Old Barns and New Life
Editor’s Note: Last Sunday I received a message from Mr. Jim Ross. Jim had read the story of my friend Floyd Barrett. “Mike, I read the story of Floyd Barrett. Where did he get help at?” I said, “Mr. Ross he’s been cleaned up for many years.” Mr. Ross went on to explain of a young relative who was having trouble. I told him I could stop by in an hour and a half. I asked if he could have a pot of coffee ready.
When I arrived he said, “Mike, I want you to have this cross that son Troy made and his book….Also, what do you take in your coffee?” He tells me the story of his grandson Jeremy who had found his father Jeff when he had passed away and how Jeremy has had his share of life’s struggles.
Childhood trauma and helping those have access to therapy and counseling is very important to me and countless others.
The correlation between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), addiction and alcoholism is startling. Jim and his wife Jean shared some Smyrna history stories with me, many of which were hilarious. Her father, Walter King Hoover had operated a funeral home and was the author of the book, “A History of the Town of Smyrna.” I had no idea that was her father.
We spoke about Smyrna history and I met with their grandson Jeremy later that evening. As I was leaving Jim reminded, “please make sure you read my son Troy’s book.” I could tell by the sound of his voice that me reading the book was very important to him. Jim, Jean and I placed our hands on Jeremy and we prayed with him before I left.
The next day I was reading Troy’s story and became intrigued. I thought of all the men and women who are struggling with issues, addiction, family problems and how they could possibly relate. If you’re like myself and drugs and alcohol have never been your thing, we’re very fortunate. I’m reminded of what President Barack Obama once said that impressed me (No, I didn’t vote for him) he said, “I say there but for the grace of God go I.”
I’ve learned that unless you have walked in another man or woman’s shoes we are in no position to judge others. I’m around many lawmakers, who seem to ignore many of these issues, yet they’ve been given so much- Luke 12:48.We do have some good ones who “get it,” but I wish we had more. Needless to say, I get very disappointed in leaders and their neglect for folks in need.
I asked Troy if I could post his book in the Tennessee Ledger. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Troy’s story is powerful and could potentially help hundreds, if not thousands of others in our community, our state and even our nation. The photographs are by Frank Caperton of FrankWorks.
The Troy Ross Story
(Written in his own words)
Old barns fascinate me. I truly admire them- their structure, their majestic beauty, their duration in time. The uses are so versatile for the one that spends their time and energy to construct them. The older they are, the more their beauty shows through.
Being a carpenter and building structures for a livelihood, I understand the effort it takes someone to put together such a wonderful, useful piece of art. Usually it is with a limited source of tools and only a few friends, family, and neighbors to help.
Growing up on a farm, we played in my Grandpa’s barn until we were old enough to help work the livestock and haul hay to be stored in the loft. When I see an old barn that is falling down, I can only wonder who built it. What were the uses of the old building, and why doesn’t anyone care enough about it to restore it back to usability, I ask?
The town I live in, where my entire family has lived for several generations, is growing rapidly and as always with growth comes change. There was an old barn that sat close to a growing busy road. As I drove past it with some regularity, it was apparent that the growth was going to take the old barn down. I could not stand the thought of it getting bulldozed over and most likely burned. So I set out on a mission to find the owner of the land and get permission to tear a part of it down to use the wood in my wood-shop for a variety of projects.
My contact circle is quite large, and I thought I would find the owner and get permission within the day. I contacted everyone I knew of that I thought could give me the answers I was looking for. After a couple of months, I finally found the owner of the land. It was a doctor with a New York address and phone number. Thinking a cold call about some barn wood would be useless, I was feeling defeated.
My parents, who spend the winter months in Florida, had just returned home to Tennessee. I presented my dilemma to my dad along with the information I had acquired about the owner. He said, “That’s your momma’s kidney doctor. His office is at the hospital.” We then got my mom involved. She called and texted him several times with no response. I had all but given up on any chance of getting any of this old barn, without just going and stealing it. That, however, is just not me. I can’t stand a thief! Again, I felt defeated. I rode by that old barn a few times a week in my commute around town, hoping maybe to see someone there that I could talk to but still nothing.
This is where the story takes a divine turn. Hold on, because the Holy Spirit is about to take over! On Monday, May the 6th, 2019, my dad tells me he knows how I can get some of that old barn. He now has my full attention. There is a man who lives about a mile from me and he too is a wood worker. He and his wife make furniture and other crafts in their woodshop. One of the things they do is tear down old barns and use the wood to create one of a kind items like tables, chairs, benches, chests and signs. This portion of their business is called Reclaim America. Justin builds the items and his wife, Jessica, is the painter. She adds the special touch to complete the items.
With each piece constructed of an old barn’s parts, they render to the new owner a story of the history of where that particular wood came from like who built the barn, when it was built, what it was used for. What a spectacular way to preserve history for many generations to come.
My dad told me Justin had posted on Facebook that he had been given permission to tear that old barn down (the one that I wanted so badly). He was looking for anyone that might have any information on the past owner and when it was constructed.
My mother’s father was our town historian and even wrote a book about our history called Smyrna the Church, The Town.
Feeling that maybe our family could help in his search for information and the desire to obtain some of that barn, I went to see this man the next day.
After work on Tuesday, May 7th, I drove past my house directly to his shop. When I got out of my van, a man walked out to meet me. I introduced myself to him and his first words were, “Your dad was here earlier.” The next thing he said was, “You came here for some barn wood.” Remember that phrase, because that is really all I went there for. I said, “Yes I did, I guess my dad told you.”
Justin said, “I have been to your house and into your shop Your dad gave me the full tour.” Justin was busy that day, but he took a few minutes or really like an hour, and shared with me the story of how he started his business. He talked about how he started in the kitchen and garage of a house where they used to live. He also recalled how it grew to the point where they were out of room and needed more space. We talked about how he had torn down a couple of other barns and about his plans on taking down the barn that I had my eye on for about 8 months.
He shared with me how a house with an amazing shop came available to he and his wife unexpectedly and that they were not in a place to buy anything new at that present time. They, however, in faith made a commitment and did it anyway.
We had just met and had only known each other only for a few minutes, but, already, I was feeling very comfortable with him. We were in a wood shop after all and my whole life has revolved around making sawdust by turning raw wood into pieces of art.
About 30 minutes or so had passed and the small talk was slowing down. I noticed several wooden easel’s sitting in a loft inside the shop. I asked about them, and he told me how they were used in a skit along with 6 canvas paintings. When put together, they all formed the face of Jesus.
There was this picture hanging on the wall of his shop. It’s very big and really stood out. I had seen it before driving past his shop and the large roll-up door was open. I told myself that I wanted to stop by one day and meet the owner and talk to him about what he was doing inside that building, but that day never came.
The large picture, the face of Jesus, was really 6 individual paintings of pieces of Christ’s face. The skit was a portrait of different men, each with their own painting and each one not satisfied with what they had. All were discontent in life with only a broken piece to see, but in the end with all the pieces together, there was Jesus. With Christ, completely whole, there is peace and contentment.
I was touched by the story and how the skit was used to help mend the brokenness in our lives. Now that wasn’t the Holy Spirit moment, but the Holy Spirit was definitely with us then.
We had gotten back to the barn and were talking about going one day to get some of that barn wood. Out of nowhere Justin looked me straight in the face and said something that has changed my life and literally saved me from the pit of Hell!
He said, “I think you came here today for something more than barn wood!” My chest got heavy, my throat swelled up, and I completely broke. Tears began streaming down my face, and I started sobbing like a child. For the record, I am 58 years old. After several moments, I regained myself and asked him “What made you say that to me”? Here is the part that you have been waiting for. He said, “The Holy Spirit said to me, ‘Are you going fishing or not?’”
Matthew and Mark in the Bible recall the same story.
Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw Peter and his Brother Andrew fishing. He said to them “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
I told him that I was an alcoholic and a drug addict, and that I had been drinking and smoking pot for so long that I could not hear God’s voice anymore. My life was a wreck, and I was miserable. I was completely going in the wrong direction in life. I was only looking for barn wood that day but God had a different plan. He sent the Holy Spirit to get me instead.
I have been in church my whole life, I was baptized as a teenager. I have always believed in God and confessed Jesus as my Savior. My life and my actions, however, were speaking loudly of something else. Satan had a grip on me, and I was stuck. I know that Jesus is my salvation, but on this day, May 7th, 2019, Justin Bieshearse was listening to the Holy Spirit and saved my life. I will forever be grateful to that man.
The Change Begins
I wasn’t really looking for a change that day. I was perfectly content in my misery. For so long, it was the norm in my life. My entire adult life had been a perpetual cycle of good jobs, bad jobs and no job. I had a roller coaster ride of sufficient money, a lot of money, and absolutely no money. When it was good, I was so proud of myself and when it was bad, I blamed someone or something for the failure.
By the time I met Justin, my situation was dismal. I had spiraled down lower than I have ever been in my life. Within the last 30 days before I was led to him, I was so physically, spiritually, and emotionally exhausted that I spent 3 days in bed without eating or drinking anything except a little water. I had reached my “Rock Bottom.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter and on this Rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
Jesus Christ is our rock and only on this rock will his church be built. Rock bottom is a term used in our society that refers to someone being in a bad place in life, to the end of their rope. God allowed me to dig myself into this hole so that he could finally take me in his arms and bring me back to him.
“On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand.”
After meeting Justin that day, I went home and my regular thing to do was get a beer and work in my yard.
This day was different. That beer tasted terrible; I could not even finish it. I threw away the remaining few beers, and I realized that the Holy Spirit had touched me. God himself came and grabbed me. I gathered every piece of smoking paraphernalia I had and disposed of it, even throwing out the last of the weed. I WAS DONE.
I had stopped before. I had quit drinking and smoking several times. Always for someone or something. I was boastful and proud, “Look at me…look at what I have done.” But the reasons for my actions were not the right ones. I remember thinking to myself and even telling one of my best friends, “God came after me this time. I think I need to listen to him.”
I needed to do something different this time-something that I had never done before. I really didn’t know what that was or how to go about doing it. I just knew that I wanted to know what God’s plan for the rest of my life was. I was praying desperate prayers. I was diving into my Bible, looking for anything to guide me. But everything was so random, and there was no direction. Even though I was sober, I was still wandering aimlessly. By this time Justin is becoming my spiritual guidance. He helped me download an app called “youversion” on my phone. Being the obsessive, compulsive person I am, I went full speed into God’s word in daily devotion and meditation. FINALLY, I had some direction.
All of my close friends were my drinking buddies. It was inevitable that they were going to have to know that I was a changed man. So, one by one, as the opportunity arose, I shared my new life with them.
My 5 or 6 best friends believe in God and are generally good guys. My new life, however, is more than just a belief in God. It’s a total commitment to fully search out his will for me and be completely willing to follow him at all cost-even if my handful of “good friends” don’t agree with new way of life! On the contrary, they have all been very receptive. They even were a the point of admitting that some change in their life would not hurt them, and I definitely could agree with them. At this point, however, I needed only to be a light that is seen and not so much heard, for my pride has been my downfall and failure in the past.
God has given me another chance! Through the Holy Spirit and Justin Bieshearse, my life has begun to be whole again. I was at the end of my desire or ability to help myself anymore. So to you, friend, I end this triumphant story to say never forget God Loves You! And never ever give up! He has a plan for you. Deut. 31:6
For the Lord your God goes with you: He will never leave you nor forsake you.
God wants so much for us to come to him, but our sinful nature will not allow that to happen. So He comes to us. There are many ways this can happen. This time in particular was the Holy Spirit and Justin. I was completely in God’s hands on that day. He came to me. He choose me even when I had abandoned him and had nothing left to give. This is the first relationship that was renewed. My relationship with Jesus.
He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
My wife and I celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary on June 15th, 2019. What a woman God gave to me! When we first met, I was sober. She did not know the man that drank too much and smoked all the time. I had put together nearly 8 years of complete abstinence, and she was a huge part of my recovery. But I was not putting God first in my life during this time. I was just not using anymore. A few years into our marriage I was looking for work. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Being a carpenter and specializing in building houses, I sought out work with some old friends. I remember thinking, “I’ve got almost 8 years clean, I can handle this.” Do you hear how stupid that sounds? I was an IDIOT! And HERE is proof.
Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing”.
Now don’t get too far ahead of me! I know what you are thinking! Okay, so you are right: My addiction was stronger than my desire, and I was on my way again.
In Romans 7:20, Paul writes, “Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it. But it is sin living in me that does it.”
I hid my using drugs and alcohol from my wife for some time, that is, until my responsible ways were beginning to falter, and my daily routine was showing signs that something was going on with me. She thought I had a girlfriend at first and was very upset. She confronted me with questions.
I explained to her that I did not have a girlfriend, and it was not another woman. It was beer and a pipe. Although I was not cheating on her with another woman physically, I was cheating on her emotionally and spiritually. I was no longer the man she married. Even though she did not like this new man much, she is a Godly woman and knew that my sinful life was God’s responsibility. So for the next 20 years or so, she tolerated my actions and continued to love me despite myself. Did I mention what a wonderful woman God gave me?
Today, I can honestly say, with a sincere heart, that she finally has the man she deserves but even better than in the beginning. Now God is first in my life, and every day starts with him. Because of that very detail, this is the second renewed relationship: my relationship with the love of my life, my wife.
Our family is very blessed. My wife and I live in the house that my grandfather built. My dad moved into this house when he was 10 years old. My family moved into this house when I was 11. Much later, Mom and Dad downsized and bought a house that borders the backyard,. Then, my wife and I moved into this house when our son was 14.
Family is very important to us. My brother also bought a house that is next door to mine.
There is a total of four acres here, and it’s the last of my grandpa’s 200 acre dairy farm. It is known as “the compound”.
Because of my selfish desires and mostly because of my drinking, I spent a lot of my free time working in the yard. It was a safe place to always have a drink in my hand and my pipe in my pocket. This behavior, however, isolated me from those who were closest to me: my family.
I spent my days, mostly alone, working, always doing something. I did not spend quality time with anyone. Keeping busy was my way to cover up any guilt I had about my addiction. A friend of mine shared a thought later with me: even Adam covered up when he felt shameful. Wow, what a profound thought! Humans have tried to cover their sin since the beginning of time.
My brother became ill with M.S., and we lost him in April of 2007. It was a hard time: the “compound” was devastated. We had a missing piece, and we were broken. Still in my selfishness, the using began to grow. More drinking and more smoking was starting to pay a price. Resentment started to grow and animosity was taking over my life. My brother and his wife had divorced when he got sick. They had two sons. Now they are grown and are my neighbors.
The loss of their dad was hard on them, and their lives were taking a turn for the worse, as well. A few years had passed since Jeff had died, and one day in the compound my oldest nephew and I had words. It did not come to blows, but it was a violent argument. I had had enough of him and his disrespectful attitude. I cast him from my life and banned him from the compound. For three years, we did not speak. I built a fence between us that I dubbed “the barricade”. My selfish, spiritless, sinful self had abandoned my brother’s sons, and at all costs I burned the bridge.
On Father’s Day, June 16th, 2019, the day after my 28th wedding anniversary and exactly “40” days after I met Justin, I wrote my dad an apology letter that I put in his Father’s Day card.
We spent over an hour talking, laughing, crying and enjoying our time together.
Being a rebel and totally a prodigal son, I wanted, no I NEEDED, my dad to know my life had been changed, and that I was finally home. We watched a sermon on T.V. that Justin had preached at his church recently. I highly recommend watching this sermon: Springhouse Ministries, Smyrna TN. archives: “A Time to be Born and a Time to Die.”