#239 Nothing is Impossible through God

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

I grew up in Missouri in a strong Christian family active in the Assembly of God church. As an 8- year-old, I prayed for Christ to come into my life in the back seat of our car after worship one day. I have trusted God with my life since. I can’t remember a time when I have doubted His power or existence. 

My parents got divorced when I was 10 or 11, which was a very difficult time. We lived on a small farm on the outskirts of Springfield, Missouri. My grandparents lived on the farm as well, and I leaned on them quite a bit. Within a year of the divorce, my grandfather broke his back and was in the hospital. While he was in the hospital, my grandmother had a stroke. The doctor said she shouldn’t have survived. She lost the ability to speak, but she lived for another eight or nine years and was independent in many ways. She was very inspiring to me. A few months after Grandma’s stroke, we found out my grandfather had cancer and he passed away within a year.

About the same time, my sister started arguing with our mother. My sister left home when she was 17 and they didn’t speak at all for three years. I prayed every day that they would be reconciled. I remember when I was 16 hearing my mom talking on the phone with my sister. Based on what I could hear of the conversation, I went to my bedroom and prayed a prayer of gratefulness. I believed God answered my prayers in restoring their relationship as a way of showing me that He had been with me and would continue to be with me. 

In the midst of all that, I was exposed to pornography at age 13. It became more prevalent in my life and affected the way I viewed and treated girls in high school. I was loved by God and was pursuing a relationship with God, but I learned to compartmentalize. I remember praying many times that God would break the hold that sin had on my life. I soon headed to Palm Beach Atlantic University as God had miraculously opened some doors for it to be paid for in full.

I met my wife, Katie, at college. We started dating our freshman year and got married right after college. I was honest with her about the struggles in my life, but I still felt my struggles were things every guy struggles with. We had Christian friends in college with strong accountability that helped to shape our faith. Our school took multiple mission trips each year internationally. God gave me a broader world view through those trips. My love for sports and business developed. I began working at a Christian sports camp my junior year of college. This job changed the trajectory of my career. I felt called to ministry, specifically Christian sports camps. I began to educate myself and deepen my understanding of the possibility and the need. I wanted to start a camp with two friends, but it didn’t work out at the time. 

In the summer of 1997, I was getting ready to get married and didn’t have a job. I started really praying and began to have some opportunities for sports ministry jobs. I interviewed in several different states. I got an offer from a Methodist church in Lexington, Kentucky. When I began, my job was to lead a basketball league with about 70 kids playing basketball and a few adult sports. That first winter, we named the basketball league “I am Third,” to represent that God is first, other people are second and I am third. 

At 22 years old, I didn’t completely know what I was doing in my new job, but I loved God and loved kids. It was all about servant leadership and customer service and every year the sports ministry grew. In 2001, there were around 400 kids playing basketball, and someone offered to provide land for us to start a soccer league. Our first season we had 300 kids in the soccer league, and it continued to grow. One of the biggest things I noticed was the personal relationships formed through sports. There were some strong believers on each team to reach their friends for Christ. We saw coaches building relationships with players and families. At the same time, I was doing children’s ministry as the associate children’s pastor at the church, which created a unique connection between sports and children’s ministry. As a result, our children’s ministry also really grew. Through the relationships we established with the children, we saw people start coming to our church and giving their lives to Christ. Parishioners and church leaders started seeing sports as a way to evangelize.

When I was 25, I went to a Christian conference and heard pastor and author John Ortberg speak. He shared pro-football Hall of Famer Mike Singletary’s testimony about being a man of integrity. Singletary had an affair before his marriage but didn’t tell his wife until after they were married. At that moment, I remember asking God to break everything off of me. I prayed, “I will do anything it takes to reconcile relationships and heal,” and God healed me. I knew all the lust and pornography addiction had been healed. I came home and shared what had happened with my wife, which was devastating to her. She was not aware that I had a pornography addiction, but I knew it had affected our marriage terribly. The first years of our marriage were horrible because of how pornography played into my heart and marriage. After that confession to my wife, it was difficult for a few months, but it has led to 20 years of wonderful marriage. Part of that journey was meeting with my pastor and confessing. A few of his advisors had told him to let me go but my pastor said, “I am not going to fire you, but I am going to hold you to the fire. I am going to hold you to accountability and counseling.” I was all-in. I knew that I had been healed and whatever it looked like living that out and showing that to other people, I was in. 

I had a conversation with my mom and learned more about the divorce and the cause of it. Hearing some of the things that went on in my parent’s marriage was difficult but freeing because I saw how some of those things were in my own life. Being able to name those things gave me more power over those things in the Holy Spirit. Once I could name it, I had authority over it instead of the other way around. God fully got a hold of my heart during this time and did significant work.

In 2005, I began the role of youth pastor at our church. We did youth camps and mission trips. As our kids were getting older, I realized that I wanted to transition out of the youth pastor role. Through different roles at the church and leadership opportunities, God continued to teach me and help me to clearly define my identity and calling. My life call is motivating, coaching and encouraging people into lifelong vigorous faith for the Kingdom of God. 

About this time, one of our youth moved to Costa Rica and started a ministry. Over the last seven years, I have traveled to the Costa Rica ministry over a dozen times with family and friends. What I experience there is the closest thing to the Acts 2 model of discipleship and the church family that I have ever seen. I now even serve on their board. Being a part of their ministry has been an awakening for me and an important part of my spiritual journey.

God has used all of these events, healings and ministries in my life in powerful ways. We have seen friends come to Christ through relationships formed on I am 3rdsports teams. We have seen God transform people through cross-cultural mission trips around the world. We have seen God heal others in supernatural ways. As we have experienced these things with God, He has worked through us in relationships we’ve formed over the past 23 years in Lexington.

Through these three events: becoming an associate pastor, experiencing the Spirit in new ways through ministry, and getting involved with the Costa Rica ministry, I have felt God moving in a new way in my life. I began to wonder what it would look like to do something different in a different place. Our church had planned to start a second campus that I would lead. When the pandemic hit, the brakes were put on the second campus. In late April, I felt that leading at the second campus wasn’t God’s plan for me. I believed my time in full-time vocational ministry was coming to an end, and I had unbelievable peace about it. 

Over the next month after I felt this peace, God brought new opportunities to do some life coaching and church consulting. I love meeting people one-on-one to dream and pray with them and help them see these dreams come about. As we moved into June, God made it clear that my time at my home church was coming to an end sooner than I thought. I started brainstorming and praying, “If you want me coaching and consulting and working in the marketplace, you will have to open some doors.” In July, we went to dinner with some friends to share what God was doing in our lives. Seemingly out of nowhere, I was offered a job with their construction business. They created a new job for me, a business development position, which is about building relationships with current and potential customers. 

As only God can do, He showed us an opportunity for our next church home that resonated with our heart for the local church. Our family became a part of a network of house churches in October. There are currently five house churches in the network, each using the Acts 2 model for what a church looks like. 

Even though we are in the middle of a pandemic, we have left our church of 23 years and I have left my job of 23 years, I still feel God’s peace and blessing. God is clearly leading us through this journey. There has been so much change, but I sit in awe because it is obvious that God is right in the middle of this. We are ready to see what God is going to do with this new chapter in our lives. 

What have I learned about the nature of God? One of the biggest things is that God really is the God of impossible. What humans see as impossible is just a mountain that can be moved by God. I have experienced Him both personally, in my family, and physically, as a healer. Nothing is impossible for God through the power of His Spirit. He has healed me from the grip of pornography and used that witness to encourage and free others in His Spirit.

Acts 4:27–32 ESV

For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.

#235. My Ronnie

Photo by Anna Carroll

I will begin at the end, which for me was the beginning of an unexpected walk of faith. 

Late in the evening on Oct. 26, 1989, there was a knock at the door. It was my parents who lived about 45 minutes away. They had come to tell me that my sweet son, Ronald Lawrence Cole III, had been killed by a drunk driver, while riding his 10-speed bike.

My world turned upside down that night, and it has been difficult ever since. I was sent down a path no parent expects to take, a lonely road of losing a child. My parents consoled me as I cried, and my two stepsons woke up to my cries, “No, no, no.” It was a very sad night.

I put on the Florida Gators T-shirt Ronnie had given me for Christmas, and as I fell into a slumber in the wee hours of the morning, I felt a little closer to him. The next morning, I awoke to the realization that I needed to tell my sweet 12-year-old daughter, Natasha, that her dear brother had been killed. I was so very afraid, God was going to have to give me the words, and I dreaded telling her. As the words came forth like an ugly monster, I could hear her heart crack as her tears fell all over me. She and I clung to one another as if we would surely die ourselves. How would we ever survive this day?

There is nothing like Christian parents and a family of Christian friends. My parents and best friend were over first thing the next morning. We talked about Ronnie, his memories flooded the room, I think we may have even laughed some. Those first days are so full of denial that I know my memories are altered. I remember it was like being in a daze; I had to be told each step to take. I still remember my dad saying, “We need to go to the funeral home,” and, I realized, “Oh yeah, I have to go pick out a casket don’t I.” We continued on the mission that no parent wants to take, I screamed in my head over and over, “Why me God, why, why, why?” It was a question I would ask God for months. I picked out a casket, when I should have been helping Ronnie pick out a class ring. He was only six weeks into his senior year. I had spent a small fortune on braces as a single mom. All those growing-up years, where were the fruits to enjoy. Instead of planning his senior prom, I was planning his funeral. It was so unfair. I remember telling God, “You have no idea how I feel.” I had never felt so alone in my whole life, and yet I was surrounded by loving family and friends. 

In the months to come I questioned God over and over and over, why didn’t He intervene? It seemed so wrong. It was so wrong. I struggled with the meaning of my life. Being a secretary was no longer fulfilling, life had to be more than that for me. I went back to college to become a nurse, a dream I’d had for years, one I had shared with Ronnie. As we sat on the front porch during his visit that summer, I told him I wanted to be a nurse. He asked me what kind of nurse? I said a pediatric nurse, but that I didn’t think I could handle the death of a child. Imprinted in my brain like a brand is Ronnie’s response. As he turned and held my hands and looked into my eyes with those beautiful baby blues of his, they sparkled, “Mom, you are so strong in the Lord, you could handle that.” Many, many times those words rang in my ears, he believed in me, he believed I could handle it, he believed in my faith. Yes, “faith,” what a struggle that was these days. What did I believe? At times I believed that God didn’t really care about the hairs on my head. If He did, He would have intervened, isn’t that what God does for Christians, His special people. I struggled so with free will, consequences, faith and grace. One minute I would pray and talk to God, the next I would cry and blame Him. Yes, after the shock and denial wear off, there is such anger and sadness. You feel all alone as you walk through the malls at Christmastime. It seems everyone is laughing, as you feel your shattered world will never be the same. Will there ever be true joy again? Does joy really come in the morning? I could not see God’s hand in my everyday life, but I look back now and see that He truly carried me through the nightmare of grief. 

I recall many rough moments. I cried at a friend’s daughter’s wedding, knowing I would never see my son standing at the end of the aisle, waiting for his bride. What would she have been like? What would he have become? How many grandchildren did satan rob from me? Yes, I had started realizing it was satan who had come to steal, kill and destroy. In my grief I did not always go to the Word for comfort, I would sometimes play right into satan’s hand and not even go to church if I felt down. At other times I used the Bible for comfort. I found I could only listen to Christian radio songs. The rock music station could not give me the rock that my Jesus was. I bought Russ Taff’s song, “I Still Believe,” and I would play it and play it and play it. It was my spiritual warfare song, because it was clear satan had stolen my son, and now he was after my heart. At times I wondered how “saved” was Ronnie? He had gone on a youth trip that summer with the church and had recommitted his life to Jesus, so satan said to me often, ‘You don’t know if he stayed saved do you?’ It was a horrible recurring, haunting thought, right out of the pit of hell. I so needed peace. Where was my Prince of Peace? Anger, oh how angry I was at God, at life, at the drunk driver who crashed into my baby boy. Yes, life is not fair! I went to a full-gospel meeting about five months after Ronnie’s death. Spring was in the air, birds were singing, and I felt like the world was coming back to life, but not my Ronnie.

The speaker that night talked about anger and forgiveness. I had forgiven. I had said so in my heart, “God, forgive this enemy of mine who killed my Ronnie.” Yet, when the alter call came, my feet took me up front, to a man I will never forget. He was of American Indian background. He knew much about spiritual warfare, and he (about my dad’s age) and his son (about my age) asked me what my prayer was. I told him my son had been killed by a drunk driver, and I wasn’t sure I had forgiven him, or even could. He then asked me if I prayed for him, I said “yes,” every night. He asked if I prayed out loud and reminded me whatsoever the mouth speaks is made known in my heart. He asked me to repeat after him, which I obediently did. “By the grace of God, I forgive (what’s his name, honey?)” I bolted, threw my hands down, and this angry voice I did not recognize said, “I can’t do this!” He got in my face and said “That’s right, you can’t; only Jesus in you can!” 

Then he asked me if God had forgiven me of anything. Wow, did I see my life and former sins flash before my eyes. I was broken. My God and His grace had forgiven me of so much. He told me if I wanted God’s continued forgiveness I, too, must forgive him, in Jesus’ name. He could see I was ready, so again, he said, repeat after me, honey:

“By the grace of God.” 

I said, “By the grace of God.”
He said, “I forgive.” 
I said, “I forgive.” 
He said, “What’s his name?” 
I said, “SCA.” 


At that moment I bawled like a baby, I felt 50 pounds lighter as I cried and cried and cried. It was so freeing. He reminded me the thief would come time and time again to steal my joy. He said, I needed to pray out loud daily for SCA. I do, and I still do, and I always will, till the day I die. 

The following Sunday was amazing. I was at church and the pastor told us to look up a scripture. I misunderstood him and wound up on a page with a subtitle standing out to me like a lighthouse beacon: “Forgiveness for the sinner” (2 Corinthians 2:5). Yes, God was calling me to do more than I could have imagined. I have learned this is His trademark. He’s the “More than I Can Imagine God.” 

On the six-month anniversary of Ronnie’s death, the first sad milestone, I sat down and wrote a letter to SCA. God put it on my heart from that scripture, and I was afraid not to be obedient. My heels were dug in the ground, and God was pulling me forward to a new level. I was quite resistant. I wrote the letter and shared my experience with him. I was ordered by God to also mail a Bible to him. “Wow, God, what’s next?” So, in my half obedience, I bought a paperback student study Bible. I mailed it to the prison, and several days later it came back to me, water damaged. It looked like it had been dropped into a puddle of water and then dried. It looked awful. 

I called the prison to find out why it came back to me. They explained a security procedure that required much red tape: If the name ends in these letters of the alphabet, you have to do this, and on and on. I finally said in a very exasperated, tearful voice, “Lady, please, I just want to mail a Bible to the drunk driver who killed my son.” You could have heard a pin drop, to put it mildly. She paused for some time to no doubt recuperate from the shock of my statement. Then she spoke to me in a totally different tone of voice, one of compassion. She told me I could mail it to him through the prison chaplain’s office. So, once again, I set out on a mission to a Christian bookstore for a new Bible, a study Bible for the man who killed my son. 

As I arrived at the store I was shown the leather-bound Bibles that were on sale, Wow, talk about pretty and the price was not much more than the paperback. In my heart, I did not want to buy a pretty Bible for him, yet my betraying legs walked me to the checkout counter. The sales clerk asked me if it was a “gift.” My mind did not like that word at all. This man did not deserve a gift, and certainly not my Holy God’s Word, “Oh no, not at all I thought.” Yet, my betraying mouth said, “Yes mam, it is a gift.” She then explained that it is store policy to engrave the receiver’s name on the Bible at no additional cost, and it would only take about 10 minutes, would I like that?

My mind, screamed “No, no, no — not “his” name on my precious Lord’s Word. Once again, my mouth betrayed me, as the words flowed from my lips, “Yes mam, that would be very nice.” I was a bit angry with God, wasn’t he pushing this obedience thing a bit too far? My flesh and my spirit were having one really big battle. “God,” I prayed, “please help me have the spirit of love and grace that you have for me.” I went home, wrapped the Bible, and quickly shipped it to the prison chaplain. Engraved in beautiful gold letters read “SCA.” It seemed so very odd, seeing his name on the Bible and my son’s on a tombstone. Yes, it was very odd indeed. 

About three days later as we were eating breakfast, we received a phone call. My husband, Bill, answered the phone and anxiously shared, “It’s the prison in Florida. It’s the pastor you mailed the Bible to SCA through.” As we spoke, the chaplain said words so amazing, I will never forget. He informed me that he had received the Bible with the letter, explaining to give it to SCA. He had never met SCA before, as he did not attend prison church services, so he called him into the office. He told me SCA opened the Bible and read: “To: SCA, From: Ruth Whittinghill; In memory of Ronald Lawrence Cole III. He broke down into sobbing, heaving tears for a very, very long time. Finally, when he could utter some words through his continued sobbing, he said, “No one, and I do mean no one has ever given me a Bible as a gift in my life, and of all people — “her.”

The chaplain said he had seen a lot of people in his lifetime talk the talk, but “Lady you are truly walking the walk.” I told him it was only Jesus in me, not me. I said that I was struggling with the obedience to do what God had put on my heart. It was only through the grace of God that I could do this. 

The chaplain assured me that it was still a choice of obedience and that I was to be commended for following through with God’s will. It felt good to have done the right thing. It felt good to know, as the pastor had put it, “Today you made a difference in this young man’s life, I don’t know about his tomorrows, but today, you have made a difference.” SCA responded with a letter that was full of surprises, I learned he’d had a very rough life. He lost his biological mom to acute alcoholism when he was only three years old. He lost his stepmom to cancer when he was 23. His father was in a nursing home, unaware he had a son in jail. He said he couldn’t write to him and break his heart. He had a sister that he had cared for who had been in an alcohol-related wreck, leaving her a paraplegic, only in her case, she had been the drunk driver. She was now in a nursing home. He had an LPN degree and had been working in a nursing home himself before the accident. 

His letter said these were only the facts and by no means were they any justification for what he had done. SCA’s letter started out with these words, “I never expected to hear from anyone while I was in here, especially you. I can’t even begin to understand why you have written to me, nor why you sent me the Bible.” It dawned on me that he felt very undeserving of this act of grace Jesus had done through me. I continued to write throughout his jail term, sharing Jesus with him. I prayed for guidance, for the right scriptures. You see, he had shared that he had come to realize that if I, the mother of the young man he had killed, could forgive him, he somehow knew that God could forgive him, too. It gave him back his faith. 

We are all sinners saved by grace. None of us deserves what God gives us. I also had to believe that my son, so dear to my heart, had made a difference in this man’s life. It would be such a waste if Ronnie’s death had made no difference. Then satan would have won. Time and time again, God has given me a peace that surpasses all my understanding. How could I not pass that love on? Yes, that is the way Ronnie would have wanted it. God has rewarded my obedience tenfold. In countless ways, His love is forever, as is His sweet grace. 

My first Mother’s Day was one I deeply dreaded. How would I make it through such a special day without my sweet little boy? He was always so good to me on Mother’s Day, and I knew the void would feel like a deep vacuum. I went with the women at church to a conference in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I felt extra lonely, but I was trying to act happy. I didn’t want to bring down anyone’s special time. I walked along the shops ahead of the others, ducking into a shop that called my name. Oh, Mickey Mouse, he was everywhere, my son’s childhood hero, I felt so sad, I missed him so very much, and the memories were everywhere, pervading my soul. I walked out with tears filling my eyes, praying to God to get me through this weekend and back home where I could cry and be held by those who somewhat knew my pain. I looked up and the next shop was “God’s Corner.” “Oh yes, that is where I needed to be, in God’s Corner. 

As I entered this quaint little shop, I was awestruck by the most amazing picture, in sundry sizes all over the wall, this stunning picture of Jesus and my Ronnie. It was not red hair, not blonde, not curly, but my baby’s brown longish straight hair. It was his physique. Ronnie was 6 feet tall, slim, same uncanny profile, same hair color and hairstyle. It was God holding my Ronnie, as if he had waited a lifetime to hold him. “That’s my child with my Father!” What a gift from God! “Wow,” I thought. “It’s a miracle.” My son is alive and well in the arms of Jesus and Jesus loves me soooooo much. How many people can say they have a personal picture of their child and Jesus? He truly loves me, more than I can imagine. This picture was my defense when satan slapped me in the face each day, taunting me, “Remember, your son’s dead. Remember your son’s dead.” 

Yes, God truly cares about the hairs on my head, no doubt about it. Do I believe I was rewarded for my obedience? Yes, I do indeed! So, if you have anyone you are holding anger against, I can tell you, you will be richly rewarded to follow your Father’s example, to forgive and to love your enemies, the reward is abounding joy, peace beyond measure, and an afterlife that is out of this world. 

So, pray for His strength to do the right thing. I promise you will be so glad you did. Thank you for allowing me to share God’s grace and love, and my Ronnie, with you. 

This is the special photo that looks just like “My Ronnie” with Jesus. Ronnie was 6 feet tall, slim, same uncanny profile, same hair color and hairstyle. That’s my child with my Father! What a gift from God. What peace this picture has given me. God truly knows the number of hairs on our head. Just look at my Ronnie! 

#234. God Covered Me Through Cancer

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

At the age of 37, I went to the doctor because I was concerned about my right breast. My doctor told me not to worry because when she did the breast exam she didn’t feel anything suspicious. 

On April 3, 2016, at age 40, there was something about my breast that didn’t look right to me. While doing my breast self-exam, I noticed something like a hole, an indentation, in my right breast.  I contacted my doctor. She ordered bloodwork and got me scheduled for a mammogram. I kept seeing commercials on TV for breast cancer — even if I turned the channel. I knew in my heart this was God’s way of confirming I had cancer and preparing me. 

My mammogram was followed up with an ultrasound and biopsy.

When I went in to have the ultrasound and biopsy, beautiful angels were on the ceiling above the table where I was lying. I felt this was God confirming He was with me, sending angels to comfort me. As my doctor began the ultrasound procedure, I started praying. She seemed perplexed because she couldn’t find the cancer. She went over and over my breast during the ultrasound. Finally, she left the room to get other doctors. I told God, “I thank you for the comfort and for the angels in the building. This room that You have me in confirms that You are with me. They can’t find anything, Father God, because You are already working.” 

The doctors said, “It is incredible, we can’t find anything.” I knew that God was shrinking my tumor. They did a biopsy in the area they were concerned about. 

When I went in to the doctor’s office to hear the results of the biopsy, my cousin went along to support me. The room seemed so cold. The doctor came in, then a nurse, then a radiologist — a whole team of people. 

I knew it couldn’t be good. 

The doctor said, “I have bad news and good news. The bad news is you have cancer.” He rubbed my hand and said, “The good news is you are going to live a long time.” I started crying and praising God because the doctors found it when they did. 

“It could have been worse, Father God. Even though it is cancer, I know You are going to bring me out of this.” 

I felt His Holy Spirit come over me. I continued to praise God. The doctors were looking at me like, “What is going on here?” My cousin was crying and breaking down. I tried to comfort and console her by rubbing her back and telling her everything would be okay. I called my mom and told her what the doctor said. My Pop got on the phone and told me my mom passed out. I called my pastor and told him about my results, but I said, “I already knew God was going to heal me.” He said, “You have so much faith.” I knew it would be a journey, but God had me. I had the genetic testing to see if my breast cancer was genetic or hormonal. I have three daughters and that had me worried. I had an aunt who died of breast cancer. I kept on praying. I found out I am not a carrier. My cancer was hormonal, not genetic. God answered my prayer. 

I went to another doctor for a second opinion and that doctor confirmed that it was cancer, nearly stage 4, and much bigger than the first doctor had said. I was told that I needed radiation and chemo to shrink the tumor, and then possibly surgery. But I told those doctors, “God has assured me that He is going to take care of this without chemo and radiation.” They said, “I know you have faith, but this is something serious.” I was getting upset. I asked them what part they didn’t understand. I told them that God had already assured me that He was going to take care of me. I told them I would not have chemo and radiation, but I wanted to talk about surgery. The doctor said, “I can’t assure you that your cancer won’t come back if we do the surgery without chemo and radiation.” 

I asked the doctor what my chances were with the chemo and radiation. She said she didn’t know. I said, “Okay, what are my chances without the chemo and radiation?” She said she didn’t know. I said that is my confirmation. I am going to do this without chemo and radiation.

Then she brought in a team of doctors. They told me I didn’t have very long to live. I told them I knew I was going to live a long time. We moved forward with scheduling my surgery, but at that point I wasn’t sure about getting the surgery. I was afraid the surgery might spread my cancer. I went back to God and told Him I didn’t know about the surgery either. I felt Him tell me to continue to follow Him and he would show me the way. After that I had peace and joy. God gave me knowledge by helping me find natural ways to shrink tumors. He gave me wisdom to help me understand things I didn’t know. He gave me understanding. After that, I was ready to move forward with the surgery. Before I had the surgery, I changed the way I was eating. I used to eat a lot of fried food and sweets and restaurant foods. I also drank a lot of milk. I stopped dairy, sugar, fried foods, and restaurant foods. I started eating broth, broccoli and turmeric every day, along with other healthy foods. 

I had a lumpectomy in June 2016 — with no chemo, no radiation and no pills. I was fine for three years. 

I had another mammogram in June 2019, and they told me they needed to see me immediately. I already knew. I said, “Lord, I’m not ready for a second round.” I felt God tell me, “I covered you the first time, and I will cover you this time.” 

In September 2019, I was driving with my mom and cousin. I was in the back seat. It was raining. I was telling my mom and my cousin not to worry about me because God was going to take care of me. It stopped raining and the sun came out. I looked up at the clouds in the sky, then I saw the form. I saw Jesus’ face. I told my mom that I could see Jesus. I was overjoyed and crying. I felt the Holy Spirit. It was a warm feeling in my heart, just a “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). He was comforting me, telling me everything would be okay. I was having so many emotions. I knew that God was getting ready to bring me through and bring me out. 

I went back to the same doctor who did my lumpectomy. She was upset that I had waited to see her. But she found the cancer had not gotten bigger from the June mammogram, and it had not spread. The cancer was contained in a sack. I knew again that I would not take chemo and radiation. 

I ended up having a mastectomy, then on Feb. 27, 2020, I had reconstructive surgery. I asked God to give me a wonderful, compassionate surgeon, and He did. The surgeon said, “If you wake up and have two breasts, you don’t have to do any chemo and radiation. If you wake up with one breast, you are going to have to do the chemo and radiation.” But I had already made up my mind that I was not going to have the chemo and radiation. I looked down after surgery and had both breasts. I was so happy I cried. At my two-week checkup after the reconstructive surgery, the doctor said I was doing better than any patient he had ever had. 

God is using me in ways I never realized He could. I have lost one of my best friends to breast cancer and another friend to cancer. On the days that they didn’t have strength, I could talk to them and encourage them about not losing their faith. A lot of people are going through hard things now, and I try to keep people encouraged. I make prayer and encouragement videos. I read as much as I can about research on cancer and other diseases and the impact of nutrition on health. I ask God to show me things that would benefit the health of other people, and I share what I have learned with them. Whatever I do, I ask God to guide me. 

I prayed that God would keep me alive to see my children and grandchildren. I continually praise Him for answering my prayers. This December my first grandbaby is due. God is faithful. I always try to keep my promises to God. If you still have breath in your body, you should thank God. We can’t do anything without God, without God’s guidance. I ask people all the time, “How many of you would give your only son for us?” Not one person. But God did. He gave the only Son He had. It is so amazing what He did. We need to start giving Him all the glory, all the praise. 

To me, God is peace and understanding. He is great in everything He does. His word is true. Sometimes we need to get away, in complete silence, and listen to what God would have us do. We must keep praying and keep trusting. He will show us the way to go if we listen and follow Him.

#233. Life Changer, Bondage Breaker

Photograph by Jeff Rogers Photography

I was raised in an abusive family. We talked about Jesus but didn’t obey and follow Him. I remember thinking that if I did something bad, He would bring damnation upon me. I was scared to death of God. My dad was an alcoholic and my mom abused me with words. I never thought anyone loved me. I didn’t think God loved me. I was told no man would ever love me, and no man would ever want to live with me. I wasn’t very pretty in high school. I had bad acne and was overweight. I had a bad attitude and hated life. No one asked me out on dates. 

I worked a job in high school and my parents got that money. Right after high school I got a job at a McDonald’s, and my parents took every bit of my money. Every check my dad would say, “Next month I won’t need your money,” but it went on for two years. I don’t know what he did with the money. My mom thanked me for feeding her, so I guess some of the money went for food. I went to vocational school and then started going to college. I have dyslexia and never was a good student. I met my first husband at college and began living with him. We got married and moved to another county. No sooner than we moved, he left me. I had a job working at the cookie factory. One day I had two flat tires. I didn’t have the money to get the tires fixed, so thought I was going to have to walk to work, which was a long way. My landlords weren’t Christians, but they were so kind to me. They got my car fixed for me and bought me lunch, too. That was God showing me love through them. I didn’t realize at the time, but that was the Father helping me.

I met a man that worked at the cookie factory, and I moved him in with me. Every man from my father to my first husband to this man — they all needed me. The way this man treated me was horrible. I wanted love so bad, I put up with it. We ended up getting married and had two children. He was physically and emotionally abusive to me and to the children. He finally admitted that he cheated on me, and I ended up leaving him and taking the children with me. 

I moved to another town and I worked at Walmart. I always needed a man. I met another man who worked at Walmart with me. He didn’t have a car, was living with his mom, and wanted out. It was the same pattern. He needed me. I moved him in with me right off the bat, just like the other two. We got along at first, but there was a big age difference. He did help provide for our household. We bought a house together. He ended up getting a good job at a factory. We were together about five years. He was always trying to find a way out of our marriage. He met someone at the factory and had an affair. He moved out. I went crazy with jealousy, ran after him, even went to his work. I was devastated that he had left me for another woman. 

I had a friend at work who was on a dating website. She helped me get a profile, and I started getting likes from men who wanted to meet me. I met a man and he went to church, had a good job, and played in the church band. I thought I’d hit the man lottery. Our first date, we talked about God and church. I thought it was wonderful. At the time I was going to church. I had asked God to use my life. The second time we were together, this man asked me to come over to his house. I heard God say, “You are a child of God.” I knew God didn’t want me to go, but I didn’t listen. I went to his house and I did something I regret. After this, everything changed. He kept asking me for money. I gave him so much money. That relationship finally ended. Then I met another man who literally spit on me. I let him use me and degrade me, but I was crazy for him. I was an unstable human being. I texted him so much that he finally blocked me.

I met another man on the dating website. He texted me and called me and told me I was beautiful. I thought I had found true love. He lived in another state. He asked me to move in with him. I quit my job, walked away from my furniture and townhouse, and I moved to another state to move in with him. This was almost two years ago. At first it was beautiful. Then he told me to give him my money, my tax refund, and he would pay the bills, but he didn’t. I got a job and gave him almost all I was making. Everything was good as long as he got the money. Monday through Friday was good but the weekends he got drunk and he would kick me out. I had to beg him to come back. Then I realized he was an alcoholic. I begged to stay. He started getting on dating websites. One day I came home and my stuff was thrown down the steps. When I left him, I realized things had to change. I looked up at God on the way back home and said to God, “Okay, you have got my attention.” That was a pivotal moment. I was coming home just like the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32). I was still angry but realized that I had to remove people from my life who were toxic and not good for me.

I contacted my former landlord and told him I needed a place to live, but I couldn’t pay immediately because I didn’t have a job. He let me live in the same place I had walked away from for two months without paying rent. The only things of my belongings that remained in my old townhouse were my box springs and mattress and my Bible. I had a little stool and would sit on my stool and read my Bible every morning and every night. I chose to believe what I was reading in the Bible. I finally realized that I am loved and wanted, even though I am not with a man. I believed Jesus loved me, and I fell in love with Jesus. I got very angry with myself for letting people hurt me and use me. I read what the Bible says about idolatry, about not making God our first love. I knew that I had made men an idol in my life. I read about God leaving the 99 sheep to go after the one sheep who had strayed away. I read Ezekiel 36:26–27, “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.” It was like God was talking directly to me. 

My life was transforming and things began to fall into place.I started going to church. I got a good job in four days. I ran into a friend and asked her if she knew anyone who had any furniture. She had a friend who brought me all kinds of furniture, kitchenware and a washer and dryer. All that furniture came and I knew . . . that was the hand of God providing for me. I kept reading the Bible morning and night and kept going to church. 

God is restoring my relationship with my mother and sister. God has completely restored my relationship with my children. My relationship with my son was so bad. I prayed and prayed about my son and recently my son asked if he could come home. I told him I would come and get him right then. He moved in with me. He said, “Mom, I never thought that this could happen.” I told him it was all God. God has provided a good job that I enjoy with good benefits. My friends even comment how far I have come, but I correct them and say, “No, this is where God has brought me. If you can’t see God’s hand in this, then you are blind.” 

I choose to stay away from drama, gossip, and unhealthy relationships. For years I thought I had to have a man to love me, that I had to make a man love me because I believed no man would ever love me. I believed what I had been told as a child. But God is the bondage breaker. He will change you. I have seen it happen in my own life. 

I have learned to believe what God says in the Bible. He loves you even when you don’t feel it. He is protecting you even when you don’t see it. When you believe what He says: You are loved, forgiven, and a child of God — that changes everything. But it takes surrender. You can’t go down a road and go both ways. You have to choose one direction. God will show us things about our life that aren’t right. We have a choice to be like King David and say, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13), or we can buckle down and say, “I’m going to do it my way.” I believe that until you submit to the authority of Jesus Christ, there is no way out. I’m stronger only because of Him. I have opportunities now to go back to the life I was living with men, but I am no longer tempted by men. This is only because of the strength of God working through me. 

I am most thankful for the cross. I know if I didn’t go to the foot of the cross, I wouldn’t be a changed person. I’m thankful for God bringing me out of bondage. He is the only way. 

You will see what an evil, bitter thing it is to abandon the Lord your God and not to fear him. I, the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken! Jeremiah 2:19

#230 Go International: God Uses Police Stop to Bless Woman in Peru

These stories are from Go International, a missions organization that seeks to fulfill the Great Commission by partnering with indigenous leaders across the world. This leads to sustainable, long-lasting change as the love of Christ is shared.

Wilma, our partner in Lima, Peru has been burdened for those in the poor area of Lima where she ministers. They are going without food during the COVID crisis and lockdown.

So, in typical Wilma fashion, she set out to do something about it. Despite the challenges there, she was able to acquire enough food supplies to distribute to 30 of the neediest families each Saturday.

One Saturday as she and her son were returning from distributing the food, they were stopped by the police and told that anyone caught on the roads who was not on official business would be fined $2000.

They were in despair because they knew how these families were depending on these resources. Where would these families be able to get food? And how could Wilma help if she could not get to where they were?

Wilma is a woman of strong faith, and she knew God would supply. And He did in an amazing way! When the police major heard what they were doing, he offered his own car and his help so they could continue the work. He even gave a $200 donation to help buy more food.

What an amazing God we serve, and what an amazing woman of faith partnering with Go International!

#229. Love City: God Is My All-In-One

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

Today is my mom’s birthday — she has been gone three years.

I will never forget. I got a phone call, and they told me my mom was dying; but, by the time I got to her, I learned she had already died. The police wouldn’t let me in, so I didn’t get to see her for the last time. I remember begging the police — “Let me in, let me see my mom!” One of the officers said, “I’m not going to let you see her like that — you need to remember all the good times.” I was so upset, that I lost consciousness and fell/passed out. I remember seeing an angel standing over me. But no one saw the angel but me. I asked the people around me if they saw the angel praying over me, but no one saw her but me. It made me feel crazy but I know what I saw!

I went back to my home, and thought to myself there isn’t a God. If there is a God, why didn’t He send His angels down to protect my mom? If there is a God, He would have known that I needed my mother. I asked the God that I didn’t believe existed, “Why would You take her?” My family tried to console me. I told them, don’t come around here with that God stuff. He took everything He could take from me.

They still kept praying and talking and not listening to me . . .

After I got the call that my mom was passing away, I was in my car, driving as fast as I could to get to her apartment, I was saying stuff like “God, please don’t do this to me. Please God, I don’t want my mom to suffer,” not knowing then that by Him taking her, He had answered my prayer for her not to suffer. I didn’t look at it that way, when I said there wasn’t a God. I just thought He was being mean, trying to hurt me. So I asked Him — “Is this You punishing me by taking my mom?” 

But despite my feelings, God was providing. My mom died January 10, 2017, and it cost a lot to bury her. I didn’t want the city to bury her, so it cost a lot. I struggled to get the money to bury her, which meant that when school started that year, my kids weren’t going to have what they needed for school.

But, despite everything I said that was so mean to God, He provided for my kids — school supplies, clothes, backpacks — and so much more! 

God did not stop believing in me! I might have wanted to get rid of Him, but He was there the whole time. My faith was shaky for over a year, and I wouldn’t step foot in a church. But, despite how I was feeling about Him, God was still right there! He didn’t give up on me! He didn’t leave!

Even when we turn our back on Him, God doesn’t turn His back on us. He remains. It is hard to learn and understand, but it is true. 

I don’t understand my mom’s death to this day, but God has helped me see life from different aspects and angles, so who He is and what He is capable of is becoming clearer to me. 

I am learning who God is: He is your all-in-one! Joshua 1:5 says God will never leave you or forsake you. That’s what all-in-one is! Even though He had to do what He had to do by taking my mom, God didn’t leave me hanging! He was still providing! My kids were still doing well in school. We had what we needed. The rent got paid. He got me a house. God is my all-in-one!

My mom always wanted me to have a daughter, and now I am pregnant with a girl! I have three sons. The oldest is 12. My middle son is eight and the youngest is five. Then, I mysteriously come up pregnant — and it is a girl! She is due Sept. 8, 2020, as another sign of God’s ongoing provision! 

My only request to God was that I would have a girl, so that I could love her the way my mom had loved me! And here she is!

God is your all-in-one!

#228. Love City: Saying Yes To The Life He Has Offered

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

I grew up in a protected home. For whatever reason, God planted me in a family with two people who trust His love. They love God and know that God loves them. Everything they do pours out of that. I can see in their lives the way scripture plays out in truth. I am so grateful that I was in that environment. Their story started my story. 

Both of my parents grew up in homes with alcoholic fathers. My mom grew up going to church and her youth group became her family and support system. My dad also got involved in youth group. They loved youth group and loved the church. They met at Bible College. My dad graduated but mom didn’t have enough financial support to finish. They got married and started living a life in alignment with God. My dad worked as a youth minister and my mom worked cutting hair. After about seven years something happened with the leadership of the church that severely hurt my dad. My mom had been continually hurt at the church by different things. They didn’t hide these things, but they did not want to bad mouth people so I don’t know the details. They decided to leave the church and pursue vocational ministry. My mom works in the home office of a nursing home and my dad sells medical equipment. They found that they have had so much more freedom to really do ministry and show many people God’s love — even more than they did at their positions in the church. 

I got to see my parents grow. They have always been vulnerable acknowledging that they are not perfect but growing in the Lord. I never had to be perfect — just be willing to follow the Lord even if there were mistakes in that. I was never really involved in church because of the hurt my parents experienced. We hopped around and really tried to find a church but my parents wanted more freedom and less judgment. It’s a weird paradox growing up in a household of true believers and not being involved in church at all. I think God works even through people’s mess, and He worked through my parent’s hurt. Even now at 24, I am still learning to be in a church community because a corporate church community is just not the norm for me in my family. There are some drawbacks to this but what is beautiful is that the Lord is truly sovereign. God works with us wherever we are. Now, as I am learning to walk in a church community, I am a lot more open to being in a church and not suspicious of church leadership. I don’t have “church hurt” like many people do. 

I grew up in a house that understood that love is gritty and not just shiny and polished. Love meets people where they are, which is often battling through wounds and trying to believe that they are actually loved. I didn’t grow up believing that if you are a Christian you will look like “this.” Through my parents’ example and God’s guidance, I can now work in an inner-city ministry and not judge and not feel superior. My wonderful relationship with my own parents makes it very easy to call God Father, but many people have never had that. Living here reminds me how good I had it at home. 

When you really believe what Scripture says and you build your life around that, it really changes what happens through the generations. It is possible to be the person who changes the trajectory of the family from brokenness to wholeness and love. My parents shifted the course of the way their two families were headed. It is so encouraging to see that if you are faithful to Christ, it truly frees the generations that come after you. I know it wasn’t easy for my parents. They had to work to undo what had been said and done to them, but they put in the work and I am the beneficiary. I have lived in the fruit of the work God did in my parents. Scripture says He will set the generations free and God has done that in my family. 

God is the great orchestrater. He has all the pieces and parts in place. He cares about individuals and also cares about families as a whole unit. God really cares about reconciling things. He cared about reconciling us to Himself through Jesus, and He cares about our “little lives.” He cares about my little family in Oklahoma. He cares about the kids who are getting killed in the streets of the West End of Louisville, where I work at Love City. I see the same freedom coming to families right here in Portland. A 15-year-old was murdered in the streets, and we see now that God has reconciled the family. His grandmother and family have come to truly love the Lord. God has used that tragedy for good — to help his family through that pain and to walk in fullness of life. 

Life with God is simple. That doesn’t mean it’s not difficult. It’s just saying yes to everything He is offering. This can be scary. It can be scary to heal wounds, to undo coping mechanisms that you learned to help you survive hurt and brokenness. But if people had the courage to just say yes to Jesusto say yes to his will, to really mean it, and shift accordingly, there would be so much freedom, restoration, and flourishing. 

It’s the life with God we search for. It’s the age old question, from Aristotle to Aquinas to me today– what’s the good life? How can I find it? The first step is saying yes to the life that He has offered. It is a life of submission and listening to Him, discerning His will and getting rid of the things in your life that pull you away from Him. That’s what the yes is. It’s a hard yes. It’s a complete surrender yes— but on the other side of surrender is the freedom that we all want. It’s there for anyone who wants it. Jesus asked the question, “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:1-15). When you answer yes, freedom follows. 

#221. A Second Chance

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

After dealing with a spirit of rejection all my life, I made the worst decision I could have possibly made. It was Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011. My wife and I had been divorced for three years, and I had been dating another woman for about seven months. Everything was going well in our relationship. We had even talked about getting married, but that night she called to tell me she wanted to break up. Once again, the rejection hit me — this time full force. I just couldn’t take it any more.

I hung up the phone and immediately began to plan my suicide. I called my mom but never said what I was going to do. Then I went to bed. The next morning (Thursday, Sept. 15) I got up and wrote a note for whomever. Then I dialed 911 and told the guy on the other end what I was going to do. He tried to talk me out of it, but I said that I’ve had enough and hung up.

I then went outside and sat on a stump with my pistol and waited. When I heard the police pull up, I put the gun to my head and pulled the trigger. Lying on the ground I was still conscious and could hear everything being said around me. One officer said it was a bad angle, and I probably wouldn’t make it. Then they picked me up and carried me to the ambulance. They laid me on my side and put my head on something hard. As they drove me to the hospital, I began to choke on the blood collecting in my throat. I tried to lift my head to cough but the attendant shoved my head down.

While going to the hospital the male attendant was telling jokes and laughing with a female attendant. He told her I was losing too much blood and wouldn’t live. When we arrived at the hospital, I lost consciousness.

I don’t know how many days I was unconscious, but when I began to wake up, I could see faces, though somewhat blurry, and hear voices, but I was unable to talk.  Eventually my vision cleared up and I could talk again. My mother and sister were there, along with some friends from the church I attended.  

Three weeks to the day that I arrived, I went home, though very weak, as they did not allow me to eat anything.  Not even a drink of water.  

When I started dating that woman, early on I remember saying to myself, “If this woman breaks up with me, I’ll kill myself.” I did not realize that what I had done was make an inner vow, which opened the door for the enemy to come in. I had never heard of an inner vow until I was home and recovering. I heard a man on TV explaining what it was.

The same year I tried to end my life, my ex-wife and I were remarried on Christmas Eve. My miraculous, full recovery and marriage has given me a new appreciation for life. I also have experienced God’s love for me in ways I had never experienced before. 

I understand now that God was not rejecting me. It was the enemy rejecting me by using other people. This spiritual warfare had me convinced that I was not wanted and not loved by anyone. Those were lies and I bought into them.  

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.(Ephesians 6:12)

#220. He Gives Strength to the Weariest of Souls

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

As a child, we never went to church. My parents were born and raised in a coal mining community of West Virginia. They were both the product of poverty and religion gone mad. The foundation of their lives was built on a belief that true “religion” was about who could not get bitten when the rattlesnake was passed their way. Sometimes, I imagine that my parents viewed their entire life as a church service, just waiting to see which one of them would survive the poison.

I am the youngest of three substantially older siblings who were on their way “out the door” as I was “on my way in.” My parents were the owners of a donut shop, which meant they both worked from 5 p.m. until 5 a.m., so my siblings were burdened with the responsibility of caring for me and seeing that I was fed and entertained. I am certain that between my two sisters, this was not a responsibility they were happy about! So, from early on, I was left alone to entertain myself while my parents worked, slept or went out.

For my mother, daily drinking was a true way of life. A diagnosis of diabetes led her to become sober when I was about 12. Funny thing is that with that one decision to make her life “better,” it seemed as if ours became worse. Our house was never one that had a pattern. I lived in total chaos, not knowing what to expect on a daily basis, but that chaos was the only thing that I knew, and the comfort level of the craziness was, at times, the only normalcy I could hold on to. We went from weekly drinking binges to weekly AA meeting splurges, only to find that she was never ever satisfied with any of the outcomes. She was self-consumed. Eventually, I was the only one left at home, left behind to deal with her misery and anger. She had nothing of herself to give and she demanded so much from me.

When it came into my life, I’m not certain, but God gifted me with a keen sense and a creative mind, making it easy for me to be a leader. In the past, like my mother did, I have used that gift to my advantage. Not to glorify God as He intended, but to glorify myself and my behaviors. If I would have allowed God to open my eyes, I would have seen that satan had been invited into my life through the portal of nonchalance and unawareness.

Looking back over my life, I see how God protected me. Many times, in my childhood, I was in vulnerable and dangerous situations. For many years, I didn’t realize that God was my Protector, Provider and Defender. I had no clue until I heard about the Gospel. So, back then, I said it was “luck” that protected me.  I spent so many years running from everything that I knew to be “normal.” 

All of that came to a complete halt when I became an incarcerated convict in the Arkansas Department of Corrections. It was then that I was able to stop running long enough to let God get a firm grasp on me. I had the opportunity to complete a Christian program based on Bible principles in prison. We were trained in scripture so that we could apply it to our lives when were released. The program was designed to be inmate-led. All of the participants in this program lived in one dorm, and there were two female inmates who predominantly taught our classes (character and scripture memorization). This program opened my eyes to the love that God offered me. I felt acceptance from God, acceptance of who I was becoming through His word. 

God took the time that I spent behind bars to mold my soul, to create in me a love that was unfailing, unbelievable and undeniable. He opened my eyes to peace and a firm foundation of trust and calmness. So much for “jailhouse Jesus,” huh? It is real and true and I am a living testimony of His grace. But, as I received the knowledge of God, I never received His grace through salvation before I came from behind the walls. There was great wisdom within the walls. I learned so much and gleaned so much of that knowledge, but I just never accepted Christ as my Savior. Instead, my time in prison was a time of building trust in Him. Since I had never had anyone to lean on in my life, it was difficult for me to develop trust, but I was learning.

Upon my release from prison, I was quickly thrown into the reality of life. The husband that I thought would be there with open arms had since found someone else. My household full of furniture that I thought I would have available to me had been given away months before to anyone who would come and get it. And, any thought of a past life that may have waited on me while I was away was just that, a thought. Visibly there was nothing left of my former life, and as I tell the ladies that I minister to today when I speak to them, “God will remove all hindrances from you when He changes you.” He knew that if anything from my past would have been waiting on me outside the gates, my heart would immediately run back to the place that He had just delivered me out of. Not the life I would have chosen, but with separation and knowledge, I could not have asked for a better blessing. With the hard reality of being alone and still not having committed my life to Christ, I turned back to the bottle. 

My mother passed away in 2000 and my father died in 2007, so loss was not a stranger to me. After I was released from prison in 2011, my sister, whom I had not had time to make amends with, died of a massive heart attack eight months after I was released. The loss of my beloved sister was the final blow to an otherwise broken soul. Then, the only reason that I lived was to drink until I died. Days turned into weeks, and each and every day for three months, I drank myself into unconsciousness. Secluded from life, I wasted everything that I had on the bottle. I would drink until I passed out, wake up again, curse God for keeping me alive, and drink again. I knew that the Master existed, I even led my own mother to Christ hours before she died, having the faith that He existed, but not accepting His love for me personally. Not yet.

It was the love of my dear friend (story #219) who would ask me to go to church for a revival service. It was her love for me that kept bringing her to my doorstep to check on me, often afraid of what she might find. It was her commitment to not letting me die alone that urged her to consistently reach out, as all the others had given up hope. In one moment of strength that, at that time, I saw as weakness, I allowed her to take me to church. In one moment of time, I surrendered to the call of the Master. At that altar, I prayed that He would take my life and He, in His audible voice told me this: “I have heard your prayers and I will answer them. If you take one more drink you will die, but you will not live with Me in Heaven.” Only God knew that I would leave that altar saved unto His Kingdom and delivered completely from the horror of alcohol.

So many things I needed to tell my loved ones. My children, still angry and wounded from my incarceration, were not even speaking to me. I had spent many nights on my knees asking God to change me into the woman that He wanted me to be and that He would reunite me with the boys. Two years of praying and crying, praying and crying. “Please bring about a change in me that is pleasing to my sons,” I would beg. After two years, God granted that request with my older son. He was the hard-headed military son who had originally demanded that I seek help. He is the one who found me after a two-week drunk and had to call the ambulance. He was the one who uttered the words “Mom, the ambulance is here and the whole neighborhood is watching. Now, am I going to have to carry you out like a drunk or are you going to walk out of here like a woman?” Those were some of the last words he said to me before I went to prison. He is the one who asked to see me first when I came home two years later. I can’t explain the conversation that we had at dinner. I can’t remember the words that I used to ask his forgiveness. But I do remember this phrase, “You’re my mom, and I will always love you.”

His brother, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as forgiving. He was not ready to see me, notbecause he was angry or hurt, he just didn’t need me in his life. He had a great career, a wonderful wife-to-be and a fulfilling relationship with God. I had never been there for him, so he went on about life as if I were not involved, and I wasn’t. But each week I would message him, just to tell him that I was thinking of him, that I was praying for him and that I loved him. Three years of prayer and petition and one day, a response. At 4 a.m. on a Monday morning in July 2014, I sent the usual message. “Son, I love you and I pray for you always.” And at 4:17 a.m., the reply, “Mom, it’s time we get together for dinner. Would you let me take you out Friday?” God hears a praying mom. He would take no apology or reasoning. He only wanted to start a relationship with his mother. He wanted nothing of the past and could only focus on our future together and his upcoming marriage in August. To my amazement, he and his bride-to-be handed me an invitation. The wedding was a few weeks away, and they both graciously involved me in some decisions of food and pictures on their big day. As I left my house on the wedding day and during the entire two-hour drive, I could only weep to God, thanking Him and asking Him to allow me to sit in the back so I could watch from a distance. I asked Him to honor one more request, that I just be able to see my son’s face as he took on the responsibility of leading his new household as a Godly husband to his wife. “Just let me sit in the back. Please do not let me get in the way,” I prayed out loud as I drove. But my God saw things differently. As the pictures were finished and the wedding was about to begin, I started to find a seat in the back row. “Mom, where are you going?” I heard. “Honey, I’m going to grab a seat so I can see you.” The next words were priceless…“Mom, you have to sit up front today. That’s where the moms go.” So, my oldest son took me by the arm and escorted me to the front row. So I could see. So I could feel what it was like to be forgiven. So I could be a part of this new life. So my faith in a loving God could be reaffirmed and I could share this story with those who need hope of answered prayers.

Wrecked by Grace . . . The Adult Child of a Demanding Mother. The Adult Child of an Alcoholic. The Adult Child. Convict. Convicted. Transformed. From a family tree of addicts to the aftermath of a life of bad decisions, the season of my life has to equate with fall. From the most hardened love demands of a mother to a love that is tender and forgiving that I have with my Heavenly Father, the leaves of my life have fallen in due time. Bits and pieces of me have been scattered throughout my life. Pieces of the real me. Pieces of joy and pain, laughter and tears. Pieces that seem to have the most majestic colors in the latest season of my life. Not the soft colors of spring, nor the stunning colors of summer. My life reflects the majestic warm colors of autumn, pleasant to gaze upon and sometimes a mere wonder that the leaves survived the harshest heat of past days.

One month after God delivered and saved me, my calling to correctional ministry began. I met a woman from our church who had a ministry team that went inside the Pine Bluff Area Office of the Arkansas Community Correction facility once a month to speak words of hope and testimony to the residents. At that time, the facility was open to all ex-offenders released at least 60 days who had been given permission from their parole office to travel outside the county.

From the moment that I went into the compound, I knew that God had opened a doorway for me to minister. I felt the pull of the Spirit and heard the words “This is the reason that you have lived behind the walls — so that you can be an image of hope to these ladies.” In the coming back, I knew that my life was coming full circle. I knew that God had allowed every bad decision, wrong turn and misguided step to place me in prison. He knew I would have faith enough in Him to tell my story to those who were still battling. I was taken out of the war and now, with God’s help, I am walking back into the battle to lend a hand to others.

I am thankful that I have the opportunity to go back into prisons and tell people that God is for them and not against them. His love reaches far, further than they have ever been. As strong as any addiction or stronghold that has them unable to move, He is more powerful and can give strength to even the weariest of souls.

God’s character is fully merciful and compassionately just. He does not waiver and He cannot be manipulated. That is the best part of the Grace of God. In reality, justice sets us free. Justice is the blend of the strong hand of the Lord because He loves us, the repentance that draws us closer to Him and the ability to forgive ourselves of the past through His strength.

And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. — Deuteronomy 8:2-3 NKJV

#218. God Cares About It All!

I have three horses: Angel (see story #70), a mare named Darla, and a big beautiful gelding named Red. Apollo, my neighbor’s horse, also has joined my little herd, since he was all alone after his pasture buddy passed away.  

The morning of July 7, all four horses had been trimmed by my ferrier. They were all happy and healthy, or so it seemed. 

Darla has to wear a grazing muzzle during the day in “grass season,” due to “founder” (high sugar in the grass that could kill her without it, almost like diabetes). When I went to the barn about 7 p.m. to put Darla up for the night, I noticed Red was not with the others. 

I rode over the hill and found Red standing there looking like a swamp monster! He was soaking wet, covered in dirt, and had scuff marks on his head! I had no idea what had happened. My first thought was “something attacked him!” 

I noticed by our other barn, the dirt had been disturbed and the water trough had been knocked over. Then I knew he had been rolling around because of painful colic. As I began to attend to Red, he fell down. I quickly got him back up and called my husband, Mark. He brought me a syringe of Banamine (pain medicine for colic). We took turns walking Red for about four hours. He did have a bowel movement, but that didn’t seem to help him feel any better.

We called the veterinarian. The vet intubated Red with a gallon of mineral oil to check for a blockage. We did everything we could that Tuesday. My husband and I stayed home from work the next two days. We were determined to get him better. We had not eaten and took turns sleeping in short shifts. All our attention was focused on Red. 

We have an old backhoe here on the farm, which had not been used for about three years. The lights on it have not worked at all for at least 10 years! On Thursday morning, Mark said to me, “I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but I need to jump that backhoe to get it running . . . you know?” 

With a lump in my throat, I said “Yes, I understand,” knowing that Mark would need the backhoe to bury Red. Yet we continued to work with Red the rest of the day, keeping in close contact with the vet. Finally, around 4 p.m. Thursday, I realized the medicine and everything else we had been doing was not working. Red’s breathing was getting very labored. Even though he followed us around the round pen, he never laid down again.

This whole time I had been praying urgently to God to “save my big Red, please!” But, at that point, my prayers changed to, “If it’s time for him to go, even though he is only 16, please don’t let him suffer.” I prayed for God’s strength and guidance on what to do. 

The vet arrived about 4:30 p.m. He listened to Red’s belly and told us he couldn’t hear any “gut sounds.” He diagnosed Red as having a form of “gas colic,” which can be fatal. The vet said there was nothing we had done or could have done to cause or prevent this. He told me it was Red’s time. I knew he was right and didn’t want Red to have to suffer.

As we walked Red to the area where he would be put down, I was trying to be strong, but my pain was so intense! I felt like part of me was dying. I told him what a good boy he was and thanked him. I told him I would see him again one day. 

The vet was wonderful! He said to me, “When I administer this, I’ll take his lead line. Sometimes they go down easy and sometimes hard.” I just nodded. I was praying to God to give me the courage to do this and also to be with him when he passed. Mark said, “Maybe you don’t need to be here for this. Go back to the house.” I said, “No! I have to be here with him!” 

As the vet started the euthanasia, Red buckled and then fell over. As soon as he fell over, I turned away, walked off, and went to my knees. I cried as quietly as I could, I honestly thought my heart was literally breaking to pieces! Then I remembered the song “Ten Thousand Angels Cried.” The lyrics refers to God during Jesus’ crucifixion, “God turned his head away, He couldn’t stand the sight.” Remembering that song gave me the courage to get up and go back over to Red. I stroked his big beautiful face and told him it was okay to go. I told him how I loved him so very much. 

I am glad I could be with Red as he passed away peacefully. After he died, about 7:30 p.m., I went back to the house, because I didn’t want to be there when Mark buried him. When Mark got back to the house, he comforted me a long time as I cried. He said, “Let me tell you about that backhoe.” I said, “I don’t care about the stupid backhoe!” He said, “You will when I tell you this.” 

I listened as Mark told me what happened, “You know I told you I needed to jump the backhoe to get it going right? Well, something told me to just try to start it without jumping it, and when I did, it started right up! And every light on it worked!” 

A few days later when Mark went to move the backhoe from the area of Red’s grave, he had to jump it, and none of the lights worked. So once again, God cares about everything in our lives, even things we consider to be trivial or not worthy of bothering him about in prayer. God cares about it all! This was a reminder to have faith in Him, regardless of what we think we want, but trusting in Him for His plan for us. We know that His ways are not our ways. We can have peace because God loves each of us so very much! 

God was there for us that day; even though I didn’t get the result I wanted. God showed us through a backhoe (of all things) that He cares for us and is always there with us.