When All Hope is Lost
(Watch for Victory)
I would like to tell you a story about a person that thought he had it all together.
On December 25th, 2007 my wife gave me a letter about our marriage. It stated that many things would have to change, or else! “Or else” happened anyway, and we were all changed.
My wife and I went to my oldest brothers for Christmas Dinner. Not an unusual occurrence. We had a nice time with family and we were the last ones to leave. On our way home, it became heavy on my heart that I have not been the man that I should have been to my family, who God wants me to be and I started becoming a little emotional. My wife asked what was wrong, and I shared with her. She was very quiet but that was not unusual for her.
When we arrived home, she gave me the letter that told me how dissatisfied she was in our marriage. I could go into detail, but it would not help anybody. At that point, I fell apart, my life fell apart. My goal was to do whatever it took to make her happy. WHATEVER IT TOOK!
The harder I tried, the further she moved away. I was driving truck then, teaming with my son-in-law. I was falling apart so bad that he told me to just go home.
Soon after she gave me the letter, I was offered a job within the same company, working in Cookeville, TN (I was living, if you could call it that, in Michigan at that time). My wife said it was an answer to prayer and I agreed. We had wanted to move to Tennessee. I was having second thoughts about leaving her and going down to work there. She told me that if I didn’t take the job, I might as well consider it over between us. I took the job thinking she would follow me down there but she decided that she needed to get her retirement locked in at her job and she needed 3 more years to do so. Fall apart some more!
I had known that she had been going out to play cards on a few nights each week. I didn’t like the places that she was playing, but I have always trusted her, she had always told me the truth and I still believe now that she still was. Hey, I was gone all the time driving. What was she supposed to do, just stay home? I would have liked her to be spending time with our friends from church and other Christian friends, but this was what she chose and I have always wanted her to have what she wanted, so…….no complaints out of me. I rationalized it, I supported it. We were both Christians, this would work out. In my mind, there was no way it wouldn’t. We were married 26 years, and it had been good. It must work out.
I pushed, I pulled, I manipulated (I didn’t think I was, but I was). I gave her things, tried everything I could think of.
I was sinking more and more into depression. She was my all, my everything, the love of my life. I had been thinking, “how could I go on if she did leave me? I know, I have life insurance, if I could find a way to have and accident, or look that way, she and my two daughters would be taken care of.” Now, what do you think of that for clear thinking? I found an activity that I planned to participate in that I hoped that I would not come back from.
During Easter, I went back to Michigan from working in Tennessee. We had a nice family time with my wife and our girls in the upper peninsula of Michigan. On our way back down, since things went well, I had started talking to her about how I had been doing and other private things. When we arrived home, I had to leave to go back to Tennessee and I started breaking down again, I didn’t want to leave. I was getting very upset, I was still planning on going through with my plan.
Over Easter, I was up at my daughter’s in Michigan; my cousins Susan and Leslie were on their way down to Tennessee. They are my “first cousins once removed”, daughters of my first cousin Laura. Susan had hopes to surprise me by bringing my wife down. She had no idea I was on my way up north until the last minute.I had not spoken with her or her husband Dennis about any problems that were going on between my wife and I. We had always been very close and I was fearful of driving in awedge that may have formed between us by talking about the problems.
After Easter, I dropped my wife off at home and headed back down to Tennessee. It was a difficult drive. I looked forward to seeing my cousin, though. The way it had been, even though my cousin Laura and her husband lived right there, I spent most of my time in my hotel room, which was supplied by my employer. I started drinking heavily to kill my pain.
I went out to my aunt’s house where my cousins were visiting. They were having a great time. They could see I was visibly upset, but that didn’t stop us from having a nice time. One of my cousins noticed my mood and said, “You really miss her, don’t you” referring to my wife. I just told her yes. I didn’t want her to know what’s going on.
Later that evening, I went outside with Susan, (this is the one I’ve had a close relationship to), and I fill her aboutmy plan of never returning. I explained to her some of the problems we were having. She attempted to talk me out of my plan. I would not listen. I was scared and upset, but in my mind, this was the only thing I could do.I went back to my hotel room, and they prepared to head back to Michigan. It was hard. Hard for both of us.
I spent the next week getting ready to carry out my plan. My wife knew something was going to happen, she knew I may not return from whatever it was I was going to do. The end of that week, I headed out and I informed my wife that I would have no cell signal. During that weekend, my wife had tried calling me several times. She was frantic. This part is very hard for me.She had no idea if I was even alive. On my return trip to Tennessee, I called her and told her how much I loved her, and I finally understood how important she and family was to me. She stated,“It is a little too late now.”
But that night my wife called. She was having problems with a dog she sold. I told her I would take care of it. So that next weekend I drove up to Ohio, to deal with this personally. After that, I drove up to my house in Michigan. I noticed something was very wrong. When my wife went into a room she closed the door behind her. That was not normal behavior for her. She felt that after what had just happened the week before, she didn’t have any trust left in her toward me. We talked and talked then held each other and it felt like we were starting to understand each other’s pain. We were getting somewhere. I really thought that this was the beginning of healing. I headed back to Tennessee with hope and some hurt. I wouldn’t discuss this with anyone. But as the week when on, she became more distant.
Life was pretty dark for me. I was isolated from others, but what I didn’t know was how God was working. He is always there, even when you can’t see Him. That is the point of this story, how God carried me through such dark times. So much was going on that I didn’t realize. So much that it had to be written down. This story is not to depress you but show you God’s glory and faithfulness. Here is what I did not see:……….
Hi. I'm Susan, Mark's cousin. Our families have been close for a long time. We have enjoyed spending time together for years, playing cards until way too late at night, getting together for football games, and a vacation to the U.P one year. My husband Dennis and Mark became likeadopted brothers to each other. When Mark started driving truck, our visiting was less frequent, but we always reserved New Year's Day and Superbowl Sunday at least to spend together.
Mark called me in January when he was heading out for training. He told me that he was going to be working in Tennessee in the same town as my parents, on a trial basis. He needed information to get set up, so my parents helped with that. He told me his hope was that if it was successful, he and his wife would settle there. But his wife felt she could not leave Michigan yet, because she had 3 years to go before locking in her retirement. I had an idea that things were stressed between Mark and his wife, because our New Year's Day was unusually quiet and very short. But nothing was shared with my husband or myself.
In March, I got a call from my mom in TN. My grandmother was not doing well, a friend of hers was dying, and she had lost several friends and relatives recently. I hadn't seen her in 4 years. It started to weigh heavily on me. I felt I needed to go. I thought about it and asked Dennis what he would think of me taking the kids, picking up my sister, and going to TN for Easter. (Mind you I was not one to take trips like that, we had always gone together.) He agreed, so Icalled Leslie and she had been thinking of going too! She just couldn't figure out how to make it happen with her work schedule and the holiday. We worked the details out and arranged to leave on the 21st, Good Friday.By the 17th I was feeling very urgent about going down. The next day Ray (Grandma's friend) passed away. I also thought of Mark and his wife, and thought what a surprise it would be if I took herwith us. I called and found out Mark was here in Michigan instead!
A snowstorm was coming in on Friday, so it was decided to leave a day early to beat the weather. It was the day of Ray's funeral. We had not told anyone we were going, it has been a long-standing family tradition to just show up. I felt a little funny, but we were encouraged to keep it quiet and let Grandma have her time without worrying about guests coming.In spite of theGPS giving us some funny directions, we got there fine. Grandma and Mom were very pleased we were there and hoped we were not just passing through. We stayed several days and had a wonderful visit. There were sad times too, but it was very good to be there together.
Tuesday and Wednesday, Mark was back in Tennessee. He came over to Grandma's to visit with everyone. There was quite a group there. There was cutting up and laughing, and joking about the drySouthern cornbreadbut there was also Mark obviously struggling. He was twisting the rings on his fingers and very emotional.My sistersaid, "You really miss her, don't you?" Later, when we were in another room, Mark told me that back in January when things were bad between him and his wife, he had arranged for this trip hoping not to come back from it.He would be leaving Friday and the expected outcome was not to return.
I was shocked. Our conversation was not audible to the others. There was a lot of goofing around going on. Later we went to Mom's and Mark came too. He played with the kids, but it was very numbing and I was not sure what to do. I walked out with him to the car and asked if he could cancel. He said no. He was afraid but he had his mind made up.
It was very hard to leave Tennessee. As we were getting ready to leave, Leslie said "I can just fly home if you want to stay!" But we did leave. On the way home, 111 takes a very sharp left. The GPS freaked out. It immediately told me to turn right. I laughed, looked at my sister and said, "Should we see where it takes us?" So we turned right, then it said right again, and right again. Then it said "Drive to Cookeville".I have an older GPS, and they just don't say city names. I asked my sister, "Did you hear that?" She said "Yes, that was strange." But we turned back North and headed home.
On the way home I started texting Mark, asking how he was. "Got a busy day. That helps." Then he said he was stopping to order flowers for his wife, then later "Class is out for the day, time to think." I called him and asked again for him to cancel. I called my husband and he talked to Mark too. Friday morning I called, I told Mark I loved him, that he was important, asked him to try to get out of it. It was very hard. I didn't want things to be left unsaid. He askedme to be there for his wife. Later I got a text: "Thanks for always being there." I texted back: "And I will be here when you get back."
I had heard of people claiming scriptures, but I was raised very conservative and never taught that. But this time I said to my husband, I am praying 2 Kings 6:15-17 for Mark this weekend. He will make it in spite of his intentions.
15Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?"16So he answered, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them."17Then Elisha prayed and said, "O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see " And the LORD opened the servant's eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
Sunday morning's sermon was on that exact passage. And at 11:45 I got a text: “Just landed. I will NEVER do this again!"
We met up with his wife for lunch, he called and it was so good to hear him. Thank you God! It was a wonderful victory. But it was just the beginning...
Caution, Dangerous Trips Ahead
Mark: Now I can tell you, Satan had me right where he wanted me. I had no will to live. I loved doing my job, but other than that, nothing. I felt that without my wife, there was nothing to live for. Driving was bad for me and there was a lot of driving involved. Driving to different points for work, back and forth from Tennessee and Michigan, and just around the area I was working in, it would have been so easy to just turn the wheel.
Satan might have had me where he wanted me, but God would not let go. When I ran from Him, He was waiting for me when I got to where I was running. He used my little dog and my cousins to keep me on the road and not into a ditch or ravine someplace.
I had been driving truck for 8 ½ years. It was not my chosen field, it was what I could find in the way of work to support my family. During that 8 ½ years, I would drive 4-5 weeks at a time, home for 4 days, then back on the road. A lot of the time I was out longer than that. I had not had trouble driving before, now it was different. I had just come off the road in January to run orientation (orientation, for those of you that don’t know, is for drivers coming to work for us, to teach them about our company and the rules and regulations. That’s the thumb nail of it.) for the company at a new site in Cookeville, Tennessee on a trial basis. Now, being in Tennessee, I was 10 hours from home, so some weekends I would take off after work and run home. I’d get home about 1 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and have to leave by mid-afternoon Sunday to get back in time for work. Other weekends I just stayed in my hotel room. Sometimes I would be sent to another orientation site, depending on how many were signed up. Sometimes they overbooked one location, so they would transfer someone in to help out.
I had gone home to Michigan for Easter, and then again the following weekend, April 5th and 6th. As I stated in the previous blog entry, it was a rough weekend. I spent Friday night and Saturday morning with my wife. Saturday night I went to Lapeer to spend the night with my cousins. I wasn’t in very good shape when I showed up, I was doing my best to keep myself under control. We spent a lot of time talking but I still didn’t want to reveal anything. Finally, I just broke down. We talked about seeing a counselor. Susan had one that she recommended. I headed out early in the afternoon for West Memphis. The orientation site there was overbooked and they needed help. I had a long drive ahead of me, I had to teach the next morning. This was the first of my difficult drives during this time.
During the drive, Susan was checking on counseling and speaking with a pastor. The counselor agreed to talk to by phone. He suggested that I call my family doctor and get on some anti-depressants (and Yes, I did) and recommended some books. Susan spent a lot of time on the phone with me during that drive, the first of many.
This is where my first WOW came in, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. God had people waiting for me before I got there. Just like the whole trip, I was feeling down when I arrived. Some of the students were waiting for me, thinking that I was somebody else. We had a good time talking. They were very anxious about orientation starting the next (that) morning. Talking about it relaxed us.
When I got up that morning and was getting ready to start class, I felt as if I was done and had nothing left. In a feeling of desperation I sent a text message, “Broken, At the end of my rope, don’t know what to do” to my cousin in Tennessee (Susan’s mom).
Boy, you don’t send a message like that to a woman, especially if she cares about you. It may change something!
I went through the first day of orientation keeping busy. I set everything aside just to make it through the day.
Later in the day, I received a text message from Susan’s sister Leslie, “I don’t think I like you being my cousin” I thought she was saying I had hit her with too much and she was telling me “stay away from me.” But another message came right after that saying “Would you be my brother instead?” It took me from feeling like I had pushed away another friend to the point of almost breaking down knowing someone else really, really cared.
After I returned to my room, I received a message that I would be having visitors, if I permitted. They were elders from a church in the area. Laura, Susan’s mom, got on the internet, found a church, called them and she hardly knew anything except the message that I sent to her.
The elders came and visited, talked and prayed with and for me. It helped. After that, I picked up the books that the counselor recommended. One of the students stated how great one of the books was. (Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns)
I want you to understand why the elder’s visit was important. It is so easy to get self-righteous, to want to point the finger at somebody else and blame them. When I talked to the elders, that is exactly what I started to do. I wanted to blame my wife for all our problems, lack of communication, money, you name it. They so gently pointed out these verses and helped me climb a little bit out of my pit.
Romans 3:9 “What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we before laid to the charge both of Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin.”
And Romans 3:10 “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one”
That made me think of Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.”
When God looks at us, He does not grade our wrong doings. All of them are the same in His eyes and He is not looking to drop the hammer on us, but is waiting for us to come to Him. He wants to love us and forgive us all the same, not at graded levels. Wednesday night I went to the church that those elders attended. Can you guess what the message was? The same exact message! It was just coincidence, right? To me that idea was wiped right out of my mind when one of my students was having a hard time. We had a couple of chances to talk. One of the drivers I met Sunday night was not associated with any church, so the thoughts shared were not biblically based.
What was the discussion? Why do people grade what they consider as wrong? Why is speeding okay and stealing is not? I could give example after example of things like that. It all came down to God was talking to me asking who made me god, to decide what to forgive and what not to forgive.
They say hindsight is 20/20. The fact is, at that time, I could not see that God was there, but He was in a big way. It was a very dark time for me and I was struggling.
That whole week had it’s up and downs. Get ready, the company was sending me to Columbus the following week, by way of Cookeville. There were more rough roads ahead.
Susan: Surviving that first planned trip was only the beginning. Mark was hurting and confused. He could focus on work, but was not eating or sleeping much. He was going 2-3 days at a time without food or sleep. He says now in retrospect that he should have been in the hospital. After that first trip I had asked him to promise me not to do anything that would put him in danger without calling me. He kept his word. He called every night. He had been unable to sleep in spite of taking sleeping pills, so I would talk to him until he was almost asleep. Sometimes he fell asleep on the phone. That was a great comfort to me, to know he was sleeping, that he was okay for the night. I was in contact with a counselor, but he never recommended hospitalization, and it didn’t enter my mind. It was about getting him through the evening, to be concerned, to listen, to care. He is my very good friend. I wanted to be there for him.
Mark got to West Memphis on Sunday night, and early Monday morning he readied himself for teaching orientation. There was a lot of paperwork to fill out, pictures to take, information to enter on the computer or get sent to the company, videos to show them, driving tests, instruction, questions. After work, Mark would go back to his hotel room. Some nights it could be 10 or 11:00, other nights about 6:00. He did not socialize with the students, he spent his time by himself. That can be bad or good. Isolation is not good, but neither is hanging with the wrong people. The good thing is that people were put in his path, and he did call.
When he was telling me about things happening there, it became clear to me that God was on the job. These two elders showing up at his hotel was huge. How wonderful that these men dropped whatever plans they might have had to go call on a stranger traveling through town. It was so needed!
Texts were am important component that week. They came through when they were needed most. Let me tell you, I learned very quickly what a great tool my cell phone could be, before this time it was just an extra weight in my purse. The battery would run down and my husband would get it out and charge it because he wanted me to have it available in case of emergency. Before this time it was rarely used. It became an important communication tool. I could send Mark a text even during work, without interrupting anything, to remind him people were praying, or to ask how he was. Right when needed most, he got a text ((hug)) on a very bleak day, from my sister.
A couple of years ago I had met a man who encouraged me spiritually. He was an older man who was very sharp with scripture. Then he wanted me to have his phone number, and said, “If you need to call me, I will be available. He (God) and I have an arrangement!” I have found out how true that really is. Please understand, cell phone reception at my house was spotty at best, but it started picking up signal better. God, did you tweak the antenna? I also belonged to a ladies internet group. I sent the first of several messages saying there was a family crisis, would they please pray about the situation. I started getting notes of encouragement for Mark, and I would tell him about them. These people, strangers, were just some of the ones that were holding Mark up in prayer. Not knowing the “whats” or “whys”, but praying anyway, knowing it was a crisis. They didn’t need the details because God already had them.
The driver that Mark met, was a huge encouragement too. Even though this driver was not a Christian, there was a lot of insight. Knowing he was struggling, even perceived it was his marriage. There was encouraged him about the books, and was asked of him, “You don’t love yourself, do you? How do you expect to give love when you can’t look at yourself?” The driver expressed that they were not there, at that time, by accident. This precious person had tried to commit suicide before too. Mark relayed “I know I have lots of people praying for me”. The response was “that doesn’t surprise me “. Before they parted at the end of the week, a bag with crystals was given to Mark. It was felt that they would be helpful to him, according this driver’s beliefs. (More on this later) At the end of the week that driver gave him a hug and said, “Don’t take this (the hug) the wrong way!”
Wednesday, that church lesson about all sins being the same, was a repeat not only of the talk with the elders, but even an internet lesson he had subscribed to. A lesson being driven home.
God uses lots of people to get our attention, different ways of getting his message to us. He even used a donkey in the Old Testament. When I heard these stories, I would say, “Do you see what God is doing? You need to write this down!” But he said “No. I don’t care. If you want it written down, you write it down.” So I did. And we are both thankful because we have had the blessing of being able to look back and see how he was carried through such dark times. It was day by day.
Mark: I told you in the last entry that driving was a dangerous activity for me at this time, but I never refused to go where my company sent me. There were two that were extremely difficult. This one to Columbus, OH and my week there, as in everything, God showed up, doing battle for me.
My moods were tied to how my wife reacted, talked, or felt. If we had a good conversation on the phone, I was ecstatic. If it went bad, I was in the depths of despair. My call with her was not good. My mind opened like a floodgate, letting all the thoughts in of why I wasn’t worth taking up the air on this earth. Esteem was not even in my vocabulary. I also was getting really frustrated with my cousin right at this time because of the promise I had made. The one in that I promised to call her before doing anything stupid.
Let me clarify that last statement. I know I do stupid things a lot, but I think you know, the irrational stupid of ending a life, thinking it will make the lives of others easier or better.
As I was leaving Cookeville, I called Susan as promised, knowing that we would talk only a little while. I take back roads out of Cookeville heading toward Interstate 75 and there was a stretch of 2-3 hours that there is no cell signal. You could catch a little signal now and then, but if you wanted to talk, you would have to stop by the side of the road when you found the signal or it would be gone again.
What does that have to do with God showing up? That is the only time during that year of working in Cookeville that I had cell signal for the entire trip!
I really can’t tell you much about the drive except that, yes I was on the phone the entire drive from Cookeville to Columbus, and at every opening at guardrails leading to ravines, I looked at them with longing and hope to end the pain.
When I arrived to my destination, my mood was tempered a little by #1, being on the phone with Susan and #2, the greeting I received. The instructor I was to work with that week, asked me to give him a call when I was close to the hotel. I called as asked and he told me what was up with the parking structure, where I was to park, where my room was, starting time, etc.
I pulled into the parking structure, went to the designated stop and as I got out of the car, I was approached by two men in black (No, no aliens) asking if I was Mr. Ryan. Not knowing what was up, my stomach jumped up into my throat and I said yes as I started getting my luggage and equipment out of the car. All they said at that point was, “Let me get that for you, Tony (the other instructor) sent us.” I went in to check on and I was greeted with a big, soft, warm chocolate cookie. I arrived with very little money and I was given another little surprise. I knew that my lunches would be supplied by the company, but my surprise was that the hotel was also supplying breakfast! This was not included in the stay at this hotel. I was doing good. I went to my room and found a large two room suite. Things were looking nice, but I made another mistake. I tried calling my wife and couldn’t get her. The more I tried the more upset I got and the further down I went.
I was very agitated and depressed and I couldn’t stop pacing around the room. Good thing I had a large suite or I would have been running into walls.
As the evening passed and I tried calling my wife, I was just falling apart more and more. I felt as if something had a hold of me, crushing me, tormenting me. We stated in the last entry that I was given an amulet containing crystals and a few other things. My chest was hurting, I was pacing, feeling no hope. I took the bag off from around my neck, thru it across the room and immediately the pain left and I was able to stop pacing. Even though I felt that this amulet was given to me in kindness, to help me, removing it gave me some peace.
Not long after removing it, my wife called and we had a positive talk giving me hope. We had a very pleasant talk. After out phone call, I sent out a text to Susan “ I will sleep well tonight”. The first good night sleep that I had in more than a week.
Susan: I am so thankful for God’s grace and his overwhelming care for us. This was despair. Mark got through the week in West Memphis, and instead of being able to go back to Tennessee, was sent to help in Columbus, Ohio, where the class had been overbooked.
Friday he could not contact his wife, and this was very upsetting. The marriage was falling apart. Saturday morning he headed out from West Memphis to Cookeville, and was barely hanging on. We were on the phone (thank you God for headsets) and I suggested he call the counselor and talk to him. So he hung up and tried to call, but the counselor’s wife told him that he was unavailable, he was out mowing the lawn.
Mark called me back. He was so upset so, I got in the car and drove over to the counselor’s house. I took the cellphone across the lawn to him and asked if he could talk to Mark. Then his wife invited me in. She told me she could not go out to get him because of a physical problem. She felt bad, but was glad I took the initiative and came over. Mark and the counselor talked for a while then I was given back the phone. I asked if it helped at all and Mark said, “I don’t know.”
He stayed in Cookeville that night, but the next morning was even worse.
I woke up Sunday morning a little dizzy and wasn’t sure about going to church. I got a text from Mark, “Have you sent up the red prayers flag?” He called a few minutes later. Everyone else left for church, with a prayer request, and a text for prayer was sent out to family, and an email to an online ladies group. He was feeling done. What was left? He hadn’t heard from his wife. What did his kids need him for? Maybe everyone would be better off without him. He had too much pain. I talked to him about his kids, and how I had seen him as a father. I remember when Jamie was a teenager, she missed him out on the road. One day she called him and told him, and right away he got transferred to something that put him home every weekend, and how, whatever Kristy wanted to pursue in school, he was right there, helping her learn softball, encouraging her to succeed. He poured himself selflessly into his family. We talked about his granddaughter Hailey, his son-in-law Luke who is like a son to him. I reminded him “people love you, you are cared about, and, they need you here”.
Tornados had recently gone through part of the area he was driving and he told me about damage as he passed. God had his hand in protecting families from that destruction. Many barns and out buildings, next to the houses, were destroyed or damaged, but houses were spared. In all the drive, winding through mountains and back roads, the cellphone never lost signal. A couple of times I had to take care of something. A goat on our farm had it’s head stuck in the fence and I ran outside with the phone, but still did have to put it down to get the job done. I had to tell Mark, “I will call you right back, ok?” Except for a couple of minutes, I was on the phone with him the entire trip.
God is merciful and he is not willing that any should perish.
The mood lightened temporarily when he arrived in Columbus, but his anxiety continued. He was very edgy, until he took off the amulet and his wife called, then, his mood changed dramatically.
I had a bad feeling about the amulet from the very beginning. After a few months, Mark made a point to give it to me, to get rid of it, and I did. I burned it and completely destroyed the contents. In the meantime, this continued to be in the picture, and who knows how much might have been avoided if we had known sooner.
We met with a couple just this past week, and they told us, “Mark, what you experienced with that amulet was the Real Deal. It doesn’t matter why the amulet was in your possession, maybe it was given out of the goodness of their heart and maybe it wasn’t. There are powers that are not connected to God attached to these things.” They read us a scripture from Deuteronomy 7: 25, 26:
“You must burn their idols in fire, and you must not covet the silver or gold that covers them. You must not take it or it will become a trap to you, for it is detestable to the Lord your God. Do not bring any detestable objects into your home, for then you will be destroyed, just like them. You must utterly detest such things, for they are set apart for destruction.
Other passages we found very convicting are Leviticus 19:31, 20:6,26,27.
You must be holy because I, the Lord, am holy. I have set you apart from all other people to be my very own.
We are the Temple of God. If we are to honor him, we must make every effort to stay away from things that are not of God. We learned how very damaging this involvement can be, and are so thankful for His mercy.
Mark: I ended up spending two weeks in Columbus. The good thing was, I was able to go home at the end of each week. The bad thing, I went home at the end of each week. Now back to that first week in Columbus.
Monday was a very good day for me all around. I went down for breakfast and I met Tony, the other instructor, in the breakfast line and we had breakfast together. I hadn’t been eating for 2-3 days at a time and when we went through the line, Tony said is that all you are going to get? Try this and this and he just filled my plate up. I ended up calling Susan and asking her if she called Tony and told to make sure I ate. She didn’t, of course, but I suspect there was "Knee-mail!"
On Sunday, I asked Susan to ask for prayers for me. None of these people knew my situation or anything about me. As a matter of fact, Susan hardly knew what was going on, but she prayed and asked people to pray. Monday I asked her if she know anybody on the west coast. She said no, “but I know somebody in Idaho”. My response was, “that is close enough. Do you know what a good feeling that is knowing people are praying coast to coast?” It was even more than that, it had spread into different countries!
Tuesday, Susan sent me a song put to video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfCmn6miBgg Somebody’s Praying, WOW, what an uplift. I downloaded the song from i-tunes and played it over and over.
Tony told I could leave on Wednesday, but not before eating lunch. God, did you rat me out to Tony?
I received a text message from Susan’s brother, Bill saying “we prayed for you this evening, rest well.” He also had no clue what had been happening in my life, just that I needed prayer.
I had started receiving what we called prayer notes, through e-mail, on Monday, a lot on Tuesday and they continued for a good length of time. People letting me know that they were praying for me. ME! I felt that I wasn’t worthy and I felt very blessed at the same time
Wednesday, I went home after lunch. I had a good drive, playing Somebody’s Praying.
Thursday was a quiet, stress filled day at home.
Friday, we celebrated my wife’s birthday. It was myself, my wife, Susan and her husband. It was a very stressful day, but we also had some fun. I had also received word that day that I would be heading back to Columbus for the next week and Tony told me not to be there until Monday night, giving me one more day at home.
Friday and Saturday were quite difficult, but ended good. I had a lot of prayer support and one person specifically, prayed that I would have the strength to get through that extended weekend, again, not having any idea what was going on.
Susan: After a walk in the valley of the shadow of death last weekend, this week was an oasis. When I was on the phone with him during that awful drive, I wondered if I should drive down to meet him. But come Monday morning, Mark's mood was up, he was encouraged. God arrived before Mark and had things set up. He was surrounded by support.
God put Tony in his path, prompting Tony to keep him fed. He bought Mark a $9.00 hamburger one night, and Mark thought, why would someone pay $9.00 for a hamburger? He knew why after he ate it, and ordered one for himself the next night.
In 1 Kings 17, God ordered the ravens to feed Elijah. After Jesus was tempted in the wilderness in Matthew 4:11, the angels came and attended to him. It was a pit stop.
Many faithful prayer warriors prayed him through the week as well as the coming weekend. When we do not know what to pray, we are told the Spirit intercedes for us (Romans 8:26). How important for us to pray for someone when prompted, even if we don't know the circumstance. Prayer goes out ahead of us to prepare the way. And it is also such an encouragement to hear that someone is praying for us.
Paul says, "Every time we think of you, we thank God for you, Day and night you're in our prayers (1 Thessalonians 1:2 TM). He tells the Roman church in Romans 1:9, "Every time I think of you in my prayers, which is practically all the time..." To the Ephesians he says "I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers." (Eph. 1:16) There are other examples of Paul telling his readers that he prayed for them. Don't you like to know that people remember you and are concerned for you?
To those who were prayer warriors during this time (and I know some of you still are) THANK YOU. Your support has been a blessing. Your prayers were for healing, for strength, preparation, endurance...and God listened and responded. How He loves us.
Somebody's prayin, I can feel it
Somebody's prayin' for me
Mighty hands are guiding me
To protect what I can't see
Lord I believe, Lord I believe
That somebody's prayin', for me.
Angels are watchin', I can feel it
Angels are watchin' over me
There's many miles ahead 'til I get home
Still I'm safely kept before your thrown
'Cause Lord I believe, Lord I believe
Your angels are watchin' over me.
Well, I've walked through barren wilderness
When my pillow was a stone
And I've been through the darkest caverns
Where no light had ever shown.
Still I went on 'cause there was someone
Who was down on their knees
And Lord. I thank you for those people
Prayin' all this time for me.
Somebody's prayin', I can feel it
Somebody's prayin' for me
Mighty hands are guiding me
To protect me from what I can't see
Lord I believe, Lord I believe
Somebody's prayin' for me...
Mark: My two weeks in Columbus were better than the weeks that I had been having, but still difficult. As I had told you, my mood was directly connected to my wife’s mood. It was inconsistent, unstable, and unpredictable, as I saw it. (Sorry dear, if you are reading this, but that is how it was for me.) This kept confusion in our relationship. I was looking for something solid, but it wasn’t. Not that I ever wanted it to be over, but I was also looking for it to be one way or the other, over or not, but it wasn’t. Great instability for me and therefore, great instability in me.
On Monday, before heading back down to Columbus, I had the first opportunity to meet with a counselor. I was able to have a good talk with him, although I didn’t think it helped me that much at the time. He did tell me that in his opinion, I needed to get a counselor in Tennessee, which of course, he was right on!
After our talk I headed down and arrived late on Monday night. Once again I was met with WARM chocolate chip cookies. What a comfort food. I would tell you where this hotel (Doubletree Guest Suites) but I would not want them overrun with customers! When I went up to my room, and what a view, I found a pillow on my bed with “Sweet Dreams” embroidered on it. If I had seen that the week before, I would have thrown it across the room! Now, it was a welcome.
Tuesday, I went down to the restaurant. Tony met me before I could head in and said to me “Glad you’re here, glad you’re safe. Now, have you eaten?” In my conversation with Tony over breakfast, he told me his hesitation of me being there to help him the week before. Our company had sent him help before and all that person did was make more work for him! Thankfully, I had a different approach to working and helping. Tony went from “I don’t need you. Why did they send you?” to “Welcome Back!.”
I had told you before that a certain message had been repeated a few times. I needed it imbedded into my mind. Apparently, I have short term memory. It needed repeating. We had a team (two drivers, One truck) in class that week that lived an alternate life style and they were and had been getting flack aver it. One of them asked me, “Why do people judge us on this, but do not judge themselves on XYZ? Why do they think they are soooo good?” WARNING, WARNING, MR.ROBINSON, WARNING. REPETE MESSAGE! (For those of you too young to remember, Lost In Space)
Wednesday, Wednesday was just a day. Nothing good, nothing bad, until a phone call came in. One of my daughters called. I had not heard from her in a long time. I didn’t know if she was upset with me, her mom, both of us or what. We had a great talk. It was great just to hear her voice. In retrospect, I am glad they kept their distance. I was in no condition to be talking to them before this.
Thursday, my plans got all messed up this day. I was going to go get a 12 pack and wallow in self pity and get drunk enough not to remember for a little while. But nooo, my son-in-law had to show up and get me out of my funk. He had a load that had some extra time on it and he wanted out of the truck for a while, so he called and I picked him up. We had a nice time, had some great pizza and besides that, he only ruined my plans for Thursday night. I still had Friday.
Friday, we sent all the drivers on to their trucks and then off to deliver my son-in-law to his truck then off to self wallow. When we arrived to his truck, it was leaking. Off to the shop! The shop said that they would have it done on Saturday morning. He had to give his load to another driver to deliver and back to the hotel. Another night with good pizza and no self pity. A nice time.
Saturday, we headed back to the shop to get his truck and by the time all was done, I had to head back to Cookeville. I had to leave my self pity (for now) in Columbus. I had a lesson to learn,
Psa 139:1 For the choir director; a psalm by David. O LORD, you have examined me, and you know me.
Psa 139:2 You alone know when I sit down and when I get up. You read my thoughts from far away.
Psa 139:3 You watch me when I travel and when I rest. You are familiar with all my ways.
Psa 139:4 Even before there is a single word on my tongue, you know all about it, LORD.
Psa 139:5 You are all around me-in front of me and in back of me. You lay your hand on me.
Psa 139:6 Such knowledge is beyond my grasp. It is so high I cannot reach it.
Psa 139:7 Where can I go to get away from your Spirit? Where can I run to get away from you?
Psa 139:8 If I go up to heaven, you are there. If I make my bed in hell, you are there.
Psa 139:9 If I climb upward on the rays of the morning sun or land on the most distant shore of the sea where the sun sets,
Psa 139:10 even there your hand would guide me and your right hand would hold on to me.
Psa 139:11 If I say, "Let the darkness hide me and let the light around me turn into night,"
Psa 139:12 even the darkness is not too dark for you. Night is as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.
Psa 139:13 You alone created my inner being. You knitted me together inside my mother.
Psa 139:14 I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made. Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of this.
Psa 139:15 My bones were not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, when I was being skillfully woven in an underground workshop.
Psa 139:16 Your eyes saw me when I was only a fetus. Every day of my life was recorded in your book before one of them had taken place.
Psa 139:17 How precious are your thoughts concerning me, O God! How vast in number they are!
Psa 139:18 If I try to count them, there would be more of them than there are grains of sand. When I wake up, I am still with you.
Psa 139:19 I wish that you would kill wicked people, O God, and that bloodthirsty people would leave me alone.
Psa 139:20 They say wicked things about you. Your enemies misuse your name.
Psa 139:21 Shouldn't I hate those who hate you, O LORD? Shouldn't I be disgusted with those who attack you?
Psa 139:22 I hate them with all my heart. They have become my enemies.
Psa 139:23 Examine me, O God, and know my mind. Test me, and know my thoughts.
Psa 139:24 See whether I am on an evil path. Then lead me on the everlasting path.
Susan: Mark’s weekend at home had been very difficult and his marriage was not a sure thing at all, but the weekend had ended on an upswing. There seemed to be a big change for the positive. Mark was much calmer and had some peace and hope. We continued to talk. I would send e-cards from www.Dayspring.com, or share some of what I was studying for my class at church. We started calling the notebook the “Answered Prayers” journal, and made it a point to record positive things that were happening. It is easy to focus on the negative, and harder to find positive things, but this week there were several good things to record. Tony was a Godsend. Mark asked me if I had called someone, I must have at least sent an email, and I didn’t get it…a “Knee-mail!” Yes, you could say that!
God is everywhere, and even when we can’t see him, there he is. And He taps us on the shoulder with little or big things to do, or puts us in the right place at the right time. So when you get that nudge to call someone, just do it. You don’t know if there is a particular reason or not.
It is easy for a depressed person to feel forgotten, and they are often not the one to do the calling. You have to be the one to reach out and be there. His daughter calling, and his son-in-law showing up were very timely. I was so thankful that someone was physically there. It is one thing to tell someone they are important to their family, another for their family to show it to them. It was confirmation that was much needed.
The counselor had said that Mark needed to find a counselor in Tennessee. Mark’s plan was to look into that when he was in Tennessee, but he hadn’t had a chance yet. People were praying, though. An update had been sent to the online ladies group, and Mark had stored their prayer notes in his computer. He was on the prayer list at church anonymously, as prayers needed for our extended family. And there were a few people who would ask me and pray with me about this. Overall it was a better week.
It was the quiet before another big storm…
Mark: In the last two blogs, I had been in Columbus, OH helping out another instructor. Now, after weeks, I finally am able to return to Cookeville. I was desperate to get myself into counseling and now I was going to have the chance to settle down a little and find one. I had also received a name of a Christian man in the area that had recently just got out of truck driving and I was hoping to be able to sit with him and talk. Maybe I could just have a little respite from this turmoil. NOT!
I started my class on Monday and I only had one student. Looking good, a light week allowing me to start getting myself cared for. Later in the afternoon, I started spiraling downward. I had not heard from my wife, and as you know, at this time, everything about me was tied to her. I would even hang up on people if I saw her number come over my phone in the call waiting. My anxiety level was climbing rapidly.
Then I got a phone call late afternoon, there was an emergency in West Memphis and the instructor was sent to the hospital. “Mark, will you please take your student,drive over andtake over the class?” I was asked. Things were changing so fast my head was spinning.How was I going to ever find a counselor and get things together? But I said yes, and packed up in a rush. I had found out earlier that my driver in my class was taking anti-depressants, and I would have liked to talk to him. I felt that another opportunity wasmissed, he had his own car to drive! I even tried to call the truck driver from Cookeville, but he was not available.
The drive from Cookeville to West Memphis is just over 300 miles and I had my student following me in his car. I was just sliding down a muddy mental hill, falling deeper into depression. We had heavy rain, high winds and lots of traffic going thorough Nashville. I just would not slow down. So whatif something happened? I could not think of a good reason to let up. I didn’t feel like talking now, what was the sense of it, but I did sent a text to Susan’s brother Bill. All I said was “Rough Day”. That opened the door a little to communication. Then I received a message from Susan! It was just “U OK?” I replied to her with “Walking on the edge”. Boy, that got my phone ringing fast.
I spent a good hour on the phone with Susan then Bill beeped in. I was good for me talking with Bill. He went through a rough time previouslyand was a comfort to me. While we were talking, I told him, “Looks like my wife won’t be calling me today.” Right then she beeped in and as I told you earlier I had been doing, I dropped bill like a telemarketer! After talking with her, I did call him back, but it was that call from her that made the rest of my drive good.
It had been a very intense day and when I arrived in West Memphis, the internet (which I needed to send data to main office) was down, allowing me to just rest.
With reinforcements (Susan and Bill) I made it through the drive.
Susan: I had been trying to get Mark to talk to Bill for a while, but it hadn't happened yet. When Mark sent him the text "Rough day", I called Bill, but he was just getting ready for his small group. I told him Mark was on the road and his response was "Good. A road trip. Time to think." I said "No, you don't understand. these trips are very difficult!" He said he would call after his small group.He suggested reading Psalms 77 to Mark. So I texted to Mark, "U ok?" and when I got his response called him right away. He expressed, "No one is there but you." I said, "You have God too." He felt lonely, abandoned, rejected. I encouraged him as best I could. And I read to him:
1 I cry out to God; yes, I shout.
Oh, that God would listen to me!
2 When I was in deep trouble,
I searched for the Lord.
All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven,
but my soul was not comforted.
3 I think of God, and I moan,
overwhelmed with longing for his help.Interlude
4 You don’t let me sleep.
I am too distressed even to pray!
5 I think of the good old days,
long since ended,
6 when my nights were filled with joyful songs.
I search my soul and ponder the difference now.
7 Has the Lord rejected me forever?
Will he never again be kind to me?
8 Is his unfailing love gone forever?
Have his promises permanently failed?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he slammed the door on his compassion?Interlude
10 And I said, “This is my fate;
the Most High has turned his hand against me.”
11 But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;
I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
12 They are constantly in my thoughts.
I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.
13 O God, your ways are holy.
Is there any god as mighty as you?
14 You are the God of great wonders!
You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.
15 By your strong arm, you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.Interlude
16 When the Red Sea saw you, O God,
its waters looked and trembled!
The sea quaked to its very depths.
17 The clouds poured down rain;
the thunder rumbled in the sky.
Your arrows of lightning flashed.
18 Your thunder roared from the whirlwind;
the lightning lit up the world!
The earth trembled and shook.
19 Your road led through the sea,
your pathway through the mighty waters—
a pathway no one knew was there!
20 You led your people along that road like a flock of sheep,
with Moses and Aaron as their shepherds.
After a while he got a message on his phone, it was a picture of Bill's small group praying. The caption said "We are praying for you." Shortly after, Bill called and I got off the phone.He talked to him about his marriage. He read him 2 Kings 6:11-19, about Elisha and his servant, and the hills being full of horses and chariots of fire. Mark said, "That is a repeat from before." My brother said, "You must need this then." He told him about Moses and during a battle God said they would be victorious as long as Moses held up his arms. As the battle went on, Moses became tired, but Aaron and Hur held up his arms for him (Exodus 17:12). He said, "you don't have to go through this alone."
When his wife called it brought relief for him. Mark called me later and said, if you talk to your brother before I do, let him know he kept my arm up and I appreciate it. My brother also sent him the Serenity Prayer, changing one word:
God grant me the Courage to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and the Wisdom to know the difference.
Twists and Turns
Tuesday April 29-Friday May 2 2008
Mark: I felt like I was walking on the edge of a knife with nowhere to go. I couldn’t sleep and I had to take sleeping pills to get any sleep at all. I was having tremors in my hands that were very difficult to control. I slept very restlessly for few hours. Getting through the day took total concentration and lots of caffeine. I had no self-esteem, no confidence. Depression ruled me and was one of the reasons I have had so many injuries over my life...from taking risks…
I had been praying and praying that someone would be put in my wife's path, a Christian confidant, and that God would restore our marriage. My wife was sending very mixed messages, it sounding like our marriage was over, then something that offered some hope. Positives and negatives.
I arrived in Memphis Monday night. Tuesday morning only a few minutes into the workday, I sent home one of the drivers with a belligerent attitude.He came down from his room late and I confronted him about it. If a driver will be late coming to orientation class, what will he be like out on the road when he is alone? I found out later that this man had so upset the West Memphis instructor that he was put in the hospital. His blood pressure skyrocketed.
I had packed in such a rush, I didn’t go to the bank to get any expense money. We pay the drivers $25.00 a day and pay for their lunch. This worried me. I wasn't sure what to expect when I got there, and was surprised to find that the expense money was available.
Tuesday went so smoothly I was able to finish Monday and Tuesday's work in one day. Those poor drivers. They had already completed the paperwork that needed to be done on Monday, but the instructor took it with him. I pushed them hard! My nephew was in this class and I reminded him that I could send him home and he would have to answer to my brother, his dad, if he gave me any guff. He was great, I just had to give him a hard time.
Tuesday night when I was on the phone with Susan, she read the verse Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this: that who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.
It was something to hold on to.
Wednesday, the class went quite normal. I went back to the church that I had visited the last trip to West Memphis, the one that sent the Elders to his hotel room. While there was not a personal greeting, the lesson was on the Poseidon Adventure. Sometimes you have to do the opposite of what comes naturally. Those who went down into the ship survived. God will turn your life upside down to get you to where you need to be. That was truer than I had wanted to admit.
Thursday: The instructor was released from the hospital, and despite my insisting he stay home, came in to work anyway making more work for me by me trying to make sure he WASN’T working. Friday went fast getting the drivers ready, and their trucks assigned. That night, my brother was in town, to meet up with his son, my nephew, to run team. We were able to spend some time together, and my brother told me, "You know you can call me anytime". He knew something was up butI did not feel comfortable confiding in him, I still didn't say anything to pretty much anybody.I was trying not to let anybody know what was going on, I still did not want anybody taking sides
It was time to head back to Cookeville, but I waited to leave until Saturday in order to spend some more time with my brother and nephew.
The next morning at 8:00 am, May 3rd, 2008 I received a call that shook what little strength I had left. My 82 year old father was missing.
Susan: During this time Mark was very tense and stressed. He was not hesitant to send a driver home if he had any reasons at all. The drivers paid close attention! He went from total focus on work to despair after work. Every time I talked to him, I encouraged him and tried to remind him God was there. Always turning him to God. He’s the only one who can figure it all out. I set the ringtone on my phone to a longer ring so I was sure not to miss it.
Tuesday night I was on the phone with both my brother, Bill, and Mark. I had the house phone on one ear and the cellphone on the other! Eventually we went to a 3-way call. We had a good talk. My brother did not have all the information, but he was supportive and very helpful.
Mark is the youngest of 5 brothers, one passed away a number of years ago.His mother had passed away also. This week his brothers came on the scene. Mark was not confiding in any of his brothers, again, afraid of building walls or people taking sides. He wanted to fix this marriage and get through this and everything to be back to normal.First, he got an email from one of his brothers: FROG: Fully Rely On God. It is funny how little things can be noteworthy. Later in the week, Friday, he got an email from his sister-in-law about sharing your burdens. Up to now, her emails had bee