The Joy of the Lord is Her Strength
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Deyo’s definition of joy is personified in the person of Donna Lott — a woman whose daughter, Ashley, when she was 16, recognized that her mother had the spiritual fruit of joy in her life. It seemed to her, that no matter the difficulties her mother faced, she remained a joyful person.
“She always had a smile on her face,” says Ashley, now 26. “I’ve seen her pray and we’ve prayed together, things that would make us cry, but God would help her to laugh, to see the good in all of it — the smile never left her face.”
But it’s not just a daughter’s impression. Donna has attended Florida City First AG for the past 13 years. Angie Jennings, wife of Jeff Jennings, the pastor of Florida City First AG, agrees with Ashley. “How to describe Donna? Giving joyfully! She always has a smile,” Angie says.
Some may assume that Lott’s joy is less than an expression of the Holy Spirit in her life, but instead manufactured through circumstance and life bestowing greater portions of “good fortune” to her.
Perhaps. It depends on what lens life is viewed through — life viewed through spirit of joy has a much different look than life viewed through a spirit such as entitlement or self-centeredness.
In 1984, Lott and her husband had their first child — Dennis, who they affectionately call “Huey.” But at birth, Huey’s neck was separated from his spine. He became a quadriplegic with severe brain damage, never to walk or speak.
In 1995, Donna and her husband, now the parents of two children, Huey and Ashley, divorced. She remains a single parent today.
For the next 20 years following the divorce, Donna was Huey’s main caretaker — he lived in her home — while she also cared for Ashley. “Huey never had a bed sore,” Donna says, tellingly. “He was sunshine in my life.”
Huey passed away in 2015 at 31 years old, which was heartbreak for Donna. But now, she also had to find a job. She decided to return to school at the age of 55 in 2016 to become a certified state nursing assistant.
And to go along with these and other challenges, over the next three years, Donna had bouts with uterine, skin, and blood cancer.
“God has given me the strength and courage for my daily walk for years,” she explains with a joyful, upbeat voice.
Yes, a supernatural hope that is beyond understanding.
It may be hard to imagine someone going through what Lott has experienced in life while remaining positively joyful. Yet, when blood cancer attacked her body earlier this year, God gave her even greater opportunity for rejoicing.
“I have the blood tests which indicate that I had a rare form of blood cancer called polycythemia vera,” Lott says. “I was really struggling, though. I had just started life over and I couldn’t believe God had brought me this far for this to happen.”
But God soon calmed her fears. “He questioned me, asking me if He hadn’t already healed me of cancer before,” Lott recalls. “I started weeping as God gave me a peace that everything would be ok.”
Six weeks later, she returned to the doctor to have a follow-up test to see if the cancer was progressing or what its status was — her blood work came back completely normal; no signs of cancer!
Even though the joy of the Lord is well documented in her heart and life, through interactions with others and activities at the church, Lott doesn’t claim perfection. After becoming a certified state nursing assistant, she threw herself into her new, though somewhat familiar, career.
“I worked 12 hours a day, six days a week as a private duty certified nursing assistant for an older gentlemen,” she says. “But I was also running from another gift God gave me — a gift I should have been using in church, but wasn’t.”
Lott explains that there are those who God enables to sense when others are experiencing physical pain. She believes God has given her a gift to sense emotional pain.
“The past three months I stopped running [from His call] and God has done so much for me,” she says. “I’m able to see the people in the church who need prayer. God doesn’t always tell me what the specific pain is, but just to go and pray.”
What’s challenging for Lott — as it would be for most — is that many times those she is led to pray for have not gone forward to the altar for prayer. But Lott says that time after time, people say she’s prayed — better yet, the Holy Spirit prayed through her — for the exact issue they were experiencing.
Lott’s gifting also has proven beneficial in her job, as many times she works with patients who are approaching the end of life. In those times, God has opened doors for her to pray and talk about her faith.
“God has brought Donna through a lot,” Angie Jennings agrees. “She is a sweet friend and always has a giving spirit.”
Ashley agrees, admitting that at times she felt like she was in the dark about some of the difficulties the family of three faced because her mother’s joy was so evident. “I’m blessed to see it,” she observes, “but it’s also a reminder that we can have joy too.”
Lott explains her faith simply. “When something goes wrong, I don’t reach for the phone, the first thing I do is call on the Throne,” she says. “I talk to God first, then ask for prayer — He is my only Source.”