Promises, promises. I held on to them for dear life. They were my hope. They were my anchor. I hung on to them for dear life and I wasn’t going to let anyone take them from me. I held them close to my heart. In fact, for many of them, only me and God knew. That’s how I liked it. That’s how I wanted it. I never uttered a peep. That’s how I knew they were safe. Just between me and God.
As my daughter and I continued to live and grow, the Lord continued to show himself faithful. We had our valleys no doubt, but all in all, I could finally see God’s hand of favor on our lives and he constantly reaffirmed his promise to me for good and not harm, a future and a hope, and thatis what kept me going through each valley. I felt a shift in our circumstances in that I saw my daughter smile when we were together. In fact, we finally started connecting in the simplicity of living day to day. Yet, there was still that “thing” inside me that wished I had made better choices. I wished I had never taken the wrong turn. I wished I had trusted God more to finish what he started in me so long ago. I wished so much…I wished with so much regret I wondered if I would ever realize the fullness of what I knew God called me to do.
Then it happened. That meeting. That encounter with God that changed me forever. It was a Tuesday night in October. The Fall air was beginning to set in but it was still plenty warm outside. Me and a friend was invited back to my “hometown church” where I served after my father was killed in the accident. It was one of those old fashioned tent revivals. A place where you could lift you hands to praise and shout “Halleluiah! Amen!” I got to see so many friends in a church where I once worshiped. It was a great night. I felt like I was walking on air.
I came home and the next night, I resumed service at my current church, which was also in revival. It was a Wednesday night. The service was powerful. The Holy Spirit was strong and the message was well-received. I found myself in tears and could not even speak to anyone at the end of service. I went home and could not make sense of the sudden shift in my emotions. I woke up the next morning (Thursday morning), still in a fog—still such a heaviness in my spirit. I knew I had to go to work. I prayed and prayed but could not find relief. Why were my emotions on such a roller coaster? Why had I gone from such a “high” to such a “low” in a matter of hours? It made no sense.
Finally, I pounded my fist on the kitchen table and said to God, “I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what’s going on!” Like a movie playing in my mind, the Lord took me through memories of when I was at my hometown church after my dad died. I was one of the church pianists. God showed me how I had served as fill-in to a community church when they had no pianist and how God had used me to bring the music to my then pastor’s revival circuit. He reminded me of the connections he made for me through local quartets and the encouragement they gave me regarding the music ministry God had given me. Then the Lord showed me where I was at the present time. He showed me how even through the bad marriage we were in, the Lord gave me strength to step out and attend the current church I was currently attending as a “safe place,” and so they could start praying for us. He showed me how if it had not been for the prayers of the people at my current church, the Satan would have caused my ex-husband to be consumed with paranoia and we would have been killed. The Lord showed me how even though I took a wrong turn, he never left me and he caused me to be delivered and placed me at a church where once again, I was serving through the gift of music he gave me. The Lord then asked me, “Can’t you see? I’ve restored you.” I was stunned. Yes, once again, with a tear-soaked face, all I could do was worship my savior.
The Lord then spoke to me and said, “Many of my people are hurting. Tell my people that I love them and I want them to come to me so I can heal them. Time is running out and I need my people working. I will use your life to bring me glory.”
I was speechless. How could God love me so much that He would still choose to use someone like me after all I had done? I was so in love with my savior I could scarcely find the words to utter my praise to him. The Lord began to tell me some of the things he was preparing for me—really great things that I held deep in my heart and well within God’s keeping power. The date was October 19, 1996. God had already anointed me to write and earlier that year, I asked God to give me a song that I could give back to him, to bring him glory. The song, “You Love Even Me” would become prophetic for even me, as this year ended and the next year began to unfold.
I stayed on that “mountain top” for a long time. Our lives were becoming more settled and my direction clearer. Then it happened. In my normal course of daily living, I had another encounter—of the unholy kind. I had for most of my life walked with compassion in my heart for others—since I was a little girl. That’s how God made me. After God’s deliverance and healing in my life from certain destruction, I held deep reverence for God and for the commissioned call he had on my life. What I did not clearly understand was the enemy who seeks to steal, kill and destroy. What I didn’t clearly understand was when God opens our ears to hear, we must learn to discern. We must not allow ourselves to be deceived while we walk in compassion for others. What I had not been fully prepared for was as much as I loved my savior, there was still work that needed to be done in me. I needed understanding that goes with knowledge. I needed wisdom that goes along with that new level of faith and upward movement from glory to glory. I needed to take God at his word and never waver from his truth. I needed to crucify my flesh and above all, I needed to guard my heart.
With my own life, I already knew how God’s grace was able to save a soul and change a life. My life was far from perfect, so for God to reach down and lift me out of a pit and set me on a firm foundation only confirmed to me that he could do it for anyone.
It was a day like any other day. I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was changing out the pump signs with our new specials and making sure our gassing stations were clean and tidy. I had committed to the Lord to use my business as a lighthouse in the community for his glory, which we did every day. People began to seek out our convenience store for a place to shop, noting that the scrolling sign on the pump telling them that “Jesus Loves You” brought them great encouragement. I offered customers hope through a smile, word of encouragement and a gospel tract anyone could pick up free of charge. I also offered local ministries and churches the opportunity to make extra money by having a car wash on my lot. I was cautioned against doing this due to the cost, since we were already experiencing financial difficulties, but I knew the cost was low compared to the change in the atmosphere of our community that was bearing the existence of four active gangs. I knew I was where I was supposed to be, doing what I was supposed to be doing and for as long as God allowed me to be there, I would continue forward.
One of the men in a local ministry I was helping came up to me and asked me a question. It was as if he had been painted on from head to toe. I mean, the man loved tattoos. But who was I to judge. Then the man added, “When God saved me, I looked in the mirror and I had doubts.” He went on to say, “God told me he saw my heart and change would start there.” I knew what he meant. God’s grace. Then I heard it. “The Voice.” You know—that soft voice. That whisper. It said, “Will you consider him?” In my heart, I knew what it meant. God already told me he was preparing to bring me a husband and together we would spread the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world. At first, I didn’t think much of it. But it was persistent.
As the days and weeks went on, me and this man would have more conversations. Before you know it, we began to pray for one another. Even though there were obvious differences, I knew what God was able to do—after all, I knew what God did for me. I was cautioned by those who knew me. I was cautioned by those who knew him. This is what is called being surrounded by Godly counsel, as God says there is safety in the counsel of many. Here’s where a person is supposed to “heed to Godly counsel.” I might add, this is not a time for the righteousness of God to become prideful. After all, I knew it was God’s voice I heard. Right?? Time went on and we eventually became engaged to be married. The rings were bought. The date was set. Now, here’s where many people may have their own opinions, but I’ve learned, there is a reason God sets certain boundaries for us to follow—not so we can have a boring life, but for our own good, safety and well being.
What happened next shook me to the core on the foundation God had so painstakingly built for me to be planted on. A person’s true character is seen not when things are good or events are running smoothly. A person’s true character is seen when the fire is the hottest, and the fire that was set ablaze against us was burning hotter and hotter. It was only weeks before we were to be married. Plans were being made and it seemed things were coming together as planned. I had not been feeling well but was at a loss to understand why—probably just because I was making another one of the biggest life-changing decisions of my life. Then the final straw was placed on what became known as the pile of sinking sand. I found out I was pregnant.
In an instant, I felt myself spiral into a place of utter aloneness. One could best describe it as a place of complete darkness. Thoughts of myself as the minister God called me to be were suddenly thrown into a heap of “you failed” and “you’re worthless” all over again. To add fuel to the fire, I remembered him growing anxious because I kept putting off the wedding. I had that “stinging feeling within me” and I voiced my concerns to him. I said, “What’s wrong with waiting? If its meant to be, it will be.” He agreed, so we waited—a little while longer. My mind began racing from thoughts of his voicing his restlessness for waiting to get married to “what is everyone going to think.” I didn’t have the feelings of security of “Well, we’re almost married. It’s going to be all right.” There was nothing all right about what I was going through, what I was feeling and what I was thinking. My barometer of grace seemed to be sucked dry and I was at a loss to process it all.
Truth came in a matter of days. I met with him and told him I was pregnant. Quite frankly, his reaction came of no complete surprise to me, however, I was hopeful this was all just a bad dream, we would get married and everything would be okay. Not. He became angry and threw the papers in his hand and said, “This is just great. How far along are you?” The conversation ended with, “I need to be alone for a while.” We met only a few more times after that. I finally accepted the fact he simply was not ready to be married, nor was he ready to be a father. He became quite relieved to hear me admit to it and with that, he left. He tucked himself away in the company of those who provided for all his needs. A place for him to become a stronger man to deal with his life.
As for me, I was left alone to handle everything. I had been down the road of taking responsibility before. I took responsibility for myself and my daughter after the abusive marriage. I would take responsibility for this too—even though it was certainly not all of my own doing. I was silent for a time. My secret was still my own for a while. I tried to sit down to the piano and find solace. It didn’t work. I tried to read God’s word. I couldn’t take it in. I tried to pray. I felt as if I was talking to the walls. Thoughts of losing all God promised me once again plagued my thoughts. My heart was broken. My soul was vexed. All I could hear was “you’re no good.” I finally stormed through the house crying and yelling at the top of my lungs, “Is this it? Have it done it now? Have I gone too far this time? Have I exhausted my grace account?” After what seems like forever, the Lord spoke, “It’s just going to be harder.”
The next day, I was standing at my kitchen sink looking into the front yard. I heard it again. The Voice. That whisper. “You know how to take care of this problem. It doesn’t have to be a problem for you.” Instantly, I felt the power of God come upon me and I said out loud, “Satan! You’re a liar! And you’re defeated by the blood of the lamb and the word of my testimony! I will have this baby!”
I was finally able to gather the courage to speak to the pastor of the church who had supported us until the time I became engaged. As difficult as all of this had been to process, he said something that set me free, at least enough to see it with a little clearer perspective. He said, “Having a baby out of wedlock is not the sin. It’s what you did to get pregnant that’s the sin.” We had a good conversation. In a stately manner, he said “You know abortion is out of the question.” I was then able to tell him “the rest of the story” about that morning he read from Jeremiah—that morning God chose to meet with me by divine intervention and face having had two abortions while I was previously married. It was also in that conversation with him I was able to tell him how Satan had tried to tempt me to do just that—abort another precious gift from God—the child I was pregnant with. No. Satan would not win this time. Not again.
I made a vow to God that day. I told God I wanted his best for my life and if I needed to stay single in order to get it, that was okay for me—and I meant it. The years ahead would prove to be very challenging to say the least. Some of our greatest challenges can become some of our greatest losses. Sometimes, those losses can bring some of our greatest blessings. The Lord prepared me though. He knows I remind him often enough that he tells us he will not keep us in the dark, J. He told me to prepare to go back to school and that if I would pursue a career in medical transcription, I would be able to work and provide for my kids all while being able to stay at home with them and not have to depend on someone else to care for them. This is something I longed for. God knows the desires of our hearts and whatever those may be, he will work things together to get us where we need to be to receive them. He certainly did for me.
God also knows the plans he has for us and in that he will also work all things together for our own good. I knew my business was struggling financially but I always reminded God that his word said I should owe no one anything but to walk in his love, so I expected a miracle. I was not opposed to leaving the business—I just didn’t want to leave it while being in debt. Sometimes, the Lord’s grace will deliver us so we do not have to walk through the fire. Sometimes, the Lord’s grace will carry us so we are not overtaken by the floods. Sometimes, God’s grace will rise within us and make us stronger than we could ever imagine, enough to walk through the fire and the flood. I knew God was faithful and I knew he had always been good to me. So, I knew he would see me and my two children through the yet another devastating season when I would be forced to close my business (by reason of inability to become financially soluble).
I started at the business as manager with low sales and increased a small kiosk business to more zeros per year than I had ever seen with my own eyes in my life. It was my livelihood. It was my baby. It was my identity. I felt lost and the rejection I encountered was more than I could bear. I had been trying to sell my home so I could downgrade, but time would prove it was not on my side. I lost everything. I withdrew. I couldn’t fathom what was next for us. Unknowns. Uncertainties. But all eyes were on me to provide and “fix it.”
But God… and Only God… His plan is perfect. His timing is perfect. When I finally conceded to that, I was finally able to breath. Through my family’s suggestion, I found my way into school. Amazingly, I remembered the word God spoke to me a year earlier. Indeed, this school had a medical transcription course. My heart was overjoyed! My daughter was eight years old and my son was four months old. Talk about a new beginning. It would take three years, but I did it. I made it through school—not with just one, but with two degrees. And, I made it through with honors, a 4.0 GPA. I achieved the highest honor as the overall outstanding student and was the keynote speaker of my class. I saw the glory of the Lord pierce through the darkness of every negative word I had ever heard about myself. God never ceases to amaze me with what he can do with willingness and effort. Amazing Grace—God’s love for us.
I’ve known for quite some time that my life is not my own. God has called me to something greater than I can fathom and through it all, he has never changed his mind with what that will be.
We all meet at the crossroads of “life” and “convenience,” “trust and obey” and “do it my own way.” Each choice brings its own set of circumstances, ups and downs, goods and bads. No, life is not a crapshoot. God has a plan. He has a perfect plan, a perfect will. God also gives us a choice. God tells us to choose life. Not because he a “stick in the mud” with a bunch of rules and regulations to make our lives boring, and deem our lives insignificant. And, no. God does not sit on his throne with a scepter in his hand ready and waiting to knock us over the head when we make a mistake. God loves us. All of us. Is life hard? Yes. Is life fair? No. But even so, God is good and He wants his best for us. I was eventually able to forgive him for walking out on us. Just like I was able to forgive my ex-husband for all he did to us. I was also able to forgive myself for what I had done. Because of God's grace. Choose life. Choose his way. Choose his plan. His way is not always the easiest, but it is always the best. He wants us to have his best along the way. Seek him and you will find him. And, wherever life may find you today, just know, God loves you even when you make mistakes. I know his love is what keeps me going. Yes, Lord, I know “You Love Even Me.”
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