Kathy Strongin sat at her desk, in her lavish Southern California home, reviewing her accomplished life goals by age 24. A successful realtor owning three homes with a Mercedes parked outside , Strongin hung her head questioning why, even after all her achievements, emptiness still filled her soul.
Raised by an alcoholic father who walked out on the family when she was seven years old, Strongin vividly recalls her mom’s dependency on welfare to support the family. “It was hard,” she said. “I thought as I got older, I never wanted to be in this position of being without.” Determined to persevere, Strongin acquired the lifestyle that she dreamed about as a child. “I thought that would help fill that gaping hole in me.”
But it didn’t.
“Not having the love of a daddy – a healthy love – that’s where the void also came from,” she admitted. She couldn’t help but wonder, “Where was my joy? I couldn’t figure it out.” Strongin searched for fulfillment through boyfriends, shopping and the extravagances of life – all the hype society sells as the pathway to happiness.
Yet in the quiet moments, that internal loneliness returned.
During her quest for contentment, Strongin’s eye caught the attention of someone different – a Christian man. “It’s interesting because God had used my wrong motives (in) thinking that a man would, again, fulfill me. He conducted himself in a godly way, and I could never figure out why he did not kiss me,” she laughed. “I was like, ‘What’s wrong?'”
Later in their conversations, Strongin realized he had committed himself to honoring God with his actions. “It was very different than any man I’d ever dated,” she said. Because of this unusual behavior, Strongin inundated him with questions about his beliefs, a conversation that introduced her to a loving heavenly Father.
“I wanted to know from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation what was the story, what was this all about. We had lots of conversations,” she said. Strongin remembers, “I was sitting in the hills in California and just thinking, ‘Wow, I have this beautiful home. I have the Mercedes and the boyfriend, and this gaping hole continues to cry out.”
Now 26 and owning five houses, Strongin’s slump of loneliness impulsively led her to search the Bible for answers.
“This is where I can say … it’s not like I ever heard God’s voice audibly, but, when I read these words, they were powerful. They came alive. It was as if He spoke them personally to me.” She recited the words of King Solomon, the richest and wisest man to ever live (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 NIV): “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.'”
“No matter how much I attained as a way of material things or men, it was chasing after the wind. I would never have that void filled, because it was only a void that God could fill,” Strongin’s voice broke, and she paused. “I remember getting on my knees, and for the first time recognizing I was a sinner, and I needed a savior. I couldn’t save myself. Everything I tried under the sun did not work.”
Strongin prayed alone in her home. “That’s what’s amazing. The Holy Spirit drew me in and I confessed that I was a sinner. I asked Jesus to please come in and reside in my heart and take over” Strogin tells. At that moment, she felt the Holy Spirit fill her.
“It was a different love than that of my biological father, which was fragmented and broken and not there. It was a love that filled me to overflowing … like this divine peace,” she said through tears. When Strongin rose from her knees, something had changed. She spoke with passion describing this “spiritual high” that overcame her. “I ended up with all this zeal without accurate knowledge; I thought my life was going to be perfect from (that) day forward.”
This spiritual high lasted about three months and energized her to witness to friends and loved ones. “I went into my sister’s bar with my Bible and tried to share the Word with her,” she laughed. “She looked at me like I had three heads, but I was on fire.”
Once a lost people-pleaser without a voice, fearful of an angry alcoholic daddy, Strongin said, “I just felt like I had to please him to keep the peace.” But now she had this new “holy boldness.” The emptiness she now attributes to that timid, searching child was finally replaced with Christ’s strength. “It’s funny because I look back and still, years later have such a heart to share the Lord with strangers on the street.”
Strongin grew up Catholic, but never developed a real relationship with Christ. She shied away from Christianity because she thought her life would be full of rules and restrictions. “I had all these ideas that really weren’t true. When the Lord says, ‘Delight yourself in me and I will give you the desires of your heart,’ He changed everything in me. Anything I wanted before (from that old lifestyle) no longer was a desire I found fulfilling. It was only God. I couldn’t get enough of Him.”
Strongin explained how her blessings from God ended up trickling backwards through her family genealogy, redeeming the souls affected by years of alcoholism. She was able to share her faith with her mother and other family members.
She recalled a time washing dishes at her grandmother’s house. Strongin’s grandma matter-of-factly stated, “Kathy, I sure wish I had the joy and the peace that you have in your life.”
Strongin smiled and said, “Grandma, you can have it! You just have to trust Jesus.”
Strongin’s grandma was wealthy and had traveled the world many times. “I’ve tried everything else,” her grandma confessed. “I might as well try Jesus.”
With wet, sudsy hands, Strongin prayed with her 80-year-old grandma to accept Jesus.
Christ’s redemption continued with her alcoholic father. “He got sober at 50 and became a believer in his 60s and started to live his life for Jesus until he died at 75.” She added, “All the years the locusts had eaten away – God restored my dad’s life.”
Even though Strongin’s search for contentment ended some thirty years ago, she desires to increase in her knowledge of God and serve Him with her life. “Do I always do that? No. I’m flawed,” she admitted. “I’m still a sinner. But I’m in the process. My desire is to walk more in the spirit, less in the flesh.”
Now, Strongin lives in Wellington, Fl with her husband, Terry. She’s currently the Coordinator of the Women’s Life, PSALT (Praying Serving and Learning Together) at Christ Fellowship in Royal Palm Beach. Strongin also works with Families Anonymous in Wellington, a support group for those who have loved ones with addictions, alcoholism or emotional problems.
To contact Kathy Strongin, email her at [email protected] Dabney can be reached at [email protected] or dabneyland.wordpress.com