Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Never Have I Ever...

imagined myself where I was today.

Today was a day that I have been dreading on the calendar for a long time.

Up until this month I have chosen to bury my head beneath the proverbial sand and pretend that today didn't exist.

I seriously never ever thought this would be something I would have to endure.

What is it?

Well what is big to me probably sounds silly or trite to you.

But this is my life.  So silly or trite...it is big to me.

Today Shep and I sat in a meeting with teachers from Caroline's Elementary school and a couple of teachers from the Middle School she will attend next year.

Maybe you missed that.  MIDDLE SCHOOL.

This was huge in my head.  And catastrophic in my heart.

When God told us almost 12 years ago to believe Him to heal our girl and that He would indeed heal her....I never ever planned on being here.....for this long.

As I thought about her growing up I could see her in middle school but it wasn't like this.

Not in a wheelchair.  Not with a feeding tube.  Not wearing diapers. 

But today happened.

I really did sit through that meeting and it didn't kill me.

If God were to show us the entire journey before we take the first step....I don't think we would go.

The strength needed for today has been supernaturally granted in the steps taken for 11 plus years leading up to today.

That is how God works.

A step at a time.  The step that proceeded prepared you and the same will be true for every step taken along the way....His way.

I had a mound of faithful friends and family praying for us today.  I confessed the broken heart of a mother and they plowed forward in faith on my and Shep's behalf. 

This dreaded day has come and gone. Yet here I sit typing a synopsis of all that I feared.

God delivered.

He brought me through what I never thought I could handle.

His ways are so mysterious.

His thoughts toward me so vast.

Today was necessary for reasons I may not yet know.

But I trust the One who will make a way....where I see no way.

Ps. 56:3  "When I am afraid, I will trust in You."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Me and God at Midnight

My faith is real but it is also really flawed at times.

I get caught up in trying to bargain with God.
Or I care about how others view me more than He does.
Or I hold a list up to Him of my good works....forgetting that my best is filth.

But, at the heart of it, my faith is real.

I really know that God can do anything.
I really know that the Bible is completely true...a donkey spoke, a sea was parted, a dead man came out of a grave (er...more than one), oozing leprosy really did go away revealing fresh new skin, ears once deaf heard the bird's singing, eyes dimmed from nothingness opened to a new world never seen, and people bound to lie down upon mats, utterly dependent on others for help,  really did stand up on strong legs.

And these are just a few of the events we know about.  The Word says that there are many more not even written down. (Jn. 21:25)

God has graciously opened my eyes and my heart to yearn to live the kind of life that depends upon Him.

But that life is one of constant struggle.  Believing what my eyes see is much easier to do...and much more popular.

Caroline turns 12 years old this June.  She starts middle school next year.  Yet....she remains the same.  She is precious and smart and funny and sassy.  But the healing has not come.  I live each sunrise and each sunset with both the hope that it could be the day and the realization that it wasn't.

I can hear most of your thoughts.  I think it too.

"Ummm don't you think you heard wrong??  If God hasn't healed her yet...He probably isn't going to."

Remember the constant struggle.  There it is.  My. battle.

Shep tells me all the time that just because God hasn't yet isn't a good enough reason to believe He won't. 

I revisit this with God often.

"Did you really say this to us?"

Every time.....I mean every single time....He confirms it again.

But something has happened inside my heart.

I have sensed it over time.  A slow numbness lurks there.

If I wasn't entirely sure that this was true it was affirmed to me just last week.

One of my best and dearest friends in all the world bought a book for me to read.  She was excited for me to read this book.  She had read it and loved it.  It is Christian fiction but a powerful story of people believing God for the impossible.

I read the book at a snail's pace.  It wasn't a hard or boring read.  It was just the opposite.

I didn't want it to end.

But, like all books, it did end.

The story was powerful.

But my numbness was exposed.

I have become that girl with a protected heart.

I know without a doubt that God can.

But so many days, weeks, months, and years have eroded the fervor that once flourished.

Now I just get up wondering if He will.

I used to know that He could and He would.

See the difference?

That Christian fiction was used in the hands of an Almighty God to throw cold water in my face.

I finished the book just past midnight last Wednesday.

Not wanting to wake my husband I fumbled into the bathroom and closed the door because I knew God was waiting....

I got down on my knees and sobbed the cries of a cold heart.

I didn't have much to say to Him except, "This book has awakened a place in me that wants to die.  God I believe You.  I believe You can do the impossible...but You haven't.  It is just easier to bury these feelings and not deal.  But I don't think I am as useful in Your kingdom when my faith is functional but lacking in fervor.  Oh God bring it back.  Reignite the fire in my bones.  Give me more faith to persevere.  Give me a warm heart to feel each day."

 That was it.

Our meeting was short and sweet but entirely necessary.

A cold heart does little to affect a cold world.

It is slow coming....but this heart of flesh is daring to feel again.

"And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart."  Ezekiel 36:26


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Prison. The Women. Our Privilege.

I returned home from my fourth mission trip to St. Vincent island last Thursday afternoon.

Almost a week has passed.  Coming home to a husband and 3 children who have been snowed in for days was culture shock.

I was exhausted from the entire mission trip experience and a bit worn down.  If you have ever done mission work you know that sleep is lost.  But laundry, dentist visits, grocery shopping and everything else doesn't wait on me to get caught up on sleep.  I had to jump back into routine with very little down time except for the 3 flights home which were not stress free to say the least.

So....I am still processing.  Still relishing.  Still remembering.  Still reflecting on ALL that God did on that tiny island to astound and amaze us.

He showed Himself in tiny ways....like providing a black flip flop when another team member's black flip flop came apart and she desperately needed a shoe.

He showed Himself in big ways...His Presence and His Power and His Resources were more than we could bear at times.  The most magnificent way God showed Himself was His favor upon us.

I mentioned in my pre-trip post that this mission would be different for me.  No step by step outline.  No VBS plan to adhere to.  A blank canvas that God Almighty would paint using broken people to make a masterpiece.

This trip had lots of variety.  It was fun and exhausting and heart wrenching all at the same time.

We ministered to the body of Christ.  We ministered to the worn out, the beat down, and those doing most of the ministry work.  We went into a school.  We went into a make-shift daycare.  We painted walls in the hospital as a service to the people.  We encouraged through the Word, through songs, through testimonies, through hugs and fellowship.  Everything we did, all that way spoken, and all that we touched was done in the name of Jesus.

He went before us and made the way...we were literally along for the ride.

One particular visit on the schedule was for the girls to visit the women's prison. 

A precious contact from the island had asked if we could go and visit the women there. 

We were excited.  We were scared.  We had no idea what to expect.

No cameras were allowed.  A dress code was enforced and rules were given to us.

-We were not allowed to touch the women.
-We were not allowed to give the women any items.
-We had a strict time limit of 1 hour.

The mood was odd among us girls.  Everywhere else we had ventured held an air of expectancy and excitement. 

Not here.  There is nothing light, exciting or expectant about prison.

It is the opposite.  It feels heavy...hopeless and even void of life.

Walking into that prison, through those gates and down those steps on the side of a jagged rock into a wooden holding area covered in chicken wire was terrifying.  We acted brave.  But we were utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit of God. 

"What would a group of spoiled white American mission girls possibly have to offer these women?"

We didn't know.  But we knew we had to go.  We knew Jesus would guide us...

As we entered we saw several (7) women seated on the far side of the room.  A table stretched across the middle of the room and we were told to sit on the side of the room across from the women. 

The table was between us and it felt like a literal barrier.

I don't know what happened to me but mercy began to ooze out of me leaving its trails upon my cheeks.  Tears were flowing and no one had spoken a word yet.


I felt so stupid.  The last thing I wanted to do was embarrass these ladies.  But the tears did not stop.  I tried to turn my head and wipe them away quickly without drawing attention.

The ladies introduced themselves to us.  They told us their name, age, birthplace, job, and about their families.  As they spoke they became real people with real stories.  Pride welled up as they spoke of their children or grandchildren and tears trickled down their faces as well.

Once they introduced themselves...it was our turn.  They listened to us as we told them our names, ages, jobs, and about our families.  They would even clap as we talked about how many times we had been to their island.

We then asked them if they had specific requests that we could pray for them.  They all asked for us to pray for one of the women who had severe stomach issues.

At this point we turned and asked the warden and guards if we could cross the table and touch the ladies to pray for them.

The answer was "yes". (God's favor)

I am surprised that we didn't knock the table over.  We bolted across simply because we couldn't wait to hug their necks and hold their hands.

It sounds a little weird now but in that place it felt like the most natural thing in the world.

Once we were all together we prayed over the woman with stomach issues.  We boldly asked in faith for God to touch and heal her.  Then we separated.  There were 8 of us and 7 of them.  We took the opportunity to minister individually.  I sat at the feet of a beautiful 22 year old girl.  I listened to her story.  I memorized her face.  I heard her fears and saw her despair.  I prayed over her.  I spoke hope looking into her eyes and silently begged God for her to absorb His Presence that was with us.

We had brought bibles with us even though we were told we couldn't give them to the prisoners.  The warden watched us ministering to these ladies one on one and allowed us to give each woman a bible (God's favor) and to write them a personal message inside.

Time was drawing near for us to have to leave.  We felt it and the warden wasn't going to budge on that rule.

We had about 15 minutes left and the ladies wanted us to sing.

We asked them to teach us some songs.  One of the ladies (the roughest one of the bunch) played a drum that kind of sounded like a bongo and lead us in two worship songs.

It may have been the purest form of worship I have ever experienced.

There was no show.  No stage.  Nothing special...except Jesus.  Fifteen women lifted their voices high in song to their Master and Maker.  They were in prison but their souls praised from a place of freedom.

Any way that I try to describe these precious moments seem to diminish how powerful it really was.

I will never forget it.

Jesus was there.  I don't think He would have missed it for anything.

We closed our time by singing and speaking declarations of truth from God's Word over them.

Then it was time to go.

We hugged their necks.  We took mental pictures of each of them hoping to remember each detail.  We called them by name and thanked them profusely for welcoming us so warmly.

This pitiful prison became our biggest privilege.

We walked out knowing that we had done exactly as our Lord would have done. 

(Just a side note about the women on our mission team.  They are incredible.  I stole glances around the room and watched as Vanessa, Mande, Cathy, Kim, Cindy, Rebecca, and Annette literally became the hands, feet, and mouthpieces of Jesus Christ.  They wiped tears away.  The bore burdens. They wept as Jesus would have done...
They are all pretty ladies but they almost glowed from the glory of God.  His presence was so thick among us.  I am honored to forever share this experience with them.)

Lord, make us Matthew 25:31-40  kind of people!!!

 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All 
the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.