The Breath of Life Women’s Ministry team would like to introduce our newest writer, Dennis Ensor. Dennis is a husband, father, grandfather, church leader, businessman, and author. More importantly, Dennis is a wonderful Christian example and a true friend. We would like to express our appreciation for his ongoing encouragement of our ministry. Dennis has graciously accepted the invitation to be a contributor as a guest writer. Prepare to be blessed as you read a story from his book, Texas Pioneer Chronicles.
by Dennis Ensor
I have in my filing cabinet a large envelope that is crammed full of late notices from a bunch of mortgage companies. These old notices warned me about how I was in danger of hurting my credit, of how my payment was past due, of how I was in danger of losing my houses through foreclosure and other similar warnings.
This stack only represents a fraction of all the notices I received many years ago. It doesn’t include, at all, the myriad of phone calls and answering machine messages that I was receiving on a daily basis. It doesn’t include all the vacancies I had in my rent houses and the non-payers I had in the houses that were not vacant. I was broke. That’s putting it mildly. I was actually broke minus.
I had four stacks of checks on my desk. The first stack was the lowest priority mortgage payments that I had not yet mailed from three months earlier. Each other stack was the consecutive months following that first stack. I had houses that were badly in need of repair but I didn’t have the time to work on them after getting home from my job and I didn’t have the money to hire someone else to work on them either.
With junky houses, I couldn’t get good tenants. Many of the tenants I had couldn’t pay their rent because the economy had taken a major down turn and many of them had been laid off. Therefore, I couldn’t make my payments either. Thus, the notifications started pouring in.
And what was so depressing was that it was painfully obvious that this ship wasn’t going to right itself for quite a few years to come. I so dreaded going down into my office to work each night. All it would do was help me lose less money than I would have lost had I not gone down. How depressing was that? I knew that God molded people. It wasn’t until this point in my life that I realized that he sometimes extruded them.
It was also about this time that I realized that it is easy to be a man of integrity if you have more money coming in than you owe. But the question I had to deal with at that point was, “How could I be a man of integrity if I couldn’t pay my debts?” It was a difficult situation (not even including all the ripple effects of strained relationships and struggling self esteem, etc.).
One day when I was driving down the highway, in my beat up old two-toned GMC pickup, I got pulled over by a highway patrolman. I really needed that (not!). He asked me for my driver license and then asked me if I realized that I was speeding. I told him that I didn’t realize it and that I guess I just wasn’t paying attention. I was just numb. There was no color in my life—only shades of gray.
He took my license and went back to his car to do whatever it is they do when they go back to their car. When he came back he handed me my license and then he looked me in the eye and asked me if I was okay. I didn’t feel okay but I said “yes” (sure, why not?). I remember feeling so beat down—so depressed. I guess he picked up on it because he hesitated and then asked me again, “Are you okay?”
Again I said, “Yes” but my voice was a little shaky this time. My eyes started welling up with tears as I looked straight ahead and down. Then I could contain it no more. I lost it. I hit bottom. My emotions welled up inside me as I began crying first and then sobbing. With great difficulty I told him that I just didn’t know life was going to be so hard. “It just wasn’t supposed to be this hard.”
He put his hand on my shoulder. He had compassion on me. He listened to my weary soul as I grieved and as I let out my frustration and my weariness. He just listened and cared. It was a turning point.
I didn’t get the man’s name. Many times through the years I’ve wished that I had, because I have wanted to meet with him again and to thank him for his kindness and compassion. I sometimes wonder if he was an angel that God sent to touch me. If he wasn’t, I know that he has no clue about how his gentle spirit ministered to me.
As I look back I know that even in my worst times I was still blessed beyond most of the people in the world. But while you are going through it, that knowledge just doesn’t seem to help much. I also know that even though that was the worst time of my life, it was, in another way, the best time of my life. More than any other time, my priorities—what’s important to me—came clearly into focus.
Now, many decisions that would have seemed difficult are like child’s play to me. Questions of integrity are easily answered. Integrity is more important than riches. People take priority over things. Relationships matter. Making a difference in people’s lives—putting your hand on someone’s shoulder when they are struggling—are the things that really matter. Everything else is just “stuff.”
I keep the stack of late notices as a type of reminder of how it was and how it can be. I never want to forget what it was like to go through that hell. I truly appreciate God for bringing me out of it and for blessing me so. He has made my life easier since that time. And for that I am truly thankful.
(From the book “Texas Pioneer Chronicles: The Life and Times of the Ensor, Kelso & Crim Families Since 1856,” by Dennis Kelso Ensor. Available on Amazon.com.)