Mrs. Juana Mikels: Proverbs 14:1, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands, the foolish one tears hers down. I had torn my own house down.” I was watching it burn, but I was the one who had ignited the flames.
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John Fuller: That’s Juana Mikels, talking about some struggles in her marriage and the long, long road to reconciliation with her husband. And her struggles might be your struggles. You’re gonna hear more of her story today on Focus on the Family with Focus president and author, Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us today. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, I think so many married couples last time, they were relating to Juana’s story, Juana and Terry, and they were, what we say “leaning in” toward the radio or toward their smartphone, whatever they were listening to, because it was so refreshing to hear the vulnerability of Juana tell her story, how she came to the Lord, the way she was ready to leave the relationship after being married for two years, simply writing a note to her husband saying, “You know what? We gave it a try. It’s not working out well and, uh, have a good life.” Um, it had a bit more heart in it than that, but the point of it is, she thought she had married the wrong guy. Terry was not the man for her. Um, if you’re in that point of disillusionment with your marriage, you don’t think you married the right person or it’s over or whatever it might be, we have caring Christian counselors here at Focus that are ready to talk with you and to give you some advice, some Biblical advice on what you might do. I would like to say, we don’t like divorce at Focus on the Family. Scripture’s clear that God Himself does not like divorce. He gives you an out for infidelity and abandonment, but that is it. So, if you’re in trouble, um, emotionally, call us. If you’re in trouble physically, if you’re in danger, you do need to get to safety. We would not subscribe that you stay in a, uh, physically abusive situation and seek the help of your pastor, your church. If you don’t go to church, call us here at Focus and we have some ideas on what you can do. But for those that are in that, uh, pit of despair and you don’t know what to do, um, we’re here for you.
And now we’re gonna welcome back Juana Mikels to the Focus program. Juana, thanks for being back with us.
Juana: Thank you for having me.
Jim: Can I say, really as a point of encouragement, thank you for being so vulnerable last time in sharing painful memories of where you and Terry had really messed up and the fact that you gave your heart to the Lord and how the Lord did that on July 4th in the evening. I also, um, want to thank that pastor who challenged you about your faith, even though you were that little girl going to church regularly from a broken family. Your dad made that little gate that you could get to church and hear the Bible stories. It didn’t translate into a relationship with Christ, which is a – it’s a great reminder for all of us as parents to make sure our teenagers, our kids actually understand what it means to have a relationship with…
Jim: …Jesus Christ.
Juana: As you walk down the road, as you lie down, as you go about your day…
Jim: (Chuckling) Right.
Juana: …Just – it just should be a natural part of life that Scripture comes out like breathing and – and it applies to our life.
Jim: Right and, um – and what we want to do today is pick up the conversation. I left with, uh, your dedication to the Lord, your, um, yielding to Him, your embrace of Him. Now you gotta wake up the next day and you gotta decide what are your next steps? When you talked to Terry and you said you’ve become a born-again Christian, what happened?
Juana: I had made a list that night in the wee hours of the morning to the sounds of fireworks in the background. I made a list – a list of all the areas where I had sinned, most of those against Terry. And before that night, when the scales were still on my eyes, I didn’t think I had done anything wrong. It was always, “If Terry…” “If Terry….” But just in the blink of an eye, I suddenly saw myself for who I was. I was a sinner. Some of the things on that list included – I sought to be understood, rather than to try to understand. I sought to be heard, rather than to try to listen and 14 other things and I presented that the next day to Terry, to which he said, “Thank you very much.” And he folded it and he put it in his pocket. And he said, “But I no longer want to be married to you.”
Jim: Huh. And that had to be devastating ‘cause you’re on the – on the mend. You’re on the uptake and here he’s now moving away from you in a more aggressive way. Um, what did you do? What did you say to Terry when he says, “I don’t want to be married to you”?
Juana: I was very calm. You know, I had just received Christ in my life the night before. I had been praying for Him to show me who He was. He had just shown me a miracle. I had experienced a miracle, a miracle of salvation and the atonement and how a person’s life can change in an instant. And the Bible says we’re a new creation. I was a new creation! I – this was the first day of the rest of my life! And Jim, I consider all of my life, it was either before that watershed event in my life or it was after. And I consider all of my life in those terms now. Does Christ make a tangible different in my life on Tuesday afternoon, on Friday morning? You bet He does, because of the cross…
Juana: …Because of the cross. So, I just experienced a miracle. I had known all the Bible stories growing up. I couldn’t see how I could come to Christ because He wasn’t real to me. And He had done this! He had reached down and that’s what salvation is. It’s a rescue. He rescued me from myself and my sin. And so, as Terry told me he no longer now wanted me, I actually sat there very calmly, me who always had something to say, who always wants to try to get in the last word, was very quiet. And he asked me, how could I just sit there? And I told him that I had received Christ and I was gonna be okay. I knew I’d be okay, that I had God in my life. And he left that day. Now between us right here, as soon as he left, I bawled my eyes out. I laid on the bed and bawled my eyes out, but I was able to just hold it together there, because of what God had just done in my life.
Jim: But Juana, let me ask you, because some – the fragile nature of being one day old in a relationship with Christ, having that discussion with Terry, him responding with “I don’t want to be married to you,” some would now challenge God. Why would You do this to me? Because they’ve already now preconceived that, I gave my life to You. I’m gonna talk to my deserted spouse and it’s all gonna come back together, God, because You’re a God of miracles. How come it didn’t disillusion you…?
Jim: …That Terry responded the way he did?
Juana: Well, it took a long time for us to get into the mess we were in. We were in bad routines, bad habits. Now this was the beginning of a new life, learning new habits, conquering sins that needed to be conquered, in transforming my mind, being changed. In a word, we need to be changed. And it was going to take time. And Terry was no – not a believer. So, he didn’t have the help of the Holy Spirit and I knew that.
Jim: So, grace was there. You were able to extend grace, not give up hope and you moved forward. So, how did that communication continue with Terry?
Juana: Well, we went on a roller coaster that lasted the next one and a half years.
Jim: What did that look like? Just describe some of the interaction that you had.
Juana: He would want to date me. He didn’t want to date me. He wanted to see me. He didn’t want to see me. He – he was in a total state of confusion. And what it was is and I didn’t know it at the time, found out later, he had so much anger and unforgiveness towards me. But he didn’t even have the capability to forgive me because it’s only through Christ can you really have total restoration. And he wasn’t going to come to Christ till really some seven years later, but I’m getting ahead of the story.
Jim: Well, and I want to say, you did something really wise in that moment, and oftentimes we don’t do this and that is, you sought out mentors to help you, um, to I think, if I were in your shoes, would’ve been to provide some stability and perspective. Um, why did you do that? Did somebody encourage you to do that? And who did you find and how did it work?
Juana: A couple, a godly committed Christian couple actually reached out to me. We were…
Jim: So, they heard your story.
Juana: They knew I was a new believer. They knew I was separated, and they took me on.
Juana: God bless them. They…
Juana: …Took me on. They took me under their wing. Uh, they took me with them on holidays because they didn’t want me to go into a non-supportive environment. They taught me Scripture. I can remember the first Scripture they taught me to memorize was Romans 6, “What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning that grace may increase? By no means. You died to sin. How can you live in it any longer?” And that was Paul and Macon Newby, that shared their life with me. They demonstrated Christ’s love to me by sharing themselves with me.
Jim: And so, that helped you again, get balance to better understand…
Juana: Oh, yeah.
Jim: …Maybe where Terry was at. How long did they walk with you?
Juana: About a year and a half…
Jim: So ,right through…
Juana: …After that point.
Jim: …The thick of it?
Juana: Oh, yes. And they taught me the ways of God and lots of meals together, lots of conversations together…
John: Did you have down days? I mean, I – I can’t imagine the struggle going on here and I’m assuming that at some point, Paul and Macon, they had to kind of lift you up and – and pull you out of the pit of despair. Um, describe some of those moments.
Juana: Yes, John. I remember when Terry would call and he would call me for the fourth time and say, “It’s all over. I don’t want to see you anymore.” And then the following week he may call and say, “Well, I’ve got tickets for a basketball game. Would you like to go with me?” And, of course, I – I always said yes. I never called him. It was back to dating rules. Even though we were married, I wanted to be married in every sense of the word, but I had to take what I could get. And then he would call me back a couple weeks later and say, “It – it’s all off.” Uh, I – and I remember just crying and I called Macon crying and crying. And she would console me on the phone, and she would always point me to Christ and pray with me. But I – I was growing in Him, even though it was painful. The turmoil was still here. My life was in turmoil. There was this – this storm going all on around me. But do you know what? I had perfect peace. Is it possible? Can you have perfect peace in the midst of these – these horrible undesirable circumstances that you don’t want, that not only you don’t want, but you created it? And as I sign every one of my books, I always sign them with Proverbs 14:1, “The wise woman builds her house but with her own hands, the foolish one tears hers down.” I had torn my own house down. I was watching it burn, but I was the one who had ignited the flames.
Juana: And so, I was now reaping the consequences, but God always promises us that He will be with us through the storm. It will not overtake us. The storm is there. It was every bit there, but He was with me.
Jim: Hmm. Juana, I mean, that – those are powerful connections for people, for all of us to hear in the way that you ‘re sitting there, um, yeah, you’re reaping the – the consequences of your decisions, but you’re in that waiting period. I mean, some people, um, find it hard to rely upon the Lord in that waiting period. And some people, you know what? In your case, Terry comes back and we’re gonna cover that. But some people, it will be much longer, if ever that God will restore that. And speak to them about that waiting period. Were you prepared to just keep going and trusting…?
Jim: …God if it were a year and a half or five years or 10 more years or 15 more years?
Juana: Yes, I was learning to wait on God. I was not waiting on Terry. I had some family members that were very upset with me that said, “Terry doesn’t love you. He wants a divorce. Just get on with your life. Get on with your life.” But I was experiencing life. I was waiting on God. You know, that’s a very active word. I was watching and waiting to see what was God gonna do? This wasn’t my problem. It was God’s. I was His. I was bought and paid for by – with a price! He was in charge of my life. I was holding His feet to the fire to say, “Lord, what are You gonna do?” And whatever He was gonna do was good with me. Yes, I wanted the marriage, but if God saw fit to not allow that, I was gonna be okay because now I didn’t have to control my life anymore, not that I ever could, but thought I could. But now, I had the King of the Universe guiding me.
Jim: Juana, let me ask you this. Um, as you moved through that, there was a moment where confrontation had to occur. You had – you and Terry had to begin talking about where you’re going, ‘cause you’re in this suspended state of relationship. And on and off and on and off and nobody knows where this is going. How did that come about? You did something very bold which was to move back in with him.
Jim: Talk about that and why you chose to do that. And what were the repercussions?
Juana: I can remember it like it was yesterday, Jim. The phone rang and Terry called back and everything was off again for about the 10th time in this year and a half period since I came to Christ. And I hung up the phone. I was calm with him, but I started stomping around that apartment. I was stomping.
Juana: And I knew this was the enemy causing all this confusion in Terry’s mind. And that God was not the author of confusion. And I made a decision that I was moving home, that it was wrong that I left and that I was gonna make restitution and I was gonna do the right thing. I was coming home. So, the next day I called the power company and asked them to turn my power off at that apartment. I contacted the landlord and asked them to shut the lease down, that I was moving. And she said, “Oh, are you and your husband getting back together?” I said, “Not exactly.” And didn’t tell anyone! I told no one. And I called movers and I moved home. Terry actually was not there when I got there. There were no lights on. I told the movers where to put everything and I moved home and went to bed.
Jim: Hmm. That, I mean, and how did it – how was Terry reacting in that moment? I mean, here you move back in all of a sudden. He – you’re there. You go to the bedroom to…
Juana: The ironic thing…
Jim: …Slip into bed.
Juana: …The irony is, is he had been to a NASCAR race in Charlotte, and the night that I had left the note, he had been to a NASCAR race. He had not been to one before or since. And he came home, and he said as he tells it, that he saw the – a light on and he came in and there was the kitchen table, which has been absent for two years and there it was. And he knew I was home. And I heard his footsteps coming up the steps and I sat up in bed and he opened the door and he was so angry with me. And he said a few words to me and slept in the guest room and he said, “I’m moving out.” And then he moved out, which now the shoe was on the right foot because he was truly leaving me which was a true picture of what the situation was now.
Jim: Right, you had come back to him and now he’s acting out of his anger.
Jim: And he’s saying, “Wait a minute. I said I don’t want you.” And so, now he moves out. How long was that period of time that he was estranged from you? He was living away from you?
Juana: That went on for many, many, many months until one day he had to have some surgery, some minor surgery. And I had not heard from him. Again, I didn’t call him unless he called me. And he told me he had some minor surgery, and would I come to the hospital? And I went to the hospital. And in the hospital, he allowed me to comfort him and to hold his hand. And at the conclusion, he asked me, would I go home with him to the home that I was then living in, that we had built some two years earlier. And after a two-year separation, almost to the day, we went home together.
Jim: And when you say you went home together, talk about that outside of the physical sense of it. Yeah, you went home together, but what was happening emotionally?
Juana: Emotionally, it took quite a while. Terry did not put his ring back on immediately. It took a while for him to put his ring back on. It took a while for him to trust me again because he knew the old Juana. He knew that I was flighty. He knew that I had no foundation, and could he trust me? Was I gonna leave him again? And now I had the Lord in my life and the Lord was my stability and my rock and my Redeemer. And He was guiding me. He was helping me to do the right thing and to be the kind of wife that I really wanted to be. Now I wanted to be a wife from a Christian perspective and the passage that was the dearest, dearest to me was 1 Peter 3:1-7. May I read it now?
Juana: It says, “Wives, in the same way, submit yourselves to your own husband, so that if any of them do not believe the Word” – because you have to remember, Terry was not a believer at this time – “They may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or find clothes. Rather it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which is of great worth in God’s sight.” And I have to tell you that I was not born with a gentle and quiet spirit. I come from a long line. My mother is Hispanic, and we do not come from a line of…
Jim: You’re ready to wrestle! (Laughter)
Juana: …Gentle and quiet spirit. I’m this very independent person and it takes the grace of God working in my life. But here it’s guiding me saying – God is saying, it’s your behavior. It’s not preaching to him. It’s not leaving things out. No man wants to be nagged into doing what his wife thinks he should do. You know, if your husband is 80 percent of what you want, all that nagging, maybe he might move up to 81.
Juana: Is it worth all that nagging? Wouldn’t it be a whole lot better to have a wife that loves you and looks at all your strengths and all that you are, instead of being like what I call “Grandmother Eve” in the Garden? She had everything she could want and more. And she looked at the one thing she didn’t have, and she fixated on that. And we’ve been in a mess ever since.
Jim: Yeah, right, exactly! So, but Juana, I need to get to the Terry part of the story…
Jim: …Because God didn’t end the story with just you coming to Him. Um, He continued to work through you in Terry’s heart and his life. What happened and how long did it take before Terry said, “Okay, Lord, I’m yours?”
Juana: Well, two years after we reconciled, we had our first child. Our first daughter was born and then three years after that, our first son was born. Then two years after that, another son and then three years after that another daughter. But seven years after I became a Christian – oh, Jim, I shudder to think, all I would’ve missed had I not gotten on God’s path! You know, God’s path is always there. We’re the ones that get off of it. The path is always there.
Jim: (Laughter) It’s true!
Juana: But seven years after I became a Christian, through a ministry called Bible Study Fellowship…
Jim: Oh, yeah.
Juana: …Terry, sitting right there in his seat on the second night of class, he gave his heart and life to Christ. There was a study in the New Testament on Paul and as he was reading that Scripture and hearing it, right there in his seat, he gave his – his heart and life to Christ and our son was 1-year-old.
Jim: Wow. And that, um, happened because he saw such change in you, I would think, that that testimony of yours made such an impact in him that he opened his heart to the possibility that maybe God is who He said He was. Is that fair?
Juana: It’s – it’s all God’s grace, Jim. It’s all God’s grace. I want to tell you that I – I messed up so many times and we even skipped over that in those times when we would see each other before we were reconciled, he – he wanted to tell me all the things that were wrong with me and it was just part of that hidden anger he had against me. And I lashed…
Jim: How did …
Juana: …I lashed back a few times!
Jim: Well, I was gonna say, how did you emotionally handle that? Did you rationalize that, okay, he needs this time to process and…?
Jim: …This is how he’s gonna do it?
Juana: Sometimes, but sometimes I blew it and I would go back home. I’d get alone with God. I’d ask God to please give me another chance, to forgive me for lashing back out at Terry. But I had – I had the help of the Holy Spirit. I had His love and forgiveness and Terry didn’t have that. And here I was acting just like him. He would say all these things he didn’t like about me and then I would say, “Well, let me tell you one thing about you I don’t like.” And I would dish it back.
Jim: Kinda like a tennis match?
Juana: Yes, but in spite of all that, God’s will prevailed.
Jim: Yeah and that’s the beautiful part of this. And Juana, you said something to me, um, off mic that I want to capture, ‘cause it was beautiful. You said you and Terry still struggle and you still, you know, battle these old behavior patterns.
Juana: Oh, yes.
Jim: And I think that again, is so refreshing because…
Juana: We might even…
Jim: …It’s real.
Juana: …Struggle more. We might…
Juana: …Even struggle more.
Jim: But you’re committed.
Juana: We are totally committed. We are totally committed but you know, when the children of Israel were going through to get to the Promised Land, they – they encountered more wars and more struggles in their blessing!
Juana: And that’s kind of what’s happened with us. It has not been easy. Terry can be in the same car with me or in the same room with me and the message that he says to me is not the message that I pick up and then an altercation can ensue. It is just – we’re a mess! We are still a mess.
Juana: But thank God, we – we both love and want to serve the Lord. We are totally committed to our marriage. And we know that the chance of our children – we’re planning the first wedding of our daughter in a month – the chances of any of our four children divorcing go up so much higher with divorce. If they know that they have parents that are going to work it out no matter what, what an encouragement that is to our children.
Jim: Yeah, it’s a great model. I mean, that – that is one of the biggest things I’m concerned about, is that when I speak to so many Christian young people, they’ll say, “Marriage, I don’t think is the way for me simply ‘cause my mom and dad divorced. I never saw it work well.”
Juana: Oh, and so…
Jim: And that’s a tragedy.
Juana: …And so, many people told Terry to just – there’s more fish in the sea. Go find someone else that doesn’t have all this baggage. Everyone – no one told him to pursue his marriage.
Juana: And with me, you know, I even told myself, I owed it to myself. I was a peacemaker in my family growing up. Hey, it was my time now. There’s not one shred of evidence in the Bible that I owe anything to myself. I owe everything to God and to everybody God has called me to love and serve.
Juana: I don’t owe anything to myself.
Jim: Yeah. Juana, this has been so strong and powerful, and you are speaking to the hearts of people who are hurting. And that’s exactly how the Lord uses our stories and our testimonies. Now if you’ve been listening to the program and you’re marriage is in a tough spot, I want to encourage you to contact us. Juana talked about how mentors engaged her. Let us be that first mentor for you. We have caring counselors who can talk with you. We have resources and tools to help you begin that road of restoration in Christ and in your relationship with your spouse. We hear often from husbands and wives who have simply given up hope, but you don’t need to. God is in your corner and we’re in your corner and we want to give you the tools to fight for your marriage. And I’m telling you what, folks, when you look into this culture right now, we need Christian marriages to be strong. I think the Lord is shouting for us to repair the breaches and to show this world what it means to be committed to one another. And I would encourage you, if you’re not in that healthy place in your marriage, find it. Get it. Do everything you can and we’re here to help. And for those that help us financially, hey, let’s go on offense. Let’s stop playing defense in the culture. Let’s, uh, mount a campaign to help marriages thrive in Christ and that’s what we’re about here at Focus on the Family. That’s why Juana was here today and last time, was to share her story of what God did in her life and then in her husband, Terry’s life. That could be your story, too. God is for you, not against you and we want to be there for you.
John: If you’d like to speak to one of our counselors here at Focus on the Family about issues that you’re experiencing in your marriage, our number is 800-232-6459. That’s 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. And you can also find the help you need at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And let me say again thank you to generous friends who support his ministry financially. You’re partnership is crucial as we produce broadcasts like this one and provide resources like Juana’s book and our websites and the counseling that we’ve mentioned. And if you can, please, consider making a monthly pledge to Focus on the Family. Jim does that. I do that. And it’s going to help stabilize our budget and planning process as we anticipate rescuing more marriages and equipping more parents and strengthening even more families in the months ahead. Anything you can do, even a onetime gift, is going to be very helpful. And when you make a donation of any amount today, we’re going to say thank you by sending Juana’s book, Choosing Him All Over Again. You can donate at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Or call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. I’m John Fuller and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today. Plan to be with us next time, won’t you? As we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.