Over those three and half years, I lived a worldly life while, in secret, Tammy prayed.
The year of 2005 was perhaps my lowest point. Having just changed jobs and working for a German company with an office based here in the United States, I had just returned from one of several trips to Germany. While sitting at my cubicle desk, I started to feel a sharp pain in my lower extremities. I doubled over in pain as I made my way to my manager’s cubicle just a few short steps away. I was able to make it home that day and looking back now it was only by the grace of God that I did.
For years before this I had battled bladder infection after bladder infection and the doctors always medicated me with an antibiotic. This would eventually kill the infection however soon enough; another infection would take its place. However, this time the pain was different than before. Tammy took me to a urologist and after several rather invasive tests, they found that I had not only an enlarged prostrate, but a malformed one. My prostrate was shaped in such a way that it protruded up and around the lower part of my bladder, a condition the urologist said had most likely existed since early childhood. After a few months of pain and trying several different medications, we decided that surgery would be the best course of action in order to alleviate the symptoms. At only thirty-three years of age, I was going to have a surgery typically done on men who are well into their fifties and sixties. Already suffering from depression due to the loss of my mom and dad at such a young age, and having turned my back on God, I struggled with this for several months. The surgery meant that I would never be able to father a child.
Throughout that year, I missed several weeks and months of work which also played in my already downtrodden psyche. It had also come to the point where Tammy was afraid to leave me alone. But even after the surgery had been completed, I still struggled mentally to recover before finally being able to return to work. I struggled in silence with seemingly nowhere to turn; all the while Tammy continued to pray, in secret.
My eldest sister had been diagnosed again with cancer a year or so earlier but she had fought and won. In 2006 though, this horrible disease came back. She had fought and won that first battle with breast cancer however, the second round was slowly taking its toll on her. The cancer this time had spread into her lungs and was moving throughout her body. She was placed into hospice care in the fall of 2006 and everyone, except for my sister, was certain she would not make it to Christmas. However, being the fighter that she was, we had Christmas at the hospice house with all the family. My middle sister was there with her family and me and Tammy were there as well. My big sister had her husband and son there and we opened our Christmas presents just like nothing else was wrong. We laughed and joked as we had always done so in the past. My nephews ate copious amounts of chicken wings, just as they had always done. We were all amazed at how good our sister looked – she was a fighter.
After our Christmas gathering had concluded, she started to take a turn for the worse. In just a few short weeks later, my sister’s fight to survive had come to an end. She was a God fearing woman who loved her husband and her son. She loved the Lord and there was no doubt in any one’s minds where my sister would awake when she birthed into eternity.
After losing my sister, my mom, and my dad within a span of eight-years, I had an awakening. God shook me to my knees in the waiting room of that hospice care facility on the day my sister died. I had not prayed in almost three and half years but when I hit the floor I most certainly knew there was a God and though I had turned my back on Him, He have never turned His back on me. My mind immediately went to “Ok God, you have taken my dad, my mom, and now my sister. Who is next?”
At the conclusion of the funeral, my brother-in-law approached me and said these simple words.
“Jackie, your sister’s dying prayer was that you would get back into church”
Again, this brought me to my knees.
On our way home to North Carolina, me and Tammy talked very little until I said:
“Tammy, I have been thinking that is time we get back into church. I was thinking about that big church at the top of the hill.”
“I know”, she replied. “I have been praying”.
Those four simple words of “I have been praying” ring in my ears even to this day. All those years that I was living a sinful unrepentant lifestyle, my bride had stuck with me. She prayed every morning when she left me at the house that I would still be alive when she returned. She prayed that I would stop the worldly things. More importantly, she prayed that I would repent and turn back to God. All of those prayers had been answered and our life together took a huge and dramatically turn.
When we got back home to North Carolina, I immediately rushed up the stairs to my home office and started researching that church. I needed to find out when the services times started because I wanted to be there for the first service. The excuse I had used for years of wanting to find that small church I had grown up in was just that, an excuse. What I was really avoiding was God and by His grace we attended the first service the morning of January 14th, 2007 at Richland Creek Community Church in Wake Forest, NC.
Within a few weeks, we had asked the pastor if we could join the church. We walked up the isle of the church, shook the pastor’s hand and said “Family” which simply meant we wanted to be part of this church family. Since I had not been in church for many years, my home church back in West Virginia would not provide a letter for me to join. Since Tammy had never been baptized, we decided that we would both get baptized. Tammy’s parents came from WV to watch as we both followed Christ in Believers Baptism. When we joined the church, we went ‘all in’. We started serving immediately in the orchestra. I started with baritone horn, moved to french horn, and eventually settled into playing the bass guitar again. It had been almost eight years since I had played so the rust was quite evident at first. Tammy played the baritone horn and for the next seven years, until our eventual move to the Outer Banks, we served our Lord at Richland Creek in the children’s ministry, the orchestra, and the tech team. Someone in the church also nominated me to be a deacon and a few months later after joining the church, I was ordained.
I am sure that my mom, dad, and sister would be proud of how everything turned out. I look back now with peace knowing that God did not take my family away from me in order for me to come back to Him. God took my mom and dad and my sister to heaven simply because their time on this Earth, whatever God had planned for them to accomplish, had been completed. I also realize that my time here on this earth is by His grace. I know he is not finished with me yet so as I continue down life’s path, my prayer is that on the day when I see His face that I will hear these words: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23 KJV)
My eyes had been opened and my life had changed. By His grace and His grace alone, I am here today.