It’s only By His Grace
We lived in Panama City, Florida. I was 7 years old and our church was hosting its yearly revival. I remember this night like it was yesterday; the evangelist was preaching his message, I was sitting on the third pew, middle section of the sanctuary with two of my friends. As the message of the Gospel was preached and the invitation was given something inside of me burned. My heart raced and my palms began sweating. Never before I had experienced this type of moving within my soul. Something, no Someone was calling my name; calling for me to come closer to Him. It was a calling that could not be ignored. A calling so strong that I had no other choice but to follow. With knees wobbling, hands trembling, and tears streaming down my face I made my way down the aisle. I had my eyes set on my earthly daddy who was standing down front and I made a b-line straight for him. I grabbed his hand, looked into his eyes, and said, “I need Jesus in my heart.” We found a quiet place where we could talk and he walked me through the message of the cross. In the best way that my seven year old mind could understand, I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and come live inside my heart.
In the spring of 1990 I heard the Lord calling out to me once again. I don’t remember what my dad’s sermon was about that day, but I do remember my heart racing and my palms sweating as I began hearing that still small voice within my spirit speak. The Holy Spirit was saying to me, “I want you to serve Me with all your heart for the rest of your life. I have a special plan for your life.” Just like the day I gave my heart to Jesus, I made a b-line down that aisle for my daddy and told him what had just happened. He prayed with me and told me how proud he was of me. Exactly a year later, on that same spring day the Lord confirmed this calling to me. He had a plan and I was willing to follow.
I would love to be able to say to you that I have always followed God’s plan for my life exactly as He has laid it out before me, that He and I have always walked hand-in-hand, and that I have always been a Godly example to all those around me, but unfortunately that’s not the case. Yes, there has never been a time that I can remember not being in church, around God’s people, actively doing God’s work. I literally grew up there. If the doors we open, we were there. But, I have discovered the hard way that there’s so much more than just doing the work of the Lord; I’ve come to realize it’s all about allowing Him to do the working in me.
I’m not going to re-hash for you all the bad choices that I’ve made along the way. That’s not the important thing. What’s important is that God has always been there for me no matter what I’ve done or where I’ve been. His arms have always been open wide waiting for me to turn from my sins and make a b-line straight for Him. I want you to know though, that I have been in a deep, deep pit of sin. I have found myself so entangled by the chains of the enemy that I could barely breathe. I know what it’s like to feel all alone, hopeless, ready to end it all. I know the pain of suffering from guilt and shame. I know what it’s like to try so hard and do nothing but fail. I know all too well the feelings of defeat and bondage. But, I also know a Savior that loves me unconditionally and I know that He love you too.
I do want to share with you a miracle that God performed in my life 6 years ago. My husband and I had been married for three years. To say that our marriage was on the rocks is an understatement. We were, at this point, tolerating each other for the sake of the children. I hated him. He hated me. We could hardly stand to be in the same room together. Divorce papers had been drawn up some months before and it was only a matter of time before we parted ways. I would not find out until about a year later that the lawyer who my husband had write up the divorce papers was a Christian and told him she would not file those papers until we sought Christian counseling for our marriage. We did seek out counseling, but even though the advice was good, it didn’t change our marriage in the least. Why? Because we needed more than counseling; we NEEDED Jesus to heal our marriage. Let me stop here for a moment and say to you, “Counseling is a good thing. Christian, Biblical counseling is a good thing. I am all for it. I have a degree in it. But, until you and I are willing to let God work within us, changing us to be more like His Son, nothing that anyone says is going to make a bit of difference. He is Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals. True healing, lasting healing comes only from Him.” Ok. I’ll get down off that soap box.
The first step for me in the healing of our marriage came when I attended a women’s conference with my mother-in-law in November of 2002. Margaret Kennedy was the quest speaker for the weekend. Keep in mind that at the time I had wandered so far away from God that to look for Him through my eyes, He was nowhere to be seen. But, praise His name He is El Roi, the God who sees, and all the while He had His eyes on me. God spoke so plainly to me through Margaret that weekend; it was as though He Himself were standing before me. I saw in her a love and passion for the Lord I had never seen before. I felt the love of God pouring forth from her. God began that weekend to heal my broken heart and battered body. To put into words for you all that I experienced during that one weekend with the Lord would be far more than these pages can hold for now. Just know that since that moment I have never been the same. God began healing me that weekend and set my feet to walking down a new path, a straighter, much narrower path than I’d been used to. The next Sunday I went forward during the invitation and told the pastor about the encounter I had with the Lord. I explained to him that up until that point I wasn’t sure if I was truly saved or not, but now there was no doubt in my mind whatsoever. I knew Jesus, He knew me- we went together like peas and carrots.
My husband was not happy in the least with my “new found freedom” because he knew he was soon to follow. I began praying for him like nobody’s business. Within a month he was on his knees at our kitchen table crying out to the Lord to save him. That December, my husband and I were baptized together. It was the most precious gift we received that Christmas. The times that I value most to this day are those times when my man and I sit together at our dining room table and study God’s Word. Within a few months both of us were actively involved in our student ministry department. Chris was teaching a 12th grade boys Sunday School class and mentoring a small group of them. I was teaching a 7th grade girls class and mentoring a handful of them. God was doing a mighty work in us and allowing us to do some mighty work for Him.
Growing up I had always enjoyed writing down and journaling my thoughts; it had been an outlet for me. If you ask my parents they will tell you it was like pulling teeth to get me to talk; writing just came natural. The Lord began prompting me to pick up my pen and begin writing for Him. I’ll be completely honest with you and tell you that I was very hesitant. “Are you sure Lord? What would I write about? Who would read it?” Over and over again we would go back and forth. I guess God got tired of me questioning Him so much and one day spoke loud and clear to my stubborn heart.
We were at Panama City Beach for a Disciple Now weekend. There were probably 100+ kids there from our church. During one of the worship services I made my way to the back of the chapel to pray for the speaker and our students. Little did I know that the Lord was about to speak to me. I knelt down before Him and began praying. I prayed for the students and for God to move mightily among them. Then I began talking to the Lord about this writing thing He had been calling me to do. I said to Him, “Ok Lord. If You really want me to do write then I need You to give me some kind of sign. I need for You to tell me loud and clear so that there is no doubt You want me to do this thing.” I had not so much gotten those words off my lips and the speaker said, “Maybe God is calling you to write a story.” Uh, excuse me! What did you just say? My eyes popped open and I look toward to heavens and said, “Uh, God. Was that meant for me? I take it that’s my sign, my clear word from You.” Yep, it was my sign. Not only did God confirm to me that day my calling to praise Him through my writings, but He placed within my heart a burning passion for others to know Him like never before.
My heart’s desire and life’s passion is to first and foremost seek after Him in all things. This journey that He’s got me on is more than I ever dreamed possible. I want to share with all those He places in my path His unconditional love, never-ending patience, abundant mercy, overflowing grace, and magnificent healing. For it is only By His Grace that I am what I am today.
"By the grace of God I am what I am,and His grace toward me
was not in vain."1 Corinthians 15:10a, NKJV