A Memory

Some people have a gift of capturing beauty in photographs. Others capture beauty through their words. My friend Shelly is gifted in both. In today’s post, Shelly paints a beautiful memory with her words.

A memory:

On our way home from Dallas today, we stopped at a Wendy’s. After we sat down, a middle-aged man entered with a tiny, elderly woman. He gently guided her to the line and showed her the menu board. He carried her small purse, handles frayed, to a table and went back to retrieve her and their trays.

He helped her unwrap her food and made several trips to gather the extras for their meal.

Her back was to me, but his merry eyes lit up each time she said something. I crossed near them to dispose of my trash and I saw him reach across the table and pat her cheek gently. “Mom, you’re such a beauty. I hope you know that, ” he told her.

She smiled and dabbed her mouth as she nodded her head slightly. He steadied her shaky hand when she pulled the fork upward for another bite.

I had to stop. “You two…it’s wonderful.”

He grinned. “Well, she’s still my best girl, aren’t you, Mom? Even though you’re 94, we still enjoy our dates, don’t we?”

She nodded and her eyes crinkled softly as she patted his hand.

I don’t know what their story was before, or where the road led them after, but in that moment, they were perfection. Pure, righteous, holy.

contributed by Shelly Smith Morales

 

Walking

Laura and I worked together. I liked her from the moment I met her. She was dedicated, determined, and cared deeply for the residents living in the facility where we were employed. She was also punctual, which says a lot because she didn’t have a car.

During one of our brief opportunities to chat, I invited Laura to a Bible study I was teaching in my home. Since she worked many double shifts, she didn’t think she would be able to come. But God made a way for her to attend.

During discussion time, Laura let loose. I don’t remember what the topic was, but once she started “sharing” our night took a turn. (Some leaders might have seen it as a turn for the worse, but God knew it was a turn for the best.)

As Laura exploded in expletives, my sweet friends just listened with their hearts. Interlaced in a sea of (f) words was a story of abuse, loss, and pain. No one chastised Laura for being inappropriate, they just loved her, listened, asked questions, and prayed.

After the other women went home, Laura sat down at the table while I cleaned up. I could tell she was thinking. After a bit, she said, “I know you care about me.”

“Yes, Laura, we all love you,” I responded.

“Nobody judged me,” she stated, as she looked me straight in the eye. “Nobody said anything about my cussing.”

That night, Laura and I visited for a while. We talked about God’s unconditional love. We talked about healing, forgiveness, and freedom. We talked about a lot of things. Then I drove her home.

After that night, Laura began to regularly attend our weekly meetings. Since she worked most Sundays, she rarely attended church, but it was obvious that she loved Jesus. In the midst of her daily challenges, Laura would silently pray for people, trust God (even in the hard times), and continually give God credit for anything good in her life.

Laura’s death was a shock to everyone. The last day of Laura’s life seemed like every other day. She had set out walking to work, but this time instead of arriving at the retirement apartments, she entered Heaven’s glory. While she was on her way to work, she suffered a severe asthma attack, passed out, and hit her head. She died instantly from brain trauma. Sweet Laura with a heart of gold is now walking on streets of gold.

Whenever I think about Laura, I think about God’s grace and the brevity and uncertainty of life. We never know while on our way to our daily destinations when we will be rerouted to our final destination.

The night Laura opened up her heart and shared her pain, all of us present had a deeper glimpse into God’s heart and His unconditional love for all mankind—reminding us that there is nothing that we could ever do or say to earn or negate His love for us.

Father God is not shocked, nor repulsed by “colorful” language—or “colorful” stories. He is always there with a listening ear and an open heart—just loving us.

Jesus was always walking beside Laura, but Laura didn’t recognize Him until seven years ago when she took hold of His hand and accepted Him as her Savior. The day Laura took her last walk on this earth she went from seeing Him in part, and just holding His hand, to seeing Him face to face in all His glory!

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

Corinthians 13:12 “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely” (NLT).

 

Not What I Thought

One of the schemes of the enemy is to try to make us think that we’re missing out. This Fourth of July, I really wanted to see the fireworks display. My daughter wasn’t feeling well, but she didn’t want me to be disappointed, so she lovingly went with me down to the Marina to watch the fireworks.

Since the Marina was less than a half mile from her house, I was anticipating the beautiful colors exploding and raining down from the sky as I looked up in wonder. The reality of the situation was that we were so far away from the fireworks, instead of looking up, we had to look straight ahead across the water, where in the very, very, very, very, very far distance we could see tiny little flashes of various colors about the size of my thumb.

Earlier in the afternoon, I had mentioned to a friend that I was taking care of someone’s bunny. When I told her that we would only have to drive a half mile to see the fireworks, my friend was extremely concerned about the bunny. “I know someone whose bunny died because a loud noise caused it to have a heart attack,” she cautioned.

Because of my friend’s statement, I had intended to check on the welfare of the bunny after the fireworks display, but I’m pretty sure it’s safe, unless its ears are so sensitive that the sound of Rice Krispies popping in a bowl of milk sound to it like cannons.

Looking back on the whole evening, I have to laugh. What I had pictured in my mind wasn’t even close to the actual scenario. If I had not seen the fireworks, I would’ve gone to bed thinking that I had missed out on a marvelous display. It made me think about how the enemy entices us with illusions of grandeur in order to keep us from God’s best. When, in reality, what we experience is nothing like what was promised.

My Fourth of July celebration might not have been what I had expected, but it sure taught me about false expectations. Thank you, Lord, for reminding me that you always know what is best!

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

Liberty

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This past weekend I had the privilege of staying on a military base. Each time I heard Reveille and Retreat being broadcast over the speakers, I thought about the Liberty Bell.

In 1751, a 2, 080 lb. bell was ordered for the Statehouse of Pennsylvania from England. When it arrived, everyone was excited, but when the bell was rung for the first time, it cracked. A couple of Philadelphia foundry workers melted and recast the bell, however, the copper they added gave it an unpleasant tone.

But its lack of musical quality didn’t keep in from ringing out sounds of freedom.

The bell was rung for assemblies and for special announcements and events. Traditionally, it is believed that it even tolled for such American milestones as the First Continental Congress, and  for the Declaration of Independence.

In 1837, the bell became a symbol for abolitionists and was renamed the Liberty Bell. After the Civil War, the Liberty Bell became a symbol of unity for a fractured nation, and starting in the 1880s, it was taken throughout the land proclaiming liberty to all.

Historians tell us that the last time the Liberty Bell physically rang was for Washington’s Birthday in 1846. As it rang, it developed a large crack. Although, that day the bell might have lost its tone, its sound of freedom would continue to ring on through the centuries—as it would become a symbol of hope.

In 1915, a replica of the Liberty Bell, with its clapper chained to its side, traveled the country promoting the women’s suffrage movement. It was rung for the first time when women won the right to vote.

Along with the American Flag, the Liberty Bell continues to be a symbol of freedom today. Freedom that has been fought for…Freedom that has cost many their lives…Freedom that is costly but priceless.

Tomorrow, as you and I celebrate our Independence, I pray that we would thank God for our freedom. Our great country might have a few cracks, but the sound of freedom still continues to go forth throughout the world from her shores.

I am thankful for America and for the men and women in the military who are paying the cost to keep her ringing.

The scripture on the Liberty Bell says it all: Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof Lev. XXV X.”

Truly words of Freedom from the One who came to set all of us free!

May the Lord abundantly bless you!

Jeannie

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Historical Info from H http://www.ushistory.org/libertybell/

Freely Given

 

Jonam

Today my heart is full of gratitude!

I am thankful for God’s blessings in my life, and I am thankful for the brave men and women who serve and for their families who sacrifice, sometimes at tremendous costs. I personally know many men and women who have served or are still serving in the military. Whether stateside or on foreign soil, they all have given of themselves, as each has done his/her part to defend others and to keep America free.

When I was growing up, my parents taught us to have respect for the military. We were taught to appreciate and honor our soldiers who are currently serving and our veterans. Dad’s father had fought in World War I, and Mom’s Dad had fought in World War II. Maybe that is why my parents made it a point to have all six of us kids wave to soldiers and thank them whenever the opportunity arose. One time, I remember Dad pulling over as a Convoy of about 50 trucks carrying Vietnam soldiers passed us on the highway. We spent the next 15 minutes, waving and yelling out, “Hurray for the men in green!” Now, I wonder how many of them returned to their families.

A few weeks ago as I was sorting through items at my father’s house I found letters that Mom had written to some Vietnam soldiers. One that brought back memories was a letter to a certain Lance Corporal, letting him know that Jesus loved him and that there were people back home who truly cared about our soldiers. Through their correspondence, Mom introduced us to the Lance Corporal and before long she had all of kids writing him letters and sending him pictures. You would have thought we had won the lottery when Lance (as we nicknamed him) sent us pictures of himself, his buddies, and even their dog. When Lance visited our home after returning to the states, I felt like I was in the presence of a celebrity. I was!

When a loved one deploys there is always a chance that they might not return. Almost four years ago this reality hit home.

When my daughter called and told me that Jonam had been killed in a suicide bombing, it felt as if I had been punched in the chest. Not Jonam!”  Having three children in the military at the time, and having known someone personally who had lost a son in the war, I was aware that there was a cost for serving one’s country. But all I could think of was: “Dear God! Not Jonam!”

Jonam grew up around our family. He was a great kid who immediately lit up every room he walked into with his contagious smile and cheery disposition. I loved that kid! Just days before he had skyped my youngest son. Now he was gone!

As I stood in the kitchen, my phone still in my hand, I grieved for the amazing young man who had touched the lives of so many people. I also grieved for his amazing family. I couldn’t even imagine their loss! But as the tears rolled down my face, thankfulness swelled in my heart. I realized that Jonam’s life wasn’t taken. It was given. He gave it the day he signed the papers to enter the armed services. He gave it every time he put on his uniform. And He ultimately gave it the day he left this earth and entered Heaven’s glory.

Thank you, Jonam! Thank you all who have given the ultimate sacrifice and laid down your lives for our freedom!

Jonams Grave

John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Have a blessed Memorial Day,

Jeannie

Going Somewhere

Going Somewhere

Lately, it seems as though I am being pulled in many different directions. Before I leave for Virginia for a season I am trying to meet with as many friends as I can, as well as sorting, packing, selling my books I still have on hand, writing, preparing messages to teach next week, taking care of my special needs sister….you get the idea.

You would think I would be going nuts trying to get everything accomplished, but actually, I would much rather be busy than bored. Maybe that is why I like to walk at the bayfront when the wind is stirring the waters.

Right now, there is no doubt that I am definitely going somewhere soon. But there have been seasons in my life when I felt as if I were going nowhere.

 

Last Spring God told me to turn over the care of my father and sister and go elsewhere. I stepped out in faith and obeyed. After visiting in three different states, I returned and stayed with a few friends awaiting my next direction.

 

I was looking into renewing my teaching certificate and getting a “real job” but every time I made a move in that direction, God stopped me. In November I came back to my dad’s house for a week to take care of my sister while he went to a wedding in California. Unfortunately, the day before the wedding, he fell and broke his hip, and has not been able to live at his house since then. So to make a long story short, I am still here at his house.

 

After a few weeks of caring for my sister again, I, felt as if I were going nowhere. I thought that maybe my extended stay was keeping me from accomplishing the things God had put in my heart to do. My current circumstances reminded me of an experience I had had years ago when I was living in Arizona.

 

I was volunteering at the hospital on one of my days off and had just entered the elevator with a cart full of supplies I had gathered from the storeroom. After maneuvering the cart to the back of the elevator I pushed the button to ascend, but the elevator didn’t budge. I waited a minute just in case someone was exiting on another floor. Then I pushed the button again…Still no movement. Just as I began to envision myself being stuck inside for an indeterminate amount of time, the doors opened and to my surprise, I was staring into the face of the same woman whom I had conversed with in the hallway before boarding. That is when I realized I had been pushing the wrong button. My effort had resulted in my going nowhere.

 

Needless to say, once I recognized my mistake, I quickly corrected it, exited on the second floor, and made my way to my destination with no further hindrances. Although my extended stay in caring for my sister again and my elevator experience felt similar, I realized that there was a world of difference: On the elevator, I was pushing the wrong button. In returning to my dad’s home, God had pushed the right button. Repeating the same mistake didn’t take me anywhere, but obeying God always takes me somewhere, even if I do not recognize it at the time.

 

As I look back on these past seven months I am in awe of all God has done. I am thankful for all I have been able to accomplish at my father’s house, and I have been blessed in more ways than I could ever have imagined. Once again, God has shown me that when He puts me in specific places, the rewards outweigh the struggles. Whenever I am in His will, even when it feels as though I am going nowhere, He is always taking me somewhere.

 

If you are in a season where you feel as if you are going nowhere, I would encourage you to ask God for wisdom. He might show you that you have been pushing the wrong button and repeating unhealthy or unproductive behaviors. But He also might reveal that your seemingly nowhere season has been taking you somewhere you were not aware of. Somewhere you never could have gone without your present circumstances, even

if that somewhere is just to a deeper relationship with Him.

 

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

 

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Psalm 33:4  For the word of the Lord is right; and all His work is done in faithfulness” (AMPC).

 

Scars into Stars

The enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy, but God gives life abundantly. Today’s post is a powerful testimony by my friend Cilinda. Thankfully, we serve a mighty God who brings beauty out of ashes and as Cilinda so beautifully says, “turns our scars into stars.”

I started out thinking I was going to write a very short rendition of my “autobiography” (which I have promised both myself and God, but have yet to do), but God has laid it on my heart to write my testimony in a much different fashion/form.

To cover my background and help it to make sense of where I am today, I will say my life has not been “the American Dream” in any manner. At the ages of seven and nine years old I was molested. My parents never knew because I was not capable of understanding what had happened to me, being so young at those times. It probably behooves anyone reading this, to think how something like that could’ve happened to a child and the parents not ever know. Fear and folly, I would dare to say, is what allowed me to keep it a secret for so many years.

My mother was forty-three years of age when she gave birth to me (my father was fifty-two years old). My precious mother had too many medical problems to mention, and needless to say, after having three daughters many years earlier in her life, was not “expecting” the birth of the fourth daughter (me)! But she and my father welcomed me into this world with love and their faith in the Lord knowing that my birth was His will and all would be right with the universe!

You may have heard the old sayings such as “ignorance is bliss,” or “what you don’t know won’t hurt you”… well, unbeknownst to me, as a child, I took those old adages and lived by them for several years. I kept the ‘secrets’ of what those two men did to me hidden as deep within me as I could possibly bury them. My life played out as I would consider “normal”, but as the years rolled by, I would find out that buried bones sometimes get dug up or uncovered.

As my high school graduation approached, I was more than excited over the life I saw before me! I was engaged to a military guy five years older than me. Our wedding was two weeks after my graduation, and I couldn’t wait to be married to the man of my dreams, have our own home and one day have children of our own! The “American Dream”, right? Well, all that soon changed and my vision of the “American Dream” was shattered into a million pieces and scattered to the uttermost parts of the earth, or so it seemed.

My fiancé and I were involved in a most tragic automobile accident May 2nd, 1978. A semi-truck ran the traffic light as we were crossing through our green light. The big rig hit our car on my fiance’s side, sending us spinning, striking another vehicle in our path, and leaving a mass of destruction in a matter of seconds! Four days later, I came out of a coma, to find out about my fiance’s tragic demise. The driver of the truck didn’t survive this horrendous accident either.

My future was ripped right out from under me; a feeling much worse, I felt, than literally having my heart torn from inside my human body! The one person I was about to vow to spend the rest of my life with… to have and to hold, from this day forward, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part, was gone. Death… such a sudden end to a lifelong future ~ one that never began!

I sank into the darkness of depression, not wanting to be in any social gathering with family or friends. I didn’t have a reason to go on, nothing to live for! I just wanted to die! Twice I tried to commit suicide – once by taking an overdose of my prescription. The second time I had to battle thoughts in my head of jumping into my mother’s car and driving off a bridge! But God had other plans, none of which I was aware of yet!

I went through counseling with a psychiatrist, and then more with a psychologist. The pastor of our church also generously counseled me through the word of God (which was, by far, the most valuable and rewarding counsel of all!)

Four months after tragically losing my fiance, a relative passed away, and my parents needed to go to the funeral. They knew I would not be attending with them, as I was not capable of holding up through a memorial service. One of my sisters and her three children lived just down the road from my parents and me, so they arranged for me to stay with her until they returned after the weekend. Little did they, or any of us, know that weekend would be cut short…

My sister was divorced and was enjoying the activities of what single life entailed – going out to the nightclubs on weekends to dance and listen to some good old-fashioned music! Well, her three children had made plans to stay with friends of theirs that weekend, and an old friend of hers happened to come for a visit and ask her to go out on the town. Not wanting to leave me alone, she said I would have to come along. Much to my negative response of not wanting to go, she continued insisting and I finally, begrudgingly gave in.

We went to a nightclub that we had often frequented in the past and stayed for awhile until she and her male counterpart decided they wanted to check out another place. I refused to go and spotted a former friend I hadn’t seen in a while and engaged in conversation with him. She spoke to him briefly and said they would just go for a little while and would be back to pick me up. I took it that she thought my friend would hang out with me until they returned!

An hour or so passed and my friend said he needed to leave, as he had to get up very early the next morning. I sat at the little round table in the corner alone, listening to the band until the bartender announced, “Last call for alcohol”. Next thing I knew, the bouncer walked up and told me I had to leave, “…time to vacate the premises & lock up shop!” I tried to explain that I was waiting for my sister to come back to pick me up, but he simply stated that I needed to “wait outside.”

I exited the building, not knowing what else to do. I looked around, hoping to see my sister and her friend pull up to pick me up. But not a sight of them anywhere! I noticed an army guy that worked with my friend I had talked to earlier and asked him if he could give me a ride to my friend’s so I could have him take me home. He said he was with other guys, but he would see if I could get a ride with them.

Without dragging this story out too long with daunting details, I’ll skip to where this “ride” lead. The car pulled up, and I got in with the “friend of my friend, the driver of the car and the passenger in the back seat. They took me to the dorms where “my friend” should have been, but after I checked his room, knocked desperately on the door (to no avail), I returned to the parking lot to see the three army guys standing by the car. I approached, telling them he didn’t answer and asked if they could take me to the police station so I could get a ride to my sister’s house. Their plans had already been decided. My night on the town soon turned into a night of terror.

During the next few hours, I was repeatedly raped and abused. Then I was taken back to the car. Instead of releasing me, one of the men then took me to another location. Fear enveloped me as questions ran through my mind. “Where was he taking me? God, why is this happening to me? Is this going to end? “How” is this going to end??? ”

Once again, I was raped. My captor then opened the car door, got out of the driver’s side, walked around to the passenger’s side, told me to slide behind the wheel, threw the keys at me as he slid into the car and said I could drive to my sister’s! My mind was not in a state of rationalization, nor did I remember the actions taken in driving myself to my sister’s house. All I can possibly accredit my safe arrival to is only the sheer grace of God!! As I pulled up in my sister’s driveway and grabbed the door handle to get out, he threatened me, “Don’t tell anyone what happened tonight, because the big guy WILL come find you!”

I broke down and told my sister and her male friend what had happened! Her male friend took me to the infirmary and the doctors called the military police. I was tended to & cleaned up, then taken to the crime scenes to verify my story. I had to return the next day for a lineup where I identified both guys.

Two years later I received a certified letter while I was living on a military base in Germany. I was married and we were expecting our first child. The letter was from the U.S. Dept of Criminal Justice, stating that the trial had taken place, and both militants had been tried and found guilty and were dishonorably discharged from the Army! But no sentence or jail time for either! I remember thinking, “Justice… is that what you call it?”

I continued to live my life, and raise two sons.  My first marriage lasted sixteen years. Thirteen years later I remarried. That one lasted four years. Although both of my marriages ended in divorce, I watched my two wonderful, blessed sons grow up and get married. One of my sons has given me two of the most treasured blessings I claim – my grandson & granddaughter!!

My family are my treasures and this life is where I am meant to be…The past? It’s dead & gone… buried! Those buried bones I spoke of earlier did get dug up… but not in the way you would imagine. Again, God’s mercy and grace prevailed!

I was approached at a random meeting by someone in the Criminal Justice Department in Texas (where I lived after I married & raised my children). I told my story and of how God brought me through everything with His protecting angels all around me. I shared how I could have died in these instances, but by God’s grace, I’m alive today and healthy and well, with bountiful blessings the Lord has bestowed upon me through His love for me – HIS child! His child… ‘that’ I am! I told him that God watched in pain as these things happened to me throughout my life, but He did NOT allow any of it to destroy me or take my life! He had guarded, guided, and protected me and brought me to a ‘safe’ place!’

After hearing my story, this official asked me if I would be willing to share my story with others and tell them about how it impacted my past AND my current life! I accepted, not knowing what I was getting into or the difference it would make in my life!

I spoke to parole officers in training, as well as “parolees” who were in prison for committing the same crimes that had been committed against me!  How powerful our God is!! This was another chapter of my life – the one I call “the forgiving chapter”! This is where I came ‘face-to-face’ with those who have hurt and caused pain and suffering to others like myself… THIS was GOD reaching out (through me and my life’s story) to these criminals (sinners) to let them know that HE is all-powerful, yet He is a forgiving God! He allowed me to witness to these men about how HE brought me through all of my past! And through this came “forgiveness”.I realized I no longer had the hate and anger ‘buried’ inside of me toward those men from my past for what they had done to me! In a sense, you could say “God brought me ‘to’ prison to free me ‘from’ my own prison!”

God had allowed me to be a part of a family who knew Him, served Him, and loved Him. My parents taught me how to believe in God. Through attending church regularly, I was taught about how we, our world, and everything in it and beyond was created. I learned about the hardships of people throughout the Bible and about how God delivered those who believed through it all! I learned about Jesus’ birth, His life, and all the torture, pain, and suffering He went through before dying on the cross for the sins of the world. And I learned about how Jesus resurrected back to life so that I/we could live beyond all the tribulations we have here on earth!

At the age of thirteen, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. I realized then that I was not alone on my journey and that He had been by my side in my “innocence of life!” Although I did encounter terrible tragedies later in my life, I now know that God was, is, and ‘always’ will be by my side no matter what my future unfolds!

Today, through my past, both good and bad, I reflect on where God was in my life. He was by my side, holding my hand, and carrying me through the parts of my life that I would not have survived – without HIM! I am blessed to attend a wonderful church who loves and serves God “wholeheartedly”. I too, serve in this church through ministries God has placed before me to show how awesome He is and how HE provides for each and every one of His children, through any and all circumstances throughout our lives!

Besides working in our church bookstore, I am a leader of a wonderful Life Group called “Challengers”. I also am a part of an amazing God-given ministry called God Behind Bars, which allows me to attend ‘our’ church’s service in the very same prison God took me to when He opened the door for my healing to begin, as well as my “purpose” to be revealed! God is so  awesome, and amazing beyond our comprehension, but totally within our acceptance!

There are precious memories I hold on to of years gone by – that I will forever reminisce and thank God for as I smile with much appreciation and gratitude…Thank You, God, for always staying by me, for preserving my life, for showing me there are greater pains than all I have ever been through, and for my life eternal – my salvation!

One day I shall see my parents who are in Heaven… along with my sister and other loved ones who have long since passed. But as long as I am on this earth, I daily thank God that I can minister through my testimony and I am grateful that He has molded me into a vessel that He so carefully and lovingly guards, guides and protects, yet employs for His services to others.

Forgiveness is the key to a faulty lock that you thought could never be opened! How did I get through all of my past, you ask? Not ‘just’ by the Grace of God, but by His genuine love, His purpose, and His plan for me…And now, today…I look forward to my future, watching my children and grandchildren as their lives change, grow, and unfold the way God plans… watching and living the rest of my life, as it, too, turns page-by-page, as my book is being written by the hand of our Almighty God, who turns our scars into STARS!

 

The Gate

Today’s post is about an inspiring encounter my dear friend Brandilynn had this Easter weekend. 

As I drove towards Tarpley, Texas on Easter weekend; an overwhelming sense of emptiness filled my heart. Like an empty cup turned upside down; I felt nothing left. I was excited for the weekend, yet felt afraid I wouldn’t fit in with the group. They all knew each other well and I was just new to this church group. They were like one big happy family that joked and bantered back and forth with inside stories I had yet to understand. The old familiar thoughts entered in. Was I good enough? Could I measure up? Would I be on the sidelines looking in? Could I make a difference? I asked God to equip me as I rounded the corner to “The Gate” that would forever change my life. I sat in front of this huge black iron gate that towered above me. As I entered the code and the gate opened; I couldn’t shake a sense of something great is about to happen.

 

I quickly unpacked my bags and got settled in. Everyone began arriving at the second of two cabins on the Lake Front Hill Country Getaway. …and so began my journey to receiving the greatest fulfillment in a group setting I can remember. This group is different I told myself. Everyone busily got situated into both cabins and later that night we sat around eating burgers and listening to Pastor Mark share a message on what it means for God to get the glory in your life. He shared that this weekend was about focusing on the Lord and leaving the worldly cares behind. We delved into discussions about God and Jesus in a way that felt different. James had been discussing feelings of LACK in the previous church meetings.He shared to take those feelings and just ask God…  “Hey, what is this Lord”?!  It amazed me that it could be simplified so easily into one action.

Problem: Feeling lack (of any kind)
Solution: Holding that up to God and asking him about it

Pretty easy concept! How I missed it all these years is beyond me.

That night, I had a lot of time to think about what God was doing in my life and in the lives of others around me. I woke up the next morning with only a few hours of sleep. I felt strangely energized as I met up with the others in the group. The day unfolded perfectly as we talked around the picnic table. Later we hiked a mountain that later became known as “Won Shoe Mountain” and at night sat around the fire in God’s presence. We laughed and cried and sang and talked. A sense of wonderment came over me when I realized that in our group of twelve. Like the disciples, Jesus sat among us! I could feel his presence like never before. I could feel LOVE, ACCEPTANCE, JOY, HONOR, HUMILITY, COMPASSION, FAITHFULNESS, COMMITMENT, ANOINTING, GENTLENESS, ENCOURAGEMENT, and DISCERNMENT, to name a few. I was amazed to hear, as we went around the campfire; the thoughts that others had formed about me. Nothing but the love of Jesus could allow them to see into my heart that way. As each person took their turn my mind ceased to function and my soul leaped forward. I realized this is a taste of heaven on earth, as I felt unending love in that moment. A sneak peak into the UNCONDITIONAL LOVE that God has in store for us all as we (in time) enter into the heavenly gates.

NO LACK existed!

The next morning I awoke feeling satisfied that I had opened my heart, mind, soul, body to God in a way that surpassed previous moments. I felt closer to God than ever before in a way that humbled; yet excited me. I drove out and back up to the gate with new purpose and an overflowing cup. I sat in front of the Gate for a moment… NOT wanting to leave.

I understand now entering the code to the gate…. symbolic for saying, God, I am here… ready to be in your presence. I leave everything behind at the gate entrance and enter into your kingdom and majesty and righteousness. I realized I had left ALL worldly things at the front of the gate. We can’t bring those things into his presence.

In closing, leaving you with one final thought. When you are sitting in front of that Gate… staring up and deciding whether to enter…  or sit back in the worldly things… will you decide to enter into God’s presence and feel his majesty and love surround you and change you in a profound way. Letting the world fall away off of you… your body, your mind, your heart, your soul. To renew and bask in the presence of God that seems to change you down to the very cells of your body… to fill your heart so full it is bursting with Love, Adoration, Kindness, and Acceptance for everyone and everything around you. …but even greater still a deepening love of the Lord your Father in heaven that cannot be contained or explained.

…as I drove out the gate… I looked on the side of the road and could see the worldly cares I had left when entering, still sitting piled up; that I had dumped right outside the gate. I paused for a split second in thought as my eyes welled up with tears of joy. I drove away… leaving the pile still sitting there. I won’t be needing those again I thought as sweet tears began flowing down my cheeks. A sense of an atmosphere shift lingered with me in the car. A heart overflowing and a feeling of pure love beyond measure.

To those that don’t know God….  the code you enter to “The Gate” is Jesus. Ask Jesus into your heart and the gate will open for anyone who will ask.

All the love in the world to you.

-Brandilynn Edgerton

Stand to Serve

In my last blog I mentioned that in 2012, the Lord took me off the beaten path into a season of care giving for my parents and special needs sister. I would be lying to you if I told you that my heart and attitude were always right. My patience was often severely tested, reminding me that God is more concerned about our characters than our callings. Although I didn’t recognize it at the time, I now realize that it was His loving faithfulness that took me off the beaten path—and even into the wilderness for a season, not just to care for my family’s needs, but in order to bring me more revelations of His love and cultivate the fruits of the Spirit in my life. While my flesh often cried out, “I can’t do this! And sometimes even “Get me out of here!” My spirit cried out, “Jesus, make me more like you!”

I often felt as if I were in a tug-a-war. The reality was that I was. I wasn’t aware of the intensity of my battle until one Sunday while I was listening to a sermon about serving. The pastor talked about how during the Passover meal Jesus stood, stripped, stooped, and served. I took his words to heart.

When you and I are in challenging situations we often want to stand and run, instead of stand and serve. After hearing the sermon, I realized I needed to take a different kind of stand. When I returned to my parent’s house that afternoon I changed my prayer from release me to reveal more of your love through me. My prayer for revelation helped me to release the rope, receive peace, and gave me the grace to continue to serve.

Maybe you can relate. Have you been taken off the beaten path into a place that is difficult for you? Have you wanted to stand up and run away? If so, I would encourage you to join me and pray the following prayer:

Lord, humble me and help me to stand for you. Continue to strip me from what hinders me and empty me of myself. Gird me with Your strength and help me to serve with a willing heart.  Teach me to love by filling me with more of you! Thank you, Jesus, for doing in me what I am not capable of doing. In Jesus mighty name…Amen!

Be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” John 13:2-5 (NIV).

 

 

 

 

 

Leaves

For a few hours the other day I raked leaves at my father’s house.  About 30 minutes into my task, memories began to flood my mind, and I started praising God. Years ago, when I had emphysema I constantly prayed to keep breathing. As I bent to scoop up a pile of leaves I took a deep effortless breath and once again thanked God for miraculously healing me.

When I began to rake up another pile of leaves, I thought to myself, “Wow! My shoulder isn’t hurting!” In 2012, my doctor and physical therapist had given me little hope for a full recovery. I now have full range of motion and no pain.

“God, I don’t thank you enough,” I voiced. “I take so much for granted!”

As I kept raking and bagging leaves, I remembered other situations where God had met me in hard times. I continued to thank Him: “Thank you, Lord, you have done so much for me! Thank you, Lord, for healing my body and my heart. Thank you for your provision and faithfulness. Thank you for restoring my mind. Thank you for restoring relationships. Thank for freedom from fear. You are amazing!”

Raking leaves was no longer a chore. It was a privilege. With each stroke of the rake, choruses of thanks rose from my lips. I continued to give thanks and praise the Lord for the next two hours. Sixteen bags of leaves later, I set down my rake and thought to myself, “Wow! God really has brought good out of everything the enemy intended for evil. In that moment, I was fully aware that it’s only because of His mercy and love that I have truly been able to leave my past behind!

What a mighty God we serve!

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21, NLT).

“Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3, ESV).

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV