It’s amazing how many times and how many ways the Holy Spirit tries to get our attention. But, what’s more astounding, is the lengths some of us will often go to ignore Him.
Sometimes He whispers and sometimes it’s as if He is standing on the runway of life, trying everything to wave us down and get us to the right place. But how do we often respond? If you are like me, you sometimes look the other way and then come up with every excuse in the book for your state of total oblivion.
“Sorry, I didn’t see you,” you say, knowing full well both of you know that’s a lie from the pit of hell.
“I don’t have time right now,” you whine, knowing deep down that His timing is always perfect.
And, sometimes, you question Him or, worse yet, just downright ignore Him
We’re human. We all do it at some point. Some of us, more than others. But we are warned, this is a very dangerous practice, particularly when we do it for too long. For, if we do it too long, our hearts can become hard of hearing.
I cannot imagine forever living without the two-way communication we get when we accept Jesus and His Holy Spirit comes to reside in us. What comfort there is in knowing that we are never alone. No matter what is going on around us, He is there to guide us and give us wisdom, to protect us, to comfort us and to empower us to share our God-given talents and gifts with the people of the world so that they, too,
can see Him through us; so that they, too, will want to partake in the joy and power that comes from knowing Him.
In being completely transparent, I have been very sporadic in allowing the Holy Spirit to fully guide me during the tumultuous parts of my story that have unfolded over the past few years. Don’t get me wrong here, though, He has been with me every step of the way during this time, comforting me and giving me everything I need. Thankfully, no matter where we are, He is always all-in with us. The real beauty happens when we are all in, too!
This morning, as I breathe in all the peace and love that He has to offer me, I desire to bring myself to that same all-in status. I want to hear and feel every word He has for me; I want to embrace every bit of direction; every bit of promise and light and hope and joy and love.
Stop with me for a moment. Turn off all screens, close your eyes and breathe Him in. His breath is healing and full of abounding energy. It is rhythmic and melodious like a beautiful symphony. What’s that I hear? Ahhhh, it’s the clock keeping time, synchronizing its rhythm too. Oh, and the sweet birds outside the window are joining in the chorus.
What do you hear?
Breathe. Breathe. He loves us so much. Thank you, Lord.
Amen and Ehmen.
Writer’s Note: The following is a true story of God’s faithfulness and kindness in the face of a difficult time in life. It is a true story of answered prayers and of people allowing God to use them. If you ever feel a nudge from above or have a thought that perhaps doesn’t exactly make sense, follow your gut. There is no telling what story God wants to write. Amen and Ehmen. –Brenda.
Erin had long dreamt of her mother seeing her walk down the aisle in her wedding gown. She dreamed of her mom sitting on the front row and watching as she said “I do” to the man they have both grown to love so much.
But there was one huge problem. Her beloved mother is terminally ill and likely won’t make it to the October wedding they have been planning.
Enter Serenity Nurse Case Manager Erica and CNA Nicole. A week earlier, they both were at the patient’s home to check up on her and, as she showed more signs of decline, they discussed her situation with Erin. Seeing the devastation that registered in Erin’s eyes as she realized her mom probably wouldn’t get to see her get married, Erica and Nicole made a suggestion.
“Why not get married next week here in the living room,” Erica inquired.
With Erin’s agreement, Erica and Nicole got busy planning the July 1 event. They shopped for decorations and flowers and called in Robbie, Serenity’s chaplain, to officiate the ceremony. They also called me, the office’s volunteer coordinator, to arrange for a wedding cake which volunteer cook-extraordinaire Barbara was happy to bake.
Everyone was thrilled to help make this special day happen, but no one more than me. Afterall, I had already seen first-hand as God divinely intervened to match this beautiful family with Serenity in the first place.
Rewind to a Friday morning just a few weeks earlier when my phone alarm twirped and tweeted a reminder that I had a long overdue eye appointment later that day in Macon. Realizing I had completely forgotten and already booked my day with patients, I made a mental note to call and cancel and went about my day.
After visiting patients in Byron and Lizella, I made my way to Macon to see my next patient, but on the way, that patient’s wife called and asked if I could delay my visit by an hour. About that same time, a second reminder for my eye appointment popped up on my phone, reminding me not only of my impending appointment time, but also that I had forgotten to cancel it. About that same time, I also realized that I was just a few minutes away from the doctor’s office. Fate seemed determined to get me into that exam chair.
I headed over to the appointment and jumped out of the car to head inside. After closing the car door, however, I felt a nudge to reopen the door and grab my Serenity nametag. I always take it off in the car because it makes the seatbelt more bothersome and, though I obviously didn’t need to wear a name tag to go into a personal appointment, something just told me that on this day, in this office, I indeed needed it. Not one to ignore such nudges, I obliged and clipped it onto my shirt as I walked inside.
After being shown to the exam room, I was soon joined by one of the doctor’s assistants. The assistant, who introduced herself as Erin, sat at a nearby desk and began asking questions to gather information. She paused, however, when she turned and faced me.
“You work with Serenity,” she asked softly. The question consisted of only four words, but her tone made it obvious that there were a lot of feelings behind it.
“Yes, I do. Do you know us?”
“Well, I, I guess you could say that,” she stuttered quietly. “My mom has cancer and her doctors feel it is time to call in hospice. They suggested either Serenity or another hospice here in town.”
“I have been reeling ever since they uttered the word hospice, and I had no idea which one to call. In fact, I prayed all night last night, pleading with God to give me a sign and help me take the right next step,” she continued, tears welling up in her eyes. “You are obviously that sign.”
As I listened to Erin’s words, I knew at once that the events that brought me into the office and the still, small voice that led me to put on my nametag, was far from coincidental and I eagerly shared with them with Erin.
“And you weren’t supposed to be my patient, but the other girl had to leave,” she said, exhaling a deep sigh of relief as she experienced her prayer being answered in real time.
Erin signed her mother up with Serenity the next day and, as is so often the case, the Serenity team quickly became like family to her and her mother. They care for the patient’s every need and aid and advise Erin all along the way, including helping throw her this beautiful impromptu wedding so that her sweet mama could see her say “I do.”
And what a perfect ceremony it was.
Though disease has diminished Erin’s mama’s ability to communicate verbally, it was obvious that she was deeply touched. There was a glisten in her eyes and an almost palpable air of love that circled bride and groom as they took her hands into theirs.
“We can never thank you all enough,” Erin said, leaning in to kiss her mama on the cheek. “Thank you for letting God use you and for being the answer to my prayers.”
God, I hear You calling and I’m trying desperately to catch up with You; to walk beside You, to synchronize my steps with Yours. But, I’m continually running into obstacles.
As if on cue from satan himself, out of the shadows step the demons of doubt, fear and deprecation. They stand in front of me and block my path, arms locked together as if to engage me in a game of Red Rover.
“Red rover, red rover, send Brenda right over,” they chide, demonic laughter filling the air and assaulting my confidence and my faith. I can’t help but shiver as their Goliath-sized shadows hijack the sun’s warmth as well as its light. It becomes a battle just to see.
And, yet, their purpose is dreadfully clear. They have come to intimidate, threaten, frighten, scare, bully, coerce, terrorize, daunt and taunt me; to keep me frozen in place and far away from the purpose that You prepared for me before the first word of Creation was ever uttered.
“Red rover, red rover, send Brenda right over.”
My mind starts to reel; to unravel like a runaway spool of thread. I can either run away and live the rest of my life knowing that I gave up on You or I can face this thing head on. I breathe deep and step back a few steps so that I can gain more momentum. There is no way I’m giving up, I mutter to myself. I will simply close my eyes and run with all my might, straight through their arms and into Yours.
But, oh sweet Lord, the growls of my opponents are becoming louder and more obnoxious. And, as much as I want to walk with You–to fulfill my purpose–I can’t help but notice how grotesquely strong they look. How on earth will ever be break their hold, I ask myself, and, with no immediate answer, I shrink back in defeat without ever taking a step.
Defeated. Beaten. Overwhelmed and overcome. I look down at my feet frozen in place as the enemies’ taunts crescendo in victory. They win. Again.
The only thing I have left now is to pray. But I don’t even know where to start. I am so ashamed that I once again let the enemy defeat me, to hold me back. With the words “I’m sorry, Lord” rising up through my spirit, I begin to hear a still small voice. It is a warm, familiar and very quiet voice, but still somehow louder than the enemy’s raucous heckling. I immediately recognize that it is You.
“Get up, child,” You whisper sweetly. “Get up, but don’t try to run with all your might; this time, child, run with Mine.”
Your words, gentle and powerful at the same time, send a surge of encouragement and pronounced strength coursing through my spirit, mind and body. I rise up into a crouch position just like that of an Olympic sprinter and, with the sound of cheering angels ringing in my ears, I open my eyes. I see the band of demons still outstretched before me and I see their mouths moving. It sure looks like they are still talking trash, but the words filling the air about me are beautiful, peaceful, encouraging.
“It’s over, It’s over, Brenda come on over.”
I can no longer contain myself and, even though I still see the demons, I take off running toward the beautiful sound. And, as I run faster and harder than I dreamed possible, the heavenly cheers grow louder and louder and the demons grow smaller and smaller until I finally burst though their evil stronghold with the fortitude and power of a wrecking ball.
I hold up my arms in victory and as the dust settles around me, I see You standing there in all your Glory. You smile a knowing smile. You’ve been here all the while; waiting on me; cheering me on.
Lord, thank You, for never giving up on me, even when I give up on You; for having faith in me, when my own faith waivers. Thank You for sending Your spirit to intervene when the enemy lines look too strong to break through and for helping me to stand firm when I feel weak. Thank you, Lord, for Your willingness to keep reminding me that, with Your help, I DO have the strength and power to run full steam ahead into Your will and purpose, for it is there that You dwell and it is there I wish to dwell also. With all that I am, I praise You. Amen and Ehmen.
As Christmas wound down and New Year’s Day quickly approached, I started thinking about writing a New Year’s post as I have done in year’s past. There is just something about standing on the ledge of a new year—and, in this case, a new decade—that begs for a time of reflection.
This year, however, I just wasn’t mentally there at the time. I really can’t explain why. It is simply the way it was.
However, as the month has marched on, a post that has been percolating for several months has now bubbled to the top and I think is quite fitting to kick off this fresh, budding new year and decade.
It is a true tale about a tree.
Not just any tree, mind you, but a mini bonsai tree that God has used to teach me more about Him as well as myself, especially during the last half of 2019.
The story actually started about four years ago when I paid my first of two visits to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia. After discovering this spiritual haven nestled in the woods on the outskirts of Atlanta, I scheduled a personal retreat weekend in anticipation of snuggling up to God and reconnecting with Him and the purpose that He has laid before me. I was hoping for a little more direction and a whole lot of inspiration.
Needless to say, He did not disappoint. He never does. Seriously, when He said, “Seek and you shall find, knock and it will be opened,” He really meant it. After all, He is literally a God of His Word.
So, as I planted myself in the silence of that holy and beautiful place, He met me and filled me with more love, wisdom and inspiration than I ever imagined possible. I left revived, rejuvenated and ready to continue on my path, pen in hand, just as I had hoped and expected.
But, I also left with something else that I had not anticipated—a beautiful little bonsai tree straight from the monk’s green house and garden center. I had read about the garden center in one of the monastery brochures, but nothing prepared me for the impressive display of mini trees I actually saw there. It was like walking into a magical indoor forest. Apparently, the monks have been crafting these little beauties for decades, and I felt compelled to buy one as a memento of my trip. I picked out a small one that was reasonably priced and carefully transported it back home.
Once home, I found just the place for it on the sill of the garden window in my kitchen. There, I thought, it would get plenty of sun and, since the water faucet is right there, it might also have a better chance of me actually remembering to water it.
That last part was super important as I don’t have the best track record with plants. Not only is my thumb not green, my plants often aren’t either. Therefore, the closeness to the water source is more crucial than you might think.
Unfortunately, even its proximity to the water source didn’t work so well. Turns out you still have to DO something, and as my job got super crazy and I was working 80-plus hour weeks, that something happened less and less. I could barely remember to water and feed the dog, much less my little tree, which was now down to just a few cluster of leaves. Somehow, though, it survived.
Even after I left that job some two and a half years ago and I did better about watering my little tree, it still didn’t seem to really grow and eventually faded into the background of my kitchen window and my thoughts.
Until this past September, that is, as I readied myself to head back to the monastery for a little of what I like to call “me and Thee time.” As I hung up the phone after making my reservations, I stood in the kitchen staring at my pitiful little barren tree and began making plans to shop for a new tree and start over. But, as I planned away, God interrupted me.
In that still small voice that I will forever be thankful for, these words came booming through deep in my spirit:
“No, no, no. Dear Child, don’t you see? You are like that tree. When you don’t feed and nourish yourself spiritually, your fruitfulness and growth may stop, but I NEVER give up on you just as you should not give up on your tree. You are both special, one-of-kind creations that I love with all My heart and cannot be replaced. Come, let me replenish you and revive your mind, body and soil.”
That’s right, where you would normally expect to hear the word soul, I heard God say soil, and, in that very instant, I knew exactly what I was supposed to do. And, it was NOT to buy a brand new plant, but to repot the one I had in renewed soil, just as God was about to do with me on my weekend retreat—a beautiful Spirit-infused weekend which I really need to write about soon.
For now, however, I hope you’ll continue to indulge me in the story of my tree.
As the weekend came to a close, I popped over to the monastery garden center and spoke with one of the monks. I told him about my struggling tree and he suggested a small bag of new potting soil and some bonsai food. He explained why bonsais need repotting in fresh, nutrient-rich soil and how often to feed it after it has been repotted. He also reminded me to water it every single day as bonsai soil is designed to not only allow water to quickly drain from the soil, but to also allow fresh air to continually enter.
I couldn’t wait to get home! I was so excited to repot and literally breathe new life into my tree. I even thought about posting about it so that everyone could share in the miracle that God was about to perform.
“But, then again, perhaps I should wait just to be sure,” I thought to myself and closed my laptop as quickly as I had opened it.
I repotted the tree just as instructed and watched excitedly and expectantly. My tree, however, did not flourish overnight. In fact, it was quite the opposite, and, over the coming days and weeks, the few leaves it did have fell away until I was left with what looked like a twig sticking up out of the soil. A twig, y’all. No leaves, no nothing.
I was not just disappointed, I was devastated and oh so glad that I had chosen not to post about the miracle that God was sure to perform. Sadly, I didn’t take a photo of it either. After all, it was twig, y’all. No leaves, no nothing.
Still something inside of me wouldn’t let me give up. I continued to water and feed that little twig until finally, a couple of weeks later, I noticed a tiny little green bud bursting through a bleak nub on my tiny dried up little tree. Then another. And another. And another. And another. Until my little tree, in just a few short weeks, was starting to look like the tree I had purchased some four years earlier.
As a matter of fact, it is still growing and flourishing, and, this morning as I gazed on in utter amazement, I heard that still small voice again deep in my spirit.
“Don’t you see, dear Child, sometimes the old things must fall away to make room for new growth and for new revival to take place. I’m proud that, even when it looked like all hope was lost, you tended the twig and trusted in Me. Remember, dear one, your human perspective is very limited. You cannot see as I see. You cannot see what is happening behind the scenes and, even if you could, your human mind could not understand. Your job is to trust Me and to continue abiding in Me as I abide in you.”
“For I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; but apart Me, you can do nothing.” John 15:5
“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” Revelation 21:5
Happy sigh. Thank you, Father, for continuing to love me, to seek me and to tend my spirit and soil/soul, despite my stubbornness and propensity for drifting away and forgetting to fully trust in You. Thank you, Father, for planting eternity and a desire to know You in my heart. Help me to keep the soil of my heart refreshed so that Your roots in me grow stronger and stronger, allowing me to flourish like my little bonsai and to continue to become the fruitful one that You created me to be. I love you, Father. Forever.
Amen and Ehmen.
Writer’s Note: Today marks the 27th anniversary of the glorious day that God made me a mom. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the birth of my one and only than by re-sharing this post from three years ago. It started out as a post bragging on my baby girl and turned into my testimony, a story of God’s grace and His passion and compassion for all of us; His talent for using all things for the good of those who love Him. All that said, I must include a warning for those of you who know me. There may be things in this post that you may not know about me, things that I am not particularly proud of; however, as I continue to watch God take both the good and the bad and weave them into the most incredible stories–such as the story of my little girl–I think it is important to be real. Our world today is too much in need of hope to not be real and to show how God is always and in all ways looking out for us. Even when our situation looks like a complete mess, God is busy behind the scenes. What looks like rubble to us are building blocks for our Creator. We just have to get out of the way and let Him work! Thank you, Jesus, for being the cornerstone of my life and thank you for Billie. I am blessed beyond deserve.
Billie was far from an ordinary kid. To tell the truth, she has never been ordinary a single day in her life. Even before she had made it out of the womb, this wee little girl had begun spinning a story of goodness and love that, looking back, could only have been penned by the master author Himself. Not to say that God doesn’t leave His fingerprints on all his creations, but with some it is just a little more obvious. Such is the case with my daughter.
Just the knowledge that she existed had lifted me out of the downward spiral my life had taken when I turned 30. Always the responsible, level headed one, something about turning 30, combined with a devastating turn of events in my life, had put me on a path of self-destruction. Alcohol. Gambling. Even drug experimentation and unprotected sex. Things I never thought in a million years I would do. But, for a short while, as a lost soul trying to find my way, I did them.
It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God. In fact, with the help of my college roommate, a sweet and kind preacher’s daughter, I had accepted Him as my Lord and Savior back in college. But that’s about as far as it went. I did consider myself a good person and, upon occasion, would even shoot up a prayer or two when things got tough. Saved or not, however, sitting in a pew was not a place you would find me on Sunday morning at that time in my life. Churches, I felt, were just too full of hypocrites.
And, in my heart, I fully believed that to be true as that had been my experience with the church when I was growing up. Being pushed to the altar by friends who had just the night before drank themselves into a stupor made absolutely no sense to me. Not to mention that it seemed like the preacher was always preaching about hellfire and brimstone; the fearsome, formidable God he painted in his sermons not leaving much room for the loving God of reality.
Yeah, I believed in God, but I didn’t truly know God yet and I certainly hadn’t learned what it meant to fully give my heart and my life to Him; to have a personal relationship and to walk with Him in complete faith.
From my limited perspective at that moment in my life, I was—as I had been for some time—alone. My earthly father had been killed when I was just a little girl and I didn’t yet understand the extent of love, forgiveness and purpose my Heavenly Father had for me. In my mind, I had no other choice but to take care of myself and to be my own safety net. Seeking God’s guidance for my life wasn’t even a consideration at that point.
Fortunately, God intervened anyway.
Enter Billie—the answered prayer that I didn’t even know I needed.
Having veered so sharply off the path, it seemed as if baby Billie truly was God’s way of reeling me back in, bringing the poor choices I was making in life to a screeching halt and replacing them with proof that He could take the most troublesome of situations and use them for good. This yet-to-be-born baby was was a living example that would continue to prove this most wonderful promise over and over as the years went by.
I pretty much did a 360 and began trying to live as healthy as possible, following my obstetrician’s advice to the tee. I quit drinking, smoking and any other dangerous habit I had been dabbling with for the past few months before her conception. I quit not because I thought it would keep me out of hell, but because it was the right thing to do. I had a baby on the way; a life that depended solely on me to survive and I didn’t want mess that up.
I even agreed to marry her father, though we had known each other less than a year. I just seemed like the right thing to do. I can’t really say that I loved him, but I figured I’d eventually fall in love with him. After all, we were having a baby together.
Needless to say, without going into details, our marriage was like the house built on sand. When storms came that first, emotionally-charged and stressful year as I also dealt with health issues and worries about getting Billie into the world safely, the marriage collapsed and we gave up on one another.
God, however, did not give up. Not only did he bring Billie into the world and keep her safe, but He made it more and more obvious that He had a plan for her. And, like David of David and Goliath fame, He had no plans of waiting until she was an adult to use her. Truth was, He started using her before she even exited the womb, making sure that this new baby gave both her dad and I exactly what we needed in our lives at that point. Billie’s dad actually credits her arrival for finally facing and defeating his own demons.
All that said, I still didn’t attend church as Billie began to grow up. Until, that is, the heart-wrenching devastation of Sept. 11, 2001, a day that rattled me to my very core. All of a sudden, I realized that not only had I been holding God back in my own life, but I was keeping the greatest blessing He had ever given me away from Him as well and was compelled to do something about it. We began visiting churches, but none felt right. They didn’t feel welcoming, which I equated to being full of hypocrites. I didn’t yet understand that many people attending church were just as confused and lost as I was; and that it wasn’t necessarily hypocrisy they exhibited, but the same ignorance and stubbornness I had been carrying for years.
Long story short, I continued to search for a church for both me and Billie, who was now in second grade. We ultimately made our way to Harvest Church and—from the moment we crossed its threshold at the Ramada Inn where it was meeting—I knew that we were finally home. It was an easy choice to make sure that she and I were there every time the doors were open and, with Pastors Jim and Jen as our teachers, we both began growing UP. Billie loved the kids program. She adored the Pink Carpet and her carpet leader, Mrs. Mary. We both loved learning about and getting to know God.
Truthfully, I couldn’t believe the difference it made to know God personally versus simply knowing of Him. He started showing up and showing out in both our lives and it was exciting. It’s still exciting. Even though He has performed and showed me many miracles over the past decade and a half, I still cherish those early God moments that changed my life forever.
Indeed, Billie did grow up at Harvest and I will be forever convinced that Harvest was always a part of His plan for both of us, and most especially for her. In fact, this morning as I watched her—now 23-years-old and the head of the church’s Children’s Ministry—give the message in the main church service for the very first time, my mind rewound itself to a Sunday about 13 years ago when my 10-year-old baby girl leaned over while listening to Pastor Jim preach and whispered this into my ear: “Mom, I know what I want to do when I grow up,” she said excitedly. “I want to preach.”
Well, my sweet baby girl, you did it and you did it good!!!! I love you and I love God for picking me to be a part of your story and, most importantly, for allowing both of us to be a part of His. I thank Him for making you a living, breathing example of how miracles and beauty can come from even the darkest, seemingly hopeless situations. I thank Him for Harvest Church and for making His presence so obvious in the church as well as in both of our lives. May we all continue to fulfill His will and purpose until His Kingdom comes. Amen and Ehmen.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” – Jeremiah 1:5
Writer’s note: As I forge ahead in writing the story that God has written me into, I must face with honesty the obstacles that I have allowed to slow me down and sometimes bring me to a screeching halt. For me every obstacle, no matter its weight or size, has been constructed of fear. It’s something I’ve battled my whole life. It’s something, I still battle every single day. Including today. What I’m learning is that it is okay to treat fear as a caution light and check whatever it is saying to me against what God is saying…both to me and about me. When I allow faith to hold hands with my fear, faith and God win every time. This is a little un-edited snip-it from what I’ve been writing of late. I can’t really share the story behind this little editorial excursion as that story needs to be told all together, but I felt the need to share this as I continue on this purposed path….as a reminder to keep going and as I way to create more accountability in my life. Keep me in your prayers as I pray for all whose eyes land on any words I may write. May God bless you and keep you today and always. Amen and Ehmen.
Unless it’s the healthy kind which shows awe and reverence to God, it’s just plain destructive and crippling.
It’s what led me to reject the mantle with which Jesus was trying to clothe me and it’s what convinced me to reject the gift which He tried to personally hand me.
Fear is a lie which the enemy is all too happy to plant and which I ultimately transformed into an excuse to justify my disobedience and, if I am completely truthful, my lack of trust in God. That last part, by the way, is where the real sin comes in, because, let’s be real, shall we? At the very root of it all, fear is sin. Period.
I know this and, yet, this sin was so deeply rooted in my spirit that it became like another gear in my autonomic nervous system; a non-OEM part supplied by someone other than the original manufacturer.
For those who may have skipped out on biology like me, the autonomic nervous system is essentially our body’s version of autopilot. It is the system that controls our heartbeat, our breathing, and our digestive processes—all those important life sustaining functions that we do not consciously direct. It also includes another wonderful system crafted by God to trigger our fight or flight response when we are in imminent danger.
I’ve actually experienced this a couple of times in my life, one of the most memorable being as I traveled on a very busy street one sunny afternoon. A car accident happened right in front of me and I escaped being a part of the collision by mere inches. In an instant, adrenaline was racing through my veins and, without so much as even a pause, I jumped out of my car, and ran over to the driver’s door of the car directly in front of me. Her door was crumpled and jammed and the car was filling with smoke, but an uncommon strength allowed me to rip open the door and lead the driver to safety. I didn’t know I had it in me, but was sure glad that I did.
However, I’ve also experienced this fight or flight phenomena when there was absolutely no danger in sight. It was years before I figured out that I was having panic attacks when this happened. Fortunately, those days seem to be behind me, but the memories are still there. If you have ever had a panic attack, you know why. They are absolutely terrifying. I can’t help but wonder if undiagnosed and sinful fear was at their root.
I suppose it’s possible, as there has always been plenty of fear in my life. From the time that I was a little girl and my family was forever changed by the murder of my father, my life has been filled with moments and events that either ripped or threatened to rip my security blanket from my hands. This, in turn, created a perceived need for me to turtle up; to pull back into my shell and emerge only when I absolutely had to. Internally, that is.
On the outside, I became very skilled at covering up my fears and worked very hard at playing whatever part made me most acceptable, most liked and, of course, most self-sufficient. I told myself that if folks didn’t know my weaknesses, my fears, and my secrets, I could hold onto my self-constructed security blanket a little longer. I did not yet understand that true security comes in Christ and once you have accepted His gift of Salvation, nothing but nothing can snatch it or you away. (John 10:28)
Truth be told, I’m still learning the expanse of His great love and promise, but I have definitely come a long way. Not of my own doing, mind you, but by His sheer grace. I also have a really long way to go as He so poignantly pointed out in both Andrea’s dream and in mine.
After all, I did run from Him. Twice.
Note: Thank you, Lord, for sending these written reminders to me; for leading me to just the right blog post or journal entry; for walking with me everyday and being available for intimate and wisdom-filled exchanges anytime I want. It’s up to me to lace up my shoes and open my heart and my ears to you. I love you and our time together Amen and Ehmen!
As I stepped outside, the sun just peeking up from beneath the covers of the horizon, I couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief as a cool morning breeze greeted my skin.
It has been really hot lately. And humid. So humid, in fact, that it feels like Mother Nature wraps me in a warm, wet blanket every time I step outdoors.
But not this morning and, as the cool air energized my spirit, I couldn’t help but send audible thank you’s heavenwards.
Man, it felt good to feel good. It felt even better to sense Jesus’ presence by my side. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not always in step with my Maker, but today was different. The heat and heaviness of life did not exist in this moment and off I went feeling light on my feet and loved in my heart.
I’m pretty sure I had a bounce in my step and I definitely had a smile on my face as I stepped from my driveway onto the asphalt in front of my house. I turned to the right as I have so many mornings, but instead of tucking earbuds into my ears, I decided to listen for God’s voice. Prayer, after all, isn’t always talking and presenting requests to God; it is a two-way conversation which requires us to sometimes close our mouths and open our ears.
He didn’t disappoint. As we strolled along, He began to whisper words of comfort and direction deep into my spirit. He told me that this time and situation were not a punishment, but rather a gift. That this was my time. Our time. A time for reconnection and reinvention. A time of complete trust and dependence on Him. Himdependence, if you will. The time and place our lives intersect; the very place in which His will meets my purpose.
His words washed over me like a comfortable garment. Oh, how long I have waited for this moment. The moment that I could truly take hold of this purpose and dream that He has placed within my heart. How I have longed to harvest what He has so carefully planted.
I breathed another sigh of relief as the mantle that had once felt too heavy to bear, now slid over me like a breeze and rested gently upon my skin. I was surprised at how soft and comfortable it felt. He spoke again. “This, my child, is what I mean by ‘my yoke is easy.’
At this word, I felt the urge to stop and, as I stood in the middle of the road, I noticed that I felt surprisingly relaxed, unlike two weeks earlier when I had felt too uncomfortable and restless to stand still, afraid that someone might see me and wonder what on earth I was doing. I had always felt that I needed to be moving or else I must be wasting time.
But not this day and, as I stood still, He led my eyes to a beautiful flower standing proudly in the distance amid trees and weeds. It was obviously not planted by human hands, but it was unbelievably breathtaking under the spotlight of the morning sun. How could I have not seen this before? How could I have missed this beautiful thing? And, as I stood there and questioned myself, He stood right beside me ready to answer. “See, my child,” I heard His Spirit whisper. “This is what I mean when I say ‘be still and know that I am God.’”
“You, my child, are to be like that flower amongst the weeds,” He continued. “You are to be a hope among the desolate. A flower for which I can bring the winds and scatter your seeds, giving birth to new growth and new hope in places you have yet to see and some you may never see with your own eyes.”
As His words trailed off, we resumed walking. He nudged me down a path I’ve never taken before; hard to believe since I’ve now lived in this neighborhood for a decade this very week. What a creature of habit I can be!
He whispered that sometimes we must get off the beaten path to discover new things about ourselves and about Him. Routine, He declared, can bring death to creativity and creativity is one of the most effective ways to express love and to reflect who He is. “Look around,” I heard Him say. “I am doing a new thing.”
Although the last time I had taken a new route, I had run into a not-so-nice canine, today, I felt a peace in my spirit as I walked along; probably because I was accompanied by the King of Kings. The trees were beautiful and the aroma of honeysuckle chased after me, encircling my senses and making my heart sing. I couldn’t help but smile as I caught myself humming. I was practically skipping along. It didn’t matter that I really didn’t know exactly where this path would lead or what I might find along the way. I was just enjoying being with The Father.
I felt like a young girl in love. I marveled at how blue the sky looked; how green the trees and grass; how beautiful the birds and animals; a little bit of heaven just a few steps off the same road I had traveled so many times. But, almost as soon as I had gotten lost in the newness and beauty of the excursion, I realized the new road had come to an end and I was now standing in a cul-de-sac. I wasn’t ready for it to be over. Had The Father not just said that we sometimes need to get out of our routine?
Sensing my disappointment, He answered quickly. “Just remember, child, even what feels like an ending will always be a setup for something greater when you are walking with Me. I use every step of every journey to teach you and mold you; to open your eyes a little more.”
I drank in His words, knowing in my heart that He was not just talking about this morning’s walk, but instead about the current concerns regarding my life and career. God has been so good to me through my latest situation and, today—almost two months after the unexpected and abrupt end of a 22 year career—I am actually quite enjoying learning to trust Him completely. I am finally making choices based on what I feel is God’s desire for me as opposed to my natural tendency to search for the secure and the safe.
Back on the main road now, I turned to head home. The morning was gaining momentum and the heat was rising just as fast as the sun. I picked up my pace, ready to get home before it got any hotter. Thank goodness this homestretch was shaded by the many majestic oaks for which the street was named.
Again, however, I felt another nudge to stop in the roadway. And while I felt a little more than distracted as sweat began to roll off my forehead, my eyes were drawn to a tree just a few feet away from me. What? Are you kidding me?
I stood in awe as right there in front of me–growing on a random tree on the fringe of the woods–was a grape vine loaded with young grapes. How had I not seen this before? The flower earlier on our walk was pretty far into the woods. Had the sun not shined its spotlight on it, I may have missed it. But this vine, filled with clusters of grapes, was growing wild right along the path I have been walking for months. What’s more, I know grape vines. I have one just like it in my yard. In fact, He has used it to teach me throughout the decade I have lived here; so much so that I have often wondered if the grapevine is the reason God made this my home in the first place.
“You haven’t seen it before, because you weren’t looking.” God’s spirit said to mine. “To you, it was just another vine. It wasn’t until you really opened your eyes and the fruit started to emerge that you took notice. You, my child, are like this vine. You grow and prepare, I prune and tend, but, it isn’t until the fruit begins to materialize that people really begin to take notice. This is your time, child. Get to work and watch me multiply the fruits of your labor.”
Ahhhhhh. Happy sigh. Thank You, Jesus, for this walk; for this day; and, most of all, for this opportunity to be a part of Your plan and purpose. You gave Denny and I a very important assignment several years ago and I know that I know it is time to make it happen. Not ten years from now when I retire; not next year when things slow down. But now. I am honored, humbled and grateful. Help us, Lord, to stay in step with you as we continue to journey into your will and purpose.
We are ready, willing and—with your grace and help—I know that we are also well able. Amen and Ehmen.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:30
For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:19
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10
“Be strong…Be strong…and get to work, for I am with you, says the Lord of Heavens Armies, My Spirit remains among you, just as I promise…So do not be afraid.” Haggai 2:4-5
While I am pretty good at daydreaming, I’m not much of a dreamer when my eyes are closed. And, if I do dream, I typically don’t remember. About four years ago, however, I had a dream that I shall never forget; a life-changing dream that I soon knew was an answered prayer straight from Heaven; the unmistakable confirmation of a prophecy spoken over my life a few weeks prior.
And, although what unfolded in that dream has never been far from mind, I definitely haven’t allowed it to light a fire under me as I know was intended. Instead, I placed it on the back-burner as I so often do when something overwhelms me. Thank goodness, I have a relentless, never-give-up-on-me Lord and Savior who began the process of coaching me out of hibernation this past summer and moving that dream back to the forefront of my daily consciousness.
As I began thinking about the dream more, I began praying for another dream to boost my spiritual confidence, or, better yet, a replay of THAT dream. I also became obsessed with RVs as that had been the dream’s setting. I even found and entered a contest to win one as I figured this would be a quite fitting–and inspiring—place to finally finish the book the Lord had begun unfolding almost a decade ago. And, because God is always faithful, I just knew I was going to win.
Spoiler alert. I did NOT win the contest in October. However, God did show up in a most impressive way and on the very day of the contest drawing, nonetheless. I know because I kept notes in my phone.
From My Dear God Journals. October 31, 2018. My first-ever job on the road.
As I stood alone on the Mann Family’s tour bus, I knew in my spirit that there was more to the moment than just being obedient to God, stepping out in faith and doing something new. I knew there was something else God wanted to reveal to me on this trip and this empty tour bus—parked with shades drawn—appeared a clue.
My eyes were drawn to an iridescent light in the bus’s ceiling which illuminated the driver’s cabin in a kaleidoscope of glimmering light and color. As if a spotlight cast from Heaven itself, I felt compelled to take a seat and closed my eyes in hopes of hearing from the Lord.
Within moments, my mind began spinning in reverse, like a tape rewinding in the now antiquated and dust-laden VCR I refuse to remove from my entertainment center. Backwards I went, images of places I had been and moments I had lived, all zipping by in sync with a garbled soundtrack which sounded a lot like Alvin the Chipmunk singing in foreign tongue.
Backwards I went, past all the job difficulties that have plagued the last few years—the multiple management changes and difficulties that those brought, the age discrimination, the toxic work environment and the painfully obvious ploys used to seal my fate as the last of the “old crew” to finally be swept out.
Past the death of my brother and the frightening illness of my mother and my other brother; past my own health scares and an extended illness that literally took my breath away; past what I now know was bouts of depression and crippling fear which I allowed to sideline my passionate pursuit of the very purpose God has laid before me. I even whizzed past the good days, the grace and blessings that God continued to bestow upon me despite my hit-and-miss acknowledgement.
Backwards I went at dizzying speeds, coming to a stop at a place of great familiarity. I inhaled deeply as a wave of déjà vu and intense curiosity beckoned me to reopen my eyes. I was still sitting in the driver’s seat, but I was definitely not on the Mann’s tour bus anymore. In fact, I wasn’t even in 2018.
Instead I had awakened in the midst of the very dream that God had gifted me some four years prior; a dream for which I had prayed for fervently; a pivotal dream in my journey of purpose; a dream of great enlightenment that had both thrilled and overwhelmed me, and, because of my own fear, eventually derailed me.
This was obviously more than a run-of-the-mill déjà vu moment; it was a moment undoubtedly meant to put me back on track; a moment that shouted Isaiah 14:27: “The LORD of Heaven’s Armies has spoken—who can change his plans? When His hand is raised, who can stop Him?”
This answer is nothing and no one; not even a stubborn, hardheaded, “bless her heart” southern girl.
Thank You, Jesus, for bringing me back to the last docking station along this purposeful journey; thank You for allowing me to relive the dream in which Your will and purpose for my life became evident and intersected and intertwined with my own.
Thank You for replaying the dream that awoke my reality.
May I honor and be obedient to it and You, putting pen to paper and sharing it with the world just as You have asked.
Today’s take-away: We are to live in expectation when it comes to prayers, but never forget that just because He may not have answered the way we expected, does not mean He didn’t answer. Stay alert and enjoy the ride! I promise you’ll never be bored. As for me, my first New Year’s resolution for 2019 is to permanently capture my dream using pen strokes and paper. Almost as unbelievable as it is true, it—and the prophecy that preceded it—changed my life and will, if I stay true to my calling, eventually lead to a completed book that will change the lives of countless others as well. Pray for my obedience and stay tuned.
–Amen and Ehmen.
November 25, 2018
Where to begin? It’s been awhile since I opened up my heart and let it flow onto the blank page.
If I am finally honest with myself, this year has been fashioned of fewer deliberate prayers and more and more silent groanings. Thank You for never letting my needs go unmet, even when I don’t know what they are or are just too tired and distracted to lay them at your feet. Thank You for sending Your Spirit to continuously intercede on my behalf.
Thank You, too, for sustaining me as I have attempted to find a new normal. Losing my job of two-decades-plus, and more specifically the safety net that it provided, has been harder on me than I have admitted. I still believe with all that I am that You did not want me to step back into a full time job, but to remain self-employed so that I am forced to depend on You and You alone. It’s been 18 months now and You are still sustaining me. Though I often fall short month to month, I have yet to want. Still, I have also yet to rest in a place of complete trust in You. I am sorry for that and pray that you will help me with my unbelief.
Thank you also, Lord, for the doors you have opened for me. I never dreamed that I could go out on tour, physically or mentally. But, not only did I do it, it was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life, even with the bumps along the way. You made it obvious that I was where I needed to be and with the people I most needed—incredible people so genuine
and full of love for each other and for You. No pretenses whatsoever. What a rare and beautiful treat and definitely the stuff of which lifelong friends are made. Thank You, from the bottom of my heart, for the doors you have opened and those that I know You will open in the future.
And, thank You, Lord, for yesterday, for instantly answering my prayer to have my passion reignited and ink to begin flowing again. The God moments and ideas started flowing within minutes. So, so many ideas, that I am honestly not sure where to start, but I know I should not worry as You are with me.
I couldn’t ask for a better Muse and Mentor. Ever.
Help me to walk in complete obedience so that the seeds You have planted within take root and bear abounding fruit for Your Kingdom. I love you, with all that I am.
Amen and Ehmen.
Dear, Dear Child,
How happy it makes me when you meet me here. I can speak to you anywhere, anytime, but it is in the peace of My Presence where the world falls silent that you are able to hear and understand Me most.
Thank you, Child, for your obedience. I know you feel deep down that you have squandered much of this past year, but I encourage you to not let the enemy twist your thoughts. He’s resorted to the same old tricks since the beginning of time. Attempting to lead you away through guilt; through self-doubt.
He knows your heart is Mine, so instead he has to resort to making you feel unworthy.
You, My Child, are worthy. I picked you. I equipped you.
You are the only one who can fulfill the purposes I have for you and, as long as you love Me and stay connected to Me, nothing can stop you.
I AM proud of you, Child.
You have done nothing wrong.
That Elevation Church podcast that popped up out of the blue yesterday was no accident. I need you to hear and believe that the downtime of the past couple of years has not been wasted. It was necessary. Like My son Steven said, it has all been a divine delay; a delay of My own design.
I am lining things up, Child. My plans for you are even bigger than you know; bigger than you will know while on earth. The impact of your purpose will ripple throughout the generations well into eternity. And, as long as you believe in Me; as long as you trust in Me; as long as you are Mine, you can rest easy knowing that you are called; you are equipped; and you are right on schedule—for nothing, My Child, can thwart those who love Me and are called according to My purpose.
Buckle up. You are in for the ride of your life. While the phrase “it will happen” brings hope for the future, I need you to retrain your brain to this truth that your heart already knows to be evident: Your purpose is present tense; a fluid, living, breathing part of you and it is happening right now!
You are exactly where you are supposed to be.
I love you, Child, with a love like no other. Merry Christmas.