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

Pour Out Your Uncried Tears…


Writer’s Note: If we look closely enough, through the lens of our Heavenly Father, we can often unearth lessons of Godly wisdom in our everyday lives. The following is the written account of one such lesson learned while just hanging out with my good friend. I hope you enjoy and take the time to uncover such lessons in your own life. God loves it when we do. And He loves us even more. Blessings today and every day.

We walked out of the hotel heading for the train that would take us to the airport, the first leg of Denny’s trip back home. How I wished I was going with her. First and foremost, because I knew how very much I was going to miss her, but also because I knew that it was much, much cooler there. Georgia’s triple digit heat and humidity just didn’t mix well with the hot flashes this decade of life had brought me. It was completely amazing to me that the sun’s slumber had provided very little relief and that, even at 6:30 a.m., the air felt almost unbearably heavy.He Collects Our Tear Slide Art for Blog 5.10.15

We boarded the train, reminiscing of how she had left her computer on this same train when she first arrived 13 days earlier and how God had answered our prayers by prompting a sweet man to pick it up and keep it until he could find its rightful owner.  Having spent well over an hour frantically searching for the computer which contained all her passwords and sensitive personal information, she had been relieved to get a late evening call from her husband that this Good Samaritan had called to let him know the computer was safe and sound.

Though relieved, neither of us was terribly surprised, however. God continually seemed to bless our time together. It was always obvious that He liked it when we spent time as a pair and that He had a purpose for us both—not alone, but together. We always said that God introduced us and, on this day, three years later, it was more obvious than ever that our friendship was hand-designed by the Maker Himself.  This angel, disguised as a proud papa who had traveled across the country to see his daughter play softball and who had found and returned her computer, was just one more reminder that God was always with us and always listening.

I looked over at Denny, clutching her computer case in one hand and holding the bar with the other as the train zoomed along. Though she was still smiling, my personal amusement quickly melted away and I groaned as she remarked how wonderful the early morning heat felt. Easy for her to say, I thought.  She was headed back to Canada and I was being left behind to look forward to yet another day of humid, sweltering sauna-like heat. I looked across the aisle at her again and growled and, as the day’s first bead of sweat made its debut, I began to ponder.

Why, I wondered to myself, does the air feel so darn heavy here? Logically, I knew it was the humidity, because humidity is water and water does indeed make everything heavier.  Anyone who has ever gone swimming in their clothes knows this. I couldn’t help but smile again as I thought back to the first night of our visit when Denny had jumped into the pool fully clothed and how when she got out, she looked as if she was walking in a full suit of armor.

Wait, that’s it, I thought, that’s why our hearts feel so heavy when we are sad or hurt. Saturated in our uncried tears, the heart, like humid air or water-soaked clothes, gets incredibly heavy. But, God, stands ready to collect each and every one of our tears and to lighten our load. We were never meant to bear life and pain alone.

I smiled again, another teaching moment from God. And, with this revelation, I filed a mental note to immerse myself in His Word as soon as I got home.

And our Gracious Lord says:

Psalms 56:8 (NLT)

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

Matthew 11:28-30:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

John 16:33:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

 

‘Fig’uratively Speaking…


Back a few weeks ago, right before Easter, I became intrigued by Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree.  I had only known of the Jesus that blessed and healed things and I wanted desperately to understand the significance of the story.

In the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 11, we are transported to that dusty road between Bethany and Jerusalem, just days before Jesus would be crucified:

Verse 12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it…

20As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21Being reminded, Peter said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.”

Withered from the roots up? Hmmm, why was that important enough to note? I closed my eyes and quietened my spirit to listen for The Teacher. The cursing of the fig tree, I sensed, was perhaps a symbolic lesson which Jesus knew the disciples would eventually understand. You see, a fig tree was a source of sustenance in their homeland, and when Jesus found it barren, He became angry; not because the tree was fruitless, but because it was a representation of the condition of His beloved Israel. Like the fig tree burgeoning with beautiful leaves, Israel may have looked amazing from the outside, but there was no fruit to be found. They were just playing a part. For the Pharisees, it had become all about the law and the way they looked. They had gotten all wrapped up in the religion and the rules and were adorned with all the right “leaves,” while in reality they had become too blind and deaf to see what the Father was doing through Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ–God’s only son; the way, the truth and the life; the vine; and the very root system that gives life to not only the fig tree on that dusty old road between Bethany and Jerusalem, but to all of us that make up His eternal kingdom. They were too blind to see and so they persecuted and executed Him and Israel withered from the roots up.

Thank God, however, that the story didn’t end there. In true Godly-fashion, our Almighty Father, who is and has always been the same, rewrote the script to the benefit of those who love Him. The world pens a story and our Father rewrites it to please His Grand Plan. “Child, don’t you understand?,” I heard the still small voice say. “My grand plan, which includes the cross, is still in play today and will remain so until My Kingdom has come; until My Will is done on earth just as it is in Heaven. I am the root system. From me, eternal life springs.”

And to that, I reply, “Thank you, Jesus! Amen and Ehmen!”