I’m up from my deathbed. Thank you for all your prayers and well wishes. I think it had something to do with a yeast cleanse I just subjected myself to. But that’s another post for another day. Thank you to everyone who is participating in this carnival. I’m sorry I’m late.
Prequel: This is week #2 of The Busy Mom’s Club. Not coincidentally, this week Lisa Bergren is talking about new beginnings. Albeit a New Year, new morning, a new life. What I like to call “do-overs.”
Tears were flowing freely as I waved goodbye to the neighbors in the apartment complex in Dallas, where I had called “home” for last 4 years. These neighbors had all become surrogate family to me. Friends I would miss dearly.
The decision to move to Los Angeles was an easy one. The actual driving away, was harder than I ever imagined. My mother, knowing how difficult the move would be for me, flew in to accompany me across the country.
My dependable Honda Civic CRX hatchback was loaded down with priceless possessions, an angry cat, one sandbox, perched precariously atop the 13 inch color television, and my mother riding shotgun.
The year was 1988.
I felt secure about the move because I already had friends out there, that I knew would watch out for me. And feed me if I were starving. My best friend, Kathy, was already there. I had called her a few days before leaving, beginning the conversation with, “Watcha doin’?”
She floored me with her answer. “I’m getting ready to go to Bible Study.” I’d known her for years already, and we had never discussed faith. Except to say that we were both raised Catholic, but had bolted the minute we were out of our parent’s houses. And we were both still more than a little afraid of rulers.
While Catholicism instilled a great sense of faith in me growing up, I did not have any kind of relationship with Jesus. I had never opened the Bible, and the only praying I did were nightly rote prayers at the dinner table. Oh. And the occasional, “Please Lord, don’t let my parents find out about that.” All right. God heard that one more than occasionally.
The only exposure I had to anyone with a strong relationship with Jesus, was my Grandfather. Who prayed loud and often. And sang praise songs to anyone within earshot. He went to one of those “Pentecostal” churches. You know. Where the people raised their hands, spoke in tongues, and Lord knows what other weirdness.
That scared me. He often would ask me to go to church with him. My answer was always the same. “Um, no. I’ve got to, um, wash my hair.”
But he and my grandmother prayed for me. Especially when they learned that I wanted to be an actress. In Hollywood. A land filled with sinners. And earthquakes.
And on that day, when my best friend said that she was attending a women’s Bible Study, something unexpected happened to me. As if someone whispered into my ear, and I was powerless to do anything but repeat it.
“I need that.”
After I had settled in Los Angeles, my Kathy invited me to attend this Saturday morning study with her. I loved these women. There was no judgment. No condemnation. They were very real with one another. About their struggles, their battles, their pasts. The group was lead by a woman named Gail. She didn’t mince words. She talked to us about how Jesus wants us to live our lives.
And I, for one, didn’t want to hear it. I was a lost soul. Lonely. With a God shaped hole in me, that I was trying to fill with everything BUT God.
And yet, I continued to attend that study, because I loved these women so much. All the while, looking for loopholes so that I could continue to live my life any way I wanted.
The harder I looked, the more it became apparent that there weren’t any loopholes. Which was unfortunate. For a time.
I’m skipping to the chase when I tell you that one weekend, we all went away on a retreat. It was there that I gave my life to Christ. I made a promise to turn from a life where I made up the rules as I went along.
I was loved into the Kingdom of God. And it took years.
If those women had harangued and pointed bony fingers at me, all the while thumping their Bibles, I would have run in the opposite direction. I think that’s a huge mistake that some Christians make. The finger pointing and Bible thumping, that is.
It should come as no surprise that I ended up getting baptized in one of those “Pentecostal” churches. You know, the ones where people raise their hands and speak in tongues. My grandparents never got to see the fruit of all their many prayers. But, somehow, I’m sure they knew. And they had a really good chuckle.
This is the part where I’d love to tell you that becoming a Christian, was like signing on for a cruise. With perks. And that all of my non-Christian friends and family embraced my new lifestyle with open arms.
But that would be a big fat lie.
Now frowned upon.
I had an especially difficult time with friends and family. Including my poker buddies. I continued to play, but I ceased all the drinking and cursing.
And btw, when I talk about my cuss jar now, I’m filling it with loose change mostly because of the cursing that still goes on in my head. Because thoughts count. I say mostly. Because, that’s an area where God is still refining me. And I’m usually good. Unless I fall over a baby gate. Or my husband scares me.
But over time, years even, my friends embraced the change in me and what a positive it was in my life. And yes, I witnessed to anyone who would listen.
Not condemnation. Because who am I to judge anyone. I still make mistakes. Colossal ones. But, I have a very clear direction in my life. And a good set of rules to live my life by. And I’m never alone. I feel God’s presence with me, especially in the difficult days.
After a time, I left the acting profession. I told my agents that I didn’t want to audition for anything that my future children couldn’t watch. Not all believers are called to make such a drastic change. But I was. Doors were closed. Wonderful windows were opened.
I met my husband in a Christian acting company. I made lifelong friends, there in Los Angeles. And you’ll be comforted to know, that there are many many praying people in the city of angels. Striving to make a difference in the type of entertainment that comes out of that place. Patricia Heaton was one of those women in that first Bible Study. And she still is making a huge difference in what gets produced. I heart her.
Yesterday, Emme asked me if I had any friends who were not Christians. I said that yes, indeed I do. She asked me if I have ever told them about Jesus. I said “yes, I have.” “But Mom, they still don’t believe in Jesus?” she asked incredulously.
“Sometimes, no. But the seeds are planted. You never know what will happen once those seeds are planted.” She was okay with that.
That’s the hard part, sometimes. Letting go, and letting God do the rest.
My grandfather planted seeds in me, that he never got to see grow. And I’m so grateful that he didn’t give up on me.
I’ll close this with one of my favorite Bible quotes.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
Jesus has always loved me. Even when I was as far from Him as I could possibly be. And he loves you too. Whether you are near or far.
God bless you my friends.