Difference Maker

Do you find “forks in the road” of your life? When I look back, there were several for me and I am sure there are more still to come. Some of those forks involved “difference makers!”, people who came alongside me and made a positive impact. Some forks included people who were negative. I learned quickly that I didn’t want to be around them but I did learn from them. Mostly I learned what I didn’t want to be like or to not make the same choices they made.

But to focus on the positive….the people who I know I will see in heaven one day and I will walk up to them and tell them one of several things:
“I am here because of you!”
“I was better because you taught me this!”
“Because of you I made a different choice!”
“Because of you I took a different path!”
Maybe you would say something similar to someone when you reach heaven. Hopefully there will be people who have been “difference makers” in your life that you will want to thank!

As I have headed into the Back 9, and we have emptied our nest, I’ve had some extra time to reflect. Some redirection has occurred in my life due to changes in my main job shifting away from cooking, driving, nurturing, teaching, volunteering, etc. All the things that come with raising children. The Lord has brought to mind many people who have been “difference makers in my life” and the people who have made a difference to our kids–from friends to school teachers to Sunday school teachers to coaches and neighbors! Our family has been extremely blessed by God to have real “difference makers” placed in our lives. People who have gone out of their way to invest, encourage, serve, pray, and love! God has prompted me to “Pay it forward!”

I have loved the story that once again my children made sure I knew about. If my memory serves me correctly, it happened last summer at a Chick-fil-a restaurant. A customer in the drive-thru line bought a meal for the people coming behind them. Those people in turn bought the meal for the people coming behind them, and it kept going for almost the entire day. It made national news and was a very inspiring story of strangers being nice to strangers. I love those kinds of stories. Or the story of a very wealthy man who left enormous tips at restaurants in the last year. It too made national news. I love it.

What I really love is that we all have an opportunity to be “difference makers” in someone’s life. We just have to step outside of ourselves and realize the impact our lives can have on the lives of others. I have to recount a story of a friend named Vanessa and one named Kelly! It is a story worth sharing. In the summer of 2011 I was in Athens learning the town and helping Collins prepare to move and go to school at UGA. I had three different people, including a former head football coach at UGA, tell me I should meet Vanessa Miller. I was told she lived in Athens and that I would just love her. Two of the individuals said…”You remind me of her.”

At the time I didn’t have any clue of the incredible compliment they were paying me. I have learned to be very sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s promptings and, of course, I am not a believer in coincidences. I valued these three people and absolutely realized this was something God wanted me to do sooner than later…so I called Vanessa, who had not a clue who I was. I told her that three different people had said we should meet and asked her if we could meet for lunch.

Three years later, Vanessa, for lack of a better word, has turned out to be an angel sent directly from God…to minister to our daughter Collins in some of the most challenging times of her life. Vanessa is not only a Difference maker in Collins’ life, but in the lives of countless people. She is a foster mom and a single parent. Little did I know when I made that date with Vanessa that she would eventually be a vital and significant part of Collins’ college experience. Most kids don’t walk away from college with this kind of experience.

When Collins does graduate from UGA next year, she will walk away having spent time with one of the most Godly difference makers she has ever known, Vanessa! I am convinced God knew the “fire storm” Collins would walk through…He, in advance, provided and put into place… someone who has tremendously impacted Collins’ life in Athens.

Collins originally picked a Coach, Kelly Hester at UGA, whom she thought would be her mentor while at UGA. Kelly was only there for Collins’ first year at UGA. She didn’t stop mentoring Collins after she left UGA; their relationship only grew stronger. I have noticed that Collins is a great judge of people. Kelly’s leaving UGA, where she was a former athlete and All-American….didn’t stop her from maintaining her commitment to Collins and being there for her.

Point being…..we all have a role, especially if we have a relationship with Christ, to reach out and help those who God places in our paths. Even when God redirects our paths, HE demonstrates through other believers that HE is bigger than what Man’s plans are. HE orchestrates our lives, even if He sees and knows of storms in our future. One of the greatest things we can decide to be is a “difference maker” in someone else’s life. I am convinced because of the significant role both Vanessa and Kelly have played in Collins’ life, Collins will learn from their example and “pay it forward.”

A few things I would encourage you to do…..first, read the story of the Good Samaritan in the Bible, Luke 10:25-37. I’ll go ahead and give away the ending. Jesus tells the experts in law a story of an injured man and then asks, “‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” Second, ask the Lord to show you opportunities to invest in, make a difference to, minister to, reach out to others….to “pay it forward.”

I would say the true neighbor in the Good Samaritan story was a “DIFFERENCE MAKER.” Go and make a difference in someone’s life today!

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