Author’s Note: All my sisters in Christ are Servant Girls, and we’ve all been given God’s stories to tell. I’m grateful to be able to write to you about Donna and her story this week and next week on my blog. We met over dinner and talked nearly 3 hours about who she was before she allowed God to be Lord of her life, how He changed her when she gave Him her heart, and how He is working in her family right now. It is my pleasure to introduce you to the always smiling, always joyful, Donna Lawing…
“I knew when I was in high school that I wanted to be a secretary,” Donna told me. “I took a typing class in 10th grade, and that was it!” she said, with a huge grin on her face. (If you know her, you know that whole-face, contagious, brighten-your-day grin I’m talking about.)
So, after high school, she completed a 10-month program in Secretarial Science at King’s College and stepped into the working world at a company called SunHealth. That was 1987, and 31 years later, Donna is in her 21st year as the Executive Assistant for both Speedway Motorsports, Inc. and Sonic Automotive, Inc., working closely for Bruton Smith, Scott Smith and David Smith, as well as Bill Brooks, the Vice Chairman & CFO for Speedway Motorsports. (And sorry — no comment on whether or not Bruton is going to buy the Carolina Panthers. I asked.)
“When I get to heaven, if God needs a secretary, I’m the girl for the job,” she laughed.
Obviously, this is the career she was made to do. It has been a constant in her life since she was 18. But, while her career path hasn’t changed, other aspects of her life certainly have.
Thirteen-year-old Donna asked Jesus into her heart one night at a church camp called Camp Lurecrest. As she sat around the fire with the other campers, the counselor began talking about God – explaining how much He loves us, so much so that He sent His one and only son, Jesus, to earth. The counselor went on to describe how Jesus lived a sinless life but chose to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin so that we wouldn’t have to.
As the counselor talked about Jesus being raised from the dead three days later, Donna became overwhelmed with this feeling of being ‘drawn’.
“There was this incredible love and this desire to really know Jesus,” she told me. “So, I asked Him into my heart that night, telling Him that I believed He died for me and took my sin on Himself, to make a way for me to be with Him forever.”
Unfortunately, as time went on, she went her own way and chose her own will over God’s. “I really wasn’t… discipled,” she admitted. The next 20 or so years were marked with many bad choices. While her career path was stable, her personal life was anything but. After two failed marriages, she found herself a single mom, raising her two daughters, Courtney and Jess, and working full-time to support them. She was very angry with her second husband and harbored a good bit of bitterness and resentment toward him and their failed marriage.
To make matters worse, Donna admitted she was always a bit vengeful, but life had sharpened this. Typically, she would only apologize if she “knew” she was wrong – but you had to prove it to her first. If you hurt her, she would definitely hurt you back; she would get revenge. She wasn’t humble. She was always right. Her way was the right way – the only way.
However, the Lord was about to change all that. He was orchestrating things for her path to converge with that of a high school crush who would be instrumental in leading her to a true relationship with her Savior.
Donna and Kevin knew each other in high school and lived in the same neighborhood. She was interested in him, but he was older. “Seniors did not date sophomores back then,” she said. So nothing came of it.
Evidently, it wasn’t God’s timing for them back in high school, but it was in 2003. They’d seen each other around Charlotte over the years, but Kevin happened to show up at Donna’s work one day; he was there for his job and saw her outside on her break. He stopped to say hi and ended up inviting her to dinner so they could catch up. After a few more dinner dates, they became a couple.
As they dated, they began attending church together, alternating Sundays between First Baptist Church Indian Trail (Kevin’s brother and his wife were attending FBCIT and invited them along) and the church where Kevin’s dad was pastoring in Charlotte. Donna began learning more about the Lord, studying the Bible more, asking questions, and soaking it all in. Kevin became involved with her daughters as well, coming to their home once a week to have a family style meal together.
It was at one of those meals, in January 2004, that Donna realized that she needed to surrender her life to the Lord. The conversation that night was about life – how people say one thing and then do another. Donna began to see that she had been doing just that – claiming to be a Christian, but being no different from anyone else. She didn’t want to be that person anymore. She wanted Jesus to know that she was sorry for being a hypocrite; she wanted to “walk what she talked.”
That’s when Kevin told her, “we can make it right, right now.” And that’s what they did. Kevin and Donna went into Donna’s bedroom, knelt by her bed, and talked to the Lord. She told Jesus that she was sorry for how she had been acting and living. She told Him that she didn’t want to live that way anymore; She wanted Jesus to be Lord of her life. She surrendered all to Him right then and there and has never been the same since. She truly made Jesus the Lord of her life. She couldn’t blame who she was on her circumstances any longer. Her encounter with the Lord brought her face-to-face with herself, her sin nature, and she had to own up to the consequences. For so many years, she had tried to make her own way, but now she wanted Jesus’ way. She asked Him for forgiveness, and He took her back.
What’s more, all vengefulness was gone. “The Lord taught me how to be humble, and He taught me to submit – both to my soon-to-be husband and to Him.” Donna also shared that the Lord immediately took away her nasty mouth — her excessive and unnecessary use of profanity. It was literally, in that very moment, gone!
The couple got engaged and became involved in premarital counseling with Rick Jordan at FBCIT. This led them eventually to join FBCIT and Rick’s life group. (Incidentally, this is where I met them and where Kevin said those fateful words in class one Sunday when he was subbing for Rick: “The most miserable person in the world is a Christian who isn’t living for the Lord”.)
Donna is confident that their church and church family have been very influential in her development as a Christian. She told me, “A lot of where I am with the Lord and who I am in the Lord is due to our church and life group.”
“Of course, we are all still a work in progress and always will be,” Donna was quick to remind me. “I do still struggle with patience,” she confessed. “I tell everybody, jokingly (sorta), that I’m pretty sure God put me with my husband to help me learn and exercise patience! God is teaching me to be still. Sometimes you just gotta wait.”
The waiting, surrendering, and trusting part has really come into perspective lately as Donna has walked through one of the toughest situations she’s ever faced…her oldest daughter, Courtney’s, substance abuse and addiction.
“Considering all I have been through — and some of those things being what I thought were just the worst things ever — my life is really good. I have peace; I have joy; I have hope. Even in a moment of fear and despair, I am not broken by it.”
Donna knows now that life isn’t about her, it is about God and what He can do in and through her.
Next week, in part 2 of this Portrait of a Servant-Girl, I will share how God used Courtney’s struggle with addiction to restore their family.
What was your life like before you met Jesus? What did He change about you and your life when He saved you?