All Things Weak – Part 3: Michele & Mustard Seeds

Has it been a week already since I last wrote?  “Holy blog-day Batman!”

(Sorry…I’m a child of the comic-classic 60’s …forgive me…don’t know what just came over me).

Holy Blog-Day Batman!

Ok, in all seriousness…

In my post last week, I told you that I would be introducing you to my friend Michele.  So let me begin by providing a short back drop before she shares her story.

Michele and I were inseparable friends from the time we were in 7th grade; (we are now in our VERY early 50’s. Ouch! It hurts to say that).

Our inseparable relationship ended our sophomore year when I decided to attend a different high school. There was a brief period of time that we reconnected in the early 80’s but it was short-lived.  It was only recently (at the beginning of this past October) that our lives were reunited and our hearts were bonded together for eternity (thank you Facebook).  I cannot even begin to put into words the excitement I felt when I got the message to “accept” my long-lost friend’s invitation to be her “friend” once again.

Her story is nothing short of miraculous, and if you don’t mind, I would like to pray before you read it:

Father – I thank you that nothing (NOT-ONE-THING) can separated us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  You have proven this truth once again through the life of my sweet friend Michele.   I want to ask you, my Father, to take these words where they need to go.  May your spirit reach the inmost place of the person reading it and be passed along to others in need of hearing her account of how YOU have restored her from the inside out.  

Jesus, Thank you that you exchange our despair for hope; our brokenness for true humility; our sin for your forgiveness.  And Thank you for this daughter of yours who has willingly and eagerly shared her story with these dear friends of mine.  Bless her God – and use her life for your purposes.  In your Son’s name, Amen!

Take it away Michele….

Looking back I was never sure how it all my life became so dismal, so incredibly sad and empty. I know everyone has a story to tell, mine just never seemed to be worth repeating.

I was raised in a loving home, two parents, 4 sisters, 2 brothers. I thought it was all normal but always had a nagging feeling that I was far from “normal.”  In Junior High I met Betsy Duncan (now Stretar), we were “thick as thieves” my mother always said, where one was…the other wasn’t far behind!  I spent the night at Betsy’s many a time and on Sunday’s I went to church with her family to Calvary Reformed Church on W.65th St in Cleveland.  After church I would ask her mom countless questions about religion, the Bible, Jesus, and my questions were always answered.

I couldn’t ask my own parents as religion was never instilled in my siblings and I.  None-the-less I always had Betsy’s mom to answer my questions; she even bought me my first Bible, “The Way.”

Mrs. Duncan told me to start by reading John in the New Testament, and the story that I didn’t know at the time (13 years old) that would one day forever change my life was the story she told me about a “mustard seed.”

Ok… I was lost; a mustard seed?

I thought it was a condiment in liquid form for your hot dogs!

“Well, how about I show you a mustard seed”, Mrs Duncan asked!  And she did.

It was so tiny!

“How will that change my life I asked?  

“It’s right there in your Bible,” she replied… “Matthew 13:31-32.”  “I got it Mrs Duncan!  A mustard seed is tiny, but grows to be a huge tree and feeds a lot of people!”  She said I was off to a good start and just needed to picture the seed like faith…

…when sown, grows beyond belief!

As I said earlier I didn’t know then that some 37 years later that conversation with Mrs. Duncan would return to me while I was on my knees begging for God’s salvation!

But, shortly after that conversation, I found myself to be 15 and pregnant.  My older sister felt it best for my parents not to know I was pregnant and took me for an abortion. I forgot about the mustard seed and instead planted so deeply a seed of despair!   Forever pushing it further and further down. Never telling a soul what I had done, until now, that is.

Only my sister, Betsy, me and God knew.

The guilt was horrific and I quickly learned that drinking made it all go away after all how could God forgive me?  In my eyes I murdered a child!  I married at 17 and went on to have 3 beautiful children but I never forgot about my abortion.  I just continued to “drink the pain away”!

16 years later my marriage failed and I found myself having to raise my children on my own.  I had never worked and ended up losing my home;  I had to act quick.   I got an apartment and was hired there as a leasing consultant. I became successful in property management, specializing in fair housing.  I had it all; money, beautiful homes, fancy cars, oh and a whole lot of pain in the neck!  No really… stabbing physical pain in my neck!

Drs. said it was a muscle and the ever-increasing pain was followed by years of pain pills.   When one pill stopped working, I was quickly prescribed something stronger.  This went on for 5 years.

I rented an apartment to a Dr. from Metro hospital who suggested I ask my Dr. to do an MRI, and so I did.  “The results are in…Michele, we need to get you to a neurosurgeon quickly, your cervical spine is “obliterated!”

WOW! not something you want a Dr to say to you!

“But till you get into see are some stronger pain pills!”

Long story short, my neurosurgeon said to me, “it isn’t your spine that has me worried, it is your brain; you have a congenital brain disorder called Chiari malformation of the brain, which means the tonsils of your brain, since utero, have been wedged in your spinal column, cutting off the flow of spinal fluid.

It doesn’t look good.  First we need to do surgery and take part of your hip bone to re-build your cervical spine.  We’ll then need to wait 2 years before we do brain surgery to remove the tonsils from the spinal column.  And since this is congenital, and has not been diagnosed for 41 years, it might not work, but don’t worry, we’ll keep you comfortable!”  Which meant…

“Don’t worry, we’ll increase your pain meds!”

Well, the surgery didn’t work, but they did increase the pain meds.

I became a full-blown alcoholic and addicted to opiates!

I thought God was punishing me for the abortion, the divorce, the alcoholism, the drug addiction..etc!  “What next?” (never ask that!)

My ‘What Next’ moment came when my 16-year-old daughter came to me and said,

“Mom, I’m pregnant!”  

I swore I would not force her to go through the anguish and guilt I felt for having an abortion, and told her I would stand behind her in what ever her decision was and that I didn’t think she could bear the pain of an abortion!

9 months later my beautiful grandson was born!

I should’ve rejoiced, but I was sad and so very sick.

I was pounding down enough liquor and opiates to kill a full-grown man!

This went on for 7 years and I began to alienate myself from every one I love!

I just want to die!

But it was about to get a lot worse!

I then found out my beautiful daughter, mother to my 2 grandsons, was a heroin addict! At this point I was certain I wanted to die.  I was watching my child waste away and die every day.  I saw the sadness in my grandson’s eyes.

I can’t save her… I can’t even save myself!

I went to 2 houses of the drug dealers who were supplying her with heroin and I walked in their houses – handed them a picture of my grandson’s and told them that someday God would punish them for every tear my child and my grandchildren cry because of them!

I went home and told my daughter that I couldn’t watch her die that if she didn’t go into the hospital I would get an emergency court order and take her children!  She charged me and we fought, physically fought.  And I will never forget her words…she said,

“is this coming from my mother the alcoholic, pill popper!?”

There it was, in my face.

No one ever dared to say that to me; and it was the truth!

She got help; I didn’t.

Then she relapsed, and she hit bottom hard!

She was due to be the matron of honor in my nieces wedding and the hospital wouldn’t have a bed for her until the day after the wedding!  She was kept medicated for the wedding and…

…this became the day my life would be changed forever!

I sat in that church sobbing.  I was inconsolable!

I sat in the front row looking up at a massive crucifix. praying that God would save my child and take me!  I begged Him!  I looked at Jesus on that cross and my heart screamed for mercy!

My daughter was hospitalized the following morning 2 years ago this past September, the Lord heard my prayers!  And now, it was time for “the trade” – my life for hers, as I promised Him!  That was NEVER His plan!

One year after that, I laid in my bed, I was so tired.  I was living alone;  just me and my faithful dog.

I wanted to die!  

That night I went to sleep, but before I did, I said out loud…

“hell would be better than this life.”

In my dream, (VERY real and vivid), I saw the face of Satan (until this point I had never believed in him).  It was so real.  He had a long pointy face, a serpent tongue, and eyes of utter despair.

I was terrified and I couldn’t wake up!

I remember crying out “Jesus, help me!”

And then….I heard a voice saying

“he will not harm a hair on your head, I will not leave you!”  

I awoke to my dog howling in the other room, hair raised on her back, teeth barred! At that moment, I got out of my bed and onto my knees!

I prayed for forgiveness and forgiveness and I got much much more!  

The Lord saved me that night, October 18, 2010.  I have not touched a drop of alcohol or a pain pill since!  I have surrendered my heart and soul to Him!

I was very ill from DT’s and withdrawal and I sought medical treatment as it is dangerous to go “cold turkey” considering the extent I was using.  I had some heart arrhythmia from the withdrawal, but as I told the Dr. that day,

“I forgot I had a heartbeat…

I believe what your hearing is my heart coming back to life!”

I now believe that in my heart was that little seed that Mrs Duncan planted so long ago!

It is that little seed of faith growing stronger every day!

I hear over and over the passage, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”, “Be still and know that I am God!”, “He will give you beauty for ashes”, and so many more!

My adult son was an agnostic, he now believes and reads the Bible!  And my bitter, angry sister (who took me to have an abortion) just moved back to Ohio and is asking questions. This past week I gave her the new Bible I just bought. I can see God at work and it is so exciting!  I so desperately want them to know my Jesus!

The Lord has profoundly touched not just me, but many around me!  

I will never forget “the mustard seed.”  I try each day to do that for someone, as Mrs Duncan did for me!

On a last note,as for those two drug dealers I told you about..both died within a month of each other a few months ago..very sudden, brain aneurysms.

That could have been my daughter.

That could have been me…

…except for the grace of God that came to me that dark night.  Jesus met me where I was in my desperate place of weakness.  I am forever changed.  I am Forgiven.  I am whole.  I cannot begin to put into words the love and joy I have in my heart!

I am alive!

My faith in Christ is growing everyday.  And that seed that was planted so many years ago, really is “growing to be a huge tree that feeds a lot of people!” Or something like that….

How grateful I am that…”The Lord heard my cries!”

Romans 12:19-21

Michele and I have not yet reconnected face to face, but we hope to soon!  I can’t wait!

Until next time…keep boasting in your weakness!  It allows God to get ALL of praise!


My writing corner today.

One thought on “All Things Weak – Part 3: Michele & Mustard Seeds

  1. Michele Hildebrand says:

    Thank you Betsy for sharing my story! As I told you earlier, part of the reason I didn’t seek help had a lot to do with shame! I was guilty of stereo-typing, I thought drug addicts lived under bridges, had no job, etc. etc.! When I sought treatment I was shocked at who I met with addictions! The soccer moms, the nurses, grandmothers, every walk of life! They say that for every person you encounter in 1 day, 3 in 10 of those people suffer from addiction! And 1 child in 3 born to a family with addiction, will be an addict! The #1 drug being prescription pain meds or alcohol!! I am mostly approached by mothers of teens asking me the warning signs of drug abuse, what would I have done differently with my daughter..I CAN NOT stress enough..know their friends!!! Know their friends friends..parents of their friends..the fact that my ex-husband did NOT participate in my children’s life what so ever had a HUGE impact on my daughter! Be okay with being told your “mean”, “Susie and Joey’s mom let’s them”, and all of the other things a teen will tell you to guilt you! Make religion a priority in your home, I did as my parents did, and thought it was “okay” to let them choose! Be a “Mrs Duncan” to a teen! You may save their life someday! Heroin and opiates are HUGE in Jr. high and high school! My daughter told me she started taking “pills” in jr. high that her friends mom gave her for cramps!! No, my daughter did not roam the streets, but I was a single mom working full time and I regret not keeping her under a “microscope” per say! I over compensated for her not having a dad in the home! If you or someone you know (for any one reading this) is struggling with addiction..please know..there is no shame in this, there is hope..there is life! Drug/alcohol dependency does NOT discriminate! A drug dealer does NOT care about you or your loved ones! And just because a Dr prescribes it..does NOT mean it’s okay! My Dr was “called to the carpet” by the DEA, they showed up at his office and he ran out the back door literally! Carl Monday did a story on him! come to find out this was the 3rd time he was busted for over prescribing narcotics AND using drugs himself!! He is now in federal prison with no chance of getting his license back!!! Finally, I must recognize A.A., I always thought it to be a sham!! Not so! It works! And is based on the fundamentals of turning your life over to God! And, with God all things are possible!
    Finally, thank you Mrs Duncan for taking the time so very long ago to plant that “little seed” in the heart of a teen! It took me a long time to nurture my “seed” but I think had I not had the blessing of your faith and wisdom I would not be here today! God Bess you and yours in all you do!



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