It’s okay to cry…


I have tried pretty hard to stay positive this last week, but these last couple of days have seen my emotions catching up to me.

Honestly, I feel a lot like I did after 9/11. The world as we know it is changing and so many things are out of our control. It’s not that I’m wrestling with my faith over this. Quite the contrary. He is my one constant. I know He is in control and I trust Him. But, I can’t hold back the emotions anymore.

Fortunately, I don’t have to, because I also know that, even on days like today when there have been more tears cried than words prayed, the Holy Spirit intercedes on my behalf and Our Father Who Art In Heaven hears.

“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.”—Romans 8:26

Let there be a pandemic of prayer


The world is at war, but, for once, the enemy is not one another, but instead a common, albeit unseen, enemy. Out of nowhere, this ninja-like nemesis known as Coronavirus has taken the world by storm, causing panic and pandemonium around the globe.

I don’t know how it has felt for everyone else, but, for me, it’s felt a lot like a rollercoaster ride. And not just any roller coaster, but the kind that has multiple loop the loops for which your stomach leaves your body and isn’t reunited until several minutes after you have disembarked the ride.

One minute, it seemed the media was just blowing things out of proportion as they so See the source imageoften do. After all, headlines still sell newspapers. The next minute, I found myself getting a bit nervous as the media deluge continued and my own credible sources begin to chime in. Finally, I entered full loop the loop mode as the what-ifs of yesterday became the reality of today. Through it all, I have longed to be reunited with my stomach and, more importantly, my faith.

God reminds us time and time again that He is with us and will not forsake us. And I personally believe Him in the deepest reaches of my soul. Yet, here I am still having to fight for personal peace in this incredibly tumultuous time, as my flesh, my humanness is bombarded with second-by-second news reports about an enemy that stalks us unchecked and unscathed by any human defensive. At least for now, there is no cure. There is no medicine to make it better. It is totally out of our control.

All of which reminds me of one of the many news stories that landed in front of my eyes this week. It was an interview with a COVID-19 survivor. He talked about how horrific his fight had been, how close to death he came and how he felt when he was finally properly diagnosed and asked his doctors what should be done next. Their answer was way more alarming than it should be, at least for us Christians. Their answer was simply, “Pray.”

I propose that maybe just maybe that is the lesson to be learned here.

I propose that maybe just maybe that is THE CURE we all long for—the only thing that can properly fight this invisible enemy that knows no geographical borders and cares not one iota about socio-economic status.

God knows that, most of the time–even amongst His own followers—prayer is our last resort; the thing we finally turn to after all other efforts have been exhausted.

However, TODAY I propose that we make it our FIRST resort; our FIRST line of defense. To be sure, we should be safe and do what our leaders are telling us. We should social distance. We should wash our hands. And THEN we should clasp those hands in PRAYER. We have a mighty and loving God who IS in control and who IS indeed moved by prayer.

Heavenly Father, I love you. I cannot lie, this is a scary time and I have let anxiety and fear take hold of me more than once this week. But, today, Father, I finally realized that this could be a living, real-time example of what Your Word declares in Genesis 50:20 and today I speak that very Word against the Corona virus that is threatening our world:

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” –Genesis 50:20

Abba Father, I pray that You help us to see how You use this ordeal to show Your unending love and faithfulness to all of us, even in our stubbornness. I pray that this becomes a globally-uniting experience in which You are glorified; where more and more people return to You or find their way to You for the first time.

And, Abba, help us all to TRUST you; to rest in You, the Omnipotent and Omnipresent One that we are invited to know intimately. Help us to continue holding onto the indisputable fact that You are indeed in control and that nothing, but nothing escapes Your knowing. Help us to remember to always make prayer our first resort and not our last. Help us, Lord, to use this time to draw even closer to You as individuals, as nations and as a world. We are all Your children and I, for one, am so grateful. Give us peace that surpasses all understanding and may You be glorified in all that we do as we fight today’s battle in Your strength and not our own.

Amen and Ehmen.

The Voice


Whisper of God

It’s in the silence of these four walls, the quietness of my hurting, still soul, that I finally hear Your Voice.

It’s rhythmic and in tune with the beating of my heart and it’s the most beautiful thing I have ever heard. You speak to me, sing to me, patiently. You offer joy in a place I have allowed bitterness and hurt to take root.

You smile though I have done nothing to deserve it. You love though I have been selfish. You stand by me though I have repeatedly abandoned you.

You are God and You deserve my praises. I am forever thankful for your patience and forgiveness and especially that those things transcend all time.

Forever and Ever.

Amen and Ehmen!

At His Feet…


February 21, 2020

Dear Lord,

I know I’ve gotten caught up in work and life, leaving little time for our blank page moments together. I also know I need to make more time for meeting You here as it is during these times that I hear You the clearest and feel Your Presence the most. Here in the silence of the morning where there are no distractions to get in the way. Here in the silence of the morning when I can hear Your voice, Your heartbeat. Here in the silence of the morning where You invite me to join you in Your heavenly peace, that peace that surpasses all understanding. Help me to desire this time with You more and more. Give me the willpower to lay down all of the other distractions. To lay down my Martha tendencies of busyness and to be like Mary who sat at Your feet and listened to Your every word. I love it here, Lord, and I love You. Amen and Ehmen.


Dear Child,

I love it here, too, Child, and I also love you. If you only knew how it fills My heart to have one-on-one time with My children. It is why I created humanity to begin with. To love you, to cherish you and for you to learn to do the same first with Me and then others. So many of My children lose sight of this, but the simple truth is that if you follow this one command to love God and others, everything else falls in place. Absolutely everything.

I know the evils of the world have been weighing heavily on your heart, but you must stay resolute and lay it all at My feet. You must pray unyieldingly and keep your focus on Me, remembering that it is easier to lay things at My feet if you are already there. The enemy prowls, roaming the earth to and fro. That will not stop until heaven and earth have passed away and are replaced with the eternal Promised Land I have planned for you. A place where there is no suffering, no sin, no death; just My salvation, My righteousness, My glory.

Your job, My beautiful Child, is to rest in that and be a beacon of light for those who are struggling in the dark. It’s okay to be sad over the brokenness of the world. It makes me sad, too. But, don’t dwell on it. Pray instead. Give it to Me and trust Me. Trust Me and trust the story; and, when your trust wavers, remember that you already know the ending and that the ending is good. Trust and be filled with love, joy and peace as you go about your day.

trust God

And the Word of God says:

“’Martha, Martha’,” the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”—Luke 10:41-42

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” –Matthew 22:37-38

“And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hand on the two commandments.”—Matthew 22: 39-40

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”—1 Peter 5:8-10

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Matthew 24:35

“But in keeping with his promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3:13

 

 

A morning of prayer and praise


Father,

Come close and touch my soul. Quieten my spirit so that my internal being may bask in the same peace and silence that envelopes this beautiful morning, a blank canvas inviting us to become one with new beginnings, abounding love, and eternal promises—with You.  

Lord, synchronize my heartbeat with Yours so that I may dance through this day to the tune of Your glorious and holy rhythm and purpose.

Capture and reshape all my thoughts and desires so that they line up with Your pre-destined desire for me. Heighten my awareness of Your presence and make me more sensitive to Your leading so that I may not miss a single opportunity to serve You, to please You, to praise and love You.

Help me to hear Your voice in everything I see and hear as all of creation sings of Your majesty and glory, and help me, Father, to fine tune my own voice as I join in that chorus.

And, lastly, my dear Lord, help me to turn loose of those worldly things which I hold too tightly. Though I recognize that it is impossible to grasp hold of Your hands when mine are full of things I was never intended to carry, I still find it hard to let them go.

Abba Father, I need You more than I need air and I love You with all my heart and soul, with everything I am today and everything I know I can be as I submit myself to Your will and purposes. Help me, Lord. I am yours.

Amen and Ehmen.

 Isaiah 41.13

Red Rover, Red Rover…


God, I hear You calling and I’m trying desperately to catch up with You; to walk beside You, to synchronize my steps with Yours. But, I’m continually running into obstacles.

As if on cue from satan himself, out of the shadows step the demons of doubt, fear and deprecation. red rover red rover croppedThey stand in front of me and block my path, arms locked together as if to engage me in a game of Red Rover.

“Red rover, red rover, send Brenda right over,” they chide, demonic laughter filling the air and assaulting my confidence and my faith. I can’t help but shiver as their Goliath-sized shadows hijack the sun’s warmth as well as its light. It becomes a battle just to see.

And, yet, their purpose is dreadfully clear. They have come to intimidate, threaten, frighten, scare, bully, coerce, terrorize, daunt and taunt me; to keep me frozen in place and far away from the purpose that You prepared for me before the first word of Creation was ever uttered.

“Red rover, red rover, send Brenda right over.”

My mind starts to reel; to unravel like a runaway spool of thread. I can either run away and live the rest of my life knowing that I gave up on You or I can face this thing head on.  I breathe deep and step back a few steps so that I can gain more momentum. There is no way I’m giving up, I mutter to myself. I will simply close my eyes and run with all my might, straight through their arms and into Yours.  

But, oh sweet Lord, the growls of my opponents are becoming louder and more obnoxious. And, as much as I want to walk with You–to fulfill my purpose–I can’t help but notice how grotesquely strong they look. How on earth will ever be break their hold, I ask myself, and, with no immediate answer, I shrink back in defeat without ever taking a step.

Defeated. Beaten. Overwhelmed and overcome.  I look down at my feet frozen in place as the enemies’ taunts crescendo in victory.  They win. Again.

The only thing I have left now is to pray. But I don’t even know where to start. I am so ashamed that I once again let the enemy defeat me, to hold me back. With the words “I’m sorry, Lord” rising up through my spirit, I begin to hear a still small voice. It is a warm, familiar and very quiet voice, but still somehow louder than the enemy’s raucous heckling. I immediately recognize that it is You.

“Get up, child,” You whisper sweetly. “Get up, but don’t try to run with all your might; this time, child, run with Mine.”

Your words, gentle and powerful at the same time, send a surge of encouragement and pronounced strength coursing through my spirit, mind and body. I rise up into a crouch position just like that of an Olympic sprinter and, with the sound of cheering angels ringing in my ears, I open my eyes. I see the band of demons still outstretched before me and I see their mouths moving. It sure looks like they are still talking trash, but the words filling the air about me are beautiful, peaceful, encouraging.

“It’s over, It’s over, Brenda come on over.”

I can no longer contain myself and, even though I still see the demons, I take off running toward the beautiful sound. And, as I run faster and harder than I dreamed possible, the heavenly cheers grow louder and louder and the demons grow smaller and smaller until I finally burst though their evil stronghold with the fortitude and power of a wrecking ball.

I hold up my arms in victory and as the dust settles around me, I see You standing there in all your Glory.Victory Photo 1-John-4-4-You-Are-Of-God-beige-copy You smile a knowing smile. You’ve been here all the while; waiting on me; cheering me on.

Lord, thank You, for never giving up on me, even when I give up on You; for having faith in me, when my own faith waivers. Thank You for sending Your spirit to intervene when the enemy lines look too strong to break through and for helping me to stand firm when I feel weak. Thank you, Lord, for Your willingness to keep reminding me that, with Your help, I DO have the strength and power to run full steam ahead into Your will and purpose, for it is there that You dwell and it is there I wish to dwell also.  With all that I am, I praise You. Amen and Ehmen.

 

A Morning Prayer


 

songbird

Photo by Donald M. Jones

 

Songbirds tweet in harmony as I willingly and excitedly step into the silence. Silence, after all, is the threshold that one must cross to enter the heavenly realms and the presence of our Precious and Mighty God.

His voice is clearest in the quiet, intimate times and it often seems as if I can hear His very heartbeat. His love for me is overwhelming and I pray that mine for Him is just as obvious and abounding.

As I breathe in His breath, I exhale peace and love. I’m here, Father. Use me. Send me. Heal me and equip me for the journey. Fill me with first trust, then with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

I want to be everything You created me to be; to accomplish all that You planned for me; and, at such time I enter Your Presence for the rest of eternity, to hear these words: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done.”

Amen and Ehmen.

 

Immeasurable, Infinite and Ours


This post has garnered a little extra attention from website visitors recently and, after rereading it, I decided it was time to repost at the top of my newsfeed. His love for us blows me away…

 

January 3, 2015 6:35 AM

Dear Lord, thank you for waking me up this morning to draw me closer to dear godyou and to remind me just how wide, how long, how high and how deep your love is for me; for all of us. I have admittedly distanced myself off and on over these past few months as I have struggled quietly and internally with the changes in my world. I know that I am not immune to suffering, yet when I need you most, I sometimes do exactly what I have always reminded others not to do. I pull away. I don’t seek your face. I try to live in my own power. At times, I have been swallowed by doubt; not disbelief in you, but doubt that your promises are really for me; that your healing and comfort are for me; that I can really find joy in fulfilling my purpose and that I even have the tools to do so. I have continued to live in fear that my health will not hold up, that I will be stripped of what I have before I am able to finish what you started in me. I don’t want to live in fear anymore, Lord. I need you today more than ever. In this moment and in every moment that I draw breath on this earth. Come closer than ever, Father. Settle into my heart and deep into my soul. Send your Holy Spirit and allow Him to intermingle with my spirit. Speak to me. Comfort me. Heal me. Empower me. Use me. I love you with all my being, my dear Father, and I want nothing more than to please you. Keep me focused on you, Lord. Please. It is in Your One and Only Son’s Name that I pray. Amen and Ehmen.

Oh my dear, dear child,

I do love you so and I’ve missed our whole-heart time together. Just know that, regardless of whether you sit with Me in front of this page or not, I AM with you, always until the end of time and until such time that you are with Me in Heaven. I led you to Ephesians 3 this morning because, until the latter happens, I need you to truly understand the full breadth, length, height and depth of My love for you.

My love reaches across the width of all of time and space; from the heavens to all corners of the earth, covering all expanses and all people who live today and who have or will ever live; and that, of course, includes you right now where you are.

My love expands across the lengths of eternity. It started long before you were born, even before creation itself, and will continue forevermore.

My love reaches high into the heavens. It is infinite. It is with you at the heights of your life; in your elations and your celebrations.

My love delves deep, deeper than any pit of discouragement or despair in which you could ever linger and even deeper still. The fact is, my child, nothing, not even death can take my love from you for I HAVE DEFEATED DEATH in Jesus’ name…all so that your name could be written in the Book of Life.

If you never grasp anything else, I need you to grasp this. And by grasp, I don’t mean grab and hold on, but to understand; to truly understand, My blessed one, that once you have invited Me into your heart, you don’t have or need to do anything to hold onto My love. It is My love instead that holds onto you…for eternity.

Lay your doubts down, My child, and bask in my never-ending, unyielding love today. Don’t try to measure it, because you can’t. Just experience it; live in it; and let it live in you so that others will be drawn to Me and My Kingdom will be made complete. Go forth—go wide, go long, go high, go deep— to share this Good News to those around you; the Good News that they don’t have do anything to gain or hold My love; for, through belief in my son, Jesus Christ, they and My love will live on forever and beyond.

And, the Word of God says in Ephesians, Chapter 3, Verses 14-21:

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Oh, dear God. Amen and Ehmen! Thank you for the endless love and never-ending reminders. I guess I can’t hear it enough and I thank you for being willing to keep telling me over and over and over again.

Can I get an Amen and Ehmen!???? Have a blessed day knowing that you are LOVED! 🙂

A Revival of Mind, Body and Soil


Happy 2020!

As Christmas wound down and New Year’s Day quickly approached, I started thinking about writing a New Year’s post as I have done in year’s past. There is just something about standing on the ledge of a new year—and, in this case, a new decade—that begs for a time of reflection.

This year, however, I just wasn’t mentally there at the time. I really can’t explain why. It is simply the way it was.

However, as the month has marched on, a post that has been percolating for several months has now bubbled to the top and I think is quite fitting to kick off this fresh, budding new year and decade.

It is a true tale about a tree.

Not just any tree, mind you, but a mini bonsai tree that God has used to teach me more about Him as well as myself, especially during the last half of 2019.

The story actually started about four years ago when I paid my first of two visits to the Monastery of the monastary of the holy spirit 1Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia. After discovering this spiritual haven nestled in the woods on the outskirts of Atlanta, I scheduled a personal retreat weekend in anticipation of snuggling up to God and reconnecting with Him and the purpose that He has laid before me. I was hoping for a little more direction and a whole lot of inspiration.

Needless to say, He did not disappoint. He never does. Seriously, when He said, “Seek and you shall find, knock and it will be opened,” He really meant it. After all, He is literally a God of His Word.

So, as I planted myself in the silence of that holy and beautiful place, He met me and monastary of the holy spirit 2filled me with more love, wisdom and inspiration than I ever imagined possible. I left revived, rejuvenated and ready to continue on my path, pen in hand, just as I had hoped and expected.

But, I also left with something else that I had not anticipated—a beautiful little bonsai tree straight from the monk’s green house and garden center. I had read about the garden center in one of the monastery brochures, but nothing prepared me for the impressive display of mini trees I actually saw there. It was like walking into a magical indoor forest. Apparently, the monks have been crafting these little beauties for decades, and I felt compelled to buy one as a memento of my trip. I picked out a small one that was reasonably priced and carefully transported it back home.

Once home, I found just the place for it on the sill of the garden window in my kitchen. There, I thought, it would get plenty of sun and, since the water faucet is right there, it might also have a better chance of me actually remembering to water it.

That last part was super important as I don’t have the best track record with plants. Not only is my thumb not green, my plants often aren’t either. Therefore, the closeness to the water source is more crucial than you might think.

Unfortunately, even its proximity to the water source didn’t work so well. Turns out you still have to DO something, and as my job got super crazy and I was working 80-plus hour weeks, that something happened less and less. I could barely remember to water and feed the dog, much less my little tree, which was now down to just a few cluster of leaves. Somehow, though, it survived.

Even after I left that job some two and a half years ago and I did better about watering my little tree, it still didn’t seem to really grow and eventually faded into the background of my kitchen window and my thoughts.

Until this past September, that is, as I readied myself bonsai tree beforeto head back to the monastery for a little of what I like to call “me and Thee time.” As I hung up the phone after making my reservations, I stood in the kitchen staring at my pitiful little barren tree and began making plans to shop for a new tree and start over. But, as I planned away, God interrupted me.

In that still small voice that I will forever be thankful for, these words came booming through deep in my spirit:

No, no, no. Dear Child, don’t you see? You are like that tree. When you don’t feed and nourish yourself spiritually, your fruitfulness and growth may stop, but I NEVER give up on you just as you should not give up on your tree. You are both special, one-of-kind creations that I love with all My heart and cannot be replaced. Come, let me replenish you and revive your mind, body and soil.”

That’s right, where you would normally expect to hear the word soul, I heard God say soil, and, in that very instant, I knew exactly what I was supposed to do. And, it was NOT to buy a brand new plant, but to repot the one I had in renewed soil, just as God was about to do with me on my weekend retreat—a beautiful Spirit-infused weekend which I really need to write about soon.

For now, however, I hope you’ll continue to indulge me in the story of my tree.

As the weekend came to a close, I popped over to the monastery garden center and spoke with one of the monks. I told him about my struggling tree and he suggested a small bag of new potting soil and some bonsai food. He explained why bonsais need repotting in fresh, nutrient-rich soil and how often to feed it after it has been repotted. He also reminded me to water it every single day as bonsai soil is designed to not only allow water to quickly drain from the soil, but to also allow fresh air to continually enter.

I couldn’t wait to get home! I was so excited to repot and literally breathe new life into my tree. I even thought about posting about it so that everyone could share in the miracle that God was about to perform.

“But, then again, perhaps I should wait just to be sure,” I thought to myself and closed my laptop as quickly as I had opened it.

I repotted the tree just as instructed and watched excitedly and expectantly. My tree, however, did not flourish overnight. In fact, it was quite the opposite, and, over the coming days and weeks, the few leaves it did have fell away until I was left with what looked like a twig sticking up out of the soil. A twig, y’all. No leaves, no nothing.

I was not just disappointed, I was devastated and oh so glad that I had chosen not to post about the miracle that God was sure to perform. Sadly, I didn’t take a photo of it either. After all, it was twig, y’all. No leaves, no nothing.

Still something inside of me wouldn’t let me give up. I continued to water and feed that little twig until finally, a couple of weeks later, I noticed a tiny little green bud bursting through a bleak nub on my tiny dried up little tree. Then another. And another. And another. And another. Until my little tree, in just a few short weeks, was starting to look like the tree I had purchased some four years earlier.

As a matter of fact, it is still growing and flourishing, and, this morning as I gazed on in utter amazement, I heard that still small voice again deep in my spirit.

Bonsai Tree New 1

“Don’t you see, dear Child, sometimes the old things must fall away to make room for new growth and for new revival to take place. I’m proud that, even when it looked like all hope was lost, you tended the twig and trusted in Me. Remember, dear one, your human perspective is very limited. You cannot see as I see. You cannot see what is happening behind the scenes and, even if you could, your human mind could not understand. Your job is to trust Me and to continue abiding in Me as I abide in you.”

“For I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; but apart Me, you can do nothing.” John 15:5

“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” Revelation 21:5

Happy sigh. Thank you, Father, for continuing to love me, to seek me and to tend my spirit and soil/soul, despite my stubbornness and propensity for drifting away and forgetting to fully trust in You. Thank you, Father, for planting eternity and a desire to know You in my heart. Help me to keep the soil of my heart refreshed so that Your roots in me grow stronger and stronger, allowing me to flourish like my little bonsai and to continue to become the fruitful one that You created me to be. I love you, Father. Forever.

Amen and Ehmen.

He Chose Her Before She Was Born


Writer’s Note: Today marks the 27th anniversary of the glorious day that God made me a mom. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the birth of my one and only than by re-sharing this post from three years ago. It started out as a post bragging on my baby girl and turned into my testimony, a story of God’s grace and His passion and compassion for all of us; His talent for using all things for the good of those who love Him. All that said, I must include a warning for those of you who know me. 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! Thank you, Jesus, for being the cornerstone of my life and thank you for Billie. I am blessed beyond deserve.

Billie was far from an ordinary kid. To tell the truth, she has never been ordinary a single billie preachesday 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