God@Work

In the life of Joyce Gilmore

"'For I know the plans I have for you', declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
—Jeremiah 29:11

I grew up in an evangelical Christian home in Pennsylvania and attended church regularly with my family. I accepted Christ as my Savior in my early teens. The church we attended was
very legalistic, setting a high bar for its congregants, and I was unable to discern that some of what was being taught was not Biblical. When I found out that some of the leadership within the church were not being held to the same standards, I was disappointed and turned my back on the church and, more important, on Christ. It would be many years before my faith would be rekindled.

In the early 80’s, I was an up-and-comer in banking—a single woman with an exciting career path and lots of responsibilities. I was a leader in my business community and a leader at my job. Advancements came with a lot of hard work. I was rewarded for my achievements with promotions and opportunities to lead two major business organizations.

But I never seemed to be able to “have it all.” If my work life was good, my romantic life was not. And during this time, I did not feel the need for a relationship with God. My life was fine.

After one failed marriage, I was convinced I’d never fall in love again. But then it happened. I met a man who was intelligent and had a great sense of humor. His lifestyle was not what I was used to, and there were many warning signs that I should not continue in the relationship. However, like any good “fixer,” I thought I could get him to come around.

And then we were living together, buying property together, and melding our lives. Six years led to 12, and we decided that it would be a good idea to get married. Little did I know that his lifestyle had become even more unhealthy than it had been before.

Covering up was what I did best for him, making sure he got to work, that the bills were paid, and that he was eating. My life was like a prison of broken dreams and disappointments.

A friend recommended that I go to an ALANON meeting to get help for myself. Me? I don’t have a problem; he does! But I did check out a local meeting, and for the first time in many years, I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I now understood that other people were having the same struggles, and they were finding a better way to cope instead of trying to hide it.

After attending meetings for several months, I started to hear the message of turning my life and will over to a higher power. It was at that point that I remembered that Christ was my Savior and my Higher Power! I knew that I needed to reconnect with God. How had I gone so far away from Him?

I started looking for a church where I would fit. It took me about six months of searching until my husband recommended that I look at “that church on Church Road. After all,” he said, “they are having a Super Bowl party so they can’t be all bad.”

My first Sunday at FAC, I knew I was home. I cried through the first service as I remembered how sweet it is to be in a relationship with Jesus. I also saw hundreds of couples sitting together and worshiping together. It was what I wanted, and I was sure that God would want my husband to join me. I became a regular attendee and frequently asked my husband to attend with me. He always said no. One sad day, I was shown that my marriage had been irretrievably broken. The initial warning signs had become full-blown issues that led to other issues that ultimately ruined our marriage. All of my efforts to fix him and keep our marriage going had been in vain.

So I made an appointment to meet with Pastor Marty the next day. Marty suggested that even though my prayers for having my husband attend church and find God were a great
idea, there is such a thing as free will and that God allows each of us to make our own choices.

Attempts I made to have us go to a good Christian counselor were in vain. Attempts to reconcile were also futile.

Everything that I did in my life to that point I had done for me. BUT GOD…. turned all of this self-serving around and made it work for Him.

So, as my marriage crumbled, I started on my personal recovery. I worked under the tutelage of a wonderful Christian counselor for several years, and she opened my eyes as to how I stuffed down my own feelings.

I had tried hard to fix my husband and make him into what I wanted. I came to the realization that you can’t fix anyone. I did not cause it. I could not control it. I certainly could not cure it.

Around this time, the church hired a new pastor to handle “Care and Comfort.” Pastor Ed guided me into leadership roles at FAC. I taught classes on healing, forgiveness, and boundaries—all the time working on my own recovery journey. Later, Pastor Ed approached me to lead a class of ladies who needed help in healing from co-dependency.

I took a break from teaching classes to help “fix” people and started to concentrate on fixing myself. I went to recovery groups that concentrated on the 12 Steps but also provided a wealth of information about how these steps tied into God’s Word. I was getting it! After almost two years of training and spiritual strengthening, I was ready for my next role.

Pastor Ed wanted to start a support group for families and friends of loved ones who have addiction issues. He wanted me to be a facilitator. I said no for many months but then after much prayer, realized that was what God was calling me to do.

My experiences gave me the right skill sets and, more important, the heart to show others what I had learned through my pain.

When the Serenity Support Group first started more than 12 years ago, attendees were primarily women whose spouses were alcoholics. Eventually, the dynamics of the group changed to include husbands with alcoholic wives. That led to including individuals with all types of addictions—cutting, over-eating, under-eating, anorexia, bulimia, over-spending, and gambling.

And now within the past several years, we have seen an influx of families who are impacted by the worst heroin epidemic in recent history. I had no experience dealing with drug addiction issues, but a friend, Sue, knew more about it, and she has been a great addition to the Serenity Support Group.

The group gets together once a week to share their experience, strength, and hope. We are not a counseling group, but we do provide a way for people to find solutions and resources that they might be ashamed to ask about in a less private environment.

We are an anonymous group and pass no judgment on anyone who attends. Our group continues to grow. The heroin epidemic has impacted this community and continues to take a toll. We have grandmother and grandfathers attending the group who are now the sole charge of their grandbabies. Recently one of these grandmothers buried her daughter after she died of an overdose. Our group provides a network of support and healing as well as resources for addicted loved ones.

I am happy to say that we have seen healing of some of the addicts for whom we have been praying. We have also seen healing for those in our group who are dealing with addiction first-hand.

Just as God showed me how rebuilding my life would be to His glory, he is also working with the other members of the Serenity Support Group. Many of our members are actively involved with other ministries that reach out to other hurting people.

My story is still being written by the author and finisher of my faith. Yes, I have taken some wrong steps along the way BUT GOD has intended it all
for His good use.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

You are invited to attend the Serenity Support Group [Learn More]
If you or someone you know might benefit from attending Serenity Support, join us on Tuesday nights in the Barn at 7:00. (No childcare currently)