Each April 16, I write a blog talking about what happened 38 years ago. On April 16, 1978, my mother (Sarah Leon) was murdered by my biological father. She was literally carrying me out of harms’ way when she was shot and killed. I could have been, probably should have been killed as well. She was murdered on my mama’s (Maxie Stoddard) birthday and was then buried on mine. I take a moment to remember each year and reflect as a way to honor her memory, as well as honor the sacrifice that my mama and daddy (Maxine and Connie Stoddard) made when they adopted me.
This year’s reflection is a day early, seeing as how the 16th is on a Saturday. Thank you for this personal reflection a day early.
Prooftexting is the concept where you take a verse of the Bible and use it defend a position that you already have. Instead of letting the Bible speak and using that to formulate your beliefs, you use the Bible to defend a position you already have.
We have to be careful with our use of the Bible. With that said, I want to share with you the two verses of the Bible that have shaped everything about me.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
20 Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.
I have said it before, it’s one of my mantras, the power of God is not that He stops bad things from happening. It’s that He can bring good out of anything. That has been the story of my life.
I should have been forgotten. I am a child of abuse, a child that would have been easy to write off. I came from brokenness. I have been impacted by violence, by addiction, by all of these destructive things.
I have never been able to have a conversation with the woman who gave me birth. She has never met the granddaughter named after her. I have struggled with worry and the fear of losing relationships since I was a child; it’s second nature to me. I think it’s why I work so hard, I am afraid of failure and know that everything can be taken from you in a moment’s notice.
But y’all, I’ve been blessed. Yes, I’ve tasted pain. But I’ve been blessed. I was adopted by my grandparents. I was raised in a great church. I was nurtured and taught by a great school. I have an amazing wife and two beautiful kids. I don’t know a pastor that has had the privilege to serve better churches than I’ve served these past 17 years.
I’ve been blessed.
Yes, life is hard. Yes, I would give anything, anything at all to have known my Mama Sarah. Anything. But God has worked all these things for good. What humans intended for evil, God intended for good.
God guided my steps. If I had not been raised by my family, I wouldn’t have gone to Johnston Chapel UMC, which means I may not be a Chrisitan, much less a United Methodist, which means I wouldn’t have served Boyle, Linn, Litton, Coy, Stallo, Ripley First, Asbury, and now St. Matthew’s United Methodist Churches. I would not have been blessed by them and hopefully through me, they have experienced God’s grace in some way.
If I hadn’t been raised by my parents, I wouldn’t have gone to Bogue Chitto which means I wouldn’t have gone to Co-Lin which means I wouldn’t have met Holly and wouldn’t have my family.
Yes, my Mama Sarah’s murder was a tragic event that forever shaped and scarred many lives. But the power of God is not that God stops bad things from happening. It’s that He can bring good out of anything.
There’s not a single part of your life, of your story, that He can’t redeem and used for your good and for His glory. Not a part.
What humans intended for evil God intended for good.
He can use it all. All of it. That’s my story. That’s my song. That’s my life. I am thankful that God has been present in all my life, the good and the bad. I am thankful for my mama and my daddy, I am thankful for Mama Sarah, my family and my churches.
And I am thankful for God’s grace.
Today, no matter what you are facing, I promise you, I promise you, God can use it.
Today, on the anniversary of this dark day in my family’s life, I am thankful that God has brought goodness out of pain. I pray you never have to experience that type of pain, but I know, I know, whatever pain you experience, God can use it.
Today, may He receive the glory for the good He brings through all our lives.
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Thanks for sharing this Andy. And thanks blessing our family by leading Maribella Dukes funeral.
Thanks so much. It was my honor to be a part of that service. She was loved by many here at St. Matthew’s!
Andy I am aunt Eunice’s granddaughter and your mom Sarah has never been forgotten by other family members . Her short life touched many lives. . She was as beautiful inside as outside. She is so proud of you and she loved you and her family very much.
Thank you so much for those words. I have heard so many amazing things about her through the years.
Thank you for sharing your story and His story in your life.
I can remember the very second that happened. We were sitting in my den and we had company over here. Charles loved her like a sister they lived together at grand ma’s. After I married Charles , I went school with Sara. She was very intelligent, we were very proud of her success in college and teaching. Everyone was crushed by her death, Charles helped Maxine get you though the court, which you
know the other side of the family tried to take you away to Baton Rouge.
We are proud of you and hope you have a wonderful life.
One of my earliest memories is sitting between daddy and Uncle Charles in the U-haul coming back from New Orleans. Thanks for these words, Aunt Linda.
I have a lot of memories of Sarah. But I guess the funniest now but not then. Sarah and I had gone to town 1 Saturday night and we were on our way back home and Sarah asked me if she drive the rest of the way home and I said sure. Well she got behind the wheel and started driving, I noticed she wasn’t doing very good, so I asked her what was wrong and she said oh I forgot to tell you I have a little night blindness. I almost freaked out. I told her to just pull over slowly and stop. She did and then I drove us on home. I miss her so much. We lived only a few miles apart. Just thought I would share this funny memory with you. God bless and keep you and your family.
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Your Mom was beautiful outside and in. I was a classmate of hers at Bogue Chitto. Still find it hard to believe that she is not here with us today. Everyone loved your Mom. Still think of her all the time. Sad times when the class gets together and have a roll call of those that have left us so soon. Glad God reached out and touched you in such a marvelous way. Will be praying for you and your Family, Andy!