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Author, It’s All About Him (Thomas Nelson, 2007)
Wife of country music legend Alan Jackson
Mother of 3 children
CBN.com Church was a big part of Denise’s social life growing up, including Sunday mornings and Sunday and Wednesday nights.
Though her parents provided a loving home, Denise says they were not the kind of family who discussed having big dreams with the kids. “Their focus was getting through the work week ... because of that I often felt like I didn’t have the direction I so desperately wanted,” says Denise.
As a result, like many teenage girls, Denise says she had outer confidence but inner turmoil.
“I was defining my worth by how I looked, what I did and who I was with,” says Denise.
Then Denise, 16, met Alan while she was out for ice cream after church on a Sunday night in Newnan, Georgia in 1976. As the years went by, Denise says she needed Alan in order to feel good about herself.
A year later, Denise’s twin brother, Danny, was in a motorcycle accident and nearly lost his leg.
"Danny’s accident was the first time I’d been confronted with trauma and crisis,” says Denise.
During Danny’s 2-month rehabilitation process, Alan became a source of strength and comfort and soon he became the center of Denise life. “It was all about him,” she says.
In December 1979, Denise and Alan were married.
“I had a bit of a Cinderella complex like many young girls,” says Denise. “My part was simply to play the role of the girl to be swept off my feet by the handsome prince. I looked to Alan to make everything work in our life together.”
Over the years, Alan proved to be a good provider. Before he broke into the music business, Alan built houses, sold cars and worked as a postmaster and airline baggage handler, while continuing to write songs and on weekends play at clubs.
In 1985, Denise worked as a flight attendant. One day she was in the Atlanta airport and ran into Glen Campbell. Denise began talking to Glen about Alan and how he wanted to get into the country music business. Glen gave Denise his music publishing contact, Marty Gamblin, and within two weeks of her chance meeting with Glen, Alan was in Marty’s office. He agreed to act as Alan’s manager. Immediately, Alan and Denise packed their belongings and moved to Nashville, Tennessee.
In the beginning, times were tough for Alan and Denise. Paying gigs for Alan barely paid their expenses. Sometimes Alan even lost money, but they gave themselves five years to make it in Nashville. Alan even sold his beloved 1955 Thunderbird convertible to buy their first house. (Years later, Denise found that very car and gave it back to Alan for Christmas.)
Meanwhile, Alan continued to write songs for Glen’s production company and Denise continued her job as a flight attendant. Soon, Alan’s music gained popularity and he began traveling the country, lavished with attention. Though she was at home with their new baby, Denise was happy for Alan’s success.
“It was our dream come true,” she says.
Denise began to focus on superficial things and her faith grew cold. The pressures of a celebrity lifestyle brought back the insecure feelings she had as a young girl. Do I look good enough? What are they thinking about me? Am I thin enough? There were seductive, confusing forces at work in their world.
“I was finding that my teenage-sized faith just wasn’t strong enough to counter them,” says Denise.
In November 1997, after their third daughter was born, Alan told Denise he wasn’t happy in their marriage and after Christmas they separated. They had almost been married 18 years.
“Over the years, he had become my foundation,” says Denise. “So when he left there was nothing left for me to depend on.”
Denise began taking baby steps toward a new way of thinking that eventually led to a new kind of happiness.
“I already knew that no amount of material stuff could bring contentment,” says Denise. “And I was realizing, too, that no human relationship can really satisfy the deepest longings of a person’s soul.”
The devastation of Alan’s departure was leading her to a new beginning and the security of a new love that she had looked for all of her life.
During lonely afternoons, Denise would walk the property of their 140-acre horse farm to the huge oak tree at the edge of their property at the river. When Denise would look at the tree, she would be reminded of Jesus and how He talked about trees.
Today, when Denise stares at that tree, she thinks back to when Alan left and is reminded of how she was more like a twig than a tree.
“I had just begun to put my roots back down in the faith of my youth,” she says. “I was just beginning to turn my eyes to Jesus, to consider what was really important in life.”
Denise continued her normal routine and incorporated a weekly women’s Bible study in her life. The women became her support group. Finally one day, Denise drove to her empty mansion. She sobbed as she drove into the driveway.
“I totally let go and gave it all to God,” she says.
For the first time, Denise had a sure sense of real peace despite her circumstances.
“I would have never chosen to go through the pain of those awful days,” says Denise, “but through it, God got my attention.”
One day, while Denise was playing with her daughter, Alan stopped by the house but didn’t say a word. The next day, Alan called Denise. He asked her for a date that weekend. Soon, after four months of separation, Alan moved back into their home. Denise and Alan had to rebuild trust. Alan admitted to infidelity and Denise had to learn to forgive.
“There’s no one-size-fits-all kind of answer for forgiveness,” says Denise. “For each of us, the struggle will be individual. But what I found in the long run, was that forgiveness was the key to real freedom in my life.”
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