Happy Birthday Darrell!

Today is my brother, Darrell’s, 29th birthday! I have two brothers, Darrell and Rusty, both younger than me. Darrell is the middle child of our family. Growing up I had a love/hate relationship with both of my brothers – meaning sometimes I loved them and sometimes I didn’t. (I really never hated them – that’s much too strong of a word.) But no matter how irritated I would get with them, if anyone messed with them, or if they needed me for anything, I would be there in a second.

Darrell’s life is a testament to the amazing, transforming work of God’s grace. In his late teens, he got involved in alcohol and drugs. At that time, our paths didn’t cross very often, and when they did, it was awkward at best. I always prayed for God to bring him out of that lifestyle, but I also always prayed that God would protect him. Darrell had a couple of run-ins with law enforcement (that’s part of the reason our relationship was so strained – I was married to a police officer!) and he had a gun pulled on him a couple of times by dealers or buyers who didn’t like what he had to offer. But he was never jailed and he was never harmed.

Until one night he was arrested for stealing a car for a joy-ride. He was high on something at the time and later told me, “I felt invincible and invisible. Nobody could see me, and if they did, they wouldn’t stop me.” Well, reality hit him when he was arrested that night for grand theft auto – a felony. I can’t remember if he called and told me or if my mom told me. (the weird thing is that I had had a dream not too long before that about Darrell stealing a car and getting arrested for it.) I told mom I wanted to be with her at his court date. There were 2 or 3 court dates, but in the end, he only had to pay a fine, do some community service, and be on probation for a couple of years. He had been so cooperative with the police after his arrest, that the arresting officer actually testified in court to ask for leniency for Darrell! The other reason he was able to get off so light was because it was his first offense. Well, I praised God for that and thought this was the wake-up call he needed. However, Darrell later told me that, “At that point my eyes were opened, but I was still headed down the same path.”

Finally, on New Year’s Eve 1999, I was at church for a candlelight service when Darrell came to my mind so strongly. I started praying my usual prayer for him – save him, but don’t hurt him – when God clearly spoke to me and said, “If you want Me to save him, you’re going to have to stop asking for his protection. Allow me to do what needs to be done to get his attention.” Well, that scared me a lot because I knew what Darrell “deserved”. But I also knew that God had spoken to me, and that He wouldn’t allow unnecessary harm to come to him. So I prayed and said, “Lord, right now I am giving you permission to do whatever it takes to get Darrell’s attention and to turn his life around. Just please don’t take his life – but anything short of that that You need to do, please do.” (Yes, I am aware that God doesn’t need my permission for anything, but sometimes He gives us exactly what we ask for – in my case, Darrell’s protection.)

So, the service ended and a couple of friends and I picked up some pizza and took it to my house to play games, hang out, and bring in the new year. Just at the stroke of midnight, my phone rang. It was one of Darrell’s friends calling to tell me he had been arrested again – this time for a failure to appear warrant. Unlike last time, though, when the combination of friends and parents were able to bail him out immediately, there was no one around. His friends were too drunk to care. Both of our parents were out of town, and besides that the banks were closed. Darrell ended up spending 4-5 days in a Hueytown jail because of a misdemeanor. Where before he had committed a felony and walked away. God was letting Darrell know right away that this was His wake-up call. Darrell also had a bad head cold at the time, which made his situation that much more miserable. He called me later that night (I was up because I couldn’t sleep once I heard he was in jail), and I had never heard him so broken and miserable. On Sunday we went to see him, which was a horrible thing, to see my brother behind bars. On Tuesday, he was finally released on bail with a scheduled court date to pay off the fines. Darrell came out of that cell a changed person! He immediately quit the drugs, shortly thereafter quit smoking, started going to church (at a place that used to be called the Crossroads Community Church but now is the Downtown Church), and got a job. He gave his life completely over to God! As he describes it, “After the first arrest, my eyes were open but I was still headed the same direction. After the second arrest, God picked me up and made me do a 180.” Hallelujah!

Today, 8 years later, Darrell is a sold out God-follower. He has been instrumental in bringing some of his friends from that former lifestyle to Christ by inviting them to church and being a consistent testimony of God’s amazing grace. The last 8 years have not been easy on him. He’s been through the ordeal of our dad’s heart attack and later his stroke, and a couple of years ago he suffered one of the biggest heartaches of his life. But through all of it, he never doubted God’s faithfulness and kept his eyes on Him during the long and torturous storm. God brought him through that, too. Today he is a hard-working man with a God-given passion for working with young teenagers, a beloved uncle to my kids, a caring son to his parents – especially to our dad who is now disabled, and he is a brother whom I admire and respect. He’s also the funniest person I know. And he is getting married in September to a wonderful, sweet, and godly girl. Only God could have done such a marvelous transformation. Glory to God!!

Darrell, I’m so proud of you. You have been so faithful in your walk with God and trusting Him always. You have been a help to me and an encouragement to me so many times. I am thrilled for you to be marrying such an awesome girl as Cindy, and I pray God will bless the both of you as you seek Him together. Happy Birthday, little brother. I love you!
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