Armoured Up

Archive for the tag “Jesus”

The Odd Woman Under the Tree

UnknownAll summer I watched her watch me, seated in her wheel chair across the street from my house under a shade tree.  I didn’t know where she came from…she would just appear and leave just as quietly and stealthily.  I would catch her eye and smile and drive away wondering what her story was…who was she, where did she live, why was she just parked under a tree?  Even on the hottest of days, there she would sit…watching me as I went about my day.  I have errands to run, not much time to take care of business, certainly no time to cross the street and speak to the odd woman under the tree.

I actually slowed down once as I drove past her and asked her if she wanted a bottle of water.  She shook her head and showed me her water bottle.  I asked her if she was okay and she smiled and nodded.  I told her I’d stop by to speak to her when I returned and she just smiled and waved at me  Of course, she was gone when I returned and so I went about my day…I have errands to run, not much time to take care of business, certainly no time to rush home to speak to the odd woman under the tree.

Yesterday, off my daughter and I went to run some errands and as we pulled out of our driveway I spotted her.  We quickly reached the end of the block and I looked back and saw she was looking our way.  I told my daughter that I would stop to speak to her on the way home….we had errands to run, not much time to take care of business and no time to stop and speak to the odd woman under the tree.  By the time we returned, she was gone.

Today, after church, my daughter and I turned on our street and there she was again and this time I told my daughter that I was going to cross the street to speak to her.  My daughter asked me why and without thinking I said, “I wanna know her name.”   She watched me as I got out of the car.  Her eyes never left mine as I made my way across the street to speak to the odd woman under the tree.  I asked her her name and she answered, haltingly.  I stooped down and asked where she lived and she struggled to find words as she reached for a business card in her purse.  She lived in an assisted living home around two blocks away and she shrugged when I asked her why she was always parked on our street.  I discovered that her loving husband Jack passed away in June and that her heart was broken; I discovered that she had two sons and she just lit up as she spoke of them and her five grandchildren; I discovered that she worked as a secretary until “this” happened.  “This” was a stroke that took away her freedom and had her trapped in a chair.

As our time together drew to a close, I shared with her briefly about the faithfulness of God to heal my body and my broken heart; how He heard the cry of an infertile woman and gave me children.  Her eyes teared up as I asked if I could pray for her. “Please,” she said.  She told me that she was a Jew…and I said “so is Jesus.”  I quoted Jeremiah 29:11 to her and told her God loved her and that now I knew why she was parked on my street. 🙂  She smiled and bowed her head as I prayed for her, right there across the street from my house under the shade tree.  Our eyes connected one last time and hers were filled with tears.  We embraced and she would not let me go.  When she finally did, she smiled, turned her chair around and slowly made her way down the street….as I watched her go.  Inez is her name….nothing odd about her.  Just an assignment…that’s all!

He Hears…He Sees…He Moves

I’m doing a bible study on prayer and in it, the author writes about the blind man who called out to Jesus.  I paused for a rabbit trail to think about this man who had heard about Jesus, who heard He was passing through and waited. The noise of the crowd told him Jesus was near and so he cried out for Jesus, and then cried even louder when he was hushed. Jesus’ response before He responded stood out to me…four words caught my attention. “And Jesus stood still…” He hears.  Mark 10:49 KJV

In a similar situation, He encountered a woman with a condition which had been plaguing her for years….one which had zapped her energy, depleted her funds and dirtied her name, leaving her homebound and hopeless. She too had heard about Jesus and took a chance, knowing that any attention would likely get her in trouble; however, she knew she needed to reach out to Jesus…just a touch would make a difference. Jesus’ response before He responded stood out to me. “Jesus turned and saw her…” He sees. Matthew 9:22

How is it that in a throng of people pushing and pulling and jockeying for His attention, He was able to hear Bartimaeus? How is it possible with so many tugging at Him and pressing into Him, He was able to sense her touch? What caused Him to move on behalf of those who could do nothing for Him, who had nothing to offer? It was compassion…Compassion moved Jesus, but we cannot overlook the fact that it was faith which stopped Him and caused Him to turn around in the first place.

I’m encouraged knowing that in the midst of noise, be it in the world around me or in my circumstances, He hears the cry of His daughter and stands still to hear my heart. I’m encouraged knowing that He is not too busy to turn to the sound of my voice; to direct His attention to me; to show Himself strong on my behalf…and so I will wait….as He moves.

I’m encouraging you today to cry out, call out, step out, reach out, no matter what, in spite of whatever, and know that the God of compassion, God of mercy, God of comfort is waiting to hear your voice today, waiting for you to reach out, and He is the same yesterday, today and forever. You are His son…You are His daughter!

He hears…He sees…He moves.

“I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath.” Psalm 116:1-2 NLT

Still…

I turned over this morning, opened my eyes and there he was staring at me with the sweetest of smiles…a smile I have woken up to for 28 years. “Happy Anniversary honey…do you wanna go this morning.” I thought about sleeping in on this glorious Saturday morning, but instead my feet hit the floor and in minutes we were out the door headed to the mountain for our daily walk, run, prayer, hike. This is new for us since I’m an avid exercise spectator. There is nothing cute about hopping, grunting, sweating in public, but I’ll do it on the mountain with my honey, coz he asked me to and because there are no witnesses…no one I know, anyway.

This morning I fell behind and listened as he prayed. My heart felt a tug as he prayed for me and us and ours. I listened as he thanked the Lord for his wife, I was grateful as he washed me with the water of the Word, I was touched to hear how much he loves, honors and respects me…still.

I had to step it up to catch up to him so that I could pray for him. He held my hand as I covered him in prayer and from time to time I felt him squeeze my hand in agreement and appreciation.  We covered our wedding party in prayer and then focused on the marriages of those we know and then we reminisced on our time together and thanked the Lord some more.

As we climbed steep hills and cautiously made our way down, he much more gracefully than I — OY!!! —  as we jogged around bends, kicked up dust and navigated around rocks, uneven pavement and land mines which litter the path, compliments of “Mr. Ed,” I likened the path to our marriage. There have been mountains to climb that have been tiring and there have been times where we’ve slipped and skidded our way down, at times expecting great injury,  but landing safely anyway. There have been times where we have grown weary…weary from navigating those rough terrains, tired of the journey…tired of the uneven paths, the roads to nowhere, the dirt we’ve encountered, the dirt we’ve slung, the cr*p we’ve stepped in and still…

Here we are, 28 years later still taking those mountains, still slipping and sliding, still side stepping treacherous paths, still dusting the dirt from our shoes…still doing life together.  Loving one another…still.

Today I am grateful….grateful that the Lord knew that I would need a strong, silent, PATIENT, kind, diligent, loving man.  Grateful that we were wise enough to figure out that we could never climb any mountain or navigate any path without God being a partner in our partnership; grateful that God so loved me, that He chose that man for me and grateful that that man is in love with me…still!

Happy Anniversary honey. Here’s to us.
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Just When You Think They’re Not Listening…

Day one of my daughter’s high school religion class made for plenty of conversation around the dinner table yesterday. She was a little too concerned about religion class…well actually, she’s been concerned about geometry, lit, history, spanish and geography, but strangely enough she is so prepared for drama (imagine MY daughter dramatic?) She can’t wait for lunch and nutrition break and she’d be running with the cross country team at 6:00 a.m. except that her hair would be a “hot mess” afterwards. “This is the first week of school, mom!!” That’s my girl!!

Anyway, she really did have what she considers to be a legitimate concern regarding religion. She is attending a Catholic “College Prep” high school and as such, this school is super big on open communication, independent thinking, choices, responsibility and such, which is a beautiful thing and I have seen our son flourish in this setting in the last two years.

Yesterday during religion class kids spoke up about their beliefs and some were bold about the fact that they do not believe or weren’t sure what they believed, while there was the one who said he was searching. My daughter said it was strange to sit in a class room where there wasn’t unity in that area and she was grieved. “Oh boy,” I said…”welcome to the real world. Now that is a foretaste of college, for real!” They have been given an assignment to present a song, a poem, or story which would be “meditative” in nature and to end their presentation with a prayer. She said she was excited to share whatever the Lord puts on her heart. She asked me to pray for her.

When it was my turn to encourage my girl, I told her that it’s okay to question…how else would you find answers. It’s ok to be grieved, but not okay to judge where others are in their process. I shared with my girl that the good news is that she was tweaked by the conversation and the great news is that she is looking forward to her turn at bat and is praying about how best to present her beliefs.

Today as I recalled this conversation I prayed for my children, as they are closer and closer to being launched out into the world. I made a mental note to start discussing with them what they believe and why. I recalled that since they were too young to understand, I had been praying that they would not be tossed and turned by the philosophies of man or man’s doctrines, but that they would be rooted and grounded in God’s word. I recalled that I have prayed that they would eschew evil and do good; that they would be led by the spirit of God and not by their emotions or flesh; that the angel of the Lord would be encamped around them; that God loved them and had an extraordinary plan for their future; that they would know Him and be known by Him; they would love Him and serve Him.

I can’t help but feel a bit panicked at the thought of them leaving the nest. God, have I prepared them enough? Am I prepared enough to let them go? Will they remember lessons learned? Will they serve You? Will they make choices that line up with Your will, plan and purpose for them?

And then I am quieted, knowing that they are His children on loan to me and those areas that I could have been stronger in will be filled in by Him. I am at peace knowing that just when I thought they were not listening, they were and are. Thank You Jesus!

This Dude is on Fire!

From the next room I heard the ding of a text message as I was getting ready for church.  I made my way over thinking my daughter was IMG_7909 messaging me and instead received a message that blessed and encouraged me, brought tears and then did the same for my husband when I shared it with him.

It was a video of my brother at church, praying over the tithes and offering.  My brother, who just a few short years ago was running from God; my shy brother who would never have gotten up in front of a crowd..ever!!  That brother, my favorite one, who had distanced himself from me…time, distance and circumstances driving a wedge in our relationship.  That brother whom I had prayed for was now boldly praying in a public setting.

Really, God??!!  You are amazing.

As I watched and listened to my brother, I did so in awe at how much God had gotten a hold of him and transformed him; how much God loved him.  It encouraged me to continue praying for my other brothers and my nephews and nieces in the same way I had prayed for my on fire for the Lord brother.

Let me encourage those of you who are standing in the gap for your loved ones.  Do not grow weary when they reject you, misunderstand you, distance themselves from you.  Do not stop praying…do not stop believing.

God is faithful to His word!

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:31

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2Peter 3:9

Invisible

New York City Tops Nation In Income InequalityNever have I felt more invisible than after I delivered my second child and spent an afternoon at the mall with my gorgeous girlfriend.  (Talk about self sabotage.) Here I am around 4 weeks post delivery with a nursing tent hanging around my neck to conceal the wet marks on my chest looking like bulls eyes, chasing my busy 22 month old, while keeping my newborn shushed….a red hot smoking mess I was.  Here’s the invisible part, because I’m sure everyone and their relatives witnessed my “hotness” as I was chasing my boy, trying not to make the evening news!!!

We walked into a store and my friend watched my kiddies as I shopped.  I was struck and rather hurt at the non responsiveness of the store clerk.  It’s always been super easy for me to strike up a conversation with anyone and if we talk long enough, there are sure to be some chuckles…not this time.  This chick looked right through me and was about business…until my gorge girlfriend appeared with her purchases.  She was completely engaged and helpful.  I noticed and I realized for the first time that my outside was the obstacle to her acquainting herself with my inside.  I thought of that incident this morning as I was exiting the grocery store in a rush since I had gone for milk and ended up shopping for the week.

I saw him before I heard him.  He looked tired and dry.  He had his hand out and no one noticed him.  He was invisible.  As I passed by he asked if I had some change and I told him I might.  He took a seat in the shade and didn’t even look to see whether I was returning.  He, no doubt familiar with rejection, had no expectation that I would return.  I did and I asked him what he would do with the money I had in my hand.  He never looked at my hand, but he did look into my eyes and told me his intentions.  I asked him if I could pray for him and he said yes and bowed his head.  I laid my hands on him and sensed him relax after a few seconds.  As I prayed and spoke the word over him, he rocked back and forth as if I was singing him a lullaby.  That touched me so!  He looked up when I said amen with such appreciation and as I pressed the money into his hands he said “thank you, please continue to pray for me.”  “I will,” I said.

I was once corrected by someone I looked up to as a person who was well versed in the word.  He told me I should never sow my seed in ground where there would be no return…and that included giving to those outside of the faith.  That always checked me and so the one time a down and out friend asked for money, I sat next to her and ministered the word to her before I blessed her financially.  Then I realized, Jesus never expected folks to clean up first  in order to receive forgiveness, healing, etc. so why should I?  They will know we are His disciples, not by our prayers, our gifts, our good works, but by our love.  Love does…it moves…it acts!  I have no idea what Mykel will do with the money I gave him and that is not for me to judge.  I simply asked him so that he could hear himself respond and I pray that, for his own good, he was telling the truth.

Today, it came back to me why I was allowed to experience that sadness on that day.  I was made to experience in a snapshot what many feel for a lifetime.  Would you stop…would you at least stop long enough to extend a hand, say a prayer, acknowledge someone’s existence?  I’m praying today for the invisible; that they experience a healing touch and that they come to the knowledge that He sees…He hears…He moves…and most times it’s through people!

Led by the Spirit Lifer

imageslif•er
n. Informal.
1. a person sentenced to or serving a term of life imprisonment.
2. a person committed to a professional lifetime career in the military.

Lifer…I’ve heard people use that expression as it relates to their careers and I’ve also heard it used at a church where I was once a member.   After reading the above definition, I’m not sure that I much care for that term, actually!!

Recently, my husband commented that he really thought we would be “lifers” at our last church…so did I.  Our family is faithful.  We tend to stick and stay…same doctors, same supermarket, same dog groomer, same hairstylist (for me), you get the picture!  We’re pretty stable and loyal once we find a place to “hang our hat.”  As far as church is concerned, we are super vigilant and purpose to be loyal, not only because it is right and for our own good, but because there are two sets of eyes watching our every move and recording every decision.  We’ve never been the sort to church hop…we don’t even do much church visiting and if we do, our first stop is always our home church.  That’s just how we do it.

Last week my daughter was traipsing down memory lane and asked me how long we attended our previous church and with my response I started wondering if we would ever be lifers at a ministry.  For a split second (and believe me it was just that fast) I wondered if something was wrong with uprooting the family after just a few years…(5 years and two weeks to be exact:).

This past weekend I gained a whole new perspective on that lifer business as we witnessed Pastor Mike welcome a batch of newbies to partner up with him and the church to make a difference in the world, to grow, to share their gifts in what he phrased as “this Jesus movement.”  I love how he phrased that and I especially loved how he prayed over them.  He said something in that prayer that caught my ear…he prayed that for however long they were partnered at this church (whether a few years or many) that they would grow in their knowledge and love for the Lord.  Pastor Mike apparently does not expect these partners to be “lifers;” however, he does pray that during the time at the church, that they grow up and go out strong in order to make a difference wherever they go.

This morning his prayer came to mind again and I sensed the Holy Spirit showing me that I am a lifer only in the sense that I am committed to my marriage for life.  I would imagine if one goes into any situation with a plan for life (other than marriage), they would be excluding the possibility of being led by the Holy Spirit, thereby being limited by their planning.

Tonight when my girl comes home, I will explain this lifer deal to her and her brother so that they would understand the importance of being led by the Spirit of God…not emotions or people, or habit, etc.  I will reiterate that the Holy Spirit’s leading is always followed by peace and order and I will let them know that we will be officially making our new church our home church this summer.

I’m praying that we would hear the voice of the Lord and be led by His Spirit; that our decisions would be in line with His will, plan and purpose; that our intentions would always mirror His heart for those whom He places in our path and that He be glorified always and in every way…in Jesus’ name!!

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.
Psalm 37:23

Once Upon a Time…

One of my favorite things about Jesus is that He remained consistent.  The other favorite thing is that He was not a respecter of persons.  Try as I may to convince others that I am His favorite, the fact remains quite clear that He wasn’t given to partiality…He loved everyone the same; wasn’t fazed by titles and never allowed riches to cloud His judgment.   He was busy doing the Father’s bidding…head down, ears open, forging ahead, all the while knowing what was to come and still He poured out to those who would ultimately deny Him and even turn on Him.

This post has been roaming around in my head for some time now and today I remembered the scripture found in John 16:32 (Amplified) “But take notice, the hour is coming, and it has arrived, when you will all be dispersed and scattered, every man to his own home, leaving Me alone.  Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.”

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Notice her crown came right off too. Ha! I found that sucker:)
I AM Arlene the Queen!!!

Once upon a time there was a girl after God’s own heart.  A girl who had witnessed the power of God…who had been blessed mightily, healed miraculously…who in exchange for all that He had done for her, promised to know Him deeper, serve Him gladly and share Him unselfishly and so she set out to do just that…head down, heart open, forging ahead.  It took no time for this girl to be noticed and it seemed that just the “right” people were noticing and soon the wooing began.  She heard of praises from the “it” people targeting her and soon the invitations to draw near began as she kept her head down, heart open and forged ahead.  She became pretty well known in that circle and her reputation was in tact as she kept her head down, heart open and forged ahead.  There were many who reached out for her insight, her prayers; many were the invites and overwhelming were the praises and amazingly she was able to keep her head down and forge ahead.  Unfortunately her heart was a bit too open.

And then one day…poof, the grace had lifted, the favor seemed to be gone and with it all of the invitations and acknowledgements silenced, along with the praises…silenced.  “Friends” and acquaintances scattered; weapons formed against her, stories told…she was even unfriended and blocked by a few.  Her response?  She lifted her head up, she guarded her heart and forged ahead, explained nothing to the “theys” and moved on.

I hear Jesus’ words so clearly….they left me alone, yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.

I will forever be grateful for lessons learned.  I believe that every single occurrence in our lives should leave us well aware, better equipped, stronger and wiser.  I thank God for every bruise, every scar, every war wound sustained in my journey.  I thank God for strength in His word and a deep knowing that nothing can separate me from His love.  Yes, I had fallen from grace, but I landed in a soft place, a better place.

How about you? Have you taken a tumble off of your pedestal…have you fallen from grace?  Have you been betrayed, come against or hurt in any way?  Let me remind you that there are better days ahead, the worst is over, the past is just that….passed!  Don’t you get left behind too!

I’m praying that you not remain in a “pause” position; that you not allow anyone to stop your forward motion; that you run to and not away from the One who knows you the best and loves you the most; that you are able to forgive and release those who have hurt you and place the memory of the hurt where it belongs…in your past and not allow it to keep you enslaved.  I’m praying that you would be strengthened in your inner man and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be wiser, stronger, more anointed; that you live life filled with joy and loud!  Loud for Him!  Head up, heart open, ears in tune to one voice…now, forge ahead!!

There is one other thing I’d like to point out, even though I can’t seem to find it anywhere in the word….

I AM HIS FAVORITE! I AM HIS FAVORITE! I AM HIS FAVORITE!!!

A Wrong Turn Down Memory Lane

Taking a walk down memory lane is the best and the worst thing we can do. My husband and I were doing just that yesterday, the conversation starting off pretty funny and pleasant and with one wrong turn, I stumbled down a lane riddled with thorns, speed bumps, pot holes and quick sand. I completely ignored the Holy Spirit who was holding up a sign that said “Road Closed.” Ugggh!!! It was amazing how with one question, I found myself taken back down a road I should have never been on; one which I just knew I would never visit again. I would tip toe past it from time to time; I’d even do a “fly over,” being very careful not to set foot down that path again, but here I was reliving it all over again, allowing the thorns to once again pierce me; being slowed down by the speed bumps as I tried in vain to quickly get off that lane, tripping on the many pot holes which littered a once beautiful lane….stopping short of the quicksand which I knew if I would tread on it would take me down…no way I’d let it take me down again!

So I side stepped the quicksand and found myself at the end of that once lovely lane feeling like Lot’s wife who was to be spared but just couldn’t resist looking back one last time.  Looking back is just not natural when what you are looking at is just not pleasant. What’s wrong is that a glance over your shoulder to a time of adversity should only serve to strengthen your resolve not to pay adversity another visit…not if you can help it, anyway!  Sometimes we allow adversities to paralyze our forward motion.  The problem is that a glance becomes a stare, becomes a lingering gaze and before you know it you’re hot once again. I was bummed that I had stirred up emotions that were supposed to be “dead” and as I turned back to continue doing what I had been doing before my husband and I began “reminiscing,” I thought to myself, what would make it better?  What could be done to finally bring closure?  Would opening my heart to a “public viewing” help?  Would a confrontation be the ticket?  In the end the only one hurt is the one needing pay back so the answer is no….a big fat resounding NO!

Vindication ain’t all it’s cracked up to be…so you get heard and understood and then what? Though the speed bumps are flattened, the thorns trimmed and the pot holes filled, it’s still up you to make the choice not to allow yourself to be swallowed up by that quicksand..the quicksand of anger, hurt, bitterness…sucks you in to take you out!

In the end, I took a dose of my own medicine and began to think about all the good that resulted from that time; how God uses every part of our lives…every season we encounter to grow us and show us things about others, but mostly about ourselves.  What I learned about me is that I am one tough cookie! I do have self control…shocking for someone who at one time in her life would go from zero to 60 in a blink. I learned what I’ve always known to be the case…Because I love hard, when hurt comes I take it hard; I learned that I love truth, so when lies and accusations are hurled I react; I learned that love is a verb…ALWAYS and at all times; I learned that “I’m sorry” is way overused and trust is earned; I learned that I am quite discerning, so I’m rarely surprised, but sometimes shocked!! I learned never to allow myself to be placed on a pedestal again and if I slip up, I’ll make sure it’s close to the ground:)

I hit the light and in the dark, I decided that renewing my mind with the word of God was still the best approach so as I envisioned myself walking around the patch of quicksand at the end of that once lovely lane, the scripture which came to mind was “It is Finished” – for now anyway!

A Perfectly Woven Web, Part II

You can catch up by clicking here and reading Part I –https://armouredup.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/a-perfectly-woven-web/

I couldn’t have been happier seeing Mary come out of the grocery store pulling her luggage, a look of uncertainty in her eye.  Her outward look matched mine; however, I wore mine on the inside.  We embraced and she confessed that she woke up that morning uncertain that she would be joining us and was close to canceling.  “I’m so glad you came,” is what came out of my mouth, but what I was thinking was, if she had cancelled, I would have also.  We boarded the bus warily, I’m sure each of us skeptical for different reasons…she, never being around so many Christian women in so intimate a setting and I in the midst of healing after having my trust breached (once again) by Christians.  We pull off, eyebrows raised, destination known, future uncertain…with only God knowing what the condition of our hearts would be on the ride back home.  During the ride I pointed out Rashayna and told her that I wanted to introduce them that weekend.  She stared at her for a while and said she looked so familiar to her.  We settled in and chatted the rest of the way about nothing and everything.  We arrived and were given our room assignments and instructions to meet in the dining room.  We met our other roommates, a sister who had recently discovered she was expecting after the devastating loss of child born extremely premature just a few months prior and our fourth roommate was a woman I had never met, but was strangely drawn to with a story which would prove to blow back all of our hair.  She was one of the speakers and all I knew about her was that she had a story!!  The Weaver was busy weaving…

After dinner, we gathered in our meeting room.  I found seats for us and held my breath as the program began with worship.  I so wanted her to be comfortable and I was straining to focus as our first speaker took the microphone; opened up in prayer and began to talk about the many veils we wear as women to mask our feelings.  <“Breath, Arlene, she’s talking to you,” is what I kept hearing…”Let Me handle Mary and you just receive.  I am God, you know.”>  Note to self and the reader….Uh, God is God and we are not!  How refreshing is that??? – With an exhale, I began the process of entering in that rest I so needed, casting my care and Mary over to Him and guess what?  It works!  I spotted Mary taking page after page of notes.  Our next speaker talked about the labels we wear as women; some self-imposed, some inherited, some given to us, some of which stick and alter our perspectives, our choices, our decisions. Was that a tear I saw Mary wipe away or was that mine blocking my vision?  The program closed and a spontaneous decision was made for all of us to take a walk to a fire pit where our weekend’s leader kicked down “discomfort’s door” and with transparency that later Mary would say moved her beyond belief, she welcomed us into her pain and floored us with the details of what was currently raging in her personal life, threatening to prove that God had forgotten her and her family.  That opened up the door to many other women sharing intimate details.  I noticed that Mary had sat with Rashayna and they had been chatting.  I sat off to the side  praying that Mary would get up and unmask the enemy giving her an opportunity to disarm him in the company of some powerful women. Just as our time that first night as a group was coming to an end…the cold becoming a bit much and just as I was pleading to the Lord for her to raise her hand, Mary did just that and with the strength that I saw in our leader just moments before, she stood up, introduced herself and poured out what she had shared with me, ending her introduction with something like, “I’m not sure exactly why I’m here and I don’t know if I’ll ever believe the way you all do, but I’m here,” and that, my friend, is all that God needed to hear!

We retired to our rooms, some too amped to stay behind closed doors and us four opting  for a more intimate setting in our room.  Kim, the woman I was so drawn to began to share a little of her testimony.  I noticed her peace, how beautifully she spoke…both gently and confidently, with so much ease.  Mary, who is as smart as a whip, and Kim began engaging as I listened.  Kim answered some pretty difficult questions with such practicality and with a deftness I hadn’t seen in a while.  She too, had miscarried her baby just six weeks prior and would be sharing her story.  She hesitantly shared that she had a picture of her 12 week old baby and asked if we wanted to see.  She also wanted our opinion as to whether it would be too shocking to share as part of her story.  God worked it out that our fourth roomie was fast asleep and missed our conversation altogether.  Kim shared the picture of her baby and she just beamed as she showed us.  That picture would prove to change Mary’s mind regarding the horror of abortion.  God…on the move even up to the time we turned our lights out and said goodnight.  I’m sure Mary had a lot going on that she was processing, as I fell asleep thinking about Kim and her amazing faith.

I have asked Kim’s permission to share her testimony, one which she so powerfully shared with us on the next day, which concluded with a letter she had written to her baby the day after she miscarried, along with the picture she took of her baby.   Kim’s response to my request was “Of course.  Anyone who values your writing, I’m confident will value what God has and is doing through that letter and photo.  It’s funny that you bring up Mary…when this woman who I did not know (with wavering faith) looked at the photo and said, ‘I don’t think I’m Pro-Choice anymore,’ I knew God was going to do great things with this.  I trust whatever you decide.”  Here is a link to that letter and photo.  http://wynottme.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/dear-baby/

The next day Mary woke up with a lightness to her.  After breakfast, we met once again to hear our sisters speak on topics varying from dealing with envy and strife to one of my personal favorites…the testimony given by the former Miss Alabama and powerhouse woman of God about faith and the word and how to wield it while God works in accordance with it.  We took a break for some quiet time with the Lord, after which we would have lunch, some free time and then back for the beginning of Mary’s long-awaited breakthrough…when Rashayna would share what appeared to be a message prepared just for Mary’s ears.

Rashayna has a soothing voice which has a buttery or velvet-like texture to it and she began speaking from the back of the room as a video played.  She showed the Lifehouse skit “You’re All I Need,” which tells the story of a young girl having found Jesus, only to be wrestled away by the demons of her past, and the fight which ensues and ultimate victory as Jesus breaks through to win her back.  Rashayna shared her message with the precision of  a surgeon and I knew without a doubt that this message was the most important message that Mary would hear that weekend…this would be the message which she would never forget and later, Mary would confirm that to be the case.  At the end of Rashayna’s message, prayer was offered and as I opened my eyes, there was Mary making her way forward.  Of course I began directing traffic in my head saying….”no, don’t go that way, go to the right, towards Rashayna…no stop!”  Another sister reached Rashayna before Mary could, but God had a better plan.  As the evening drew to a close, after many more tears, it was time to head back for the night.  Mary said she wanted to stay behind for a minute.

A minute turned into at least 2-3 hours as Rashayna swooped in and spoke to her in a language only they recognized, their past beliefs, experiences and circumstances being eerily similar.   Mary met her match in Rashayna who is extremely intelligent with the most tender heart.  Rashayna was firm, tough as nails and determined not to allow Mary to wear her out with her questions and stubbornness.  One of my favorite lines that the Lord dropped into Rashayna for her to deliver was one which gave Mary pause to think about and for which she had no response.  It went something like this – “The philosophies and beliefs you have, have gotten you to this point.  They are no longer serving you and the lifestyle you are striving for.  It is time to establish new philosophies and beliefs based on the Truth.”   Can’t you just hear that “ZING” where you are?   Just as we were wondering aloud where Mary was, she appeared at the door with a tear-stained face, red nose, looking like she had been in a fight and had lost!  haha. Rashayna followed her in looking pretty spent as well.  She told her to tell us what she had just done.  It took her a minute to form her words, but she said it and when she did I could have just fallen out again, but I kept my composure as I heard her say, “I gave my heart to Jesus…I accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.”  I went to sleep that night with the biggest smile and with a heart filled with gratitude…in awe at how God had moved and planned and orchestrated so many circumstances, situations and events in order to make Himself known to one, while healing the heart of another.  (My journey to healing began on the zipline, which I shared a while back in my blog titled, “Zipline to Freedom.”)

Our final morning together, Mary got dressed up in her Sunday best and I asked her (although I knew the answer) why she was wearing heels.  She said, “I’m going to church…I think I can make the 1:00 service when we get back.”  hehehe  One of the last things I said to her the night before was that she should prepare for a bumpy ride, since the enemy is not happy at all about losing one of his soldiers and those words were prophetic.  Soon after she arrived at church that day, she received a message from back home that her mom was being hospitalized and it was serious.  Mary’s first text to me was a prayer request.  Here’s what she wrote…”Just got a text…my mom is in the hospital.  My dad, sis and mom r in such fear. I’m at service and will stay here then call my family. What r some scriptures that I can pray for my mom. I don’t feel equipped with the bible and jesus and I feel I will be on a plane to Chicago by tomorrow.”   God was wooing her back to her family, the family she had disengaged from for years.  She was in Los Angeles…as far away as possible from her former life and the crippling pain she had run from seven years before.  She arrived in Chicago with her notes from the weekend which she used to strengthen herself and her mom.  Here’s another text she sent me giving me an update.  “…The good thing is she is asking for jesus to help her and he is right here with me…I prayed over her when I first got here but I now need to do it again and feel confident without doubt.”  God moved on her mom’s behalf.  Mary made the decision to move back to Chicago to pick her life back up and move forward.  She has found a church and is serving and just recently shared with me that her mother, sister and aunt have all received Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

A couple of weeks ago she was in town and she and I met with Rashayna over lunch and I was able to rest my eyes on a miracle.  While she spoke, I marveled once again at how far she had come, recognizing that the Lord was still doing a work in her in order to complete His “takeover” of every stronghold that attempts to linger.  I sat back staring at the two of them visiting the memory of what I just wrote about and as I write this I am teary once again at the lengths our Heavenly Father will go to in order to prove His unfailing love.  As life will have it, Mary is back in Chicago, Rashayna and her family are packing to move to another state and here I remain amazed that for that moment back in February our lives merged and what began as a favor for a friend (Victoria) became a story woven so beautifully, so intricately that no one person could ever take the credit for…for it was the Master Weaver at work behind it all.

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!” Psalm 36:7 NIV

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