Indian Life Newspaper -

Grace by Which I Stand

 

Last updated 10/5/2017 at 2:01pm

Beverly Thomas, Facebook

Beverly Thomas's life was shattered when her mother died. It took a baby to help her remember her mother's teachings and return to her Savior, Jesus Christ.

My life story begins in a small log house in the middle of Berens River, a remote First Nation community on the southeast shore of Lake Winnipeg on June 3, 1962.

My story actually started with my mother Lilly MacDonald Everett who became a follower of Jesus when she was 18. She was a great prayer warrior who gave powerful prophetic words.

She married my father, Tashie Everett, and had nine children but miscarried three. Five of those children were born before me.

My mother told me it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon at approximately one when I came into this world. My mother had no intention of going to the hospital to give birth to me. A midwife had delivered my older sister. She had not done this intentionally but because there was no time for her to be taken to the hospital. She had thought my sister would not be born for a couple of more months. She was wrong, but she must have felt the experience was much better than the ones she had at the hospital, because she decided that I would be born at home.

My mother was in labor and everything was going accordingly. The midwife had everything ready: the blankets, the water, a cutting instrument, and whatever else is used in a home delivery. I was born, delivered naturally. Everything seemed to go well until the midwife noticed that I didn't cry. They wait a bit and realize I wasn't crying because I wasn't breathing.

My mother started crying out to God, and the midwife moved toward the window, knelt, and together they cried out to God. Within a matter of time whether it was seconds or minutes I let out a strong cry.

I did well for a couple of days, and then I started turning yellow. My mother told me years later that she was still bedridden at that time but received a message from a man. This man said one early morning in June 1962, he heard God telling him to pray for a woman who just had a baby a few days earlier. Immediately he told his wife that he believed the Lord wanted him to go and pray for my mom and me. The man and wife got ready and started the long walk to my parents' home.

When they arrived and saw me, I was yellow. The man, his wife, and my mother started praying. My mother said my skin color was instantly restored to my normal, pale color instead of yellow. From that day the man my mother called a "man of God" gave me the nickname Oshawish which means yellow in Ojibwe.

When I was a child, my mother would share these stories with me, but I never understood the significance. It wasn't until I came to know Jesus and began to understand the call on my life that these events became important. There was a reason why these things happened and a reason why I survived. Someone wanted me dead, but someone greater had His hand upon me for a reason. I had a purpose and a reason to be alive here on this earth for such a time as this.

Growing up, I never felt different than other people. I thought the things happening were normal. I thought everybody knew and believed in Creator God. I thought everyone went to church and Sunday school and prayed.

I was sheltered by my mother and spent all my time with her. I played outside the house only when my mother was hanging up clothes or cleaning the yard.

When I was three years old, my family faced a major tragedy. My oldest brother Tashie Everett, Junior, drowned. He was only 23 years old. He was in the tug boat named the Suzanne E that sank on September 24, 1965. It was a horrible lake disaster, and nine people died.

My brother's body was never found, but my mom found comfort from this Bible verse: "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works" (Revelation 20:13, KJV).

Moving Downtown

When I was five years old my parents moved to a small apartment in downtown Winnipeg, and I started school that year.

We normally stayed at home when I wasn't at school, but sometimes we went out shopping or to Central Park. Other times we went to the Salvation Army church with my aunt Grace. It was nice as they would have a short service, and afterwards, they would give us a bag of food and bread.

We lived at that apartment for a year, and then we moved to Chalmers Avenue. This was where I began to talk to someone. I don't know when it started or any other conversations, but I have one memory of this person talking to me. I was about five years old.

It was early one morning, probably a Saturday because my mom and my siblings were all sleeping. I woke up as the sun was rising. I was sleeping with my mom and my sister Christina. My sister Violet was on the other bed, and my brother Harry was sleeping upstairs.

A voice spoke to me and told me what was going to happen to my mom. The voice was not an audible voice, but it seemed to come from within and I understood it. He was telling me my mom was going to die. I argued with the voice. I am not sure how long this discussion lasted, but after this I fell back to sleep. I never thought of this conversation until years later after I became a Christian.

As I can recall my childhood was good. My dad worked on the winter road as a boss. He had worked there since he was young. He was gone through the winter. My mom worked from home as a foster parent, she kept patients, and she also kept students.

Our home was always full. Even when there were no foster children, patients, and students, my mom always had someone living with us. I loved being at home; it was so nice. School, on the other hand, was horrible.

My teacher in grade one was terrible. She used to say racist things to me every day and made a point of embarrassing and humiliating me.

Most of the children were all right; they never said or did anything bad to me-except three white girls. Every recess they would make fun of the way I dressed or the way I looked and talked.

One time, for no reason, they took my hands and scraped my knuckles on the brick wall outside the school. My hands were burning, red, and they hurt. Nobody noticed or cared. I never told anyone, including my mom or my family. I hid my hands when I went home.

I remember feeling ashamed at what happened. But I had this special little friend named Jimmy who would walk me to the big school and wait with me until my siblings came out. He used to hold my hand and say I was his girlfriend. I found that nice. I suppose it was like that because there is always a balance in life. A lot of things happened but I never questioned anything. I just accepted the good with the bad.

I remember that when I was five years old, my dad and oldest brother came home drunk. We lived in a very small apartment. My dad and brother were fighting, and I guess my brother gave my dad a bloody nose.

When I saw that blood I thought my dad was going to die, and I started to cry. When my mother saw how scared I was, she yelled at them to stop fighting, and they did. This affected me so badly that until I was around 19 or 20, every time I saw blood I would feel faint or cry.

My mother was the best mother I ever met, but she was too protective of her children. We were not allowed to go out except with strict conditions. One of the only times we were allowed to go out without my mom was when we would go to Oriole Park and Community Centre.

We lived close so this was where we used to go to play. In the summer my older sisters would take me to the park to go in the swimming pool. In the winter we would go the community rink and I would try to learn to skate. Looking back to those times reminds me of how good God is, and how life seemed so pleasant. I was a happy child but things changed quickly.

A Shattered World

When I was 14, my mother died. My brother and I took turns caring for her, but she suffered badly for ten days and nights. My older siblings were away at school and she wanted to see them, but only my sister Christina came home immediately. Our mother passed away two nights later.

I had listened to my mother cry out in torment for a couple of days, and it was getting painful to listen to. On September 29, 1976 she started screaming again. I went to my bedroom and fell on my knees. I said in a stern voice "I don't want to hear my mother scream again. Either heal her or take her home."

At that moment the house went quiet. I heard my sister scream, and she started crying. I knew my mother was gone home to the Lord.

She was my whole world and I loved her more than anyone else. When she died, the world seemed cold and dark all the time. I was not able to function normally. I had done some bad things before my mother died, but after she died I became totally lost.

I started skipping school, drinking, trying drugs and running away from home. My father and siblings were not handling the loss of our mother any better than I was. There were drinking parties in our home, violence, and an overall sense of chaos. My father tried to care for us like my mother used to, but he couldn't-so he gave up and left us on our own. I felt totally abandoned and neglected. During this time, we moved back to our home reserve.

At 15, I became a single mom. I was either too young or still in a sense of despondency that I was not able to comprehend what this meant at that time. I remembered my mother telling us she never wanted to see us getting pregnant while we were young and unmarried. I felt so angry and ashamed that I failed my mother. All I knew at this point in my life was that I was glad my mother wasn't alive to see this shame.

I went through my pregnancy emotionless. All I remember about this time is sleeping and eating when my sister or dad told me to. I felt nothing. It was as if I died when my mother died. I was incapable of dealing with what was happening to me physically, mentally, emotionally or even spiritually.

When the time came for my baby to be born, I had to be sent out on an emergency flight in the middle of the night from Berens River. I arrived in Winnipeg and was taken by ambulance to Women's Hospital. It was by the grace of God that my sister came on the plane and ambulance with me because I was still numb and was going through this whole experience unthinking. I was in a delivery room by myself going through something that was life changing, intensely scary and miraculous-yet I was unemotional.

During my delivery and the birth of my daughter, God's hand was evident in my life. I was not aware of this at the time, but when I grew to understand the Lord, I saw how He saved my baby and me from possible death three times. The first time was before labor. I had a urinary tract infection that was left untreated to the point my kidneys were already affected. The second time was during the delivery; my blood pressure went so high my kidneys shut down. The last time was after I left the hospital; I went through preeclampsia.

Through all these issues I survived. I know the Lord had His hand on me. I believe it was because I had a praying mother and family members that believed in God my baby and I survived.

My Salvation

I was no longer a happy young girl with hopes and dreams but a teenage mother stuck in a home I hated. One cold winter night as I sat on my bed with my new baby on my lap, I had just finished reading about the thief hanging beside Jesus who said, "Remember me."

"Creator Sets Free (Jesus) looked at the man and said, 'Listen closely, before the sun sets today, you will walk with Me in the beautiful garden" (Luke 23:43 First Nations Version).

It was late, cold, and dreary as usual, and just my baby and I were in the room. My dad and sister were in the living room watching TV. I looked into the face of my baby whom I really hadn't bonded with, and suddenly I said these simple words: "Jesus I want my baby to have a praying mom like I had."

I was raised in a good home with a mother who prayed, and we attended Sunday school. We spent plenty of time in church, and my mom taught us about God. And on that night I remembered a prayer a Sunday school teacher told us about. It was a prayer you said to ask Jesus into your heart. I closed my eyes and said the prayer, and it went something like this: "Jesus, please forgive me of my sins and come into my heart, Amen."

Beverly Thomas, Facebook

A childhood photo of Beverly with her father in the happy years before her mother died.

I will never forget the way I felt when I opened my eyes. When I opened my eyes the bedroom looked bright and it felt warm. Everything looked bright and clear, and I felt warmth I had not felt except for those times when I was in church or when I was in a room while people were praying. Later I remembered this was what I felt in those special times when I heard or saw things that were spiritual.

I looked at my baby and felt such an overwhelming sense of love for her. And I always say, nothing has been the same since. I have the peace, joy and love that can only be found in Jesus.

God has been good to Beverly. Today her family is still growing. Currently she has 12 grandchildren and is working on her Master's degree and has a good job and has been cancer free for over five years. "I have many other stories to share concerning the work of the Lord in my life," she says, and a book of the rest of her story is in the works.

 
 

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