Writer’s Note: For those of you who know me, be warned, there may be things in this post that you may not know about me, things that I am not particularly proud of; however, as I continue to watch God take both the good and the bad and weave them into the most incredible stories–such as the story of my little girl–I think it is important to be real. Our world today is too much in need of hope to not be real and to show how God is always and in all ways looking out for us. Even when our situation looks like a complete mess, God is busy behind the scenes. What looks like rubble to us are building blocks for our Creator. We just have to get out of the way and let Him work!
Billie was far from an ordinary kid. To tell the truth, she has never been ordinary a single day in her life. Even before she had made it out of the womb, this wee little girl had begun spinning a story of goodness and love that, looking back, could only have been penned by the master author Himself. Not to say that God doesn’t leave His fingerprints on all his creations, but with some it is just a little more obvious. Such is the case with my daughter.
Just the knowledge that she existed had lifted me out of the downward spiral my life had taken when I turned 30. Always the responsible, level headed one, something about turning 30, combined with a devastating turn of events in my life, had put me on a path of self-destruction. Alcohol. Gambling. Even drug experimentation and unprotected sex. Things I never thought in a million years I would do. But, for a short while, as a lost soul trying to find my way, I did them.
It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God. In fact, with the help of my college roommate, a sweet and kind preacher’s daughter, I had accepted Him as my Lord and Savior back in college. But that’s about as far as it went. I did consider myself a good person and, upon occasion, would even shoot up a prayer or two when things got tough. Saved or not, however, sitting in a pew was not a place you would find me on Sunday morning at that time in my life. Churches, I felt, were just too full of hypocrites.
And, in my heart, I fully believed that to be true as that had been my experience with the church when I was growing up. Being pushed to the altar by friends who had just the night before drank themselves into a stupor made absolutely no sense to me. Not to mention that it seemed like the preacher was always preaching about hellfire and brimstone; the fearsome, formidable God he painted in his sermons not leaving much room for the loving God of reality.
Yeah, I believed in God, but I didn’t truly know God yet and I certainly hadn’t learned what it meant to fully give my heart and my life to Him; to have a personal relationship and to walk with Him in complete faith.
From my limited perspective at that moment in my life, I was—as I had been for some time—alone. My earthly father had been killed when I was just a little girl and I didn’t yet understand the extent of love, forgiveness and purpose my Heavenly Father had for me. In my mind, I had no other choice but to take care of myself and to be my own safety net. Seeking God’s guidance for my life wasn’t even a consideration at that point.
Fortunately, God intervened anyway.
Enter Billie—the answered prayer that I didn’t even know I needed.
Having veered so sharply off the path, it seemed as if baby Billie truly was God’s way of reeling me back in, bringing the poor choices I was making in life to a screeching halt and replacing them with proof that He could take the most troublesome of situations and use them for good. This yet-to-be-born baby was was a living example that would continue to prove this most wonderful promise over and over as the years went by.
I pretty much did a 360 and began trying to live as healthy as possible, following my obstetrician’s advice to the tee. I quit drinking, smoking and any other dangerous habit I had been dabbling with for the past few months before her conception. I quit not because I thought it would keep me out of hell, but because it was the right thing to do. I had a baby on the way; a life that depended solely on me to survive and I didn’t want mess that up.
I even agreed to marry her father, though we had known each other less than a year. I just seemed like the right thing to do. I can’t really say that I loved him, but I figured I’d eventually fall in love with him. After all, we were having a baby together.
Needless to say, without going into details, our marriage was like the house built on sand. When storms came that first, emotionally-charged and stressful year as I also dealt with health issues and worries about getting Billie into the world safely, the marriage collapsed and we gave up on one another.
God, however, did not give up. Not only did he bring Billie into the world and keep her safe, but He made it more and more obvious that He had a plan for her. And, like David of David and Goliath fame, He had no plans of waiting until she was an adult to use her. Truth was, He started using her before she even exited the womb, making sure that this new baby gave both her dad and I exactly what we needed in our lives at that point. Billie’s dad actually credits her arrival for finally facing and defeating his own demons.
All that said, I still didn’t attend church as Billie began to grow up. Until, that is, the heart-wrenching devastation of Sept. 11, 2001, a day that rattled me to my very core. All of a sudden, I realized that not only had I been holding God back in my own life, but I was keeping the greatest blessing He had ever given me away from Him as well and was compelled to do something about it. We began visiting churches, but none felt right. They didn’t feel welcoming, which I equated to being full of hypocrites. I didn’t yet understand that many people attending church were just as confused and lost as I was; and that it wasn’t necessarily hypocrisy they exhibited, but the same ignorance and stubbornness I had been carrying for years.
Long story short, I continued to search for a church for both me and Billie, who was now in second grade. We ultimately made our way to Harvest Church and—from the moment we crossed its threshold at the Ramada Inn where it was meeting—I knew that we were finally home. It was an easy choice to make sure that she and I were there every time the doors were open and, with Pastors Jim and Jen as our teachers, we both began growing UP. Billie loved the kids program. She adored the Pink Carpet and her carpet leader, Mrs. Mary. We both loved learning about and getting to know God.
Truthfully, I couldn’t believe the difference it made to know God personally versus simply knowing of Him. He started showing up and showing out in both our lives and it was exciting. It’s still exciting. Even though He has performed and showed me many miracles over the past decade and a half, I still cherish those early God moments that changed my life forever.
Indeed, Billie did grow up at Harvest and I will be forever convinced that Harvest was always a part of His plan for both of us, and most especially for her. In fact, this morning as I watched her—now 23-years-old and the head of the church’s Children’s Ministry—give the message in the main church service for the very first time, my mind rewound itself to a Sunday about 13 years ago when my 10-year-old baby girl leaned over while listening to Pastor Jim preach and whispered this into my ear: “Mom, I know what I want to do when I grow up,” she said excitedly. “I want to preach.”
Well, my sweet baby girl, you did it and you did it good!!!! I love you and I love God for picking me to be a part of your story and, most importantly, for allowing both of us to be a part of His. I thank Him for making you a living, breathing example of how miracles and beauty can come from even the darkest, seemingly hopeless situations. I thank Him for Harvest Church and for making His presence so obvious in the church as well as in both of our lives. May we all continue to fulfill His will and purpose until His Kingdom comes. Amen and Ehmen.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” – Jeremiah 1:5