Candace Lang Like millions of children who grow up without a dad, I dreamed of what the ideal father would be like. He would have the wisdom of Ward Cleaver, the compassion of Charles Ingalls and the indulgence of Mike Brady.
After I became a Christian, I realized that God had used my need for a father as a catalyst so that I would seek Him, even when I was young. If I had not had a need, I might never have known Him.
In a tangible way God showed me that He is a father in every sense. He reminded me of the times He had watched over and protected me when I thought I was alone.
Today, most people have heard of agoraphobia, which is an abnormal fear of being in open spaces. But 26 years ago, this problem was unknown where I lived.
At 15, my life came to a standstill. I suffered severe panic attacks wherever I went. Shaking uncontrollably and feeling faint, I'd get a compelling urge to run from wherever I was. Eventually, I became housebound.
No one knew what was wrong with me. I thought I was losing my mind, and for two years, I cried out to God for help.
One day I was praying beside my bed, just enjoying the Lord. Suddenly, I felt a current of divine love flow through me, flooding me with peace and joy. I was euphoric!
At first, the only difference I noted was that I couldn't stop singing. Then I had the sudden urge to venture out to the mailbox.
I did, and I didn't panic! The shackles that had bound me began to fall away.
No one realized that I was experiencing agoraphobia. Clinics, treatments, counseling--none were available to me. But I had a Great Physician, and there was nothing unknown to Him.
I have learned that we don't always need to understand the problems we face. What we need to know is that the God in whom we trust is bigger than the problem.
It was a long, exhausting drive from my Lafayette home to my mother's bedside in the small Alabama town where I grew up. Nothing in my years as a pastor's wife or my experience as a registered nurse had prepared me for this journey.
Twice in 1997, the Great Physician had intervened, astonishing the medical doctors, who had offered no hope. Prayer had prevailed, and my mother's life had become a living testimony to the entire hospital staff of God's miraculous healing power.
Shuttling back and forth across the endless miles for the last few months had taken a huge emotional and physical toll on me. Mother's wish not to live with me during this time was a decision that I honored but agonized over.
During my childhood our family lived on a farm in Corinth, Mississippi. One day while I was working in the cotton field, a truck driven by a good-looking boy came along, and although I did not know him, I made the remark: "Do you see that boy? I'm going to marry him one day, and I will not be a farmer's wife but a doctor's wife."
Three years later, Howard Thomas and I were married. Eventually he decided to become a medical doctor and started attending college. We went to church regularly but were not born again.
We began drinking and frequenting medical fraternity parties. I felt guilty but did not stop.
On a Thursday in June 1987, three days before my due date, I was disappointed when my doctor told me he thought my baby would not come for another week. My husband, Andres, and I had been trying to have a family since we were first married two and a half years earlier, so even a few more days seemed like a lot.
On Sunday morning I awoke with light cramps. At daybreak, my husband and I began timing the contractions as we got ready to go to the hospital.
When the doctor examined me and listened for the baby's heartbeat, I sensed that something was wrong. Quickly, I was prepared for a Caesarean section.
My life as a grandmother started with a whirlwind of excitement, much like Steve Martin's in the movie, Father of the Bride Part II. I identified with his situation because two of my daughters were in labor at the same time and gave birth 66 minutes apart.
I'll never forget the Thanksgiving Day when Kathy, my oldest daughter, announced that she and her husband, Foster, were going to have a baby after waiting five years. A month later Dori, my youngest daughter, announced that she, too, was pregnant.
OK, I thought to myself. I have two pregnant daughters. No problem. I was to have a grandchild born in July and one in August. I often teased the girls, saying: "You better not have your babies the same day. And if you do, you better have them in the same hospital!"
When I was 14, I injured my head in a diving accident. Three days later, my parents discovered me in the middle of a grand mal seizure.
After I had nearly continual seizures for more than three months, my parents were given no hope that I would recover. But I became conscious and seizure-free without drugs after many days of prayer.
Within several months, I went back to classes and scored higher on intelligence tests than I had before the accident. I'd lost a year of high school, but ultimately I finished and went on to earn a degree in elementary education and psychology.
Having been raised by an alcoholic father and an enabling mother, I learned to see God as harsh, unbending and unaccepting of me. I believed that He would harm me at His whim and that He was never pleased with my efforts or gifts. I thought He was like my father.
As a 30-something mother of four, I was falling apart emotionally. I had seen numerous counselors and been on medication for clinical depression. But despite all my efforts, I could not find freedom or peace.
At my lowest point, a good Christian friend mailed me an awesome worship CD that was full of songs extolling God as the lover of our souls. Inspired by thoughts of His stubborn love for me, I was compelled to search the Scriptures to see what I could find about the true nature of God.
Our 16-year-old son, Zachary, was blessed with athletic abilities. He has been an all-star athlete since he was very young.
In the month of November 2001, Zachary had been practicing basketball on the days before and after Thanksgiving. On the following Monday morning he awoke with a swollen arm. We anointed him with oil and prayed for him.
Shortly after he was taken to the doctor, and medical tests revealed the presence of a germ-cell tumor in his chest behind the sternum. On December 3, 2001, the tumor was removed, and surgery was followed by four five-day rounds of chemotherapy that ended in February 2002.
Although I was raised a Southern Baptist, I was full of spiritual questions after my mother's death and the end of my 18-year marriage. On one occasion, while visiting an Assemblies of God church I observed the congregation praising the Lord in a way I had never seen. As they lifted their hands in worship, I joined in.
Each week I returned, knowing that God was drawing me closer to Him. At first I raised only one hand in worship. Then the Lord asked me, "What's wrong with your other hand?" In total abandonment, I raised both arms. God's Spirit worked in me, and freedom was released through my surrender.
Before, I learned about the prophets only in the Old Testament. My newfound freedom brought people into my life who would say to me, "The Lord told me this…" or "The Lord told me that…" Eventually, I learned to listen to God's voice and move accordingly.
My husband and I built our relationship on God's love and understanding; however, I always had a struggle with the concept of oneness. Satan was out to destroy both our marriage and our connection to God.
During our 19th year of marriage, Satan came in at full force, causing chaos and devastation. Blindly, I thought that having the attention of a man other than my husband would enhance my life. An affair nearly destroyed our lives, as well as our daughter's. Through God's grace and others' prayers, the veil of deception was removed. By the means of a vision, I was made aware of the enemy's hand at work in our relationship.
In this vision, I was standing in the center of a room and a current of energy flowed out from within me to those nearby. When the current ran uninterrupted, everything was in harmony. But broken connections brought sorrow to everyone.
In 1991 I was an assistant buyer for a large department store. One morning when I was preparing to go to work, an overwhelming sensation came over the left side of my body.
Starting at the top of my head, it traveled slowly down my body to my extremities on the left side. It took me at least a half-hour to get to the bottom of the stairs.
Numerous medical tests led to the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. I could not believe that my life had taken such a traumatic turn.
I began to search the Scriptures concerning healing. I was experiencing periods of paralysis and spent much of my time in bed, nurtured by my husband and children.
During this period, I watched a lot of Christian television. Through it I received faith for healing.
For months, I continued to receive and believe the word of faith. Then during a Sunday morning praise service at my church, I was totally healed by the power of God.
I am 42 years old and born again, and I love Jesus with all my heart. He is my Great Physician as well as my Savior.
After I was healed, God called me to minister to women with an emphasis on total healing and restoration of body, soul and spirit. He made me well, and now He is using my experience to help others. How grateful I am that He "forgives our iniquities; and heals all our diseases" (Ps. 103:3).
My ancestral roots run straight down into the Mississippi mud. My great-grandfather, seven generations removed, was the first Protestant circuit-rider in the Mississippi territory, giving me a rich Christian heritage intermingled with a traditional Southern mind-set.
Unfortunately, my Christian heritage did not tip the scales when weighed against the embedded racial views of the Deep South. My family never spoke with hatred against black people, but they certainly felt that blacks needed to "stay in their place."
When I was growing up, I was told that segregation was the way God meant it to be. It took many years for God to set me free.
For years, my husband, Jerry, and I traveled as evangelists for the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). I've been blessed beyond measure, and I've seen God perform many miracles.
For 40 years I carried around a tumor in my abdomen. Although my doctors tried to persuade me to have surgery to remove it, I was praying and hoping that the Lord would dissolve it from my body. But God decided to heal me in His own way and His own time, for His glory.
On April 10, 2001, I was in great pain. I went into the hospital the next day, and the doctors scheduled me for surgery.
When I was pregnant with my second child, I developed complications and was confined to bed. During that time, while watching a TV special on autism, I thought, Lord, I could never handle anything like that.
Later on, our son John was born. He was apparently healthy, but as he grew something seemed wrong. At 2-1/2 years old, he was diagnosed with infantile autism.
The doctors offered us no hope that John would recover. They said we should institutionalize him.
Some years ago I was impressed by the Lord to read Psalm 91 several times. I took great comfort in this passage and was moved to tell others about God's promises of safety.
I always utter a prayer when I get into my car, asking God to protect me and everyone on the road. Many times God has heard my prayers and delivered me in times of trouble.
One day, after praying for protection, I had traveled only a few miles when suddenly a deer jumped out of the woods right in my path. A second deer was right behind him.
The first deer cleared the hood of my car. The second one bumped his head on the side of the car and then turned back into the woods. I barely saw the first one, but in my rearview mirror, I distinctly saw the second one shake his head and turn back.
God protected me from disaster. For this I praise Him, and I imagine the deer are grateful too. When I examined my car, I saw there was not even a scratch on it. Praise God, for His mercies endure forever!
Throughout my life, God has been merciful to me. I am thankful for the loving Christian home into which I was born 38 years ago.
My mother prayed over everything, and our family attended church each week. It was a wonderful childhood.
But while in college, I was introduced to marijuana and cocaine. I'd nearly finished my nursing program at Georgia State University, but I left school so I could work to support my drug habit.