Jennifer Murrell on Growing and Keeping It Together Despite Difficulties

If you don’t already know Jennifer and her story, get ready to be amazed and inspired. This is one amazing woman.

Though I knew much about Jennifer and her story, this piece that she has written moved me to tears. I just did not realise just how much this godly lady had been through.

Jennifer is a true example of perseverance, patience, godliness, virtue, and agape love.

Jennifer’s story…

I was born Dec. 7, 1977 as a twin. My sister met the world 3 minutes earlier than me. We have a brother that is 16 months older than us. As a child, my mother took us to the Oxford church of Christ. My father later studied with the preacher and became a member.

From the outside looking in, everything looked great. We did have some decent family times but those memories became overshadowed by darker ones. My father beat my mother. I am sure he was dealing with horrible issues from his childhood. As children we had to call 911 one night because we knew he was going to kill her. My mother was a habitual liar. She was controlled and was damaged due to her childhood. We all learned to lie and hit one another.

Though we attended the church services every time the doors were open, in between service times we would not crack a Bible open to save our lives. We never prayed unless we were about to eat. My mother left my dad for a married man and is presently on her fourth husband. My dad remarried later to a woman who has been married twice before.

Before marrying Jim my father tried to hurt me and was even throwing stuff at my truck because I took some pillows that were in my room to what was going to be my new house when I got married. I went back to my father’s house with the police to find my stuff on the carport.

I lived with the Murrells and slept on the couch bed until our house was ready. I stayed in it by myself until we got married. I married my high school sweetheart, Jim Murrell, in 1997.

We first met at the Munford church of Christ. It was a youth devotional and we instantly connected. We had an unusual conversation. Jim asked me if I smoked, drank, and was I a virgin. I said no, I didn’t drink and smoke, and yes, I was a virgin. He said “Okay, I can consider dating you.” This was in the church parking lot. It was awkward, but it was good that we both had these initial standards.

I assumed that he was a Christian but later found out that he was baptized as a result of us dating. We challenged one another to be better Bible students. I already read my Bible daily but Jim didn’t, so he joined in. Then we challenged each other with digging deeper. Not only reading a chapter of the Bible, but also really understanding it. We ended up teaching Bible classes and holding devotionals and it wasn’t long before we headed to Memphis School of Preaching.

I was blessed to have Julianna in 2001. She came early and by an emergency C-section. Not my choice but I was glad she was doing good. She is like me all over again, but a little spunkier. I was blessed to stay home with her for the first year of her life. I enjoyed every moment. Sometimes she drove me crazy and other times I couldn’t spend enough time with her.

She is a few weeks from turning 12 and each year has been a wonderful learning experience. I treasure the way she looks at me and how she still holds my hand in the car on the way to school. She is full of compassion and has a servant’s heart. She battled depression when her dad got real sick. She lost 11 pounds in 2 weeks. She is doing better but has a hard time connecting with people outside of her comfort zone. Praying that with time, she will see that God is for us and with us no matter what happens.

In July 2003, I was in my home cooking supper when I got dizzy. It seemed to pass and then I got dizzy again and passed out. From then on, I have been battling a chronic illness called Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis. It took over 5 years to get a diagnosis. My potassium will bottom out and I will become paralyzed. Over the past 10 years my muscles have become weaker and weaker. I can’t run like I used to. I will walk and work in the yard but I always end up paying for it. It is extremely painful when I have an episode—It feels like someone is trying to rip the muscles right out of my legs, arms and face. My head gets heavy to the extent that I can’t hold it up. I have lost the ability to speak before.

When I first got sick, I had to be in a wheelchair and learn to walk all over again. I take medicine that helps now. There is no cure so it will be a constant battle and I will always have to be careful about what I do and eat. Salty, sweet foods and foods loaded with carbs will trigger an episode. Stress and trauma are also triggers.

I also have other health problems: fibromyalgia, dysautonomia, mitral valve prolapse, and hypoglycaemia. Even as a child, I was sickly. I was hospitalized for viral meningitis and I was hit by a car in 1988. I got my fingers slammed in a door, and they were cut to the bone. I was an accident or a sickness waiting to happen.

In 2006, I was blessed to have Cameron. I lost the use of my legs due to my illness and the doctors got scared that something was going on with him. He was taken by C-section. I had to be completely sedated. He is so sweet and cuddly. He is a real boy. He loves the outside and making things. He has gotten me interested in bugs and in exploring the world of lizards and worms. He is autistic and dyslexic. We work on reading and homework for hours on end. He is super smart but has his challenges. Praying that with time, we will find what works the best.

I was the first one in my family to graduate from college. I have an associate’s degree in Business Administration, a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and a Masters in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting. I have been teaching Business courses on a junior college level for 10 years.

I long to help other people and I hope to become a foster parent or adopt a child one day. I would love to do mission work. I could see myself at an orphanage helping the children and teaching them Bible lessons. Lord willing, one day those dreams will become a reality.

My greatest joy in life is being a mother and a worker for the Lord’s church.

You are so busy! How do you manage your time? What are some things you have found help you keep the house well (cooking and cleaning) during busy times?

Jim and I have always shared the household chores and cooking responsibilities. It is like an unspoken rule. If he cooks, I clean up. On cleaning days we all pitch in as a team. I am always saying “Let’s do this Team Murrell.” The children have daily chores that they do. We help each other to get things done.

What do you to find time for your partner and keep marriage fun?

Because Jim is disabled we have a LOT of time together. If I am working he may sneak down to my work place and take me to lunch. I may ask him to go for a walk with me through the pasture. We shop for groceries together and we will juggle the fruit and pick at each other the whole time. We surprise each other and touching is a must. Like what? Holding hands, rubbing his back, hugging him, and rubbing his feet. Touching says a lot. Without being intimate, it says “I love you” and “I care.”

What do you do to find time for personal bible study/ prayer in your daily life?

I pray when I am going to work. I usually don’t listen to the radio and I just pray as hard as I can. I have the Bible on my phone and I have an app that has Bible trivia and Bible devotionals. I look at those throughout the day.

We always pray in the morning as a family before heading out to school or work. We have Bible time every day. We are studying the gospel accounts right now. We read together, sing, pray and do memory work.

How do you stay focused when there are so many things vying for your attention?

Prayer. Prayer is my lifeline. If I don’t have prayer and Bible time, I can really tell the difference. I go from being sweet and loving to ill as a hornet. Time with God keeps me grounded and focused on the right things throughout the day.

What are the challenges you face as the wife of a preacher? What advice/encouragement would you give to a young woman thinking of marrying a preacher or missionary?

Sometimes people forget that the preacher is just a teacher. We all need to be teaching and helping each other. Because my husband wears the name “Gospel Preacher” doesn’t mean he is the chosen one to visit and help others or to save the world. We are all command and begged of God to do that. His job is to remind us and himself to keep stay the right track.

Advice: It is one of the best things you will ever do in your life, if and only if you both say NO MATTER WHAT we will serve the Lord.

Remember…

  1. You are committed to God first then to each other — Stand by each other, listen to each other, pray together, pray for each other and study the Bible together.
  2. Don’t do it unless you can fully commit.
  3. Don’t let everything somebody says get to you.
  4. Always allow room for growth and improvement personally.
  5. Realize that people are only human and some take years and years to learn and really get what they are supposed to do. Allow people to have time to listen. We all want results right away, but even the farmer has to be patient while waiting for seed to grow.
  6. God is for you, He will be there for you in good times and bad. You will always have a friend.

What are some of the challenges you have faced with Jim’s illness?

People saying crazy things, like: “If he dies, Cameron won’t remember him,” “He doesn’t look sick,” “How can he preach when he is in heart failure?” or “Maybe God will do a miracle in his life.”

I keep praying and praying…I don’t understand. It has been hard, real hard. I went from having a husband who worked 60-70 hours a week to sleeping all day. He couldn’t make love to me, he couldn’t play with his children—he got weaker and weaker. He had two mini strokes which messed up his mind. We call UAB (the hospital) our second home because we have been there so much. Even the janitors know us and give us hugs. He has severe moods swings.

One day he will be giddy and the next ill and mean. I don’t know if it is the 51+ pills he is taking a day or what. I have seen him having a stroke, unable to stop bleeding, shots in his stomach, turn completely gray because of v-tach, flat line, ICD implanted, and his chest cracked open and a new heart put inside. CRAZY!

He has been sick since September of 2006. I was stressed and lost weight but after about 3 months of worrying and thinking of all the things that could go wrong, I realized he is still here with me right now. I started on focusing on right now, today.

Since my illness, I learned to be thankful and content each day but this threw me for a flip. I had to say no to the devil and yes to God. Yes, to I believe that no matter what God is with me and will help me through this. He has and He continues to strengthen me daily.

How do you stay positive?

Focus on right now and be thankful for everything. We are thankful and mention things be name in prayer. We mention things like: “Thank you for the clothes on my back,” “Thank you for another day,” “thank you for this food on the table,” and “thank you for our working vehicles.”

We also pray for people by name that are sick or having a hard time. This reminds us that we are not alone and that there are so many others that have it much, much worse than we do. We make baskets for people that are in the hospital or having a hard time. This helps us all to see the struggles of others and how we can step outside our troubles and help someone.

How do you keep your patience?

Breathe. Talk time to be silent. I love to take walks, listen to music, and I can unwind quickly by serving others or getting some good old fashion yard work done. I love to say that even Jesus had time by himself. We all need that from time to time.

What did you find has helped you the most in keeping and creating a Christ-centered home environment?

Marrying a Christian man. Supportive church family. Bible Time.

We are committed to having it every single day, no matter what. We get involved at church by teaching classes, attending all services, attending gospel meetings, lectures, anything that we can do. That is what we get excited about.

We limit our T.V. time. We used to watch it 30 minutes or less a day. Recently we have only watched it when someone is sick and needs to rest or on the weekend. We are not one of those families that leaves it on all day. We would much rather spend time with our children outside or playing games inside. We are hands-on parents. We know what is going on with our children and we want to keep it that way. We also don’t allow our children to play video games. They don’t have a Game Cube or a Nintendo. If they play these type games it is with supervision, for a limited amount of time.

What is your favorite scripture, and why?

“My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me” (Psalm 63:8).

This verse to me says I will follow and continue to follow you. I will work hard. It will be a pursuit of mine. I will be dedicated to doing it continually. God’s right hand (usually noted as the strong hand), is holding me up and keep me from falling flat on my face. He wants to hold me up and support me when I strive to follow hard after Him.

Because of my constant efforts to remain faithful to the Lord and His church, I have lost several relationships. My family will not have much, if anything to do with my family. It is hard at times but I also remember Matthew 10:34-40. I know heaven will truly be worth it all.

You can read more about Jennifer’s story at her blog here.

 

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