I have been reminiscing lately about when I first became a Christian in 1996. Before that I was living in Mississauga with a boyfriend of 4 years and life was just sailing along. I had no idea what laid ahead.
A Diagnosis Changes my Direction in Life
It was the middle of the afternoon on October, 1994 , I was visiting my sister and spending time with my little niece, Brandi-Jo. We were about to have our Thanksgiving dinner when the phone rang. My brother-in law answered the phone and then came and got me and told me it was the Hamilton Wentworth Police. I thought to myself right away, “what did I leave behind in Stoney Creek”? lol. I picked up the phone and the first thing they asked me was, “is your mother’s name ___________”?, of course I said yes right away. They began to explain to me that my mom had been admitted to the hospital and that I needed to come to Hamilton to see her.
A Very Long Trip
As my sister and I drove to Hamilton, my sister and I were very quiet. We knew something was wrong with our mom because the police had contacted us. All the way to the hospital I wondered what illness had she been diagnosed with. Mental health 20 years ago was still not talked about much but we knew something was up because she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital.
We arrived to the hospital and after going through security a very kind nurse walked us down the very long corridor to our mom’s room(it seemed like forever). At one point the nurse stopped by a door of a lady’s room and called us back as we had kept walking. My sister and I walked towards the nurse and asked what was wrong, the nurse looked at me and said “this is your mothers room honey”. I had already looked in the room but didn’t recognize that the woman she was talking about was my mother. I could not believe my eyes. She had lost so much weight and her hair colour was so different. She looked so ill and so gone. This was not the mother I remember all my life. I would have walked right passed her on the street not recognizing her. I hadn’t seen here for over 4 years up until now.
When the doctor met with my sister and he explained to us that our mom had been diagnosed with schizophrenia , I didn’t know what to say or think. I didn’t know the first thing about the mental illness but I knew it was serious and I saw how it not only affected my mom mentally but also physically.
The Path to Light
I never thought in a million years I would return to Stoney Creek, I loved the big city (Mississauga)at the time and I also had been living with my boyfriend for almost 4 years and couldn’t see my life without him. But, I knew I had to go back to take care of my mom, even if it was temporally.
By January 1995 I had moved back in with my mom. Months later after getting settled in and regulating my mom’s medication and symptoms, I had met a friend of my mom’s who was also her neighbour. She had been there for my mom before I knew anything of my mom’s illness. So I thought, I have to meet this woman. Well, she was spunky and great to talk to and she also liked to roller blade and workout which I had just started doing. She was 44 years old mind you, but I thought she was pretty cool, really cool. Until one beautiful spring evening when we were spending time hanging out on her step. Out of the blue she looked at me and asked, “Billie-Jo, do you know Jesus?”, right away panic struck in my chest and I thought to myself, great, this lady must have an illness too. Within minutes I told her I had to go home and had to work in the morning. I avoided her for the next couple of months.
It wasn’t long after that I had become homesick and missed the big city and my boyfriend. By the end of Spring I had made the difficult decision to move back to Mississauga. I felt terrible leaving my mother behind but I missed the big city and my boyfriend and I felt that she was well enough again to live a productive life to the best of her ability, besides, I would call her everyday.
The weekend before my move I was coming home from work at the YMCA downtown on the bus and lo and behold who got on the bus?, my mom’s neighbour. I pretended like I didn’t see her but she sat down right beside me and said Billie-Jo, where have you been? Talk about uncomfortable. Anyways, not long after we started talking did she ask me why I was leaving Stoney Creek and my mom. I could feel my face getting hot as I didn’t like people meddling in my business back then, I was a very private person and well guarded. I explained the truth to her(it was hard to lie to her). All of a sudden she begins to tell me that I won’t last 2 months back in Mississauga and that my boyfriend and I will split up; that was in July.
By September 1995, I moved back in with my mom. I remember thinking, was my mom’s friend a psychic? what she predicted ended up happening, how did she know this?. My boyfriend and I did have a falling out and it wasn’t long before I realized I needed to be back with my mom, someone who really needed me.
What was Going On?
Shortly after I returned home, I went to visit my mother’s friend. She welcomed me with open arms, even after the way I treated her before I left, I never even said good bye to her.
Over the next several weeks I visited my mothers friend and she quickly became a dear friend to me. She would stay up all night listening to my life story and all my troubles. Then one night she asked me if I wanted to know who Jesus was. At this point in my life I had already tried relationships with men, Buddhism, Karate, alcohol, drugs and I had thought to myself, what do I have to lose? she seems pretty happy and she has a peace I find interesting.(she was dealing with a lot of problems)
I kept returning for more as she started to read the bible with me. I actually could not believe some of the things she told me about the bible and Jesus. One night I got really upset and challenged her about something she told me. She had explained to me that if Paul Bernardo had repented and truly turned his heart to God and asked for forgiveness that he would be forgiven and that God would judge his actions one day in judgment. I could not believe this, how could God ever forgive such an evil creature?
An AMAZING Love I Never Knew
I began slowly to understand the unconditional, merciful, compassionate and amazing love of God and how He gave us Jesus, His Son to die for us.(that’s another blog). I began to weep one night in anger of how Jesus was treated when He was completely innocent. I didn’t understand. I also at the same time felt like my whole view of the world was changing and that my heart was even beginning to soften. I had a very tough exterior and often hid behind alcohol and a false exterior BUT for the first time someone was breaking through all that facade. His name was JESUS!
On a cold night in February 1996, my friend asked me if I would make a decision that would change my life forever(I’m crying right now), she wanted to know if I would trust my life completely to God and His Son, Jesus Christ. I didn’t even hesitate by this time. In my eyes anyone who would die for someone else’ wrong doings and who would have the courage to confront people in power when no one else would and who stripped Him and beat Him to nothing….knowing He didn’t fight back, but still loved them?, I had to take that chance that He knew something I didn’t and that He had something to give me, something I never knew or had experienced, REAL love.
Life was never the Same
My life changed that night. All I did was say a prayer and invite Jesus and God the Father into my heart and I surrendered everything I had ever known to Him. In other words “Jesus took the Wheel”
I didn’t step foot in a church for 2 years after making that decision that night. I was on a personal journey with my Saviour and I soaked up every minute of it. Just me, Jesus and my bible, that was it and of course my very dear friend.
I lost her not long ago, it will be 4 years this Christmas. To this day I believe she was an angel while she was here. As much as I might help and inspire others, I will never attain the heart and mission she did. If it wasn’t for her being obedient and sacrificing all her time and energy into me I’m not quite sure where I would be today. I miss her deeply.
Who Am I Today?
Trust me when I say this, I was reckless and messed up. I am still broken today but held together by the marvellous love of an incredible, loving, merciful, kind and almighty God.
Life did not get easier when I made that decision that night in February 1996, as a believer it did not exempt me from more pain and suffering, in fact, I’ve experienced quite the opposite. The difference? the ability to stand strong in the face of adversity knowing that this life is temporary and that a greater promise awaits me(that’s another blog too :)).
I received a peace deep in my heart that night over 20 years ago and I have never lost it since then, I have had to fight to keep it many times and I have lost faith in seasons of my life and I’ve had to learn to trust in God with my whole being.
I am still learning to trust in Him, it can be very scary at times, however, my faith has only become stronger for all the trials and suffering I have experienced. Strong in Him.
Who am I today? I am a daughter of the BEST Father any woman could ask for. My God and His Son, Jesus Christ taught me how to love and how to show mercy and grace where it would not otherwise be possible.
The Vessel of Suffering
In my mother’s suffering and pain, God brought good out of it. It is very simple to understand, let me explain. He brought us back together because before her diagnosis I didn’t care if I ever saw my mother again. Yes, it’s true, we had a very wounded past. There were very deep wounds in my heart towards my mother. Her diagnosis brought understanding and forgiveness. It revealed TRUTH that brought healing to both of us.
My mother later lived with me and my family that God would bless me with years later. We have been inseparable from the day I moved back in with her in September 1995.
I love her with all my heart and I thank my God for where He lead me through it all-to His loving arms and grace. GOD is LOVE…..