Today I turned 40. My body sometimes will tell me that I am 40, but my heart feels so young still. When I look back on my life, these past 40 years, I remember the good and I remember the bad. There have been ups and there have been downs, but that is life. I remember the story of my birth, my mother telling me why I was such a miracle to her. They were living in Germany, my dad was in the Army and they were stationed in Frankfurt. She had just gone through two miscarriages, and was told by the doctors that she would never have children, it was impossible. When she found out she was pregnant with me, she was filled with joy, and she knew that God had given her another chance. My dad wanted a boy desperately; I guess in those days it was still important for a man to have a son to carry on the family name. (At least it was in our family)
They shipped her home from Germany because there were complications with the pregnancy and she was determined to have me. She and dad and my older sister waited patiently for me to arrive. Somehow I had managed to wrap the umbilical cord around my neck and was strangling myself; she said the doctors were not hopeful, but she was. She once told me that I was trouble since the day I was conceived! (Laughingly, of course, but I did cause her much grief) She was bed ridden, forced to lie on her side for a month, and then there I came, on the 1st day of August at 8:30a.m. The umbilical cord had come undone, and out I came. My dad was so excited that he went about telling everyone that I was a boy, which, I was not. I was supposed to be named Stephen, but since I came out a girl, I was named Stephane. I was born in Iowa, and lived most of my life there.
My life in Iowa as a child was some of the best memories I have. Even though I was not a boy, I was my daddy’s girl. We would fish and trap together, we would fix cars and pour sinkers, and we would hunt dew worms and all kinds of critters. My dad once said he didn’t need a boy, he had me. I was as tom-boy as you could get. My mom always kept my hair cut short because I would come home with weeds, twigs and mud caked in the strands. (I like swimming in rivers, more than taking a bath)
We lived in a little town called Rochester, Iowa, population 200 if you count dogs and cats. We lived across the street from my grandma and grandpa, and my great-grandma lived on the corner across from them. We did move “away” to a house about a ½ mile away so I had to ride my bike instead of walking. My best friend of my childhood lived behind my grandma and grandpa, and we got ourselves into some trouble. We were river rats, we found every excuse we could to sneak down to the Cedar River and get as dirty and muddy as we could. I used to give my mother fits for the troubles I would get myself into. I gave her much grief.
Years passed, and we had to move to Muscatine Iowa for my dad’s job. It was a thirty minute drive from Rochester. I had never been in a “city” atmosphere before. I was raised country, and country didn’t always fit in with city folk. My mom and dad did their best, but we were never rich people. We grew up getting school supplies, socks and clothing for Christmas. Toys were a luxury but mom and dad always managed to get us at least one for Christmas. Our birthdays were celebrated with a few dollars to go and spend at the Dime Store (yes, before they became Dollar Stores they were called Dime Stores) One year, I got about $50.00 for my birthday. I was only about 12 or 13 at the time, and the Mall in Muscatine had a record store. I went into that store and blew the whole $50.00 on Duran Duran records and posters. My mom was snorting mad at me for wasting my money. But I was infatuated with Duran Duran. (Good Lord, don’t tell anyone about that!)
So many memories, so many good times, but there were also bad times, times I wished I would have not had to live, times I wished I would not have to remember. It was in Muscatine that I met the first boy I would kiss, and would have a crush on him until the day he died, at age 22. It was in Muscatine that I found the escape of drugs and alcohol. It was in Muscatine that I would become a person I never wanted to be. I would grow out of the tom boy and into a young girl searching for love, and I would find heart ache, heart break and would become a broken woman.
If you have read my testimony you will see the struggles I have had with drugs and alcohol, the struggles with love and trying to be loved. When I found out I was going to have a child at the age of 19 I was devasted, and so was my mother I was raised Catholic, and living in a time when unwed mothers were taboo. I became more and more withdrawn and deeper into a darkness I did not think I would ever escape. But then came my husband, and I thought that perhaps he would be the one to save me from the depths I had plummeted to. My parents were happy that someone wanted to marry me, and since I had found myself pregnant once again, I had to get married.
Years again go by, without you even realizing it. When you are twenty something life seems to take forever and you do not realize that time is a gift. Your eyes are still young, and you tell yourself you will always have time. But time has a way of moving whether you are ready for it or not. Time did move, and we moved physically to North Carolina. I was twenty two, my children were four and two, and I thought by changing scenery my life would change as well. But it didn’t. It goes to prove the saying that no matter where you move to, you are still you. Struggles with drugs and alcohol, struggles in my marriage, struggles with being a mom, and a wife all have a way of catching up with you.
But, as I look back over all these years of my life, I remember the good and I can now thank God for the bad. It was here in North Carolina that the Lord Jesus Christ found me, it is here that He called me out of the darkness that I was in and said to me, “I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord.” (Hosea 2:19-20)
He wooed me; He sang over me, He brought me out of the path of darkness I was on and into His marvelous light. It is because of Him that I am who I am today, it is because of Him that I can look back on all the bad and see how His grace has protected me, His grace has worked all these things out for my good (Romans 8:28) There is nothing in my life that happened by chance, He was with me the whole way. I did not accept it, nor did I want to believe it, but He was there from the moment of my conception, through the struggles of my mother to bring me into this world, through the sins, the mistakes, the failures, the laughter, the joy, the pain and the sorrows, He was with me every step of the way.
If I would leave this earth today, my last bit of advice to all who would take it would be the same advice that Solomon gives us in Ecclesiastes 12:13, “ Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.” There is nothing else out there that will satisfy you like Jesus, there is no love greater than the love of Jesus, and there is no hope like the hope we have in Jesus. It may be my earthly birthday, but my heavenly birth is yet to come, and in that day I shall rejoice for I shall meet my Savior, my God, my Lover and my Redeemer! Amen and Amen.