Letter to the Editor
As I look over my life, I realize that through the pain and glory, God has given me all of my needs and there were so many times he gave me my wants but I was so wrapped up in the fear and the pain. For the last weeks, I've had insomnia. I understand why ... this is not out of fear of anything. I was born in 1953, the Monday after Easter my birthday use to come on Easter about every seven years. Instead of Easter, it will be on Good Friday. I will be 59... Why is that important? Because my mother and four siblings died before or on their 59th birthday. My sister Mickie died a year ago March, she was 61. Though everyone went quickly (thank you, Father), I know they suffered in silence...
As a child, I was sickly (in my adult life, too). I had so many fears that many kids have but the fears continued in my adult life too. I was so scared to live. I had stomachaches and headaches at an early age, but I figured out how I would cope. I became the "class clown." (Yelp, there is a picture of me right there in the great class of '71 yearbook.) My mom wasn't thrilled. So I've coped now for over 50 years to mask the pain, but unfortunately, the mask slipped off. Like Adam and Eve, I became aware of my nakedness. But I found out that many people discovered what was under that mask way before I did, and they chose to love me anyway. (For real?) I still have many friends from kindergarten that are still my friends now.
When I was 14, one of my best friends introduced her mom, dad and siblings to me. I immediately knew God had given a gift of life, the Ray Robinson gang. They changed my life. They encouraged me to travel (with them or I flew by myself to friends and family I didn't know will in California). I loved it. What I appreciated from them was I was somebody special and everybody deserved a great life. The Robinsons weren't rich or poor. They handled their money well, and he was pharmacist and Dori was a nurse. They reached out to foster kids, needs in the Presbyterian church, Ray loved Scouts and the top scout got to go with them to Hawaii for free where Dori's brother lived. Very selfless Christians. I joined church there on Maunday Thursday service after my 18th birthday. That summer, we took a journey to New Mexico to redo a church. The New Mexico Church said we were the first to come and complete the church. Other groups came for a half and day and went sight seeing. With the Robinsons one completes a task.
Dori and Ray, I miss you so. To Dianna, Louann, Beth and Joe, Thanks for sharing your parents with many. I never thought of them as my parents, I already had a mom and wonderful grandparents. Since my family wasn't alive my boys did claim you their grandparents. They knew no others. All of you taught the three of us how to love and be loved back with hugs and kisses, and holidays were amazing. We will never forget your acts of kindness.
Enter Bill and Aileen Pollock: We all were reaching 18 the summer we went to New Mexico. Bill and Eileen hadn't been married long. All of us in the group ended up loving Bill and Aileen. Aileen was so much fun. We wanted t actually be her. When we came home Aileen and the group of girls started a singing group at the Presbyterian church. Christmas time when we sang and harmonized "Do You Hear What I Hear" it even gave us chills. I was to find in this 40-year Christian span that Aileen and Bill would be an important part of my journey, mine and my two sons' lives. They have been our encouragers, been a part of the healing of my long-time depression and just great friends. We love you and thanks so much.
Enter Ruth Vanarsdale: Ruth was my senior English teacher. One day we were watching a film in the auditorium and something had happened in my youngest sister Eileen's life. I got to school and couldn't stop crying over it. I sat alone in the back trying to compose myself and I couldn't. I didn't see Mrs. Vanarsdale waiting for me. She said that Dianna Robinson and others were worried about me. I burst into tears and told her what happened. Being a Christian, Knowing God's word and being a minister's wife, she knew "God was trying to tell me something." (A song). She asked me to come to her home after school. (That's called discernment where God makes someone aware of another person's needs.) Three years before, Mrs. Vanarsdale had lost her only daughter, Debbie, at 17 years old, and she was reaching out to me. We sat on her sofa and words tumbled gently out of her mouth filled with such love of Jesus and His word. She's telling me about Jesus and His word and how Jesus had gifts that He would give ... for free? Yeah, right. She held out a pencil and said, "Joyce, I'm giving you this pencil, it's a gift, what you need to do to receive it?" I said my pat and safe answer in my entire life, "I don't know. I'm really not that smart." She repeated her offer just like Jesus does daily so anyone can be saved. Finally she said, "You receive it, Joyce." You take it and live for God the rest of your days on the Earth because you have a great waiting for you in Heaven, for Eternity. I thanked her and started to leave, and I picked up her paper on the sidewalk and got home. After I bent over, something like angel wings that made a huge whooshing sound came over me and the burden about my sister was gone. But how did things go after that? Someone should have told me that after once accepts Jesus as God's son, it wakes "the evil one up! Satan loves to devour Christians no matter how long you've been one.
Mrs, Vanarsdale dropped the bomb on me to say her husband got a transfer. What! You lead me to Christ and then leave town? What am I to do, give the gift back? I'm a baby Christian. But it was suppose to be for both of us. For 40 years, Ruth and I have kept in touch. I visited her every place she lived except for Great Bend, and I call her three to four times a month. I was 17 at the time, and I'm sure Ruth was in her 40's. I will be 59 and Ruth is 84. Still spry and leading Bible groups at her retirement home, playing the piano at church and running errands for Gob by presenting Jesus' messages.
Enter Mrs. Ruth Dickinson: I started JUCO in the Spring of '71. Missing Ruth Vanarsdale very much, I took my first dreaded speech class. I hated getting up in front of the class, so I'd be standing at the podium so people would see me coming down. This beautiful vivacious teacher with a bright, kind and happy face named Mrs. Dickinson walked in. I felt this stirring like the angel wings like I did with Ruth Vanarsdale. I didn't know Mrs. Dickinson was a minister's wife also. I don't even know we became friends -- oops, yes I do -- through God. Her family had me for dinner and I would stay with her daughter Laura when she and her husband went on trips. If you want the best "comfort food" in this world served with a smile, call Ruth Dickinson. She baked bread twice a week, and her cream pie melts in one's mouth. I felt so loved in their home. She reminds me of Paula Deen on the cooking channel.
Enter another blow: Ruth Dickinson announced to me that they were moving. Help me, Lord, again. But just like Ruth Vanarsdale, I visited the Dickinson every place they moved. When my mom died, Ruth Dickinson said with compassion, that only Jesus can give one after his being the greatest compassionate person with all of the miracles he did in the new testament of all time, "Joyce, come stay with us." The healing was given to me by Jesus in the form of this lovely woman. She is in her 80s now also. Thank you, Ruth Dickinson, for your love and guidance.
Do you see how God was handing me off to His own children who understood his word and His power in their lives? I try to think of this walk of our Lord as a spider web. To us, it seems useless and we can destroy it before looking at the intricate work. Look closer next time. When we started kindergarten at age four or five, we just look like a bunch of cute kids. As we grow, people begin to see the "real us." When one becomes a Christian and is not ashamed of the gospel, they become like the spider web, maybe rough around the edges but so extraordinarily beautiful in the middle. It tears and it can be repaired and has to start over again. (Like I did this letter at 3 a.m. because I feel inadequate on my computer. To save it, I did do "save as" instead of "save" and I lost all of it but the first paragraph. I went nuts. After I yelled at the computer for shutting down, I started in on God begging him to touch this computer. He raised his dear friend Lazarus from the dead, surely he could resurrect this dumb computer. So I sat down and started to pray. I asked his forgiveness for my fit, and "Lord, are you testing me or is Satan tempting me because he knows that one life could be changed by this letter." We have to test the Holy Spirit because Satan will be at the height of his power, and he will have his followers (creatures in the form of beasts) doing wonders and great things. If we don't have the pure heart of Jesus, we may be fooled by the "evil one." Then the trumpet blow, and Jesus comes in all his glory, power and light. We have to know for sure who we will go with, Jesus or Satan. Read 2nd Thessalonians because this is so paraphrased. Remember, I'm a work in progress after 40 years of being a Christian. Also read Rev. 3. If you're like me, I need guided through all of this. If you reach out your hand timidly, God will take care of the rest.
Enter my family: As I said earlier, I will be 59 on Good Friday. I was born the Monday after Easter, so my birthday falls on Easter every seven years or so. The age 59 has a sad meaning because my mom and four of my siblings died on or before 59 years old. My mom did first. My sister Joanne, who was like a second mother to all of us, died unexpectedly at age 53. Then my two eldest bothers Gerald and Humorus died four weeks apart at ages 59 and 57. We were brokenhearted, but the pouring out of all of our family and friends filled the rafters at Marvin's funeral. God's people are so loving. Out of nine kids, we lost three in the order of birth.
Then one day my youngest sister Eileen called. She lived in North Carolina. She told me she was in the hospital. Eileen only had been in the hospital since she was born (only one in new hospital in 1955). She told me from now on please call her daughters and she would call me in two or three days. Strange. Then she called me with a weak voice. I didn't understand. She said the mot powerful words she would ever murmur. "Joyce, I ask God to forgive for everything." Out of my mouth came, "What about the family member you have a grudge against." She said nothing, so I said good-bye and told her I loved her. The very next day she called and said, "Joyce, I asked God to forgive me for everything." Again out of my mouth came, "Then you may enter my kingdom of heaven." What? I have no powers, and I have no right to judge anyone. Where did that come from? The discernment of the Holy Spirit. Eileen died in the emergency room the next day. Just like Ruth Vanarsdale and Ruth Dickinson, God gave them discernment about because they were in tune with God's holy word and pure love for Jesus.
When we were growing up on Horton St. we had of big families. We played dodge ball against a neighbors garage, had two softball games going at once, volleyball and made tents over the clothesline, football in a neighbors yard, basketball in our yards and hid and seek until we had to come in. We were all poor, but I don't think we thought about it. There is no shame in being poor, but the shame comes when you are poor and lazy. "Those who don't work don't eat." My minister, Kevin Moyers, once preached on this at "CCC." He said so many come who need financial help because we are a church. Not surprising, but this was the best. The church workers will ask the person or persons if they're willing to work at the church for the money and many said "no." I was shocked. No? So they get nothing according to the above scripture.
I would like to honor my family in this part. We were blessed with a very intelligent mother, grandmother and grandfather. They were workers and a great example to us. We grew up knowing we would be working early in out lives until death do us part. We never pondered not working. All of us chose a career and stuck to it. We worked extra jobs with our chosen career. It just came naturally. Nothing was too big or to little for us to do. Am I mistaken or do the two generations below us think the world and their parents owe them the world on a silver platter? I am so proud of my siblings and me now. We "reaped what we sowed." We have a heart for our Lord and His people. We are so blessed with nice homes, getting stable financially and we now can help others like people helped us. We have learned to say "I love you" over the phone or face to face. We speak of God's love for all of us with five siblings dead our of nine. I adore my family. Our openness for each other has led our children and grandchildren to do the same. We are all very blessed. Thanks, God.
Enter God's "Mercy and Grace": My mother used to say "Lord have mercy" and we'd laugh. But when she would say, "Lord have mercy on us," we knew something was wrong. I hadn't thought of that until yesterday. I heard the words all my life, "grace and mercy," but not one person that I now of told me they were gifts from just by asking them. Let me tell you about how they played a huge part in my life. There's so many, but I will share four with you.
1) With the two sons God blessed me with, even though I was a teacher , it wasn't enough to make it alone. So I tutored eight kids a week Monday through Thursday each week and I cleaned houses. I had a masters degree since I was 25, and I couldn't take care of my family. One day an envelope came in the mail with money marked "a gift from 'CCC.'" The envelope had different handwriting on the inside compared to the addressed envelope. I asked all of our office staff and no one knew. I can't stand not thanking people. It's been going on now for about three years. When I became ill and had to quit teaching, it came at the month just like my school check and it brought groceries and gas for my card. We wouldn't have survived without it. I would like to say to this person, "thank you for sustaining us." When I retired and got money from KPERS, I gave that money to my son for college. Now that he has a great job in teaching, I give it monthly to someone in need on the prayer chain who needs financial help. If you would now have someone else, do so. I pray you read this because I thank you from the debts of my soul. There will be "jewels in your crown in heaven."
2) The team of "CCC" church and many believers, everyone of the people that keeps our church going, the nine who work there, Jean Armstrong and Carol Barrett -- every person I mentioned above have been to my home fixing what ever needs done. I felt like I had four husbands. Every person came to see me in the hospital every time I became ill. Everyday I was covered by one of them. Linda Bower has been m friend since our kids were little. She brings lunch when she can hear loneliness or anxiety in my voice. Jean Armstrong tried to teach me God's word through her Bible studies and my depression years ago. Carol has taken care of my physical needs. She's clean house and take me to all my doctor appointments. I have an oversized wheelchair and body, and she lifts that heavy chair and pushes my heavy body like nobody's business. I'm her son Mike's age. To all of you over the years, blessings until eternity.
3) Winfield Scott school friends, guardian angels, and friends three years ago doing my retirement and the 25-30 years of friendship. One night I couldn't sleep and I pray for all of them daily (Eugene Ware staff, too). Actually, our whole school system. When I was praying by grades jobs, I realized everyone on staff were Christians. How much greater can we ask for? I love all of you, I miss you and I loved my students over the years. I pray this message gets back to many of you. Love, Ms. Woods.
Reenter Ruth Vanarsdale: One day I called Ruth Vanarsdale, and she said, "Joyce, what is your personal bible study?". What? I found myself stuttering and stammering. I replied, "I love Psalms, Proverbs, and the New Testament, and I've gone to hundreds of Bible studies." She replied, "Joyce, you have to have your own, start with the book of John." Had I let her down? Had I disappointed God? No, I'd let myself down and let the physical, mental, spiritual and finances go to pot. I lived on 27 pills a day that didn't kill the pay or the depression. After all, I only had been a Christian for 40 years. I hung up the phone and called "CCC" immediately, and Marcy Reynolds and Tim Woodring chose "Max Lucado's New Testament." Unknown choice or unknown discernment?
Enter Joyce E. Woods with a renewed faith and life: Bless you Max Lucado for writing Christian studies that regular people can understand. My life has changed for the very best. In those 40 years, I "read the Bible, I didn't 'study' God's word." Big mistake, but through God's mercy and grace God continued to send blessings my way. He provided for my needs, he answered my personal prayers for family and friends, he surprised me with great things, even though I didn't deserve them. But that's what so great about a mighty God "who loved us first." He only requires us to "love the Lord with all you heart, you soul, your mind and your strength and love you neighbor as yourself." The problem is in the year 2012 there are not a whole lot of people who know how to love themselves. How can you learn to love your neighbor when you don't know how to love yourself? Only through Christ can this happen. I read one day in a chapter, "only God can make life fair." Do you know if we go to heaven slaves and masters, female and male, etc. Will be equal. There's no equality in our world.
Six days ago I got out of bed. After 14 years of fibromyalgia in my legs, I have been in my 24/7 except for Dr. Appointments. I got up to go to the bathroom and felt so different. What was it? No pain. No pain anywhere. As I write this, I am claiming the healing from God through my new doctor, Dr. Gugnani. (Getting off of some meds. No more pills or shots for diabetes. I've gone on my own mostly for not taking prescription drugs. I've gone from the 27 a day to five a day.) In our first meeting, I had been in the hospital last February and asked him if I could be his patient and he agreed. I went to see him, and he asked me did I know that I'd lost 33 pounds since being in the hospital. I didn't. Obese people don't weigh themselves. After exactly one year, I've lost 127 pounds. (Discernment or by chance?) I've lost a huge amount of weight seven times in my life and never gave away my other clothes. I took a step of faith this time and had a friend of mine, Mary Brown, put all the clothes that were too big on the Trading Post for free. Seven calls came at once, so I chose the first. I'm so happy. They had fallen on hard times and she had four friends to share with. Yeah, God.
Greg King knew exactly where to put the shots in the exact muscle in my knees. I've never known anyone else her able to do it. Thanks my long time friend. And a replacement doctor took my call and put me on steroids for two weeks. I'd never had the combination before. It doesn't matter how a miracle happens. It still happens from the grace and mercy of God.
The purpose of this letter? To pray someone reads it and know we can try to look perfect in this world but are falling apart with prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs, alcohol and suicide, but we don't realize how our whole lives should be God based. It's for the lonely people, the very ill people, the cancer demon and so many other things. I pray this letter will cause some to call for help for depression, spiritual conflict, financial stress and anything in their life that's causing them pain. Forty years is a long time to suffer. One year is just as difficult. I will leave my phone number with CCC. If you have no one, you may call and as for my number. This isn't an offer for a therapist. You talk, I pray.
Here are some things that I've learned in my 40 year journey with our love that I haven't mentioned earlier.
1) God does things for us in his time. He know whether down the road it may not be the best for us.
2) "Don't repay evil for evil." This has been my cross to bear. I though assertive people were those who could voice their anger and thoughts aloud. I didn't know I was far worse with my "poison" writing pen. I wrote such mean, hateful things to people who loved me, and I didn't have too. Two years ago I wrote or called or faced these people and asked them to forgive me. If I missed you, I'm asking now. Please forgive me.
30 "Ask for forgiveness." I read in God's word that if I can't forgive others then they won't forgive me. Is there anyone on this Earth that your pride is too big to ask forgiveness and have God deny you heaven?
4) Please protect your children. Are you going to allow relatives and teachers do your job? Single mothers, there should never be a man more important than your children. Never. Since many people aren't marrying and still producing babies, do not turn your head for a second. God gave you such precious cargo. So many couples would love to be that blessed and people are "buying" children. I can't stress this enough.
5) God forgives and then he forgets. Another cross to bear for me. I can't remember peoples names, but I can remember things I did that I was ashamed of since I was a child. That was then and this now and I've been forgiven by God. My friends would say, "Joyce, you punish yourself way harder than God does." So true. Please pray for me on this. Thanks.
6) Remember, God wants the best for His children and we belong to him. He will bless with so much. I'd trust God way more than a person on Earth. He's willing to take care of your needs, you wants and to surprise you sometimes. He gets a kick out of the praises, respect, fear and honor from you.
7) Never forget this. "God is still on his throne with Jesus on his right and the Holy Spirit waiting for us to call Him." Do not let the lunatics in our world tell us when Jesus will return because they don't' know anything. "He will come as a thief in the night."
All of this "book" started because of my birthday being on Good Friday and my turning 59. Some friends have expressed to me there concern about this being frightening for me because my mother and siblings died on or in their early 50s. I'm not superstitious. I have the Father taking care of me, and I'm taking care of "His temple." (My own body.) If on April 6 next week He chooses to take me to Him, how content and blessed I would be. If he chooses to allow me to stay here and watch how well my sons are doing and to spoil my grandkids in LA. Then that's wonderful too. The apostle Paul in the New Testament who wrote so much didn't even like God. God spoke directly to him and asked him why. Jesus and Paul became brothers through God. Once when Paul was in prison with chains around his hands and feet, he wrote to the Philippians, "I've learned to be content in all things." (My interpretation). He was beaten with a whip 39 times and his faith never faltered. Paul considered that to physically, mentally, spiritually and financially an honor for our King. "I count it as good to suffer for my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ." He could see heaven past his pain. Can we? Have you had to suffer in the name of Jesus? I know our missionaries in India have, yet they continue to come and share God's great news.
This is honestly the first time in my life that I don't want recognition for what I have done. God's holy has given me the words. I want to help others in the name of Jesus just like He has blessed me and forgiven me over and over. I want all of us to see the glory of God's grace. God is transforming me into a new person. I can feel. I believe it. I accept it. "Father, you are my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?" Amen.