I woke up this morning thinking of so many things I have to be thankful for. I wanted to share this one, then that one, but to fully understand why these things are such blessings to me, you really have to understand my life story. It is one of grace upon grace, of God's continually drawing me back to Him, of His relentless love for me. It's really a story of HIM. I hope as I share you can see Jesus written all over my testimony.
I was born into a Christian home in Hartselle, AL. My parents took me to church every Sunday and taught me about God at home. When I was seven years old, I snooped into my sister's closet :) and found a book called "How To Be a Christian". I read it and realized I wanted to be a Christian. So I found my Dad, who was mowing the grass outside, and he stopped what he was doing to talk and pray with me. We talked to my pastor too, I prayed the prayer and was baptized that Easter at First Baptist Church of Hartselle. I am confident that this is the time I understood and truly received salvation.
As a little girl, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say, "I want to be a wife and mommy and have lots of children." Actually I wanted ten children. :) I was fascinated with the idea of pregnancy and childbirth and mothering and could not wait until the day I could experience it all. Motherhood was my highest goal besides being a supportive wife to a strong manly man. My ideal man was a farmer or lumberjack or something, someone strong and capable. :) I really never had big dreams of career. I considered nursing and teaching, both mainly because I could work those schedules around my more important career of mothering. :) I finally went with teaching and got my education in, well, education. :) I got married to Zach Greenhaw when I was 20 years old. I could hardly wait to get started on this wife and mother thing. Unfortunately we were young and hadn't learned how to handle conflict. We divorced when our child, Allie Grace was not quite two years old. We were married for less than three years.
At the same time that I was going through a heartbreaking divorce, my parents were called to the mission field and moved to Cuenca, Ecuador to be full-time missionaries. My brother lived in New Orleans and my sister lived in Seattle at the time, so I was pretty much alone. Just Allie and me. My sweet grandmother lived in Decatur and committed to fixing weekly home-cooked dinners for us, which was pretty much the one touch of family we had at the time.
The next four years were interesting. I can look back now and see that the Lord's presence never left me, although at times I truly thought it had. I spent the first year in pretty direct rebellion towards God. I was angry that my wife and mothering had been a complete failure. Heartbroken at the thought that I might never be married again or have more children. Angry that God had taken my parents away, and to the mission field of all places. In fact for awhile I hated anything to do with missions. I never said it aloud, but I thought missions sucked. Missions made me an orphan in many senses of the word. I took my daughter to church on the weekends I had her because I knew it was the "right" thing to do, but my heart was far from Him. One part of me no longer felt good enough for Him, and another part of me felt angry that He had "taken away" the life I dreamed of. No part of me was seeking Him. But I can see now that He was continually with me.
I looked everywhere for the love and attention that I felt I had lost. I went out with every loser you can imagine. It just felt so good to be wanted and desired. To have company. Of course, I could have found that intimacy with Jesus, but remember, I was mad at Him. Besides, at this point I had a very good job on the Arsenal, where I got pay raises and promotions every few months. (Looking back, I know that was God’s abundant provision, not anything I did.) I was taking good care of my daughter “on my own”. I developed tough walls of pride, self-reliance, and independence that were scary. And I was doing really good on my own! Like I said, good job on the Arsenal. Driving a red Mustang. Dating the best looking soldiers and firemen a girl could find. A social life, money to take fun road trips. A personal trainer and tanning bed membership. I was HOT. I was good. On the outside. On the inside, I was still grieving the loss of the life I was just sure God had planned for me. I felt a little like “secondhand” or “used” at that point so I doubted that I would ever have that life again. I decided just to live it up and pretty much despised the dreams God had planted in my heart as a little girl. I thought it was over. May as well make the most of the single, career life.
I look back at those years and am amazed at God's protection. He must have had LEGIONS of angels protecting me. I was in so many unsafe, stupid situations. I would die if I knew my own daughter were in some of those same situations. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was pretty flippant toward life in general. I had no fear. Seriously. Skydiving? Yes please. Racing on the back of a Harley Davidson with a Marine who had been drinking? Sure! Smoking pot in third world countries? Absolutely. What could go wrong?? Man. I have no idea why He chose to rescue me. I would have smeared me like a fly on a windshield. Knowing that He could have and didn't, I am speechless. For some reason He loved me through it all. Relentless, redeeming love.
Just when I was almost DONE with dating and guys forever, along came. . . you guessed it. Brian Keith Rodgers. Now, I had no idea that he was actually so wonderful at first. Not even when I married him, actually. I did know that I met him at church, and that had to be a good thing. I also knew that the way he acted toward my daughter completely melted my heart. No guy had been so unafraid of a woman with a child like me. He took Allie along with me as a package. I was hooked pretty much from day one. Plus, he was super cool. He was a legend on the wakeboard. Our whole singles group was in awe of his wakeboarding and kayaking abilities. And he lived on a boat for goodness sake. Could it get any cooler??? I nabbed him before anybody else could. We married three months after we started dating. :)
I don't think either of us any had idea what we were in for when we got married. Brian probably thought he could still kayak and camp and wakeboard on the weekends. I had just finished a master's degree on the Arsenal, with a guaranteed pay raise, so I figured I could continue working and maybe possibly have another child "one day". Brian had been single for 26 years and you know how independent I had gotten, so God had His work cut out for Him. But He set to work on us right away. We decided to commit to a church together, mostly because we were both Christians and felt it was the right thing to do as a "family". The Bible studies He had us in right away began to rock our world. I got pregnant even on birth control, just six weeks after we got married. No joke. Talk about surprised! We were excited, though completely shocked. Maggie James Rodgers was born almost nine months to the day that we were married. Yes, she was early. :) Over the next few years, God caused 180 degree turns in our hearts, minds, and lifestyles. I gave up the career for full-time mothering. Brian left his stable job of ten years to start a company with no savings, no building, no equipment, and one employee who met in our study at home. All AMP owned was a computer. He gave us a heart for a large family, for homeschooling, for homesteading. One step at a time, God completely changed our hearts. I look back and can't help but laugh at the messed-up people God took and changed so drastically. I can't imagine any other area He could have completely turned us around in! He really has a sense of humor! :)
He also has a sense of redemption. A strong sense. It has guided His every action in my life. The desires He gave me from childhood, He has renewed with even greater strength. It’s like, in spite of myself, He kept insisting that I have the life He dreamed up for me and gave me a vision for so many years ago. Every time I veered off track, He picked me up, dusted me off, and insisted that I get right back on track. He took this "barren" woman (barren of hope, barren of ability to create this life on my own) and made me a joyful mother of children (Psalm 113:9). He who began a good work in me is carrying it to completion, in spite of me (Philippians 1:6). At the end of each of the last six years, I can look back and see amazing growth. Sometimes the growth has happened as a result of blessing, sometimes as a result of heartache and trial. He has had to break me at times. Like the time that Jacob wrestled with the angel of God in Genesis and God had to break Jacob’s hip to bless him. He has had to break me of my stubborn will to bless me. He has asked me, “What is your name?” like he asked Jacob. Jacob had to admit that he was the Deceiver. I had to admit I was Pride. Then God said, “Now you will be called Surrendered.” After that time with Jacob’s wrestling with the angel, Hebrews 11 said that at the end of his life, Jacob worshiped leaning on his staff. He was broken but blessed for the rest of his life. So it is with me. I just finished an amazing study of the Song of Solomon, where the Bride is broken to become surrendered. By the end of the book, in Song of Solomon 8:5, the virgins say, “Who is this coming u from the wilderness, leaning on the Beloved?” That’s me. Leaning on the Beloved. He has never stopped drawing me irresistibly to Himself. He has shown me the treasure that He is and the glorious life He has called me to- a life way beyond what I could have ever asked or even imagined (Ephesians 3:20). Not a perfect life, not a deserved life, not a life free of worries or disappointments for sure. But a blessed life, far beyond what I deserve or could ever earn on my own. It's hard to find the words to describe my utter gratitude to Him for this grace upon grace. I can honestly say from the bottom of my heart that today He is the greatest Treasure. He IS my life. I am in love with Jesus. And it's all because of Him.