A Mountain of Hope

Only God can turn a marriage that is rapidly imploding into a clear example of God’s power and grace. For all those who are struggling in their marriage, or really any relationship, this Christmas season, maybe Kelly’s story give you hope.

 

A Mountain of Hope
by Kelly Klepfer

Though my upcoming co-written novel, Out of the Frying Pan, is full of humor and quirky characters, and I’m someone who loves to laugh and find joy in the moment, I’ve had my share of sorrow and seasons steeped in darkness.

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Billy Graham

I was “saved” as a young child. Billy Graham scared me straight at age six. I didn’t want to go to hell so I said a prayer. Years later, I was still saying those prayers. Often. Throughout high school I managed to juggle being a good Baptist with hating myself for my inability to be a good Baptist.

My high school sweetheart and I married when we were just 19 and 20. He’d dabbled with pot and we’d both spent far too much time drinking. All grown up we continued to drink, had a child, and he began drinking other places. When I was pregnant with our second child, seven years into our marriage, he began to drink heavily and with a group of friends I didn’t know. A month before I gave birth he finally admitted he didn’t love me anymore.

Devastated, I asked him to leave and began building a life without him while he moved into a home with a barely functioning alcoholic. He insisted on being with me when our baby was born but when my water broke a month early I couldn’t reach him. His roommate said he wasn’t there.

My father took over trying to find him once they had taken me to the hospital. I was prepped for the C-section when he finally arrived. I’ll never forget the loneliness in the following few minutes. The anesthesiologist placed a mask over my face. I was strapped down and unable to communicate. The spinal aid-1807541_640anesthesia numbed a vertebra higher than my previous C-Section so I couldn’t feel my lungs moving.

I began to panic that I wasn’t breathing. So I tried to communicate with my half-drunk stranger of a husband with my eyes. The anesthesiologist had buried himself in a Stephen King novel. My husband finally said something. The doctor leaned over. “She’s hyperventilating.” My world had grown gritty gray and white by this point, and finally he placed a breather mask over my face, and I was able to resurface.

A few months later, on Christmas Eve, my husband had a nostalgic come to Jesus moment. He did love me after all, and wanted back into our home. My heart had hardened, grown bitter. I looked at the options I had and decided if he was willing and would treat me better I’d be open to it. As long as the good outweighed the bad I’d let him stay. We both sought “Christian” counseling. My counselor tried out things like primal screaming. His told my husband he didn’t really have problems with addiction. There was nothing Biblical in our counseling sessions that I recall. (Bonus takeaway: Be warned: Find Biblical counselors not “Christian.”)

alkolismus-64162_1920My husband began to slowly increase in drinking again though he kept it at home. I continued to grow in bitterness and my mantra that as long as the good outweighed the bad he could remain.

Five years later he got scared and cold turkey stopped drinking. Within months there was something weird going on with him. He admitted to me that he felt restless and that he wanted to do dangerous, risky things. I asked him to talk to different males and to please let me know should he really find himself wanting to cave in.

A couple months later, on our anniversary, while I was getting ready to go out on a date with him, the phone rang. My aunt had just arrived to pick up the kids for an overnight and I gave them quick hugs and kisses and sent them out the door before saying hello. That hello changed my life in so many ways. It was the other woman who revealed not only the affair she’d been having with my husband but also that she was pregnant.

Dark, dark, dark days followed. We entered counseling again. He voluntarily went through the alcohol addiction program that is court ordered for those receiving DUIs. We began to attend church again for the first time in years. Somehow, in spite of very close friends and relatives telling me to leave, accusing me of having battered wife syndrome, being foolish, I stood firm. My reason–I wasn’t going to give up if he was done being an addict just to see someone else benefit from my pain. I wanted to see it through to the end just in case he might actually be able to beat this thing.

Our lives were changed in so many icky ways. The betrayal and the hardness of my heart toward him was just ugly. But I trudged through. Early after finding out about the affair I was out of town with unbelievers who loved a good party. They decided that I needed to get all dressed up and get drunk and find myself a little payback.

God delivered me.

I went to the hotel bar by myself to get drinks for the three of us while my friends were doing their hair and makeup. While there my eyes connected to those of a man at the bar. Looking into his eyes was like looking into his soul. I saw such emptiness there, such hurt, such loneliness that it called to me on a very primitive level. I wanted to connect with that. Scared, I hurried back to the hotel room with my drinks and told my friends about the guy. They insisted I go back, but I was afraid. On our way out to go bar hopping we stopped there to see if he was there. He was gone.

At the bars I drank more than I ever had before. Drink after drink after drink. Nothing touched me or loosed my inhibitions. All I could think about was how miserable I was and how much I just wanted to go back to the hotel room and cry myself to sleep. God kept me sober, I’m convinced, because payback would’ve ripped my soul to shreds. And been the nail in the coffin of my marriage. I threw up all night long. But was saved from a very ugly thing.

Five years after the affair we we’re finally able to see his daughter. They lived four hours away. We’d travel at least once a month. It was a very hard time, and I kept a very long list of what my husband was doing and not doing to make up to me for putting me and my kids through the torture.

We’d fight all the way home while I’d critique him and his performance. One night it was so bad. I’m so grateful none of the kids were with us, I remember him screaming. “I hear your words but I don’t understand what you want. It’s like you are speaking Chinese.”

It broke me. I sobbed the final hour of the silent trip. How could he not understand? How could I live with this one second longer? I was tired emotion-556794_1920of paying for his sins. His working extra three weekends a month so he could take one weekend off. That night I screamed out to God that He needed to change my husband. I couldn’t do this anymore. And I was so, so angry that my marriage was going to end over this when it had survived alcohol, a husband who didn’t love me and an affair. So angry. When I was through screaming, God asked me a simple question, right into my heart. “Why do you think you are right?”

I couldn’t answer that question. Exhausted and silenced. I gave up, and I told Him I couldn’t but that I was going to find out what my role and responsibility were in marriage and obey Him. It just so happened that an intense marriage inductive Bible study was starting the next week at my church. I signed up to go solo. And my life began changing immediately. As I learned I changed and let go and healed and grew. I began studying other aspects and absorbing and consuming God’s word. I didn’t care as much about my marriage as I did about my right relationship with Jesus.

The trials didn’t end. But I chose to die to myself. Slowly, my husband became jealous over my relationship with Jesus. He wanted that, and he wanted to share it with me. Through this whole period of time we were involved in a church, leaders to some extent, and there was so much death in us. We began to be resurrected in Christ and we truly died.

At age nine, our youngest daughter, his from another mother, moved in permanently. While we navigated life with God at the steering wheel we were able to overcome even more obstacles. And the strangest thing happened. Our older two kids began to see faith really walked out, not just talked about in church, but the parents they saw in church were the parents they went home with.

Our youngest struggled with obvious challenges.  At age 17 she told us where to put our rules, and she stepped out to live a life of her own choosing. More dark days followed. But God’s faithful answers to prayers uttered with groans and tears and His grace and mercy kept doors cracked open. Today our, MY, youngest daughter is married with a baby of her own and her own stepson. She speaks to us daily and seeks out our earned-the-hard-way wisdom. A restored relationship with her is a gift beyond words.

What about our other two children? The ones who lived through the drama and the affair’s aftermath, my bitterness and self-righteousness, the alcoholism, how are they? Did they survive the ugly childhood we provided?

They are a delight and a joy. Both living fully for the Lord and His plans for them. Our middle daughter chose to follow Christ into opening her life to foster care. She took in four little siblings and has now adopted three and prays and longs for the baby who is currently with the biological mom. As a single mom of three she is a shining light for Jesus and is making a profound difference in the lives of these amazing children. Our son teaches at a local high school. He and his wife have opened their hearts and home to so many people I can’t even keep track of those they have blessed. Generosity is who they are. And they breathe Christ in and out in their interactions.

God has been consistently for me. Allowing me to come to the end of myself, allowing me to fail miserably so that I ran to Him.

***

When the chef of Sunset Paradise Retirement Village ends up unnamed-1dead, life for sisters Fern and Zula Hopkins is whipped into a froth. Their zany attempts to track down the killer land them in hot water with Detective Jared Flynn. Should he be concerned about their safety or the criminal’s?

But there are deadly ingredients none of them expect. Drugs. Extortion. International cartels. And worst of all…broken hearts–especially when the Hopkins sisters’ niece KC arrives on the scene.

Before the snooping pair gain any headway with the case, it becomes crystal clear that the sisters share a mysterious secret that takes life from the frying pan and into the line of fire.

Buy Out of the Frying Pan on Amazon.

***

unnamedKelly Klepfer had ambitions to graduate from the school of life quite a while ago, but alas…she still attends and is tested regularly. Her co-authored cozy/quirky mystery, Out of the Frying Pan, is the culmination of several of the failed/passed tests. Kelly, though she lives with her husband, two Beagles, and two hedgehogs in Iowa, can be found at Novel Rocket, Novel Reviews, Scrambled Dregs, Modern Day Mishaps, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter, with flashes of brilliance (usually quotes), randomocities, and learned life-lessons. Zula and Fern Hopkins and their shenanigans can be found at Zu-fer, where you always get more than you bargained for.

 

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490 Degree Forgiveness by Kathleen Maher

Today’s post, by Kathleen Maher illustrates the point I’m going to make tomorrow. Forgiveness is rarely a one-time event, as you will see in the following story. Come back tomorrow as we discuss the things that keep us from forgiveness and how we can overcome them. Then, on Thursday, we’ll talk about continual forgiveness–what do you do when the person you’re trying to forgive continues to hurt you? Although in truth, I don’t have definitive answers for these, I’m going to throw some things out there for you to chew on and pray over. Ultimately, only God knows the steps each of us need to take. Ultimate healing and freedom comes through obedience and continual surrender. And at times, as you will see in Kathleen’s story, the journey of surrender will be painful, but God has promised to hold us through it. Through ever tear, every disappointment and rejection, He is might to save and His ear is never too dull to hear.

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490 Degree Forgiveness

Three-year-olds absorb the world from maternal arms, like an extension of Mother’s experiences, going where she goes, seeing what she sees and feeling what she feels.

As a three-year-old, I saw my mother’s world—raging arguments, chaos, turmoil, events I could not understand. Her grief hung like a paralyzing fog over our home, and took siege of my own heart. All I knew is that my father stopped loving us. He stopped coming home. He would call, though, sometimes. For money. For rides from the bar. After a while my mother stopped answering his calls entirely. And I didn’t understand why.

My mother would play Jim Croce’s song Lover’s Cross and I came to understand through the word pictures it painted that my mother had been a longsuffering martyr to an abusive, alcoholic man. When my father left her, it hurt, but slowly, she healed. And so did I. Until he showed up with a new family.

I had been the baby of the family, and now, my Daddy had replaced me with a little baby boy. He had a different wife, too, and though she was kind, she was strange to me. I felt betrayed. He loved her and that boy, but he didn’t care that I’d had a birthday or that Christmas had come and gone for me with no Daddy.

I knew I had to love the baby because it wasn’t his fault. I forgave. And my father forgot—he disappeared from our lives again.

My mother had a little bookmark in her Bible with a picture of a child nestled into a big, masculine hand. The image called to me. I related to that child, because I felt very small and vulnerable. I wanted to be that child, treasured enough to be held in a Daddy’s hand. I remember reading the caption. Isaiah 49:15-16. “Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? Even if that were possible, I would not forget or abandon you—I have carved you in the palm of my hand.”

For the first time I understood that God wanted to be my Heavenly Father. That even though I couldn’t see it, His hands held me, comforted me, and guided me. He wanted me as His daughter.

God had brought me 360 degrees from abandonment to redemption. But I still had a journey ahead.

In my teen years, I learned that my biological father had begun yet another family. His alcoholism and violent outbursts had apparently summoned the Foster Care system to take his new children away. It sickened and embarrassed me. He brought my mother shame in our small community as word of his behavior trickled back like daggers into her genteel heart. I hated that my mother, who had raised me and my siblings all by herself and sacrificed so much for us, had been hurt once more by his evil and selfish choices.

I looked to God for peace and comfort once again, but this time, His hands did not hold a child, they held the imprint of a nail. They held the weight of the world’s sin. My father’s sin. God showed me the price He’d paid to forgive. He told me that my peace would come only through forgiveness. I had to go the extra mile, beyond my 360 degree redemption, to 490 degree forgiveness. Seventy times seven.

I forgave, and it has set me free.

I had the chance to serve him in his old age. I took him food, I prayed with him. I know he heard the gospel on several occasions. My father passed away three years ago, and I attended his funeral. My sisters and I spoke on forgiveness and shared the salvation message to the small assembly.

I think of Joseph in the Bible who endured great suffering at the hands of his earthly family. He forgave, and God was pleased to use him “to save many men alive”, his family in particular. He named one of his sons Manasseh, which means, “I will forget the pain of my father’s household.” His other son he named Ephraim which means “fruitful in the land of my suffering”.

Perhaps like Joseph, God allowed the pain of my childhood so that I would have compassion on others who have suffered. Through God’s grace, I have been blessed to talk with a few of my half-sisters. I Iearned that God reached down into the chaos and pain of their childhood and brought them to a Christian foster family who adopted them. Perhaps God has used the healing He has done in my life to help them.  I earnestly hope so.

Memories still creep up, which can resurface hurt, anger and resentment. When confronted with these, I go back to that simple math equation.

Q: How much is 70×7?

A: It is a lifetime commitment. 490 Degree forgiveness.

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Now, I leave you with this video.

Kathleen L. Maher’s passion for fiction began in preschool with the cuddly hero from The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. Writing soon followed, and she had penned her first novel by the time she was a freshman in high school. Having put her writing on hold to raise her family, she recently picked it back up. In 2009 and again in 2010, her romance novel placed second in the inspirational category of RWA’s Launching a STAR contest.

She’s been an active presence on several writing loops, and will soon mark three years with ACFW. She serves as co-moderator for Civil War HIStory yahoo group, and with her critique partner, Debbie Lynne Costello, founded CROWN Fiction Marketing Network. CROWN promotes the work of a dozen multi-published CBA authors through a quid pro quo system of reviews, blog tours and social network campaigning.

Kathleen holds an Associate degree from Corning Community College where she studied literature and journalism and contributed articles to the school newsletter. She has been an occasional guest writer on blogs such as Uncommon History, and Faith, Fiction and Friends. Her own blog features upstate New York history and book reviews.

She shares her passion for history and writing with her critique partners from ACFW’s Scribes 213 group. She and her beloved husband live in an old country farmhouse with their three children, one of whom is on the autism spectrum, and two “rescue” Newfoundland dogs.