A Cause and An Invitation

I knew that my mother-in-law was adopted from a Baptist Children’s Home in Oklahoma as an eleven-year-old little girl.  I had heard a handful of fragmented pieces of her story from Dr. Maddox or Jeremiah–but never from her.  It is not her identity any more, God has delivered her from that, but tonight, as I read her story for the first time, I was moved beyond words that the wonderful, loving mother and grandmother that I know has traveled such a heart-breaking road.  I sit here stunned, without good words to express the ache I feel for her in my heart.  The thought of Pace, or Mary Aplin, or Jay Paul facing the things she faced…  Ohhh, my heart. 

Thirty-something years ago, Mrs. Linda was asked to give her testimony to 500 women at a conference, and she wasn’t sure if she could do it…  Jay (Dr. Maddox), encouraged her to try writing her story in third person–to see if that would make it easier.  Below, is what she wrote.  I told her I would edit it and make it shorter for the blog, but I can’t bear to tamper with a single word.  

This weekend, the Maddox family, and many other supporters, are having a trail ride and farm festival to raise money for the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home.  What a great way to enjoy a wholesome day with your own family while also helping to raise support for other children, like Mrs. Linda, who are waiting for God to bring them a family.  The rest of this blog are Mrs. Linda’s words:

I begin by relating a story of about an eight year old girl whose name is Lisa. The story began
in 1957.

One snowy day in Colorado, Lisa kissed her youngest brother and sister goodbye and got on the
bus for school. Jimmy and Jennie, the twins, waved until the bus was almost out of sight. They
were so amusing sometimes because they did everything alike. Smiling to herself, Lisa began to
plan some games they could play together. It might even be fun to have Rick, Larry and Leslie
join for a game of hide-n-seek, she thought. Mama had given her a favorite responsibility of baby
sitting each day after school while she prepared the dinner. Lisa felt a lot of pride because of this
responsibility. After all, she was just a young girl.

After school that day, Lisa eagerly rushed home to begin playing with the other five children,
but the wood heated home was cold and quiet. The cloudy day gave a dark, eerie appearance to
the rooms. There was no chatter or laughter, only a soft sob coming from her mother’s bedroom.
Rushing in, she saw the little form of Jimmy propped high in the bed. “Mommy, what is wrong
with Jimmy? Why can’t he sit up? He looks white, mama. Why didn’t he run to kiss me like he
always does when I come home?” Jimmy died later that night of walking pneumonia and Lisa
could not understand his death. “Why do I feel empty? He’s okay – I know he will come home

Spending most of her time after school sitting under a large oak tree not far from home, Lisa
stared at the expanse of blue sky and imagined the shape of Jimmy’s face in the clouds. “Lisa,”
he would say, “don’t be sad. You will see me again.” Never realizing there was a God, she
did have a feeling that some higher, mysterious person lived in the heavens. So often, she sat
wishing that one of the fluffy, white clouds would bring Jimmy back home, but he never came.

Life was never very happy after that experience. Lisa began to sense the pain in her mother’s
face, to hear her father curse her mother. Sometimes “he would beat mama”, after finally coming
home intoxicated – his senses dulled and his humor spoiled by alcohol. “Mama, you are so pretty and kind. Why does daddy hurt you?”

Mama often sat by the younger children’s beds singing lullabies softly to sooth them to sleep.
Watching and listening, Lisa’s imagination painted pictures of her mother in long, pretty
dresses. “Mama”, she would ask, “why don’t you have pretty clothes like the other ladies wear?”
Mother’s answer would always be, “I really don’t need nice clothes.”

Really special times were Mama’s days of baking bread. She often allowed Lisa to help. After it
was baked, Lisa, Larry, Leslie, Rick and Jennie would be given rolls with lots of butter, and hot
tea, thick with cream and sugar. That was the extent and depth of family happiness.

Weeks and months passed in their lives, and the family began a series of moves with the eventual destination being Oklahoma. The father drank heavily, so most of his adequate salary was never seen. Family members often subsisted on nothing more than powdered milk and brown beans. It was difficult for Lisa to attend school because she was so hungry. School days were often missed due to illness. Many other days, Lisa would walk the mile to town and go through bar after bar searching for her father, hoping that he would come home with food, or give her money to buy groceries.

The mother was pregnant again. Lisa secretly worried, “I think Mama is sick – probably because
she gives her food to the other children.” Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted when she felt
daddy picking her up to give one of his rare and loving hugs. Sometimes, the gift of a quarter
would follow, but such occasions came only when he was sober. Precious moments seemed to
give the family hope.

Then, one December, a few days prior to Christmas and only three months before Lisa would
be ten years old, the father and mother left home in an ambulance. Lisa sensed an uneasiness –
something was wrong. To her amazement, a horrible sight was left staring her in the face. “Why
is there so much blood on the bed”, she asked herself. She had not seen it before because daddy had awakened her and said to run as fast as possible to use the neighbor’s telephone to call an ambulance. How would she explain this to the other crying children? Though she feared the worst, she still must tell them that everything will be alright. “Jennie, please don’t cry. Mama will come home soon. Let’s go back to bed now.”

Several days of Lisa mothering the four children passed before the father finally came home.
The twenty-eight year old mother had delivered a boy who died moments later. Some days
later, “Mama, died too.” The large, pink Christmas tree and presents that a local church had
earlier delivered, were left sitting in the corner of the living room – unopened and ignored. You
see, all that Lisa had known of hope and love was gone. Shattered, she realized that nothing in
the world mattered anymore except her brothers and sister. “Rick, Larry, Leslie, and Jennie, I
promise I won’t let anybody take you away. I’ll take care of you.”

Lisa did live alone for several weeks acting as a mother to her family. The father rarely came
home and one devastating thing after another happened. Then one cold, snowy morning, the door of their apartment opened to a neatly dressed woman and two men. The intruders said they were from the Welfare Department. Lisa sensed what that meant, so she was quick to show each room, how clean and neat they were and also how well-groomed the children were kept. In spite of the attempts to distract, the visitors discovered the bare cupboards and the empty refrigerator. Soon afterwards, the children were placed in a foster home. One month later, they were placed in separate homes. Lisa and Rick were sent to a Children’s Home in Oklahoma City, and Larry and Leslie were sent to still different foster homes. No one knew what happened to Jennie.

During her stay at the Children’s Home, Lisa fought with the will to live and the will to die. It
seemed that no one cared. “I feel so lonely and out of place. I don’t matter to anyone.” She began to consider what her Aunt had meant when she had told her at the funeral that her mother had become a Christian just before dying. Lisa had felt a surge of hope, though she didn’t know what a Christian was supposed to be. She wondered, “Will I ever become a Christian? Will I get to go live with mama?”

Just when her will to die seemed to have won, Lisa’s Sunday School teacher from the Children’s
Home told her how to become a Christian, too. The world of Christianity was a baffling idea.
She had never known what it could mean to be “filled up” with love and worth. The aching
loneliness, the desire to die, was finally gone.

Little by little, life changed before her. Within the same month of her having become a Christian,
a couple with no children visited the Home and chose Rick and Lisa to take as their son and

Many of you may have guessed that the story I just told is the story that I wrote about my own
life. Your assumption is right. I am Lisa. I wanted to draw a vivid picture of the past so that you
could see just how much God has done for me – how He has changed my life completely. You
know, the real change began when I asked Jesus to come into my heart. At that moment, God
became my Father. At last, I belonged to someone who cared about me:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become CHILDREN of
God, even to those who believe in his name.” John 1:12

At first, when talking to the Sunday School teacher, it was difficult for me to comprehend that
salvation was a free gift. It has always been my nature to try to earn love, friendship, money, etc.
Ms. Malone showed me the scripture, Ephesians 2: 8,9 and it spoke clearly to me:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is
the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”

As a non Christian, I was ignorant of spiritual things; I did not believe in God or obey Him.
Love for self and others was unknown. I once lived only two blocks from a church and we were
frequently recipients of baskets, but I had never had anyone tell me about Jesus. I had feelings
of worry, discouragement, frustration, aimlessness and loneliness. They crowded my heart and
mind. Most of all, I hated myself; I wanted to die.

In contrast, the day I became a Christian, I actually felt like I was gaining a new life. I began
feeling joy and peace that I had never known. Love, self-worth and dependence on God healed
the scars from the past. God began to lead me into the abundant life.

My adoptive father pastored a church. He and my mother taught Rick and me more about
God’s love and they gave us a wonderful home life. There was nothing I ever wanted or needed
they didn’t try to give. Those days in my new home were beautiful, but they were not without
heartache. It took much understanding from my new parents and help from God to make those
years happy. I am sure that we sometimes made life almost unbearable for them.

Although unattractive to most people because of our unpleasant background, and because we
were not newborn babies, this couple saw Rick and me and loved us as we were. We were,
by most standards, unlovely, unworthy, and undesirable, yet they adopted us because they saw potential. The majority of people today want to adopt children who are young, healthy, pretty and not deformed in some way. I have since learned that God does not look on the outside appearance to determine our worth as a person. He loves and adopts the healthy and the deformed. He is no respecter of persons. All He asks in return is that we love Him, and turn our lives over to Him.

I had a lot of growing up to do. I can remember being so shy that I would slip out the back door
of the church and sit in the car until my parents were ready to leave. Someone said shyness was a sin – selfishness. I knew God didn’t want a Christian to be selfish.

As the years passed with my new family, I would find myself secretly recalling experiences
that God had used to help me mature as a Christian and others to help me believe that I was
worthwhile and loved, just because I was ME. I would like to share with you just a few of the
opportunities God used in helping me gain self-confidence.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I began to feel the urge to sing. My mom had given
me a series of piano lessons, so I felt ready to tackle it. Excited about the idea, my parents
invited a voice teacher to dinner and afterwards to hear me sing. Upon finishing my first solo,
all three adults walked into the den. Though quietly spoken, I overheard, “She can’t carry a tune,
and she hardly sings above a whisper. With training, she might be okay in a choir.” You can’t
imagine how disillusioned I was. I slowly walked to my bedroom and got down on my knees
and prayed a prayer something like this, “Father, You know my desire to sing, but I don’t have
the confidence to even make a try at it. If you will help me, I promise to always us my voice for

I first began this new venture by taking voice instructions from the church music director.
During discouraging times (which were many) God would give me a boost. Consequently,
I was privileged to have the lead in the high school musical and to do well in state vocal
contests during my junior and senior years. As graduation neared, I wondered how I could ever
afford to go to college. During final exam week, I received an invitation from a professor at
William Jewell College to visit the school and audition for a music scholarship. I was awarded
a vocal scholarship so funds were provided for attendance. However, my second year of
college approached and I needed more money than the scholarship allowed. While questioning
its source, I received a letter from my Kansas hometown inviting me to participate in the
preliminaries to the Ms. Kansas pageant. If I won, the prize money would be just enough to pay
for the tuition. After deliberating and praying a lot, I was given the insight to realize that this
would also be an excellent means of professing my love and gratitude for Christ to the other
participants. I became the first Ms. Independence and enjoyed spending most of the year publicly singing and telling groups about what God and done for me.

Sometimes, blessings were just poured out on me, and I would sit wondering why. I really
questioned how I deserved the honor of being selected Homecoming Queen by the Student Body of William Jewell College. Then, I knew that it was just another way God was using to rebuild my self-esteem that had been shattered in my youth.

I met my husband, Jay, in college. We couldn’t have made a better match if we had planned it ourselves. He’s disorganized and I’m organized. He is the most loving person that I know and God gave him to me to love me and for me to love. He has been one of the greatest influences in helping me gain self-confidence. We feel that our relationship is really a beautiful one because we share so many common interests and feelings and because we share the Lord. From our love God gave us our greatest miracle, two babies, a sweet and healthy daughter and son. Children are very precious, but Ashley and J.J. are extra special because I never had a doll to play with as a young child. Now, God has given me something infinitely more precious than any doll could ever be – my children.

You remember that earlier in the story I mentioned that I objected to having the family separated
after mother’s death. However, I had no control over the circumstances, but fortunately Rick
and I were adopted together. I would like to share still another happy note. After eleven years
of separation, Rick and I received the surprise of resuming a relationship with our other two
brothers, Larry and Leslie. Now, we are all Christians and very much devoted to each other.

In many ways, I am still that young girl, Lisa. Recordings from the past continuously try to
make me feel worthless, lonely, unloved, and insecure. There is one important statement I can
make and that is that Christ has a purpose for my life in spite of and because of these difficult

In spite of the storminess of the early years, the day I turned my life over to God, he began to
show me a happy and purposeful reason for living. Because of the past, I believe I perhaps have
more sensitivity to the misfortune of others and to the financial and family problems of others.
I believe that I can more readily love people because I now have the ability to recognize their
personal needs. I feel that I am a better mother because I know what it means to a child to have
a loving mother and what it means to have no mother at all. I am a more understanding wife
because I have a desire for a meaningful relationship. But most of all, I am a more confident and
secure person who knows that every day God is teaching me through experiences that He loves
me, needs me and thinks I am worthwhile as a person. I think that each of us would be wise to
remember that just because trouble comes, it does not mean we are not in the Lord’s will. Many
times, he uses or allows a problem in order to solve a problem. He wants to teach us something
if only we will respond by trusting in His love and concern for us. I would like to challenge you
to try to be creative by thinking of your own situation as a unique opportunity for you to learn
from God. How much you are able to learn depends upon your own attitude.

One particular dimension in my life that God has shown me to be beneficial is running. As silly
as it may sound, I like myself better because it is a discipline that I accomplish that is difficult.
If I can do something as taxing as running 5-6 miles a day, then other circumstances don’t seem
as rough. Also, it is my favorite time to relax and spend prime time talking to God. As I return
home, I usually have a new physical and spiritual energy.

I am relatively certain that many of you have at times had some of these same feelings of
depression, loneliness, insecurity, and self-pity that I have had, and perhaps you have not even
known hardship in your life. You know, Satan uses these devices to turn us away from looking
face to face with the love of God. Sometimes he tries to convince me that I am “no good”,
and then I remember that God has given me enough positive experiences to recall and say to myself, “Look, Linda, why are you doubting yourself as a person? You are only doubting God’s ability to work through you.”

I am positive that God allowed the experiences I related to make evident to me my self-worth
and purpose in life. He knew that I needed to be convinced that I was a worthwhile person before
He could ever use me. I see every event in life now as a chance to learn from God, and it is very exciting.

Yes, I am Lisa in reality, but I have peace and happiness in my heart because I have faith in what God can do through me because he loves me and has shown me His love by making me into a better person – one He can use.

“For we know that in all things God works for good with those who love Him, those
whom He has called according to His purpose.” Rom. 8:28

Whoever thought I would someday give my life story. Actually, the thought never occurred to
me but evidently God had different plans. There is much more I could tell you but I am really
thrilled to have the chance to share the wonderful changes Jesus has brought into my life.

I would like to ask you to take a few moments to reflect. Will you imagine just for a minute
that you are a young, homely child. You are standing in line in an orphanage, hoping that one
of the couples who looks at you will not just pass you by again, but will see you as a needy,
little person who craves love and security. However, everyone who sees you sort of smiles
and quickly strolls down the line to eventually choose some other little girl to take home as a
daughter. You are left cowering and feeling that you just don’t have a place in this world. No one
cares for you or loves you. No one wants to be your daddy.

I once experienced such feelings as people passed by, but the most beautiful person of all came
one day, looked at me and said, “I want to be your Father. You no longer have to be afraid if
you’ll just trust me to take care of you.” That person was God himself.

The Bible says that our very best is as filthy rags in the sight of God:

“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness as filthy rags; and we all
fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6

One day I let Jesus into my heart and he gave my life a purpose. Just as He invited me, he may
be asking you to allow him to become your Savior.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hears my voice, and opens the door,
I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with Me.” Rev. 3:20

“For I am certain that nothing can separate us from His love: neither death nor life;
angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers; neither the present nor the future; neither
the world above nor the world below – there is nothing in all creation that will ever
separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This has been my life so far, encompassing even more excitement and more challenges, and even two more children. I am a product of the Oklahoma Baptist Children’s Home and because people cared, I was given a new life. That is one reason why having this Trail Ride Event to benefit the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home is dear to my heart. A person might never see exactly how a child is affected. Be assured, children’s lives are changed, and they in turn, can change lives too.

Many times I have told my children that because God changed history and began a new page
with my life, they each have a great responsibility to live up to with their lives. I was given a
chance in life, and I was made accountable to make the right or wrong choices. Life has a
God-given purpose and we are accountable to God as to what we do with it. We can all help
needy children find life by helping them have a chance. It is done through giving of ourselves
and our resources.

For more details you can go to themaddoxfarm.com  I hope to see you on Saturday!

12 Responses to “A Cause and An Invitation”

  1. Emily says:

    Tears! What a lovely story of God’s redemption! Will be praying for this wonderful weekend!

  2. Konie says:

    Aawwwww….. Sweet Linda:) Abby, thanks so much for sharing her story:) Even when she didn’t know God was holding her up ( as a child caring for her siblings , etc) He was:) And as she began to know Him , she could look back and see. What an inspirational journey of her precious life! WOW WOW WOW…….sweet Linda…..and she has never stopped serving……….:) I feel blessed to now have her in my life:)

  3. Gina says:

    Wow. What a beautiful story. I just started reading in Job this morning. How fitting to read your mother-in-law’s testimony today. Thanks for sharing it. 🙂

  4. Nancy says:

    Wow…what an amazing testimony & GOD BLESS your mother-in-law!!
    I love the Maddox Farm website, also … I wish we lived closer & my sister & I could bring our kids.

  5. Emily says:

    Wow. “…why are you doubting yourself as a person? You are only doubting God’s ability to work through you.” I love that! So simple and so true. What a special lady.

  6. lori says:

    Thank you for sharing Linda’s story. It makes me think of how God makes beauty from ashes. It touches me and how you never know what a person has gone thru. Need to write down my testimony to share with jr highers this week and this encouraged me.

  7. Mary Morriss says:

    Linda, that is the most moving story I have ever read. I always knew you were special and now I understand why. You are a precious gift of God to all those who know you. You truly are a remarkable woman. Love, Mary Morriss

  8. Gail Mitchell says:

    Abby, Back in 1987 Linda, came into the store— that I was the manager of. She shared the above story with me and I have never forgotten it! I am so thrilled that you honored her by sharing this Post with the public. I believe she started my “thinking” about kindness and how to be a better mother via her life story. I have always given thanks to God for allowing her to share that with me. Bless you both.

  9. Katie says:


    precious, so very precious. Thank you for not editing it. Praise God! Praise God! To God be the Glory!

  10. Kelly says:

    Thanks so much for supporting the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home. My mother-in-law grew up there when it was in Troy b/c her mother died when they (my MIL and her 3 siblings) were young and their father was unable to care for them himself. A cause near and dear to my family’s heart as well.

  11. Allison says:


    How blessed I am to have read your mother in law’s testimony! I love how the Lord uses the most painful life experiences and redeems and restores. Oh, how He is Good.

    This is one of my favorite parts:

    “But most of all, I am a more confident and
    secure person who knows that every day God is teaching me through experiences that He loves
    me, needs me and thinks I am worthwhile as a person. I think that each of us would be wise to
    remember that just because trouble comes, it does not mean we are not in the Lord’s will. Many
    times, he uses or allows a problem in order to solve a problem. He wants to teach us something
    if only we will respond by trusting in His love and concern for us. I would like to challenge you
    to try to be creative by thinking of your own situation as a unique opportunity for you to learn
    from God. How much you are able to learn depends upon your own attitude.”

    Thank you, Mrs. Maddox for sharing your heart for the Lord. You are one of His Vessels. You are treasured.

    Love in Christ,

    P.S. Abby, I wrote you an email a few months back to thank you for writing about your relationship with your hubby. A few close family members have had some “stuff” and they all went to Gordon’s counseling center. Three of my direct family members lives have changed because of your vulnerability. And I thank you. Thank you. Thank you. He is SO Good:)

  12. Debbie Ingram Ward says:

    Thanks for referring me to this story and I appreciate the time you and Dr. Maddox spent with me on Tuesday, Linda. Your story is a blessing and an inspiration. Now…. what am I to write?!

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