The five things that have most impacted the first 50 years of my life

1. The total transformation of my mother.
I was about 11 when my mother met a woman in a laundromat who read a booklet to her called “The Four Spiritual Laws.” Written by Bill Bright, it contained Bible verses and words to a prayer showing her how to ask Jesus Christ to be part of her personal belief system. I remember her sitting in a plastic chair surrounded by chaos and children—but with a look of peace and contentment on her face. Our lives were on a different trajectory afterwards. Though our single-mom led home was far from “ideal,” that day changed all of our lives. Shortly afterwards, I also invited Jesus into my life.

2. God’s wonderful intervention in John’s life
Days after I turned 19, I was at a friend’s birthday party at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, where I was in school for the Navy. It was there I met John, a soldier, five years my senior—a relentless suitor who won my heart in a few short weeks. The problem was that God did not yet have his heart. Finished with school, I left for Arizona to let my mother know I was going to marry John—only to hear my pastor preach on being “unequally yoked.” The sermon beat me to a pulp and I called John to tell him I wasn’t going to return to San Angelo to marry him after all. Instead, he had been trying to call me to let me know he had gone to a revival all week at the Baptist church in San Angelo—and I needed to hurry up and return to witness his baptism. It was one of the sweetest weeks of my life. We were married by the end of the week. That was nearly 31 years ago.

3. A different kind of Billy Graham Crusade
John was stationed at NSA at Fort Meade, Maryland, and I was at Naval Security Station in Washington, D.C., so we lived in Laurel, Maryland, when we were first married. We worked different shifts and had scant time together. So when we heard the Billy Graham Crusade was coming to the Greater Baltimore area—we were excited to be part of the co-labor corps and prepared ourselves to work the crusade—and took time off for it. Though the hours were long—I remember it as a time of really cementing our marriage. Being up close to Dr. Graham was a significant experience for both of us. More significant however, was that nine months later—our sweet, most adorable, blessing that would change our lives forever, Belinda June, was born. Perhaps God’s reminder of the priority of evangelism—and family!

4. An understanding of God’s grace
I remember cooking a meal in Augsburg, W. Germany, while my beautiful children were seated at the kitchen table coloring—and reflecting on God’s goodness and His grace in my life despite my failings. Years later as I sat in my son’s bedroom, brokenhearted and praying for him as he struggled through some major life issues—I asked God for a measure of that Grace for my son. That he would repent and be shown mercy. Years later it hurt when he told me it was the death of my mother, in part, that caused him to reflect on his actions and turn his life around. Last night, as my daughter-in-law soothed away a rare migraine with a neck massage—I told her she had gifted us with her hands, her heart and her mind—and how grateful I am that God brought her into my son’s life and ours. And God has blessed them with two beautiful children—my precious grandchildren Joey and Madelyn.

5. My desire to tell stories
In first or second grade I vividly recall the cover of a book about Harriett Tubman, a brave woman who was known for freeing about 300 slaves. The story captivated me for years—and I believe planted a storytelling seed nurtured sporadically throughout my life. My earliest writing ventures, though, took on the form of poems. In high school my only published story was a first person article about a backpacking trip through the Grand Canyon. In 1976 I finally got a break when I interviewed Josh McDowell for a youth conference newspaper. I was hooked. Although it took me more than another decade (and meeting up with mentors and encouragers James and Marti Hefley) to focus in on news and feature writing (and editing)—it became my passion. Telling stories about how God is working in people’s lives.

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