I barely knew. Primarily, because I had such low self-esteem, I thought it was probably the only proposal I would ever get, and it was a way to get out of the house and start living my own life. I got pregnant right away, and seven months later our daughter was born 2 months premature. She remained at the hospital in an isolette for the next two months, and got to come home about the time she should have been born if full term, weighing in at a whopping 4lb.15oz. Her dad could hold her entirely in the palm of his hand.

When she was 1 1/2 years old, we had a head on collision in a blinding snowstorm. Neither of us were walking with the Lord, and if not for the hand of God we should have been killed. This opened the door for us to start seeking a new way of living.

My brother kept after us to come with him to a home Church he was part of. We finally caved in and went. It was in late 1972, in a garage. The leader was a young man from my graduating class. It was all young people, teens and early 20’s. They called themselves Jesus Unlimited. From that first visit, I was home. The presence, power and anointing of God filled that simple old garage. The preaching was repentance, my husband was saved and I rededicated my life to the Lord.

We were part of that body of believers for the next three years. I cannot even begin to share all that I witnessed and experienced. We would pray what seemed like 10 minutes, to find we’d been at it for hours. Everyone went out and brought more in, it was like a wild Holy Ghost roller coaster ride, that just kept getting bigger.

One night we were getting into casting out devils. If any of you have ever been present when someone manifests, you know that we automatically think all demons are deaf, and we have to yell.

Well, it was a hot summer night, the garage long ago could not hold everyone, even sitting cross-legged & elbow to elbow across the floor, so they had built a frame out over the driveway and wrapped the whole thing in plastic to keep everyone dry. Well, it worked for keeping the rain off, but not for keeping the noise in. We’d already had warnings from neighbors about the noise, and when this started happening, between those rebuking and casting out, and the rest pleading the blood it was deafening.

One of the co-leaders ran outside to see how bad it was, fearing the police would be called. To his, and later our, amazement, the noise we were making did not penetrate that plastic barrier. God put up a sound barrier around us. The Lord was doing a work in hearts and lives. Delivering people from drugs, addictions, destructive lifestyles, and amazingly many parents preferred their kids coming home high than coming home talking about Jesus Christ.

There was a progression in Jesus Unlimited. What began in a garage with 20-30 kids, grew to filling an old warehouse, with 600-1000 people of all ages coming in. They witnessed on the streets, in stores, in McDonald’s, in their jobs. We believed that God was calling us up to be in the end-time army. We fully believed that we were going to march right out of that old building and take the world for Jesus.

The first couple years were great. Then the leaders, (remember these were young men in their early 20’s, with no one to guide them but the Holy Spirit) in an attempt to have some kind of control, felt it best to try and model ourselves after the New Testament Church. They prayed, and established a system of appointed leaders, elders, etc.

During this time, we were exposed to the Faith teachings of Hagin and Copeland. There were other places in our area where the Spirit was being poured out as well. There was a place in N. Indiana called the Glory Barn. A literal barn converted into a Church. They really latched onto the faith teaching, with disastrous results.

Members tried to believe and stand on faith rather than take sick ones to the Doctor. Several children and adults died, and the government pretty much came in and shut them down.

I got pregnant again about this same time. A good friend had a darling little boy the same age as my daughter. The kids would play together while we visited. I was very fond of this little guy. This family moved to Texas. They were gone one month, when we got news that the little boy had died. He was bitten by a tick and got Rocky Mountain Spotted fever.

It was too late by the time they knew what was wrong, and he suffered a terrible death, at only 3 years old. They came back north for the funeral. It was the saddest funeral I ever attended. My heart was broken. How could God have allowed this to happen to this sweet little child. I was full of anger and questioning God.

By the time I got home from the funeral, I started bleeding (at 3 months). The Doctor said there was nothing to be done but take to bed. I tried to believe, I tried to have faith, I tried to pray, but the bleeding only got worse. The next day I miscarried. It was one of the most devastating experiences of my life. I felt absolutely ravaged. First losing my friends little son, then losing my own unborn child.

Things at Church seemed to take a turn for the worse as well about this time. We went from freedom in Christ Jesus, to having a covering. Each one of us had to make an appointment with our assigned Pastor, and go in and have our days scheduled out. Literally planning for and scheduling every part of every day. We went from the Holy Ghost running things, to men running everything.

I was actually called in one day and told by the Pastors that I was full of pride, and wasn’t even saved anymore. Then at the meetings I was ostracized. No one talked to me cause they all knew, and didn’t know what to say, or were afraid it would rub off, or whatever. They did this to one other gal, the wife of one of the leaders as well.

Not long after things came to this state of affairs, the entire thing ended as suddenly as it had begun. The Spirit, that had been so intense it was like the air was thick, and you could get lost in it, suddenly was nowhere to be found. They just called one day and said it was over, no more meetings.

Everyone just sort of drifted apart. None of us understood or knew what had happened. Many went back to their old lives. Some moved away. Some went back to established, organized religion. Everyone had to deal with it their own way.

Hindsight is invaluable. I wouldn’t have missed what God did in Jesus Unlimited for anything in this world. I found what I was hungering for as a teenager in the Church. I knew there was more, and I was right. At that time, we had no idea that God was pouring out HIS SPIRIT in many places, on many groups of young people at the same time, just like he did with us.

Many years later I read books on how some of today’s big ministries like the Vineyard, and the Potters House started. Same story. I had a pastor of a Potters House tell me once, “the difference between us and you, is you failed and we didn’t”. I beg to differ. God is the one in control of everything. And from what I’ve seen, it was better to drift off and suffer the things we suffered, than to grow into a tightfisted, controlling man system that we almost became, and they did.

The next 15 or so years are not pretty, and I will not lay out all the things I did. I was divorced, and tried about everything that this world has to offer. I can remember when I was young and completely naive, listening to people tell things that they did. I would try to conceal my horror, I would try to be understanding and kind, but deep down inside, I remember thinking to myself, “I would never do anything like that” “how could anyone do such things”.

Well, I guess the Lord saw through all my veneer of Christianity, and knew that the only way to purge me of my heavy armor of self-righteousness was to let me get down and dirty in the mud and the mire. I had to learn that I am just as capable of the most despicable act as anyone out there.

I never turned my back on God all those years. I would think about God a lot, and talk to some of my friends that had been through Jesus Unlimited with me. How can one explain that God does it all, without offending the sensibilities of some. We don’t pick and choose Him, He chooses us. We don’t set the agenda, He charts our path.

I didn’t want to be where I was, but I couldn’t get out until He let me. I believe now, that I had to experience the pain and suffering that I had no knowledge of, that I might have genuine compassion and understanding for those hurting souls I had secretly judged before my own fall from grace so to speak.

I was in an on again off again relationship with an abusive man for 10 years. We moved across the country to Montana in 1985, where the abuse continued. The kids & I ended up in a battered womens shelter for 6 weeks. When we finally got out it was on welfare and subsidized housing, to find that we had next to nothing, as he had moved back to MI and taken all of my furniture for spite, because he couldn’t find me.

We started over, seemed like that’s all I did for all those years, is fall down and get back up and start over. I had extreme, in the fullest sense of extreme, PMS in my early 30’s. I was referred to a Dr. that actually treated it, and when on the medicine the terrible mood swings and rages were under control.

I hated being on welfare and wanted off. I finally got a job that would barely support us, but was enough to kill my medical assistance. When I found out how much the medication cost a month, I knew there was no way I could afford it.

I can remember shutting myself in the bathroom, and talking to God. I said, “God, you know how awful I was without this medicine, and you know I can’t afford it anymore, so your going to have to heal me, I’m in your hands”. When down and out, there is no where to turn but to God. I didn’t feel or hear anything, but I never had PMS again, and I know God heard and answered my prayer.

The kids and I moved into an apartment on the other side of town. One day the kitchen faucet blew off and water was spraying everywhere. I called the manager to come and fix it. As he was under sink, he started talking to me about the Lord. He was pioneering a little church in town. He asked me if I would like to come with him and his wife to see “Chariots of Fire”. I had no social life, was lonely and sensed his sincerity. I agreed to meet them.

When I walked in that building, I sat down in a pew and the movie started. I could not tell you one thing about that movie. I was totally oblivious of it. For the first time in 15 years, I felt the presence of God all over me, and with tears streaming down my face, I just reveled in communing with the Lord.

From that day on I was a loyal, participating, supportive member of that small congregation. The Lord had seemingly gone away, and in His time He had just as unexpectedly returned. I was just so grateful to feel His Presence again, I was overjoyed.

My life still had it’s problems. But I came to realize that He was with me throughout all those dark years, I just didn’t know it. That was far from the end, but only the beginning. As a member of this little Church, I grew in the Lord in many ways.

I also watched, as I am prone to do, the behind the scenes dealings that went on. I had no doubt as to the anointing on this young man, or the call of God on his life, that was evident. What troubled me was the power His Pastor from Colorado Springs held over him. Every fall they held a big conference in CS. Their mission is Church planting, and they are very good at it. They also require these young men they send out to send a portion of the tithes they take in to the Mother Church.

The most we ever had in a service was maybe 20 people. Average was 6-10, and sometimes it was just 3-4. He worked a full-time job, had a young family, and had to come up with the rent and utilities for a good-sized Church building. I was there for 3 years, the same amount of time I was in Jesus Unlimited, when they went off to their fall conference.

When they returned they had news. They were leaving and moving on to a bigger Church in Kansas City. Well, few that we were, we were devastated. They said that there was another young man coming from Colorado Springs to take their place. I had grown to love this young couple.

When they were gone, the young man that was sent out to take their place was totally unfit for the role of Pastor. He had no wisdom, no discernment, not even any common sense. His sole claim to qualifications was giving his testimony in street meetings. In a few months there was no more Church.

I went through too many things to record, would take a book, but the Lord never left my side. Several things happened spiritually while I was still in Great Falls. One day I was simply sitting in the living room, when it was like I could see inside my head. It was like a big domed room, full to the ceiling with rows and rows of filing cabinets. I knew that all my information, my accumulated knowledge was stored in those cabinets. Suddenly a huge bulldozer came through and pushed everything out, leaving a big, empty room. Then the top of my head lifted off and all was open to the limitless sky.

I know this sounds completely crazy, but it was like that. I remember being stunned, and thinking, what on earth does this mean? I thought of the passages where the demon is cast out, and returns and finds the place all swept and clean and comes back with 7 more terrible than himself. For a moment I must admit I was frightened. That was it, nothing else happened.

But as time went on, I discovered what God had done, and wondered why He doesn’t do it for more people. He had cleaned out all my years and years of accumulated teaching, beliefs, interpretations, etc. In one fell swoop. When I read the Word, it was fresh and new. I was learning and seeing scripture in a whole new light, thinking of things I had never thought of before. No longer limiting God within the confines of my finite, limited understanding.

This was in the early 90’s, and since then has been a continual renewing and refreshing in the Word, that was not possible before. One of the hardest things for people to do is to think outside of their box.

Ere I digress, to make a still long story shorter, God allowed me to go through some more difficult circumstances, then came the big test. I had been working for some time, when suddenly the management changed, and I no longer had a job. I knew lots of contacts in the area, but there was nothing but closed doors. I ran out of money, and did not know which way to turn.

I went north to the town where my daughter & her husband lived, to apply for work there. In the process, I met my daughter’s boss, she ran a day care out of her home. Within a few minutes of meeting, the situation was laid out, and this woman said, “we’ll move you up here and you can stay with us till you find something.” I had never seen this woman before.

But this was just the beginning of my being shown by God that He is in control of everyone and everything. They came and moved me and my son 120 miles, for nothing. We stayed with them for 2 weeks, while I was applying for work any and everywhere. Nothing.

Finally, I felt like I couldn’t impose any more, and moved in with my daughter & her then husband. Still no work, one place actually hired me, and then when I showed up the next day said they’d made a mistake and didn’t have any work after all. This was a very trying time, to say the least. My son-in-law was not happy about my being there, I didn’t want to be there, but all I found were closed doors.

One morning, when everyone was out of the house, I was pondering what to do next. I was standing looking out a big picture window, when I became suddenly aware of a little tiny man inside my chest. I know this sounds crazy but, almost as soon as I was conscious of his presence, he suddenly grew till he filled me up. It was like I was a pair of clothes and he put me on. I could feel another pair of eyes looking out the window through my eyes, and the world looked different.

The best thing I can use for comparison is when they photograph a rose as a bud and then opening to a full bloom with time lapsed photograph. That was what it was like, it just lasted for a few seconds, but in that time I knew that Christ was in me, and that at any time He desired He could take over. When He was in control, I could do anything, because it wouldn’t be me, but the Christ within.

It was an awesome experience, and one which I have never forgotten. I pray that I will always be available for Him at all times.

Thereafter, I answered an ad for a live-in caregiver. The old gentleman came and interviewed me, taking me home with him on the spot to care for his wife with Alzheimer’s’s. I had to leave my son with his sister, he was working for his brother-in-law and he didn’t mind if my son stayed, so long as I moved on.

I took care of this lady from October to February, when she passed away. Her daughter from California wanted to take me home with her for a break after taking care of her mother. I had nowhere to go, so I went with her.

After we got there, she introduced me to her uncle, who needed a caregiver. He offered to buy me a plane ticket, and pay me a fair salary for driving him around as he was legally blind. I had never wanted to go to CA. I grew up hearing that one day it’s going to fall off in the ocean, & I didn’t want to be there. Plus, it meant leaving all my family, everything I owned, and going among total strangers. But that’s exactly what the Lord would have me do. So I went.

This man had another friend, they were both in their 80’s, who needed help during the day. So I went between the two, seeking the Lord for guidance all the way. After a couple months, the first old gentleman, who was very self-centered and demanding, got angry that I wasn’t meeting his expectations, and kicked me out.

Now mind you, I might as well have been in a foreign country. I know, no one, I have no car, no money, no credit cards, and no place to go back to. I was never so totally out of my element and dependent on God in my life. The other gentleman was the exact opposite of the one who had had me come down there. He was very sweet and kind, and let me use his car for several days.

I did not know from one day to the next where I would be sleeping that night. Or where I would get my next meal. I looked to the Lord as I never had in my life. I never slept out on the street, some couches yes, and I never went hungry.

The Lord took me, step by step, and gave me the most incredible peace I have ever known. In the Word it speaks of the Peace that passeth understanding. Well, that’s what I walked in for 6 months.

I found another temporary position, with another self-centered, pitiful old woman, and learned what it means to walk with God. I learned that God can, and does, use any one for the purpose that suits Him. He is not limited to believers to get things accomplished. He uses the wicked to supply the needs of the righteous. He does all manner of things that those who are religious minded would tell you, “God wouldn’t do that”.

Well, I have heard people tell me that all my life, and I have seen God do things, supply needs, using people that are not even His. He is unlimited, and we are hurting ourselves when we try to limit the avenues through which God can acceptably operate.

I’m getting exhausted and have to wrap this up.

From San Diego, He took me to Indiana. There I met the man that is now my husband. I was not looking for a husband, nor was he looking for a wife. We had both been through failed marriages, and were content with being single. He is 17 years my senior, and we were great friends, but had never thought of each other in any way other than friends. One day we hugged, and fireworks went off.

The Lord gave Guy a dream, which had him walking the floors. Then the Lord told us, “This is the helpmate meant for you.” We got married right away, and have had the most blessed union for the past 10 years, better than any I could have ever imagined. It’s all because God is in control of our lives. And He’s not done yet.

We moved back to Montana, where we spent most of the last 8 years. In 1999, Guy was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. He was on chemo for 2 years, went into remission, then quit going to the Dr. He had three dreams from the Lord, which he interpreted to mean that God was healing him. We must all be careful in how we interpret things from God. More often than not, we interpret them according to the desires of our heart, without getting clarification from above.

After a year, he was in constant pain, could barely walk with two canes, and getting weaker by the day. He finally agreed to go to the Dr. They immediately put him in the hospital. He did nearly die. He went from 210 down to 133 pounds. He had surgery to put steel rods down the center of both femurs to keep them from breaking. His kidneys nearly shut down and he was inches away from dialysis. He was hospitalized most of the summer of 2003.

Prior to his falling ill, we had done a lot of camping and fishing in the NW, Idaho Panhandle, Lake PendOrielle area. The Lord had told us in 1996 that we wouldn’t be there long. We had just moved into an apartment, and were still unpacking. The witness was so strong that we didn’t unpack a stack of boxes, we thought we would be moving again that soon. It ended up being 6 years.

We got a strong witness when we went into the panhandle area, and thought that was where God was going to move us. Well, after Guy got home at last from the hospital, the door opened quite unexpectedly for us to move to Arizona.

This was really out there. Neither one of us had even ever been in the SW states, let alone ever considered moving. But in about 2 weeks time we were moved. God made the way, found the place, opened the doors, perfect timing, and we were pretty much along for the ride going, “we’re going where?”

Ever since we got here, his health has improved, we have had numerous confirmations that this is God’s will, and we are amazed that wherever God places you, is home. His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.

I once thought I knew it all, now the more I see and know, the more I realize I have yet to learn. God has it all under control, we just need to get with His plan. His loving kindness and mercy are immeasurable. Even in our darkest hours, He is there. We just need to have our eyes cleansed to see Him. I know that God is not done with me yet, I am not yet what He wants me to be, but He’s still working on me.

Praise His Holy Name. Out of the Fire in Arizona.

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