You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.”
John 5:39-40 NLT
… the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
2 Corinthians 3:6d NASB
You would think that after having had such amazing teachers and mentors at Moody Bible Institute and after receiving such a storehouse of Biblical and spiritual knowledge there (Remembering Stone #5), the Christian life would have been a breeze for me … joy-filled and exciting!
And it was exciting and joy-filled … for awhile. Let me tell you about it.
After graduating from MBI in 1976, we relocated to McLean, Virginia. John had taken a position as a youth pastor at McLean Bible Church (before it became a mega-church, as it is today). It was all so exciting! I loved being a “pastor’s wife” and in the “ministry.” It was so fulfilling to be using what I learned at Moody Bible Institute to teach the young people and to share with women in the church.
Living in the Washington, D.C. area was amazing! So much going on always! Watergate had just happened and the word was that members of Congress and even family members of recent Presidents had attended McLean Bible in their days in Washington.
But perhaps the highest of the high for me there in Virginia (and ever since) was becoming a mother! Jeremy John Loyd* was born on August 15, 1977. What a precious gift! His birth into my life ushered me into a new identity and a new joy and delight.
Physically, I was healthier than I had ever been in my life. I upped my physical fitness, running every day for exercise (which I had begun in Chicago). Spiritually, I felt I had it together. I was disciplined in my spiritual walk. I even led a group of women from church in a Bible study centered on “Diet, Discipline, and Discipleship” (3D). So life for me was good on every level — emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
Then we moved.
Things had changed at the church, and so we relocated to Garland Texas, a small town in the Dallas area. John enrolled at Dallas Theological Seminary to earn a Master’s degree in Theology in the hopes of one day becoming a Bible/Theology prof in a Bible school or seminary. Since I was having a hard time getting pregnant with a much wanted second child and with 4 y.o. Jeremy at Scoffield Christian PreK, I too started into several classes with Dr Howard Hendricks.
Then after a miscarriage and recovery, a much longed for pregnancy and healthy birth of a sweet daughter, Elizabeth Anne Loyd (“Beth”)**on January 3, 1982! We were so thrilled to have our baby girl. And what fun to do pink and sundresses and bonnets and pigtails.
Yet, clouding the joy of it all was the beginnings of declining health — hormonal imbalance, chemical sensitivities and other related issues with foods and yeast/molds. All the while, John had been attending Dallas Seminary full-time and working as an engineer thirty hours a week to support our family. But at the end of three years, Mead Office Systems (his employer) had an opening for full-time employment as an engineer. By that time, John had already been coming to the conclusion that God had made him a “better engineer than a preacher.” So he left seminary and accepted the position as an engineer.
This enabled us to buy our first house in Allen, a northern suburb of Dallas. We loved our new home and community. And we loved our new church in McKinney, TX (McKinney Bible Chapel). We felt at home there — loved and cared for and known.
Despite all the really good things happening, I struggled in several ways. My health continued to decline. The chemicals in the building materials in our new home began to cause me depressed moods and other issues (unbeknownst to me … this wasn’t something that was believed, understood, or validated in the medical community of that time). But spiritually, I pushed through and redoubled my efforts with my “spiritual disciplines.”I developed a prayer list that was a work of art. I had lists of people to pray for “daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly.” I did a lot of reading about being disciplined (The Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman by Anne Ortlund) and how to live the Christian Life. In fact, one such book said that you can’t “count” praying while you are walking or jogging as your prayer time (which is what I was doing). He said you need to have a separate time … and the tragic thing was, I believed him!
In the midst of it all, John’s workplace shut down, my dad died of a heart attack in New Jersey at age 60, a couple months later John’s dad died in Arizona at age 62, and then a few months after, my mom (in NJ) had a brain aneurysm … all in the span of about nine months. So we sold our house in Allen, said good-bye to our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ at McKinney Bible Chapel, and moved to Dayton OH, where John had found a new job with Diconix (a division of Kodak).
On the surface, everything was good in our lovely home in Centerville, where we relocated … beautiful house and neighborhood, great neighbors, good job. But it seemed the entire Christian community in Dayton was steeped in an underlying legalism/ “to do list” philosophy. The Bill Gothard seminars were required at Dayton Christian Schools, where our kids attended (first in the homeschool program and then later in school; later I was on part-time staff). And this just fed into my tendencies to try to earn more love from God, more favor, more acceptance by “doing the right thing” and “getting my act together.”
And then there were “mysterious” physical issues (for me) with our house… exotic molds, chemicals from extermination in our house and neighborhood that affected me deeply (especially in my nervous system). It had gotten to a point where I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t even read a verse and remember what it said from the beginning to the end (which I felt guilty about, since that was one of my “spiritual disciplines.”) I was having anxiety attacks and fought against my fear-filled tendency toward agoraphobia.
Perhaps the hardest part of it all was that no one believed me —
not the persons closest to me (after all, I looked good with my clinique makeup and decent hairstyle. I didn’t look sick);
not my doctor (I was crying all the time and he wouldn’t listen to my symptoms, assuming I was just “depressed.” So he put me on anti-depressants);
and worst of all, in my thinking, not even GOD believed me! (maybe He was judging me for “not having my act together”). This, of course, was a lie from the pit, but I didn’t recognize it as such. So I believed it and in a sense “hid my face” from God, all the while crying out!
I felt totally alone, abandoned, and judged. And the sad thing was I was judging myself also!
But eventually, it became obvious to us all (myself included) that what was going on was not hypochondria and depression. My face and eyes and throat began to swell “grotesquely.” There was absolutely no denying it, but there were no answers …
I was in despair! I assumed God was judging me for not “having my act together.” I wasn’t doing enough spiritual stuff to “get it right.” I wasn't earning His love and approval. I couldn’t figure out how to change what I thought was “His frown to a smile.”
And this went on for two years into our move to Dayton.
[Stay tuned for Stone #7…”The Smile that Destroyed my Religion” and more]
*For more about Jeremy: Celebrating Love, Life, and a Little Boy All Grown Up
*For more about Beth: The God of My Mothering: The Rock I Can Trust