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The Family She Never Had

After a fragmented, unstable childhood, Julie Boyd prayed that God would begin a new legacy with her own family.
By Mary May Larmoyeux


"I am not skilled to understand What God has willed, what God has planned I only know at His right hand Stands one who is my Savior.*
 

The sun had not yet risen when Julie Boyd grasped the gift and responsibility God had given her. Cradling her firstborn son, she rocked back and forth on the hard wooden floor of the unfinished spare bedroom, enveloped by the darkness of an early summer morning and the light of a compassionate Savior.

The sun had not yet risen when Julie Boyd grasped the gift and responsibility God had given her. Cradling her firstborn son, she rocked back and forth on the hard wooden floor of the unfinished spare bedroom, enveloped by the darkness of an early summer morning and the light of a compassionate Savior.

Julie was overwhelmed with conflicting feelings of gratitude and sorrow as she held little Brandon. She was thankful as she gazed into his deep blue eyes and ran her fingers through his light brown hair. She marveled at his soft hands and tiny feet.

Tears began to trickle down Julie's cheeks as she thought of her own childhood. She knew firsthand how a child feels who is tossed back and forth between family members. Her own young life had been ripped by a mentally unstable mother, by a father who just couldn't deal with his reality, and by a grandmother who was caught in the middle.

And as Julie rocked Brandon in the shadows of night, she prayed that he would grow up to be a godly man. She prayed that she and her husband, Bruce, would break the cycle of brokenness she had inherited from her family.

A Lifetime of Mental Problems

Julie describes her mother as having dark hair, big brown eyes, and perfectly tweezed eyebrows. She was not only athletic, but also had a beautiful voice. Her father was a soft-spoken man, intelligent. Julie's parents met in high school. Her mom gave up a full scholarship to a private university to help her dad get through medical school.

All seemed well until her older brother, Mark, was born. That's when her mom started hearing voices.

No one knows what caused her mother's problems. "I don't know what my dad was saying to her or if it was just the hormones—post partum depression or exactly what," Julie says.

But Julie does know that the pattern repeated itself after she was born three years later. Her mom went into a deep depression that led to a nervous breakdown…and eventually to a lifetime of mental problems and stays in various institutions. Julie's father didn't know how to respond in love to his wife or how to even be a dad. His own father had been an alcoholic and had committed suicide (when Julie's dad was in his early teens).

Julie thinks her father felt trapped by her mother's mental problems. It seemed that he just wanted out of the marriage because he was unwilling to go through life with a wife who had mental illness. And so, her parents divorced when she was about two years old. "I don't think there was a big blow up," Julie says. "It was more of a sense of Mom's condition being too much for him to handle."

Julie describes her childhood as "all kind of a blur." When she was about five, she and her mother and brother moved into a duplex with her grandparents. "They could keep an eye on us and be sure that we were okay, considering my mom's condition," Julie recalls.

Her mom would do fine for a period of time and would actually hold down a job. "But then," Julie says, "something would happen, and we would be living with our grandparents." When Julie was eight, her grandfather died. Nannie was given legal custody of the two children, and they moved into a single-family home across town.

While Julie and Mark lived with Nannie, Julie's mom married several more times. Julie recalls that her mother's fourth husband had a big problem: He became abusive after sniffing lacquer. During those times, her mom sought refuge at Nannie's house. Eventually they divorced and Julie's mother married for a fifth time to a much younger man.

Living With Nannie

Julie lived most of her childhood with her grandmother. Nannie was a hard worker who had a great sense of humor and was a wonderful cook. But, Julie says, "She smoked and cussed like a sailor. She had a real temper. If you got on her bad side it was hard to get off of it."

The stress of raising two children and having an unstable daughter seemed to get the best of Nannie when Julie was in the sixth grade. Because Julie's great-aunt was very involved in a Mormon Church, Nannie and the children started attending church there. "It was interesting to me that they had a real family emphasis," Julie says. That was really attractive because we didn't have a normal family and that kind of drew my grandmother in."

However, their attendance at the church abruptly ended when Nannie once again moved, meaning another new school for Julie and her brother. That's when Julie started choosing the wrong friends.

The popular kids at the new school ignored Julie and said unkind things to her. "I started hanging out with the bad kids at school because they were the ones who were nice to me," she says. Julie began smoking marijuana with a girlfriend whose brother was a drug dealer.

Memories of Dad

Where was Julie's father as she grew up? He remarried, and for a few years she visited him every other weekend. He moved out of state when she was about five, and for the next several years she only saw him during the summer. Then he moved back to Texas and the weekend visitations once again began. Julie says, "He would pick me up and leave me at his house and disappear. There was no relationship or communication at all. He was doing his duty."

Like his own father, her dad became an alcoholic. He ultimately received treatment and became involved in Alcoholics Anonymous. However, Julie says, "He just wasn't there when I was supposedly visiting with him."

Finally, when Julie was a sophomore in high school she looked into her father's eyes and asked, "Why are you doing this? Why don't you just forget this and not even come?"

The visits ended.

A Real Relationship with Jesus

One Saturday Julie was visiting a friend when a bus driver for a nearby Baptist church stopped by. He invited the two girls to come to church where they could have chocolate-covered donuts and chocolate milk. His offer to two poor kids was too good to refuse.

Julie sensed that something was very different with the people at this church and liked being there. After attending for a couple of months, she went on a missions' trip. Some kids who had grown up in the church made professions of faith.

This confused Julie because they had always attended church. "I thought you were always a Christian," she said to them. They told her about how to know Christ, and Julie asked Jesus to be her Lord and Savior.

The church's bus ministry, church leaders, and new friends took Julie back and forth to church services and activities. Her life changed dramatically—she made more new friends and turned away from drugs. She stopped using bad language and got involved in extra-curricular activities.

When Julie's brother, Mark, was a sophomore in high school he was arrested for shoplifting and sent to a juvenile detention center. Julie says, "That was probably the worst thing for him. He got more into the drugs and hard core stuff."

After Mark left the detention center, he became too much for Nannie to handle. He continued his drug use and ended up living with his dad. "He got a bad dose of drugs that basically ruined his life," Julie says.

Julie, meanwhile, continued to attend church and study the Bible. As she learned more about God's design for marriage, she began dreaming of having a wonderful husband someday—one who loved God and did not just give lip service to being a Christian.

The Family She Never Had

Another turning point in Julie's life occurred when she attended Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth. By that time Julie's grandmother had moved to California, and Julie was living full-time in her dormitory—even over holidays.

She decided to join Sagamore Hill Baptist Church, and as a result met Luther and Betty Scarborough. When Betty learned about Julie's living situation she said, "You're coming to our house for Christmas."

The Scarborough's became like family to Julie—the family she had never really had. She did her laundry at their house and even lived with them during the summer months. Until she met the Scarboroughs, Julie had never been around an entire family that was truly committed to Christ. She says it was invaluable just to have the chance to live there and watch the family communicate. The kindness in their family relationships was amazing. We'd have great conversations. He [Luther] was always very good at dinnertime asking everyone questions…praying with everybody. I had never seen that."

Julie not only loved Luther's thought-provoking questions, but also marveled at how he treated Betty. "He was so good to his wife. And after I had lived with the Scarboroughs, I knew that was what I wanted for my marriage and family."

The Scarborough home was a fun place to be. Luther often got all of the kids together to play a game of touch football. Julie says, "We'd go on picnics and hikes and every year they would have a canoe trop on the Guadalupe River and they'd spend the night as a family. Everything was family."

During these years, Julie also became involved in Campus Crusade for Christ on her campus, and continued growing in her faith. Betty Scarborough recalls that Julie got involved in local beauty pageants "to open a door of opportunity, which they did. She wanted an opportunity to present Christ."

Julie decided to serve the Lord full-time after she graduated from Texas Wesleyan, and she joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ. That's where she met Bruce Boyd.

First Impressions

When Bruce first met Julie, she was the reigning Miss Dallas. "Those were pretty good credentials," he says. "Her reputation preceded her."

There was quite a line of guys who were interested in meeting Julie, and Bruce took his place in that line. But after they met, they each concluded that they were not interested in one another. Bruce says, "I thought she was gorgeous and amazing but her family background pretty much scared me off."

Julie was equally unimpressed with Bruce. She says, "When we got a chance to talk I thought, 'He's not my type at all because all he did was talk about this girlfriend who had broken up with him.'"

Bruce and Julie both ended up in training with the Keynote ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. They became good friends and discovered that they actually had a lot of things in common.

Bruce says, "I could see her heart for God. I was attracted to her zeal and what she did. She was a great musician. We loved playing sports together and talking to one another."

However, the differences in family backgrounds became more pronounced as Julie and Bruce got to really know one another. Bruce's Christian parents had only been married to one another; her family tree was filled with broken branches. Yet, Bruce saw stability in Julie's life. "I thought, 'This [dysfunction] is not who she is. This is not her character. God has really done an amazing work in her life.'"

The more time that Bruce spent with Julie, the more smitten he became. He says, "I just loved everything about her. She is a lot of fun to be with, an amazing cook, and has a heart for God. We loved being together. … For me it was not too much of a stretch to figure out—this is the girl I am going for."

Marriage Fears

Although Julie was determined to break the cycle of broken relationships in her family, she feared making the wrong decision in a mate.

Betty Scarborough says that after she and Luther met Bruce, "We really encouraged her to … allow her heart to be open. Sometimes we can just close our heart to what God really wants us to do. Julie was hesitant, and I can understand that, too. … She was a very independent person and she had to be. … To trust someone else with her life was a big step for her."

When Bruce actually proposed to Julie, she still questioned if he was the right man. After taking a couple of days to pray she had her answer. She says, "I knew he was such a good man that I would be an idiot to not marry him. So, I said 'Yes!'"

In a way, Julie's wedding was symbolic of her new life. Because of mental problems, her mother could not help with wedding preparations. Nannie's health was poor, and she was only able to bake the groom's cake and help wrap rice bags. Hence, the Scarboroughs stepped in. Betty was the hostess for Julie's bridesmaids' luncheon, and she assisted with many other wedding details.

Julie had hoped that her father would give her away, but he did not attend the wedding. So she held tightly onto the arm of Luther Scarborough as he walked her down the aisle. "He was the kind of father I would have wanted to have had."

When Julie walked down the wedding aisle, it was a step of faith. "I was still afraid, but I just knew that once I made that covenant I was going to stick with it no matter what. I knew Bruce was a great guy and that I would have no excuse to ever leave him."

When she lit the unity candle with Bruce she thought, "This is permanent."

Real Married Life

Having Jesus Christ at the center of her life and home has been the key to Julie's new legacy. The life-long commitments that she and Bruce made to one another have given their family a sense of stability. "We went into our marriage both saying, 'Divorce is not an option," Julie says.

But, like all couples, Bruce and Julie have had their share of disagreements. And there are those days when they just don't like one another. Julie says that she has a tendency to be more critical than Bruce and attributes this to the negative attitudes that she grew up with. And, she sometimes struggles with Bruce's relaxed attitude.

At times like this, she looks to Christ. "He's the One who gives you the strength when you get angry with your spouse and are not getting along. … God can put the missing love in your heart," Julie says.

Bruce agrees: "He is the heartbeat that keeps Julie and me going." And frankly, the going has been very difficult at times. The Boyds knew when they went into marriage that issues from Julie's family would probably rear themselves. Julie once asked Bruce what would happen if they got married and one of her family members had to come live with them. "That will never happen!" he said with confidence.

But sure enough, several years after Julie and Bruce were married, Nannie came to live with them. "That was a real eye-opening experience," Bruce says. "Nannie became a very good archeologist of digging up the past at strategic moments … up close and personal." Often he just didn't understand the heated battles between Nannie and his bride.

Nannie's way of dealing with conflict was to sweep it under the carpet, while Julie wanted to bring the issues out in the open. "Even Mr. Peacemaker did not get through to her because she was always right and you were always wrong and there was no talking through anything with her," Julie says. She found herself reacting to Nannie instead of being patient and asking God for His help.

Nannie lived with Bruce and Julie for about three years before she moved out. Living in the same household was just not working. About the time that she left, Julie discovered that she was pregnant and old feelings of fear engulfed her. She recalled the mental problems that had plagued her mother—ones that seemed to have been brought on by childbirth.

Julie became concerned that, like her mother, she might enter a world of depression after the baby was born. She had only one place to turn. "I had to look to God and say, "God, I'm pregnant for a reason and You are in control. And I'm not going to worry about this, if that's going to happen. You are going to have to take care of me."

Checking-In for Parenting

Brandon Boyd was born on July 9, 1990. "Before we had Brandon," Julie says, "I was thinking maybe we won't have any children. I'm grateful that God did not let us have our plan. His plan was better." Julie dreamed of the joys of raising her children and vowed not to repeat her parents' mistakes. But it wasn't long before she felt ambushed by the challenges of motherhood.

Being a task-oriented person, she had been involved in a lot of activities. Staying home with children was a difficult adjustment for her. "Bruce was going off to rehearsal with the group we had been singing with. And here I was, stuck at home with these crying babies. I couldn't get anything done because I was always just trying to survive."

She knew that her attitude was wrong. Although she had made Jesus Christ the center of her marriage, she had not made him the center of her parenting. "I remember thinking, Why did I marry that man? It scared me. And then I realized that I wasn't seeking the Lord because I was so distracted and exhausted by the kids. I knew that I had to spend some time with God every day, even if it was just a few minutes because I had to get my mind set on Him."

When she began to seek God, He began to change her. "I started realizing that it was a blessing to have these kids."

She recognized that her children were actually gifts from God. Unlike her mom and dad, she didn't check out from her responsibilities as a parent. Instead, she began to face each day by relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. She traded bitterness for a willing heart. As she made sacrifices for her sons, she checked into their lives—even when motherhood meant that she would give up things that she loved … for a season. "I feel totally blessed to have her as a wife and as a mom to my boys," Bruce says. "I know that they will be the men they are in the future largely because of the investment she has made in their lives."

Bruce and Julie have worked hard to keep communication lines open with Brandon, Shaun, and Ryan, who are now teenagers. They have a united approach to parenting that has not only strengthened their relationships with the boys, but also with one another.

Since they both loved music, Bruce and Julie encouraged their sons to learn to play instruments, and today they minister around the world together as the Boyd Family Band.

A New Legacy

Before Julie married Bruce, Betty Scarborough told her that she had an opportunity to start a whole new generation … that God could bless her home. And today, Bruce and Julie recognize the many ways that God has done just that. Brandon, Shaun, and Ryan Boyd know what it is like to have a legacy of permanence.

On December 17, 2006, Julie and Bruce will celebrate their 23rd wedding anniversary. For several years they have spoken at Weekend to Remember conferences on God's blueprints for marriage; their diverse backgrounds have enabled them to identify with a wide variety of people. "We can relate from the completely dysfunctional to the goodie two-shoes' families. And yet, we can still say that Christ is needed in all of those situations," Bruce says. "We can bring that perspective to people's lives by saying, 'You know what, it works a lot better when you have the Savior in the center.'"

Although they understand the rippling effects of sin in marriages and families, they also know the hope that Jesus Christ can bring to any marriage and legacy. "I have a great husband—a man who loves me and accepts me for who I am. He completely accepts my past and family," Julie says. When Bruce sees Julie's life today, he says, "I look at it as God providing in her life the family that she never had."

*From the song "My Savior, My God" written by Aaron Shust (and Melody Greenwell) on the CD "Anything Worth Saying." Used with Permission.

Used with permission. Copyright © 2006 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

Read more remarkable Stories of Changed Lives and Transformed Legacies.

Read stories of HomeBuilders (how God is working through ordinary people to change lives for eternity).



Meet the Author: Mary May Larmoyeux

Mary May Larmoyeux is a writer and editor for FamilyLife. She is the author or coauthor of several books including The Grandparent Connection: 365 Ways to Connect With Your Grandchild’s Heart. She and her husband, Jim, have two married children and a growing number of grandchildren.

 

 

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