“I AM UP IN THE ATTIC, JOYCE”
The first dedication is to my Husband, Herman “Jim Kent” Grubbs. He has spent a lot of time in “The Attic,” since marrying me in 1962, and there-by served as an inspiration for this article.
The second dedication is the wives of pastors who serve as inspirations and practical examples of what it takes to keep their husbands out of the attic.
To my daughters, granddaughters, in-laws and out-laws, in hopes their husbands will never live out a day in The Attic.
In the 1970’s I was part of the Christian Women’s Talk Circuit in Iowa and enjoyed many trips around the state sharing my testimony and telling the stories of experiences in my years of being a Christian; both successful and un-successful. Looking back now, from the perspective of the intervening years until today in 2017, I am astonished at the path my journey led me, but ever grateful I still have time, at age 74, to share these events and thoughts with you.
It is a timely opportunity, as from this vantage point, I am now a great-grandmother and life has hit me with many zingers, and slapped me around with life-events and choices. But the discovery of this long-ago intended booklet, found in the bottom of one of my innumerable plastic bins of “stuff” I saved to go through “someday,” caused a moment or reverent pause. I considered that this was written in the 1970’s, some 47 years ago but never finished. Oh my, what a come-uppance I got just reading it again. . I felt it was as though I wrote myself a message for the future to learn from, and possibly to humble me, realizing the roller coaster my faith has been on between times.
It is my desire to reveal not only some truths, but some guidance, and I believe it has some added appeal because even back then, I had a wicked sense of humor.
ABOUT THAT ATTIC THING
YIKES, I FOUND THE SCRIPTURE MEANT JUST FOR ME; FROM GOD
Proverbs 21.9 It is better to live in the corner of an attic than with a crabby woman in a lovely home. (Living Bible Paraphrase)
The scripture you have just read, once devastated my life when I read it. I had always known that I would find “my verse” somewhere if I just kept looking. Sure enough I did. Surely God must have intended that verse just for me! At least I thought so at the time I discovered it!
I shared it with my husband and he was quick to grab hold and put it to good use. It would only take a short statement like, “I’m on my way upstairs, Joyce.” to let me know I was treading on thin ice about something (we have a one story house.) What better signal in public to keep us both from being embarrassed? The only thing that might give us away would be his ear to ear grin, and my red face.
I have learned you can send your husband (intended or not) to the attic for a variety of reasons, and a dozen different ways. In fact, I have found he often has company by way of the children joining him, and maybe even some of our friends who happen by on one of my “NO COMMENT” days.
These revelations are a sharing experience and I would like to tell you about them as one might reveal to a friend over a cup of coffee. Some things which I have learned to put in practice. The end-game being to help you put into practice, as I have, the secrets I have learned to keep my attic empty and dusty (most of the time.)
It has been my privilege to hear the Word preached by some of the most dynamic pastors living today I give thanks for that to an active program of guest pastoral speakers at our churches. Some of them are famous, others only a few may have heard. I am blessed therefore, with a good foundation of Biblical teachings and memorable illustrations from life, to help me live a victorious, joyful, and fulfilling Christian life. If any of the anecdotes sound familiar, they might have made their way around the “church circuits” a few time. (You didn’t think all those pastors give only original stories to teach from the pulpit, did you?)
I am certain that if I had a ready guide where I could just turn to a page marked “Black day, –follow Plan A” it would have been beneficial. That is what I hope you will find in the pages of I’m UP In The Attic, Joyce”. A quick guide to memorable little stories and solutions that can meet many occasions of need and keep us from becoming “Crabby Christians.”
HOMES HAVE ATTICS
CHURCHES HAVE ATTICS
FRIENDS HAVE ATTICS
WHEN I AM TOO BIG FOR MY BRITCHES; PEANUTS FOR ME
As a little girl I was big on reading biographies. I remember the first autobiography I read was about Gorge Washington Carver. It had been written with my third grade level in mind, and yet there was something in my childhood that always recalled that particular person as very special and to this day. Now I am age 74, and he still is.
In the 1970’s I heard a new story about this special man. It touched and enriched my adult life as his simplified book had marked my childhood. It was the simple telling of one of his prayers.
“Oh Great Creator” he prayed, “Teach me about the Universe”.
The answer came back from the God, “Come now George, you’re far too simple to understand my complex universe.”
“Then Lord, please teach me about the world.”
To that, God chuckled and replied, “George, you’re still too big for your britches!”
George meditated on these things and then, in totally sincere prayer said, “Then Dear God, teach me about something my own size; the Peanut”
AND GOD DID. Never before or since has God opened up the abundance of knowledge about the peanut as he did for George Washington Carver.
You see, often we expect, demand, and try to wheedle things from God that far exceed our abilities and God in His patience waits for us to hear His loving chuckles, and get down to praying for opportunities and blessings that are “just our size.”
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Carver was a frail, sickly child, kidnapped and sold with his mother into the Deep South. Unable to do field work, he worked in the household. As a child he was known as a “plant doctor” and became famous in his adult life for over 300 patents for items made with peanuts.
NO NEVER ALONE
How many times have I heard elderly patients, teenagers, parents, kids, rich people, poor people, majority groups, minority groups, lost people, saved people, back-slidden people, and hip, cool, and full of bull people, all come together in their one common denominator, “Aloneness” Being lonely, plain and simple.
No matter how reserved, polished, and all together a person may appear, there is a time of life, or an hour of the day, or night, when suddenly they are overwhelmed by the deafening silence of loneliness.
This may happen in the midst of a full stadium of people, a packed pew in a packed church, or in the middle of a king-size bed next to the one you love. It may even be at the deathbed of that one person who said they would always stand by you and be there. !
My friend, I am here to tell you that for the Christian, there is hope and inspiration in the fact that the Bible records “I will never leave you” 366 times. (Let that sink in) Get it in black and white now. Remember it in numbers and in letters. THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-SIX TIMES, the Bible records God’s promise, “I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU”. Did you get it that time? AGAIN?!!
“I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU!”
“I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU!” “I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU!”
“I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU!”
366 TIMES! ONCE FOR EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR AND AN EXTRA FOR YOUR BIRTHDAY OR ANY OTHER DAY YOU MAY NEED EXTRA FOR A “CRISIS IN YOUR YEAR!”
Not only does the Bible give us God’s Word that He will never leave us alone, it even tells us that we’ll have other company. Hebrews the 1st chapter, the 14th verse tells us that He even gives angels to minister to those who are to receive His salvation. If you are a child of God that means there is going to be a crowd (don’t we always say three is a crowd? Father, Son and Holy Ghost.)
WHEN I NOMINATE MYSELF FOR SAINTHOOD!
There are many times in our lives when we just cannot help but pat ourselves on the back for the good things we have been doing. (The fact that we have to do the patting ourselves should tell us something.) We become very pious about the religious things we do. How many church committee meetings we make, how many times we remember to prod hubby into upping the amount of donations and tithes to the church, or because we made the “best dressed list” at church this year (according to our own high opinions of ourselves.)
I have learned that this attitude can be disastrous not only in one’s family relationship but in our friendships outside the home. They have attics too, you know.)
A motto to bear in mind during these times of pitfalls, would be:
DON’T BE SO HEAVENLY MINDED, THAT YOU ARE OF NO EARTHLY GOOD!
After much contemplation on the greatest problems in my life, I narrowed it down to the following three: ——ME, MYSELF AND I.
I FOUND THAT I WAS VERY MUCH LIKE THE Devil who suffered from “I” problems.
This brings me to my favorite story about an elderly black minister in the south, who was a man of great experience and love for the Lord. When asked in sincere fashion by a seeker of his wisdom, “Pastor, how do I avoid falling into sin and know when I am being led astray? How do I know I’m walking with the Lord?”
Stooped, and yet determinedly still walking in a fashion causing the young person questioning him, to have too hurry to keep up, he said, “Well now son, I’ll tell you da’ truth. The fact of the matter is this; “If’’n you gets up in the mawnin’ and you doesn’t meet the ole’ Debil, it means you is a walkin’ WITH him.”
I have to ask, when you get up in the morning, who do you walk with? Meet? Just saying…….
WHEN POWERFUL PRAYER BECOMES PITIFUL PRAYER
It has been my sad experience to fall into many of Satan’s pitfalls and one of the deepest, most dangerous of his entrapments is the “PITIFUL PRAYER PIT”. When I have realized where I’m trapped I often used some of the following illustrations to help myself get up and out of those despairing holes. After all, as is often said, “When you are at rock bottom, the only way to look is up.”
There was a certain Great White Hunter in Africa who was really quite sold on himself. He believed all his own publicity (which actually consisted of his own fabrications about himself, and to himself.) One day as he stumbled and bumbled through the jungle pretending to be intent on a prey (when he was actually dreading the thought he might actually be confronted and have to defend himself, he tripped over a hidden root and found himself flat on his back. He also found himself looking into the eyes and mouth of the most gigantic lion ever born (or so it would seem if one is on the bottom looking up.)
Remembering his gun, he quickly reached out only to find it was lost in the fall. What to do?
He looked frantically for the native guides only to realize they had fled for their own lives leaving the hunter alone to face his prey. Being without any other recourse left to him, the hunter quickly gulped, bowed his head, and without much familiarity, prayed a frantic prayer. “Lord, please give this lion a Christian attitude.”
Hearing nothing more from the lion, the man lifted his head and to his amazement, his prayer had already been answered, in a fashion. The Lion had bowed his head and was giving thanks for the food he was about to receive…….
The moral of the story is this….Many times we as Christians begin to believe our own self-righteous image is the real us. We begin to believe we can take on the old prey, Satan, all by ourselves. When we trip and fall and suddenly are looking into those hungry eyes and we are near those dangerous teeth, perhaps even smelling the foul odor of sin, we suddenly remember God!! But not until we have exhausted every other avenue and we are sure there is no other weapon or people who will stand with us.
There comes a big shock. When we pray and we are really not specific because our prayer life is a little rusty and we’re used to just winging it, or bluffing our way through our conversation with God, we think we can just give generalizations. No praise, no thanks, no reverence, no sincerity. BUT GOD ALWAYS ANSWERS OUR PRAYERS-AND SOMETIMES IT IS WITH A LITTLE “GOD HUMOR.” (I would not lie.) Often we must pay the drastic consequences of our sins. Such was the experience of our hunter…and too often the sad experience of us, as Christians.
WHEN RATS DESERT MY SINKING SHIP
Things which are easily remembered, and easily repeated, are often brought to mind. For that reason, phrases, poems, slogans, sound-bites, and mottos, always help in times of crisis because they just “pop” into our minds. Here is a little poem that offers short, concise and sensible advice.
LOOK AT OTHERS AND BE DEPRESSED.
LOOK AT SELF, AND BE DISTRESSED.
LOOK AT CHRIST, AND BE BLEST.
Many times I have felt overwhelmed by my feelings or being shut out by people I would like to think of as my friends. It is like the “GAMES PEOPLE PLAY” because it is as though they are saying ‘Well, if you will compromise just this one principle so I (we) will feel more comfortable, we in turn will not give you the old “prude” and “fanatic” routine.”
And when I feel there is a danger of giving in to these temptations, I draw on the little phrase often heard from the pulpit of my home church.
“TOO MANY CHRISTIANS TODAY SIT ON THEIR BLESSED ASSURANCE AND NEVER FIGHT ANY SPIRITUAL BATTLES.”
Let me tell you, this is one Christian whose “blessed assurance” doesn’t need to spread any bigger from sitting, SO I FIGHT !
THERE ARE CHRISTIANS………..AND THEN, THERE ARE CHRISTIANS
Today we have too many milk–cow Christians. Those are the ones, who like the old milk-cow who is really producing and just gets her bucket full, then kicks it over. Too many Christians are really producing through their witness, then just as the “bucket” gets full and ready for use, they kick the bucket over with sin in their lives.
BILLY GOAT RELIGION:
I’ve heard so many people complain that they can never get their friends or family to come to their church to visit, and they just cannot understand why. BUT if you listen to them long enough the reason becomes apparent. You will hear things like; “I like my church but..” “I like my pastor but..” “Our deacons are alright, but..” “The preacher’s wife is okay but..” and by the time they finish butting around the things of God, you realize that Billy-Goat religion like that only serves Satan, not God.
THERE ARE THREE KINDS OF CHURCH MEMBERS:
In any church you can find three basic types of Christians;
SITTERS……..QUITTERS……..AND COMMITTERS !
- How to tell a Christian from a Hypocrite or Atheist.
- Atheist—He has reason to hope—but no hope for that reason.
- Hypocrite- He has Hope—but no hope for that hope.
- Christian—He has a reason to hope—and a hope in that reason.
A RISEN LIFE IS THE TESTIMONY OF A RISEN LORD! .
I SHALL NOT BE MOVED
Many times in our Christian walk, we must top, stand firm, and just say to the Tempter, “I shall not be moved! Nor shall I be broken. The greater the affliction that you give to me, the greater the recovery that I shall make. Any affliction you give me is only temporary, and I am eternal through my God who loves me.
Surely the Vietnam Conflict is one of the most recent major afflictions this country has fast in many years. As any country is made up of her people, so it was that America was represented by her Christian children as well. Many suffered terrible atrocities as well as death, in fulfilling their roles in the armed services.
A memorable and true happening of that time took place at the peak of the negotiations with Hanoi to let the Red Cross Act as observers to check the conditions of our POWS and to allow us to see that they were receiving adequate medical care and not being tortured. Upholding the Geneva Conference was still expected.
Just when our negotiators thought we might have brought things to a point where Hanoi was under such worldwide pressure to allow some of these demands, the rug was pulled right out from under us by the North Vietnam government. They produced an American soldier named Jerry Denton who they filmed confessing, and signing a confession of guilt for willful aggression against the Vietnamese people. It totally reversed the pressure from Hanoi to Washington.
Many people studied that film over and over to try and determine if Denton had been tortured, drugged or made to say the things against his country. The most devastating thing of all was his statement that they had not been tortured and were being cared for. This closed the door to the Red Cross being allowed into actually making contact with the prisoners and being able to check their well-being.
People who knew Jerry Denton knew that something had to be wrong as he would not have said those things freely. He loved his God and his country. No one could actually prove it was him being a “turncoat” to save himself, although they felt perhaps his speech was deliberate and maybe somewhat slurred.
Suddenly his friend was wide awake and was sitting up in bed! The lights! Everyone had assumed that Jerry kept blinking because the lights were so bright and that his speech was so deliberate because he was sick or drugged. His friend, however, now knew the secret—why Jerry Denton had “confessed” for the Viet Cong on tape. He quickly called Jerry Denton’s family and they helped make contact with the right authorities.
By early the next day, they were viewing the film in slow motion and they could see it all clearly; Jerry Denton was signaling with Morse code by blinking his eyes. There for all the world to see was the message – I HAVE BEEN TORTURED! His words had been deliberately spoken because of the phenomenal amount of concentration it had taken to say the words the Viet Cong must hear, to allow it to be taped and sent out. Yet to blink out the very important message that they were being tortured while speaking, was so difficult as to almost be a miracle.
Because Jerry Denton refused to look at his imprisonment as “insurmountable, and because he would not be broken, he rose out of his temporary affliction to make the greatest recovery, Because of his action, observers were eventually let into Hanoi, and all the prisoners who had been isolated everywhere were brought together in Hanoi and even allowed to meet for prayer and were given a Bible.
Like a tree planted by the waters, Jerry Denton would not be moved.
PERSONAL AFTER-WORD FROM THE AUTHOR
I do not choose to be flippant nor entertaining in this last entry. That is because in the 47 years since I first wrote the first draft for “I Am Up in the Attic. Joyce” I lived what I believe completed living “5 lives in one.” Literally. It wasn’t always pleasant, or pretty, or anything I would ever want others to go through, but it was my walk; my path; my time with my God. Many of those things I could not expect you to understand, nor could I justify by saying, “You don’t understand because you didn’t walk in my shoes.” As I am so fond of saying as a character in my novels, “It is what it is”.
During those years I finally came face to face with that “child” who had been sexually molested, the one that was bullied at school, hid who her family was when possible, because they were dysfunctional with alcohol or domestic violence.
It was the night at my church when a new pastor’s wife was leading a women’s group and suddenly out of the blue said, “I’m going to ask Joyce to come now and share her testimony with us.” I could not move. I could not speak. I had never told anyone my testimony, let alone “a real one.” Here in the sanctuary on our church I could not get up and lie or gloss over the real conversion story so, “what to do?” She did not yet know me so her ignorance led to what was probably, in hind sight, God’s will.
In those next moments, I gave an honest report of my conversion and the obstacles that had led me to that moment. I did not name names, I did not implicate others, I simply gave for the first time the information that I was sexually abused as a child. My mother, who attended the church was not in attendance which helped, I had never shared my story with her, and in fact never did. How do you tell your mother your first abuser was known to her, a member of her family and a minister?
From that first sharing of a very abbreviated testimony, I began to get calls and contacts to please come share my testimony or to talk with someone who was struggling with similar circumstances. The opportunities, which felt more like demands, grew until I once was the keynote speaker for a Baptist denominations weekend women’s retreat at a college where I was shocked to see more than a hundred women, and find out later my talks over 3 days were recorded, and available for sale.
The expression, “The horse is out of the gate now” came to mind, and I began to ache for the women who would come up to me after such meetings and revelations, and begin with “I have never told anyone this, but………….it happened to me.” Then the ache began to involve me in counseling so I began to take workshops, and expand my knowledge about the recovery and lack thereof victims experienced; including myself. Men and women victims women were common as my talks expanded their audience inclusions and were sometimes secular as well as faith based.
Then a defining moment happened. My sister, Trula Ann Godwin, was raped in her home after the birth of her 5th child while her husband was at work. Talk about a catalyst. My life changed as hers did. My path was no longer my own but traveled by everyone. It was becoming a journey which was leading me in definite ways and sometimes bringing me into conflict with my husband’s patience and understanding of what he had learned when my testimony was “out there”. I would later learn much of what he and I experienced was typical of a pattern of behavior and challenges victims go through after their assaults. It would become known as “Rape Trauma Syndrome” but not in time to benefit my sister nor myself at that immediate time of need. It would lap over to my marital status and challenges of a relationship built on new information. One of those situations where neither could verbalize the problem, because neither knew what the problem was, and wouldn’t for some years.
It is something of a miracle to me as I look back from this vantage point of 55 years with my husband, that we made it through some of the most difficult times. I give all the credit to that quiet voice of God that kept telling me that it “would work out” and at the same time telling my husband to “stay the course.” We both have the benefit of hindsight of 20/20 to look back with, but I must say that in all of this, my husband was the strong one while I fell apart.
My solutions were to “fix” everyone that needed fixing, I could wait for my “fix/healing”. They were the important ones, and I after all, was “disposable”. Such was my mindset, until it wasn’t. By that I mean there was no plan, no definite end game in mind. There was only putting one foot in front of the other and making everyone else’s life work. There was no fear in the risks of some of the victims I helped, even though it was dangerous, and there were no hesitations on my part to take on more and more. Putting them underground, moving them to safe housing, these were priorities.
Finally, after almost 5 years of unrelenting changes, challenges, leaps of faith and literal life changing decisions, God moved in a mighty way for a quiet reunion of the hearts and my husband and I were back on course. The course he had “stayed” while I healed by throwing myself into harm’s way time and time again. We were not the same two people who had blundered into my spiritual warfare with the bogey men of my past. He was not the same man who rigidly dealt with expectations. We were new again, and we fit like two perfectly matched warriors with scars and PTSD, hell bent on living on and finding peace. AND WE HAVE.
I share this because no one should ever think anyone’s life is “perfect or easy”. The strong often cannot share because they know that others would fall or give up who had fixed their eyes on your example. It is in that protection of others and their hopes that we often suffer in some silence to allow them to heal. But do not ever doubt that everyone goes through valleys, climbs mountains, and often fall. It is called, “life”.
My husband and I are blessed to end our life together in our 70’s and to know that we have fulfilled our most basic desires in life. We leave knowing we go with God, and knowing that our family is a large Christian family at varying stages of faith, just like we were. We enjoy knowing that their struggles though real, are surmountable and that they know God is there and waiting. The good news is that my sweet husband has not been back up in The Attic for years, and that is a good thing.
THE END IS BUT AN OPPORTUNITY TO BEGIN AGAIN
JOYCE GODWIN GRUBBS