Amira's life and death always make me think about my purpose in life and whether I am living it. I think the reminder startled me because I recently did some soul searching about one of my occupations and decided to let it go, but the thought startled me. It shouldn't have startled me because I have learned to live by faith and trust God. However, the decision I'm contemplating is completely unlike what I've done in the past and a little scary...
So, before I discuss this decision, I will reaffirm that I am overly transparent, but have found that others receive real freedom from my transparency. Thus, I'm going to just take the risk and put it all out here on this paper (or phone screen...lol)
I actually quit smoking cigarettes for Amira. I was a closet smoker for years. I began in the 6th grade trying to fit in and be cool. I had been teased most of my time in Vance County Schools 4th and 5th grade for being smart and acting like a girl. Then, at the beginning of 6th grade, things changed. My mom decided to move to Warren County and I got to start over again. Being smart was cool and I made some changes to ensure I would not be teased for acting like a girl. So, in th 6th grade while hanging out with one of my cousin's foster children, I hit my first cigarette and it was a wrap from there. I didn't cough. I didn't choke. I got an instant buzz that led to an addiction to nicotine that I just couldn't kick. I knew I didn't need to smoke. I sang and was always convicted about it in church all my life, but over the years cigarettes became my friend. If I had an issue, I didn't need a counselor or friend; I could just get in my car, drive, smoke, and think. It was an escape that didn't help me get free.
Anyway, this post isn't about my deliverance from smoking. The point is that Amira made me quit. I tried everything to quit smoking when I thought I was ready: gum, getting prayed for, counseling; I would have tried hypnosis (like in the movie "Get Out"), but the only thing that worked was this thought: "If smoking can kill me, why do I smoke? I want to live to raise my children and I don't want her to see me smoking and pick up the same habit." So, after spending over 15 years as a smoker, I quit for Amira.
Around the same time I quit smoking, although I was already a believer in Christ, I got real serious about my walk with God. I mean the type of serous where you will do whatever He says! I started having these symbolic dreams and began seeking the Lord regarding my life purpose. This was Amira's fault also.
I was living in Atlanta with my new family and we were pretty comfortable. I was a new lawyer, grinding and getting it, as the youngsters would say. Money was good and I enjoyed the city and my church, but I felt a stirring. I knew life had to be more than my jobs. Truthfully, I really disliked my job as an attorney and the legal community and climate. There was probably nothing wrong with it; it was just me. So, one day, after consulting with my wife and heeding my dreams, I knew it was time to chase and live my purpose.
People always told me I would be and It had always been prophesied to me that I'd be a preacher, but I didn't want to do it. In my mind, preachers made no money and I grew up in the land of preachers and churches where everyone went to church, but had the same problems everyone else did (I mean even the hype, Charismatic, Pentecostal, sho 'nuff Bible-teaching, churches). Thus, I never wanted to be labeled as a hypocrite, even though I had times in life where I was... Lord, help.
Eventually, I accepted it. It was just who I was: a preacher. And I wanted to be living this purpose as my daughter and children grew up. So, in 2007, my wife and I moved back to NC in pursuit of purpose. We planted the church that God had put in my heart. I pursued my purpose to be the preacher I had always knew God had called me to be and it was because of Amira.
I encourage you, if you're nosey enough, to buy and read my book The Fourth Man Principle. It's an easy read about purposed adversity and our struggle with Amira's health, decline, and eventual passing. It was the greatest challenge of my faith and life, but I have learned so much from the experience. It has has fueled my heart and passion as a purpose-driven preacher, pastor, and servant of God in ways that I never imagined.
So, when my wife reminded me of Amira's birthday, I was startled because I knew that it was time to gauge whether I'm living out my purpose. This is the same purpose that brought us back to NC and fueled the resilience to weather the storms of life and ministry. I asked myself, "Are you doing what God told you to do? Did Amira die in vain?" And in recent years, God called me out of public education, though I tried to stay on that pay scale with those benefits. I tried to make it my purpose because it had become comfortable, but in 2014 He shifted me. I didn't know what to do when I left education, but God led me back into law practice and supernaturally touched my firm as I trusted Him.
Now, it's time for me to make another change and to refocus. I know it's time to come out of full-time law practice; for it is not my passion. It's just not. I'm good at it, but we can be good at a lot of things. We need to do what we're best at doing. Although I've been in ministry for eight years, I haven't given it all of me. It has always competed with other careers or jobs that aren't my true purpose. Often, this occurred because of economic necessity and at other times, it was because serving God only wasn't enough for my ego and I didn't want my qualifications/degrees to be in vain. Yet, nothing is in vain! However, I know it's time to come out full-time lawyering and trust God to do His work.
It's one thing to know, but to really know is another thing. While on a fast in 2010 trying to get answers about Amira's illness, the Lord told me and reaffirmed my life purpose to me. I'll never forget it. At my dentist's office I heard in that deep place: "Your purpose is to be my mouthpiece, you will use your creative and artistic gifts, but the main purpose is to speak for me—You and your whole household after you." And I promised to do just this: Speak for God! So, today, I reaffirm this purpose and commit to it more fully in honor and memory of my baby girl, Amira Elyse Kingsberry.