little things/BIG THINGS

What are some “little things” people have done for you that ended up making a big impact in your life?  It could have been something your parents did when you were a child or a teacher did when you were in school.  It might be something a co-worker or a neighbor or a complete stranger did. It doesn’t matter who did it; it just matters that it was something relatively small: it didn’t cost much money or take up a lot of time or warrant a great deal of planning.  It was just something… little.

Have you ever done something fairly minuscule for someone else and found out in the end that it had become a significant occurrence in that person’s day, week, year, or entire life?!

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

When we are the giver of the small thing, we don’t always get to see its influence; we may never know how or if it meant anything to that person at all…and that can be frustrating.

When my son Ethan started preschool, I began putting notes in his lunch box.  When he was too young to read, I drew pictures or wrote simple things he could figure out on his own.

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I might write “You are my” and draw a picture of a sunshine or write “I Love You”           Photo Credit: Pinterest

As he got older and learned to read, I would write messages to inspire him or remind him that he was loved.  I might write, “Ethan, remember that you are a child of the King,” or “Remember to smile at someone today,” or “You are my #1 boy.”

At some point, we realized he liked jokes, so I pinned a bunch of jokes onto a Pinterest board and would include one of those on occasion.  (Currently, about 95% of his notes are jokes).  Sometimes, I write the note to Ethan but prompt him to tell the joke to someone else – another kid in his class or even his teacher. On the front of the paper, I might write, “Ethan, ask Nathan if he knows how bees get to school?”  Then, on the back, I write the answer: On the school buzzzzz.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

Every once in a while, I’d ask him about the message or the joke on the note.  Many times, he’d say he didn’t remember.  Occasionally, he’d admit that he hadn’t even looked at it. 😦

I was getting fed up, honestly.  It wasn’t that it took a long time to write the note (and if I was smart, I would have written it the night before, but I’m not that smart), but it was another task to check off the list as I was ushering the kids toward the door each morning with book bags in tow.  To be met each afternoon with “I don’t know” or “I didn’t look at it” when I asked about the note was just too much.

After a while, I made up my mind that I was going to stop doing it.  If he didn’t care enough to read it, I certainly wasn’t going to waste the 5 minutes or less it took me to do it each morning.  I could devote that time to more yelling about putting on shoes and finding coats 🙂

Then I went to school and ate lunch with him one day.

I was NOT expecting what happened the moment he sat down and unzipped his lunch box.  Immediately, several hands shot across the table attempting to be the first to snatch the little blue Post-it note from the jumble of plastic food containers.

I watched in awe as first one friend and then another read the joke and passed it down. Kids all over the table were asking to read the joke! (I have found out since then that his 1st grade teacher will still stop by the table and ask to read the joke if she is in the cafeteria when his third grade class comes in)!

I was flabbergasted!  My eyes teared up! Here, I thought that he didn’t care about the note!  I was going to stop writing one! However, it seemed to be a big deal for his classmates and for him.  Plus, it put a HUGE grin on his face!  I looked over at him as the joke was being passed around; kids were reading it aloud, snickering, and passing it onto the next person asking to read it, and he was beaming!  His smile was so big that his cheeks had squished his eyes into slits (although it isn’t hard for his cheeks to squish his eyes when he smiles.  He has my smile, bless his heart, and even a very small smile renders our eyes almost nonexistent).

In that moment, I decided that I would write a joke for his lunch box every day if I accomplished nothing else.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

I was blessed to see the fruit of this small gesture – how it impacted my son and his classmates.  Now, there is no way I’ll stop doing it…well, that isn’t true.  He may ask me to stop when he gets older and becomes embarrassed about such things, and I guess then I’ll do what he wants, but until then, I am writing the note!

Every once in a while, I still slip in a little inspirational message.  I figure I’ll get one or two kids before they figure out it isn’t a joke.  And maybe that first kid who snatches the note and reads even something so simple as, “Jesus Loves YOU” will be affected by that – maybe not in that moment but someday, somehow.

What is something small someone has done for you? Have you told that person how much you appreciate the gesture, the gift, the kind words?  Do it! It will only take a moment, but it is so pleasant to know that what you’re doing matters.

What is something small you do for someone else?  Does it seem that your efforts don’t matter? Do you think about throwing up your hands in defeat?  Reconsider! You may never know the impact that small something is having on the recipient or even a bystander, but keep it up.

Most of the time the blessing of giving falls more on the giver anyway.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

 

When Your Feelings Are Hurt

My feelings were hurt the other day.  Yes, it was a petty thing that upset me, but I was momentarily wounded none-the-less.  Right away, Satan started in with the lies he likes to use with me in similar situations.

“See.  You don’t really have any friends.”

“No one really likes you.”

“It’s because you aren’t friendly.”

“You’re forgettable.”

“Why do you even bother?”

All these thoughts flooded my mind within about 2.5 seconds of the alleged offense.

Truth be told, Satan has been pulling this particular trick with me for so long, I don’t think he actually has to do anything anymore; I do it to myself. I start listing the lies for him.  I am doing Satan’s job.

And honestly, that isn’t something I want to do.

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So this time, before I wallowed in it and let it fester and infect my entire day, I stopped myself.  First, I told myself I was likely reading into the situation things that were not true. Nothing was done purposefully.

I remind my children of this constantly when they come to me bringing the latest complaint about who broke a beloved toy or who threw away a favorite drawing or who made a mean face at whom. I typically ask them not to assume the worst in others.

“Don’t immediately think your sister did that on purpose…”

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I bet I’ve said that to my son a trillion times if I’ve said it once.

If the lesson is good enough for them, and I truly believe it has merit, then it is good enough for me, as well.  So, I told myself that this time. “Don’t automatically assume this was meant to hurt you. More than likely it has nothing to do with you at all.”

Taking into account that there were likely no cruel intentions involved did slow my racing heart, but my flesh still wanted a pity party.

I wanted to text my husband or call my mom or my sister.  I needed someone to be outraged and demand, “How dare they!”  I just wanted someone on my side. That would make me feel better.

However, I thought back to a graphic I saw on Facebook not two weeks ago.  It explained the very situation I was facing at the moment. It showed two paths I could take in response to the supposed transgression against me: God’s way or the world’s way.  I knew I had to choose God’s way.

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I saw this graphic in my Facebook feed a few weeks ago.  I have no idea who created it originally, but I am not the author.

I didn’t want to.  I wanted to run, headlong, down the slippery slope of the left side.  I wanted to “tell people all about it.” That would be delicious! That would satisfy my flesh and give me the pity I wanted so badly.  But I knew, looking at that right column, that this was the way to go; it was God’s way, and it was the best way.

A better perspective was needed.  Peace was what my soul desired even more than pity.  I just needed to be with God for a little while.

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Instead of clutching my phone and feverishly blabbing how upset I was, I clung to my Bible.

“Lord, please show me what to do.  My feelings are hurt. I feel like I don’t have any friends.  What do I do?” I asked aloud.

This was part of my answer:

Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Colossians 3:13 – Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

James 1:19 – Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.

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Hebrews 12:15 – See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.

Colossians 3:17 – And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks go God the Father through him.

There were other messages that I found, too.  There were plenty of verses about how much God loves me, that He created me in His image, that He has a purpose for my life, that He will fight for me and take care of me, that He will never leave me, and on and on.

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Interestingly enough, what this became was a snippet of time alone with God.  As I was reading through the different verses I found, I began to praise Him and worship Him.

When you read about how much He loves you, you can’t help but do so!  

Before I knew it, what had hurt my feelings just a few minutes prior was the furthest thought from my mind.  I wasn’t upset at the people involved. Satan was no longer telling me I was unlikable. God and I were having a peaceful praise party with Him as the focus.

Gone was my desire to blubber to my sister and hope she would jump on the sinking ship with me.  I was just thankful. My joy was back because I had chosen to reclaim it by focusing on God and what He would want me to do in the situation rather than what I felt like doing.

I have to stop here and say that I don’t choose this path every time.  I don’t always choose joy. Sometimes, I choose to flop right on down in that slimy, sticky self-pity filth hole and throw a little tantrum for a while.  Just get covered head-to-toe in that muck. Sometimes, I choose to let whatever happened ruin my whole day. Sometimes I tell someone what upset me. I relive the circumstances over and over, becoming more insulted each time I rehash the incident.

And it feels fabulously…horrible.  It just feels horrible. It feels like my heart is all covered in yellow pus, and I am suffocating.

It truly isn’t what God wants for me or for anyone in that situation – especially when the insult probably wasn’t legitimate at the outset (Legitimate offenses warrant a totally different blog post…for another day).

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The next time someone steps on my toes, I challenge myself to talk to God about it.

The next time someone steps on your toes, I challenge you to talk to God about it.

First, remind yourself not to jump to conclusions; don’t immediately assume this was meant on purpose to hurt you.  Don’t immediately assume the worst.

Then, find your Bible.  Sit down and open it on your lap (or pull up your Bible app on your phone, but no texting or calling people to talk about what happened 🙂 )  Look up some of the verses listed above or find your own verses about dealing with hurt feelings or wrongs from others.

Next, ask God what to do.  Tell Him you’re hurting – that something happened that hurt your feelings – and ask Him what to do.

Sit quietly and wait to hear what He has to say.

I’ll try to do the same.

What do you typically do in response to someone hurting your feelings?  What is the outcome of the situation? Have you learned any positive or Christ-like ways to deal with such offenses?  Please share those here.

 

Portrait of a Servant Girl – Meggan’s Story Part 3

{If you’ve missed the past few weeks, please read Part 1 and Part 2 of Meggan’s story first then join me back here}.

Meggan flew home late in the summer of 2013 totally defeated.  Despite her best efforts, she had come back without Joyce.  But, attention had to turn to Faith and the baby she’d deliver soon, so she jumped back into life at home.

On October 22, 2013, Rwenzori Grace was born.

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Renzori is born!  (Image used courtesy of Meggan Love)

While the couple adjusted to their new roles as parents, they also refocused on Joyce.  A lawyer was hired (pro bono) to investigate the case further and try to get the facts straightened out.

For about 6 months, the Loves worked with their lawyer and the U.S. Embassy in Uganda to collect the information the Embassy required.

In February 2014, Dane sojourned again in Uganda: 1 week on a mission trip and less than a week finishing the adoption process for Joyce.

Meggan waited out the time at home with her two babies.

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Meggan’s “Uganda Journal” contained scriptures she prayed specifically for their daughters and their trips to and from the country.  2 Corinthians 1: 3-7 was particularly comforting while Dane was gone.  Photo Credit: Pinterest

March 1, 2014, Dane and Joyce were met by a hoard of friends and family when they arrived at the airport in Charlotte.  The ordeal was over.

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Dane and Joyce at the airport on Joyce’s Gotcha Day (Image used courtesy of Meggan Love)

All of a sudden, the Loves were a family of 5!

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At the airport (Image used courtesy of Meggan Love)

Life fell into a new normal.  Joyce tested and started elementary school.  Dane and Meggan worked out childcare for the two younger girls for the times when both parents would be at work, and time pushed forward as it is prone to do.

Now, just because it was God-ordained doesn’t mean it will be easy, and it most certainly hasn’t been.  There have been difficult times, many with Joyce as she struggled to learn that she could trust Dane and Meggan.  There have been tests of authority.  There has been a lot of yelling and some dishes thrown.  They’re a lot like any other family now that all the paperwork has been signed.

After we talked through the 3 trips to Uganda and the 2 adoptions, I asked Meggan what all this had taught her about God.

“He is the Giver of grace.  He is merciful and loving.  He is sovereign,” she listed confidently.  “People have trouble with the sovereignty part a lot of the time, but He is, like it or not.  It really is something to wrap your head around.  When you’re in the midst of something difficult, you have to tell yourself that He has the power to change it, but He might not.  He didn’t do this to punish me or hurt me, but He did allow it.”  She paused a minute staring past me at nothing.  “He knows better than me.  He can see the end, and I can’t.”  She looked at me.  “I had a third miscarriage.  Last September.”

 

That would have been September 2016.  I had no idea!  I felt my eyes smart and that achy feeling you get in the back of your throat right before you cry.  But, looking at Meggan’s face made me stop. Her eyes were mournful, but there were no tears.  What I saw was more a somber resoluteness.  This was just another part of the plan.  She didn’t have to like it, but it was another chapter in the story of her life.  It was beyond her control.

“We went in for the ultrasound at 6 weeks of pregnancy, and the heartbeat was low, but it wasn’t terribly concerning yet.  So, we went home and prayed that whole week.  When we went back, there was no heartbeat at all.  We could see the baby on the monitor, but the doctor was talking about medication I could take or surgery I could have.  I asked if we could wait another week.  My body had done this two other times,” she explained.  “I didn’t need medicine or a DNC.  My body just did everything naturally.  So, we went home for another week and prayed”.

“When I talked to God that week,” she continued, “I said, ‘God, if you take this baby, help me to still love you – to be ok.  To move past it and realize you have a plan, and it’s better than my plan’.”

After another agonizing two weeks, they went back and had a third ultrasound.

During the scan, the ultrasound tech asked, “Why are you having this ultrasound?  There is nothing left but debris.”  Her tone was harsh.

Dane and Meggan held it together long enough to get out of the stifling exam room.

Once they got with Meggan’s doctor, who confirmed that there was no life, Meggan agreed to take the medication to help her body finish what it had already started.

She had to take 2 rounds to have it do its job.

In the end, it made her the sickest she’d ever been.

“I wasn’t mad this time,” Meggan slowly shook her head.  “I just accepted that He knew what He was doing.  I knew I’d be alright with it.”

This kind of response comes from years of praying, countless hours of studying God’s Word, and a trusting, loving relationship with her Heavenly Father.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

{Note: Dane and Meggan welcomed their 4th daughter, their second biological child, Delaney Jo, this past September – one year after enduring their third miscarriage.}

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(Image used courtesy of Meggan Love)

In the beginning of our interview, Meggan confessed that she’d hesitated to agree to come.  She didn’t feel like a Servant Girl.  She was just a mom – helping with homework, cooking meals, changing diapers, refereeing arguments…but after reading about these chapters that God has written so far, you have to see that she is so much more, and her story is so much more.  This is the story of how Meggan, her husband, and their family have walked by faith with their Father.

They’ve been through some monumental struggles, but right now, they’re in the midst of being mommy and daddy.  However, the things they’re doing now are no more or less important than the plane trips, the embassy visits, the lawyer’s fees…the tears.

Now, their monumental task is to raise their daughters to know Jesus Christ!  That is a God-given job, isn’t it!?  A job that can only be accomplished with God’s help, too, right?  (I feel like a rousing ‘AMEN’ ought to go right there!)

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

“The 5 loads of laundry and the snotty noses – that’s what the Lord has me doing now,” Meggan insisted, maybe still working to convince herself that God could even be found in the day-to-day tasks that can become so monotonous.  “Sometimes you just wait, right?!”

That seems to be the crux of what she and Dane have learned so far: when you walk with the Lord, there are times to wait, but do so in prayer, trusting that God is working things out for the good of His children.

Wait. Pray. Trust.

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The Love Family Fall 2017 (Image used courtesy of Meggan Love)

Read more of The Love’s story in Meggan’s own words through her blog – AdoptLoveUganda

 

Starr Says Stay in Your Lane {A Blog Recommendation}

You be you, friend.

And let them be them.”

I was reading the Thirsty Thursday installment of the blog, The Daily Starr, by Starr Haigler, and it was as if she were speaking directly to me here…

“You be you…”

In her blog, Starr has a prescribed theme for each day (#makeovermonday, #trashouttuesday, etc).  #thirstythursday posts focus on God and His Word and His promise to give us living water so we don’t have to thirst ever again.  In this particular entry, she implored readers to walk the path God had set for them.  Her point was that God has given each of us spiritual gifts (she used 1 Peter 4:10-11 to support this), and we are to use them to serve Him, to bring Him glory.

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Watch out – she reminds us – Satan will employ one of his age-old tricks to get your attention off your gifts and hinder your ability to do what God has for you to do: comparison.  Starr points out,  “My gift is not your gift. And if I focus too much on your gift, I’ll miss what God has ahead for me in this journey. If I want everything I do to bring glory to God – I need to be me and use the gifts God has blessed me with.”

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

This post was particularly inspiring for me because I am someone who tends to listen to that voice telling me that I’m too shy or what I have to say isn’t very interesting or my past will hinder me from helping people see God.

What Starr had to say here reminded me that God has, in fact, given me gifts.  God has given me a path to follow.  My path won’t look like anyone else’s because it’s mine.  It might be narrow.  It might be hard to see what is ahead or where exactly I’m going, but it is the one ordained for me.  I need to stay focused on my gifts and my path.

It inspired me to think about what it is God has for me to do during this time He has given me here.

{Plus, the images of the snow in the trees and on the road were beautiful as were the others she included in this post!}

Check out this post, You don’t have to be like everyone else, and note the simple yet poignant prayer at the end.

One read and I’ll bet you’ll want to subscribe to receive your daily dose of encouragement and inspiration.  I certainly have.

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Photo Credit: The Daily Starr

A Mountaintop Experience: Reflections from a Weekend at The Cove

Sit a spell in a rocking chair on the porch at the Training Center and watch the fog creep in until it completely covers all the blue-gray mountains in the distance.

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The “Back Porch” at the Training Center

Amble through the halls and take in the multitude of gifts given to Billy and Ruth Graham over the years as they traveled the world: the pin from Boris Yeltsin, the Russian Nesting Dolls from the Russian Delegation, or the Wooden Pestle from Romania, to list just a few.

If nature is your pleasure, choose a sturdy walking stick and follow the trail as it climbs and twists through the woods and past the creek up to the chapel. Those who are more adventurous can climb 3 miles up to the overlook.

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Porter’s Creek on the hiking trail

 

This past weekend, I passed a sweet time meeting with the Lord during a women’s retreat at The Cove in Asheville. Be Still Mama Women’s Ministry from FBCIT hosted the event and put together a dynamic line-up of godly women to encourage us to “Choose Joy” based on John 15:1-11.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

Based on my observation, I heartily recommend that you go on a retreat the next time you have the opportunity. And, if that opportunity happens to take you to The Cove, I encourage you all the more.

To begin with, the venue is absolutely breathtaking, both the surrounding, natural environment as well as the inns, Training Center, and chapel themselves. Although we were there in the middle of winter, the weather was pleasant enough to venture outdoors, walk a few trails, and take in the beautiful mountain scenery. All around you’ll see glossy, smooth magnolia and hearty cedar. It was overcast while we were there, but the heavy clouds hanging low on the mountains and even lower in the trees epitomize the mountains to me.

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Imagine what the Graham home might have looked like when Ruth often stood at the door and kissed goodbye her evangelist husband as he went off yet again to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. Do you see a cozy fire, creaking rocking chairs, soft rugs covering wooden floors, and shelves and shelves of books? That’s what I see, and I imagine that was the inspiration behind the homey, mountain decor that permeates the inns, the Training Center, and the chapel at The Cove.

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Suite sitting room in Shepherd’s Inn

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We were all crazy about this grand fireplace in the lobby of the Training Center.  There were more pictures taken of this than just about anything else!

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Chatlos Chapel

If the interior says, “Relax. Pull up your chair and sit by the fire,” the exterior says, “Take notice. Stand tall! You’re nestled into mountain country.” Each building was built with a mix of natural stone and dark, handsome wooden beams.

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Shepherd’s Inn

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Shepherd’s Inn

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Chatlos Chapel

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Chatlos Chapel

And, oh the windows! They were everywhere! Some rooms, such as the dining room, had floor to ceiling windows, and lobby of the Shepherd’s Inn, where we stayed, was two-story, featuring windows from the floor to ceiling! The word ‘breathtaking’ just doesn’t even seem adequate to describe what you experience with your eyes.

 

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Shepherd’s Inn Lobby

You don’t just experience The Cove with your eyes though! Your nose and mouth are tantalized as well – at least 3 times a day – at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Truthfully, I hadn’t considered the food as something to look forward to on this trip. But, let me tell you, I was completely and utterly blown away by the amount and quality of food as well as the selections themselves. Breakfast was a buffet of eggs, meats, pastries, fresh fruits, yogurts…I could go on, but breakfast is my favorite meal, and now I’m hungry again. Lunch and dinner included choices such as filet Mignon, grilled shrimp, baked Parmesan chicken, salmon, pork ribs, steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, salad, rolls, cornbread…you get the picture, right?! I’m not saying you should go to The Cove just for the food, but I’m saying that you won’t be disappointed by it. You’ll probably leave a few pounds heavier than when you came. (I didn’t even mentioned dessert!)

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Dining Room in Training Center

The staff was kind and helpful as well. Their demeanor added to the overall hospitable air of the place. Everywhere you were greeted with their smiling faces welcoming you in the door, asking if you needed assistance with anything, or reminding you to help yourself to the coffee, soft drink, or water stations located around the facilities. The folks waiting the tables in the dining room were especially jolly as they begged us over and over to go back for seconds and thirds. “If you leave hungry, it’s your own fault,” one lady kidded us as she refilled our water pitcher.

Now, I would be remiss if I did not also share with you what you are likely to experience on a spiritual level while there. I most certainly encountered the Holy Spirit’s presence; it was there nearly every moment. This was due in part to the group of women there with me, the caliber of speakers and the message they prayed over for weeks and weeks, the worship leader and the music she chose, and the overall design of the retreat itself by the leader of our women’s ministry.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

However, added to that was the idea that this facility itself, everything at The Cove, in fact, was designed with the purpose of bringing people to a place where they can relax, refresh, and experience the Lord. You just…feel His presence. You look out over the mountains, and you encounter majesty and awe knowing that He created those mountains and those trees and those clouds, and He knew you’d be standing there in that moment, feeling so small but not alone. You look at those friendly faces assisting you, and you realize that He made those people, and He gave them attitudes of servitude so they could be His hands and feet. Even the configuration of the furnishings – a grouping of chairs here and there by a fireplace, or a couch nestled in the corner by a bookcase – invited you to breathe in fellowship and experience the Lord’s calming presence.

It’s just a majestic place. The Lord is there! I urge you to go should the opportunity arise. You will be so grateful that you did.

Have you ever been on a retreat? Was it for work, recreation, church, etc? Where did you go? What was your experience there?

Portrait of a Servant Girl – Donna’s Story Part 2

That time you thought God had left you all alone…that He wasn’t doing anything in your life anymore…that wasn’t true.  He was working.  He was orchestrating this detail to fit in with that detail so that something extraordinary would come of it.  You wanted hamburger steak that very minute, but He had filet mignon on the menu.  You just had to wait.  Sometimes you have to trust.  And wait.

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Ask Donna.  She knows.  She’s lived it.  She’s experienced it.  And she’ll tell you.  It was God the whole time.

(If you haven’t read Part 1 of Donna’s story, please go back to read it, then join us back here).

Donna told me, “My testimony used to be about how God changed me.  Now, with Courtney, and everything He’s done in that situation, I truly believe in miracles.  I knew they happened before, but I have been part of one now, so I KNOW.  I see how God put things together, how He orchestrated everything to work together for our good.  I know this doesn’t always apply to earthly comforts,” she continued, “but I cling to God’s promise in Romans 8:28: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

About 6 months ago, Donna was forced to come face-to-face with something that had been a stronghold in her older daughter Courtney’s life for nearly 8 years: substance abuse and addiction.

For years, there were a multitude of signs that there was a major problem.  Donna admits that either she didn’t see them or wouldn’t see them – it was probably a little of both.

“I would catch her in lies; there were several car wrecks and wellness problems; she was always sleepy – I could go on and on,” Donna explained.  “Trust me when I tell you that the hardest thing to do as a parent is to let your kids make mistakes and suffer the consequences. Sometimes you just have to step back and put TOUGH LOVE into action.”

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

Then there was the time, about 3 ½ years ago, when Donna intended to step in and help.   “Courtney and Madison came to spend the weekend with us, supposedly because Steve (Courtney’s boyfriend, and Madison’s father, who she was living with at the time) was horrible, doing drugs, etc. and she ‘just had to get away.’  I believed those lies and really wanted to help her get out of that situation.  The only way I could think of making that happen was for her to come stay with us for a while.  So, in order to convince Kevin of my great idea, I had a Plan A and a Plan B.  I had it all figured out and was ready to present it to him,” Donna smiled, remembering that night when she was ready to tell Kevin her ideas.  They’d eaten dinner together after Courtney and Madison had gotten there.  “I asked Kevin if we could talk, and we went out into the garage.  We get out there, and before I could even say anything, Kevin says, ‘She’s not coming here, Donna.  You can’t keep doing this.  She won’t learn, and it won’t be good for our marriage’.”

Donna was quiet for a moment, letting the weight of what Kevin said sink in, for herself and for me.  She looked straight at me; I could see resolution in her eyes.  “This is when I knew for sure that God was Lord of my life, by the way.  This conversation with Kevin proved it to me.  I had my Plan A and my Plan B all ready for him, but he completely shut me down.  I didn’t even get a chance to explain my ideas!  I never even asked if the girls could come!  Kevin just told me no!  Flat out no!  I didn’t even get to tell him my plan,” she emphasized.  “But, when he told me no, I just said ‘ok’, and I was honestly ok with it.  It was like God just said, ‘Donna go ahead and submit.’  And I did.  And I was ok. I knew Kevin was right, and that I should respect him.  That is when I realized God truly had changed me and truly was in control of my life.”

You might be thinking, ‘how could anyone say that kicking out your child was still the best thing that could have happened?’

Well, there’s still more.

Over the next 3 year period, Donna dealt with theft as Courtney stole from her, even her identity! There were “lies on top of lies on top of lies,” as Donna put it.  She even had to call DSS to ensure Madison’s safety.  “Some days it seemed like they were doing good, and then other days — well, not so good,” Donna said.

In June 2016, Courtney had another baby, Mackenzie.  She seemed to be doing good for the first few months after Mackenzie was born, but again, things were up and down.

Then in 2017, Courtney totaled her car one morning after dropping Madison off at school.  Courtney told Donna (much later) that the first thing she saw when the wreck was over was Mackenzie’s car seat.  It was empty, and she couldn’t remember if Mackenzie had been with her.  She was under the influence at the time and couldn’t recall where Mackenzie was, so for a few frantic moments, some bystanders searched feverishly for the baby…until Courtney remembered she’d left Mackenzie with the baby’s father, Steve.

This crash landed Courtney in the hospital.  And drug tested.  This was a wake up call for Courtney, but it wasn’t “rock bottom” yet.

A few months later, Courtney would get high at Donna and Kevin’s house during a visit.  No one realized it until everyone was back in the car taking Courtney and the girls home.

Donna recalled the scene for me.  “We were all in the car together taking them back home when Madison asked, ‘Mommy, why are you talking funny again?  Why are you laying all over me?’  I looked back and Courtney is laughing all weird and leaning over on Madison and then over onto Mackenzie.”

Donna said, “I nudged Kevin and said, ‘Look at her!  She is high right now’!”  Donna looked straight at me and said, “Heather, if my granddaughters hadn’t been in the car, I would have put Courtney out on the side of the road right there!  But I couldn’t do that in front of them.”

Instead, they went ahead to Courtney’s uncle’s house where she was currently living.  On the way, they called Steve and Courtney’s Uncle David and Aunt Beth.  Once Steve arrived and the girls were safe, Donna left.

This was Courtney’s rock bottom.

About two weeks later, Courtney called Donna confessing her problem and her need for help.  “I need somewhere to go now, mom,” Courtney insisted.  So, Donna gave her some places to call, and Courtney was able to go to a 7-day detox facility in Monroe.  The next step would hopefully be a treatment center.

Here’s where you begin to see how God was working in the situation, and it is so awesome:

Donna was praying.  Kevin was praying.  Everyone was praying: “Lord, Courtney has to get long-term treatment immediately!  Right now!  You’ve got to open a bed somewhere. Please show us the place You want her to go.”

Prior to this, Donna had gotten involved in a prayer group with some friends, praying specifically for their wayward, adult children.  Each mom picked a day/time to pray so that these adult children were covered every day of the week. Donna’s day is Tuesday.

As it happened, on a Wednesday morning, Donna emailed this prayer group, her Life Group, and the G2 Leadership Team (a Women’s Mentoring ministry from FBCIT in which Donna serves) asking them to pray for God to do a miracle and open a bed somewhere for Courtney.

Then, that Wednesday night after choir practice, Donna got a call from a friend in the prayer group, who got a call from another lady from the group who saw Donna’s email and was asking if she’d heard of a place in Monroe called the Solace Center, facilitated by pastor Michelle Feliciano, and best of all, they had a bed available right then!

Donna called them on Thursday morning to see exactly what kind of facility it was, and it sounded just like what they’d been looking for, so she called Courtney and told her of their availability and to call herself to see if it would be a fit.

Courtney called, got an appointment to see them on Friday, went for her Orientation on Saturday, and checked in that very day at 1:30!!!

You see, long before this ever happened, God had this special prayer group of moms planned.  God had already set it into motion for Donna to be a part of that group.  God put all of this together to get Donna in touch with a friend of a friend who knew about the Solace Center where God had a bed available…just for Courtney.  (There were lots of others from Donna and Kevin’s family, friends, and Life Group praying for Courtney as well.  Donna and Kevin are thankful for each and every prayer).

Today, Courtney is transformed beyond anything Donna could have hoped.  She is clean and sober and on fire for the Lord!  She is already almost halfway through the program.  She has a job and pays weekly rent at the center.  The best part, though, is that Courtney has now made Jesus the Lord of her life!  See, she asked Jesus into her heart years ago, but she strayed. However, God brought her to a point of confession and repentance, and Courtney has not been the same since.

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Courtney with Madison (Image used courtesy of Donna Lawing)

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Courtney with Mackenzie (Image used courtesy of Donna Lawing)

What’s more, Donna and Kevin have found opportunities to serve together in ministry at Solace.  They serve on the Solace Board and their Life Group ministers to the Solace group as well. Most recently, they had a blast bringing in the new year 100% clean and sober (and no hangover the next day) at a party with the Solace residents.

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Donna and Kevin’s Life Group team for the Solace Kick Addiction Kickball Tournament (Image used courtesy of Donna Lawing)

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Donna, Madison, and Courtney at the Solace New Years Eve party (Image used courtesy of Donna Lawing).

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Donna with Pastor Michelle Feliciano of the Solace Center (Image used courtesy of Donna Lawing)

“I’ve been mad at God about this,” Donna shared, “and I have been mad at Courtney, but now I just look at all that He has done through something so terrible!  He restored my family.  The relationship between my daughter and me has been fully restored; and many other family relationships have been restored through this!  He has transformed my daughter’s life and just 2 weeks ago, Madison asked Jesus into her heart.  My husband and I are serving together in ministry outside the walls of church. I’ve learned how to have empathy and compassion for people who have been jailed or who suffer from addiction.  God has shown me so many things.  He changed me from who I was, and that alone was enough, but then He’s done so much more.”

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Donna’s daughters and granddaughters (Image used courtesy of Donna Lawing)

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Christmas Morning 2017 (Image used courtesy of Donna Lawing)

I could tell she was excited, so I asked her what she wanted people to know about God.  Without hesitation, she answered, “He is real!  What He did, sending his Son to die on the cross for us, He didn’t have to do.  He’s a good, good Father.  There is nothing better.  He wants a relationship with us.  He loves YOU, and He wants YOU to come back.  He wants to talk to you.  How?  Through prayer.  This is our communication with our Lord, and it is also our weapon, along with the Sword (the Word), against Satan.”  She paused for a minute so I could catch up as I quickly scribbled in my notes.

More calmly and quietly she continued, “He was the ultimate servant. What if we all served…each other?!  We should because Jesus served, and serving is love.”

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

So, this is another story God has given one of His servant girls.  And she was gracious enough to allow me to write it so you could know God – who He is, what He can do, and how deeply He loves us.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

Just for fun…

Here are a few fun tidbits about Donna:

I asked what actress would play her in a movie about her life.  She said, “Reese Witherspoon or Julia Roberts.  I LOVE them!”  She said the movie would most likely be something inspirational or encouraging.

Donna loves Christian music!

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Chris Tomlin – Donna’s Favorite artist – Photo Credit: Pinterest

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This is Donna’s current favorite song to dance to and sing at the top of her lungs!  Listen to Old Church Choir by Zach Williams

You can listen to Donna’s most favorite song of all time, Thou, O Lord performed by First Baptist Cleveland choir and orchestra.

Please join me next week for another post from Servant Girl Stories.

Portrait of a Servant Girl – Donna Part 1

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.)

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Donna (left) with Bruton (right) at Charlotte Motor Speedway (image used courtesy of Donna Lawing)

“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.

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Kevin and Donna Lawing (Image used courtesy of Donna Lawing)

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.”

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FBCIT Life Group that Kevin currently teaches. (Image used courtesy of Donna Lawing)

“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.

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Donna (seated, front center) with her daughters, Courtney (top), Jess (right), and granddaughters, Madison (center) and Mackenzie (left)

“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?