In my last post “The List of Ten” (please read the post below), I left it as a “to be continued”. I needed to save the second part of this amazing story as it’s own post. It’s deserving of that. It is not merely a series of coincidences, as some may call them, but to me, they are miracles. I say that because at that time in my life, I did not believe these things were possible. When I prayed over my list daily, I told God that they were impossible for me to accomplish alone. But I’m never alone when I’m with Christ, am I? And is anything too hard for God?
As I said before, I thought this was such a silly idea. But within 9 months of praying, all of these things had come to pass. To review, my list included these things (as well as a few others that are so very personal, I’ve decided to keep them private for now):
- I want Mark and I to move out of this hotel we’ve lived in for two years and into an apartment.
- I want to get a car.
- I want to reinstate my driver’s license and fix my tag so I could drive legally.
- I want to marry Mark, in a church chapel, officiated by a pastor (not a notary).
We had a car, but it wasn’t running well, wasn’t dependable, and wasn’t legally registered. I began riding the bus to and from work daily. I’d never taken a city bus anywhere before and was quite concerned I wouldn’t be able figure out how to do it, but I did. I took the bus for a couple weeks until the great city of Jacksonville decided to change the bus routes, causing me to have to make 2 stops, with an hours’ wait in between. So I decided I needed a bike to ride to and from work. The hotel we were living in was only about 3.5 miles from work. So I thought “seven miles a day, I can do that!”. But I hadn’t been on a bike since I was 12, and now just over 2 decades later, my muscles were screaming at me “are you crazy?” The Pastor at the church we were attending at the time bought me a good, road worthy bike. This, the first in a long line of blessings to come. I road my bike all winter long, albeit a Florida winter, it still gets cold, and it still rains. I carried a huge backpack full of my work clothes, shoes, lunch, makeup, hairbrush; everything needed to put myself together once I got to work all sweaty.
I rode that bike for nearly 4 months until Mark’s mother decided to give us her car. Give, yes, I said give. She no longer drove it, and she’d been thinking of getting rid of it. I believe God helped her think about giving the car to us. It was, and still is, and amazing blessing. So now I had a car, but I did not have the money to register it, or pay for taxes, tag, or to reinstate my suspended driver’s license for unpaid traffic tickets. I kept praying. One day, my mom decided to help me with these expenses. I felt like the blessings were raining down on me! Soon I was a legal driver with a legal car, and driving again. Praise God! I am so grateful to our mother’s who blessed us with these gifts.
One of the other things on my list was that Mark and I be married in a church chapel. Now remember, we had already been living together for over 10 years. We had talked about marriage, but could never afford it, or other circumstances prevented it. Mark usually suggested we just marry at the courthouse with a notary. But since coming to Jesus, I wasn’t having any of that! I wanted to be married by a Pastor in a chapel. At the time, we were attending a church that met in a school, so there was no chapel, and we were not truly happy at that church for different reasons. We had been visiting other churches, trying to find something more traditional. We found Deermeadows Baptist Church, and both really liked it. We met a Pastor there, whom I’ll call Pastor “Michael” (because I haven’t asked his permission to use his name in my blog). Pastor “Michael” had been at Deermeadows for a long time, and was a senior member of their staff. He seemed to like Mark and I, and we both liked him. After about 3 months of attending, we asked about becoming members of the Church, which Pastor “Michael” counseled us on. He talked to us about what it meant to be a member of the church. Shortly thereafter, Mark and I told the Pastor that we wanted to be married. Pastor “Michael” did premarital counseling with us for a few weeks. We felt so loved and not judged by Pastor “Michael”, despite our current situation and our past.
Deermeadows Baptist is a huge Church with a large campus. The main sanctuary holds thousands. One day, while looking for the ladies restroom, I stumbled upon a couple of doors I’d never seen before. An ethereal glow emanated from the glass in the doors. I tried the handle, it was unlocked. I walked in. It was the most beautiful little chapel I had ever seen. Wall to wall in stained glass, with the centerpiece, a floor to ceiling stained glass of Jesus. I sat down and cried my eyes out, thinking “this is where I am going to be married. Mark and I will stand under that picture of Jesus and make a covenant between each other and God, to be wed and love each other forever“. And so it came to pass that we were married there on September 26th, 2015 by Pastor “Michael”. Though I couldn’t afford it, my family gifted us with things like a photographer, a make up lady for me, my dress, Mark’s suit, and a reception. Pastor “Michael”, however, returned the checks I’d written to him and his wife (who would be there to help). “It’s part of my ministry” the Pastor explained, and he did not want to be paid. Bless.
So now we’ve come to the best part of this post. The most amazing miracle of all, what I asked for first; to be able to move out of the hotel we’d lived in with our beloved dog for 2 years. How we got there is a long story, but once there, we were stuck due to financial problems and bad “rental” credit history. We tried to apply at apartments time and again, but were denied each time due to our credit history. I understand that I was responsible for the bad credit history. I take full responsibility for our situation. This hotel was not nice. It was full of, well, people like us, people with problems, and bad people. Drug dealers and such.
At the time I was very much involved with an online bible study. It was the end of January and we were studying Acts and I read the story of Rahab in the Bible for the first time. I read how she lived in the walls of the city, on the outskirts of society, and was doing whatever she could to care for her family. I also read about how she’d heard about God and the great things He was doing for His people. And she believed. I imagine that she had nothing but bits and pieces of information about God that she heard in passing, or from the men she “worked” for. I felt so much like her. I connected with Rahab. Living on the edge of society, in the bad part of town, hardly surviving, and doing what she could to care of her family.
When a couple of God’s people came into her city as spies to determine how they could capture the city God had promised them, they met Rahab. (Please forgive my recounting of this story from my memory, as I may have some of the details wrong, but the main point is spot on). Rahab trusted what they told her, and trusted that they would save her and her family if she would just believe and have faith. Rahab had faith. Perhaps just a mustard seed of faith that she kept deep in her heart, but it was there. So much like me, in the beginning of my coming to Jesus. Having not been raised in Church, and knowing nothing of God, Jesus, or the Bible, but I like to think my faith was strong. I’ve said before: if God will take my life and trade it for the life He has planned for me, the life Jesus died to give me, I will take it!
“I am Rahab”, I thought.
Rahab knew God was going to take the city, and so she helped the spies and told them what they needed to hear: that the whole city was afraid of God and what He was doing through his chosen people.
I wrote in the bible study comments that day about how much I felt akin to Rahab and why. I explained in an open, honest, vulnerable way that I knew what it’s like to be Rahab. I wrote more details than that, not because I wanted pity, but because I was so amazed that I could relate to a woman who lived I don’t know how many thousands of years before me. I was hardly able to type through the tears. Rahab inspired me. Her little bitty faith saved her and her families’ life and made her the great great+ grandma of Jesus. Rahab, just an ordinary woman, like me, being used by God for greatness. “Could He use me?”, I thought.
Later that day in the bible study, a woman whom I will call Robin (to protect her privacy) commented. She did not know me at all, except from the comments I’d written over the time I’d been involved in the study. She asked, very timidly, if she could help me. She didn’t want to make me feel like it was charity. After all, I had not asked for help. Because she asked for it, I gave her my P.O. Box address and a few days later I received a card from her with a beautiful message, a monetary gift to add to my bank to help us move, an a picture. The picture was of a young girl in a 3rd world county, to whom she’d donated, in my name, a bicycle that would allow that girl to get to and from school. I cannot type this without crying. God is SO amazing. He works miracles everyday!
I could end this story here, and it would be nice. But we aren’t even close to the end.
Over the next few weeks, everyday when checking my P.O. Box, I began to receive cards from other women who did not know me. Cards from all over the country. Some cards contained monetary gifts; $1, $5, $20 or more. All of them came with handwritten words of encouragement, or scriptures, and they wrote about how my story, and my willingness to be so vulnerable and honest was inspiring and encouraging to them. I also received a beautifully bound bible that I still take to church each Sunday, a bracelet engraved with the words “Sisters in Christ“, and other gifts. I would bring the envelopes home, and Mark and I would sit on the bed in that hotel room, and pray over each envelope before we opened it. Most of the envelopes had no forwarding address and the letters were signed with only first names or initials. Meaning, no “thank you” was expected. I received a total of 46 letters and cards. I had no idea that my story of my broken life was encouraging to these woman.They told me I was a blessing to them! Which, by the way, completely breaks me down into tears, even now, years later.
The money I’d been gifted was enough for Mark and I to move out of that hotel and into a second chance house community who ignored our credit because we put down such a big nonrefundable deposit. We were able to leave the hotel. Praise God!
No one but God could have made that happen. No One. God deserves ALL the Glory here.
And I bet that some of you, faithful readers, are some of those women who sent me a card, letter, or note, to bring me though the darkest time in my life. Now, because you left no forwarding addresses, is my chance to say “thank you” from the bottom of my heart, thank you, and God bless.