For Christians, Easter is a time to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and what that means to each of us individually. Therefore, my husband and I would like to share our stories with you.
I (Jorja) was adopted as a baby and grew up in a very loving home, but my parents were not professing Christians. In my elementary school years, I would occasionally go to various churches with my friends, and I loved the flannel board Bible stories told by an elderly lady in our neighborhood. She would invite the neighborhood children over for snacks and stories. The boys were most interested in the cookies, but I really enjoyed the stories.
Around age 12, my family moved from Sierra Madre, CA to Long Beach, CA. That pretty much ended my church going, except for an occasional wedding or funeral. Our family spent most Sundays at the yacht club. I always believed in a god, and I talked to him, but I wasn’t convinced Jesus was anything more than a good man.
I married Tom in 1972, and in 1976 we decided to try something completely different, so we moved to a town of 250 people in up-state N.Y. We were both teachers. In 1981, our son, Shon, was born 2 months prematurely and had cerebral palsy as a result. Our lives turned up-side down.
The first 6 weeks of Shon’s life were touch and go. We weren’t sure if he’d live. God brought a number of Christians into our lives at that time.
One of Shon’s nurses bonded with us and we ended up being informally adopted by her parents. They were Christians with the gift of hospitality and they simply showered God’s love on us.
Shon’s first babysitter was a pastor’s wife and I admired her peace and joy, knowing some of the difficult trials she had been through. A variety of circumstances caused us to decide to move back to CA in 1982. I got a team teaching job with a gal that drove me crazy with all her talk about Jesus. But one day, I asked her why it wasn’t good enough to believe in God. Why did I have to believe Jesus was God?
I learned that God is perfect and I’m not, which presents a problem. A holy God cannot have fellowship with an unholy human. Someone has to pay for all my wrong-doing, either myself, or a substitute. So God came down to earth in the form of His Son Jesus, and He paid the price for my sins by dying a cruel death on the cross. Now the choice was mine. If I chose to believe this, ask His forgiveness, and receive Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I would have eternal life and fellowship with God. If I refused to accept Jesus, then I would pay the price for my sins myself, and spend eternity separated from God in hell, a horrible place of darkness and pain. With Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I would also receive the Holy Spirit of God to empower me to live the way Jesus did, unselfishly and humbly.
On May 26, 1983, as I was rocking our son, Shon, to sleep, I said, “Lord, I want you to take over the driver’s seat of my life.”
I understood that I was a sinner who needed a Savior. I felt overwhelmed with peace and joy and my tears dripped onto Shon’s sleeping head. I didn’t understand what was happening, but I now know I was experiencing the relief of having the burden of all my past guilt lifted from my shoulders. I told my friend I wanted to hear God like she did, so I followed her example in reading the Bible daily, listening to good pastors, and getting involved in Bible studies and church. Since I had always considered myself a good person, I had no idea how much God would change me, and how that would impact others, beginning with my husband!
I had always been a very goal oriented person. I selected my career when I was in 4th grade. In high school, I read and saved an article about how you could supposedly choose the sex of your baby and, when we were ready to start a family, I followed the advice! I wanted our first child to be a boy, born in the spring. I got pregnant when I wanted to, and we had a boy, but the rest didn’t go according to my plans! I began to realize I wasn’t as much in control of my life as I’d thought. I had also been a workaholic and wasn’t willing to give up teaching for anyone, not even my family. I worried about finances and anything I didn’t have control over. And, not everything I said was beneficial to the listener.
After I became a Christian, I memorized Eph. 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” I began to see that not everything I said was beneficial to the listener! I also gradually began to surrender my plans and learn to seek God’s will. A month after my conversion, I decided I wanted to quit teaching and stay home full time. This was a shocker to anyone who knew me! Tom agreed, even though we had no idea how we’d manage on one income, so at the end of the school year, I quit.Tom would finally be the provider he longed to be.
With time, Tom noticed other positive changes in me. He now had my full attention when he spoke. I said yes to things I would never have considered before (such as allowing him to buy a motorcycle). I was more considerate and forgiving. I began seeking his advice more often. And I decided not to have my tubes tied. Tom was glad I had decided I was open to having more children, and by 1986 we had 2 lovely daughters! Tom gave his life to the Lord later that year, we began our amazing, life-changing adventure with Christ, and I began to experience the truth of Eph. 3:20: God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us, to his glory!
I (Tom) was born in Torrance, California and grew up there. Growing up, I was without a church family as my parents were not believers and I only went to church when I would spend a Saturday night at a friend’s house and his family would go to church on Sunday morning. I would tag along with them and either go to kids Sunday school or to the main service depending on the church. My mom would give me money to put in the plate as a donation but my friend and I would visit the little store by the church and I would spend the offering money on candy which we would eat during the church service. So much for giving to God but I had no concept of giving or even who this God was.. I spent much of my childhood playing sports and from the age of twelve on surfed as much as possible. It was a way to get out of the house as my parents would fight (verbally) much of the time they were together. My father was working longer hours to keep his business afloat but in part because he did not want to confront my mother’s drinking problem. I finished High School in Torrance and after High School enlisted in the Air Force for a four year term. It was good to get out of the house and see the world and grow into a man.
I was stationed at Travis Air Force Base for the first year and a half of my service and would see the Marines and Army leaving Travis for Vietnam on commercial airlines. Also many would return in cargo aircraft in metal boxes which were offloaded from the cargo aircraft stacked four or five high using a forklift. This was a constant flow of soldiers leaving and metal boxes returning. I spent two and a half years overseas in South East Asia and I use to listen to Armed Forces Radio and some of the preachers they would have on their radio shows.
During my first few months in Thailand I got a letter from a girl (Jorja) back in the states who knew my brother. We wrote each other for almost a year then I got to meet her while on leave. We fell in love and married two years after I was discharged from the Air Force.
I finished college on the GI Bill and did my student teaching and four years into our marriage we moved to upstate New York to try a different life style.
After eight years of marriage we had our first child who was two and a half months premature and weighed two pounds twelve ounces. The doctors said our son would have physical and or mental problems and we could choose to not do anything special in the hospital and he would probably die. We said (without Jesus in our lives) that he looked like a fighter and we wanted him to live.
We got close to one of his nurses and her family who were strong Christians but did not push Jesus but lived the life. The parents of the nurse planted many seeds in my life, (they were also teachers like my wife and I were) and the seeds started to grow when our son was a year and a half we moved back to California where we could be close to our parents. My mother died a year after we returned to California, from excessive drinking and my father died two years after that from cancer so I was thankful we had moved when we did.
I went to work in the family business and my wife took a job teaching High School. One teacher she team taught with was a strong Christian who led her to the Lord. I found out she was saved catching her reading the Bible while giving our son a bath. I said,”what are you reading?” and she said, “the Bible”. I feared that I had lost my wife to this guy named Jesus because when Jorja commits to something, she goes whole hog!A few months after my wife came to know Jesus I accepted the Lord and we were both baptized in the ocean by Pastor Chuck Smith. I have known Jesus since 1983 but most likely would not have accepted Him as my Lord and Savior if it hadn’t been for my son’s difficult birth and disability. I have my son, (thank you Shon) and the people that invested in our lives planting seeds to thank for my walk.
The Lord has certainly taught me how to give as I no longer use my tithe money to buy candy to eat in church but also He has taught me how to live in a way that is pleasing to Him, (Psalm 104 Vs: 33 & 34) I will sing to the Lord all my Life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. 34; May my meditations be pleasing to Him, as I rejoice in the Lord.
I am still a sinner but Jesus died on the cross for my sins and forgives me when I repent of those sins. We as Christians are a work in progress and will never be perfect until we reach Heaven. The Lord can truly change your life so why not give it a try. John 3: 16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”. How does eternal life sound to you?
Would you like to accept Jesus into your life today?
He is risen! He is risen, indeed!
Have a glorious Easter rejoicing in that!
Tom & Jorja