My Life Story – Slightly Abridged
My husband often teases me with this observation: “You ask so many questions.” Then he may follow up with the question, “Do you really need all the details?” It causes me to pause and think; and the answer I always arrive at is “Yes. I do need all the details.”
Sometimes to discover the “why”, we need to be familiar with more of the “what”. Often the “why” of an action a person takes has a lot to do with the “whats” of his or her life. The “whats” lays the foundation for the “why”.
Let me share with you some of the “what” of my background. It may help you to follow my choice of post-topics, or how I got to my belief system – the substance of my faith journey with God.
I was raised in a family of seven children (five brothers and one sister); I was number four child – my sister, two brothers, me, followed by three more brothers. We lived in a rural route area of VA in a town called Franconia, which is now a bedroom town for people who work in Washington, DC. Until I was in second grade we lived in a two-room house, which my carpenter grandfather built for my mom and dad when they were first married.
We were poor by most standards, but then, all we really needed was food and clothing: I never went hungry or naked. We had no running water or electricity. The four older children shared a bunk bed in the kitchen-dining-living-room. My parents and the two younger kids shared the back bed-room. As they got older, a brother or two would often sleep at my grandparents’ home in an attic room (their house was on the same property as ours, which was owned by my grandpa). We had an out-house and an outdoor well. We bathed in a galvanized tub in water heated in tea-kettles – probably twice a week. Like I said, we were poor, which I didn’t realize until I got older.
My dad worked at the railroad freight yard. He made enough to feed and clothe us. He had a large garden in the summer to help feed this family of nine. We all helped in the garden, though often not willingly. Dad also hunted wild game to supplement the meat on our table and to fill our tummies. I still love the taste of wild game.
Our clothes were either hand-washed or washed in a gasoline-powered washing machine, and dried on long clothes-lines strung from tree to tree in our yard.
Our two-room house was heated with a wood stove. Firewood came from the forests which surrounded our home-place on three sides. Our house was nice and warm in the winter – however, since the wood stove was also our cook-stove, it could be quite hot in the summer.
When my fifth brother was growing in my mother’s womb, my dad decided to move the family into a rental house located about a quarter mile away. To us the house was a mansion. My sister and I shared a bedroom, the two older brothers shared a bedroom, the two younger brothers shared a bedroom and the seventh child slept in a crib in my parents’ bedroom. We had a kitchen/dining room and a living room and a bathroom with indoor plumbing. We also had electricity and our first TV. It was heaven to us. We lived there for two years, until my granddad got sick and needed us nearby.
When I was in fourth grade, we moved back to my grandparents’ property, but we switched houses with them. Granddad and Grandma moved into the two-room house and we moved into their six-room house, which my granddad had also built many years before. However, once again we had no indoor plumbing or electricity. Those of us who took the time to do homework did it in daylight, or by kerosene lamp. Once again, we trekked to the outhouse to deal with necessities.
Just before I entered puberty, a land developer purchased the forested land below our home and put in a housing development. Our lives began to change in a different way. I now became more aware of things we didn’t have, instead of being thankful for what we did have.
Being the second girl and six years younger than my sister, I got lots of hand-me-downs. As I approached “teenage”, I wanted my own clothes – more recent styles. It didn’t help that my dad told stories of his “britches” being patched with material from his sisters’ old dresses. Or that he walked two-miles to school in the snow and rain. I was not sympathetic. I thought that if I dressed a certain way, I would be more accepted by others. I didn’t realize it’s not what’s on the outside that counts, but what’s on the inside.
We did not have religious instruction in our home. I don’t remember any prayers spoken there. God’s name was used mostly when someone was angry. My dad did mention that “if the good Lord would give us rain, we would have a good corn crop.” Neither he nor my rather reclusive mom attended church – except for weddings and funerals and then only rarely. Both my parents had been taken to church as children, and I’m sure both “believed in God” – but there was no sense of a personal relationship with God.
A neighbor, my best friend’s mom, began to take me to church when I was about 8 years old – I attended rather intermittently until just before I entered my teen years. I loved being in the church building, sitting in the pew singing songs, and going to Sunday School. It felt good to “be religious”. I learned how to pray, memorized Scriptures, and sang in the youth choir. Music was the thing that drew me to church more than anything else.
When I was 10 or 11 I was baptized, because that’s what a good Christian did. I was religious, but did not yet know Jesus, nor the love of God in a personal way.
When I was in 8th grade, some friends at school invited me to attend a weekly Saturday night event called Youth for Christ. I love it! There were 300 or 400 kids there from junior and senior high schools from throughout the area. The programs were geared to teens: music, special speakers, a teen choir, skits – lots of fun, but also a message of God’s love which penetrated my heart.
It’s hard for a “religious” person to acknowledge a spiritual need because we don’t do much “bad stuff”. I didn’t swear, hadn’t committed adultery, didn’t lie (except when necessary) and had not murdered anyone (though with 5 brothers, one might consider that). But, as I listened to a speaker one Saturday night, I felt a strong conviction from the Holy Spirit that I was what the Bible referred to as a “sinner” – I had envy, self-“rightness”, and lots of pride that God wanted to deal with. I began to understand that Jesus had died on the cross – not just for the “sins of the world” – but for my sins. God loved “Marcy” so much that He gave His Son to pay the price of my sin against the love of this holy God. I remember praying that night, “Heavenly Father, I’m sorry, I’ve been wrong, and would you please forgive me.”
It felt like a blanket of love was draped about my shoulders and I knew that I was forgiven – clean inside – reborn – a new person. I have never doubted from that day that I belong to God. That He has a purpose for my life – there was a reason I was born and that was to come to know Him and to honor Him with my life. I became active in a Christian youth outreach group in my high school and have sought to serve God with my life ever since. I have never wanted to be someone else or do something else.
Psalm 139 became very important in my life (I encourage you to read for yourself), as well as John 15:16:
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
I was the only one in our family to attend college, graduated from Philadelphia College of Bible with a BS degree, and entered itinerant Christian work; first traveling with a music group called Found Free, out of Philadelphia, then working with Women Alive from Collingswood NJ, and I also did some work for World Vision International in their child sponsorship program, while in an itinerant music/speaking ministry of my own. After I married, my husband and I began a ministry called Frontline Ministries – a ministry of church renewal. We are now in a pastorate in Concord, NH and continue to do speaking to the broader body of Christ as the Lord leads us.
God has allowed me to have the privilege of a music ministry and I have recorded 7 albums over the years, including a children’s musical, called Real Things. which my husband, David, and I co-wrote and recorded, with musical arrangements, sound tracks and production by a group called “Glad”.
That’s my background in a rather large nutshell.
I am not famous. If my life says anything to the world today, it says “God can use anyone. And all He asks is a heart that is willing to serve Him and others.” I want my life to bring glory to my loving, trustworthy, heavenly Father – the God of the universe. That makes me a part of something much bigger than “me”.
How awesome is that?! Who could want more?
©2012, Marcy Alves
Posted on June 3, 2012, in Follow Me, God Encounters, My Journey, Reflections and tagged Christianity, from rags to riches, God in my life, Marcy's testimony, my life, my story, personal testimony, the love of God. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.