Lu’s Story – Me and My Big Mouth
Growing up our home was built on love, faith and family. My parents were deeply committed Christians and took Jesus’ commandment to love your neighbour as yourself, literally. Our family of nine regularly expanded to include foster children, and anyone else who needed a home, whether it was just for a night or longer. We grew up seeing my parent’s faith outworked in the reality of everyday life. On more than one occasion I remember answered prayers for grocery money coming in the form of an envelope in the mailbox or a surprise gift of cash from a friend.
Growing up in this environment, even though times were often tough, there was no question in my mind that God was real, that he loved me and that he would provide for me.
When I was 11 years old our family moved from the regional town of Wanganui on the North Island of New Zealand, to Sydney Australia. As the middle child of seven children I was a quiet and timid little girl and the move to Australia was challenging for me. I was not academic and couldn’t wait to leave school. By the age of 15 I had finished school and had obtained work at a bridal accessory boutique. I loved working there but my greatest dream was to be married and have children.
I met Jimmy at a friend’s party. I was 18 and he was 21. We began dating and by the time I was 19 we were married. My parents had relocated back to Auckland and shortly after we married, we moved to New Zealand to live near them. The early years of our marriage were good. By the time we had been married for five years we were the proud parents of two beautiful children, Shayla and Ben, and I had the life I had always dreamed of. After a few years in New Zealand, Jimmy and I decided to go back to Australia for a two-year working holiday to try and make some extra money. We enjoyed our time in Australia and when we returned back to our home in New Zealand we found it hard to settle down. Within a matter of weeks, we made the decision to leave my family and New Zealand and move back to Sydney permanently.
It was when we returned to Australia that cracks began to form in our relationship. Life in Sydney was expensive and lonely. We were both working long hours and doing our best to raise our two children but we were exhausted. As the pressure mounted, we were ill equipped to deal with it. We were two broken people who didn’t know how to love each other well and our home had become a toxic battleground.
I still believed in the God of my youth but he was no longer a part of my everyday life.
After months of struggling I decided that I couldn’t handle life like this anymore. I left Jimmy. I packed up my things and took the children and we moved in with a man that I knew from work. That was a big mistake. Within a few months I had left him and was living in temporary accommodation. I was 28 years old, divorced, with two small children and my life was a mess. I was not quite sure how I had got there but I was definitely not living the life I had planned for myself. It was a phone call from my sister that led me to meet the man who would become my second husband, Kym.
My sister rang me up and said, ‘Come over to my house, there’s a tall, dark and handsome man you need to meet.’ She was right. Kym was all of those things and more. We hit it off immediately and began dating. He was gentle and loving and adored my children. He had had a difficult family life as a child and embraced my extended family as his own. We were devoted to each other and when I discovered I was pregnant we decided to get married. Our daughter Chloe was born in 1984 and two years later we welcomed another baby, Brent, into our family. Life was good. Kym and I had a house with room for all of the children and Kym owned a car carrying truck that he drove to support our family. Jimmy and I had an amicable and healthy relationship and the older children saw their dad regularly. I felt like I finally had room to breathe.
But in 1990 everything began to unravel. Housing interest rates had begun to climb at an alarming rate and the bills began to mount up faster than we could deal with them. What I did not realise was that prior to our marriage Kym had also accumulated a significant amount of debt that remained unpaid. In attempt to deal with the debt Kym had been gambling. I knew he enjoyed gambling on horse races, what I didn’t know was that he had accumulated so much debt that we had no choice but to sell our home. I used to dread answering the phone or opening the mail. Whenever I heard someone say my name I expected bad news.
Within a matter of months our family of six was homeless.
My family generously supported us by providing rent free accommodation as we desperately tried to pay back all of the money that we owed. It was a long, hard road that seemed endless at times. Our marriage was stretched to breaking point, trust was destroyed and I felt hurt, betrayed and overwhelmed. Things hit rock bottom when our family of six were living in the oversized laundry room at the back of my sister’s garage. One morning Kym got up early to have a wash and a shave outside, as we had no bathroom in the garage, and he broke down. He was struck by the devastating consequences that his choices were having on the people that he loved the most in the world. He had been working hard to put things right but now he knew he had to get help. He began the painful process of working through how and why we had got here so our family would never be in this position again.
Through the darkest time in our life we had not been going to church with any regularity. I knew that I needed God and so I swallowed my pride and went back. I cried through the whole service. I was weighed down with guilt, shame and grief. At the end of the service I spoke with one of the pastors and I will never forget what she said to me, “Lu, God has already forgiven you, it’s time that you forgive yourself.” I knew she was right. I knew that I needed to break the cycle of hopelessness and not stay a victim of my circumstances.
Over the next few years I went through a journey of healing that included Bible College studies, training to become a counsellor and tears; lots of tears. Looking back, I realise that I had years of hurt, disappointment and grief that had never been dealt with. Every day as I read my Bible and worshipped, I cried. At first, they were tears of grief but over time they became tears of gratitude.
Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
This verse reminded me that although I felt like a broken vessel smashed into tiny pieces, God was restoring those broken pieces into their rightful place.
It never ceases to amaze me how he transformed someone who was broken, timid and shy, into a strong, brave woman of faith.
A significant turning point for me was when I read Joyce Meyer’s book ‘Me and My Big Mouth.’ This book reminded me of the power of the words that I was speaking over my life, my family and my marriage. I made the decision that I would only speak life, hope and faith in our home. I covered the walls of our home, including the bathroom and the back of the toilet door, with Bible verses and let them sink deep into my heart. Those words became the bricks with which we rebuilt our family.
“Be still, and know that I am God!”
“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,”
The restoration of my marriage was a journey of forgiveness, faithfulness and grace. Kym and I had to learn to communicate honestly and with humility. When I was trapped in bitterness and unforgiveness it was difficult to see anything positive in our relationship. The more God transformed my heart and mind the easier it became for me to see the beautiful qualities that my husband had.
I am so glad that I did not walk away when things got tough.
Eventually we paid out our debts and were able to secure a mortgage for a new house. It was small and not in the greatest location but it was ours. Kym and I have now been married for 34 years and are so proud of the family that we have created. All four of the children are married and we have 10 incredible grandchildren whom we adore. It has not been an easy life but I am incredibly grateful. I have learned that even when it feels like you have lost everything that it does not have to be the end. God is faithful, his word is true and his grace is for everyone.
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.