A sinner in need of a Savior
No one is perfect, least of all me. If you're familiar with the story of the woman at the well (see John chapter 4 in the Bible) you'll get a glimpse of my life. Truthfully, the lives of many of us; men and women.
I grew up going to church every week, sometimes more. Sunday school, Bible school, Confirmation, youth group. I did it all. I knew of God, Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit (the Divine Trinity); church doctrine and teachings; all the stories and Bible versus that were supposed to "lead me" and "guide me" through life. But I strayed from all of that once I went to college. From then until my early 40's I let the world influence me in ways I deeply regret.
I didn't have a father who said "I love you", "you're good enough", "you're pretty/beautiful", "I'm proud of you", etc. and so I searched for those words of approval from other men. I just wanted to be "loved". Bottom line. But instead of following God's example of love, I followed the world's. Falling into sinful patterns and always coming up broken, empty and lonely. Nothing I tried filled the void that I so desperately wanted full. That "love" void. The acceptance. The completeness. I felt I was always missing something and searching for it in all the wrong places.
But every time I'd fall (end a relationship then start a new one, move to a different city or state, switch jobs, etc.) I felt God tugging on my heart. Calling to me to return to Him and to stay close to Him this time. I KNEW He was the answer but Satan also knew how to tempt me in all the right ways and he worked me over, time and again, always distracting me from the Spirit's still, small voice, pulling me back under the water until the next time I came up, choking and gasping for God's breath of fresh air. However fleeting that was.
But God never gave up on me. He was always there, waiting, pursuing, knocking on that proverbial door to my heart and finally - finally - I answered. Broken to the point that I had nothing left. I had given up. Felt worthless. Inept. Horribly sinful. Embarrassed at some of the choices I made. Angry for being dumb. Despite that, I knew God would accept me regardless, like the prodigal son returning to his father, having foolishly spent all his inheritance (see Luke chapter 15) even though I had little to offer. Or so I thought.
You see, during my time in the "wilderness" of my own ignorance, God was still working on my heart, guiding me to what He wanted me to be. At first I just felt called to make banners for my home church (I lived in Montana at the time and the church was in South Dakota). I'm naturally a creative soul and it turns out I was really good at making banners and the church needed them and truly appreciated them. That ministry alone has reached hundreds of people and is something I continue to do today for my current church.
God was also using me to reach more people by encouraging and listening to them, and praying for them (yes, I still prayed all those years, even if I didn't attend church or live a wholesome life). I know I had a positive impact on dozens of lives, in one way or another, so my time was not completely wasted. God has a plan - I always knew that - and He takes bad situations or choices, and sinful decisions, and works them out for good. For the benefit of His kingdom. I am living proof of that.
My family and I have been through the wringer on several avenues and have drawn close to one another through it all. My lifestyle choices, moving from state to state and being divorced (yes, I am. In case you didn't guess that already) wore on my family in ways I'm probably not even aware of. However, relationships are restored. My dad and I are close and he says he loves me and I know he's proud of me. Having said that, I finally figured out that my worth and value are not based on external validation. I live to please God, my Creator, and no one else.
As far as the woman at the well... let me just say this...
The human tendency is to judge others. It could be due to their choices, stereotypes, jealousy, or simply because they didn't do things the way you would have. Whatever it is, I've been on the short end of that stick. I've felt the glares and the pointing fingers because I am divorced and never had kids of my own. Being raised in small-town South Dakota the unspoken "rules" were to graduate from high school, get married, have kids. That's what women did. Well, things didn't work out for me according to that "rule" and I blamed myself for many years, thinking I messed up so badly that God punished me. (On a side note, I actually had a woman ask me once how I could have a life of any value if I never had kids of my own. I hope she reads this book and knows where HER value lies!).
Anyhow, God didn't punish me. He worked my life out for good. Good things have fallen into place. I know without a doubt that Jesus treats me as valuable, worthy and loved. He reached me, just as he did with the woman at the well, and has (and still is) restoring me.
In 2018-2019 I started feeling the pull to write a book. I knew I wanted it to be Biblically based & accurate and there had to be a "tragedy" of some kind that would be overcome with faith and God's guidance. The idea for Jim River Boy came to me in pieces. Little by little the story fell into place and as I wrote it I prayed for guidance from God to write the right words, to tell the story in such a way that would reach people of all ages. That it would be 'simple' and accessible but still powerfully impactful.
Through the writing of this story I came to know God as "Father". I'd never called Him that before. It was always God or Lord when I was praying. But now it's Father because I know Him in a different way. I know Him as my rock to steady me when life is frustrating and upside down. I know Him as my encourager when others put me down or make me feel small. I know Him as my provider when others fail me.
It's my ultimate prayer and hope that this book reaches you and transforms your mind and heart. That you will find renewed relationships and forgiveness between you and others and you and God the Father. That you will be filled with hope knowing that God never gives up on you. He longs for you to lean on Him and look to Him.
"Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things." Colossians 3:2