Joy, when was the first time you heard the Gospel, and what was your initial reaction to that message?
I heard it after God answered a great big prayer ~ to send someone to my door who could tell me about Jesus. I knew there was more to His story than I'd been told. I was fifteen.
Did you grow up with parents who had a relationship with God?
They did and made sure I was in Sunday School and church, but our church didn't teach a personal conversion. Mom had come to Christ as a little girl but had married a man who believed in God ~ generally. Praise God that has changed.
What did your life revolve around the most before you became a Christian?
Clothes, boys, makeup, rock and roll (mostly Donny Osmond by that time with a little Bobby Sherman thrown in for good measure), reading, and writing, But I was a teen on the edge. A very handsome boy had noticed me and he was a lot older than I was. He wanted me to be his girlfriend only if I'd be intimate with him. It was all about belonging, but still ~ my heart hurt to think that might be the only way to be a girlfriend. I said no. He and a friend of his continued to badger me. About that time, I asked God to send me someone who knew Him.
What did you get your security or happiness from?
Happiness was a new outfit, a new book and a couple of apples, a new pen and notebook, an album, 8-track, or babysitting. I loved to take care of kids.
What were you searching for before coming to know Christ? What were the reasons you felt the need to know Him?
I'd been confirmed into the church, and served ~ I loved being in church. But I could not get over the feeling I was missing out on something big ~ something I needed. I didn't just want to know about God, I wanted to know God. I just didn't know how.
What was the key problem, emotion, situation or attitude you were dealing with?
Mostly being a teenager.
What caused you to begin considering opening yourself up to God? What prompted you to want to know more about Jesus?
I don't know how to explain it, but I knew there was more to a relationship with God than I'd been taught. My grandma had a personal relationship with Jesus, but she didn't tell me about Him ~ but she did live Him out in front of me. And I went with her when she ministered to others. I did what she did when she wanted or needed something from God ~ I prayed. I remember standing in my turquoise and avocado green bedroom with the shag carpeting. I told God I knew He was busy with wars and the whole world, but I wondered if He'd listen to the prayers of a 15-year-old girl like me. I told Him if there was a way to know Him ~ really know Him ~ I needed Him to send someone I could trust to our door.
I also started scanning the Bible I'd been given as a child. My focus was Jesus. I told my mom I didn't want to go to the other church anymore. For some reason, that was fine with both of my parents. My whole family stopped going.
A few days later, a man knocked on our door. His name was Carl Calloway, and he was a pastor. He invited me to ride the church bus the next Sunday. I asked him some questions that mattered to me and told him if my mom said yes, I'd ride that bus. The time beeped and I had to take some cookies out of the over, but I sent him to the backyard where my mom was working in the yard.
The next Sunday morning, I was standing on the front porch in a mini-skirt and high heels when a red, white, and blue bus came down the street ~ it was a loud rattletrap of a bus, but for blocks I'd heard kids singing about Jesus like they knew Him, like they believed He heard them.
What motivated you to actually come to God for forgiveness and to accept Christ as Lord of your life? Who or what influenced your decision the most?
In spite of my different dress code, I made friends at the church quickly. Then one Wednesday night, there was a special meeting. I wore jeans and a nice top. So did the other kids, so I was feeling good about that. It mattered.
The preacher talked about grace and faith and that all my good works weren't enough. He asked anyone who wanted to ask Jesus into his or her heart to raise a hand. I did. He asked us to come forward. I didn't. Instead, I prayed with my bottom firmly planted on the pew and thanked Jesus for coming to die for me, and I accepted His free gift of salvation. When I opened my eyes, the lights were brighter, and I immediately told a friend I was saved. I haven't stopped talking about Him since.
After you received Christ, what changes took place in your life?
Well, the mini-skirts went. I started reading my Bible, desired to be baptized, and shared my faith with anyone who would listen or read a letter from me. I wrote letters to almost everyone in my family. I knocked on doors and handed out literally hundreds or tracts ~ that's just how it was done in those days. I'm not sure it changed anyone's life, but I was happiest when I was doing His work.
And the coolest thing of all was that my whole family went to church on Sundays again. Eventually, mom came back to Jesus, and my dad and brother came to Him for the first time. I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to be able to say we'll be together someday forever. No sickness. No parting. Hallelujah!
How has God's forgiveness impacted you?
After you received Christ, what changes took place in your life?
I remember immediately knowing God knew everything and that everything He knew could be forgiven ~ washed away ~ never to be brought up by Him again ~ ever. I believe that more than ever. Wayne Watson sings a song called Freedom ~ give the people freedom, but freedom without Jesus is just another wall.
Everything changed: the way I dressed, my friends, the way I treated my parents. Even my writing changed. I went from writing poetry about war (we were still fighting in Vietnam) to writing about my life and praising Jesus with my words. I saw everything differently ~ a friend of mine says I see things through mercy-colored glasses. I pray that's true, and if it is, it comes from Him, the same way all good does.
What kinds of ups and downs have you experienced along the way?
Not being able to have children was hard ~ especially in my twenties. Jon and I waited to be together until we were married, and I expected God to bless us with children. He didn't. Infertility can still sometimes sting because I'm not only no one's mom, I'm not anyone's grandma, either. It was
hard to understand why God wouldn't give us children when other women got pregnant easily and then chose abortion. I'm not saying I fully understand it all even now, but I see Him using it to bring His message to other women ~ especially to those who have chosen abortion.
These days, I'm helping my dad care for my beloved mom who has vascular dementia. It's heartbreaking to see her this way, and I can't understand the why now, either. But I've learned the answer isn't as important as what I let God do with it in my life.
Do you have a favorite verse or Bible passage which is important in explaining your Faith Story?
Romans 8:35-39 NIV: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Another favorite passage I often read to my mom because we both love it is Psalm 27. Verses 13 & 15 are dear to me: (again the NIV)I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.