In the 8th chapter of Romans, the Apostle Paul talks about the many hardships he faced in life as he took the glorious message of Christ to the Gentiles. In Romans 8:35 he mentions how he faced hardship, distress, persecution, famine, and peril. Then in verse 37, he exclaims, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” I love that line, “More than conquerors.” With Christ in our lives, we can rest assured that we are more than conquerors. We are overcomers, people who can face life difficulties, and Christ can use those difficulties to grow our faith and character. This month I offer you the story of one of Bethel’s conquerors, Mary Florence. These are her words.
My name is Mary Louise Florence, formerly Mary Louise Morgan. I am one of three children. When I was born my mother decided she didn’t want to be a mom, especially when she didn’t know the identity of my father. I was raised by my grandmother, who adopted my mother, and later became my legal guardian. A couple years went by and my mother had two more girls that were also raised by my grandmother, their fathers were unknown as well.
From a young age, I saw my grandmother struggle to raise three girls. She worked full time and still continued to get us where we needed to be, whether it was practice or school functions. To complicate matters even more, my grandmother was a hoarder, to the point we didn’t have running water, a kitchen to cook in, or proper sleeping arrangements. We had to crawl in a window to get into the house, we ate out almost every night at McDonald’s and if she couldn’t afford it we often charged our meal until she could. We showered at the YMCA, when this wasn’t possible due to time constraints or transportation we would use water jugs and bathe the best we could outside. I personally slept on a love seat couch that was on a pile of clothes for most of my childhood.
I went to the same daycare from 18 months to 12 years, when I “aged out”. Knowing my family struggles, the owner let me come in and help out to make a little extra money. This often went back to my grandmother to help with gas and other expenses. When I was 14 my grandmother strongly suggested
I get a work permit to help pay the bills. I started working at McDonald’s the day I turned 14 and the money went back to my grandmother. It wasn’t much, but I did what I could to help take care of my grandmother and two younger sisters.
Once a year we were court-ordered to see my mother. We would drive three hours to see her for what felt like 10 minutes, she often took us on her drug deals. I could see she wanted nothing to do with us. We would drive back home and I remember feeling unwanted, let down, and ashamed about myself. I watched my grandmother struggle to get us there and force us to see her and try to be happy, however it was hard to hide the feelings that I had. It wasn’t until I was 15 that I really felt the Lord rescue me. On August 11th, 2006, I met Jake. While Nana took us to church it really wasn’t a lesson or learning, it was more like childcare. We learned the traditional Bible stories, but not what it meant to be saved by the Lord. Looking back it’s easier to understand. August 11th was the turning point in my life. I got out of my mother’s vicious cycle of having kids and running away. I no longer felt unwanted. I started going to church with Jake and his family because I wanted to. I really listened to the sermons. I started reading the Bible and daily verses that I had on my phone app. I started to feel my life coming together, rising from the ashes. All the things that I struggled with started to fade and I started living for my Lord and Savior. I felt safe in the Lord and His Word. My favorite Bible verse is Psalm 119:105, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and light unto my path.” I think of this daily and I know that the struggles that I endured were necessary for me to become the person I am today. John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, the darkness has not overcome it.” The light of Christ shined in my darkness and I overcame.
What an incredible story! I was truly moved by Mary’s story and I want to thank her for being vulnerable and being willing to share. When I think of Mary I think of words like a conqueror, overcomer, or victor! She is, as Paul would say, “More than a conqueror.”Praise be to God for all that He is doing in Mary’s life. Mary is now a Middle School math teacher and she’s excelling. She’s making a difference in children’s lives, every single day. Christ is redeeming her past and the light of Christ is shining brightly through Mary’s life. Romans 8 ends with these words, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” With the love of Christ, we are all “More than conquerors.” Thank God for Christ and his redeeming, life-changing love! May God bless Mary, Jake, Chesney, and Jarvis, and may God bless our Bethel Church Family. Wishing you the love and peace of Christ.