Beauty in Ashes - My Testimony
When I was ten years old, we were having a revival at our church. Lots of kids were going down and being saved. My brother, who was probably 8 at the time, went down and was saved. I remember my parents being so happy and they made a big deal over it (rightly so!). I also remember being a bit jealous and wanting some of that attention myself. So, the next night I went down as well. Looking back, I honestly don’t think I really understood what I was doing. While I went down and confessed Christ and was baptized I did not fully grasp what I was doing. I did it for the wrong reasons.
Many years past, and while I lived as a Christian, I don’t think that I had actually been saved. I tried hard to do good and live a life pleasing to God, but it was all about works and not about Grace.
In 1990, I married my first husband, Marty Godfrey. It was a whirlwind romance, from the time we met to the time we married was only six months. I honestly didn’t know him all that well, but I was in love and walking more in the world than in heaven. Shortly after we married, I realized that Marty had a drinking problem. About a month after we got married he drank too much and expressed to me that he thought he had made a mistake marrying me and that he thought he was still in love with an old girlfriend. We worked through that and he later expressed that it was all a case of “cold feet”.
The first time I really realized that he had a serious drinking problem was about a year into our marriage. He had been drinking all day, and by the evening he was drunk as a skunk. He started hallucinating about being attacked by someone, he was making a racket outside and my neighbor had to help me get him into the house. Shortly after that, his mother, younger brother, and some of his friends showed up at the house. I was outside talking to them, explaining the situation when I heard a gun go off. I was filled with dread and horror, I honestly thought he had shot himself. He had gotten the shotgun and shot a hole through our bedroom door, hallucinating that he was shooting someone who was attacking him. It’s a wonder that no one was hurt, when I look back now, I know that God was really looking out for us. Marty dropped the shotgun and locked himself in the bathroom. I gathered up all our guns and gave them to his mother to put in her car. Meanwhile, I could hear him pounding on the walls in the bathroom and screaming at something. I was trying to get him to unlock the bathroom door when I heard glass breaking. We finally got him to open up and discovered he had destroyed the bathroom–there was a giant hole in the wall and the shower door was shattered. We finally got him to go to bed and I ended up staying up standing vigil–too afraid to go asleep. The next morning, he was horrified at what he had done. From that moment on, he tried really hard to keep from losing control of his drinking, but he never fully stopped. He would still get drunk a few times a year, but never anything like what happened that night. But that moment was an eye opener for me. I wonder now, why I didn’t leave him then, even when everyone was telling me to leave him, I stayed. Perhaps is was because I was stubborn and wanted to make my marriage work or perhaps it was because God had other plans.
Marty hid his alcoholism well. To the outside world, he was this happy and friendly guy. He never met a stranger and made friends so easily. Everyone thought we had this really great marriage. But, the truth was that our happy marriage was a facade and I spent years hiding the truth from my family and friends.
Flash forward to 2000, things were going well for us. We found a small farm with a small old house, this was Marty’s dream and I bought into it. We had grand plans to remodel the house, but in all honestly, the house should probably have been torn down it was in such bad shape. The first couple of years, things were okay. We got a few things done on the house and had plans for more. When we moved though, Marty began to change. He began drinking a lot more. He would easily drink a case of beer a night (12 pk) and on weekends he would drink 2-3 cases a day. He spent more money on beer than on groceries. Financially it was a struggle, I begged him to stop. I created budgets showing him how much our bills were. I did everything I could physically do to make him understand that his drinking was causing the family a serious financial struggle. The house remained barely standing, windows were boarded up, there was no real kitchen, and the bathroom was barely usable. We were basically living in a shanty. But nothing I said or did reached him.
Over time, his alcoholism worsened and he became more and more mentally and verbally abusive to the boys and I. We lived in near abject poverty because he chose to spend the majority of our income on alcohol. If there was ever a choice between family and alcohol, alcohol nearly always won. We only had one car and he always took it. He refused to allow me to work so that we could buy groceries or pay bills. He wanted me home and he wanted to control the situation. I fought for my family against that demon for years. Every day, I prayed for the Lord to deliver him from the grip of his demons. I never gave up hope and faith. I knew that God was listening to my cries. I could see His hand in my life on a daily basis. He never broke his promise to take care of me and my children.
In Scripture, Jesus said, “Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?” (Luke 12:24). If God feeds and cares for the birds in this way, then I can always trust that He will take care of me.
Every day nearly, I was in prayer for the situation. I asked God time and time about leaving Marty, but each time I felt God burden me to stay. Looking back I realized that much of his drinking was a way of self-medicating himself. I think that Marty suffered from some sort of psychiatric illness and alcohol helped him cope. Something happened around 2011, I don’t know what. Marty began pulling away from the family and drinking more. He would come home from work and wouldn’t even come in the house. He barely greeted the boys or myself. He wouldn’t even come in to eat dinner and would not come in to go to bed until the wee hours of the morning. He and I had no real relationship, we lived as roommates more than husband and wife. He spent all his time outside talking on the ham radios. He would barely acknowledge us unless others were present. Around friends and family, he acted like the perfect family man and father. But in truth, he built a wall between us and him.
By the November of 2013, I was still praying daily and God was still burdening me to stay. But, I was fed up with staying and I was fed up with being ignored, verbally and mentally abused. I was fed up with living in poverty because he spent all our money on alcohol and refused to let me work. One night in November, we got into a fight. He was drunker than usual and I was actively trying to avoid fighting with him. But it was one of those nights where I could do nothing right. He finally got so angry at me that he shoved me out of the house and locked the door. I stood there in the cold night air in my pajamas, barefooted. I had nothing, no phone, no purse, no car keys. We lived isolated out in the country, we had a few neighbors. It was the middle of the night and I was too ashamed to walk the distance to either of our nearest neighbors and wake them for help. Thankfully, I discovered that the Suburban was unlocked, so I crawled in to keep warm. After a couple of hours the house was dark and quiet, and I knew that Marty had probably passed out. So, I crawled back into the house through a window, and sat on the couch and dozed fitfully. I was done. In the morning, I gave Marty an ultimatum–stop drinking and get active in the family–or I was going to leave him after the first of the year. I think this sort of woke him up out of his stupor for a while. I agreed to stay until after the holidays, because I didn’t want to ruin the holidays for the boys, nor did I want them to forever have the memory of our family breaking apart during Christmas. But by February 2014, he was back to his old ways. I prepared to leave him with the boys and I would have left, but that same month we lost our house in a fire. We had no insurance because the house was insurable to begin with.
The house fire threw me for a loop. I had every intention of leaving, I was fully prepared to leave, but the fire was so traumatic on my youngest son. I worried that if I left Marty on top of the fire that it would psychologically damage my youngest son. After the fire, the boys and I stayed with my parents for a few weeks, before returning to the farm and living in my parents RV. The fire also seemed to wake Marty up from his stupor. He still didn’t completely stop drinking but it fell to a six pack a night versus at least a twelve pack. We began to rebuild our lives and he began working on the house trying to make it livable again for us.
Every time I would decided to take matters into my own hands and leave, some roadblock popped up. And still, every time I prayed to leave, God indicated to me that I needed to stay. I was getting really frustrated with God. I couldn’t understand why He wanted me to stay in this emotionally and financially abusive relationship. So, I decided that God had always been faithful to me, so I would be faithful to Him.
In April of 2014, Marty’s gums began bleeding. I urged him to go to the doctor, but he always refused. Instead, he Googled his symptoms and decided that he had scurvy. He began a regimen of vitamin C, but it wasn’t helping–he was still bleeding. I urged him to go to the doctor and he continued to refuse. He kept telling me he was getting better, when obviously he wasn’t. He began to look pale and his skin was looking yellow. I have a family member who was a nurse and even she urged him to go to the doctor to no avail. One day in May of 2014, I was in the RV fixing lunch for the boys. I had noticed that Marty had left his phone, so I wasn’t too surprised to see him pull up in the driveway. I continued cooking, but after a while I realized that it was taking him a while to come in. I looked out the window and I could see that he was still in the car. So, I walked over to see what was going on. It was a wonder he made it home without crashing the car. When I reached the car he was babbling incoherently. He was weak as a kitten as well. I hollered for my oldest son to come out. He sat with his father so I could get my youngest son fully dressed and I could grab shoes.
We drove to the hospital as quickly as I could. It was faster for me to drive than to wait for an ambulance to get to us. I got him into the emergency room and he was taken back immediately. At first they thought his kidneys had shut down, but after running tests, they discovered that he had only a quarter of the blood he was suppose to have. If I had not gotten him to the hospital when I did, he most likely would have died that day. They rushed him from our local county hospital to a hospital in Waco. More tests were run and he was in the ICU for several days. It was finally decided that he had leukemia and the hospital in Waco referred us to a cancer hospital as they were not equipped for long term care of leukemia.
I began to see that there was a REAL reason why God always told me to stay with Marty, and it was for this moment. God knew that Marty would need me and if I had left when I had originally planned, Marty would probably have died alone that day in the car. While Marty professed to be a Christian, he showed no real Christian fruit. I honestly don’t think that he was saved.
Over the next few days, we tried to get him into every cancer hospital in Texas and we were turned down from them all because we did not have medical insurance. Finally, his doctor pulled me aside and told me to check Marty out at AMA (against medical advice), and to drive to M.D. Anderson in Houston and take him to the emergency room there. Because if we checked into the emergency room and M.D. Anderson was a state hospital, that they would take us. One of our good friends drove us to Houston and thank goodness, M.D. Anderson took us and Marty was able to begin treatment.
Marty began treatment with the greatest attitude. He was going to beat this thing. Not only that, but he had to completely quit drinking and for the first time in our married life he made the choice to do so. He also began to take a real hard look at his life and he came to some serious realizations. It took him getting cancer for him to re-evaluate his life and his choices. Cancer strengthened our relationship and began drawing us back together. I know he really took a look at his relationship with God and I can only hope and pray that he got things straight with the Lord–I think he did, but he never verbalized it to me. But, I could see God working a change within him. My parents moved their RV up to Houston and Marty and I lived in it while he was getting treatment. My boys were living with my parents.
Finally, in August, we moved my youngest son to Houston with us and he was so excited to be back with us. He was such a trooper. Most of our days were spent at the hospital, he and I explored M.D. Anderson from top to bottom. Marty, was unlike I had seen him in years. He was happy, he was positive, and his doctors and nurses were amazed at his attitude and determination. There was something different about Marty, something I had never seen in him before. It gave me hope that we could rebuild our family–that we would be able to come out the other side of this victorious.
But that was not to be. Marty was not responding to the chemo. His platelet count remained really low and he was still losing blood. I lost count how many blood transfusions he received. On August 18th he received his last round of chemo. On the morning of August 21st, his platelet level was at still zero and he began bleeding in the brain. By early afternoon, he was on life support. My Dad rushed my oldest son to Houston and Marty’s family rushed to his side. He made it through the night and on August 22nd they tested him and he had no brain activity. We took him off life support and moments later he quietly passed on.
After Marty died, my life was in a shambles. The boys and I were homeless because of the fire, so we moved in with my parents. Our grief was so consuming, yet at the same time my heart felt so light and there was a joy that I hadn’t experienced in a long time. It wasn’t that I was joyful that Marty was gone, but it was more because I knew that God had brought me through so much. The joy was from knowing for the first time and knowing without a shadow of a doubt that God was real, that He loved me, and He had a purpose for my life and my experiences. He was giving me beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3) and He was restoring to me the years that the locust had eaten (Joel 2:25). I felt more loved by Him in this moment than ever in my life. It was then that I believe that my faith became real for the first time. Through all the struggles, through all the disappointments, through all my frustration, the Lord finally showed me why He had continually asked me to stay in my marriage–it was for such a time as this (Esther 4:14). I felt so humbled. Shortly after this realization, I was rebaptized–but this time it was for the RIGHT reasons.
In the years since, the Lord has continually proved that He is Faithful. He has continued making beauty out of the ashes of my life and continued restoring to me the years that the locust had eaten. He has brought so much joy and happiness to my life to replace all those years of struggle and strife. In 2015, I met my husband John. We built a relationship slowly–one based on friendship and Christ. On May 20, 2017 we married and God has continued to bless me in so many amazing ways. All those years when I was married to Marty, I had to put aside so many dreams and desires because of what the Lord had called me to do. I always tried to be faithful and now God has been making those dreams and desires a reality, it may have been in His time not mine, but His timing is perfect. I live a life full of joy, because I know that whatever the Lord throws at me that He is there with me and I know that I can fully trust Him with my everything. The Lord has taught me to rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and to pray without ceasing. (Romans 12:12). I am blessed beyond measure.
Susan Lee Rose