Tuesday, September 22, 2009

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What follows accompanied my 2008 Application to Multnomah University, a fantastic Bible University that happens to be here in the Portland area. I was accepted to the program but due to circumstances beyond my control (hmmm God incidence?) I was unable to continue in the program. This gives a view into my life that I know and will delve into more in the near future.

Personal Statement to supplement my Application

I grew up in a Catholic church. On Sundays I attended Mass and also participated in youth group and choir, yet I didn’t know there was more to Christianity than that. It was something “I did” just as I “did” other things.

It wasn’t until I joined my present Church back in 2000 that the honest realization of Christ being in my daily life all along happened. I grew up in a very dysfunctional family with alcohol abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, lies, deceit, divorce…you name it, I’ve been through some form of it. I was moved from NY to AZ in 1982 (two moves during my SR year of HS) and again in 1986 to Oregon, with no logical explanation from my parents, other than threats.

As I grew, random people came into my life that had major impact on how I am how. What they did wasn’t anything huge, but they were connections that would forever change the course of my life. I look back on my life and can now realize that the Lord put those “random” people right where I needed them unbeknownst to me.

In 1990 I met and married my first husband. He turned out to be a con-man and an alcoholic who feigned ‘recovery’. He was not drinking, but had all the signs of an active drinker still. He was a “dry-drunk”. I divorced him and met my future 2nd husband. Mark and I went through some very difficult times. He was an active alcoholic and compulsive gambler however he asked for help in 1996 and our lives changed forever.

I had been in counseling for years, the 12 steps of Al-Anon made so much sense to me, and my world began to open. In 1997 Mark and I were married, in 1998 our son was born and in 2000 we found our Church home at Our Saviors Lutheran Church in Lake Oswego. I began to look back on my life and recognize that while I thought I was alone, experiencing all the hardships I had endured, the Lord was right beside me the entire time. He placed that “random” Red Cross volunteer at my camp, the one that recognized my last name and asked if I was Jim’s daughter, this stranger knew my birth father that I hadn’t seen in years. The Lord brought Melissa from 30 minutes away weekly to attend my youth group, we didn’t understand why someone would drive 30 min to go to a group where she knew no one, but she did and we became best friends. When I called her to tell her about this “random red cross guy” she hung up and told her mom. A few minutes later my phone rang at home and it was Melissa’s mother, seems she was my fathers Counselor and until THAT moment, never connected us being related because she worked an hour away in NY City. Looking back it became very clear that the Lord had been in control and in my life through it all.

In 2006, my life would change forever and I would question everything I had come to believe. Mark had been called into Ministry and took over the HS Youth Program at OSLC in 2003, we suddenly had over 100 HS youth calling us mom and dad, it was wonderful and although he was the head of the ministry, WE worked together as a team. While completing his Certificate of Youth Ministry through Wartburg Seminary, he heard of the tremendous need for hurricane relief assistance in New Orleans. He could NOT get it out of his head. He prayed, I prayed, and together we felt that the High School program needed to be there. This is a group that has a 30 year history of traveling the week after school gets out to sing and serve. The next 9 months were met with resistance, brick walls that he constantly chipped away at, the reality that if a problem arose while there, he would lose his job and throughout that, he kept prayerful and positive. This trip was driven by the Lord and he was going to see it through. On June 16th, Mark flew out of PDX with a group of 70 youth and adults to spend a week ministering to those devastated by Hurricane Katrina. I stayed home with our son and waited for the daily check in phone calls that were usually quick because communications were still spotty. He was tired, exhilarated and over the top amazed at how the Lord was working in the lives of all involved. On Wed June 21st my day started with a phone call informing me that Mark had collapsed and CPR was being performed. I listened as people reacted, I heard the paramedics arrive, I spoke with those involved in the resuscitation attempt and while I knew they were doing their best, I knew in my heart that my husband and life partner, my son’s daddy, was gone. 45 minutes later the official call came and at that time, I started to question everything.

We knew that he had a family history of heart attacks in their late 40’s, we thought we had 7 more years together minimally. He had seen his doctor 2 weeks prior and was given a clean bill of health. We had done everything the right way, we had a great family, he was doing the work of the Lord, we took a 50% income cut for this job, the list went on and on. WHY???

And then the rush died down, and I got quiet and listened. The amazing thing, others heard the same thing I heard, “Mark did his time. He accomplished what I wanted Him to do. His work on earth is done and he needs to come Home”. If Mark had died two weeks prior to the trip, even 2 days into the trip, it would have been cancelled. At the point he died, the kids were 3 days away from flying home, they felt it was their duty to continue the trip in honor of Mark because He felt their being called to New Orleans and so they continued.

The past 26+ months have been difficult at times, and yet they’ve been so easy at others. I have been a stay at home mom for most of my son’s life. I worked for a 6 month stint before Mark died, but when they changed my shift to include working on Sundays and I spent Easter Sunday working, I gave my notice and quit. Family and my relationship with Christ and our calling to the Ministry was much more important than that job and I never looked back on it. Our son had an extremely difficult time after Marks death. He already had ADHD and developed a severe Anxiety Disorder that centered around me “leaving and not coming back”, rather logical considering the circumstances. He knows that I will not leave him without a reason, he knows where I will be and why. He knows and trusts that I leave him with safe people. He knows that Daddy and God are looking over him and protecting him. He also knows that when it’s our time to go, that the Lord will take us. We can’t question why or how, only He knows those things. Yet logically he didn’t want me going anywhere but to school and home and so that’s what I did for 26 months. Living on what little Social Security Survivor benefits we receive has been difficult. I exhausted every financial option I could find, and have just pulled my house out of foreclosure. It’s amazing that Credit Companies don’t recognize Gods Will as a reason for not making a payment, but I digress.

The Lord has put some amazing people in my life, friends that have been there to give me breaks when I desperately needed them, a neighbor that dropped off bags upon bags of food and even loaned me their car for a week when mine was in the shop for repairs. Marks Aunt paid my bills for several months, Marks best friend rented a room from me rather than in an Apartment complex to help pay my mortgage. Most recently Tim was brought into my life, we met online over a year ago and met in person last Halloween. He proposed in January, has moved down here from Washington, and has accepted me, lock, stock and baggage. David loves him and my friends and parents really like him. He has helped me through so much and is thrilled to support me on my new path. There are many things that we’ve learned about our individual walks with the Lord that are similar, I won’t get into them here, but it’s another sign to us that God has a plan and we are to be together. This summer while working at Vacation Bible School I had many people come up to me and ask when I was going to get more involved in Ministry. I’ve struggled with where “I fit” into our Church since Marks passing, have talked with many about that struggle, but never had a clear cut answer. When I saw the information about this program, I knew it was right. I shared it with those that are around me and we all agreed that this IS my new call. I know that I want to be working with Youth and their families. I have been through many struggles with many families and even now, am surrounded by some pretty difficult situations.

My son is thrilled that Mommy is going back to school as is Tim and my friends and family. I finally feel that THIS is right and that it is Christ driven. I have thoughts and ideas of what I want to do, I am starting to write them down, I have a feeling that I am going to be called to a different Church and will be doing something completely different in the near future, but I no idea what that is. What keeps me grounded is that I know that God is in control and as long as I keep Him as the focus of my energies, I will be led to places and people to do His work.

I know this was long, but it’s the only way I can express my experience and what I see for my future. I hope it answers all the questions you may have for me, if it doesn’t, please ask. It has been suggested that I write a book of my life experiences, to share with others the Hope that a life with the Lord can bring. I have much written already but need to pull it together, perhaps that will come easier as I work through this Degree Completion program.

Thanks for your consideration.

With His love and guidance, I respectfully submit this for your consideration.

Marissa Phillips