What’s Your Story?

“…And thus, I make it my ambition to preach the gospel…as it is written, ‘Those who have not been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand’.” Romans 15:20-21 ESV

Paul quotes Isaiah here to explain Paul’s own mission to the Roman Church: to evangelize. Paul fulfilled his mission in part by sharing his testimony, and we are called to continue that today.

You may think, I’ve been a Christian since I was little. Nothing exciting has ever happened in my life. I wasn’t saved from drugs or a bad relationship or anything drastic like that. My testimony isn’t terribly interesting.”

While God has given dramatic testimony to some, the stories of others are less so. But those stories are not less valuable. All our stories are given to us by God to be used for His glory. And there is someone somewhere who would benefit from hearing it.

Be thankful for your redemption story. Share it boldly. Ask God to use it for His glory. After all, that’s why He gave it to you.

{ This post was written as part of Five Minute Friday’s Link Up }

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

 

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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Photo Credit: Pinterest

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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Photo Credit: Pinterest

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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Photo Credit: Pinterest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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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Photo Credit: Pinterest

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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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?