For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16
I had a lot on my mind. I had turned 13 the month before and celebrated my birthday by standing before a doctor who told me I was going to need two major surgeries to correct my “S” shaped spine, that I would live in plaster casts for nearly a year, and that there was no guarantee that the surgeries would be successful. Then he listed for me all the terrible things that could go wrong. My mother immediately jumped in to agree to the procedures, but the doctor stopped her, looked me in the eye and said, “This has to be her decision.” I remember feeling the cold marble floor on my feet and how it seemed to rise up and numb me. Thoughts raced through my head: Two surgeries and a year of my life spent in the hospital. With a heavy heart, I agreed to the surgery and thought this birthday must be the worst ever!
Within weeks, my mom had coffee with a neighbor and came home “saved”. Then she got on my nerves. I had no idea what she was talking about. We weren’t a church family. My dad served in the Navy and was often gone for six months at a time. My mother sent my sister and I to whatever Sunday School was within walking distance, because she didn’t drive and she didn’t attend church.
While I worried about my upcoming surgeries, mom could only focus on Jesus. There was a Wednesday evening worship service at a nearby Baptist church and mom began pestering me to attend with her. It was the last thing I wanted to do! However, I came up with a brilliant plan to put an end to all the Jesus talk forever. I told her I would go if she agreed to stop preaching about Jesus to me. She agreed! I had won. I knew I could sit through one more hour of “Jesus” talk.
The church was packed, and we squeezed our way into one of the back rows. The pastor preached and I let my mind wander. I was surprised when it wandered back to what the minister was saying: how God loved us, how He wanted to be in our lives, how sin separated us from Him, and how Jesus came to save us. He talked about how “this was God’s most precious gift to us and that all the money in the world couldn’t buy it, but a nickel would be too much to pay for it”. Sixty years later and I still remember those very words!
He concluded by saying that the Lord was calling someone to accept His gift of salvation and invited that person to come forward for prayer. I glanced down that long, long aisle; I looked around the crowded church and thought it was certainly going to be a long walk for someone and I was glad it had nothing to do with me.
The doctor pulled a chair next to my bed and asked me whether I believed in God. My first thought was, ‘I’m dying.’
The minister prayed, the people prayed, and I was nearly halfway down the aisle before I realized it! I don’t remember getting out of my seat, but I do remember the panic when I realized that I was heading down the aisle. How could this be happening? Could I somehow make it all go away? My heart was pounding when I arrived in front of the minister. He asked me to kneel. He placed his hands on my head and began to pray. I prayed, too, that this would just be OVER, and that I could get out of there. He read John 3:16 and He asked me if I would accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I said yes because I figured it was the only way to end the nightmare. I didn’t embrace his message; I wasn’t looking for salvation; I just wanted it all to be over.
And it was. At that very moment, my life changed forever. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus loved me! I felt His love fill my heart, surround me, change me. I don’t remember the ride home. I remember going to bed when I got home, and my heart was completely filled with joy and awe. I remember praising God and thanking Him. I remember asking Him to use me, that I was His forever.
Two months later, I was admitted to the hospital. The day before the surgery, I was taken to the x-ray room where the doctor placed a “pin” in my back between the two curves. Before I could leap off the table, the doctor told me to stay still. I would not sit, stand, or walk for nearly a year.
I awoke the day after the surgery and was surprised that I wasn’t in any pain. I was excited because my parents were going to be allowed to visit me on the following day, and I had not seen them since I had been admitted. As I was thinking about all that had happened, the doctor who ran the hospital came in. He asked me how I was doing, and I said, “great!” Then he pulled up a chair next to my bed and asked me if I believed in God. (Doctors don’t ask patients that!) And my first thought was, “I’m dying!” I told him that I did believe in God. “You won’t need the second surgery,” he said. “What? Why?” I replied. He told me that the second curve was gone. I had dozens of x-rays, including the one the day before the surgery where the pin marked the place between the curves, and yet the morning of the surgery it no longer existed. He told me that it was impossible. There was no other explanation than it was a miracle! It was amazing news! I would not need further surgery!
However, while my 13-year-old self was extremely grateful to God for touching me and healing the one curve, I did wonder why He didn’t heal both. I absolutely believed He could; so why did He leave one? Why was I still going to spend a year in the hospital, clad in plaster? Why would I have to learn to walk all over again? Why would I miss my 8th grade graduation? The answer was simple: it turned out to be one of the best years of my life!
God taught me a lot that year, I learned to appreciate and notice His everyday blessings. It was the beginning of my life-long journey of faith. A journey that sometimes took me to highest mountain tops of joy and sometimes to the deepest valleys of despair. I have been both the daughter who stayed and worked for the Father and the daughter who fled and squandered the treasures of the Father, and when I returned, was embraced by a loving Father who greeted me with, “Welcome home, my daughter!”
Why do I love Jesus? The answer is simple, because He first loved me and continues to love me, just as He loves each of His children.
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