A Farmer, His Wife, Our Yucky Past, and How God Took Us Anyway

March 18, 2013 | 28 comments

It takes a lot to pry a farmer from a barn full of pigs for a whole day. And let’s face it: It takes an honest-to-goodness miracle for a farmer to leave the barn for a whole three days.

But he does leave. Maybe it’s because the farmer is the miracle.

Yes, I suspect that is why he went away.

I do know that he left his denim Carhartts on the closet floor. And before he drove away, he had to search hard to find his suit, excavated from the back of the closet. He summoned me to the bedroom, and then he held up a tie to the shirt.

“Is this the one that matches?” he asked.

“Mm-hmmmm,” I winked. “You’re gonna look hot.”

I think he blushed. I do know that he rolled his eyes.

And then he planted a kiss on my cheek, hugged the girls, and drove away in his pickup truck. Someone else would take care of a few hundred pigs for the next three days.

That’s what a remade-man will do when he meets Jesus.

“Come,” the Savior beckons, “Follow me.”

And a disciple will drop his net — or in this case, his pigs — and leave.

farmer dressed up

He put the suit on late Saturday afternoon, and he said I could sneak in the back and listen as he spoke to a room full of men about Jesus.

I waited with him outside the room until he was called to the podium. And I told him how handsome he looked, wearing his tie, and his shiny shoes, and all of that startlingly beautiful Jesus-light.

He told me he wasn’t nervous. But he fidgeted with that single gold band around his left finger. And when he did that, I remembered the night I said “yes” to his proposal under the campanile at the university. He had hired a violinist to serenade us.

I remembered the way we thrashed about for years in search of life’s meaning.

hand of farmer

He would tell part of our story to the men in the conference-room seats: “My wife seemed to be living at the same frantic pace that I was, so we got along great.”

For us, life was more about being sensations than being servants.

Let me tell you the bold-faced truth: Our spiritual life was a mess. We rarely darkened the doorway of a church. We found faux-contentment in success and money. We sought a status, not a Savior.

And we fought. Boy, did we fight. We slammed doors. In anger, I threatened the D-word a time or two.  We said ugly words too often, and forgiving words too little.

Back then, I didn’t know if I even believed in Jesus. My husband, he did believe. But he didn’t follow. He said these words into the microphone Saturday afternoon:  “I certainly couldn’t understand why anybody would need Jesus. If the enemy can convince me that everything is about me, why would I seek God?”

I sat in the back row, dabbing tears, reawakened once again to the astonishing ways of Christ.

Yes, it’s true: People can be cured of their hollow, self-focused living. There is no outcast, no sinner, no status-chaser, no doubter, no idol-maker, no person who is out of the reach of God’s grace.

I wanted to stand up and shout Amen when my husband said it: “God wires us so that nothing in this world is going to give us true contentment except Him.”

And my man knows it. We both know it. We lived The Chase. We wanted something more. And nothing would satisfy. I don’t tell you this now as a way to prove that I’ve got the perfect man or the perfect marriage. I don’t have either.

But we do have this: We have a perfect Jesus.  

We are poor beggars at Mercy’s door, stained by our squalid pasts and our manufactured gods. We brought our Savior nothing but our mistakes. And He whispered forgiveness over us. We know He’s still doing it, because we show up at that door daily.

We have become part of the miracle. We were not beyond the reach of hope. We were not outside the scope of grace. Jesus breathed love on us, the unlovely.

So what else can a person do when he’s been rescued by relentless grace? What else can a farmer do but leave his barn full of pigs, and put on the suit jacket?

When you taste amazing grace, you don’t keep that sort of thing secret. You have to tell.

He was at the podium, when I saw the gold glint of our wedding band on his finger. It was in that moment when he pressed his fist into his palm to drive home a point. I could hear a stirring passion, a hope dripping:

“We all have a past, we have all screwed up, and we all have regrets,” he said. “But we have time left.  We.have.time.left. … None of us knows how much time we have left in these mortal lives, but we can make that time count.”

And, by the looks of the parking lot, a bunch of other farmers left their cattle-yards and pig-barns because they, too, were interested in making time count. They were incapable of staying home, on account of a God who declares us unreservedly loved.




by | March 18, 2013 | 28 comments


  1. Susan

    Loved this and his obedience to share! Awesome!

  2. debyholtschlag

    I praise God for guiding “my Curt” and I into sticking it through the days of fighting, separation – so close to the “D Word” – even when we didn’t know Him or that we were blindly following His lead. Another miracle – following when you don’t know Him, let alone not knowing you are following Him! It was around our 27th year that we both recognized how much of a team we are “In” Him – that He is “our” center. We realized that the “hard work” of staying together was behind us. That He had taken that “hard work” and made it a time for strength and enjoyment, as we now journey the rest of the way “for” and “in” Him – together. Celebrating – yes CELEBRATING!!! year 31 in a few months.

  3. tammy@meadows speak

    Oh my the tears that surprise every time I hear of redemption…

  4. ephale

    “We have a perfect Jesus….” Yes, this. It’s our story, too, and I want to shout to the world that it’s miracle, and it’s a mystery, and it’s so very, very much more fulfilling and beautiful to be re-made than it is to be self-made. Thank you for sharing this!

  5. marty

    That’s a mess of pick up trucks 🙂 Beautiful words that echo through all of our stories in one way or the other. This, “We are poor beggars at Mercy’s door, stained by our squalid pasts…” Having been through the ugliness that is divorce reminded me how I used to feel…so unlovely and discarded. But then, in His rich mercy, He gave me a Boaz and forever changed that.

  6. Brandee Shafer

    It’s true. God can redeem, and does, and will every time we truly invite Him to do so. And then He will use all that old nastiness to make us powerful for the Kingdom. I regret my mistakes and sins, but I’m not ashamed of them b/c–if I hide them–they can’t be used for good. I used to think Lydia looked just like you, but certainly! I see your husband in there. Reckon you’re the kind of married people who end up looking alike?

  7. bloggerlovestheking

    Enjoyed your blog and love that part and totally agree, “We all have a past, we have all screwed up, and we all have regrets,” he said. “But we have time left. We.have.time.left. … None of us knows how much time we have left in these mortal lives, but we can make that time count.” Making them count is what I want to do, touching lives, touching women all over the world. Thanks for sharing. Debbie

  8. Karen

    I admire your marriage. As a divorced woman I am looking for advice (from a saved successfully married woman) on dating when so many aren’t saved/ living a holy life~ how does one narrow down without eliminating someone God could use mightliy through a solid marriage (not that marriage could solve all). Any suggestiones?

  9. lschontos

    That’s the amazing miracle of grace. For me it was chasing the happiness I somehow thought was my entitlement.
    He’s a keeper, that wonderful farmer.

  10. Kimberly

    God is so good, so very good.

  11. Deidra Riggs

    All those pickup trucks. Wow. Ten years ago, that wouldn’t have meant much to me at all. Funny how time changes things.

  12. Kim Blauwet

    “God wires us so that nothing in this world is going to give us true contentment except Him.” So love this comment!! Why, oh why, do we try so hard to find contentment in things of this world that pass away so quickly….and keep us so busy we neglect the only relationship that really matters???? Thank you for the reminder and thank you Lord for our wiring!!

  13. Abby

    Beautifully done Jennifer – the row of pickup trucks says a lot. Your husband said “YES” to God and his message I’m sure worked in the hearts of those who heard. I’ve heard said before – “don’t tell me what Jesus can do for me, tell me what He’s done for you”. Sharing our stories about what God has done for us, sharing bits and pieces where we can. Thank you for your ministry here. You are a blessing.

  14. Jody Lee Collins

    Man, this made me cry. Thank you for your honesty in sharing, Jennifer. When the darkness hits the light it has to flee. Thank you for talking about dark things to bring them into God’s light so that others can see.

  15. Angie Vik

    I always love to hear stories of how God has worked in people’s lives. So thankful that God can redeem our mistakes.

  16. Daniel Farrow

    Jennifer. I hope you won’t mind if I steal some of this to share with the rest of my Facebook friends. This is such a blessing! 😀

  17. Laura Rath

    Jennifer, what an encouraging and hopeful story! Thank you for sharing it, and for starting #TellHisStory. 🙂

  18. Jillie

    Jennifer…Thank you for your honesty. Marriage can be just plain hard work sometimes. My husband and I decided, before marriage, that we would never utter the ‘D’ word, and we never have. Thought it, maybe, but never uttered it. I always think of a statement Ruth Bell Graham once made, when she was asked if she’d ever considered divorce from Billy? She said, “Divorce…No. Murder…Yes!.”
    When I met my husband, way back in 1976, he was a bona fide “under-cover-agent” for the Lord. He knew Christ, but he sure wasn’t telling anyone else! Including me. It was his family who witnessed and ministered to this wretched, lost girl. His brother who led me to the Lord. And God used that to bring my David back to Him. Without Christ, we surely would have parted ways a long time ago! Yes, we both have regrets and a messy past, “But God” has redeemed it all. He has blessed our life together, especially in that we have raised 2 children who know Christ. That’s a miracle in itself! David is still pretty-much a “secret agent”, but I know what lies within his golden heart.

  19. David @ Red Letter Believers

    While i loved the story of redemption, of a male who isn’t afraid to speak of weakness, and a woman who cares deeply for her man, i most loved the picture of the lineup of pickup trucks.

  20. Pamela

    That perfect Jesus covers a lot of imperfection. What changes He makes there. I’m living the change–my professor who has to dig for carharts. Love how we can all knock at the door of grace.

  21. Megan Willome (@meganwillome)

    Hope I get to meet your Scott some day.

    And I love that photo, with all the pickup trucks. That’s what it looks like around here, too–at church, at HEB, at school, everywhere.

  22. Simply Darlene

    for some reason, this makes me think of the movie “Faith Like Potatoes” – have you seen it?
    (minus the kilt, of course)


  23. Dolly@Soulstops

    Wow…cheering with you, and praising God with you…funny, Darlene, mentioned that movie…now that she did, maybe, yes..xo, Jennifer 🙂

  24. Alicia

    Oh, I love the way Jesus chases us down even when we’re not chasing Him. And that man of yours? Love his heart! So fun to get a glimpse of your story here.

  25. Dawn

    So encouraging Jennifer. I love the way you share life with us,all wrapped up in the love Jesus has lead you to spill. Your words met my heart in a myriad of ways…but I am praying this gift also leads those who were listening that day and reading how to grasp the preciousness of time with God. The time we have left with God is worth chasing and pursuing and being pursued by Him.
    And I have been praying for you friend. Not sure why I felt you needed to know that but you have been on my heart a lot. May you feel His strong grip of grace hold you close.

    Love this!

  26. Jolene Underwood

    Enjoying this with smiles and tears. Thank you for sharing this story with us. I’m touched with a deeper glimpse of hope and beauty.


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