By: Anne Hillebrand
God is using my husband and me to help others who have Fibromyalgia. But before sharing how God is using us, I want to share how I became Saved. The story of my salvation starts out by talking about a friend. That's appropriate, because friends had a lot to do with it. One of my truest friends is in Ada, Oklahoma - Michael G. Smith. When we first met, he was about 32, and I was about 22. I managed and later owned The Bicycle Shoppe on the campus corner of East Central University there. Back then, everyone called me by a nickname, "Rufus".
He rode a bike for sport and fitness and was just starting out in corporate law practice. Mike came by the shop for bike maintenance and often just to talk when he got the chance. We became each other's sounding board and really good pals for many years; he's the best guy friend I ever had.
Mike and his family had already moved out to the country so he didn't stop by often anymore, but he was still sad when we sold the shop. I think it was because he and his wife and a lot of their friends had youngsters getting to about the age that they would have been bike shop customers. It was the only one for 80 miles in any direction. It was also one of those safe, friendly places that all towns need more of. I just wanted to go back to college.
For about 20 years (since stray blood clots in both lungs caused brain damage from a knee-surgery- gone-very-wrong), I had not felt real, complete, emotions about anything. I didn't know what I was missing. We thought any problems I had were all due to the brain damage, but later learned it apparently had just as much to do with an undiagnosed illness.
The lack of emotions and the mental disability had caused me to be estranged from all our friends, including Mike, since that medical accident in 1981. I still liked them, but had no memory of personal emotions; I could no longer feel our friendships. I eventually came to understand that I was brain-damaged, but no one told me that my emotions had gone missing, and I certainly could not feel it.
The knee surgery /medical accident happened just a few months after we sold the bike shop, so my college and professional career took a rough road. I did go on to earn a Bachelor's degree in Accounting, but it was 15 years from the day I first started college.
In April 2000, the low-grade, previously-undiagnosed Fibromyalgia I had since 1978 went full-blown. Over just 4 days' time, a reaction to a common new medication, Celebrex, caused incredible pain, loss of coordination, constant fatigue and unrelenting insomnia. We stopped the Celebrex as soon as we realized what was happening, but the problems did not stop.
Eventually, I could barely sign my own name or stay awake or asleep for more than a few hours at a time. Three separate specialists and a barrage of tests still left us with no answers. As we watched the symptoms become more numerous and intense, we thought I was dying.
It was six months after the onset before we found out it was Fibromyalgia. At that point we learned that the only real relief for extremely severe Fibromyalgia was strong pain pills and sleep tablets.
My husband, Dale, and I decided against that, as it would not give me a good quality of life anyway. He decided he would try to make each symptom less of a problem. First, he came up with ear plugs, then an eye mask, to help me sleep. We both started looking for any other small sources of relief.
We were given much more than that. The last week of October, 2000, we found the basics of the first really effective treatment for Fibromyalgia.
What was amazing was that not only did the treatment reverse the pain and insomnia - everything started to come back. For the first time in years, it was no longer a struggle to make decisions and be creative. I had been living with about a 15 to 20 % intellectual deficit all those years since the knee surgery, but now I could think quickly and clearly.
Even more amazing, a few weeks into the treatment I had regained the memory of personal emotions - the love for friends and their love for me. When I suddenly said, "I have to call Mike!," Dale was so happy and excited; he knew that it meant I was my old self again for the first time in 20 years. It was miraculous. In January of 2001, just after the rush of the holidays, I decided to call Mike's office to get back in contact. It's a good-sized law firm now, with several partners and support staff.
With those responsibilities, as well as his interests in a local bank and ranching, we knew Mike's office would have to be a busy place. I decided to call a couple of hours before their work time so I could just leave an answering machine message with our phone number and not disturb anyone.
When the phone rang, though, a real person answered. He had come to the office a couple of hours early to get caught up on a case he was handling. He answered the phone himself just like he used to do when he was a one-man office and I was a bicycle mechanic: "Mike Smith, law office."
My friend had not seen me in over 14 years and had not heard my voice in eight years, but when I asked, "If you hadn't heard from a really good friend, in a really long time, would you want to?"
He replied, "I SURE WOULD, RUFUS!" It sounded to me like his heart burst. Later we would understand why hearing from an old friend affected him that way.
It was obvious that he had never given up on our friendship, and could tell it was the old "Rufus" again, so I was really glad.
If Mike was in the office that early, I knew it meant he was doing extra work on a case. I offered to hang up and just let him call when he got time, but he said he could talk for at least a little while.
First, he wanted to know if Dale and I were all right. We were doing great. After he made sure to get our current address and telephone number, we caught up on how our son and Mike's wife and their boys were doing, how our health and jobs were, and other newsy stuff.
"A lot has happened since I saw you last, Rufus," he said. I told him we knew that he had hurt his marriage very badly about 10 years earlier, but that he and his wife had made it through it. A mutual friend visiting Orlando a few years ago had told us.
Mike had always told me what an incredible woman his wife is. It's true. They started over from scratch in their marriage. Their faith is the main thrust in their lives now.
We used to joke and say that we had both married better than we deserved. The years may have proven that to be more true than we would like to admit.
After I called his office that morning he wrote us a great letter on all they had been doing and sent a story and photo about his fly-fishing experiences. I emailed to his office, and phoned and sent photos and letters about family and kids. In one, I explained about the illness we have beaten. On the phone, we just talked about whatever makes us laugh.
Dale has been so happy for me, and for my buddy. Mike lost his best "guy friend" of 40 years, Vernon, to cancer the last week of October 2000. It was just a couple of months later when I had called out of the blue. It was nice for him to hear from one old pal after so long when he had just lost the other. It was nice for me because I could only just then appreciate friendships and be a friend again. That return to friendship played a big part in my salvation.
From about April 2001 until March of 2002, I had been being "told" where to go and what to do for other people. Not in a voice, but compelled. Like when you have to scratch an itch. It has to be now, and it has to be in a particular place. That's the best description my mind could come up with, anyway.
I have always been "all works and no faith," and have been fortunate to get to do some pretty good works. This was different. These works were not things I thought up and were way out of my league, but they all went great. We just came to accept it all and not question it.
Dale and I called it "angel business" and he helped out extra at home to give me time for it. He also provides the financial means and any other help when needed. We're both like my Dad was when it comes to helping others. Just do it and worry about how later.
Then, on March 1, 2002, instead of being told where to go and what to do for others; I knew that I was supposed to "Find Jesus" and to "Get help - from someone who 'knows my heart', and 'walks the walk' ". This really caught me by surprise.
I wasn't in church looking, and friends weren't beating me up about it. We didn't have problems with family, money, health or the other things that often prompt people to seek answers.
A few days later I asked a dear friend, Laura Stiff, if she would talk with me about Jesus. Her husband, Doug, was my gynecologist - surgeon and cared for me like family during the changes in my health adjusting to the recovery from Fibromyalgia. They were angels to Dale and me.
She and Doug are compassionate people of great personal faith. She was a wonderful role model for me as my life returned to normal after years in mothballs. They are among those few people who know my heart.
Laura said she could give me the basics about Jesus, which she did, but that she was not the right person to talk to me about this. I said that was OK. Later she said she struggled for days to think of someone who could help me.
For a couple of weeks after talking to Laura, it still wasn't obvious to me who I was supposed to get to help me.
Then I suddenly and fully realized - it was my old pal Mike. There was no question about it. He knows my heart, and walks the walk.
He had witnessed to me over the 28 year span we had known each other. Every time we ever talked, he shared something of his faith with me. Never pushy - just wanting me to have what he had, because he loved me as a friend. Sometimes joking, and sometimes serious. Sometimes just a brief remark. He also knew very well that I was all works and no faith all those years.
Late on Sunday night, March 18, 2002, I faxed his office. When he got to work at 9:00 Monday morning Ada time, he got this message from me:
"Mike I need help. It's not legal and it's not financial. I need you to call me and talk to me about Jesus."
(There is a good chance he may have thought a joke would follow that statement. I haven't asked him, but reading that note he probably felt like he had fallen off his chair and broken his nose.)
"Call me from your office, on your nickel, to our house. You know all those times over the years that you said 'You and Dale need to come to church with me. Then it was 'me and Karen', then 'me and Karen and the boys?' You know I always declined, but I always said 'thank-you'. Call my cell phone and let me know when to be home."
When Mike got my fax asking for help, he left a message on my cell phone voice mail at about 9:15 a.m. his time. Tuesday would be a friend's dad's funeral out of town, and Wednesday he would be in Federal Court all day. He said he would call and that I should be home Thursday morning. He added, "I do want to talk to you, Rufus."
Wednesday evening, my old college roommate, Janet Fundaro, and her husband Leo, called from their cell phone. They were on the way to Dallas, TX from Oklahoma City, OK. Their first grandchild, Sam, was about to be born. We have been in a lot closer contact with them since October 2000. They know that I can actually feel emotions again and knew Dale and I both would be excited to hear the latest baby news.
Janet was my best friend in high school, roommate in college. I spent part of their honeymoon with them because they got the flu. They called for help because they were so sick they could not even get out of bed. Later, she was matron of honor at our wedding. Leo is the only friend we have that is allowed to call me Ruth Anne. I love him, so he gets away with it. Our oldest and dearest friends, Janet and Leo married 6 months before us, 33 years ago. It is so good to be able to feel their friendship again.
She is a Nurse Practitioner and told me all the details of the pending event. We agreed that it didn't seem that long ago that Dale and I sat up playing cards with her and Leo the night the grandbaby's dad was born.
Before she hung up to call other friends, I asked, "Janet, will you pray for me?" She was alarmed and asked, "What's wrong, Rufus?" I replied, "Nothing's wrong. I think I'm about to have a change in my faith."
That news was very exciting to Janet and Leo. They wanted to know if I needed any help, but I said that Mike was going to call me the next day. Both of them know Mike and knew that would be good because of his strong Christian faith, knowledge of scripture, and our old friendship.
Janet and I both learned early on that having good men as close, or even best friends is an important part of a wholesome life. Our husbands both have good friends that are women, as well. I cherish my husband's best women friends like they were sisters-in-law.
She promised that she and Leo would be praying for me. I told her I knew they would; they had for over 25 years.
Thursday morning, March 21, right before Mike called, I missed a call on my cell phone. It was from Rob, overseas on business. He's the young man who brought home US military dog tags from scrap metal bins in Viet Nam and is returning them to the soldiers or their survivors at his own expense.
The "OPRAH" television show did a wonderful update on the www.FoundDogTags.com story on May 28th, 2003.
For a couple of years, I had the privilege to be his right-hand angel and had helped out at his business to give him extra time for the project. Dale and I sat up all night watching email and holding our breath while he and his partner were going through Viet Nam customs, then from country to country and on home, with the dog tags. Few people knew about their trip or its real purpose. The odds of them bringing a briefcase full of metal military ID tags past Vietnamese airport inspectors were very slim. They were not sure what the consequences of detection would be. What happened to them is their story to tell.
Our once-close association ended shortly after the Trade Center disaster. For whatever reason, I had lost his friendship. He had not called or emailed me in over 6 months and still does not, but his well-being will always be very important to us, especially to me.
Seeing that his missed call was from overseas and thinking he might need help or to reach his folks, I dialed back. "Are you OK?" He said, "Yes, I dialed by mistake - I'm in Germany. I'll call you when I get back."
Hearing his voice gave me peace and strength and let me know I was not supposed to be worrying about him right then. Mike called just a few minutes later, as promised.
We hadn't touched base in about a month, so we asked how each other's families were doing. Everyone was fine.
With the normal catch up chit-chat out of the way, he paused just a second and asked,
"What's going on, Rufus?"
I told him about the works of the past months, and said, "You know that old quote 'If you talk to God, that's good, but if you think God talks to you, you'll be locked up?' " He said, "Yes, but it depends on who you tell it to - you're OK - go ahead."
I described being told to "Find Jesus" and said "I know where God is, Mike. He's been here all along, but I don't know where Jesus is. I have no idea."
Mike explained that Jesus was God and man at the same time on earth. In his full humanity we can see everything about God's character that can be conveyed in human terms.
He told me that God is the Creator and Lord, and about the Holy Spirit. Now I understood that what had been guiding my works and our search for a medical diagnosis and treatment those previous months was the Holy Spirit.
I said I wasn't any worse person than he had known me years ago. Dale and I are good citizens and good to others. We are kind, responsible and respectful.
Mike said to just be quiet, that it doesn't matter if we are do-gooders or murderers. All come to Christ the same. From scratch.
He told me about James, the earthly brother of Jesus, and James' struggle to accept Jesus as the Messiah.
He told me that faith is different than anything else we experience. When Mike and I talk it's just like we did years ago - we understand what the other is saying. That's the litmus test of friendship. It defies all time and distance. True friendship does not require constant contact.
Knowing that I had recently regained my intellect from 20 years ago, Mike was afraid it would get in the way and admonished me that "You can't think your way to Jesus". That was not a problem.
There was no crying or big emotional showdown or anything as we talked. It was one friend with questions and the other with answers. After a little while, he had me all sorted out and we both knew it.
He asked if I wanted to pray to God and to accept Christ on faith.
He asked if I was sure.
We prayed together. I asked God for forgiveness for my sins and for Christ to come into my heart. And my old pal Mike walked me across on faith, 20 years and 1200 miles away.
If you had told me, five weeks before it happened, that accepting Christ was anywhere in my near future, I would have said you were on drugs. Everyone who knows me would have said the same thing about me. It is an incredible feeling. Being able to walk in the shadow of our Creator, to be guided by Him, and to talk to Him.
Since I didn't have much big sin to get rid of, Mike said to concentrate on learning, and sharing what I learn. That's what I've been doing. All my customers know and just about everyone we see has heard me tell this story; even total strangers every time I get the chance.
Mike said these Bible verses are essential and to keep them with me at all times:
Romans 3:23: "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God"
II Corinthians 5:17: "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come."
He said for me to get a Life Application Study Bible and a New American Standard Edition, to always keep the two Bible verses with me, and to love God, pray to Him, and learn.
All my prayers are prayers of thanks.
He said, "Start with John, Luke, Matthew, Mark and James - reading the chapters and the study notes, and to understand the significance of each author's story. Those books are the Gospels or "Good News" of Christ's life and sacrifice for us.
Mike asked if I needed anything else, but he had me all sorted out just fine.
We hung up and a few minutes later his wife, Karen, called me from their home; I had never really known her. She was so nice and told me that Mike had just phoned her and how excited he was with what had happened. She was as glad for me as he was. No doubt she and Mike had been discussing my situation for the previous few days and praying about it together. That means a lot to me.
It's nice that now Karen and I have something in common. She's a sweetheart and Dale and I both look forward to getting to know her better. If it were not for her faith, love, and forgiveness, her husband would not have been in a position to help me with my faith.
Later that morning, Janet and Leo called to say that their grandson Sam was here in high definition and surround sound. There are few things that are as full of excitement as a couple with a new grandbaby. It made me happy to be included and to be able to feel the excitement and joy with them.
When we had covered all the news, I said, "Janet, will you pray for a new Christian?" She said, "Oh Rufus, is it you?"
She said that she and Leo had been praying for me. I said I knew they had been. Even with the arrival of the new baby they had been praying for me while the Holy Spirit was calling me.
I bought the Bible and an Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible the same day and started studying. It's an amazing book - totally alive, even after so many years.
After studying and reading the Gospels, I called Mike. He said to read the scriptures and study the notes for Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers next. I did.
The next time, he said to go to Acts and the books that end in "ans".
I have read the scripture and application notes for all the New Testament except John 1,2,3 and Revelation. In the Old Testament I have gotten from Genesis to 1 Psalms 51 as of August, 2004.
Just weeks after Mike helped me, Karen's nephew, who was also the son of some of our former neighbors and grandson of a couple we used to visit with at the lake, died suddenly of brain cancer. Her nephew's young bride of less than three years had been killed in a car crash in Dallas the year before. They were a wonderful young couple of great faith, just barely 30 years old, totally committed to their community and friends and are dearly missed. I don't know when we have hurt so much for so many at one time.
Those family concerns, followed by an unusually heavy caseload have made it hard for Mike and I to keep in touch right now. After reading each book in the Bible, I send a post card as a "report card" with comments about what I have read, so that he and Karen know I'm doing all right.
We are doing fine. I have my health back after 20 years, a great husband (35 years July 3, 2006), a swell son and his kids close by, our 'other boys' and their families who stay in touch, and the Lord holds my hand.
Our Fibromyalgia treatment web site address is www.fibrofix.com. There is nothing for sale. All the information there is absolutely free and Public Domain.
We have been told that what we discovered about the cause of symptoms and the treatment for Fibromyalgia is worth millions. We made the decision to give it away out of gratitude and knowing that it is God's gift, not our wisdom, that made it possible.
In 1992, Hurricane Andrew destroyed much of South Florida. I was one of the volunteers that went down to help the first time that civilians were allowed in. Habitat for Humanity put an emergency call in the paper and we answered it. My recounting of the trip was pages 1 and 2 of the 2002 Orlando Sentinel Hurricane Preparedness Guide.
Thirty total strangers met at midnight on Friday of Labor Day weekend. Each had brought with us all the tools, water, food and tents we would need. Dale had packed my truck while I got enough sleep to make the trip.
The 30 volunteers got 21 houses "in dry" in four days; that included the time it took to drive down and back between Orlando and Miami.
It was all for people who had received no help in the two weeks following the storm and had no place else to go. We got temporary roofs on the houses, cleaned them out and salvaged the contents so the people could live in them safely. Typically, the residents were a single mom with a baby and no relatives nearby, or older folks with heart problems and no insurance, etc.
It was a significant event in our lives and for our state. It's a big deal around here to say you are a Native Floridian. We're not Natives, but after that Labor Day in 1992 no one can say we're not Floridians.
July 20, 2002 we lost one of our dearest friends, Dave Lewis, to a sudden heart attack at just 51 years old. He came home from playing golf all morning, was sitting in his chair that evening and went to God with a smile on his face.
Dave was my real anchor buddy, and the second person I called when I was saved on March 21. He was totally surprised by the news, but so happy. Dave and his wife, two sons, and many from his church had prayed for me for years and years. Four months after I was saved, almost to the day, he was gone.
He was otherwise healthy, but had a genetic heart defect that strikes without warning and often takes his family members by the time they are 50 or so. He lived life to the fullest and left thousands of true friends. Most people have only a few in a lifetime.
A memorial service was held at the First United Methodist Church of Winter Park, FL. That's a nice part of downtown Orlando. I didn't know much about memorial services, but his oldest son (22) talked about his Dad, then the minister read comments by the younger son (16) and by Dave's wife. Both sons had attended kindergarten at that church and they had all been very active members for years.
When the family had finished speaking, the minister said anyone else could speak briefly about Dave. Several guys were prepared and talked about business, golf, and friendship with Dave.
I was not prepared, but needed to say something to these people. It was probably the only opportunity to ever see most of them. Walking out to the back and through the lobby to the head of the aisle, I waited for a turn. It was a long walk all the way down to the microphone in front. Only getting out a few words at a time and looking like a bawling baby, I eventually managed to say, "I'm Anne Hillebrand, and if you've ever prayed for the lost, you've prayed for me."
It got really quiet. "For years and years, Dave Lewis and his family, members of his men's Friday prayer breakfast group, and many of you have prayed for me. On March 21, I was saved. Dave Lewis was the second person I called."
He had been my anchor buddy for the past year. That person you call to encourage and be encouraged. To ask questions and get answers. To tell a joke and get another one. Sometimes I had even asked Dave to pray for friends.
My long-time anchor buddy and coworker, Bob Becker had died about a year before, and Dave hadn't seemed to mind filling in since then. When Dave answered the phone, the first thing I said was, "Dave, will you pray for a new Christian?"
He said, "Sure Annie, who is it?" I said, "It's me, Dave!"
He was so glad. He started to say, "You know we..", but I was excited and cut in, "I know - you pray for me".
He said, "Yes, every..." and I cut in again, "I know - every Friday morning!" He laughed.
For years, Dave and his Friday morning prayer breakfast guys had prayed for my salvation over hotcakes and grits.
After I told him everything that had happened, Dave, being Dave, wanted to make sure there was no mistake or confusion.
He said, "Annie, if you die tonight, do you know where you will be tomorrow?"
I said, "I'll be in Heaven at God's right hand, Dave."
Dave then asked, "Why is that?"
I said, "Because I accepted Jesus as Savior and God, and he forgave all my sins!"
Dave said, "That's right, Annie!"
While we talked, I learned the real meaning of a word I had heard all my life, 'Rejoice'. Dave and I rejoiced together.
I said, "thank you" to the people at the memorial service (for their patience), and walked all the way back up the aisle to the lobby. The funeral director and ushers were the only other people out there. We could hear the rest of the service on the PA speakers.
A bagpiper (the Lewis's are Scottish) led the minister, the family, and then the congregation out through the lobby. Most people went to the fellowship hall. By that time I wasn't snuffling so much.
It was remarkable how many people stopped to hug me and say they were so glad Dave had lived to see me saved. I met a lot of his friends. Some worked at Dave's office and said that he had gone all over the office and town telling people. Several said they went to church there and that he had told them all about "Annie being saved." Of course, I had guessed that, but it was very nice to hear.
On Sunday, August 11, 2002, my oldest cousin, Clifford, was killed in a car crash in our family's traditional hometown near Rome, GA. Clifford was the oldest child of the oldest of my Dad's siblings; I am the youngest child of the youngest sibling. A man of great faith, he was very happy when I emailed him and my other Rudd cousins to tell them I had been saved.
After we lost Dave Lewis, a long-time acquaintance, Dottie Matsko, agreed to be my anchor buddy, saying she needed one, too. We had known Dottie for over 15 years, but she and I had just never taken time to get close before.
From late July on we had a great time, then time ran out. We had just nine weeks notice; right after Thanksgiving Dottie died of a massive brain tumor. She was a woman of great faith and a real role model, even in her illness. She was ready to go home to God. I will always remember her faith and courage.
In June, my very special Pharmacist friend, Dick McCortney, and his wife, Amelda, came back from a mission trip to Central America. He came back seriously ill and went into the hospital. He had been in remission from lung cancer; tests now showed extensive cancer. The surgeons removed what they could and started chemotherapy.
Since the previous year, he had hand-made a medication I have to have. One of the critical ingredients had been recalled for human use. When we had run out of options, I called to see if maybe he knew a distributor who had some left in their warehouse. He answered the phone to someone he had not heard from in over 12 years, acted like I had never been away, and said, "I can help you Rufus."
He explained that he was a compounding pharmacist, had the ingredients on hand and could make it for me. I said, "I hear you say that you can make it for me, Dick. Will you make it for me?" He said "For you I will, Rufus." I still hear his voice saying those words every morning and night when I take the meds that keep me alive.
He was just so special to us. There was no one else willing to cross the line to help. As a compounding pharmacist he had the skill. He had the ingredients. He also had the heart to make a difference in the world. There was not enough profit involved to come close to the liability he accepted on my behalf.
We got to see Dick and Amelda when we were on vacation in September 2002. Our first trip back to Oklahoma in 14 years, it was planned for that purpose without telling them. We weren't sure if he would feel like seeing us when we got there, so we made it a surprise. Like always, he was working at the pharmacy taking care of his customers. Together he and Amelda were working hard to fight his illness.
I talked to him by phone a couple of times after that. The last time was February 4, 2003. He said he was having a good week, but that the next week was chemo in Houston again and that it was just so rough. On the chemotherapy he had no resistance and was unable to fight off an infection.
Monday, February 17, 2003 Dick McCortney went to God. The McCortneys are a fine family and are blessed with good friends; we all pray for them.
What Dick McCortney did enabled me to keep going, using the treatment and for us to keep working on it until we made it all work. Without his amazing kindness and guts it would not have been possible for us to solve the Fibromyalgia mystery. His contribution was instrumental in bringing the first real hope to the estimated 5 to 25 million Americans who suffer from this illness.
Since the original medication was taken off the market after 20 years, there have been two substitutes produced. The first did not work for Fibromyalgia and was dangerous. The second works well enough to do the job for most people. My symptoms are so severe that I can't take enough of it to work without serious side effects. We are also trying to stay with the original so there will be a consistent track record for this treatment.
Dick left me with a year's supply of the hand-made medication, another bottle of the recalled ingredient he apparently ordered right after our last phone conversation, and a chunk the size of Dallas out of my heart. It is a comfort to be a Christian, and to know that those we are concerned for and those we have lost are Christians, too.
More and more people are starting to use the FibroFix treatment. It is a struggle to reach them and takes all our off-work time and way too much of our resources. It may be another two or more years before what we know about the cause of symptoms and treatment are generally accepted, but every day more people realize it is the truth. The calls and emails we get from those who reverse the horrible symptoms and get their lives back are great and the only pay we accept.
By August 19, 2004 we had over 47,500 hits to the site since it was put up in October 2000. By June 3, 2005 there had been a total of 67,500, or about 2,000 per month. By May 1, 2006, the counter would show 90,000.
I left a voice message ahead of time for my pal Mike to remind him that March 21, 2003 would be one year since he had led me to find Jesus. He phoned on my "birthday" and said it seemed from the post cards that "it was sticking." I laughed and assured him that it was, indeed, "sticking." He said that he enjoyed getting to read the post cards and seeing me grow in faith and understanding.
We saw Karen and Mike and our other friends when we made a four-week trip to Oklahoma and Missouri in September 2002, and again when we went out for four weeks in June 2003. They all treated us as though we had never been away. On March 21, 2004, my 2nd birthday, I thanked him for all his and Karenís help. I seem to always have a question or something to tell them about what I am learning from the Bible and my new walk. I call Mike's voice mail to tell him jokes. Itís a way to stay in touch.
Janet and Leo and so many other friends are just a phone call or email away, too, and thatís great. When I was admitted to the ER and cardiac center in February for 3 days (all turned out just fine - the flu combined with my Severe Fibromyalgia just caused extreme congestion), Janet was in New Orleans, LA at a cardiac physicians convention. Leo was with her. Being able to talk to them both helped so much. So did having them and other friends praying for us.
It is a joy to have Jesus in my heart and good true friends to share that joy with. A local friend named Anthony bravely volunteered to be my anchor buddy in April 2003. Heís a pretty good pal.
When I was saved in March 2002, many people asked where I was going to go to church. They felt I needed to find a church home immediately. I told everyone that when I was supposed to attend one church and on a regular basis I would know where and when. Until then I was supposed to love God, pray to Him, and learn.
I had been driving about 30 miles to a small Methodist church from time to time. They were very good to me.
March 14, 2004, I knew where I was supposed to go. First Baptist Church Orlando became my church home. Itís only about a mile from our house. I'm in a wonderful E-Life (Sunday School) class and have made some good Christian friends.
I met my best local girl pal, Cindy, the first day. Dale, my counselor and other friends knew I had one thing I had asked God for. She is truly the gift I requested.
Easter services 2004 were my first in 30 years. I asked to be useful and got to pass out bulletins and greet people at the door.
I wanted to become a member of this church; the next step would be to be baptized. It is the outward expression of our inward spirit of obedience to God. It represents our death, burial and resurrection in Christ. For those who believe this, it must be a public immersion baptism in water, following our individual acceptance of Christ as LORD and Savior.
The one doing the baptizing must be a Christian who has been baptized and who knows that the one being baptized has given their life to Christ. The water can be in a church baptismal pool or even in a lake, swimming pool or river. It should be when and where it will be of significance to them. It should be among those that share common beliefs.
I asked a true friend in Oklahoma to think and pray about that. He and his wife share these beliefs. He knows my heart and has for many years. I knew that he was the one who was supposed to baptize me, but he was very surprised by this. After talking with his pastor and others who are knowledgeable, he prayed about it. When he knew it was ok, he said, "I'll do it." Seems he has a particular piece of land. And a river runs through it.
I left Orlando for Ada, OK, to be baptized. Along the way, I took a detour to Branson, MO for a few days to surprise our friends and help with some projects. It was a lot of fun and a way for them to be part of my special trip. From there I went on to Oklahoma.
The Blue River was flood-swollen. We changed the location and all went as planned otherwise.
I was baptized June 24th, 2004 in the city park lake in Ada, OK. Our number three boy, Terry Summers, and his family, and couple that were our friends and neighbors for years were there. Terry and Mike are good friends, so it was very special for all of us that they signed my baptism certificate.
June 27th, Terry took me to Sunday School and church at Mike and Karen's church. We got to hear the new piano, which looked and sounded great. That evening I went back to the church for the early old-fashioned Independence Day celebration. They had a big cook-out, fireworks and home-made ice-cream.
The church is at the exact center of the town of Fitzhugh, OK. My grandfather's dad donated a few acres of land to found the town of Fitzhugh about 100 years before, so I felt very much at home. It was a blessed event, a perfect trip and a wonderful time with dear friends.By July 3rd I was back in Orlando for our 33rd wedding anniversary; Sunday, July 4th I asked to join the church.
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