HI! This is Rachel, and I’d like to share a bit of my testimony today. Seeing lots of my friends posting about being in Louisville, and reflecting on all my trips there has been on my heart and I’ve wanted to share.
Louisville about 16 years ago was the biggest turning point in my life and my walk with God. I would categorize that specific show as my rock bottom. My family was very immersed in the Shorthorn open show circuit and I particularly was very into a scene that included very heavy drinking, partying, and pressure for me to look a certain way and weigh a certain amount to attract judges, customers, or potential boyfriends. I saw things done to cattle that I knew was wrong, I overheard constant judge manipulation, nonstop scheming, rampant cheating, and more. Anyone who knew me during this time can easily remember this Rachel. I don’t have to tell you, you saw me first hand. And though I had a spray tan, perfectly straightened bleached blonde hair and weighed 120 pounds, I was flat ugly.
It was at that particular show that I said to myself, this is enough. I don’t want to do this anymore.
I didn’t know where to start and I didn’t have a lot of people in my life who I could talk to about this. My first idea was to try listening to Christian radio. I had been seeing the billboards and bumper stickers so I tuned it to KSBJ and said this is all I’m listening to, cold turkey. That made a giant difference. Just the positive message all day can really help turn your head around. A person I loved very dearly threw a giant hissy fit and didn’t want to ride in my car because he said he didn’t want to listen to that Christian crap. But I kept listening.
The second thing I did is told myself I’m going to be at the Abell Street Church of Christ anytime the doors are open. Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday nights. This too was hard, because the people I normally hung out with would get mad when I’d leave whatever we were doing around 6:30 to go to church. They made fun of me, and they’d say things like “Oh you went on Sunday morning, you’re covered for the week.” But I kept going.
My grandparents Sloan and Mollie Williams were faithful members at the church, and so I would sit by them every time. They, on the other hand, were so happy I was there. After church, we started doing things like going to get an ice cream at Dairy Queen. It was the complete and total opposite of the crowd I’d been in, but it was fun in its own way.
On the rare occasion my grandparents missed, I’d sit by an older gentleman named Bill Edwards. Sometimes when the crowd was light, Mr. Edwards would lead the singing. One Wednesday night, when we were sitting together, he got up to lead a song. He called out the number for “How Great Thou Art.” He got through the first verse, but he couldn’t get through the last verse. He got choked up and had to stop. And he just kinda smiled and said to the very small crowd “God has just been so good to me.”
When he came and sat back down beside me, he gave me a little side hug. I don’t know what was on his mind, but obviously something was, and that song hit him. And at that moment I said to myself, “That’s the kind of faith I need.” That’s the goal.
I learned that all the bad and embarrassing things I had been doing were wrong, but fixable. I realized that there was a reason I was pushing 30 and never able to have a successful relationship: no one of high character would want to be with someone like me for any long term relationship. I turned from my old ways and turned everything over to God. My very specific prayer during that time was, ‘Lord, help me become a woman that a good man would want to marry.” I tried to model my behavior after my grandmothers, and other very respectable women at that church. I looked at the way they dressed, the way they acted, the kindness they showed to others. I started trying to make that my goal. And I’m not at that level, but they gave me something to aspire to.
It wasn’t too long after that that I met Brandon. He wasn’t perfect either but he was trying to do better, just like me. We started dating but we kept God at the center of our relationship. Not too long after that we got married. And then not too long after that, God blessed us with Mollie, then Annie, and this wonderful life we now have. It hasn’t been easy but any means, but, without a doubt, God has never let us down and he’s always been with us no matter what we went through.
Last Sunday at church, we sang “How Great Thou Art.” I couldn’t get through the song. Actually I couldn’t even start singing it. I stood there thinking, it’s November, it’s about time for Louisville – some people are probably already there. I remembered the person I was then, and the person I am now.
I started thinking of all the girls getting ready for that show who may be in the same boat I was in and prayed, God, please help them. Please let them know that there’s something more than trying to look and act a certain way or do certain things so you can win a show or find a boyfriend who’s a big name in the stock show world.
I thought of Mr. Bill Edwards, and his faith. I looked at my husband and two daughters and where I was 16 years ago, and where I am today. Not perfect, but trying. And I stood there with tears rolling down my face, I thought “My God, how great thou art.”
If this message hits you, I want you to know there is a better way, and a better life, and that no matter what your past looks like, or what today looks like, God is ready to welcome you with open arms, and there is a community of lots and lots of other stock show people out there who are ready to love and support you with open arms too. Take that first step, and begin a new life. The best is yet to come!