Today's Testimony is from my friend Mary Avery. Mary goes to church with me and is the mother of three little boys 5 and under. She grew up in Alabama and is very southern. :-) She is always so kind to everyone around her and a great friend. I feel so fortunate to know her and count her as a friend.
“Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what
great things He has done for you.” 1 Samuel 12:16
Hi, I’m Mary Avery! I’m just a very average girl, from an average family, living in an average state, living a very normal life with my wonderful husband and three awesome little boys. I sometimes think I have no great things to offer the Lord. I cannot sing, sew, do crafty things, write amazing books, keep an amazing house, keep our laundry processed or even keep my blog updated! But….what I do have is an amazing testimony of how the Lord has shown up, showed off, and completely changed my whole life. Stick around and I’ll show you how He used some really horrible circumstances to get my attention and change my life! Stick with me, friend, it’s a long story!
I am the baby of our family of 3 children! I have two older brothers, Ray and Judd. Ray has cerebral palsy and is a walking encyclopedia of facts. Judd is funny, smart, and looks after all of us.
I grew up in a traditional Southern Baptist church. I can remember always being there! I can still remember donning the white, scratchy robe and descending the stairs of the baptistry to be baptized in the warm water. Church was just a constant presence; we were just always there!
As the years flew by, life progressed faster and faster and we ended up in a new church with a great youth group. You know that song that says, “people never crumble in a day”, well that’s how we began to be about going to church. We were growing up, getting jobs, getting involved with things in school. Very, very slowly over time, we just didn’t find ourselves there as much. It didn’t happen in a day, or a week, or even in a year. It was a slow, slow progression, but I think that’s how the Enemy wants it to happen because you never even notice it. Little did we know what the next decade had in store for our family, but God knew. He always does!
Both of my brothers graduated from high school and Judd moved off to Tuscaloosa to begin college two hours away at The University of Alabama. Judd’s sophomore year we received a call that he was at DCH hospital. He had been sent over by a doctor and was told he might have brain tumors. It ended up he had brain bleeds. To say we were in shock was the understatement of the century. This just could NOT be, he was so healthy! What followed were lots of tests, hard days, and an eventual move to Birmingham to UAB for more comprehensive care and for answers, of course. We needed answers!
There were no answers for us. This illness was an enigma to the steady stream of neurologists that we encountered over the years. We would go through a cycle of seizures, brain bleeds, massive hospital stays, tons of medication then eventually rehab. This was to happen again and again for nearly a decade. To say that I was a little mad at God is an understatement. I was furious and terrified. I’m being honest here because I don’t want to cover any of this up. We had spent our whole lives at church. We had done everything “right”. My parents were good people. None of us had ever done anything wrong or bad, so why was this happening? Why to our family? I would rage at God and cry for answers and beg; and when I got none, I got bitter. As a confused teenager, I very deliberately turned away from God and hardened my heart. I would have no more of God and church if this is how he treated good people. Of course now I see that this is not how God works and was just completely ridiculous. I see now that when trials come, and they WILL come, (James 1:2…”count it all JOY when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” I love how James says not if but WHEN you fall into trials!) you either run TO God or you run FROM him. And boy, did I ever run…
In the coming years, Judd miraculously was able to finish his undergraduate degree and a masters degree in between illnesses. I would spend high school and college making some pretty stupid mistakes and basically not living for the Lord. I did not step foot into a church for a long while, because, you know, I was still mad at God. There are so many things I wish I could go back and change. I can’t help but wonder if I had been involved in a church or gotten myself right and humbled myself to the Lord, how would part of high school and college have been different? I’ll never know. Maybe I could have influenced friends around me or even the sorority I was a part of in college. I could have been a light to shine for Jesus, but sadly, I was not.
God has blessed me with a truly wonderful man in my life! I was lucky enough to marry Jordan in August of 2006 after 6 years of dating. Two months after we got married, the next round of brain bleeds began. The sense of dread and darkness that washed over me was unbearable. It became very apparent that this was not like the rest and it got very scary very quickly. I immediately hit my knees and began to pray. It’s like small layers of ice were melting. I was begging the Lord to save my brother’s life. I timidly bought a yearly women’s devotional book and began to read it. How could God welcome me back? Would he? God and I had a lot of talking to do and I had so much to apologize for and to beg forgiveness for as well. It was not pretty but God began to slowly work in my life and it felt amazing!
The really bad news came that my parents thought that I needed to fly home and try to get to Birmingham as quickly as possible. I boarded a flight with a black dress in my suitcase, having no idea if I would need it for a funeral. I didn’t know what awaited me once Dad picked me up in Birmingham. The situation was dire. As the plane took off, I sat back and sighed. As we rose above Tulsa and into the clouds, I looked out my window at the most beautiful sunset I think I have ever seen. It was hues of orange and bright yellow juxtaposed with the white fluff of the clouds and the amazing bright blue of the sky. It glowed with a heavenly beautiful orange and I knew the Lord was speaking directly to me that day, giving me that orange fire sunset. He whispered over me, “I’ve got this.” A strange sense of peace washed over me. Over the next five months, Judd would remain in ICU and endure too many horrors and trials to list here. From there he would go to a rehab floor to, once again, learn how to walk and do everything. He is my hero.
Over those hard months, I started to trust the Lord. I began to pray for a miracle. I began to read the Bible more. In His sovereignty the Lord granted us a miracle with Judd’s recovery. To this day, his main neurologist will say that he thought Judd was a goner 3 separate times. There’s no other way to explain it, but GOD. It’s a happy ending that I know so many people do not get. We began to make Jeremiah 29:11 our verse and clung to it: “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
Over the coming years, the Lord would work not only on me, but my husband. We found a fantastic church here in Arkansas and got into a great Sunday School class. We were learning so much, and eventually Jordan was baptized in our new church! We have dedicated THREE, yes three!!, little boys to the Lord on that same stage. It brought me so much closer to God as I breathed in thankfulness and joy each time that I was pregnant and delivered a beautiful, healthy baby boy. John Michael, Matthew, and Noah...what a blessing. I will never, ever stop thanking God for giving me these boys and letting me be their mom. As I have grown in my faith I have re-learned everything when I read simple Bible stories with them, when we sing little Bible songs, or when I get to teach them about who Jesus is and why He came. I feel like I have so much to learn! I do consider “what great things He has done for you” (1 Samuel 12:16) and I am still amazed, to this day, that Jesus looks on me with love and always welcomes me back with open arms. I know without a doubt that “nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39)
And as for our happy ending…..? We’ve got a wedding in the works for January! God really does have a hope, a future, and a plan for everyone, huh?! In those hard years of begging for Judd’s life, we never could have fathomed that God would have Jennie waiting to be Judd’s wife one day. What an incredible blessing she is to our family and to him as well!
I make a simple plea today that if you are mad at God and you’ve turned away from Him, it sounds so, so simple, but just turn back. It just hurts way too much to be away from Him. Our pastor always says, sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. And if you think He could never forgive you for the things you’ve done, well you’re just dead wrong. In Romans it says that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Take comfort in that, friend!