Preparing for the Storm

 

Weather forecasters are predicting that Hurricane Harvey will be wreaking havoc on the Gulf Coast by early morning. Many residents have evacuated. Those who are staying to weather the storm are battening down the hatches and preparing for the worst, while hoping and praying for the best.

I have been through three hurricanes. One I was too little to remember, the other two I will never forget. Before the hurricanes came into shore, my parents made sure that we had candles and flashlights, fresh water, and enough food to weather both the storm and its after effects. They also had us clear any clutter from the yard.

I have learned to do the same when preparing for the storms of life.

Light- When Hurricane Celia’s high winds pummeled Corpus Christi in 1970, we were without electricity for almost two weeks. Thankfully, my parents had plenty of candles and a couple of lanterns to illuminate the darkness. Spending time in the Lord’s presence and keeping His promises (candles) in our hearts will illuminate our way when the “lights go out.”

Psalms 199:105 “Thy word is a lamp into my feet, and a light unto my path” (KJV). When I was growing up we often went camping. I hated going to the pit toilet in the middle of the night. On the “seemingly” mile long trek, I would point my flashlight directly in front of my feet so I wouldn’t stumble when taking my next step.  I also intermittently raised my flashlight and scanned the distance to make sure I was safe—and that I was headed in the right direction. God’s Word not only illuminates our steps to keep us from stumbling in the dark, but lights our path to bring us understanding and revelation about the present and the future.

Water- Our bodies are composed of more than 60 % water. No wonder we can get dehydrated so easily!  Since we can be surrounded by water and still be dehydrated (Just ask anyone who has been lost at sea) we not only need water—we need drinkable water. In A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm, the author, Phillip Keller, who was a shepherd by trade, explains what it means to be led “beside the still waters.”  Keller mentions how shepherds go to great links to provide good water sources for the sheep—even digging deep wells if necessary. However, even with all their effort, invariably a few sheep will try to drink from polluted puddles.  If you and I drink from the polluted water sources of the world, we will not be able to survive when the storms of life “hit us”. Jesus tells us that He is the “Living Water.” We must rely on Him to be our strength and trust in Him.

Food- After Jesus had met with the Samaritan woman, his disciples urged Him to eat. Jesus told them He had food to eat that they didn’t know about: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” John 4:34 (NKJ). Jesus also says in Mathew 4:4 “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”” (NKJ). You and I need to know how to “hear” God’s voice and walk in His will if we are going to survive the storms of life.

Clean up the clutter- Besides gathering supplies and boarding windows, my parents always made sure we removed anything in the yard that could potentially become a missile.  Before we head into life’s storms you and I need to do the same.  Unhealthy patterns and mindsets, including unforgiveness and judgment, can become missiles the enemy will launch at us when the winds start kicking up. It’s best to clean them up beforehand.

Thankfully, Hurricanes are preceded by warnings so there is time to prepare. That is not always the case when it comes to the storms of life. If we keep our hearts prepared by staying in God’s presence, reading His Word, listening to His voice, letting Him clear out the clutter in our lives, and resting in His love, we will be able to weather any storm—knowing that the One who created the wind and the waves, can also calm them. 

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

 

 

 

 

Not What I Thought

One of the schemes of the enemy is to try to make us think that we’re missing out. This Fourth of July, I really wanted to see the fireworks display. My daughter wasn’t feeling well, but she didn’t want me to be disappointed, so she lovingly went with me down to the Marina to watch the fireworks.

Since the Marina was less than a half mile from her house, I was anticipating the beautiful colors exploding and raining down from the sky as I looked up in wonder. The reality of the situation was that we were so far away from the fireworks, instead of looking up, we had to look straight ahead across the water, where in the very, very, very, very, very far distance we could see tiny little flashes of various colors about the size of my thumb.

Earlier in the afternoon, I had mentioned to a friend that I was taking care of someone’s bunny. When I told her that we would only have to drive a half mile to see the fireworks, my friend was extremely concerned about the bunny. “I know someone whose bunny died because a loud noise caused it to have a heart attack,” she cautioned.

Because of my friend’s statement, I had intended to check on the welfare of the bunny after the fireworks display, but I’m pretty sure it’s safe, unless its ears are so sensitive that the sound of Rice Krispies popping in a bowl of milk sound to it like cannons.

Looking back on the whole evening, I have to laugh. What I had pictured in my mind wasn’t even close to the actual scenario. If I had not seen the fireworks, I would’ve gone to bed thinking that I had missed out on a marvelous display. It made me think about how the enemy entices us with illusions of grandeur in order to keep us from God’s best. When, in reality, what we experience is nothing like what was promised.

My Fourth of July celebration might not have been what I had expected, but it sure taught me about false expectations. Thank you, Lord, for reminding me that you always know what is best!

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

Forbidden Fruit

Obey is one of those words that we don’t like hearing. From the time we are toddlers, whenever we hear “Obey me”—or it’s shorter version “NO!”—we immediately think of what is being withheld from us. I can’t touch, taste, smell, or do what I want to. But the reality is obedience protects.

This reality of protection in obedience hit home for me one day when I was babysitting a toddler who was determined to destroy both herself and my house. After rescuing her from everything from toilets to outlets, I put her in the playpen for a nap. To little Taylor “No!” obviously meant “Go for it!” How was I to teach her otherwise?

How could I get her to understand that toilets and outlets are dangerous when she couldn’t  comprehend the words drown or electrocute, or even death?

It wouldn’t have done any good to have sat her down and shown her electrical diagrams and explained currents and wiring.  Instead, I had to confine her within the boundaries of the playpen to keep her safe, until I finished a few tasks and could watch her like a hawk.

That evening, I was talking to a friend who was suffering a lot of consequences from making wrong choices. I shared with Him about little Taylor. When he was defying God’s “No’s” all he could think about was what God was withholding from him. Now He was learning the hard way that God’s “No’s” were for his protection.

Sound familiar? In Genesis, God places Adam and Eve in a Paradise of “Yes’s”. He only gives them one “no”. They are not to eat fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

If the serpent (devil) had told Eve to eat the fruit from the forbidden tree because it tasted better than the fruit from the other trees, she might not have fallen. But the enemy didn’t deceive her with the fruit, he deceived her through a lie—a lie about the goodness of God. If he could get her to doubt God’s heart for her, he could get her mistrust God and convince her to sin, bringing death, disease, fear, destruction and every other wicked thing that could harm her into her life. The more she believed the lie, the more appetizing the forbidden fruit looked.

The devil still uses the same tactics today. That is why we struggle with obeying God’s “No’s”.  When we choose to sin, we might not always be aware that we are doubting God’s goodness, but we are. Whenever we deliberately make a wrong choice, we are inwardly telling God that we doubt His heart for us. We see Him as withholding, instead of holding out His hands to bless us.

God wants to withhold evil from us; not to withhold what is good for us. But, unfortunately, you and I sometimes  have to get shocked a few times or nearly drown in tears from our decisions until we realize that God really knew what He was talking about when He told us “No!”.

God is a good father and He knows what will truly bless us (his children). The devil wants to steal from us and rob us of our peace. God wants to give us peace, and part of that peace comes through obeying Him and resting in His care for us. Trusting leads to obedience—and obedience leads to rest. May you and I purpose to trust Him, obey Him, and rest in His care!

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

Genesis 3:1-7

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17 NKJV).

He Who Dwells

 

Through the years, as my relationship with the Lord has shifted from being that of a fearful orphan to being a beloved daughter, the Holy Spirit has often brought me new understanding concerning scriptures I used to recite. A recent example would be Psalm 91.

I used to view Psalm 91 as my 911 Psalm. It was the Psalm I read when I was in trouble. It was the Psalm I posted in its entirety on the wall above my bed when I was terrified at night. It was the Psalm I claimed when I was in the midst of trials. But recently I have been thinking about Psalms 91 in a new way.

Whenever I would read or recite Psalm 91 I would fly through the first two verses and get down to the business of claiming and declaring God’s protection and deliverance. But the past few days I haven’t been able to get past the first verse: “He who dwells in the secret place of the most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”(Psalm 91:1 NKJV).

Could it be that in my rushing, I had missed the whole message-It’s not about rescue as much as it is about dwelling (relationship).

Below are a couple of definitions of dwell from the The Online Free Dictionary

1. To live as a resident; reside.

2. To exist in a given place or state: dwell in joy.     

In Acts 17:28 the Word says, “for in Him we live and move and have our being…” (NKJV). In order for us to live and move and have our being in God, we must have an intimate relationship with Him.  He needs to be our habitation not just our hang out. Instead of defaulting to Him we are to dwell (live) in Him.    

You and I don’t need to run to a shelter in the midst of a storm if we are already living in a shelter. We just need use the resources that have been made available to us. To me this means drawing close the heart of God and receiving the love, peace, and joy He has for me as I rest in His care.

During the years when I used to view God’s presence as a place to run to, I was often running from Him, because I didn’t feel worthy and I didn’t trust His heart for me.

When you and I dwell in God’s presence we are transformed by His power. In His presence, faith replaces fear and acceptance replaces abandonment. In His presence, our minds are transformed, and we no longer see ourselves as slaves but as beloved sons and daughters (God’s princes and princesses).

Instead of just viewing God’s presence as a fortress, may we make it our habitation and relish our relationship with Him.

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

 

I’ve Got This!

The more I understand God’s love for me the easier it has been for me to trust Him. When I was younger, anytime the Lord told me to step out in faith or make a change in direction I would panic and fire back questions asking for specifics. I figured if I knew all the details concerning the whats, wheres, hows, and whens I would be able to trust the Who (God.) Since most of the details would usually not be revealed until the last minute, I would continuously worry and strive to make things happen. Needless to say this was not productive nor healthy.

Back in those days when I used to play 20 questions with God I was unaware that trust is built in relationship, not just in obedience. I was also unaware that my Father God knows exactly how much information I need for each step of my journey. He goes before me and prepares the way. As I step into my next season I receive His grace for that season. If I were to know the detailed road map before I had the grace to handle the directions, I would not grow in my relationship with Him, and I would not develop character through the fruits of the Spirit. To be honest, if I saw it all before I had God’s grace to experience all I would be tempted to pull a “Jonah” and high-tail it in the opposite direction. Thankfully, God knows my true needs as well as my heart.

A few months ago I woke up one morning hearing two words in my spirit: “Virginia/June.” I have learned when I hear something I believe is from God, to both pray and wait for confirmation. Shortly after praying, I received a call giving me confirmation.

Even though I knew the where and a general when concerning my next season I had no clue as to the hows. During the months that followed, whenever I would pray for wisdom, the Lord would speak three simple words to my heart, “I’ve got this!” And I would be flooded with incredible peace.

For the first two months I had no clue how God was going to orchestrate everything that needed to happen for me to move. But in May the puzzle pieces started to come together. As usual the puzzle doesn’t look anything like I expected. My incredible, loving, Daddy God has arranged a wonderful place for my special needs sister and father to live, as well as providing the finances I need. Not only has He swung the door to my next season wide open, He has already been preparing my heart to minister His love and life as soon as I walk through it.

Once again, I am amazed how God Has put everything together! But I am even more amazed at how He has put my broken heart back together. There were many years when I would have doubted and worried, but this time, I actually had peace and trusted Him to insert the missing pieces in the right places. From the moment He first told me “I’ve Got This!” I really did believe that He had it!

If you, like me, are getting ready to walk into a new season, I would encourage you to trust the Lord and wait on His perfect timing. Not only does “He Got this!” He’s also Got you!

May the Lord abundantly bless you!

Jeannie

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7 NKJV).

Much Fruit

Sometimes when we are going through a trial it’s hard to see anything good coming out of it. Quite a few years ago I was going through a season of intense physical and emotional suffering. One day, as I was getting ready to leave the house, I saw a picture in my mind of a large bowl of fruit. As I thought about the meaning of the fruit bowl, I heard the Lord speak to my heart: “Thank you for letting me entrust you with this trial. Much fruit will come from it.”

Before then I had thought of trials as tests, not opportunities to trust and to be trusted. God is all about relationship. Relationships are built on trust, not tests. God knows our hearts. He is not trying to see what we can achieve. He wants to grow our trust so He can entrust us with all He has created us for.

He is a Good Father, not a strict teacher. Like any good father, He teaches through many experiences to grow us and to equip us. Not to see if we will pass or fail.

Knowing He is good allows us to rest in His love in the midst of unlovely circumstances. As we draw close to Him and trust Him He will bring forth much fruit—the fruit of our testimony and the fruits of the Spirit manifested in our lives.

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

 O taste and see that the Lord [our God] is good! Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man who trusts and takes refuge in Him” (Psalm 34:8 AMPC).

“But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge]” (Galatians 5:22-23).

 

 

Going Somewhere

Going Somewhere

Lately, it seems as though I am being pulled in many different directions. Before I leave for Virginia for a season I am trying to meet with as many friends as I can, as well as sorting, packing, selling my books I still have on hand, writing, preparing messages to teach next week, taking care of my special needs sister….you get the idea.

You would think I would be going nuts trying to get everything accomplished, but actually, I would much rather be busy than bored. Maybe that is why I like to walk at the bayfront when the wind is stirring the waters.

Right now, there is no doubt that I am definitely going somewhere soon. But there have been seasons in my life when I felt as if I were going nowhere.

 

Last Spring God told me to turn over the care of my father and sister and go elsewhere. I stepped out in faith and obeyed. After visiting in three different states, I returned and stayed with a few friends awaiting my next direction.

 

I was looking into renewing my teaching certificate and getting a “real job” but every time I made a move in that direction, God stopped me. In November I came back to my dad’s house for a week to take care of my sister while he went to a wedding in California. Unfortunately, the day before the wedding, he fell and broke his hip, and has not been able to live at his house since then. So to make a long story short, I am still here at his house.

 

After a few weeks of caring for my sister again, I, felt as if I were going nowhere. I thought that maybe my extended stay was keeping me from accomplishing the things God had put in my heart to do. My current circumstances reminded me of an experience I had had years ago when I was living in Arizona.

 

I was volunteering at the hospital on one of my days off and had just entered the elevator with a cart full of supplies I had gathered from the storeroom. After maneuvering the cart to the back of the elevator I pushed the button to ascend, but the elevator didn’t budge. I waited a minute just in case someone was exiting on another floor. Then I pushed the button again…Still no movement. Just as I began to envision myself being stuck inside for an indeterminate amount of time, the doors opened and to my surprise, I was staring into the face of the same woman whom I had conversed with in the hallway before boarding. That is when I realized I had been pushing the wrong button. My effort had resulted in my going nowhere.

 

Needless to say, once I recognized my mistake, I quickly corrected it, exited on the second floor, and made my way to my destination with no further hindrances. Although my extended stay in caring for my sister again and my elevator experience felt similar, I realized that there was a world of difference: On the elevator, I was pushing the wrong button. In returning to my dad’s home, God had pushed the right button. Repeating the same mistake didn’t take me anywhere, but obeying God always takes me somewhere, even if I do not recognize it at the time.

 

As I look back on these past seven months I am in awe of all God has done. I am thankful for all I have been able to accomplish at my father’s house, and I have been blessed in more ways than I could ever have imagined. Once again, God has shown me that when He puts me in specific places, the rewards outweigh the struggles. Whenever I am in His will, even when it feels as though I am going nowhere, He is always taking me somewhere.

 

If you are in a season where you feel as if you are going nowhere, I would encourage you to ask God for wisdom. He might show you that you have been pushing the wrong button and repeating unhealthy or unproductive behaviors. But He also might reveal that your seemingly nowhere season has been taking you somewhere you were not aware of. Somewhere you never could have gone without your present circumstances, even

if that somewhere is just to a deeper relationship with Him.

 

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

 

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Psalm 33:4  For the word of the Lord is right; and all His work is done in faithfulness” (AMPC).

 

Chasing Love

Contributed by Melissa

Chasing Love is the title most people would have assigned to my life. Even as a young girl, I always felt something was missing. God has created all of us with an undeniable need for Him and Him alone. But I wouldn’t understand this for many years.

As a kid, my family always went to church. Even though our home life was not perfect, we knew “about” God. I had two stepfathers but never knew my own father. My mom and I were never really close, but you would have thought we should have been since I was the only girl. In my teen years, I gravitated towards boys because I felt inferior towards other teen girls.

Fast forward a few years… I dated a lot searching for happiness. I knew about God, but I did not have any real relationship with Him. In 1994, when I was sent to Bible School, my inner self was still seeking and unsatisfied, even to the point of depression. By the time Bible school was over many of my friends had gotten engaged. Inside I was mad at God for not making it happen for me. Within a year, I married the first man I met at church. It was not orchestrated by God at all. It was a big mess. Even though it was a very painful short marriage, I am thankful for my two beautiful daughters who came out of that marriage. I ended up being a single mother for nearly sixteen years. Through those years, I still attended church as I continued to search for a husband. Many wrong relationships resulted from my search.

Last year, I met a nice man online and married him very quickly. That too was a mess, and my happiness was short lived. My anguish and pain drove me to the Lord. While going through the divorce, I finally surrendered my whole heart to my Creator—the true lover of my soul. At this time in my life, He has blessed me more than I could have imagined. I now have true peace, joy, intense healing, and new friendships. I don’t even need my antidepressants anymore. I have discovered that my needs are met only through the Lord. He waited years for me to finally turn to Him. Jeremiah 29:11 has become so real to me now. My God has good plans for me. Plans to give me a Hope and a Future. Thank you for letting me share my testimony with you. 🙂

Get Out of the Car (Revisited)

Get out of car

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog about a road trip encounter I had when I was helping my daughter Shanna and her husband David move to Virginia. In a few weeks, I will step into a new season as I return to Virginia for a longer period of time. Even though I know that God is going before me, my heart is beginning to ache at the thought of leaving my wonderful church, family, and friends. Today, as I was focusing on loss, God reminded me of some of the “God Adventures” we had during Shanna and David’s last move. I am posting one of them to remind me that although I am leaving much behind, there is always much ahead when we obey our Daddy God and step out into the unknown.

The moving truck had gotten stuck in the mud behind a pizza place in a dark secluded area. While Shanna and David were calling the rental company for assistance, I waited in the car and prayed. God told me to trust Him because He was doing something beautiful, so I after a while I quit praying for a solution and decided just to worship.

Within minutes, a friend called to see what I had been up to the past few months. I filled her in on our current situation, and she prayed a powerful prayer. After our call, the big dude who had been sitting in the car next to me got out of his car and walked behind the back of the building where my daughter and son-in-law were standing. Immediately, God told me, “He is the reason you are here. Get out of the car!” I did.

The man informed us that we were in a dangerous area. Apparently, a couple of pizza delivery drivers had recently been robbed, and one of them had been murdered. He was riding along with his wife to protect her when she made her pizza deliveries. We told him that we felt like God had also placed him there for our protection.

I felt a stirring in my spirit to pray for the man, so I asked him if he had accepted Jesus as his Savior. He had. Since I love to hear testimonies, I asked him if he would care to share. He looked at me warily and answered, “I was incarcerated at the time.”

“Praise God!” I exclaimed.

He gave me a quizzical look and said, “That’s not the reaction I usually get.”

“It’s not where you have come from; it’s where you are going,” I reminded him.

His eyes lit up, “That’s right, but most folks don’t see it that way.”

I told him that I kept hearing “Samson” in my spirit and asked if I could pray for him. I learned his name was Shadrack.

I explained to Shadrack that although Samson fell to the flesh and was imprisoned, when he turned to God and regained his strength, he defeated his enemies. The Lord told me to tell Shadrack that although he had made bad choices and had been imprisoned, because he had turned to God, God would empower him to defeat all his enemies—fear, unforgiveness, addictions, etc.

As I continued to pray for Shadrack, the Lord told me to give him a certain amount of money.

When I mentioned the money, his response brought tears to my eyes, “We just lost everything. Our house—everything!”

I said, “Shadrack, God loves you so much that He would let us get stuck in the mud just so He could bless you!”

His eyes began to tear up as he commented, “I will never forget this night for the rest of my life!”

Shadrack shared that he had been sitting in his car watching what was going on with the truck when God told him to get out of the car. He told God he couldn’t: “It’s night. I’m a big black guy and those are white people. If I go over there, they will think that I am trying to rob them.” Once again, God told him, “Get out of the car!”

While were praying, the tow truck arrived. After the moving truck was pulled from the mud, Shadrack helped reattach the car to the trailer. Then we ended up sharing more and praying for each other. Before we left, Shanna and David were also led to bless Shadrack financially, and we had the opportunity to pray for his wife as well.

“Get out of the car!”

What if I hadn’t obeyed? What if Shadrack hadn’t obeyed? We both would have missed out on a night that neither one of us would ever forget for the rest of our lives—a night where we opened the doors of our vehicles—and the doors of our hearts. It was a night where we both stepped out into the unknown and met Jesus in an unfamiliar place, as we encountered Him in the hearts and lives of each other.

When Shadrack was sharing how he chose to obey God and “got out of the car,” I thought about Peter getting out of the boat to meet Jesus. Peter might have started to sink, but none of the other disciples would ever experience what it felt like to walk on water, even if only for a few steps. God is waiting for us to step out and meet Him in the unknown. If we keep our focus on Him we can walk with Him on water, but even when our fears cause us to sink, His hand is always there to pull us up and draw us close.

Whether it is from our cars, our boats, our houses, or just our comfort zones, when God tells us to “get out” it’s always an invitation to come and join Him in an adventure.

When I first came to back to Texas, I begged God to let me leave. Now I am sad that it is time go. I came with almost nothing. But I am leaving with both a full heart and a full life.

Whenever you and I step out of our comfort zones it’s easy to concentrate on the loss of what we are leaving behind, instead of anticipating the abundance of what awaits us. God is a Good Daddy and He is orchestrating wonderful adventures for us—if we will only obey his voice and “Get out of the car!”

Matthew 14:28-29
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water”

29 “Come,” he said. (NIV)

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

 

 

Scars into Stars

The enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy, but God gives life abundantly. Today’s post is a powerful testimony by my friend Cilinda. Thankfully, we serve a mighty God who brings beauty out of ashes and as Cilinda so beautifully says, “turns our scars into stars.”

I started out thinking I was going to write a very short rendition of my “autobiography” (which I have promised both myself and God, but have yet to do), but God has laid it on my heart to write my testimony in a much different fashion/form.

To cover my background and help it to make sense of where I am today, I will say my life has not been “the American Dream” in any manner. At the ages of seven and nine years old I was molested. My parents never knew because I was not capable of understanding what had happened to me, being so young at those times. It probably behooves anyone reading this, to think how something like that could’ve happened to a child and the parents not ever know. Fear and folly, I would dare to say, is what allowed me to keep it a secret for so many years.

My mother was forty-three years of age when she gave birth to me (my father was fifty-two years old). My precious mother had too many medical problems to mention, and needless to say, after having three daughters many years earlier in her life, was not “expecting” the birth of the fourth daughter (me)! But she and my father welcomed me into this world with love and their faith in the Lord knowing that my birth was His will and all would be right with the universe!

You may have heard the old sayings such as “ignorance is bliss,” or “what you don’t know won’t hurt you”… well, unbeknownst to me, as a child, I took those old adages and lived by them for several years. I kept the ‘secrets’ of what those two men did to me hidden as deep within me as I could possibly bury them. My life played out as I would consider “normal”, but as the years rolled by, I would find out that buried bones sometimes get dug up or uncovered.

As my high school graduation approached, I was more than excited over the life I saw before me! I was engaged to a military guy five years older than me. Our wedding was two weeks after my graduation, and I couldn’t wait to be married to the man of my dreams, have our own home and one day have children of our own! The “American Dream”, right? Well, all that soon changed and my vision of the “American Dream” was shattered into a million pieces and scattered to the uttermost parts of the earth, or so it seemed.

My fiancé and I were involved in a most tragic automobile accident May 2nd, 1978. A semi-truck ran the traffic light as we were crossing through our green light. The big rig hit our car on my fiance’s side, sending us spinning, striking another vehicle in our path, and leaving a mass of destruction in a matter of seconds! Four days later, I came out of a coma, to find out about my fiance’s tragic demise. The driver of the truck didn’t survive this horrendous accident either.

My future was ripped right out from under me; a feeling much worse, I felt, than literally having my heart torn from inside my human body! The one person I was about to vow to spend the rest of my life with… to have and to hold, from this day forward, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part, was gone. Death… such a sudden end to a lifelong future ~ one that never began!

I sank into the darkness of depression, not wanting to be in any social gathering with family or friends. I didn’t have a reason to go on, nothing to live for! I just wanted to die! Twice I tried to commit suicide – once by taking an overdose of my prescription. The second time I had to battle thoughts in my head of jumping into my mother’s car and driving off a bridge! But God had other plans, none of which I was aware of yet!

I went through counseling with a psychiatrist, and then more with a psychologist. The pastor of our church also generously counseled me through the word of God (which was, by far, the most valuable and rewarding counsel of all!)

Four months after tragically losing my fiance, a relative passed away, and my parents needed to go to the funeral. They knew I would not be attending with them, as I was not capable of holding up through a memorial service. One of my sisters and her three children lived just down the road from my parents and me, so they arranged for me to stay with her until they returned after the weekend. Little did they, or any of us, know that weekend would be cut short…

My sister was divorced and was enjoying the activities of what single life entailed – going out to the nightclubs on weekends to dance and listen to some good old-fashioned music! Well, her three children had made plans to stay with friends of theirs that weekend, and an old friend of hers happened to come for a visit and ask her to go out on the town. Not wanting to leave me alone, she said I would have to come along. Much to my negative response of not wanting to go, she continued insisting and I finally, begrudgingly gave in.

We went to a nightclub that we had often frequented in the past and stayed for awhile until she and her male counterpart decided they wanted to check out another place. I refused to go and spotted a former friend I hadn’t seen in a while and engaged in conversation with him. She spoke to him briefly and said they would just go for a little while and would be back to pick me up. I took it that she thought my friend would hang out with me until they returned!

An hour or so passed and my friend said he needed to leave, as he had to get up very early the next morning. I sat at the little round table in the corner alone, listening to the band until the bartender announced, “Last call for alcohol”. Next thing I knew, the bouncer walked up and told me I had to leave, “…time to vacate the premises & lock up shop!” I tried to explain that I was waiting for my sister to come back to pick me up, but he simply stated that I needed to “wait outside.”

I exited the building, not knowing what else to do. I looked around, hoping to see my sister and her friend pull up to pick me up. But not a sight of them anywhere! I noticed an army guy that worked with my friend I had talked to earlier and asked him if he could give me a ride to my friend’s so I could have him take me home. He said he was with other guys, but he would see if I could get a ride with them.

Without dragging this story out too long with daunting details, I’ll skip to where this “ride” lead. The car pulled up, and I got in with the “friend of my friend, the driver of the car and the passenger in the back seat. They took me to the dorms where “my friend” should have been, but after I checked his room, knocked desperately on the door (to no avail), I returned to the parking lot to see the three army guys standing by the car. I approached, telling them he didn’t answer and asked if they could take me to the police station so I could get a ride to my sister’s house. Their plans had already been decided. My night on the town soon turned into a night of terror.

During the next few hours, I was repeatedly raped and abused. Then I was taken back to the car. Instead of releasing me, one of the men then took me to another location. Fear enveloped me as questions ran through my mind. “Where was he taking me? God, why is this happening to me? Is this going to end? “How” is this going to end??? ”

Once again, I was raped. My captor then opened the car door, got out of the driver’s side, walked around to the passenger’s side, told me to slide behind the wheel, threw the keys at me as he slid into the car and said I could drive to my sister’s! My mind was not in a state of rationalization, nor did I remember the actions taken in driving myself to my sister’s house. All I can possibly accredit my safe arrival to is only the sheer grace of God!! As I pulled up in my sister’s driveway and grabbed the door handle to get out, he threatened me, “Don’t tell anyone what happened tonight, because the big guy WILL come find you!”

I broke down and told my sister and her male friend what had happened! Her male friend took me to the infirmary and the doctors called the military police. I was tended to & cleaned up, then taken to the crime scenes to verify my story. I had to return the next day for a lineup where I identified both guys.

Two years later I received a certified letter while I was living on a military base in Germany. I was married and we were expecting our first child. The letter was from the U.S. Dept of Criminal Justice, stating that the trial had taken place, and both militants had been tried and found guilty and were dishonorably discharged from the Army! But no sentence or jail time for either! I remember thinking, “Justice… is that what you call it?”

I continued to live my life, and raise two sons.  My first marriage lasted sixteen years. Thirteen years later I remarried. That one lasted four years. Although both of my marriages ended in divorce, I watched my two wonderful, blessed sons grow up and get married. One of my sons has given me two of the most treasured blessings I claim – my grandson & granddaughter!!

My family are my treasures and this life is where I am meant to be…The past? It’s dead & gone… buried! Those buried bones I spoke of earlier did get dug up… but not in the way you would imagine. Again, God’s mercy and grace prevailed!

I was approached at a random meeting by someone in the Criminal Justice Department in Texas (where I lived after I married & raised my children). I told my story and of how God brought me through everything with His protecting angels all around me. I shared how I could have died in these instances, but by God’s grace, I’m alive today and healthy and well, with bountiful blessings the Lord has bestowed upon me through His love for me – HIS child! His child… ‘that’ I am! I told him that God watched in pain as these things happened to me throughout my life, but He did NOT allow any of it to destroy me or take my life! He had guarded, guided, and protected me and brought me to a ‘safe’ place!’

After hearing my story, this official asked me if I would be willing to share my story with others and tell them about how it impacted my past AND my current life! I accepted, not knowing what I was getting into or the difference it would make in my life!

I spoke to parole officers in training, as well as “parolees” who were in prison for committing the same crimes that had been committed against me!  How powerful our God is!! This was another chapter of my life – the one I call “the forgiving chapter”! This is where I came ‘face-to-face’ with those who have hurt and caused pain and suffering to others like myself… THIS was GOD reaching out (through me and my life’s story) to these criminals (sinners) to let them know that HE is all-powerful, yet He is a forgiving God! He allowed me to witness to these men about how HE brought me through all of my past! And through this came “forgiveness”.I realized I no longer had the hate and anger ‘buried’ inside of me toward those men from my past for what they had done to me! In a sense, you could say “God brought me ‘to’ prison to free me ‘from’ my own prison!”

God had allowed me to be a part of a family who knew Him, served Him, and loved Him. My parents taught me how to believe in God. Through attending church regularly, I was taught about how we, our world, and everything in it and beyond was created. I learned about the hardships of people throughout the Bible and about how God delivered those who believed through it all! I learned about Jesus’ birth, His life, and all the torture, pain, and suffering He went through before dying on the cross for the sins of the world. And I learned about how Jesus resurrected back to life so that I/we could live beyond all the tribulations we have here on earth!

At the age of thirteen, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. I realized then that I was not alone on my journey and that He had been by my side in my “innocence of life!” Although I did encounter terrible tragedies later in my life, I now know that God was, is, and ‘always’ will be by my side no matter what my future unfolds!

Today, through my past, both good and bad, I reflect on where God was in my life. He was by my side, holding my hand, and carrying me through the parts of my life that I would not have survived – without HIM! I am blessed to attend a wonderful church who loves and serves God “wholeheartedly”. I too, serve in this church through ministries God has placed before me to show how awesome He is and how HE provides for each and every one of His children, through any and all circumstances throughout our lives!

Besides working in our church bookstore, I am a leader of a wonderful Life Group called “Challengers”. I also am a part of an amazing God-given ministry called God Behind Bars, which allows me to attend ‘our’ church’s service in the very same prison God took me to when He opened the door for my healing to begin, as well as my “purpose” to be revealed! God is so  awesome, and amazing beyond our comprehension, but totally within our acceptance!

There are precious memories I hold on to of years gone by – that I will forever reminisce and thank God for as I smile with much appreciation and gratitude…Thank You, God, for always staying by me, for preserving my life, for showing me there are greater pains than all I have ever been through, and for my life eternal – my salvation!

One day I shall see my parents who are in Heaven… along with my sister and other loved ones who have long since passed. But as long as I am on this earth, I daily thank God that I can minister through my testimony and I am grateful that He has molded me into a vessel that He so carefully and lovingly guards, guides and protects, yet employs for His services to others.

Forgiveness is the key to a faulty lock that you thought could never be opened! How did I get through all of my past, you ask? Not ‘just’ by the Grace of God, but by His genuine love, His purpose, and His plan for me…And now, today…I look forward to my future, watching my children and grandchildren as their lives change, grow, and unfold the way God plans… watching and living the rest of my life, as it, too, turns page-by-page, as my book is being written by the hand of our Almighty God, who turns our scars into STARS!