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Charmaine R.

I was the first child born to Richard & Kathy Smith. I had an amazing childhood with great parents, and a loving sister. My parents gave me the foundation that I am so blessed to have. I learned to love, and that material things didn't matter because you can’t bring them with you in the end. I started going to Lutheran Church of the Master in 1975. The first church service I attended was Easter Sunrise service. On May 22, 1977, I was baptized with my sister Charisse at LCM. I attended Sunday school and VBS. I learned the bible stories, songs, Christmas programs and plays. You could say I was very involved growing up in the Church…Well I really had no choice since my parents believed that we needed to go to church as a family, so we would attend church service and then Sunday school.

LCM was a small church family when we started, so my parents always stuck around as did other members, folding chairs, vacuuming, cleaning etc. It was a small, close-group church family. I am very lucky to have the foundation my parents gave me. When my sister and I were baptizedwe didn’t have family members or family friends for godparents. My parents choose the members of LCM to be our sponsors. At a young age I had a deep desire to know Jesus, always wondering, wanting more. Sunday school taught me, yes, and my family taught me as well. On Easter Sunday my mom would stand at our bedroom door and say “He has risen” my sister and I were to reply “He has risen indeed!”
Again, I had this desire to know more. You could say, “The dots were not connecting.” During this time, I had a school friend named Debbie Cates. Oftentimes I would play with her after school, weekends, and sometimes spent the night. Again, with my parents, church was important to our family. If I would stay at Debbie’s house I would attend church service with her and her family. I did this a few times and even attend a few AWANA club meetings on Wednesday nights. During this time Debbie’s little sister Kimmie was very sick. She had leukemia. I found that as a child, seeing another younger child sick is scary, and here it was my close friend’s sister. Kimmie always had a smile on her face, often climbing around in her parent’s station wagon as we were getting picked up from AWANAS. Kimmie passed away, and after this I still would go over and play with Debbie. I would watch her family interact as to how they were dealing with the death of their child. I wanted to know how they did it, how they were able to go on, smile, and interact with Debbie and her friends that would come over to play. It was at age 9 that I had the desire to know more about this Jesus the way they did. I have heard in church and Sunday school, but for some reason the Cates family seemed to know something I didn’t know. I asked them and they shared with me the Gospel in a way I have never heard before… Maybe I had heard, but it was not lighting up the light bulb in my brain. They talked about Jesus being my savior and asking the Lord to be in my heart. That was it! The light was on! It is amazing that the Lord put in my path a Christian family grieving the loss of a child. Was this a way of showing me the gospel in the midst of a death of a child? The Lord still loves us and is there for us. I know that it was God’s plan that he was preparing me. I believed, but did not see it at first until few years later.
I was with the last group of 5th graders to make their Holy Communion with Pastor Hoy… It was a difficult time at the church, as well for my family, for our church family was losing a pastor and looking for another. To add to all this change & sadness, a few months prior to this announcement that he was leaving, my parents lost my baby sister. I was 11 ½ years old. A 5th grader lost in all sense of the word. Often I would ask why and how could this happen? My parents are so involved at church, and they wanted this baby, while others throw their babies away. We all could not wait for the baby’s arrival. I know for me God heard my inner cry and he answered it in a way that helped me in more ways than I can begin to explain; this also helped my parents and our church family. God brought Pastor Eric Dawson & his wife Cheryl to our church; they were expecting their first child. You see, after their daughter was born they must have inquired about the youth kids to help baby sit their daughter from time to time. To this day I still am not sure how my name came up to be a possible baby sitter for their baby. But guess what? Cheryl called me and invited me to go with her to Kmart while she got some stuff for Diana’s baptism that Sunday. I was like a little kid in a candy store. Cheryl picked me up and we went to Kmart; we made small talk, she asked if I would like to hold her. Right there in Kmart I felt it. God was telling me, “It’s ok, your baby sister is in heaven, happy & safe.” It’s ok to be happy and to continue to trust him because he loves me and my family. Now no one can or will take the place in my heart for my baby sister Channel. I know I will meet her one day. But God did a lot of healing for my broken and questioning heart. See, by bringing Pastor Dawson to our Church, it healed our church family, and in time it healed my family. And for me personally, he gave me hope that was basically gone. He brought “Sunshine” into my life again. Diana is my little sunshine. God knows our hearts and desires more than we know them ourselves.
I have to say, some of the best times of my life were with the church youth group. I had great teachers & leaders. Just to name a few; Pastor Dawson and Laura & Ray Bebee. I was very involved with youth group and loved being around teens that were in church. Some examples of our youth events were; singing at a retirement home, roller skating, camping, concerts, (the first one for me was Amy Grant with Michael W. Smith opening for her), and seeing groups like Petra and Striper. Not to mention as a young teenage girl, we had a lot of teenage boys there, and well I never missed a youth event. We had our responsibilities too. Youth group was not all fun and games. We had to do sermon projects. Out of all the projects there was only one I did not like. Not that I rejected doing it, truth be told I enjoyed the fact we had to do a sermon summery. We had to listen to pastor’s sermon and write down what we had heard and learned. Well all good, unless you have a learning issue as I do and you hear a word, and have no clue what the heck it means yet how to spell it; and add to that I forgot all that was just said and I spent the rest of the sermon trying to catch up. Here again the Lord is good and faithful. During these times I was embarrassed, because I didn’t understand the sermon or the readings. He helped that feeling turn into a desire. A desire in me to read the word of God, to ask questions, and to understand. God meets me where I am at. At times I felt like I was on fire and wanted all my friends at school to come to our church and youth group.
Let’s fast-forward to my married years. Having a baby was my heart’s desire. What greater gift from God but a child. I tried for a couple years to get pregnant, and with medical help I did. Then at 10 ½ weeks I lost the pregnancy. There I was on cloud nine. I was going to have a baby, and to hear this made for a very dark time for me. I didn’t want to hear what the doctors had to tell me. I saw the ultra sound picture and it had a heart beat, and now they’re telling me this. Again, a dark time full of questions, like why is this happening and what did I do wrong? Am I not good enough to be a mom?
I happened to come home from work and get the mail one day, to find a letter from an old co worker; she worked with my husband and heard what had happen. She wrote me a letter and expressed how bad she felt and how Tom and I were in her prayers. At the end of her letter she wrote down a verse, a bible verse I have heard and read many times but never gave it too much thought. I guess when I read it I didn’t see how it applied to me. I never really sat down and gave this verse that much thought. But God again works in ways we will never understand, and yes he can work thru a letter sent in the mail…The verse was Jeremiah 29:11-13. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” As I read those words I felt the Lords love, and It was ok…He loves me, and wants the best for me, He has a plan for me. What words of comfort and reassurance. Who would know that God would use a letter from an old coworker to show me He had not forgotten me and that He loves me.
The Lord did bless me with 3 beautiful healthy children, Amy, Joe & Kelly. What an amazing gift to be blessed with, to be called their mom. Each of them in their own way help me on a daily basis to see beyond the yuck and muck of what all is going on.
As some of you know I struggle with low self esteem and depression. I had it all planned out for taking my own life. The darkest time of my life was in April of 2012. I felt alone, lost, and a failure. I felt my marriage was over and my home life was in a complete mess. I felt I was a bad mom, daughter, and friend. I felt I didn’t fit in. I was too broken to be fixed. That is the world’s view of how I should be. Here again the Lord was at work in my life, and I was so stuck in the muck I almost didn’t see it. If not for the love and care of my friend Laura calling my family and driving to my house, and my sister Charisse getting in contact with pastor and Ray Bebee, I am sure I would not be here. In my deepest and darkest time ever in my life I saw the love of our Lord in full motion. His hands and his feet were at work in my life. We all come to the Lord broken, but with his love and grace he makes us whole. It is a free gift. We need to be willing to accept this gift, and with accepting this gift it also has to be opened and put to use in our life. It is not a gift we just simply put on a shelf and use when we are in trouble or when it is seems to be convenient in our daily routine. This is a gift that is to be used every day, good times and bad. For as these people in my life, both past and present, were placed in my path, so am I placed in someone else’s path. Who knows how, when or where the Lord will use me? I just hope that I am able to be that body of Christ as so many have been to me thru the Lord’s Love and Grace.

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