Portrait of a Servant Girl – Susan’s Story – 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 over the next few weeks about Susan.  We sat at her home one Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago and talked about how she met Jesus and some of the valleys He’s carried her through. It is my pleasure to introduce you to Susan Elder…

“It tickles me,” Susan grinned, “to look back and see where God gave His grace and where He answered my prayers.  So, I keep a journal, and I write down dates and what I prayed for or what God showed me that day. Then, when a prayer is answered, I can look back and see when I prayed for it.”

We sat on the floral-patterned couch in the den of her home.  The great room was still and quiet. The only light was from the big windows flanking the front door and the windows overlooking the back porch. The only sound was the soft whir of the fan as it steadily spun overhead.

My notebook sat on my lap, and I scribbled furiously as she told me the story of her life and her family’s walk with Jesus.

“I’m from Chattanooga, Tennessee,” she told me.  “My family was the trash of the neighborhood. I always knew we were bad.  My dad was a violent alcoholic, and everybody knew it.”

Susan’s family included her parents and their five children.

“I always wanted to be good,” Susan said, matter-of-factly, “but we were trash.  I was helpless. I knew a few Bible stories, but I didn’t know Jesus died for me.”

When her older brother was 17, he bought a car and started going to church with his girlfriend.

“When he invited me to go to church with them, I went!”  She exclaimed. “I learned all sorts of things,” she said, more excited.  “Most importantly, I learned Jesus died for me. I never knew that,” she told me again.

Susan described a Sunday morning church service when her brother made a profession of faith.  She followed him and did the same. “I wanted to be saved,” she stressed, “but I didn’t understand how.  The Bible says, ‘All that call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ I followed my brother, and I said I believed in Jesus, but I didn’t call on His name.”

She laughed a little, and I looked up.  Her hand covered an embarrassed smile.

“I remember learning,” she began, “that the trump would sound and the Lord would come back.”  She paused again, and her sheepish grin spread larger. She didn’t cover it this time.

“Well, one night, I was in bed, and a car horn went off out on the street somewhere in our neighborhood.  It got stuck and just went on blaring. It scared me half to death. I thought the Lord was coming back,” she laughed.  “I jumped out of bed, went down on my knees, and prayed! I begged, ‘Lord, please forgive me of my sins. Please save me.’  And I heard Him say, ‘I forgive you.’ And He saved me and forgave me of all my sins right then and there. See it wasn’t until I fell on my knees beside my bed that I actually called His name.  That’s when I was truly saved.”

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Photo Credit: believers4ever.com

She laughed again to herself, no doubt remembering the car horn that heralded her arrival into the arms of the Lord.

Susan was 16 when she accepted Jesus as her Savior.

After that, her brother’s girlfriend gave her a Bible.

“I read it every night,” she breathed.  “And I prayed, and I talked to God, and I went to church.”

It was in church youth group that she met Steve.

“I noticed his smile,” she confessed when I asked what got her attention at first.

“We started dating,” Susan explained, “and I prayed to God asking Him to show me ‘the right one.’  I always ask God what to do,” she added.  “If you ask Him, He’ll tell you.”

Apparently, Steve was the right one.  They married in 1972. Three daughters followed: Vicki in 1974, Jenny in 1978, and Stephanie in 1981.

Susan said of Steve, “His strengths are my weaknesses and vice versa.  He just thinks differently than me.”

“What do you mean?”  I asked.

She didn’t even have to think before she clarified, “He is very detailed.  He thinks in three dimensions. He’s extremely thorough, always thinking about the next step, and I just want to hurry up and get things done.”  She laughed. Then she gestured at the room around us. “He drew up the plans for our house,” she continued. “He made sure there was no wasted space inside these walls.  Our half bathroom and master bathroom,” she said, pointing toward the hall, “are back to back so that all the plumbing is in the same place.”

She told me about the family’s move to Monroe in 1992.

“We didn’t know much about the area, the schools, or the churches,” she clarified.  “I remembered reading in Proverbs that you could flip a coin, and God would make the decision.  So, we said, ‘Heads, Piedmont; tails, Sun Valley.’ We flipped the coin, and it was heads. It tickles me,” Susan gave a little giggle, “because Vicki, our oldest, wasn’t satisfied with how we made the decision.  So, she grabbed the coin, flipped it three more times, and each time, it landed on heads. So we built our house in the Piedmont area of Union County, and all 3 of our girls graduated from Piedmont High School.”

The Lord guided their decision for a church to attend when they sought His will in prayer over that decision.  They prayed for God to send people to their home who would invite them to church. It happened just as they prayed it would, and they attended that church for eleven years.

“Some strife arose there,” Susan reported, “so we prayed again that the Lord would show us where to go.  We prayed and visited about 17 other churches in a 3-year span. We asked, ‘Lord, would you send someone to our house who’ll ask us to join their church?’  A few of the churches we visited sent people to our house, but no one actually invited us to join until the third visit from a member of First Baptist Church of Indian Trail.  He was sitting right where you’re sitting,” she pointed at me,” when he said, ‘we would like you to join our church.’ Well,” Susan stopped, grinning widely,” I looked at Steve, and Steve said, ‘did you hear what he said?’  It was exactly what we asked from God. So, we joined the church in 2006. Now, Steve and I enjoy teaching 4th graders in Sunday school, and you know I love singing in the choir,” she finished.

Bill and I started going to First Baptist of Indian Trail about the same time, and I met Susan around 2010 when she was a mentor mom in MOPS.  When we met, we realized we sang in choir together, too.

“We love our life group and our church family at Indian Trail,” she beamed, but then somberly looked at her hands in her lap.  “They stood with us and prayed with us through some terribly dark times.”

Portrait of a Servant Girl – Carol’s Story – Part 4

This week’s post is the conclusion of Carol’s story in the Portrait of a Servant Girl series.

“As I was reeling from the separation and divorce from my husband, I was also caring for my father who was suffering from dementia,” Carol said, continuing with her story. I sat in the upstairs office at her home along with her and my sister Tiffany who has been friends with Carol for 18 years.

The harsh irony of this part of Carol’s story was palpable. I certainly didn’t expect her to tell me that she’d cared for the man who was controlling and abusive to her, her mother, and her siblings.

I must have looked surprised because she went on. “Yes, after my mother died, I inherited my father. He couldn’t live alone, so I brought him home with me. Within a couple of months, his dementia became so bad that we had to put him in a memory care center.”

Carol talked about visiting him daily, early in the morning, when he was at his best. “He had ‘Sundowners Syndrome,’”she explained, “so he was more lucid and pleasant earlier in the day and confused and agitated in the evenings.“

This was yet another painful experience that involved her father. But, as she talked about those months, she actually smiled. “At the time, taking care of my father was very painful, but now those memories bring laughter. Daddy was always trying to get to the coal mine,” she said. “Most days I found him sitting by the door waiting for his ride to work. I would try to redirect his thoughts and tell him it was his day off.”

She stopped and smiled to herself, and I realized she called him ‘daddy’. Throughout the interview, she referred to him as ‘father’ but, in reliving the memories of caring for him during his illness, and recalling the humorous times, she called him ‘daddy’.

“He was always looking for his keys,” she continued, shaking her head but smiling a little. “And one morning we worked and worked for a long time trying to jump-start his wheelchair!”

She paused. Her eyes were far away, but she wore a pleasant expression, one of nostalgia and happiness.

“That day was the best!” She laughed.

She looked at me, and her thoughts came back to the room. To the present day and our interview.

“I had the opportunity to read the Bible to him,” she said, satisfaction in her voice. “We talked about his relationship with Jesus.”

Carol shared that the week before he died, he saw angels.

“I had to write his eulogy,” she told me. “The morning after he died, I got up, and the words just flowed from my pen. I wrote about how he had to raise himself, never had a father, lived in a boarding house, and went to work in the coal mine when he was 13.” Her voice was clear and strong as she described this. Her face was calm and resolute. “When I was writing the eulogy, God showed me that my father had learned to survive by controlling at a very young age. I realized that he did the best he could with what he had.”

Carol’s voice was calm and peaceful. I was amazed to see her reliving all those painful memories – abuse from her father, cancer, divorce, caring for her father in his old age and sickness – with… was it joy? Joy because of how those trials deepened and strengthened her relationship with God? Joy because of the redemption she experienced both for herself and for other broken relationships in her life?

“I thank God for the time I had with my father before he died,” she said after she had been quiet for a while. “ I thank Him for revealing all this to me and for helping me to love and to forgive my father. I have peace about that now.”

What a beautiful story of love, mercy, and grace! And isn’t this what God has done for us? We neglect Him. We abuse Him. We want Him to do things our way. Yet He patiently waits. He cares for us when we need Him. He redeems us when we come to our senses and allow Him to take His rightful place in our hearts. And, most amazing of all, He loves us the whole time.

Carol’s marriage ended in July 2001, and her father died in September 2001. For the next few years, she rarely went anywhere other than to church.

“Finally, my sister and my daughter told me I needed to get a life. They asked, ‘what do you want to do?’ Well, I always wanted to take Shag dance lessons,” she shrugged, “so I decided to do that.”

Carol signed up for lessons and showed up for class on the first day. She didn’t know one other soul in the room. However, a sweet lady saw her come in by herself and asked Carol to sit at her table.

“We talked a little while, and then she said, ‘I have a friend you just have to meet!’”

The lady told Carol about a man named Ed Jones, a widower who lost his wife to ALS.

“She talked about him for a while, and I said I would be willing to speak with him on the phone,” Carol explained. “He called me, and we spoke for a while, and I invited him to a party I was having at my house the next month, December 2003. He came to the party, and we had a nice time talking. He even stayed to help me clean up. Several busy months passed, and we connected again in February 2004 and were married that May.”

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Carol and Ed Jones

When Carol married Ed, she inherited a wonderful family: his children and grandchildren including his youngest granddaughter who was a toddler at the time. Carol was thrilled to have a grandchild who lived close.

“I got to see her every week,” Carol beamed.

We spoke a little about Ed’s family, and then, as if on cue, we heard a deeper voice from downstairs say, “Do I need to pull out the guest bed up there?”

Tiffany laughed, “That is Mr. Ed’s way of saying it’s time to go!”

I looked at my phone. It was after 10 PM. We had been talking for over two hours!

We spoke for another minute or two about some of Carol’s work in the church: she’s been on a mission trip to Guyana to help build a youth center. She’s planned church fundraisers and other ministry events. She serves in the kitchen in the summer youth camp. She’s been a delegate for her church at the annual conference. She volunteers in the church office.

“I’ve also been on an outstanding trip to the Holy Land and participated in the Methodist Church’s Emmaus walk. I experienced an enormous spiritual growth on Emmaus,” she explained.

I knew it was very late and that Tiffany and I need to go, but I wanted to wrap up with one final question.

“What would you like people to know about Jesus?” I asked her.

She listed many important things about Him that she’s learned in her life.

“He will never leave you or forsake you,” she began. “You can always trust Him. He will give you peace, and joy, and be the best friend you could ever want. You have to pray and study the Bible to grow this relationship though. It doesn’t happen on its own.”

As we were standing to leave, she said, “I’m not saying there won’t be any more valleys in my life, but I have the assurance that God will go through them with me.”

I know that she recently experienced another valley this past spring when she had hip replacement surgery.

“I also know that the Bible tells us that when we are weakest, He is strongest. I have certainly found that His strength is enough for me.“

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Photo Credit: Pinimg.com

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

This week’s post is a continuation of Carol’s story in the Portrait of a Servant Girl series.

“I didn’t question God about the cancer,” Carol repeated at another point during our interview.  “But there was a time, years later, that I got very angry with Him. I remember being on my knees crying out to Him, ‘Is this what I get for being good?  I’ve lived my life for you!’” She stopped for a moment and took a deep breath.

“I was so broken,” she continued.  “I asked God, ‘Why would you do this to me?  You just don’t know how broken and rejected I feel!’”

She stopped again, and I could see her shoulders relax.  “After I said that to Him,” she went on, “there was a calm that came over me, and I got quiet.  I felt Him put His hand on my shoulder, and He reminded me of what He went through. He said to me, ‘I understand.  I was rejected, too.’”

There was another pause.

“After that, I still suffered from the rejection, but I did not complain,” she finished, matter-of-factly.

Thirty years prior to this encounter with God, in the mid 70’s, Carol had survived Stage IV colon cancer that metastasized to her lymph nodes.  Now, her world was falling apart again. Her husband of 33 years no longer wanted to be married to her.

“This certainly wasn’t the life I planned,” Carol said earnestly.  “My future looked hopeless. But then I had the encounter with God when He reminded me that He’d been kicked and spat on.  That only one of His disciples stayed with Him until the end. From that day on, my healing began.”

Carol commented that the divorce was worse than cancer.  When I asked her why, she explained that she had control of how she handled cancer, but she couldn’t control the rejection by her husband. That was something she never thought would happen.

“Like the cancer, the divorce brought me even closer to God.”  She explained. “He used the circumstances to grow my faith in Him.”

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Photo Credits: #GODisHOPE

If you’ve never experienced God’s provision during a storm in your life, this probably sounds insane – that you can grow closer to God during adversity.  Of course, it can go the other way easily. You can get angry at God because He’s allowed the storm, and you pull away from Him.

Or, you could turn towards Him, even run to Him, and fall into His arms like Carol did.

“When I was going through my divorce and long afterwards as I continued to suffer, I received encouragement from reading the Bible.  Many, many times God spoke to me through His Word and provided wisdom or the answer I needed in a particular situation,” Carol told me.

“Could you give me an example of something specific God said to you through His word that helped you in some way?” I asked.

She thought a moment, then said, “when someone hurts you, human nature is to hurt that person back.  We think revenge will make us feel better. But, God reminded me many times that it wasn’t up to me to exact revenge.  Romans 12:19 assures us that revenge is God’s task.”

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Lila Prints Etsy Shop

“What else did you learn?”

“Well, God taught me that a living prayer relationship with Him comes when we dare to level with Him.  When we dare to be honest with Him about how we feel…like when I complained to Him that He didn’t understand my brokenness and rejection.  When I got honest, He spoke clearly to me. I wasn’t making small talk anymore. I wasn’t pretending that my life was perfect anymore. I was on my knees with tears streaming down my face.  He came in and comforted me. This moved my relationship with God to a much deeper level.”

God also used Carol and her story to reach other people.  After the divorce, the Associate Pastor at Carol’s church in Wilmington, North Carolina approached her about sharing the adversity in her life with the church.

“She said, ‘People look at you and think you have no cares in the world,’ and she asked me to share my testimony as part of a worship service.”  Carol paused, and a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.

“I was never one to speak in front of others.  I liked to organize and work behind the scenes,” she explained.  “I really didn’t want to do what she asked me to do.”

“What made you change your mind?”  I asked.

“I had so much faith and trust in the pastor who asked me.  I knew the Holy Spirit worked in her, and I knew that whatever she asked was from God.  I just couldn’t say no.”

Services at Carol’s church were televised, so after she spoke, the church began receiving requests for her to speak at other events.  This led to years of travel around the southeastern United States sharing her story at women’s events.

“When you are sharing your story, and God allows you to see that other people receive help from it, you’re healed as well.  This is another way God supported me during this time.”

Carol stopped for a moment then continued, “plus I was driving a lot, so there was lots of time to pray, and talk to God, and listen.”

Then, she shrugged and added, “What good would the bad things be if you didn’t share them with others so you could help them, too?”

Please join me next week for the conclusion of Carol’s story.

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Portrait of a Servant Girl – Carol’s Story Part 1

Hair still damp, she rushed through the door and ducked into a pew close to the back of the church.  Service had already started, and the congregation was standing, hymnals in hand. The lady standing next to the spot she’d taken offered to share her hymnal, so the girl nodded, thankful. At the end of the service, the lady introduced herself and handed the girl a piece of paper with her name, phone number, and address on it.

“If you need anything, please call me,” the lady said, a pleasant smile on her face.

Eighteen years later, they’re still friends.

“I can’t believe you gave me your address the first time you met me!”  Tiffany’s eyes were saucers, and her voice was raised. But she was grinning.  “I could’ve come to your house and killed you!”

Carol laughed and turned to me, her eyes genuine.  “Sometimes you just know what to do. I could tell she was young.  She introduced herself as a freshman at UNC Wilmington. I thought it was remarkable that she was at church…and by herself.  I knew it would be ok.”

She looked back at Tiffany, and they exchanged warm expressions.

I am privileged to have met Carol and gotten to know her through her relationship with my sister Tiffany.  Naturally, when the idea for Portrait of a Servant Girl came to me two years ago, Carol’s was a name I quickly scribbled onto the list of women I should feature.

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Carol and Tiffany in 2004 at my wedding.  (Image used courtesy of Carol Gandee-Jones)

The opportunity to meet her came when my family vacationed in Carolina Beach this summer.  One evening, Tiffany and I drove 20 minutes into Wilmington so I could interview her in her home.

She led us upstairs to sit on the sofa.  Then, she admitted that she’d been praying over our interview all day.

“When you emailed me about this, Heather, and you described me as a godly woman…” she broke off, looking back and forth between Tiffany and me.  “Well, I’ve certainly made my share of mistakes.”

We all have.  There’s no denying that.  Thankfully, we have the gift of grace, and God offers us salvation.  When we accept it, Jesus’ blood wipes away all our mistakes.

This saving grace is something Carol has gladly accepted and vividly experienced.  Now, it’s part of her life’s story, and she has graciously allowed me to share that story with you.

Carol was born and raised in West Virginia, spending the first 3 years of her life with her grandparents as her father served in the military.

Even after her father came home and found work in a coal mine, her grandparents’ home continued to be a refugee.

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Carol and her grandfather.  (Image used courtesy of Carol Gandee-Jones)

“My parents seldom attended church,” Carol told us.  “My father was an abusive alcoholic, so I stayed with my grandparents as much as possible, which gave me the opportunity to go to church with them.”

For Carol, both her grandparents’ home and their church were places that provided security.

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Carol (Image used courtesy of Carol Gandee-Jones)

“I felt safe there – at church with my grandmother.  It was so different from being at my home,” she said.  “I wanted to feel safe and to belong somewhere, and the church provided that.”

In their church, members believed that a child wasn’t able to accept salvation before the age of 12.

Carol waited desperately to turn 12 so she could ask Jesus to live in her heart.  Finally, her chance came at a revival after her 12th birthday in July.

“I can still remember going to the altar that night and asking Jesus into my heart,” she said, a faraway look in her eyes.  “I understood that Jesus wanted an intimate relationship with me, and I believed John 3:16.”

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

Despite the security she felt at the church and the joy she experienced with Jesus in her heart, there was still fear and pain in her life.

Fear because she was the oldest of 5 children and felt tremendous responsibility to protect her younger brothers and sister from their father.

Pain because it was difficult to make friends.  She was too ashamed for anyone to know what her family was like.

Even more fear because there were a great many “do’s and don’ts” in the church.  Don’t play cards. Don’t dance. It was difficult to keep up with everything.

“It felt like God was looking over my shoulder,” she confessed, “waiting for me to mess up.  Judging me. I wanted to be perfect and good so God would continue to love me.”

At the same time Carol felt pressure from her church to be perfect, she also felt from her father the need to strive for perfection.

“He was controlling, and he demanded perfection,” Carol explained.  “He never offered praise or encouragement. Mostly, he just looked for ways to punish.  So, I learned to work toward excellence. I thought if I could just reach this ideal, I could get some positive attention.”

Carol’s drive toward excellence did help her earn a scholarship for college.

“My dad wouldn’t let me go though,” Carol said as she settled back into the plush pillows of the couch, folding her hands into her lap.  “He said, ‘why waste the time when a woman’s just going to get married and have children’?”

Her pain was heavy in the room.  Tiffany and I were both quiet. It seemed disrespectful to that memory to hear the scratching of my pen, so I stopped writing.

Carol continued, shrugging.  “If I couldn’t get out by going to college, it seemed my only other choice was to get married.”

And that’s what she did.  Got married. She was 19.

Carol’s story will continue next week.  Please join me here again as I share with you what Carol described as the first real crisis in her life which she encountered at 32.

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Reflections on Marriage: 14 Years Later

About a week before Bill and I got married, red bugs ate me up.  I’d never had them before and had no idea what the big, itchy bumps were, so I showed them to my mom.  As soon as she saw them, she told me to paint every swollen, red and white whelp with clear nail polish.

Then, I spent the rest of the week bathing in Clorox water to get them dried up quickly.  AND there was lots and lots of cocoa butter to prevent scarring. I was getting married at the end of the week AND going on a cruise for my honeymoon, for heaven’s sake!

That was 14 years ago this week, and our kids still ask to hear that story and see the pictures of our wedding day; some of which show barely pink dots still visible around my ankles.

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June 12, 2004

Realizing our wedding anniversary was coming this week made me think back to that happy day, but it also made me consider every day since – approximately 5,110 of them.

What do I have to show for all this time?  What have I learned? How have I grown and changed and matured?  Have I picked up any wisdom along the way?

 

I took a few days to journal about it and also “interviewed” Bill to see what he wanted to share.  The first time I had a chance to ask him, he was watching Game 4 of the NBA Finals, so I waited for commercials and halftime break.

You would think I’d have learned by now not to try to have important conversations during sporting events.  I’m a little hard-headed, though.

Turns out, we had to talk another time.  🙂

ANYway, here are some of the things 14 years of marriage has taught us:

Bill said: Marriage is about give and take.  You won’t always get your way. Sometimes you go to a place you wouldn’t go to or watch something on TV you may not want to watch because you know it’s something the other person likes.  Hopefully the other person will do the same for you.

I said: Love is an action, not a feeling.  The warm, fuzzy, lying-on-a-bed-of-roses mindset changes.  You may not be “in love” with your husband every day, but every day you have to choose to love him, and you show you’ve made that choice by the things you do.

Bill said:  A person’s financial status is important.  I didn’t think about that much when we were dating, but I know how important it is now – to know how much debt a person has or what their spending habits are like.

(Can you tell the man has heard too much Dave Ramsey)?

I said: It’s ok to argue, to have differences of opinion.  It’s actually helpful. You discover more about your spouse and yourself as you work through conflict together.  Arguing doesn’t always mean there is a problem with your marriage.

Bill said: I didn’t really know who you were until we got married and lived together.  Then, I found out little things like you squeeze toothpaste from the bottom, and I don’t.  Or we want thermostat at different temperatures. We don’t wash and fold clothes the same either.  If I wasn’t careful, those little things could get to be big problems. I tried to change some of the ways I did things if it made sense to me to do that.  Sometimes, you compromise.

I said: Find out what’s important to your husband about how you keep house and care for the kids, especially if you’re a stay-at-home-mom or the one in change of the household stuff.  Don’t kill yourself doing all.the.things. (I heard this from Lysa TerKeurst and Proverbs 31 Ministries). Years ago, I asked Bill, “when you come home every day, what’s important for you?  Do you want to come home to a clean house? Dinner on the table? Calm and quiet kids? Do you need some downtime when you first get here?” He said he wanted dinner, so that’s what I focus on.  Yes, I keep the house as tidy as possible and do laundry and make sure the kids aren’t running naked through the backyard, but the man says he wants dinner ready when he gets home, so that is what he gets.

We agreed that it’s helpful to get to know and (hopefully) get along with your spouse’s family.  Bill said, “Most likely, you’ll end up being like your family, especially your mom, and I’ll end up being like my family, especially my dad, so getting to know each other’s family gives insight into who you married.”

We also talked about having children; that brings big changes in your marriage.  I asked Bill why he thought that was. He told me it’s because you have to share your wife’s attention after you have a baby.  There are other people to think about after that.

Now, I don’t mean to condense 14 years of marriage into 1,000 words or less because it isn’t that simple. There have been fairy-tale days (when we gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes over a romantic, candlelit dinner), and there have been horror movie days (when he walked in the house after work and I was blubbering and handed him a crying baby and went in the bedroom and shut the door).

You get it, right?  It’s just life – married, with kids, life.

You appreciate the wonderful seasons because you’ve been through challenging seasons, but you’re wiser for it, and your relationship is much stronger.

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I’d love to hear some wisdom you’ve gained from your marriage.  Please share how long you’ve been married and what you’ve learned so far.

 

7 Tips for Fighting Better

My husband and I had a challenging conversation the other night.  I like to call this having a “difference of opinion”. 😉

Have you ever had a difference of opinion with someone?  It happens, right?

So why not learn some ways to fight better?  No, I don’t mean learn how to always win the fight.

What I’m saying is, let’s learn some better ways to fight so that we can find an amicable solution or so that we can at least can walk away with our feelings and the other person’s feelings in tact.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

7 Tips to Fight Better

  • Stop.  Stay calm.  This is important whether the conflict happens on social media or in person.  The Bible calls this being “slow to anger,” and is full of verses that speak to the wisdom in remaining composed.  Take a moment to stop and pray, even if it’s just a short, “Help me please, Lord.”  Take time to think through what happened and ask yourself, “Am I really upset at this?  Is this worth getting into a disagreement over?” If the answer is no, move on. If the answer is yes, it’s still a good idea to wait and try to keep your cool.
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Photo Credit: Pinterest

  • Acknowledge your own part in the conflict.  What assumptions and expectations do you hold that are influencing how you talk about this situation?  A related question to ask yourself is, ‘Did I do anything to offend the other person’? A familiar verse that supports this tip is Matthew 7:1-5.  Christians are challenged to deal with the “log in your own eye” before you “take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  It is hypocritical to point out all the things your spouse, sibling, friend, or in-law did wrong if you won’t acknowledge your part in the problem.
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  • Talk face-to-face and one-on-one.  Whenever possible, go to the person and talk in private.  Avoid venting to someone else. (Don’t fuss to your sister about your lazy husband or to your husband about your annoying coworker…you get the picture).  Also avoid taking the issue to social media. I think we all know what can happen here. This is called “airing dirty laundry”, and it almost always turns out badly.  In Matthew 18:15a, Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone”. This was a verse I saw over and over when I was researching this topic.  Matthew 18:15-17 was used often as the key verse to show biblical conflict management.

 

 

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  • Find common ground.  Focus on the relationship.  If you can find something you have in common with that person, you’re much more likely to be able to cooperate, acknowledge the other person’s feelings, show that you care about that person, be honest about your feelings, and be respectful of the other person’s feelings .  Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that our enemy isn’t flesh and blood but the spiritual forces of evil.  Remember, the other person isn’t your enemy – Satan is, and he’s the one who wants the conflict to tear apart your relationship.

 

  • Listen. Let the other person talk, even if you’re the one who brought up the issue because you were hurt or wronged.  After you explain what’s wrong, allow the other person to have his/her say, too. Sit quietly. Don’t plan your retort.  Just listen. It’s ok to ask for clarification as the person is speaking – to repeat some of the things he/she said to be sure you understood – but leave some space for her otherwise.  There may be some underlying issues you don’t know about or unspoken expectations or assumptions that have made the problem worse.
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Photo Credit: Pinterest

  • Focus on the main issue.  It is very likely that other problems will surface while you’re trying to work this out.  While those shouldn’t be ignored completely, they should be sidelined for the moment as you focus on the current situation.  What offended you in the first place? If it was the fact that your husband doesn’t help with the dishes and cleaning the kitchen after dinner, you’ll have to table the issue of him not helping get the kids in the bed and come back to that later.

 

  • Forgive.  Give grace. Did you know that God wants us to put our worship on hold and forgive someone we have a grudge against first.  It’s THAT important. Matthew 5:23-24 says, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”  God wants us to come before Him with clean hearts – not hearts burdened with contempt over an offense or argument.

 

The next time you find yourself having a difference of opinion with someone, remember these tips.  Take a moment to stop, pray, and ask for God’s guidance. Then, go to this person, and begin the conversation.

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Think back to some recent conflicts you’ve had.  Which of these tips did you use? Which ones didn’t you use? How did the use of these tips (or lack thereof) influence the way the conflict was handled?

Can you think of other helpful tips to share?

For more on the subject of biblical conflict management read When Your Feelings Are Hurt.  Also, see What To Do If You Have a Critical Spirit.

I used the following resources in my research for this post:
9 Ways to Handle Conflict Biblically

Conflict Resolution

Experiencing Intercultural Communication 4th Edition

Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters 8th Edition

Sermon: Jesus’ Plan for Resolving Conflict – Matthew 5, 18

Tips and Tools for Healthy Conflict Resolution

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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{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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“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

 

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

“And that’s how you have three kids in a year and a half!”  Meggan grinned and slapped the table with the palm of her hand.  “I didn’t do it gracefully, but boy did I learn, AND I don’t argue with Him anymore,”  she emphasized.  “We are still a work in progress,” she continued.  “It is as imperfect as imperfect can be.”

The year and a half Meggan was referring to was from roughly December 2012 to March 2014.  During this time, she and Dane would adopt two daughters from Uganda, endure two miscarriages, and give birth to a biological daughter.

Consequently, it was also during this time that Meggan told God no when He clearly told her what He had for her to do.

“I literally stomped my foot and said no!”  She declared.  It happened as they were in the midst of adopting their first daughter, Faith…but let’s back up a bit more first.

In October 2011, Dane and Meggan decided – next year, it’s baby time!

“We didn’t care if it was biological, through adoption, or both.  Dane’s mom was adopted, so it was always in the plan for us to adopt anyway, especially once we got into missions,” Meggan explained.

While on one such mission trip to Uganda in January 2012, the couple realized that God had international adoption planned for them.

“We came together immediately on this,” Meggan reported.

Through friends, the found out about the HOPE Center, an orphanage in Uganda run by an American family.

“We started talking to Angie online, and that’s how we found Faith Hope – a newborn who was at the HOPE. Center and needed a family.  We knew she was our daughter, so we began the process of getting everything together,” Meggan relayed the events to me.  You see, Dane and Meggan’s last name is Love, so Faith’s name would be Faith Hope Love!  (She even has her own Bible verse).  It was immediately obvious to the couple that they were meant to adopt Faith.

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It was May 2012, and as they were making this decision, Meggan also had a positive pregnancy test.  They happily thought, ‘We’ll have two babies at one time!’

However, Meggan had a miscarriage within two weeks; the doctors called this a “chemical pregnancy.”

Shortly before leaving for Uganda to bring home Faith late in 2012, Meggan and Dane again found out they were pregnant.  They had an ultrasound and saw the baby and a strong heartbeat.  Again, they had hope that they would adopt AND have a biological baby.  They were exhilarated.

At this time, Angie also showed them a picture of another girl named Joyce.

“Angie wanted us to adopt Joyce, too!  But she told us Joyce was 5, and I could tell by her picture that she was older than 5!”  Meggan said.  “I told her I would pray about it, but I didn’t.  Then, I told her no,” Meggan admitted.

This made it a bit difficult when they arrived at the HOPE Center in Uganda.  Angie continued to try to persuade them to adopt Joyce as well.  “I kept thinking, ‘I’ve never been a mom before!  I’m about to take home an infant and then have another shortly after!  That’s all I can handle right now…’  So, I kept saying no,” Meggan shrugged her shoulder.

The day Meggan and Dane saw Faith for the first time, they were also introduced to Joyce.  “The moment I saw her, God told me she was going to be our daughter.  But I was still defiant.  I stomped my foot and said no!”

Everything was going as smoothly as it could with the adoption processor Faith, and Dane and Meggan were looking forward to going home soon with their daughter when Meggan went into preterm labor and suffered another miscarriage.

“It was devastating,” Meggan said flatly.  “Here I thought I’d show up at the airport with Faith AND a baby bump, but that wasn’t going to happen.”

And there was still the prodding to adopt Joyce as well.

‘It’s funny,” Meggan paused.  “I was saying no and stomping my foot and all that, but I knew Joyce was going to be our daughter, too.”

After experiencing the miscarriage, they almost decided in Uganda to adopt Joyce at the same time they adopted Faith, but the Lord convicted Meggan.  “He told me, ‘you did not pray about this.  This is emotional.  It’s quick.  You didn’t seek wise counsel.’  Dane was frustrated; he was ready to take Joyce home, too, but I said no.  I wanted to go home with Faith.  I needed to heal physically and emotionally from the miscarriage,” she said, her eyes on the table.

So, they finished the process to adopt Faith, got on the plane, and came home.  It was December 1, 2012, and Faith was their first daughter.

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Dane and Meggan with Faith Hope Love!!!     (Image used courtesy of Meggan Love)

Just a month later, January 2013, Dane and Meggan found themselves cleaning out a room in their home they’d previously used as an office.  “Let’s just go ahead and say what we’re doing this for,” Dane challenged Meggan.  It was as if he were reading her mind.  “We’re turning this into a room for Joyce.”

“This is for a Joyce,” Meggan agreed without hesitation.  By this point, they’d prayed about another adoption.  They’d spoken with wise, godly friends.  And they knew it was time to move forward to bring Joyce home.

Two weeks later, they found out they were pregnant.

At the end of June the same year, the couple set off again for Uganda.

However, this trip was much different.  From the moment they got out of their car at the airport, everything went wrong:

  • The departure time for the first leg of their flight, Charlotte to Chicago, was bumped up, and they only have 30 minutes to get to the terminal.
  • During the flight, the pilot came over the intercom and told them they were nearly out of fuel and would be diverted to Detroit to refuel.
  • When they finally got into Chicago air space, they had to circle from 30 minutes before they could land.
  • They missed their connecting flight.
  • During the extended layover in Chicago, they got into a cab with an Egyptian driver.  They told him their story as they drove around.  “I hope you don’t end up with a layover in Egypt since with the revolt going on,” he warned.
  • Their new flight plan took them to Egypt.  During the layover, airport staff asked if they’d like to secure temporary visas so they could sight-see.  “I would have loved to see some pyramids,” Meggan admitted, “but we told them no thanks.”
  • They eventually got to Uganda, but their checked luggage didn’t.  They were without it for 2 weeks.  (Remember, Meggan was pregnant…she had packed lots of snacks in her checked luggage).
  • Once they got to the HOPE Center, they learned that their first court date had been pushed back a week.  No one had told them.

Things didn’t improve once the process finally got started.  Nothing went as planned.  Meetings didn’t happen when they were scheduled.  Paperwork was not ready on time.  There was one misstep, rescheduled meeting, and late form after another.

“I finally gave up,” Meggan threw her hands up in the air, a look of defeat on her face as she remembered the circumvention they endured.  “I told God, ‘This isn’t going according to my plan!  All my organization and planning is out the window.  I.Am.Done’!”

Then, Dane had to go home.

He’d been there 3 weeks and used all the vacation he had.

“I was there another 4 and a half weeks by myself,” Meggan told me.  “I was also in my third trimester of pregnancy.  In Uganda by myself.  Trying to finish everything and get Joyce and go home.”

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Meggan and Joyce in Uganda (Image used courtesy of Meggan Love)

Trying to complete the adoption process was…in a word, arduous.  At what was to be the last meeting – the exit interview with the U.S. Embassy – Meggan was questioned by the consulate.  She was completely honest – even about the misinformation uncovered in Joyce’s file.

When it came time for Joyce’s parents to go before the Embassy consulate, they were not truthful.  Their story contradicted Meggan’s.  Somehow, they thought they were being helpful.

In the end, the adoption was denied since the information on both sides was incongruent.

“They told me that Joyce wasn’t going to be leaving with me. They denied her visa.” Meggan said somberly.  Her shoulder slumped.  She was there again, standing in that room with the consulate.

“I ugly-cried,” she looked straight at me, her eyes glistening.  “In front of everybody in the Embassy.  I was 7 months pregnant.  I was worried about the baby because my emotions were all over the place.  I was by myself.  The trip had been hectic to begin with, and then they denied Joyce’s visa!  I left that place bawling my eyes out.  I asked God what in the world was going on!  ‘I’m doing what you want and you’re still making me wait!’ I told Him.  I was totally distraught,” she declared.

“I had to leave Joyce,” Meggan’s face was flat.  “I tried to tell her that we’d come back for her, but she didn’t understand.”

It was late in the summer of 2013 as Meggan got back on a plane and came home.  This time, she had a baby bump but no daughter.

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Photo Credits: Pinterest

Meggan’s story concludes next week.  God’s still working, so please join us again next week.

 

Portrait of a Servant Girl – Meggan’s Story – 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 over the next couple of weeks about Meggan and her story.  We met over breakfast and talked about 2 1/2 hours about how she met Jesus, 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 Meggan Love…

Where is God in the mundane?  Where is He in tragedy?  Where is He when you can’t decide whether to go down this road or that one?  Simply put, He’s right where He’s always been – going before you, making a way for you.  All you really have to do is whatever He says.

God began speaking to Meggan through her pastor at the church she attended with her parents when she was 6 years old.  At the end of the sermon, the pastor asked for people to raise their hands if they wanted to accept Jesus into their hearts.  For 6 months he asked, and for 6 months, Meggan raised her hand.  Every time, her parents told her to put down her hand.  They didn’t think she realized what the pastor was asking.

Finally, Meggan’s mom and dad asked if she really wanted to do what the preacher had asked, and she told them yes!  He’d asked if she wanted Jesus in her heart, and she did!  Appeased, her parents took her to talk with their pastor.  Afterwards, 6 year old Meggan asked Jesus to come into her life, and she was baptized.

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Meggan, age 6, about the time she received God’s salvation and was baptized.  Image used courtesy of Meggan Love.

“It was childlike faith,” she told me, her tone matter-of-fact.  “Obviously, I didn’t understand all the theology and eschatology, and all of that other stuff,” she smiled, gesturing in circles over her heard.  “But, I knew He died for me, and He rose for me, and I wanted to go to heaven and be with Him.”

What drew Meggan to God, even as a 6 year old, was the overwhelming feeling of love.  “He loved me enough to die for me,” Meggan emphasized.  “I was very young, but I understood that important truth and that made me want to live for Him and serve Him.”

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Even though Meggan was a small child when she made this decision, she distinctly remembers the change that occurred in her once she received the Holy Spirit.  “Before I had the Holy Spirit, I was very selfish,” she confessed.  “It was all about me, me, me!  But once I gave my heart to Christ, I began experiencing strong conviction from the Holy Spirit.  I’ve never been afraid to speak my mind,” she told me with a grin tugging at the corners of her mouth, “but having the Holy Spirit gave me confidence to speak up for Christ.  For example, “she said, sitting up straighter at the table, “when I was in the 4th grade, I had a classmate who was Muslim.  One day, he told me that he hated Jesus.  ‘I don’t know why,’ I said back to him, ‘He loves you’!”

The Holy Spirit convicted Meggan to spend time studying the Bible, being alone with God and praying to Him.  Peer pressure from friends was still a real struggle for her as was her desire to be selfish.  She still made poor choices from time to time, as anyone would, but she was almost immediately convicted.

“I remember occasions where I would look at my friends and tell them that what we were considering doing was sin.  That was because of the strength and power of the Holy Spirit living in me.”

In middle school, Meggan felt the tug on her heart to begin praying for her future husband!  (This was actually something her parents had prayed for both Meggan and her brother years before.  Her parents prayed that both their children would meet their spouses while they were young).

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“I had 3 requirements,” Meggan said.

“For what your husband would be like?” I clarified.

“Yes,” she nodded once.  “I asked God to send me a husband who was Southern, Christian, and who could make me laugh,” she counted on her fingers as she listed.  “I prayed for them in that order, too!”  She pointed out, her eyes wide.  “Not really sure why it was so important for him to be Southern, but that was always first on my list.”

“Does Dane make you laugh?”  I asked, a knowing smile passing between us.  (We were in Life Group at FBCIT with Meggan and Dane for about 5 years).

Meggan rolled her eyes but blushed a little.  “Oh yeah!  He does!”  She said emphatically.  “Every day!  He makes me crazy, but he definitely makes me laugh.”

Meggan and Dane’s relationship began in the 8th grade; they were 13.  “I knew early on that he’d be my husband,” she confided.  “But knowing that at such a young age, and loving him the way I already did scared me!  So, I broke up with him the summer before 9th grade,” she said firmly.  “I just wasn’t ready for all that.  But,” she continued with a quick shrug of her shoulders, “we got back together in the middle of 10th grade and have been together since.”

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Dane and Meggan before the 10th grade winter formal – 2002.  They had just begun dating again.  Image used courtesy of Meggan Love.

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Dane and Meggan at their high school graduation – 2004.  Image used courtesy of Meggan Love.

Before they were married, Meggan was able to help lead Dane to Christ.  Dane had been baptized, but he confessed to Meggan one day that altar calls made him uncomfortable.  Meggan explained to him that the feeling of discomfort was God’s conviction.  He wanted to draw Dane into a closer relationship.  So, Dane and Meggan prayed together, and Dane asked God to be his Savior.

“Did Dane change after that?” I asked Meggan.

“Definitely,” she responded.  “I saw him become much more passionate about Christ, for getting to know the Lord and learning about our faith.  It actually spurred me into a deeper relationship, too.”

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Wedding day – 2007.  Image used courtesy of Meggan Love

Dane and Meggan were married in 2007.  God has continued to work in their lives both individually and as a couple.  For Meggan, that means God is still working to change her heart in the area of expectations of others.  She admits that nothing is ever good enough for her.

“It’s always been part of my sin nature,” she revealed.  “I remember it when I was little.  I’d get presents for my birthday but wonder why I didn’t get more or why this one thing I wanted was left out.

As an adult, specifically as a mother, this presents itself in another way.  “I’ll come home from work or running errands when Dane has been at home with the girls, and as soon as I hit the door, I start listing everything that’s wrong…breakfast dishes are still on the table, the kitchen is a mess, the clean clothes haven’t been put into the dryer…” she trailed off, shaking her head.  “It isn’t enough that he fed them and kept them alive while I was gone!  I never point out the things he has done; I just focus on what I think is lacking.  That thing from when I was little, it’s still there.  It’s part of my sin nature.  It’s getting better though.  I feel conviction to see the positives and ignore the negatives, or I am convicted to take a step back before it goes too far and apologize to the person and repent to God.  It’s just a work in progress.  The older I get, the more I realize that our faith grows as we grow.  That’s how it’s supposed to be.  We go through seasons.  It’s a race to run all the way to the finish, and it’s a cross-country run rather than a sprint.  We just have to continue to let Him change our hearts.”

Currently, Meggan’s in the motherhood season of her life; she is mommy to 4 precious little girls: Joyce, Faith, Renzori, and Delaney.  This is the race she is running today.

When she sat down across the table from me, before we began our interview for this post, she sighed, “I don’t know, Heather…Servant Girl?  I just don’t feel like I am one.  I’m just mommy right now.  I’m just sitting around nursing my baby.”  She gestured over to then 4-month-old Delaney, snoozing quietly in her carrier.

But, I know that God has given everyone a story, and I already knew a little about Meggan’s.  I knew you needed to read it so you could see God as He has revealed Himself to Meggan.

She can tell you that God will be with you at your lowest point.  There may be a fleeting thought that He’s deserted you, but then you have those quiet moments, like when it’s 3 in the morning and you’re up changing diapers and nursing your newborn, and life “circles back” as Meggan put it, and you see what He was doing in the midst of your pain and suffering.

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Now that she’s had time to look back, Meggan can see that God was with her even in that specific moment, about 5 years ago, when He clearly told her something to do, and she said no.  “I literally stomped my foot, and said no!”  She told me, shaking her head at her own audacity.

But God was still with her.

What did God ask of Meggan that caused such a defiant response?  Join me back here next week for Part 2 of Meggan’s story, and I’ll tell you.

 

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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Photo Credit: Pinterest

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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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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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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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.