If not for a small devotional booklet called TODAY, Ella Sue Watkins might never have been born. That might sound presumptuous—but only until you hear Ella’s mother tell her story.
“I had been going through a difficult time,” Melanie Watkins says. “My mother passed away from bone cancer when I was only 19. I missed her dearly and decided to move to Arizona on a whim. I wanted to have fun, meet new people.”
Melanie met new friends, but she missed her family and found herself drifting away from God.
“I was losing my faith,” she said, “so I specifically asked God to send me a sign through media . . . something concrete, so I’d know it wasn’t a coincidence.”
Two weeks later, a small booklet called TODAY arrived in the mail, addressed to Eleanore M. Watkins.
“I had no idea where it came from or how the sender got my address,” Melanie recalls. “Eleanore was my grandmother’s name. She had been killed in a car accident when I was too young to remember her. She lived in Utah most of her life and had never been to Arizona.”
Melanie tossed the booklet aside, figuring that some religious organization had mixed up her name. Then she remembered that she had prayed for a sign. “I picked up the TODAY booklet and began reading,” she remembers. As she read, Melanie says, she heard God’s voice, reminding her of his love and giving her a reason to believe, just as she had prayed.
But how does Ella come into the story?
Three years later Melanie was facing an unplanned pregnancy. Alone, terrified, and uncertain, she reviewed her options with her doctor, including ending the pregnancy.
“But when I came home from the appointment, a heavy darkness came over me. Again I asked God for a clear sign about whether I should have this baby.”
And again, she says, the sign came through a TODAY devotional.
Although she had moved several times, the TODAY kept following her. Eventually it stopped coming, but the devotionals had become special to her. “So I had kept all the old issues in a box.”
The October 2001 issue was in her bedside nightstand. As Melanie struggled with sleep and what to do about the pregnancy, she turned to the page for Oct. 11, the day the doctor said her baby would be full-term if she continued the pregnancy.
The words of that day’s meditation, written long before, jumped off the page. “TODAY is my birthday,” the author began, “maybe it’s yours, too.” Then he went on to reflect on the apostle Paul’s words about significant times in our lives. He wrote, “Life’s darkest moments may be the ones that have the greatest impact on us and others.”
These were words Melanie needed to hear as she pleaded with God for direction. She decided to keep the baby, and Ella Sue Watkins was born on Oct. 19, 2004.
Melanie named her daughter in honor of Eleanore, the grandmother whose name had appeared on the TODAY that came in the mail three years earlier.
After Ella’s birth, Melanie reaffirmed her faith and was baptized the same day as her daughter. She says she doesn’t ask for special signs from God anymore, but just out of curiosity, she recently e-mailed The Back to God Hour to request a copy of the October 2004 TODAY so she could see what the meditation was on the 19th, Ella’s birthday.
The message for that day was titled “Knowing God’s Voice.” The author wrote, “Sometimes Jesus’ voice comes to us through the words of a song, sometimes in the advice of a friend, sometimes in the words of a devotional reading. Today you will likely hear many voices. Listen carefully to see if you can recognize the voice of Jesus. And when you hear His voice, follow His direction.”
Melanie listened. She heard God’s voice and followed his direction. And now she has a powerful testimony about a beautiful little girl named Ella Sue.
TODAY is published by The Back to God Hour, the media ministry of the Christian Reformed Church. To request a copy, write to email@example.com or call 1-800-263-4251 in Canada or 1-800-879-6555 in the United States.