Jake Wilson once sought to replace the loss of his father with many vices including alcohol, drugs, and women. But Jake eventually turns his life around and becomes the man God always wanted him to be. Now, he and his wife, Terry, have formed a family centered on faith, love, and, most importantly, hope. As he opens his heart and home to his two daughters through a custody agreement, Jake has no idea that he is about to discover the answers to the challenges that still plague him from his past.
As Jake's daughters slowly acclimate to living with a new family, Jake finds solace in his Bible study group. With his family of six packed in a three-bedroom apartment, Jake has no choice but to push his financial misgivings aside and begin searching for a larger home. Soon after he places his trust in the Lord through prayer, Jake stumbles onto an old farmhouse in desperate need of renovation and secretly wonders if the ramshackle dwelling is the answer to his prayers.
In this inspirational tale, a man embarks on an emotional journey through his past, present, and future-and soon discovers that God always has a plan.
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FREEDOM'S JOURNEY FREE TO SERVE
By Dennis A. McIntyre
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Dennis A. McIntyre
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Adjustment
The Wilson family had suddenly outgrown their three-bedroom apartment. Jake and Terry entered the courthouse as a family of four and left as parents for two more, namely Alicia and Nicole. Jake hoped to increase his visitation privileges with the girls in his custody battle with his ex-wife, Joan, but God had a different plan. In a few weeks, the paperwork would make everything official, and the Wilson household would have three daughters and a son.
Jake's dark colored butch hair cut complimented his chiseled, battle-scarred face. Although you might feel a bit fearful on a first encounter, his firm handshake and captivating smile would relieve the tension quickly. Terry, on the other hand, made you feel like you had known her for years. Her medium length blonde hair, piercing blue eyes, and radiance was like a warm beacon of light. They were deeply in love and devoted to each other, family, and God. To friends, they were the perfect family. Yet, for them, the road ahead was filled with uncertainty. Their apartment was cramped for a family of four and now there were six. Jake's work as a plumber was touch and go. The work was plentiful, but without a plumber's license, many jobs were not available for Jake's bid.
Matt (Matthew) and Diana were children from Terry's first marriage and adopted by Jake after he married her. Their last names were changed to Wilson, so the additions of Nicole and Alicia were a welcomed fit. The name "Wilson" carried a family bond. Both Jake and Terry reflected on all that had happened with a sense of awe. Terry came out of an abusive marriage, and Jake overcame his lawless past. Together, they had formed a family centered on the faith that their union was not accidental. God had worked a miracle in bringing them together. Now, the blessings of adding Nicole and Alicia to the mix, was like an exclamation point.
Nicole and Alicia had auburn hair like their mother. Matt and Diana's hair was blonde like their mom. They were different in appearance, but that's as far as it went. There was a genuine love for each other.
Nicole and Alicia had been treated like family for eight years prior to the court's decision, as they spent many weekends at the Wilson household. The girls were close in age and enjoyed many of the same activities together. Matt was the little brother. Diana was the oldest at fourteen. Alicia was thirteen, Nicole twelve, and Matt just enjoyed his eleventh birthday. Matt's birthday took on special significance, as it marked a two-month period when they would be one year in age apart. Alicia's birthday would mark a four-month period when she and Diana would be the same age. In short, the children seemed to draw great strength from each other.
On one occasion, the girls were discussing their ages with some half-hearted humor. Diana began the conversation with the fact that she was the oldest.
"Look at this Alicia and 'Nicki.' (Nicole had picked up this nickname from the others). Our initials starting from the oldest to the youngest are 'DANM.' I'm so glad that Matt wasn't born before Nicki. Aren't you?"
The girls wrote the letters as 'DAMN' to identify that scenario and laughed hysterically. Matt heard the commotion and went to the girl's room to inquire. They shared the thought process with him, and he laughed as well. They were a bunch of well-adjusted kids. Laughter was as normal as breathing to them. The sound of it was equally pleasing to Terry and Jake, when he was home to hear it.
Dinnertime together was equally enjoyable. Jake made it a point to complete his plumbing work by six to ensure that he was home for the evening meal. Terry was a great cook, but Jake especially enjoyed the camaraderie around the dinner table. Not only did he listen with great intent to each child's events for the day, but they were just as eager to share as well. Jake had become the father, that he never had, to Matt and the girls. Except for a few emergencies, the plumbing business was over when Jake came through the door at night.
Jake's role as husband meant providing for his family. But, his role as father took on greater significance. He never really knew his father as a child growing up. A teenage affair with a married woman resulted in a son, named Damon, which constantly tugged at Jake's heartstrings. His brief marriage with Damon's mother ended with divorce, along with all communication. His ex-wife moved out of the state and was never heard from again. Jake's heart pounded even more since his spiritual conversion. Parental responsibility as a teenager was something foreign, but now it is everything.
Terry had many late night discussions with her husband after Jake woke up in a heavy sweat from bad dreams. The dreams always involved his son, Damon. Jake would have many thoughts and questions like:
"I wonder where my son is today?"
"I hope he is being raised by a good caring family"
"Do you think he knows about his father?"
"Does he have any of my features?"
Damon's life was like a dark hole in Jake's heart. Abandonment seems to leave an emptiness, which Jake knew all too well. Jake also knew that holes needed to be filled. God had done that for him. Guilt and shame had marked Jake's life until the Lord got hold of him. The transformation resulted in joy and peace, except for one last scar. Thoughts of Damon still surfaced, though mostly through dreams. It was as if God was not done with Jake's restoration process. Ephesians 2:10 continually reminded Jake that he was a work in progress. Still, the dreams persisted.
The weights, of providing for a family, being a good husband, and nurturing the children, weighed heavily on Jake. The apartment was too small, but home ownership did not seem to be a realistic possibility. Jake's incarceration, although a decade ago, would still be a hindrance. Being self-employed as an unlicensed plumber didn't help much either, not to mention the roller coaster workload. There had been many months where the monies for their tithing check would not be deposited until the eleventh hour. Yet, God was always faithful. Applying for a mortgage with a banking institution might not offer the same measure of faith, however.
Still. Jake was a man at peace. The burdens for Nicole and Alicia had been lifted in a mighty way. Jake feared for their very lives, while they were under their mother's control. Terry treated them as her own, right from the first time they had a stay over. Matt and Diana seemed to accept them as sisters as well. It was magical and surreal. The life Jake knew before his spiritual conversion was a radical difference from the one he now enjoyed. Yes, there was real peace and a certainty that God was in control in Jake's life.
Terry also felt relief. The welfare of Jake's daughters had been like a millstone around Jake's neck for eight years. Now, the weight had been lifted. No longer did Jake carry the burden. Terry's role as mother for Alicia and Nicole came naturally. She truly loved them as her own, and her love for Jake grew in proportion. She felt God's hand in her life as well.
The Men's Group
A local non-denominational church had become an integral part of the Wilson family's life. Sunday mornings meant an hour of Bible study and a message to follow in a service. The children had their programs as well. Nicole and Alicia experienced the procedure before, during their weekend visits and enjoyed the new friendships. Sunday was also the one day that Jake did not work, except for a rare emergency. Even during those times, his family supported him.
Wednesday evening offered additional worship times for everyone. Jake enjoyed listening to a Bible scholar's dissertations along with the fellowship around the coffee and pastry section of the church. Paul also looked forward to meeting with Jake there. Paul led a Bible study on Thursday night at another church in the area, where they first met. The two men had become great friends, with many of the same interests. Paul was self-employed as well, and the downturn in the economy had taken its financial toll for them both. Throughout the week, their cell phones would be interactive with similar requests.
"Hey, Paul. You're buddy Jake here. Business is slow. I need your prayers friend."
"Ditto, Jake. So what's goin' on? How are the kids getting along?"
"The girls spend a lot of time laughing together. I have to tell them to close their bedroom door. Don't get me wrong, buddy, it's wonderful."
"They seem to carry that enthusiasm to church as well. I've heard them giggling."
"Matt enjoys his role as the little brother as well. Sometimes he antagonizes the girls and then leaves. You can always tell by the smirk on his face, afterwards."
"That's typical, for the youngest child, Jake." "Yeah! I think the girls know what's going on in the exchange. I have heard Matt's name mentioned during some of those laughter outbursts."
"So, it sounds like things are going well with the kids."
"I cannot imagine a better relationship than they have. It is wonderful to watch."
"I envy you, Jake. We have but one son. He's a great kid, but I wonder at times, whether having more children would have been better for his sake."
"Hayden is a great young man, Paul. I have seen him with the others in his Wednesday youth group. You do not have to worry about him."
"Yeah! Still ... anyway, what's going on in the plumbing business?"
"You know, up then down. It's a fact of life. Pray for a couple of large bids that I have on the table. If I land at least one of them, I will have work for several months. It sure would help if I had my license."
"Same here, Jake. I need a really strong month to complete the quarter, and the phone has not been ringing lately."
"It will, Paul. You need to have faith. God has never let me down since I gave my life to him."
"I see how He has answered your prayers, my friend, but I think He answers mine differently."
"Yeah, well ... Paul, I think you worry too much. This call is more of a courtesy call. Although I believe many prayers are better than one, I want you to know that I love you as my friend."
Paul and Jake had an open dialog on a regular basis. Paul continued to lead the Thursday night study, which Jake regularly attended. Their fellowship was a necessary part of their daily activities. Jake had fellowship before he gave his heart to the Lord, but it came in the form of gang members. He had the "I got your back" mentality and knew there was power in numbers. His Christian walk, however, needed others as accountability partners. Men need other men for those tasks. Both men knew that old behaviors could pop up, and that a spiritual war was being waged against them. Fighting temptations was difficult alone. Paul needed Jake and vice versa.
The Thursday men's group usually had between six and ten attendees. The format started with about ten minutes of "What's happening?" discussions, where men openly shared about things that transpired since their last meeting. It was during these times that new prayer needs surfaced. It was especially good for newcomers to participate in those moments. When Jake first attended, he was overwhelmed with the concerns from the others as he shared about his life. His first visit did not ask for prayers for personal needs, but the men did so anyway. You could say that they had his back. He rarely missed a Thursday meeting. He knew that having Christian brothers was a vital ingredient to living and doing the Lord's will. After receiving custody of his daughters, Jake could not wait to share his joy with his brothers.
"Hey, Jake. What's happening? Your smile tells me you had a good week."
"Good is not the word Paul. This has been a great week."
"Tell us more. How'd your court meeting go?"
"You guys are the best. I think God answered your prayers for me beyond even your dreams."
"Come on buddy. Don't keep us in suspense here."
"I won custody of Alicia and Nicole. I mean, they are living with me as we speak."
"How did that happen?
"That's a really long story, starting with the judge who had me imprisoned. Let's just say that God worked out every detail."
"You have got to share a little more than that. Let's see ... Joan was a respected police officer and you were a convicted felon. Something must have changed for you to get custody. Does that mean you don't have to pay child support? What about her visitation rights?
"Child support is a done deal. Joan needs to get rehabilitated for substance and child abuse to have any rights in the future. I am telling you that God worked out everything."
"He must have, Jake."
"Nicole and Alicia are really enjoying their time with Matt and Diana as well. I am telling you that I floated out of that courtroom. My feet never touched the floor." "That explains it."
"When you came in, I thought you were ten feet tall. Your eyes were bluer than the Caribbean waters and sparkled like diamonds."
Everyone in the group laughed together and shared in Jake's joy. The fellowship was infectious to two new attendees as well. Introductions were made so that the new arrivals could feel at home. They had not met Jake before that night, but could not escape the spirit in that room. Paul opened the meeting with a word of prayer, in which he thanked God for the answers He provided on behalf of Jake. Then he opened by soliciting new prayer concerns or praises from the men.
As each regular attendee shared, the new guests listened intently. They came to a Bible study with the evening's topic that night on "A Father's Role." Jake's story was a perfect lead-in, along with several of the men's prayer requests and concerns. One quest was a father of two young boys. The other was anticipating fatherhood with his wife seven months along. One had questions about leadership, while the other came in with a need for a "Fatherhood for Dummies" book.
Paul could not get over the timing of Jake's story and the subject for discussion. He often spent many hours wondering how to get the men in his group to open up. He even agonized over it at times. Just like that, the ice was broken. The men entered the discussion readily, even the newcomers. The Holy Spirit was at work.
Jake anticipated something special would occur in those Thursday meetings, and was rarely disappointed. He had learned the importance of regular gathering of believers, especially men, for spiritual and emotional edification. Like women, men wear many hats. They are providers, spiritual leaders in their homes, fathers, husbands, and much more. Trying to perform all of these tasks alone is nearly impossible and often foolish. Thursdays for Jake was like recharging his batteries for the power needed each week.
During the court settlement, Judge Anthony Carter informed Jake that there would be some finalization papers to be signed, and that his office would let him know when to come in. The papers arrived, and Jake returned to the courthouse with his family to seal the deal. There was something concrete about knowing that everything would be legally settled. The thought, that Joan might find a way to block the court's decision, was still on Jake's mind.
"Hi Jake," Judge Carter shouted after he entered the room.
"This should only take a few minutes, Jake. Have a seat, while I have the court stenographer come in as a witness."
"Thanks Judge. You know how I love these leather chairs."
"Yeah, me too. They're comfortable and I love the smell. So how are you girls doing?"
Nicole and Alicia smiled. Three weeks had passed since the last time they were in that office. The smiles on their faces said it all, but they still managed to respond with:
"What about you Mrs. Wilson? The girls appear to be well adjusted."
"You can just call me Terry, Judge."
"I'm fine, sir. Everyone gets along wonderfully. It is a pleasure being a mom for each of them."
"It shows on your face."
"You have confirmed my decision from three weeks ago as the right one."
Just then two stenographers entered the room.
"Now Jake, we have a few forms to sign, giving you full custody and all legal rights as Nicole and Alicia's guardian. Your ex-wife's rights will be terminated until another court reinstates them. At any rate, she can only petition for visitation. How does that sound to you?"
"Like a dream, sir. It's like a dream. The girls now have a home filled with love."
Excerpted from FREEDOM'S JOURNEY FREE TO SERVE by Dennis A. McIntyre Copyright © 2011 by Dennis A. McIntyre. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
The Men's Group....................5
A New Dream....................19
Balancing the Budget....................35
The Dinner Table....................47
The Appliance Store....................63
An Unexpected Twist....................93
The Work Begins....................113
Reflecting the Journey....................133
The Black Pipes....................139
Father and Son Talk....................157
The Journey Continues....................163
The New Journey....................213