My friend Toby is an artist in paint and in landscape design. And sheâ
€™s experienced more new births than anybody I know.
Toby says of herself, â€œI always felt alien. My parents werenâ€™t
religious, but I always knew I needed God to fix me. I felt heâ€™d
left out a part when I was born.â€�
She began to use drugs and alcohol to fit in. She had secrets, and
kept drugs buried in the yard. Working in the movie industry as a set
designer, she married a movie star who was an alcoholic. She knew
their family life was messed up, and she went to AA to get literature
for her husband. She recalls driving around stoned with a meeting
directory. Stopping in the parking lot of a mortuary, she prayed, â€œI
donâ€™t know if youâ€™re there, but if you are, help me find a
Immediately, one meeting seemed to jump out at her, and she went. â
€œWhen I saw the serenity of the people in AA, I knew they had what
I wanted. I stayed and worked the program. I had to surrender my
right to fix things my way. I had to do it their way, even though I knew
it was stupid.â€�
She had begun to get functional though AA, but she still wanted God.
About that time, she received a mailing from David Skates, the minister
at the Culver Palms Church of Christ. His letter offered to talk with
her if she wanted. She began meeting with David and eventually was
baptized. But still she couldnâ€™t give up and trust him. She saw
God as a big policeman.
Finally, she needed him so much she had to give up. She came to
church. That first year was a struggle. God had already won, but
Toby failed to accept and surrender to him.
Then her son died, and she lost her career. Plunged into depression,
she gained 100 pounds, which she kept on for years, even after she
was sober and going to church. She tried dieting, but she always felt
miserable, hungry and obsessed with food.
Toby always thrilled to the beauty of the natural world. She knew
God had created it, and she thanked him for allowing her to be alive
and see the beauty. She paints flowers and natural scenes to share
what she sees with others. She takes her cue from the first chapter of
John: â€œAll things were made through him.... In him was life and
that life is the light of men.... The light shines in the darkness, but the
darkness has not overcome it.â€�
As Toby puts it, â€œThatâ€™s the story of my life. There was lots of
darkness there, but the light kept shining. Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m
She takes a similar pleasure from landscape gardening. â€œItâ€™s a
creative process to put two plants together so the colors â€˜singâ€™
off each other,â€� she says.
â€œI see beauty in people, too. I see the inner light, the life that God
gave them.â€� Toby has taken over a hundred people under her
wing, men and women of all ages, races and economic groups. After
32 years, she still goes to AA meetings. â€œThere might be
somebody there who needs me,â€� she says. â€œAnd I need to be
there to not feel alienated.â€�
Finally, she went to Weight Watchers. The first three months were
terrible, but eventually, the craving went away. Again, it was a matter
Clean and sober for 32 years now, Toby has lost 90 pounds and kept
them off for two years.
â€œI have experienced that God does come through, though maybe
not on my time schedule. Now I feel a peace and serenity I never
knew I could have. I feel joy and gratitude for life since I know Iâ
€™m right with God.â€�