Danielle Stoddard ....

I wanted to take a little time this morning to share a personal testimony of God’s work in my life. Although I have to admit that I did not really accept the changes he was trying to get me to make at first, I realize now exactly where he wanted my life to be.

My great grandmother moved out to Grain Valley during my sophomore year of high school. We had been really close my whole life, but she had lived in Texas. After we moved from Dallas when I was seven, I only saw her a few time a year. So, when she moved only 20 minutes from me, I was elated. I spent a pretty fair amount of time with her at her house. She always invited me to church with her. Why didn’t I go? Unfortunately, as a junior in high school, you tend to be a little self-centered. Finding time to drive out to Grain Valley after school and before work and socializing grew harder and harder. Looking back, it doesn’t seem that difficult. During my senior year, she suffered from a severe stroke that left her vocal cords and right side paralyzed. A blessing in disguise. She had to move in with my grandmother, who lived only two minutes from my house, so she could be cared for easily. I saw her every day. Every day I talked with her and laughed with her. Although her speech was not complete sentences, we could still communicate. I used to pray every night that God would give her speech back just for one day, so she could talk to me again. Just one more time I could hear her speak completely without having to see her struggle. I learned that sometimes the Lord grants our prayers in very unexpected ways.

Christmas night 2005 at 11:59 she passed away. My little cousins were in town, so I went to bed around 10:30. I woke up at 11:00 after a very strange dream. I dreamed that my nana came to me in her favorite red dress suit. All of her matching jewelry she normally wore, but with more diamonds and more shine. She looked beautiful and she spoke to me – without struggle or labor. She said, “Let go, little Wahloollah, let me go. I am going to be fine. I just need to know you are going to be O.K. Please let me go.”

I woke up and walked up to my grandmother’s room where every one was around my nana’s bed and shortly after she had taken her last breaths. We had not called anyone yet – it was about 1:00. I had not said a word about my dream yet. I wasn’t sure what to say or who to say it to. The phone rang…. 1:00 on Christmas night. Who was calling? It was my Aunt Jean. My grandmother could not talk, so she handed the phone to me and I told Aunt Jean the news. She said that she already knew. “How?” I asked. We not had called anyone. Aunt Jean said Nana came to her and asked to let her go. She told her that she was going somewhere beautiful and not to worry, that she was happy. Just out of curiosity, I asked she was wearing. Jean said, “Do you remember that red dress suit that she wore to church?” “Yea, I do.” “Well, she was wearing that but not with the regular red matching jewelry.” I interrupted her, “She had diamonds.” “Yes,” she said. I interrupted again, “Brilliantly shining diamonds.” My Aunt Jean asked, “How did you know?” I told her, “She came to me, too. I had been asking God to let her speak to me one more time and she did.”

Naturally, after something like that, my family got extremely close. I started finding time for my sisters and my mom and my dad. I went to my grandmother’s house for dinner a few nights a week. Then, by the end of my senior year, I was busy again. Too busy for shopping with my sisters. Too busy for dinner at my Mimi’s house. Too busy for scrap booking with my mom.

Reality check #2. I was leaving school after decorating a float for our senior year homecoming parade. The light turned yellow and since I know people fly through the intersection, I stopped. There was a brand new white Jeep yielding to turn left. When the light turned yellow, it started to turn. A little green Honda came flying through the intersection hitting the new white Jeep on its front right side. This sent the Jeep flipping, right towards my car. And just like a scene from an action-packed movie, the Jeep seemed to slow down spinning very slowly towards my car. Crash. It landed right on my hood and came crashing through the windshield. The force from the Jeep pushed my little Civic back under the Blazer behind me. About five minutes later the police showed up as I was trying to crawl out of the passenger side of my car. “Are you O.K? Are you hurt?” Two police officers were asking me all the usually questions while one just stands there staring at my compacted car. “Honey,” he said, “There was an angel in that car with you.” Silence. That’s the last thing I heard for almost 24 hours. My ears were filled with a loud ringing noise.

So, here we go again. Family time for sisters, parents, grandparents until I left for school. I moved to Springfield and lived with my best girl friend in the world. There were always a ton of people around. We lived on the main level of the apartments, so our room’s balcony was right by the pool. We lived right by the James River, so we used to go down to the river almost every day and fish or just walk in the beautiful streaming water. My friends were my life and I was never alone.

But I still felt so empty. My life felt hollow. Sometimes at night I would wake up and drive around just to think and clear my mind. I would drive the back roads by the river. I would rarely see a few cars drive by as late as I would go out. On October 13, I went driving. I was thinking and praying about what I needed in my life. I could not figure out why I was not content. I wasn’t homesick. My parents and sisters would come down and visit from time to time and I would drive back. That wasn’t it. What was it? I slammed on my brakes. My mind was wandering and I wasn’t paying enough attention to the road in front of me. There was a car ahead of me. It seemed to just appear. I don’t remember seeing any lights from a car before me at all. But the road was curvy and I wasn’t paying too much attention. He was driving about 15 miles per hour. O.K. Well, this is not going to work. “Stop,” I thought. “Why are you in a hurry? Slow down.” So, I did to 15 miles per hour. At that speed you have time to look around. I really do believe there was a reason for him to be driving as slowly as he was. I began analyzing his car. It was cream, an old Crown Victoria, dents, rust, personalized Missouri license plate … ARE YOU HAPPY? Now what are the odds of this? I went straight back to my apartment and packed up all my clothes. The next morning I called my dad and by October 15, I moved home.

I started praying more, asking God to tell me what he wanted out of my life. What was my purpose? I had grown up in a few different churches and I am definitely a believer, but I never felt close to a church before. Never looked forward to Sundays as the best day of the week. In November I went back to school, got a new job and met Josh McKay all during the first week. After we started dating in the beginning of December, he told me he had church on Sundays. I really wanted to go. Why? All of those times both my grandmothers asked me to go to their church, I never felt like I should. I really felt the need to go. I’m not sure why, since I never had before. I came here on day and I got it – my life has felt fuller and richer. We found out later that Josh and I have many connections and could have met any time three years prior. So why now? I believe God has a plan for my life and he knew when I was ready to serve him and stop leading a selfish, self-centered life style. I am incredibly grateful to Josh for bringing me to this wonderful church, so that I have and can continue to have and grow and this amazing relationship with the Lord. I know longer ignore Jesus’ work in my life or the things he shows me or little teachings each day. I am much more aware of his presence and no longer feel lost or hollow. And I am eternally grateful for that blessing.