Beauty for Ashes
By Judy Tomczak
It wasn’t without cost, doubt or questions in my mind like “should I”, “why” and “what if”, before I shared my story at the Jesus Is Enough Conference this month. At 8:00 a.m. on Saturday morning I stood at the microphone and began the story I believed that God wanted me to tell within the 45 minutes that I was allotted. I felt calm and at peace as I began to address the full room of women before me.
I started each session by introducing myself. I had not intended on using my very well-known, respected and loved-by-many in the Evangelical circles… father’s name, Rev. Lorne Shepherd, but God laid it on my heart to do so. Impressing upon me that there would be many in that crowd whose lives have been touched by his ministry. They may even have the impression that if they had a father like mine their life would have been easier.
I introduced myself as the youngest of three in a Pentecostal preacher’s family. My sister was the oldest and the “practice child”, my brother the “strong willed, middle child” and then there came me: the “spoiled, I mean favorite child”. I was a child that didn’t give my parents much grief; I tried to colour within the lines and didn’t stray far from the path and gave my heart to the Lord at a young age. My role in the family was that of informant, though my siblings called me a tattle tale and didn’t appreciate it. My parents clearly needed my help in raising my brother and sister because obviously they did not have eyes in the back of their heads and were not always aware of what they were doing. They needed my help.
I suffered very little growing up and lived a relatively normal, peaceful life and then I became an adult and I found out that I was not special. I learned that I too would have to go through hard times and heart ache just like everyone else.
I repeated my session two more times, each session the same and each session full. At the end of the day I was physically and emotionally exhausted and my friend Kerry and I made our way home.
Waiting for me at home was my husband and my beautiful little grandson whose face gave me the energy I needed to get through to his bedtime. This was his night for a sleepover and we were determined to not let him down.
I thought I would sleep forever but at 6:00 a.m. my eyes began to leak. I began to wipe my tears away with my sheets as faces of the day before passed through my mind like photographs in an album. I saw the countless moms and grandmothers who swarmed me after each session, with tears in their eyes saying “I’m going through the same thing”. I saw the young woman in her early twenties who couldn’t wait to meet me and with excitement told me she just came from detox and a lady had brought her to the conference. She held in her hands a copy of my book and asked me to sign it. I was given the opportunity to give her a hug and words of encouragement.
I saw the 18-year-old girl who thanked me and talked to me for a long while after the session ended. She was sober for 4 months and had no idea what she had put her mother through and my story helped her to understand and perhaps forgive. She told me she wanted to help other kids like her and I encouraged her to do so. I was given the opportunity to give her a huge hug, like the one I long to give my own daughter.
I saw the mom sitting in the front row of my final session who during my closing words was crying uncontrollably. As soon as the session was over I reached forward and took her hand. She looked into my face and said “I thought I was all alone in this and that nobody would understand”…she said everything I had shared is everything she is going through.
And then I saw the lady who waited until everyone else had left and then came and sat beside me on the stage. She said, “I wanted to take a moment to encourage you with regards to your grandson.” She began to tell me that she was that child. Her mom is now 82 years old and sober for only 2 years now. She grew up not wanting to have anything to do with God because of how she was raised but somehow God found her and protected her from going down the same route as her mother. You see, she has a grandmother who lives on the other side of the world and though she only saw her a handful of times in her life that grandmother prayed for her faithfully. She learned later in life that her own mother had been raised in a Christian home but for some reason lost her way and fell into addiction. She told me to not underestimate the impact that a grandmother can have on a grandchild’s life.
Today, I have no doubt, no question, that I did the right thing. “Beauty for Ashes” the Bible says. I’m thankful, I stepped out in faith believing that God would use my pain for good. Something that hadn’t occurred to me before this was that in sharing my story, I now have a great new number of women who love God the same way that I do and will now be praying for my daughter and my family.
About this Contributor:
Judy is the youngest daughter of Rev. Lorne Shepherd, founder of Heart to Heart Family Ministries. She gave her heart to Christ at a young age and suffered very few real-life struggles until she reached her adult years. Life then became a series of heartbreaking experiences from being the victim of adultery and divorce to single parenting, but nothing challenged her faith, health, and spirit more than her daughter’s battle with addictions. She has compiled that faith journey into a book, When the Light at the End of the Tunnel is Another Train, available for purchase through Amazon, Chapters/Indigo, Great Canadian Authors, and wherever fine Christian books are sold.