The wings of a butterfly, as small and fragile as they are, have properties similar to solar cells. It is said that when butterflies fly together, their electrical energy is so powerful that it can literally go all around the world, even impacting climates. This is the type of impact that the beautiful Narlene McLaughlin has on the world when she travels with the grace of God.
In 1982 Narlene gave her life to Christ and discovered the loving power of God’s grace. Even prior to that, growing up on a farm outside of Memphis, TN., she acknowledges God’s intervention over the plans she initially intended for her life. “When I begin to look back on my life and see how He’s blessed me with a wonderful husband, Vaughn, two beautiful children, Stephen and Angel, a beautiful daughter-in-law, Raevyn, and a wonderful ministry, I can’t help but smile. I never dreamed of being married and never wanted children because I had 6 siblings and a host of cousins in my household growing up. But God said he had a better plan for me. So, when I look back and see what He’s done in me and through me, I know it was nothing but His grace.”
35 years ago Narlene married Vaughn McLaughlin and soon thereafter became the First Lady of what is now the Potter’s House International Ministries in Jacksonville, FL. Her husband, who is now a Bishop, had a vision for a ministry that would provide not only practical teaching of God’s word, but also an evangelistic outreach to the community; a Christian academy and a ministry that would meet the needs of the total man. Narlene, already having a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology, went on to obtain her Master’s Degree in Christian Education Administration once God placed the vision of a Christian Academy in their hearts.
In November 2002, the ministry took possession of a 48-acre, 376,000 square feet shopping complex formerly known as Normandy Mall. In November 2003, a portion of this massive space (the 103,000 square feet Sam’s Wholesale Club), was converted to accommodate the need for church growth and the facilitation of additional ministries within the local church. Currently, Narlene serves as the Chief Administrative and Operations Officer for the overall ministry which includes, but is not limited to, providing oversight for two church locations including the various church owned entities. These entities include Kingdom Plaza Mall, The Soul Food Bistro, King Pins Bowling Center, Temple Builders Fitness, Eden’s Salon and The Potter’s House Christian Academy.
Over a period of time the growth of the ministry and increased responsibilities began to take a toll on Narlene’s physical health. She thought the various symptoms of extreme fatigue, weight gain and even hair loss were all signs to slow down and take better care of herself. “I was tired all the time. I would literally fall asleep in the middle of a counseling session. I tried changing my diet, doing water aerobics and increased my vitamins. A bigger concern surfaced when I started losing my peripheral vision. I was driving in the car one day and tried to get over when cars started blowing at me because I didn’t see them.” Although Narlene went to the doctor from time to time to get a proper diagnosis, she continued experiencing difficulties in her body. As her symptoms worsened three years ago, Bishop Vaughn escorted her to the hospital for extensive tests. When the doctor announced to Narlene that she had a massive benign pituitary tumor, prolactinoma, the size of a grapefruit, in the center of her brain, her reaction stunned both the doctor and husband.
The pituitary gland is attached to the underside of the brain. It lies in a small hollow in the skull, just behind the eyes. It is considered the body’s master gland and controls many other hormones, glands and body functions. It produces the prolactin hormone which controls many female functions. A woman’s normal prolactin level is close to 30 ng/ml. In most patients prolactin tumors are detected when they are small and the prolactin level is only moderately elevated (30 – 300 ng/ml), however, Narlene’s level was at an amazing 6,740 ng/ml when detected! With surgery not being an option for a tumor of this magnitude, the doctor prescribed her a small little pill to be taken twice a week called Cabergoline (Dostinex). Cabergoline has been known to work in many cases to gradually shrink this type of tumor over a period of time.
“The doctors were afraid the tumor would rupture due to its size but God spoke to my heart and kept me calm. After being on Cabergoline for only two and a half weeks, my prolactin level went from 6,740 ng/ml to 640 ng/ml. It dropped nearly 90% and the doctors were utterly amazed because it was abnormal for the tumor to shrink so drastically in only two and a half weeks. My endocrinologist asked me what I had been doing and I said ‘Praying! I’ve had a lot of people praying for me and I’ve been praying’.” In March 2013 Narlene’s prolactin level was at 34 ng/ml and she knows it is all because of God. This experience opened up a door for her to minister to people about health and the healing power of God when faith is applied. MCCI Medical Center, a national health chain which has offices in Jacksonville, FL. wanted to incorporate a spiritual component into their medical program. Narlene has been enthusiastically speaking to their clients once a month for the past three years about the spiritual side of healing. “I teach them not to just trust medicine but to trust God for every aspect of their healing, physically, mentally and spiritually. I’m blessed by the experience I went through because what Satan meant for evil, God meant it for good.”
Narlene’s attitude throughout all of the responsibilities and challenges she’s encountered has always been explained to others as being God’s grace over her life. Although she never had a desire to write a book, God placed it into her spirit to bless others with this insight on what it is that guides her and strengthens her. “God wanted me to write a book, and I, like the average Christian, wanted to argue with God and make excuses saying things like ‘But I don’t want to write a book. I don’t have time to write a book and I’m not a writer.’ God said He didn’t ask me any of those things and it really wasn’t up for debate. I’ve been a Christian long enough now to know that I wouldn’t win against God, so I submitted. But I told Him I needed Him to guide me. I would literally wake up in the middle of the night and just jot things down until ‘My Best Friend’s Name is Grace’ was completed.”
The book is a personal synopsis of how Narlene managed to accomplish all she has in life, overcome the obstacles she’s faced, and all the while keeping a smile on her face and a praise in her heart. This book encourages the reader to stay focused on God and to not lose hope, give in and/or settle for less than what God has for your life. The title and the content of the book are written from an allegorical point of view. “The book is an allegory about the grace of God. I personified her just as God personified wisdom in the Bible. He calls wisdom a she and says she is priceless and we should seek after her above all things. Growing up I never really had that one person I could talk to and open my heart to, and I realized it was just me and God. My earthly best friend and I had a major fight around the 2nd or 3rd grade and our relationship changed. We were still friends over the years and graduated together, but there was a major shift in our relationship because of that fight. My older sister and I would fight all the time and it got to a point where we went 6-7 years without speaking at all. One day I just picked up the phone and said it was silly of us to be this way; we needed to mend our relationship.”
The book captures these types of shifts in Narlene’s life and highlights about five or six areas in her life (that all of us experience) where grace was there each time to help her endure the shifts. One of the areas captured in “My Best Friend’s Name is Grace” is having Grace to be there for you in marriage. Being happily married for 35 years has been an inspiration to countless people and the bond that Bishop Vaughn and Lady Narlene has can be seen by anyone that comes in contact with them. Narlene loves Bishop as her pastor, her husband, and her friend. “I have not always been the perfect wife and he hasn’t always been the perfect husband. I haven’t always fulfilled all his needs and vice versa. But, in 35 years we have never gone days without talking to each other, and we have always been there for each other. Through it all, I can honestly say that it’s been a very good marriage and it’s all been because of the grace of God.”
Narlene thrives off of helping others to become free and to come to understand God’s grace. It is her passion. “I don’t like to see anyone bound, whether it’s financially, emotionally, and/or spiritually. I also have a passion for righteousness. Although it’s not easy to do the right thing, it feels good to do the right thing. To me, doing the right thing is like kicking the Devil right upside the head,” she jokes.
A small and fragile butterfly flies with a grace that matches its beauty. It flutters through narrow pathways, avoiding challenges, and then lands effortlessly. “I know the power of small things. God said that He can speak one word and change the nation and others can speak thousands and change nothing. My husband has always told me that it’s not a mega ministry that God is looking for; He’s looking for a mega impact. You can have a very small church but impact many. My book is small but I believe it will have a mega impact on the hearts of many.” First Lady Narlene McLaughlin has always been a graceful butterfly and the impact that she is making on the world is as powerful as a wave of small beautiful butterflies.
To order a copy of First Lady Narlene’s book “My Best Friend’s Name is Grace,” visit www.amazon.com or any other bookstore website. You can learn more about The Potter’s House International Ministries by visiting www.TPHIM.org