I wonder WHY you have this little booklet in your hand? With a title like “Hope for Hurting Women” there’s a good possibility that you might be a hurting woman yourself looking for some hope? Or possibly you know a hurting woman who needs some help? Maybe you’re a very caring person who is always on the look out for material that might benefit someone in the future? Or perhaps a friend gave it to you thinking it might interest you? Or then again, maybe you just picked it up out of curiosity? Whatever the reason you find yourself reading these pages, it is my prayer that you will be blessed.
If anything that I share relates to you out of the spiritual trek that I have taken, wonderful! This is today. I’m not where I was yesterday. And I’m not where I’m going to be 6 months from now. I trust that in a year from now I will have many more exciting things to say about what the Lord has done in my life. I don’t know specifically what you are dealing with, but I know that probably a very diverse group of people will read this that come from a broad range of backgrounds and life experiences. We all are facing obstacles. Maybe some of you are even where I was a few years ago? Burned out. Weary. Desperate. I was so absolutely loaded down that I didn’t know where to turn. Why do I think that might be true? Because I know as the Lord has led me to be honest and transparent it’s often because there are other people who are maybe very close to being in the same place that I was.
In the natural, I’m a firm believer in using resources. In my bedroom I have a bookcase about five feet high, and it’s full of books. How-to books. How to be a better woman. How to be a Godly wife. Devotional books. Dieting books. Home schooling books. Child training books. Inspirational books. Cookbooks. How to be an exciting lover. I have lots of books. Why? Because I’ve been a seeker. Ever since I was born again I’ve been a seeker. I was wanting to improve, wanting more of what the Lord had for me. It seems like I’ve had a lot of advantages with all those resources available at my fingertips. Besides that, I have the tremendous advantage of being married to Denny. I say that in all honesty. He is one of the godliest men I’ve ever met. So why is it, with all of these positive circumstances, I missed so much for so many years? Well, maybe today I can give you a glimpse into some of that in such a way that it will help you, or somebody you know.
I didn’t write this to pretend to be somebody I’m not. I didn’t write it to play games. I wrote it for one reason, and that was to bare my heart. It is my hope that by sharing some of my miserable failures, and debilitating pain, you might do two things. First, that you would glorify God for His miraculous deliverances in my life, and secondly, that you might gain some hope and courage for someone else facing difficult life situations.
I’m just selfish enough, and honest enough, to tell you I would not be willing to pay for naught the price of vulnerability and spiritual warfare that comes when I share from my heart. If I didn’t see a measure of something on the other side; something that is beautiful, something that contains attainable victories that you might not be walking in the good of yet, I would not be willing to share. The thought of it offering hope to someone else excites me. And that is worth any price. As I imagine you reading this, I have to say, I know there are some ugly stories behind some of the smiles you try to wear, and I know that some of you are really carrying a heavy load.
Honesty isn’t always pretty, but it’s so freeing. Pretence is a terrible bondage, and eventually a killer. A desire to seek all God has for us will draw hearts together in fellowship as we pursue holiness. It’s a solidifying agent to surrender to the Lord. I meet many women who sit through church services and read challenging books and articles in misery. Their head nods in agreement, but their heart is far removed. They think no one can understand, and there’s no hope for them to get any further than where they’re struggling right now. I know the only way for you to receive ANYTHING from reading this today is to have an open heart. Perhaps you need to do something daring. Perhaps you, personally, need to make a decision.
It is a CHOICE, you know, to respond to God. You need to say “Yes, Lord, I’ll take the plunge. I won’t hide. I won’t pretend. I’m open. Lord, I want to go on.” If a piece of my confusion relates to a piece of yours, just admit it. If a chord of my pain strikes a chord with yours, it’s okay for some tears to fall. Just be real. It wouldn’t matter how earth shaking what I say today might be, if you’re sitting there with the arms of your heart folded, saying “I’m NOT going to let you in. I’m going to be stubborn and resist.” Would you please just ask the Lord to help you to commit yourself to REAL open hearted reading and to just think about where you are with God? Ask Him to take you the next step in your life, and to guard you from resisting Him.
Whenever you’re asked to share a personal testimony, there’s a bit of a quandary as to how much to share. I am fifty-four this year. Obviously I can’t share everything that’s happened in the last fifty-four years. That’s not the goal. I’m hoping that I can share enough to give you a window of understanding into where I’m coming from. I want to glorify God for what He’s brought me through, and not bog down in specific sin issues. I have no desire to shock you. I probably could shock you. I could tell you some ugly stories. That’s not the goal or the purpose. It seems fitting where you’re innocent to evil you, should just stay innocent to evil, and be grateful that you weren’t exposed to some things that others were exposed to. I don’t want to compare my testimony to somebody else’s. This is my testimony, and this is where God has brought me.
It’s only in the very recent years that we’ve allowed our older children some intimate glimpses into my past. I think it was done wisely, so as to protect them from that. But as they’ve come to understand several of the circumstances of my younger years, I’ve been amazed at how beautifully they’ve responded, and have been so supportive and forgiving. It seems it’s caused new respect levels in their hearts as they realize what we’ve been through, and how much we’ve had to overcome. Denny and I have apologized many times for the rocky moments they saw in our early married days as we stumbled and fumbled along. To our surprise, it doesn’t seem they judge us for it. It seems rather they encourage us because we kept going. They say it’s a motivational factor to them even though, thankfully, they’ll never touch or taste some of the things we did.
The enemy is after them. He may be more subtle in his attempts to derail them, but he’s after them. He’s after your children and grandchildren too! Every one of my children and your children needs something real. They don’t need a mom and dad who are pretending, who act one way when they come to church and are something else when they are at home. That is so confusing and damaging. Our children will walk in the benefits of the victories we gain way before we ever did. They started at a much younger age, and with a pure heart. It’s not long before they’re strengthening and challenging us, as you know if you have older children. As they become youth, they bring their devotional thoughts and what God said to them back to bless us. How very sweet it is. We owe it to them to give our Christian walk every possible effort.
I grew up in what today is commonly referred to as an extremely dysfunctional home. Both of my parents were alcoholics, which contributed to a very angry spirit in the home, with lots of arguing. I want to mention a little bit of the trauma of some of my abuse in childhood days only so that you can see the load of dark secrets that I carried for many, many years. I was looking for another word to express trauma, and when I looked up trauma, I found it’s mostly a medical term. Do you know what trauma is? It’s a wound. I thought, “How fitting,” because most of the trauma in our life does leave wounds. If you don’t know how to respond to those wounds they get larger, and more gaping, and more damaging. Then infection sets in, bringing more complications.
All abuse is ugly, whether it’s verbal abuse, emotional abuse, or physical abuse. It’s all ugly. But I think that probably one of the most damaging of childhood abuses is sexual abuse. It is especially so if that abuse was administered by people in authority in your life. A representation of who these people are supposed to be, what they’re supposed to be, and then in part, who God is—causes a quagmire of confusion to a young child when the picture is vilely distorted. Children ought to be learning how to ride bikes, and simple things, rather than to have to be carrying devastating loads of abuse. There came a time in my life, after many instances of abuse, where I grasped the reality that time after time those laps that I so innocently crawled into for a back scratch or a kind word, had perverted and ulterior motives. When I was a little girl I used to think surely sometime my tear ducts would dry up because I cried so many lonely hours. Because who do you go to? Where do you go? Where do you go for help? You’re just a little child. The people who were already supposed to be protecting you were the very ones hurting you! Others won’t believe you. It must somehow be your fault. I’m sure you’ve heard that expressed before by others suffering under those horrors.
During one of my parents’ drunken arguments late at night, my father was permanently disabled in a fight which involved a chase, a large butcher knife, and a hard fall. He actually couldn’t walk for a couple of years. That incident in itself became another dark secret to stuff and hide because my parents chose to lie and say he fell in another situation, and therefore they made an insurance claim from it. I was very young, but I saw it. I knew where he fell. But I learned to tell the same lie to protect my parents. It wasn’t until I was a Christian for many, many years that I realized in the middle of explaining it one time “Oh, I don’t have to say that anymore. I don’t ever have to say that again.” I had repeated it as a Christian for a long time because it was so much a part of me. I hope you don’t ever, in any small way, cause your children to lie for you. Somebody comes to the door, or the phone rings—please don’t cause your children to tell something that’s not true, to hide or cover what you’re doing, or what you don’t want to do. They shouldn’t have to carry that load of deceit. It will cloud their conscience, and it definitely damages their confidence in you.
This disability my father suffered changed our home situation very fast. He had a good job, but it wasn’t like these days where you have lots of places available for you to collect money from when you faced a tragedy. He got a Social Security disability, but that was all. It threw us into poverty. My mother at twenty-two had been widowed as a farm wife with two little children. She came to the city where my father lived, and married him. He was twenty years older than her. She was a little country gal and didn’t have any education, so the only jobs that she could get were bartending and all night cab driving. Probably to protect herself, Mom gained a lot of weight. She became a very large, tough, rough woman. She wore men’s clothes. She could out-cuss, out-dirty-joke-tell any man, any truck driver. I think it was a shell for the rough world she had to face. She became very hardened. I grew up knowing she was one tough cookie!
We didn’t have any home life to speak of. We never sat around the table to eat a meal together. To sit down at the table would have been a major chore just to clear a place to eat. It was always piled so high with clutter. Usually you ate in front of the television by yourself. Our house was filthy, and I was so ashamed of it. When I’d walk home from school if anybody was walking with me, I would make excuses and walk other blocks out of the way so they would never find out I lived in that pink house. I didn’t want them to know where I lived. I didn’t want to be “discovered” and attached to my living situation. My dad spent all day at the corner bar. Mom was anywhere but home. I was the youngest, so I didn’t have the freedoms that my older brothers had. I was the baby of the family. So it often fell on me to put them to bed, separate them from fighting, clean up the vomit, try to fix it, try to make it all better. I would plead with them and beg them to stop fighting. They were always threatening to call the police on each other. You know, that developed something in a child that’s a very common trait of alcoholic parents. The children just think, “If I could be good enough, if I could just try harder somehow, I could make this situation all right.” This is a heavy load for an adolescent.
Well, I soon learned that I didn’t want to be home either. So I got very involved in after school activities, and community things, volunteered for this and that, and pursued my studies to get good grades. It seemed that two things back then pleased my parents. They were proud of my good grades, and would take me to the bar where I’d get on top of the counter, and dance. They would tell how many A’s I had gotten, and people would give me money. That was a positive in my heart because there was some acceptance there from my folks. I used to always try to get my parents to come see me in plays and musicals through my junior high years. One time my mom DID come! I was in the middle of my star performance. I was the pink panther in a dance recital, and in walked my mom, drunk out of her head. She was hollering and bellowing. I wanted to die. I didn’t think I could ever face anybody again. But of course I did; I didn’t have a choice. I obviously never asked them to come again.
I had a step brother who was my mother’s son from her first marriage when she was widowed. He knew the home situation was bad, so he and his wife took me out of the home the summer I was thirteen. They weren’t a whole lot older than me, but they did the best they could in trying to give me a different life. They tried to make me happy. They didn’t have spiritual discernment in many areas, so they just showered me with money and things. They had a new home, and bought me lots of fancy, immodest clothes. My brother was a Seabee, and my sister-in-law worked at the Air Force base, which meant they knew lots of single fellows. I had more blind dates than I knew what to do with, at thirteen! I looked older and was never asked for ID when drinking at bars with these older fellows. This was not good, of course. I remember sometimes feeling like Cinderella. I had red shoes, navy blue shoes, black shoes, a couple pairs of sandals, purple shoes, and tennis shoes, all at the same time. I remembered very clearly that as a little girl if I even had a pair of shoes, they either didn’t fit or the shoelaces were missing. So that did bring some temporary happiness. It was exciting. I lived with them a couple of years. We moved to California, between the mountains and the ocean, surrounded by beautiful beaches and a faster life. They helped me buy my first car, a red convertible; I really thought I was “it!”
But even in the midst of that “happier” lifestyle, I was still very plagued with the past. I had waves of depression. I had recurring nightmares. I had a nightmare a couple of times a month every month until I got converted, and I have never had it since. It was involving my parents, and it was awful. I’d hyperventilate because it was so distressing to me. I had a hard time opening myself up to friendships, male or female, in any deep sense of the word. Because underneath all of the fluff; being president of the student counsel, the popularity, the dates, the clubs, and other youth activities; underneath it all, I KNEW I was dirty, I was no good, and I never would be. The stains and scars I was carrying totally hindered and haunted me.
At one time, when I was sixteen, I was committed to a mental hospital because I wasn’t sleeping. I had undergone another severe trauma in my life related to an authority figure. I went in as an inpatient for diagnosis and treatment. I needed help. They hypnotized me so I would sleep. I have since renounced all that. I have no idea what happens when they hypnotize you, but I know it’s not good. They put wires all over me and had me watch drama to see if my heart rate increased, to see if I hated my father, to see what or who I hated. They were trying to see who I was and what made me tick so they could help me. But even as a confused, ungodly girl I knew that man was being paid to do his job; psychologist, psychiatrist, whatever he was. So I answered this way one time and the next time I answered that way, because I didn’t know how I wanted to present myself. Did I want to present myself as a good girl? Did I want to present myself as a needy girl? So they labeled me: Maniac Depressive Schizophrenic. That’s quite a label to pin on a sixteen-year-old girl. They gave me three prescription drugs, and sent me on my way. But I didn’t receive any help. I needed God, but they didn’t know to tell me that. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Mt 6:33”
My years in California ended rather abruptly when my father suffered a severe stroke. I left school. I was on my way to being a lawyer. Can you imagine? Thank you Lord, He delivers us from ourself, and our own goals. I returned to Nebraska where I was from. I went to my father’s bedside. Amazingly, he did pull out of that stroke, but he was left paralyzed on one side, and was in a rest home until he died.
Back in Omaha I landed what I thought was just a fantastic job as a high class receptionist at a swinging singles club. It was a travel, dining, and entertainment club where they sold memberships. You got together with all these single people at apartment complexes for parties, could make major purchases at discount prices, eat out at restaurants with membership ID, and do things like fly to Acapulco for cheaper prices. It was the place to be. That’s where I met Denny. Denny was five years older than I and fresh out of the army. He came in with his buddy who was coming to get a job, or so we both thought! The Lord had bigger plans than that.
When I look back, I always marvel how sly the devil is when he camouflages sin in our life. You know, as much as I despised my parents’ drunkenness I headed down the same path. My own drinking was sophisticated, because it was done in nightclubs with bright lights and fancy clothes, and I reasoned that somehow that was different. The end is the same, but to me at the time it seemed successful. I don’t know what all the factors were that led to the spiral down—old friends, trying to bury painful memories, rock music—all of those things contributed. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jer 17:9” My mother always credited Denny with my salvation, and that’s true. But before I followed him in his footsteps to the Lord, he did lead me into much more wickedness with drugs and deeper immorality. I was attracted to him for all the wrong reasons; absolutely totally wrong reasons. But I marvel all these years later what the Lord gave me in him! All of the character qualities that I would now seek in a man if I were looking for them are already there! God has been good. During the time that Denny and I were dating, we had some very stormy times. Of course, poor guy, I was a mess. He didn’t know what kind of baggage I was bringing into our friendship.
I did some CRAZY things during those days. One time when we were arguing I stormed out of his apartment, ran to the road, and jumped into the first car that came by with a total stranger male driving! That would not have been a natural thing for me to do. I was more street smart than that. Fortunately I jumped out at the next red light and no harm came to me. Once at 2 in the morning, I went out for cigarettes at an all night gas station and had a rough fellow follow me ½ way around the city. I ran away from a too forward fellow in the middle of the night while pretty drunk in a BAD section of town, breaking my boot-heel as I did. When I look back at some of the situations I put myself in, it’s clear to see that my Father in heaven was kept pretty busy protecting me for a higher purpose. I “deserved” to be in real trouble because of the whos and wheres I was associating with, but God was merciful as He looked down at this confused little girl acting like a big shot! I came to a crisis when I overdosed on these three prescription drugs that they had given me back in CA. I did not desire to take my life. I was just trying to cope. I was sooo sad. It was a Sunday afternoon. I took a bunch of these pills, and I went outside and started walking. I walked miles and miles and miles. I ended up at the office of Club America where I worked. The office had outside doors that led you into the hallways inside. The outside door wasn’t locked. I went in. All the offices were locked. It was Sunday, so none of these were open for business. I would literally have died except an insurance agent man, by God’s grace, came in to get some paperwork he had forgotten from another office and found me. He called for a rescue squad and they whisked me to the hospital. I have no recollection of any of that. I vaguely remember seeing my friend and my mother looking at me very concerned, and asking the doctors if I was going to make it, while talking about my dangerously low blood pressure. It gave me a good scare about drugs, and kept me from experimenting with other drugs when my friends did later.
Denny and I were friends and dated during the time surrounding many of these episodes. Our stormy relationship eventually led him to cry out to God after being an atheist all of his teen and army years. It made him wonder, if he loved me as much as he thought he did, why were things so shaky all the time? God used nature to first speak to him and cause him to wonder about a Supreme Being in control of everything. After that He led him to a godly aunt and uncle of his who had witnessed to him for years. He couldn’t stand them, but they were the first ones he went to when he was seeking (which ought to be an encouragement to us all to keep planting seeds even when it looks as if those we are witnessing to aren’t listening!). Here he was, this long haired hippy with marijuana in his back pocket, knocking on their front door asking if they knew a good book he could read to find out if there was a God!!! His aunt was the one at home and she was a good old fashioned soul-winning-Baptist, so her ole’ heart was a-thumping with excitement! To shorten this section, I’ll just say she gave him her personal study Bible, and he did indeed get gloriously SAVED! Shortly afterwards, his girlfriend (ME!) followed him in his baby steps towards the Lord. Sad, but I thought I already WAS a Christian (even though I was living like the devil!), because I had gone to catechism classes, had some religious training, and knew all sorts of Bible stories!! Denny’s life transformed so drastically from day one that I knew WHATEVER he’d gotten I did not have! Some months after we were converted, we were married, and then we went off to Bible School, which is what you did if you love the Lord back in that Baptist setting. We jumped in with both feet, desiring to grow, and desiring to be used by the Lord. Denny was extremely shy and introverted in those days, but he was very zealous, so he still succeeded in the Bible college there. We were in a mega church which had over 20,000 in attendance on a Sunday morning. He was eventually ordained after graduating, and was an assistant pastor there with several hundred Bible college students under his authority.
Let me just try to maximize it for you. Here I was, this poor little girl from the wrong side of the tracks: poverty, drunken parents, trying to get acceptance by following Hollywood and being somebody, wanting to make money, wanting to be successful, trying to find my way through the mess of my home life. Then salvation comes to my heart, and with it, definitely some joy, a new lifestyle, a new wardrobe. I raised my necklines, I lowered my hems, I put on undergarments, quit wearing sizzle pants, the whole nine yards. In the church where we got converted, we were the big fish in the little pond. You know, we were the hippies, and everybody liked to tell our story of how we used to do all these bad things, and now we’re converted, and isn’t this wonderful?
They put us to work right away. We didn’t have the opportunity to grow. We didn’t get our feet planted. They were desperate for workers. They put us on a bus route and teaching Sunday school. I knew the stories from my childhood, I was enthusiastic and young, and that’s what they were looking for. Then we were sashayed off to Bible school, where we all the sudden became little fish in a great big lake, and my insecurities were multiplied there. The standard of appearance was way higher than it had been in our little bitty church. I made the foolish, unwise mistake of comparing myself to others. “But they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 2Cor. 10:12B” Here were all of these hundreds of young, virgin Baptist girls, with bright eyes, big hair, and makeup. They played the piano. The perfect preacher’s wife, you know. In my mind they were everything that I should have been. I just thought, “Oh, Denny should have married one of these gals, and he’s stuck with me.” But I learned. I learned how to put “the look” together. I went to garage sales, I took wardrobe coordination and grooming classes, and learned how to apply make-up, and what to accent and what not to accent. So now I was acceptable looking, and as Denny rose in leadership there, I was Mrs. Kenaston, so I had a position too.
Through a tremendously clear set of circumstances the Lord redirected our steps drastically. This caused us to take a look at Anabaptist doctrine and lifestyle. I want to quickly say that much of the agony of rejection I felt when I came into the Anabaptist circles was because of the junk that I was carrying, lest you think ill of those we came in contact with. A lot of the mess was inside of me. Some of those women did make big mistakes, and I want to learn from them and not make them with someone else coming from different circles. The props of security I found some comfort in while in the Baptist setting, with the cascading hair and the makeup, were taken away. You could have just had an argument with your husband, but you put on a little white here, and some black there, and a bunch of pink makeup, and you could go to church looking very bright, and nobody would know the debauchery in your heart. All of that was pulled out from under me. It was a shock. Some of you others have experienced that. It is traumatic. You look in the mirror and you say “ugh”, because there’s no hair, there’s no makeup, there’s nothing. It’s just YOU, the way God made you. It’s the hidden man of the heart, and it’s showing, and if it’s ugly, it’s just plain downright ugly! There’s nothing to hide behind. No artificial props.
So what did I do? I again compared myself. Here were all of these virtuous women, who knew how to sew from the time they were small. They knew how to garden and can since they were quite young. Talk about being a second class citizen! I was less than half of a woman for sure. I thought “Denny should have married one of these women. And he’s stuck with me!”
You know, those women had no idea that in all their kindnesses to me, they were putting me under a tremendous load because of my ignorance. I remember one sister bringing me a big silver bowl full of cucumbers from her garden. Because of the time of year we moved we didn’t have a garden. She gave them to me to make pickles out of. Then she went on her way, probably feeling pretty generous to share with the newcomers like that! I looked at all of those cucumbers, and just cried. I might as well have been told to fly to the moon. I had no idea how to make a cucumber into a pickle. I had no canning jars. I had no canner. I had no knowledge. I was a mess! In my lack of understanding I just went down lower in my estimation of myself as a woman. Incidences like that were repeated many times. Then we moved to Lancaster County. Well, compound the problem! All the expectations: manicured gardens, lawns, and flowerbeds on top of it all! Sometimes you look and think “That’s all the women do.” But then you go in their house, and they have quilts, and cookies, and everything else all organized to boot! Well, I have learned through the years. Now I can put on a meal for twenty people without prior notice ahead of time because I have meat in my freezer and I bake some goodies ahead of time too. But back then something like that just looked totally overwhelming.
When we came into Lancaster County, I think some of the rejection was even stronger because we were starting a church that wasn’t quite going by the standard books of the other churches. So we were no longer Baptist. We weren’t quite Mennonite. We definitely weren’t in their lineage. Nobody wanted to help us. Nobody wanted to fellowship with us, and it was lonely.
That was painful. Complicating that season even more was the fact that I was experiencing severe migraine headaches (which I had ended up in the emergency room with the first time, nine months into our marriage). These were incapacitating migraines. If you’ve never had one, you don’t know what I’m talking about. Only once in awhile have I ever wished one on somebody, and that’s when they were unkind, and very uncaring, and I’d just think, “Oh Lord, if they would just have one, they would never again be so insensitive.” You can’t stand light, you can’t stand noise, you vomit, and you crawl to the bathroom. Debilitating, incapacitating, and discouraging.
We sought the nutritional route for relief. We were anointed. I went on elimination diets. I tried this and I tried that, and I kept thinking if I would be becoming spiritual through all this pain it would be worth it. But I didn’t see any progress. People didn’t know what to say. I took vitamins by the handful. I became known for being sick. Do you know that when you’re sick it makes you sick? You know, after you lay in bed so much time, your body doesn’t function right, your bowels don’t function, and you get weaker. You’re sicker. You miss spiritual blessings because you miss services and activities. And even when I’d come out, any smell could send me reeling. I spent months of Sundays in a little travel trailer after we built our new church building because I could not be inside due to the paint and carpet smells. Our dear brothers in the church put a special fan under the steps of the pulpit area for me so that I could try to breathe well enough to sit in, even after all the ladies that sat upfront stopped wearing anything like perfume for me. I spent many times in the study alone. I had to take my hair down. I was always at least woozy with the headache, but often I’d be flat out. They’d last 18 hours, and before I could catch my breath from one being gone, another one would overtake me again.
I took so much pain medicine. We had brain scans, allergy tests, and spinal taps done. We spent thousands of dollars searching. Everybody had a contributing factor. But you know, once your body is out of whack, it seems you just continue to get more out of whack. And the more they tell you what’s wrong with you, the more becomes wrong with you. It’s horrible. During all of those years I don’t know many people who tried as hard as I did. But I bore so little fruit. Those books I told you about, I read them. I tried to apply them. But something was missing. I’d get up early. I’d beat my flesh. I’d go on long fasts. I’d read the how-to’s. But it seemed like the precious promises were not for me. They were true, but they were for everybody else, not for me.
What was I doing? I was reverting to that little girl who tried to get straight A’s, who was going to make something of herself. I tried to earn my sanctification. I tried to work for it. I searched for why I’ve got these mumble-jumble, cloudy feelings. Why was all this cruddy stuff still under the table of my heart? After awhile it seemed like conviction just loaded on top of conviction. I wasn’t getting anywhere, so I just started dismissing them instead of adding them to the pile. I started stuffing them.
I knew enough up in my brain. I had a public position. I knew the right answers to say. I really wasn’t trying to be phony. I was doing the best I could do. People expected me to be cheery and to have godly answers. I was on overload. We had a lot of people come to the church back in those days. A lot of people came, a lot of people went. They came with serious problems. Most of them could not be contributors to the Body because they were so needy; financially needy, the children were needy, and their marriages were needy. We got stretched so thin trying to reach around.
Back in the beginning days of the church Denny was working a job for seven dollars an hour, if you can imagine. Things weren’t that much cheaper. He usually got in about twenty hours a week, because of counseling and other meetings. Pretty soon that became a financial pressure. It added to, and was compounded by all of the other things that shouted we weren’t good enough, and couldn’t make it. Others actually said, “Leave them alone as a church and they’ll die.” What an unloving attitude.
So my health deteriorated more as the years went by and I developed other symptoms. We sought answers for them. I would get temporary relief, which you often do when you go on a cleansing program or something similar. I developed something in my shoulder that seemed serious and rather alarming; severe pain. It started going down my arm, and across my back. My breath was short. I couldn’t breathe deeply. I was going to a chiropractor for treatments to see if he could find an answer. He was a godly man. After a few months he wouldn’t let me pay anymore because he knew he wasn’t doing me any good. I wasn’t sleeping at night for any length of time.
This was not too many months after the time our brother Vernon died from cancer which had begun by a Ganglion cyst on the shoulder. I think because of that experience the ministry here decided on an emergency measure, fast. We were in the midst of being almost ready to divide the churches, and I think the immediate fear was cancer. It sounded like cancer. There must be a growth. What’s going on? Better have it checked out. So the judgment call was made to send me to Mexico, which was a very fast decision. A day and a half later I was there. I was in so much pain, and so doped up on pain medicine. I think that’s the only way they got me there. To be talked into going to Mexico without my family for a month, I had to be in pretty bad shape. I could bog you down with a list of all the treatments I received there. I felt like a guinea pig and a pincushion. Many uncomfortable circumstances were endured. We spent a lot of money. The church spent a lot of money. After I came home it was very discouraging to find out that I had more pain than before I went; new pain. We tried a couple more treatments here, thinking maybe I just need to get over a cleansing hump and then I’d be okay, but that was not the case.
I did benefit from the spiritual time there. I had purposed in my heart not to turn on the television in my room, since I was going to be alone for a month there. I decided to not even peek at the news so that it would not be a distraction or temptation to me. It would have been comforting just to hear the English language spoken on the American news station since everyone there spoke Spanish! I felt led that I should concentrate on being in the Word when I was alone not having tests or treatments. I listened to sermon tapes and read. I think God really allowed that as a preparation time for the next step in what He would bring us to.
We were feeling very desperate as my pain intensified. I remember one day going to Wal-Mart, and I had to throw my leg. I was pushing, leaning on a cart, and I was feeling very old. We didn’t know what to do. We were feeling pretty desperate because I was incapacitated and not functioning at home. Through a course of urgent reading, listening, and asking questions Denny and I began to wonder if it was possible there was any connection between all these years of physical trials, one after another, and spiritual roots? We’d tried everything else. It seemed possible, maybe even logical, as we would find out later. What we found out literally changed my life, to say the least. Why we had to search so long to find answers, I have no idea. As a matter of fact it’s not even healthy for me to go there, to think about it for any length of time. You know why? It would be very discouraging to me to think of the wasted years, the lost time. Instead I need to be rejoicing for what God has done. And maybe I can help somebody else to not have to go all those years. Maybe I can help them find some answers sooner.
A year and a half after my healing, I was in Africa with Rebecca, Daniel, and their families. Daniel sent the youth workers out and asked, “Mom, how can this be? How could we have missed these things all of these years? You’ve ministered to other people. You’ve helped other people. You’ve walked the walk, you’ve talked the talk. How could it be that we could miss these issues?” You know, I’m so sorry for the lost fruitfulness, and the failures, but I’m so happy to be on the other side that I can’t stay there very long. The children are very happy, and Daniel wasn’t saying that in judgment, he was just saying it in amazement.
You know, it’s torture not to be able to grasp God’s love, especially when everyone around you is walking in the good of it. You wish you could understand. It’s agonizing to not know how to forgive yourself. Denny used to say to me, “Honey, if I had your theology I’d go crazy. I wouldn’t know how to live with myself.” Well, that’s where I was. I wasn’t doing a very good job of living with myself. Getting out of bed had become a major chore. Dread. Put one foot down. Have to get up. Have to face life. I look in the mirror. I hated what I saw, and who I was.
You know, the image of who I was SUPPOSED to be compounded that and made it harder, because I was Mrs. Kenaston! It compounded my guilt. I’d get up early and I’d sit there with my Bible open on my lap, dumbfounded, knowing this is what I should be doing. It didn’t seem like anybody else was facing what I was facing, which made me feel all the more foolish and ashamed. I couldn’t talk to anybody about it. I was Mrs. Kenaston. Aren’t the preachers’ wives supposed to have all the answers? Lord, please deliver us from that attitude!
I don’t know the correct theological terms to describe exactly what was happening. Maybe five years from now I’ll be able to say it much clearer. But it was a long scene of darkness. I don’t know all about hidden forces, strongholds, or demons. But THIS I know, I was blind, and now I see. I longed for freedom and truth, but it just seemed out of my grasp, and not for me. The scriptural truths of abiding and resting and trusting, they seemed so elusive. They sounded so beautiful. My young people would share spiritual discoveries with me. I was so glad for them, but I knew nothing of what they were talking about.
I want to quickly and strongly say that I do not believe we’re supposed to wear our abuse on our sleeve, or use it as an excuse for sin. You’ll often hear people explaining about the hard time they’ve had, and the circumstances of their life as a way of rationalizing their failures. This is not profitable. But you know I also learned that maybe, just maybe, you need to get it out, and you need to dump it, and you need to deal with it, so that you can GO ON! “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16” Sometimes folks who have never experienced any serious trauma accuse you of just wanting to use your circumstances to dodge personal accountability. Let me say, I did not find it like that at all. We found it to be exactly the opposite. Once we faced these issues in my life and we dealt with them thoroughly I became free to flow and to grow. I’m learning how to walk, and to be clear moment by moment. Every time a new conviction comes to my heart I can look at it as fresh, and respond to it individually. Before I was so blocked and clouded spiritually that my perception was so hopeless. It was like, what’s one more thing? Just dump it on my ugly pile. I didn’t know what to do with any of it anyway. So learning to walk this way has been marvelous, and freeing and exciting. I often feel like a new babe in Christ where the whole world is brighter. You hear people say, “Oh, the sun is brighter and the water’s clearer.” Being able to understand conviction clearly and respond to it instead of being condemned is wonderful.
While Denny and I were seeking for answers, and reading, and listening, and hunting, after we’d already spent lots and lots of money, a suggestion came to us to make a list of serious upheavals in our lives. Things like divorce in your parents, sickness, accidents, abuse, trauma, emotional, anything like that, just make a list of them. Well because I was hardly sleeping at night anyway, I sat up late to make my list, and he went to bed. Then he got up early the next morning to make his list. He had to stretch and strain, to come up with one item on his list, something that was said to him as a child that probably wasn’t wise, and probably could have caused some damage to him. After he wrote his one down he opened up my notebook and found my list from the night before. I was still hiding many of the things on my list. The list that he found was columns long. I think that somehow in looking at this list, reading it, one after another after another, God gave him a new perspective. It broke his heart and helped him see how to view me, and how to nurture me. When I woke up he took me in his arms and he said to me the most tender, hopeful words that I had ever heard in my life, that so ministered to my crushed heart. He said, “Sweetheart, I am so very sorry. I never realized the magnitude of what you’ve been carrying.” I felt a stirring of hope in my heart. I can hardly explain it. Something cracked. It’s as if I received a manifestation of my Heavenly Father’s love and acceptance through my earthly authority. It was awesome. It was beautiful. I referred to it as my “benefit of the doubt” moment. I guess I got the assurance that all of this mess was not totally my fault. I treasure that moment. I will probably never be able to exactly describe it, because that’s how God’s issues sometimes are, beyond our regular ability of description. It would actually be several months before I came face to face with dealing with all of these issues, but I knew we were on the right track. God was ministering something, and we were seeing something for the first time. So what happened to me that day was a major preparation for what was going to happen later.
Denny had put forth much effort trying to unlock my heart through all the years of our married life. He was not an uncaring man. But his most gallant efforts discouraged me. When he would say he loved me, I wouldn’t believe him. How could he care for me? I was despicable. I was unlovely. I was worthless. So when he would say something kind, I blocked it; poor guy. I had such a warped self image that I twisted all of those compliments into negatives. Because there were so many authority-related issues and abuses, I just had never been able to trust him, or anyone.
Several months later, after us endeavoring to follow through on the beginning of what God had showed us, the Lord brought everything to a head for me in a twelve hour session with two very godly sisters. This is where I painfully dumped my bucket. I wrenched, and I wept, and I moaned, and I confessed, and I acknowledged sin. I recognized the many places where I had been a victim, so I forgave. I forgave my abusers, I forgave myself, and I forgave God. It was very painful. I went into the session out of obedience. I didn’t have faith for what any outcome would be. You know, at salvation I had believed God. I had trusted Christ to the best of my understanding. I had blanket forgiven people. People dealt with me and told me what I needed to do, and I always looked at these issues. But somehow it must have been on the surface because the pain didn’t disappear, and I never got any freedom.
It was, again some months after this time that Denny’s sister called me up and we were chit-chatting on the telephone. She had talked to Denny’s father, who Denny corresponded with about my health all through the years of our married life. She said to me, “Dad says that you’re not having any headaches anymore.”
I had to think, “When did I last have a headache?” I said, “Well, you know, I’m not. I haven’t had one in a long time.” I was only beginning to recognize it.
Then she said, “And Dad says that you’re not having any muscle, leg, and joint pain anymore.” And again I had to think, “Well, when did that disappear?” “And Dad says you’re able to sleep at night.” Denny had been watching this all transpire in my life, but to have somebody else say it and put it all together and acknowledge it, I realized it was true.
You know, the healing in my heart had so superseded the physical that I wasn’t even totally aware of all that had wondrously transpired in my body, because it had taken place gradually. I didn’t have a hot flash over me and then the pain was gone. We just dropped off the pain medication. I wasn’t taking any vitamins. And I was well. It was a marvelous revelation. As my inner body had come to peace I was sleeping soundly, and I was without pain. You know, just not sleeping in itself will lead to serious problems. God made our body to rest. We need to come to full rest, preferably every night. All of those little nerve endings located all over our body have to rest, or our body can’t heal itself like it was created to do. Our immune system will go down, and we’ll develop all sorts of problems physically as a direct result.
So here I was, not taking any environmental cautions. I was going everywhere, in buildings with terrible smells and new carpet and paint, and there I was, fine. I was free. I was able to do as they did in Acts 3. I was able to be filled with wonder and amazement, not understanding at all, but rejoicing. You know, I have always been characterized by physical sickness. A few weeks ago I had a phone contact with somebody I hadn’t seen in twenty-five years, and then somebody I hadn’t talked to in two years. And what was the first question out of both of their mouths? “How is your health?” They knew me for being sick. They were very sweet in asking, and I thought, “It’s wonderful!” Every time they’d talked to me or seen me I had been sick.
So why do I share all of this confusion with you? You didn’t walk the same path I did. Your path is uniquely yours just as mine is uniquely mine. I didn’t have your parents, you didn’t have mine. I didn’t have your home, I don’t have your husband, and I don’t have your personality. But hopefully our end goals are the same. Our desire is to glorify God with our life. What are the hindrances? As I said before, we have all those teachings. What is it that holds you back, if something is holding you back? Do you examine it? Do you think about it? Aren’t you getting tired of not knowing week after week? Are your older children at home today thinking, “Oh, I wish Mom could get something at that meeting”? Are they hurting? Are there wounded ones around your table? It won’t just go away. You know, somebody told me the other day that hurt people HURT people. Does that make sense? If you’re hurting and you’re stuffing it in, then most likely you are hurting most everyone you come in contact with. Not because you want to, but because you don’t know what to do with it and it comes out. The more I open up and share, the more I find out that a lot of other sisters are also stuffing, hiding, and pretending. I don’t know if there’s always spiritual bondage involved. Sometimes I think so, perhaps strongholds which have never been broken. It’s like it’s a half salvation. What sadness to our Lord, knowing that He already paid for it all. We’re not walking in the good of what He’s already paid for.
I think on the natural side women are very good advice givers. That’s a positive. If we find a new product or a new food that’s good, we’ll tell everybody about it. We’re kind of like walking commercials. I think I have literally sold gallons of Oxi-clean once I discovered it, because it was a good product. I told everybody how it takes out stains, and how it worked for me. We want to help each other and bear testimony to what product has helped us. All stains aren’t taken out the same way. Usually you do something different for blood than you do for grease, or what you do for ink or crayon marks.
In the Old Testament, we’re given the example of the Lord being as a refiner’s fire, and as fuller’s soap. This example is given in the process of purifying. What is He purifying, and why is He purifying? It is so that we might bring forth righteous lives. Back in Bible days the fuller was the expert at removing stains. If you had a problem that you couldn’t get rid of you took it to him. He was the expert, and he could get out even the hard ones. The Lord Jesus is still the expert at getting out the stains, even the hard ones. We’re supposed to take all of our spots to Him. I’d like to try to make an analogy for that. Analogies always break down some. Just follow me a little bit and see if you can understand what I’m saying.
Let’s take our personal white robe of righteousness. It’s already been washed in the blood. Sometimes I think one of the problems with us ladies with spots on our garments is that we like to talk about our spots. We like to compare our spots. We moan and groan about them. And then you’ll say how yours is bigger, and about all the hard times you’ve had, and how rough your life has been. You know, we’re a mess in ourselves. Just in the course of a normal day we get dirty. It happens in different ways. If you’re near a mud hole, you get mud splattered on you. You rub up against something greasy. Sometimes there’s a smudge and you don’t even know where it came from. Maybe somebody purposely took an ink pen and scribbled on you. Gossip. Something that hurt. Something that made a mark. It doesn’t really matter how the spots get there. At the end of the day when your dress is already dirty have you ever just taken your floury hands and wiped them down on it because you’re going to change anyway? So in that case, out of carelessness you put those spots there yourself. Well, the need is the same, no matter how the spot got there. You need to get clean. Maybe you’ve even let some of your stains sit there awhile, like mine had. Way too long. Maybe you’ve added more on top of them. Those might take a little bit of extra scrubbing. You might need some help. Someone might need to help you get those stains out. You know the Lord might use somebody’s book or tape to apply a Scriptural truth to your life. Oftentimes He does.
But you know, you have to start out right. If you’re carrying a load of unresolved conflicts and guilt in your heart, if you’re downright dirty, if you’re not under authority, if you’re not being submissive. Maybe you’ve crumpled up in despair, or you’re taking those dirty rags and stuffing them up your sleeves, hiding all those dirty rags under your robe. Your way will not prosper when you hide stains. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy Pr 28:13.” Scriptures are very clear on that. We have to walk the same way that we first came to the Lord. We have to believe by faith. We have to obey. Oh, the wonderful freedom that comes from getting clean and then staying clean! You know, fresh dust brushes off so easy. If you get it right away it brushes right off. I would like to challenge you to dump your bucket. If you have never dumped, you need to. Quit holding on to your spots and saying “Poor me! I had a rough life, and everybody’s been mean to me, and you just don’t understand.” You can’t keep wasting your life. Your children need you. They need to see something real. How the household suffers when Mama’s spirit is not right. By example what you’re actually saying to the children is, “God’s not big enough. God’s a liar.” Is that what you want to say to your children? You know it’s a miracle when children who come out of a home that’s pretending, turn out to serve God. Hypocrisy damns them. They can’t find their way clear very easily.
I want to come around this one more time from another angle, and give you an illustration from my everyday life. I hope it will help you see clearly what I’m trying to say. I’m a walker. I like to walk. It’s good for me to walk. I feel better when I walk. I try to take walks several times a week. My most faithful walking partner is Mary Jane. She and I have really truly logged thousands of miles in the last twenty years. We take walks on country roads where there are often little ditches along the side. They must be for drainage, because a lot of times they’re muddy.
You know, while we’re walking along the road, if we would happen to stumble or slip or trip or walk too close to the edge, we might find ourselves in the ditch. Well if you find yourself in the ditch you have a choice to make. Number one, you can continue to walk in that ditch even though it’s rocky and muddy, because, after all, you know, you’re not a very good person. You really don’t deserve to walk on that nice road anyway. So just stay in the ditch and condemn yourself, and feel bad and awful about it. Or number two you could choose to beat yourself. How could you be so stupid as to fall in the ditch? You get muddier and more miserable if you get stuck in condemnation. Number three, you could choose to become angry and bitter at that fellow who just sped by that caused you to slip into the ditch. There’s probably going to be somebody coming around the corner in a few minutes and do the same thing again, so you might as well just stay there and wallow. Or number four, you can recognize, “Hey, I’m in a ditch!” Step back up on the road, and start walking. And end up where you were going, cleaner and happier.
I think we need to quit blaming the way we are on the things that we’ve suffered, the way we grew up, the people that hurt us. I think once you deal with those things, once you repent, you need to get on the highway of holiness and walk. See how much more progress you’ll make in faith as you stay fresh and current, and walk in freedom. You know, God wants to use each of us to bless others once we have the issues of our life settled. I used to wish when I was condemning myself that I could just get saved again, because then I could start over. But I realize now His mercies are new every day. I do start over; actually, moment by moment. Many times a day I start over. The most wonderful words that I hear my husband say these days are, “Mama, you are so different!”
Now to you, on the outside, I look the same. I act the same. I talk the same. But it’s because you don’t know all the inner struggles. That’s why those words are musical to me, because I know what he means. I know the freedom here in my heart. The actress isn’t playing her part anymore in public. It’s the same Jackie here as it is at home, and that’s a wonderful freedom. My healing had applied to absolutely every area of my life. My outlook is so different. My responses are so different. Everything that comes my way is sifted so differently than it was before, because I’m not condemned. I have the freedom to respond in faith, and I’m amazed. My children are amazed. A compliment will come my way, and I can just accept it. I have to practice that one, because I have put myself down and rejected anything possibly being good in me for so long that I developed a very bad habit. You’re probably aware that I often joke when I’m uncomfortable and trying to pitch off a compliment. I’ll tease my way through it so I don’t have to accept it. But I’m purposing to change that with the Lord’s help.
You know, when you live in a self-condemned state, just normal circumstances can send you into a thither. Something breaks. Well, it’s you’re fault. Anything that happens, anything that comes your way, you blame yourself. Well, you know, we live in a world where moth and rust corrupts. You might run out of gas. I mean, things DO happen to you. If you’re beating yourself, and taking the blame for all of that, you’re going to be miserable. When you’re on the other side of drinking of God’s goodness and mercy, it’s marvelous. I know some of you have walked there from day one, and I’ve always admired that, and wondered how you did it. But I also know that some of you haven’t. And for you that haven’t and are still suffering the pain of defeat and confusion, it’s my prayer today that you will take a serious look at that, and make a choice to get out of your ditch. Ditches are terrible places to live! There’s HOPE available and people who will gladly seek the Lord with you and help you find your way through to freedom! Do not let the enemy lie to you any longer!