All of My Life With You
by Janis Rice Grogan
This is a love story. Covering nineteen moves, living on five continents,as my husband Gene and I roamed our fascinating world, we strived to make a place that felt like home for ourselves and our children. We could not have imagined the life we lived.
However, I doubt that I would be writing this book without an event that occurred almost fifty years ago. We search continually for meaning but a decision or experience that occurs but once can change the trajectory of one’s life. As Robert Frost wrote in his poem The Road Not Taken:
In 1967 I began a spiritual journey that has lasted a lifetime. I
accepted my mother’s invitation to attend a Christian retreat in
Oklahoma that was a popular place of renewal for her prayer group. I knew Sara Porter, her closest friend, would be there. I looked forward to a week of sleeping late, playing tennis and relaxing without meals to prepare or children and husband to care for. I was shocked to discover near the week’s end that my self-satisfied attitude toward my practice of Christianity had vanished, leaving me uncomfortable and envious of the other attendees. These Christians, from various denominations, races and cultures, seemed joyful, confident, loving and tolerant.
Desperate to be like them, in a small group composed of people who were strangers to me, I requested prayer, cringing when our leader, a little Pentecostal preacher, invited me to sit in a chair in the middle of the circle. He put his hands on my shoulders and asked me, “Well, sister, what do you want prayer for?” “I have no idea,” was my reply. Undeterred, he began to pray aloud. I never heard a word as I was riveted by a vision that appeared before my closed eyes.
I watched the green globe of earth turning on its axis glowing in the dark sky. Suddenly, a box inserted in an upper corner of this peaceful scene drew my attention to our kind neighbors, Señor and Señora Garay, feeding chickens in their backyard. The Garays had been essential to our survival during a nightmare year in Patagonia in 1963. I heard this message from God: “Don’t you understand that I have been caring for you for your entire life?” The spell was broken when the preacher said, “Amen.” The rest of the day I prowled the campground wondering what had happened. Was it a hallucination? Was God actually communicating with me?
Finally, approaching Sara, a deeply spiritual woman, I asked to speak with her privately. She promised to come to my room. Alone in the dark I asked God, if He existed, to make Himself known to me. And He did. I can’t explain how, but I knew that it was real. I was not alone in that room. When Sara arrived she found me laughing and crying at the same time.
My curiosity about God began in 1946 when I was nine. The
subject of religion was always treacherous territory during my childhood. Mother had become a Christian at a Methodist tent revival in 1935, which completely changed her personality and behavior, converting her from a drinking, smoking, dancing, card-playing Roaring Twenties flapper into a devout believer who gave up all of those vices. She was no longer the woman my father had married. He considered religion “the opiate of the masses,” using ridicule as his weapon of choice. My sister, thirteen years my senior, sided with him while Mama took me to church. One Sunday, I went forward during an altar call that followed a terrifying sermon in which the minster had
described hell in graphic detail. Rapidly reviewing my past nine years, convinced of my utter sinfulness, I went forward as the congregation sang many verses of the hymn “Just as I Am” and was baptized. I soon fled to the Presbyterian Church of my friend, where the message was less frightening. For the rest of my childhood, I faithfully attended church services and was active in the youth group.
Being a Christian seemed to be a simple set of moral rules to follow, while church was a safe atmosphere for social interaction. These assumptions stayed with me during my adolescence, young adulthood and through the early years of my marriage. Suddenly, during that retreat in Oklahoma, I knew that God was no longer the stern judge of my childhood
but a loving father, eager to lead me personally into a life of joy and transform me into the person He had created me to be. I saw clearly that a lot of work needed to be done but hopefully embraced the future.
I was on the road “less traveled . . . And that has made all the
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.