A Girl God Heard ~ My Satchel Story
I have always enjoyed going to church – even when it meant sleeping with my hair in pink foam curlers, wearing shiny shoes that blistered my heels and pinched my toes, and itchy petticoats under my dresses.
In my teens, I asked the leaders in my church questions like, “Can I know God?” I watched in surprise as their faces turned red in annoyance. They offered me overly simplistic or predictable answers that left my already restless soul agitated. One patted me on my head and told me to “run along.” I was not content knowing about Him and knowing He knew about me; this was personal. After hearing empty answers, I went to my room and had a talk with God that went something like this:
“I know You’re busy running the world, watching over the living and the dying, and the wars and stuff and I’m not sure You hear the private prayers of girls like me, but just in case You do, here I am. I want to know You. Is that possible? I think it is, but I have no idea who to ask. Who to trust. I know it’s important to ask someone who already knows You – someone who will tell me the truth. I can’t drive yet and have no idea where to look, so I’m asking You to send someone to me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
This was not my first prayer, but it was my first intimate prayer. I’d been thanking God for our meals in unison with my little brother for years, and at night, after being tucked in, we prayed together again for those we loved. These were tender talks with God that we meant with all our hearts.
But still, I wanted more.
A few days after my bedroom prayer, a man knocked on our front door, and I answered it. He introduced himself as Pastor Carl Calloway. He told me that the church where he worked had a bus that drove right by our house on Sunday, and he offered to have them stop and pick me up.
I boldly put him to the test and asked him, “Can I know God?” His answer surprised me. He didn’t talk down to me. Instead, he looked me in the eye, and said, “Yes, you can know God.” The kitchen timer interrupted us. I explained that my mom had gone outside to do something and left me in charge of the cookies baking – I had to get them out of the oven immediately. I asked him to go to our back yard and tell my mom I wanted to give his church a try. He did, and she told him we could visit.
Early the following Sunday morning my brother and I waited on the boulevard. We heard the bus coming for blocks. The old vehicle was loud, but it was the voices inside that got our attention. Kids were singing at the tops of their lungs about Jesus. They sounded so happy and sure. I got on that bus wearing my best dress-up suit which included a shirt covered by a jacket, a mini-skirt, and platform shoes. I learned later my attire caused some moms to worry about their boys.
I wasn’t there to meet their sons – I was there to find God and get to know His Son.
When I heard the Good News, I eagerly believed what the Bible said about Jesus, my sin, and forgiveness. I was forever changed.
Although not yet a kid in trouble, I was a girl on the brink. An older girl had invited me to get to know a boy she knew. He was movie-star handsome, and he’d “go with me” if I promised to have sex with him. I wanted to be cool and belong, if not to a popular group of kids, at least to a handsome boy. The two of them gave me a deadline. The day after I believed in Jesus, I gave them my answer: no thanks. The God of the universe heard the prayer of a fifteen-year-old girl who cried out to Him from her bedroom.
God loved me, and I belonged to Him. Wow. It was real, personal, and powerful. It still is.
Although I love Him deeply, study His Word, and pray, I have not succeeded in serving Him with perfection. I make mistakes and sometimes sin intentionally. He keeps forgiving me, and He graces me over and over again, I learn more about Him. The greatest thing about God is that He is who He says He is.
The Good News of Jesus as experienced by me is my eyewitness Faith Legacy.
If I am remembered for nothing else than my faith – that would be so cool. The rest of my faith story is woven into my Legacy one experience at a time and one story at a time. The driving force behind my Legacy stories is my desire to testify that Jesus Christ is Lord.
A Steamer Trunk Story
What’s In Your Wagon?
This picture of my daddy, our dog Cindy, and me was taken in the summer of 1959. When I found it in a pile of old photographs, it caught my heart and was the beginning of a journey into my soul. Here, dear readers is my first Steamer Trunk Story.
Have you ever wanted to please someone so much you put yourself in danger? I gave in to this yearning on a hot summer day when I was five. One of my favorite toys was my wagon.
I loved it when Daddy pulled me around in it and later when he showed me how to “drive” it myself around the neighborhood. With one leg on the outside, I rested most of my weight on the knee of the other leg, and with the handle bent in for steering I used the outside leg to push.
My wagon was also my fort, and I could pull it over and color or read at will. I could take my dolls and a favorite stuffed animal or two for a ride or snuggle with them on a folded blanket and daydream.
Then came the day when some older neighbor kids invited me to play at the top of the road in our neighborhood. I pulled my wagon up the hill as fast as I could go. I remember the sound of my wheels on the rocky tar and the way the day smelled like sunshine and wind. At the top of the hill, they told me if I wanted to be friends with them, I had to ride my wagon all the way down. They’d give me the required push to get me going. I swallowed my fear and agreed. Then they told me I needed to ride with both legs inside the wagon – no braking. I sat on my knees and waited for what I thought might be a gentle nudge. Their push startled me with its force, and soon I was careening down the road with no way to stop. Behind me, I heard them yelling at me, “Stupid!” The lump in my throat was a combination of fear and the deep sorrow because they lied to me and was the butt of their mean joke.
I cruised through two normally busy intersections, relieved there were no cars coming. I knew I had to ride it out or crash. When my wagon slowed and then stopped, I got out and walked home on shaky legs. Hot tears rolled down my scarlet cheeks as the kids, who were following me on foot continued to yell and call me stupid.
On my way home, the empty wagon bumped along behind me as I decided they were right. My heart seemed to weigh more as I accepted the sentence they imposed on me.
I got bigger and my wagon wore out and could no longer hold me safely but the stuff I now carried in the wagon of my heart made itself at home. Over the years, I added to the load. If I disappointed someone, regretted something I said, made mistakes, or intentionally did wrong, I stored all the shame and sorrows deep in my heart for way too many years.
Eventually, I read the passage in the Bible where Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV), 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” At first, I was offended – oxen wore yolks, and I wasn’t sure I liked the comparison, but I was weary, and the burden was so heavy as I sat in an internal ditch of my own making, no longer able to pull the load.
I knew there was a reason for this biblical metaphor, so I researched yokes. Did you know that because oxen were so valuable, that when owners can afford it, they have the yokes made for the animals the way designers make exclusive dresses for wealthy women?
Something shifted inside me.
Yoke makers hand carve the wood to fit the animal exactly, so the weight of their load is evenly distributed, lightens their load, and leaves them uninjured and able to do the work they were made to do. Their names were often burned or carved into the wood to be sure each beast wore the right yoke.
Animals with designer yokes outwork and outlive those that don’t have them. Their labors rest easy on them.
After learning this, I wanted the yoke Jesus was offering.
After I took Him at His Word and left my internal wagon in that imaginary ditch, I felt Him erase the word “Stupid” that had felt branded on my heart for so long.
I hung my head and waited for Him to say something like, “Shame on you.” He didn’t.
Life is still work. There are heavy places full of ruts carved out of regret and potholes of hurt so deep it seems impossible to plow through them, but guess what? The yoke fits.