I was born 39 years and 5 days ago. I was not born to celebrities, nor was I born of royalty but I was born into a very loving, stable and amazing home. My parents did not have a lot, they did not own the best of the best, with grand TV's on beautiful stands nor did they serve up food with names I could not pronounce but they gave me everything they had and then some. My dad worked hard serving his country, my mom stayed home with me, sacrificing many luxuries in life to do so.
Our home was a place of refuge, warmth and joy. Mom made the best of what we had and never complained. She created a beautiful home for me to grow up in, many times made up of third hand items and never thought to complain. When folks walked into our home, they automatically felt at home and the truth is our home was always open. What we had, we shared with everyone. No meal was shared between just the 3 of us, no; every meal was made and shared with extended family. When the bills piled up and worry tried to set in, my parents did not turn anyone away. Instead they opened their door a little wider and instilled into my own little heart daily if God said to open the door, He would provide everything needed to feed, clothe and house those He brought through the very same door!
The house that built me, the love and faith I grew up with started back while our family was living in Germany. One day my parents heard a knock on the door, and answered it. That particular afternoon a visitor and honestly complete stranger showed up at our door. My parents had been feeling the call to ministry upon their lives for a while but did not know what direction to take. Then this woman showed up at the door, unannounced and wanted to discuss the possibility of my parents opening their home to the local GI's in Frankfurt. She came in and shared this scripture (one they had just read earlier that day): "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." ~ Hebrews 13:2. Directly after this she left but my parents had just one more question and opened the door immediately, before the door had really even closed to ask, but she was gone. They knew right then and there an angel had been sent to into their home and from that day on my parents’ home was always open. The truth even today is they never meet a stranger. As a child I watched my parent’s minister, feed, clothe and even though they did not know where the money was going to come from, take guardianship of a young Ethiopian teenager needing a home while we lived in Germany.
So this is where my journey, my call to be His hands and His feet began. I was witness to many miracles and testimonies in my parents’ home during those years. God planted His seeds in my heart as a child and this is why my heart today is for His good and not my own. You see He knew the direction my life would take, all the failures, the pain, the diabetes, the breast cancer, the bells palsy, the mini-stroke, the neuropathy, the asthma, the lymphedema, R.A., DVT, the degenerative disk and everything else that has come my way. But you want to also know what He knew? God knew because of the foundation my parents provided, by watching their love, faith, hope and endurance in motion, my life would become a life full of those very same traits.
Sure I recall the worry, the days of uncertainty and the rejection of my parents’ lives held by many but I mostly remember feeling secure, loved and cradled inside the faith my parents chose to live out loud everyday rather than the doubt some tried to thrust upon them. I recall with affection loving tea parties with my daddy, hot coco with my mom. Life was good and even when I remember the pain on their faces when the doctors diagnosed me with diabetes at the age of eight, I remember finding hope, not defeat in my parents hearts. I would be lying to you if I said through the years my health issues haven’t tried to invade my mind, body and soul but this is the thing, I was not brought up to wallow, or to become my illnesses, no, instead the house, the love and the family which not only built me, also made me who I am today, gave me hope and strength to rise above the pain, the stress and the desire to flee from misery, not become her breeding grounds for self-pity.
Is it always easy? Heck no! I wake up some mornings wanting to scream, to roll over and hide from the day. My hands, not to mention my back and hips, plus most of my joints and bones, feel as if they could literally fall off the hinges. The truth is some days I have no choice but to slow down, to stop and push the tears back yet those days when I can make myself push through the pain are honestly the most rewarding. I don't want to watch life from the side lines, wishing I hadn't missed out. No, I want to live it out loud; to be part of every moment, every huddle, and every play my Father allows me to be part of. Life is too short, too precious to let it go by interrupted by uncertainty, fear and pain.
As a child I was given love, taught fortitude, shown grace and given the gift of watching true mercy lived out in front of me. I grew strong because I had no doubt I was firmly in the hands of the One who loved me, the One Who breathed life into my spirit. I knew no matter how far I might eventually travel (and believe me I did, becoming a prodigal) I knew this same grace and mercy would be waiting on me when I returned. As a child I not only listened to the words but I saw hope in action as my parents opened their home, sometimes not knowing where the extra food was coming from, to those in need. I watched as they loved folks most of us would turn away from and reject. Yet by watching real grace, true unconditional love in the house that made me, I learned to love, to share compassion and to let His light of grace shine inside my own life by my parent’s example. I found strength the world said did not exist because my parents chose to dig deeper into their own faith and trust God would provide. Because of their trust, the foundation of my heart was solidly formed and the beams of my spirit re-enforced daily, able to hold up the pain, the tragedy and the uncertainty of the detours ahead.
Today, I am the mother of two of my own children, now teenagers. They have seen my aching, felt the pain and experienced the darkness of cancer and death. They have known their own disappointments, had a thirst this world we are a part of seeks to offer but I pray the truth I hold inside my heart now, the light which projects before my feet becomes theirs, just as my parents endurance became my own. Simply put, I am nothing on my own, this love you see in me is not mine, but His love in both times of joy and suffering. I pray with all my heart by His grace, I am able to give my boys this same example of hope in motion, grace in action and perseverance in spite of the depth of despair which have and you can bet are sure to still come our way through the years. The house that built me was strong, faithful, not perfect by any means, but graceful and loving, and still standing strong. I was given joy, hope and an inner peace which has continued to give my life direction despite the winds blowing and howling outside. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." And that is exactly what my parent’s faith, the trust they still place in the One who gave them one another, has given me!
So today I just want to thank my parents for being such a powerful example of His grace and self-sacrifice in my life! I love you both with all my heart.