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Beauty in Brokenness: A Couple that Rebuilt their Marriage... and Now Dilapidated Cities

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
August 7, 2023 3:02 am

Beauty in Brokenness: A Couple that Rebuilt their Marriage... and Now Dilapidated Cities

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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August 7, 2023 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, meet John and Ashely Marsh. Amidst addiction, infidelity, divorce, pending bankruptcy, and suicidal thoughts, John and Ashely miraculously healed their relationship together and now restore dilapidated cities. 

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For each person living with myasthenia gravis, or MG, their journey with this rare condition is unique. That's why Untold Stories Life with myasthenia gravis, a new podcast from iHeartRadio in partnership with Argenics, is exploring the extraordinary challenges and personal triumphs of underserved communities living with MG. Host Martine Hackett will share these powerful perspectives from real people with MG so their experiences can help inspire the MG community and educate others about this rare condition. Listen to find strength in community on the MG journey on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcast, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Live preseason games are subject to local blackouts. Say free this week into your Xfinity voice remote. And we continue here with our American stories and we love telling stories of redemption, stories to give you hope amidst your own daily struggles and the noise that's out there each and every day in the news. And now our own Joey Cortez brings us one of these stories, the story of John and Ashley Marsh. I was on a trail and a track that I couldn't get off of. I was just in this, I felt I was in a tug of war and I was the rope. This pain and suffering just got so great I started fantasizing about killing myself. So I figured out, well, you got this old house with this huge attic fan. I'm going to pull the attic fan out, set up a huge pulley up in the attic, set up where I could have it where I knew it wouldn't break, and I got it all set up where I could hang myself out of that hole. Our single knives were 14 foot, so it never hit the floor.

It's going to work, and I went up there to hang myself and had no reservations. John was born in Albany, Georgia, to parents that were 14 and 17 years old. He was put up for adoption and taken in by an incredibly loving family. As a kid, he made good grades and listened to his parents until... I rebelled. You know, rebellion's interesting.

It takes you further than you want to go and costs you more than you want to pay. And so I stepped across the line and slept with a little girl. I was 13, she was 12, rode my bicycle to her house and changed her life. Now, in hindsight, I was longing for acceptance. I was looking to matter, to be valuable.

Two things I found pretty quickly, you didn't have to guess whether you were accepted or not, and that was with girls. And then right after that, about 14 years old, I started working and making money. And those two things, when you were accepted, you knew it. So I started a high-end car audio business. I was mentored for a year, and then 16 years old, I was making $1,000 a week after school doing high-end audio. And I stepped across the line and tried drugs for the first time, and then I proceeded to go with that and be a drug addict for probably the next however many years of my life, five, seven years of my life. Something I realize now, looking back on rebellion, when you have rules and regulations, without a relationship, it always equals rebellion. And so my parents loved me, but they didn't know how to reach me.

I left home by 17 years old as soon as I could graduate, and I barely graduated. I was no longer interested. I was interested in making money. I said, why should I listen to y'all? I make more than you do teaching. I said, I don't get it. I don't get the world y'all are trying to put me in. I didn't want to take and come into my dad's business.

I wanted to do my own thing. And so I moved to Atlanta for just a short period of time doing high-end audio, helping him launch a shop there, and then ended up in a place called Auburn, Alabama, working for a guy named Big Jimmy at Jimmy's Car Stereo. He was a big old blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jew that loved me, and we became quick friends. He said, you're going to make more money than you ever made in your whole life.

It's going to be awesome. I said, well, I like the sound of that. So I come here, and the first year I was here, I made almost $100,000 in cash as an 18-year-old boy. He didn't like the girl, though, that moved here. That was my girlfriend at the time and moved here. I grew up in Pepperville, Alabama. I grew up in a very simple life. Looking back now into it, I would say in a poor family, I grew up in a very hard home.

I had a lot of different types of conflicts in my home, from alcoholism to abuse. My first job was at KFC, and then I started working at different places in the mall. So I bought a car that my first car bought for myself.

I was so proud of it. It didn't have any music, and I love music. I've always either got music in my ears, it's playing in the house, it's always in my car.

It's more than one thing. I'd rather have a radio than an air conditioner. I don't care.

So I just love to feel the beat and the rhythm, and I love to move. And so anyway, here I am in my car, my first car, no radio. And he's like, take it to big Jimmy.

He'll take care of you. I was like, okay. So we get down there, and John is who Jimmy calls up front to check out my speakers, because he says they're just not connected. And John's like, you don't have any speakers. She has no speakers, Jimmy. So Jimmy's like, okay, I'm going to get her some speakers.

Gets John to install it. I remember the first time I saw her. I really did. Some of those things in life were, and I thought she was beautiful. But I recognize something more than beauty. I told her, I said, first time I ever saw you, there was a royalty and a class about you. That you were like a queen without the crown. It was something so special and so unique.

And I said, I saw it. The very first time I saw you. Jimmy is like, you know what, I like you, and I think you're a smart girl. I want you to come work for me. This is part of his plan, so he decided this girl's no more for John, but this one's the one. So he's like, you know, matchmaker in heaven going on. And so anyhow, I start working for him. And the next thing you know, he has me and John doing everything together. And I'm just, I think he's just the most amazing thing I'd ever met, you know. He wasn't from here, thank goodness, because all the dudes from here are just idiots.

Is what I thought. He was like James Dean to me. A little bit rebellious, which turned out to be a lot rebellious.

Drove a Jeep, you know, just all the things. He just had the looks and the act and everything else about him. So I was gaga to him. But he had a girlfriend, and she was not too keen, obviously, on other girls being around. So Jimmy finally tells me, I don't like this girl that he's with, but I like you. And I was like, well, that's all good and great, but he has a girlfriend, and I don't date guys with girlfriends. And he's like, well, so you don't think you can get them? I was like, oh, no, I know I can get them.

That's not a problem. And he's like, well, I bet you $500 you can't. So I took his bet, I won his bet, and I got the guy. So that's where we left off, was Jimmy Match making us.

Because here we are. She said you're on Batman. I said you're on Batman. We start dating. Of course, I don't want to be alone much because I'm not that good at taking care of myself. I needed someone because I'm a bit like an Indy car.

Lots of maintenance required, heavy team, and lots of people to keep all the support systems going because these cars are expensive, and they break down a lot, but they're high performance. So I felt like that's the way I was when they came to us. So Ash came into our life, and we began to live together. We were dating for a couple years, and then this guy came into the car stereo shop, and he'd bring in these cars that had been wrecked that he was repairing, and the wiring wouldn't work right on them. He'd be like, can you fix this?

I was like, oh, yeah, no problem. I'd fix it. Pretty soon I'm fixing quite a few of these. He's like, oh, man, me and you need to do something together. So he's getting wrecked cars fixed up in North Alabama, taking them and getting the metal work, the framework, and body work done, sending them down here, we'd get them painted, and then I'd put them back together and make them work. And we're making $10,000 a car doing this.

We're starting going, man, we ought to be doing more of this stuff. And it really felt like the first time I'd really left somebody I love deep, I told Jimmy, I said, I want to go out on my own and do this. It was really heartbreaking because he was super close to me and loved me and a great mentor. And so we went out, and I started my first business in the automobile business.

I think I was 20 years old when we started this business. And Ash and I living together, her dad really hated me, really hated me. His daughter comes in there at 18, says, I'm moving out.

I'm moving in with this guy. And she had never rebelled. She had listened to everything her parents had told her to do and done everything they said all the way up until then. And so she moved in with us. And so quite a few nights, her mom would call and say, he's on the way.

Y'all watch out. He's drunk, and he's got his shotgun. So he'd come and tap on all the windows of the apartment so that we would know that he was serious about it. So he did not want her living with me, did not want us together, which made it a little more volatile. When I moved into the apartment with him, my life changed completely. I did find out that he was doing drugs.

None of us are who we peacock ourselves to be. My mom was so sitting and listening to Kenny G and looking into my eyes, and you're the most important thing in the world, and it was true only until I moved in. I didn't know how to love a lady, and that's one of the things I've realized is it's not intuitive.

I mean, you've got more preparation to get a license or learner's permit for your car than to get married. And so when we came into this relationship together, I began to immediately dominate her instead of love her and tell her what I wasn't going to do and who she couldn't be, and she was trapped again. And so within a short period of time of us living together, looking back now, I realized she was trapped. I just said, I've got to move forward, and I said, I love this girl.

I'm going to marry her, and we're going to keep moving forward. I was in business. We were running two or three businesses that time. By 21 years old, I was a million and a half dollars in debt, $99,000 overdrawn. I was a drug addict. We were running multiple businesses, and we were in serious trouble. And you're listening to the story of John and Ashley Marsh, and do any of the characters sound familiar?

Because if they don't, you haven't lived much of a life. When we come back, we're going to continue with a remarkable story on Our American Stories. From people living with the debilitating muscle weakness and fatigue caused by this rare disorder. Each episode will uncover the reality of life with myasthenia gravis. From early signs and symptoms to obtaining an accurate diagnosis and finding care, every person with MG has a story to tell. And by featuring these real-life experiences, this podcast hopes to inspire the MG community, educate others about this rare condition, and let those living with it know that they are not alone. Listen to Untold Stories, Life with myasthenia gravis on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Stay free this week into your Xfinity voice remote. My doctor also said that in an Engreza clinical study in TD, psychiatric conditions remain stable. Engreza may cause serious side effects, including sleepiness. Don't drive, operate heavy machinery, or do other dangerous activities until you know how Engreza affects you.

Other serious side effects include potential heart rhythm problems and abnormal movements. Now that treatment has reduced my TD movements, it's nice people focus more on me. Learn more at That's I-N-G-R-E-Z-Z-A dot com.

Ask your doctor about the number one most prescribed treatment proven for TD, Engreza. And we continue here with our American stories, and we left off with Ashley discovering that John was a drug addict and in serious debt, and the two obviously were not getting along. But despite the turmoil, the two got married. Let's return to the story.

And I said, okay, I know what you do. You get a new wife, you get a new life, get a new vehicle, reboot. Get the best lawyer you can and fight.

Started going to lawyers, we're setting up the things, and Ashley and I are fighting. I'm doing all I can to try to find a way to win, to hurt her and win. The pressure was incredible. And I started hearing something in my mind, and it kept going, why don't you kill yourself?

Why don't you kill yourself? And it became louder and louder and louder. I felt I was in a tug of war, and I was the rope.

And this pain and suffering of this just got so great, I started fantasizing about killing myself. So I figured out we got this old house with this huge attic fan. I'm going to pull the attic fan out, set up a huge pulley up in the attic, set up where I could have it where I knew it wouldn't break, and I got it all set up where I could hang myself out of that hole. Our single knives were 14 foot, so it never hit the floor.

It's going to work. And I went up there to hang myself and had no reservations. But I got down on that old plywood floor and started crying out to God I'd never met before. And it got reframed.

Instead of kill myself, he said, why don't you die to yourself? Now, it was so similar, yet so different. And there was light and life in that. And I cried out to a God I never knew. Like lightning struck me. Every hair on my body stood up.

Time stood still. And for about two solid hours, every care, hurt, pain, suffering, regret, mistake I made, like a syringe, got pushed out of the bottom of my feet to the top of my head and out in tears. And I said, this is what I always wanted.

This is what I've always been looking for right here. Nothing has ever filled me like this. Nothing has ever felt like this. And I told myself, I follow you all the days of my life, no matter what.

You have me without any conditions. And it began the journey of me beginning to find out what God had for me. And I didn't quit drugs.

They quit me. I walked out of that place forever changed. Got struck by lightning. I was still seeing the gentleman that I had committed adultery with and found out that I was pregnant. And I didn't know if I was pregnant with John's child or his child. And that's what broke me.

Not finding out I was pregnant, but I ended up losing the child. And at that moment was when I had nothing left. There was nothing left. I had no more ideas, no more solutions, no more energy, nothing to try to figure out life for myself or why I wanted to be in everything else.

I never thought about suicide. I just felt so desperately alone. By the skin of their teeth, John and Ash evaded divorce. They met a few mentors that taught them how to love and how to be loved, how to forgive and how to heal. And so their life together began anew.

One of our mentors that we met selling a car to, that started a relationship. He actually counseled us. He's like, you've got to get out of living in the basement of this house. You've got to fix upstairs.

This is something that's important. This is your home. We lived in the basement of our house for six and a half years in a one bedroom apartment.

That's what he's talking about, all cramped in there. It was me, John, Nelson, our oldest, a dog and a friend. It took us a while to work on that house, and it was in the middle of that same neighborhood that had all the prostitutes and the drug addicts and just destitution.

No hope. I mean, when you looked around, every house was broken. Everything looked abandoned. And so ours fit in the neighborhood up until we worked on it. And then we turned the lights on, and the next thing you know, we were like a beacon in the neighborhood.

But it honestly was just a reflection, literally, of what was happening in us. And so we were working together, trying to work on that house and everything. That's when he transitioned from doing the cars, and he's like, I really like this. And we got through that. I was like, what do you want to do? He's like, I like this.

I like doing this. So we started doing houses, and we did two things. We're renovating houses there in our town, and then I got this idea. Ash fell in love with a house in Albany. She said, baby, this beautiful house.

I'd love to buy it. And so I started thinking, I said, what if I unbuilt it backwards? What if I just disassembled it? Took the last thing they put in, took that out, and just unbuilt it backwards. So that's the first house we ever disassembled. We took it apart in 90 days, driving 120 miles one way after work, and then built it backward to the boards.

We put our $3,300 tax return in that baby, sold it, made $15,000. That's what we rolled into doing everything we did. That started our architectural salvage business. Next thing you know, we're doing houses like crazy.

She would do the design work. I'd run the crews, and next thing you know, we had done 75 houses in that one neighborhood with no money. Our guys started saying, well, John, you need to keep some of this, because if not, why don't you keep, do 10 houses for others, keep one for yourself. The next thing I know, we got a pile of property going. Then I got, we had to come up with a rental business. So we're running a construction business, architectural salvage, and a rental business. And we almost finished everything in our neighborhood over there. We done like 70 or so houses, and I was like, what we going to do next? She's like, well, downtown Opelika was super jokey.

In fact, right before we started buying our first houses down there, two ladies were executed by a gang member, downtown Opelika. It was just, it was broken. She said, I can't walk by this one more time and see it this way. We got to do something. I said, well, let's buy the whole place. She's like, we ain't got any money.

I said, it doesn't matter. If it's something we're supposed to do, the provision's going to be there. The provision is down the road. We just got to keep stepping. I only need enough caulk and paint for today. I got another day.

Tomorrow's going to be there. So now looking back, we've done 210 structures in 10 blocks, and we've helped start over 40 businesses to the saving of our city. And see, God loves cities.

It was his idea from the start. I think God invented cities, but we're interested in seeing them redeemed. There's restoration and redemption for cities, just like people. And what we began to realize is we don't just make structures. Structures make us. One thing I learned about cities, number one is the biggest mistake, we believe if we fix the buildings, it would save our city.

And it doesn't. Renovation is not revitalization. It's just renovation. And you can fix the stuff up and it'd be dead inside. It's like a movie set.

People in businesses add the life to buildings. And we learned one of the first things we always do is start with food, because so much meaningful happens at the table. You decide who to marry, where to bury, what's going to happen. Very few things are incarnate.

You don't stick a lot inside your body. Food matters. And good food people will drive for. I can get people to drive to the worst part of the neighborhood for good barbecue. And so we'll start with food and fellowship. We can build one iconic, amazing food place in the town and transform it down. People start coming from an hour away. One little town we're working in has 3,500 people, and the first restaurant we worked on there sees 8,800 people a month.

So it's strong, pitiful, all around. So our work now for ASH and I is to consult, help people who want to change cities, who share our same vision and values. We think there will be a time to come that people are going to recognize that historic downtowns in this fabric are irreplaceable real estate when they're under professional management, thoughtful vision, and a team that has a collaborated approach to where they're going, that just does good and does well.

And can you do both? Yes, except no less than to do good and do well. We've got a vision for saving cities. And we've been listening to John and Ashley Marsh, and what a story this is. I felt I was in a tug of war, and I was the rope. That's how it started. He was looking to kill himself. And his wife, well, she was at the end of her rope too. But then something happened. He said he cried out to a god he never knew. And boy, did he get a reply.

And ultimately he said, I didn't quit drugs, they quit me. And they went about restoring not only their lives, but the lives of the people around them by restoring houses. But again, a house without a restoration of the people inside it is not much. John and Ashley Marsh's story, a remarkable renovation story, here on Our American Story.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-07 04:31:04 / 2023-08-07 04:41:01 / 10

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