This is a New Season!

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There is a new season that I believe God is leading us all into. He is whispering in our ears, He is wooing us with His love, He is drawing us to follow Him out of the desert.  The desert season was full of disappointment and wounds.  It was full of waiting and hope deferred.  Yet God was saying through one of His prophets (Sue Roby), “The Delay is in your favor.”  I tried to hold on to that thought, to continue to believe that all would work out for the good…but I let some of my faith slip away.

A few months ago another prophet (Tony Brazelton) came proclaiming, “The Delay is over!”  My spirit leapt when I heard it. Could it really be time?  The time I had been praying for?  Yet the fear of disappointment almost choked this new hope to death.

In September God gave me two scriptures to read, Isaiah 65 and Psalm 144.  These same scriptures had been a source of strength during the lowest point in our lives as a family.

Is 65 had been God’s way of announcing to me that I was pregnant, back in 2010.  Verse 9 says, “I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah those who will possess my mountains; my chosen people will inherit them, and there will my servants live.”

I was happy to be pregnant and to feel the presence of a fresh new spirit within me.  I didn’t even need to take a pregnancy test.  Yet also I was ashamed.  Ashamed that I was pregnant for the fourth time in 5 years.  Ashamed that we still lived in a two bedroom townhouse and had to go to the health clinic for lower income families in Colorado Springs.  Ashamed that we struggled to pay our bills and had to set up a nursery for our baby in our walk-in closet.

The baby girl was due in January.  Right before Christmas Chris was laid off from his job.  We didn’t know what we would do.  We tried to enjoy Christmas as the debts grew.  I had a difficult time with Ashlyn’s birth which I wrote about in Birth Story Part 3.  Yet when she was born I was filled with peace and bliss.  My perfect baby girl!  God was so good!

The very next day the doctor informed us (devoid of compassion) that something was definitely wrong with our baby, but they didn’t know what.  Then began the many tests and scans.  Problems were found in her lungs, diaphragm, and heart.  We didn’t know what was going on.  We asked our church to pray and the only word they had for us was that this was my fault, that I was being too prideful.  I asked God if they were right.

That is when God gave me Ps. 144.  I felt peace flood my soul as I read:

“Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace.  Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision. Our sheep will increase by thousands, by tens of thousands in our fields; our oxen will draw heavy loads. There will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, no cry of distress in our streets.”

Amazingly Ashlyn was cleared and was released to go home after just two days, a perfectly healthy baby girl!

ashlynA perfect baby girl…until the results of the Chromosomal analysis came back.  A part of her 6th chromosome was missing but no one knew what that meant.  No one had ever seen this before.  We began this journey of parenting a special child, one who didn’t grow and develop like the other children.  One who had to wear a brace for a dislocated hip and a patch for strabismus in her eyes.  A child who needed physical therapy to learn to sit up and occupational therapy to learn to drink from a cup.

This is when Is. 65 became even more meaningful.  God had brought her forth and had told me that she was destined to take mountains.  She was not a mistake!

By April Chris still hadn’t found a full time job.  Our church kicked us out and shunned us.  Our mortgage and second mortgage were threatening to foreclose.  Our townhome association was threatening to take us to court.  Ps 144 didn’t appear to be true for us.

Yet God worked His miracles, one at a time.  He gave Chris a new job, sold our townhouse, brought us home to Pennsylvania, led us out of debt, and blessed Ashlyn with supernatural health.  More financial struggles, hardships with the children, and failed business ventures followed.  But we were home in the land of our inheritance.  We had friends, family, and a church that loved us!

When I started reading Is. 65 and Ps. 144 again this September, I was reminded of the encouragement I had received from them years ago.  Yet, I didn’t really want to delve into them, to relive the pain we had been through.  I kinda thought, “I know these verses inside and out.  I’ve been there and done that and I DON’T want to do it again.  Can’t I read something else?”

But I felt God saying, “Take another look.”

I discovered that these words, written thousands of years ago, were perfectly tailored for my life.  Not just my life back in 2010, but my life in 2017 and beyond.  I received revelations that I was not able to receive back then.  That our church in Colorado was not pleasing to God, but HE HAD BROUGHT US OUT OF IT to possess His Mountains.  Not because of anything we had done but because His faithfulness, He saved us from that situation and now we are taking mountains for His Kingdom.

Then I saw all the promises that God had for His servants (Is. 65, verse 13).  We will eat, drink, rejoice, and never be put to shame!  This has happened in our lives.

Then I read a verse that I had never noticed before, verse 16b.

“For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes.”

If God can forget the past, why couldn’t I?  I felt Him saying to me, “I am bringing you into something new, something you haven’t seen before.  You don’t have to interpret current events through your past experiences.  You don’t have to look into the future through the lens of the past.  I am going to give you a new perspective.”

I had been gaining a different perspective, an aerial view like that of an eagle.  I didn’t want my thinking to be clouded by people’s opinions, ever changing circumstances, or the dark clouds of depression.  I wanted to be seated with Christ in heavenly places, to see things from his Eternal perspective.  God was telling me that I was meant to be an eagle.   I was trying to fly, but I really needed some help.

I asked God to let me see a real eagle, and He answered my prayer just weeks later on our family vacation up north.  See my previous articles, “A Hawk, A Vulture, and an Eagle Part 1 and Part 2.”  I felt elated!  I felt inspired!  I felt ready to fly!

Of course vacation has to end and normal life has to begin again.  Could I see an eagle during the course of my daily routine? Chances were no.

I have made a weekly trek to a farm for years now.  At first I never noticed the birds flying in the sky.  Not because they were not there, but because I was not looking.  After God started speaking to me about being an eagle, I began to search the skies.  I loved watching all the birds – the swallows, the robins, the wrens, the sparrows, and even the crows.  They looked so free.  Even better that those birds were the large birds that flew high above the rest.  I felt inspired by their flight…until I realized that they were vultures.

Months I spent searching the sky for eagles only to see vultures, buzzards, and more vultures!  Ahggggggg!  At the end of October I made this trip for the 20 zillionth time.  I saw a large bird swooping down over the highway.  Another vulture, I said to myself.  Still, when I got close enough I turned my eyes away from the highway and up to the sky just long enough to see…

A bald eagle!  I saw the brilliant white head and the powerful straight wings!  I was not expecting that at all!  An eagle in my own neck of the woods!  In the midst of my normal routine!

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This seemed very significant so I asked God if there was something He wanted to tell me.  Immediately I heard this verse on my Bible CD:

“‘The One who is coming will come.  He will not be late.  The person who is right with me will have life because of his faith.  But if he turns back with fear, I will not be please with him.’

But we are not those who turn back and are lost.  We are people who have faith and are saved.” Hebrews 10:35-39 (ICB)

Fear has been my normal reaction to many things, so normal I hardly realize that I am choosing fear over faith.  But I am not one who turns back!  I am one who believes!  I will choose faith!

I heard God say to me, “I want you to be ready to see eagles where in the past only the vultures flew.”

A Hawk, a Vulture, and an Eagle: Part 2 – The Cabin

When I look back on those three days, I can see that God planned each little detail to show us just how much He loves us.

We were able to leave our puppy at home with a good friend.  She provided respite care for Ashlyn as well.  Ashlyn gets stressed and agitated in new places with new schedules.  She seemed happy to continue her routine with home and school.

Someone let us use their trailer for free!  We loaded suitcases, sleeping bags, camping chairs, bikes, fishing poles, a pack-n-play, towels, a folding table, about 30 other items, food, food, and more food!

The 10 of us piled into the van and enjoyed the 2 hour ride.  There was talking and joking and raucous laughter constantly.  I found myself belly laughing over and over again.  Laughter is good for the soul!

The Cabin was huge.  Bigger than our house!

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There was a bunk house right next to it that had 6 large beds and a wood stove for heat.   The five oldest boys decided to sleep there.

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They were so excited to have some independence.  They got the fun of a sleepover, and the other children each got their own room in the cabin.  Areli, my 18 year old, said that her favorite part of vacation was the fact that she had her own room with its own bathroom.

The weather was perfect!  Cool and misty in the morning.  Sunny and warm during the day.  Cool and clear at night, just the right temperature to enjoy a fire.

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The first day we enjoyed the expansive yard.  I loved how it was full of moss and ferns without a bit of poison ivy.  There was a swing set and a rope swing.  The boys rode bikes.  They played games.  We cooked our meal over the fire.  My favorite were the apples I roasted on the dying embers.  Delicious!

The second day we decided to go to the World’s End State Park. We went into the visitor’s center and learned a lot from the friendly staff.  There was a gift shop with silhouettes of birds on the ceiling.  I identified the Cooper’s hawk.  Wow, it is small! Then we located the Red Tailed Hawk which was definitely bigger.

“That was what crashed into our van!” Calvin said.

Then I saw the turkey vulture.  It was large with wings that each bent like a V.  Right next to it was the bald eagle, larger with straight wings.  Still, they looked so much alike.

“How will I ever tell the difference?” I wondered to myself.

Finally we set out for adventure!  The older 4 boys went fishing.  The rest of us decided to take one of the easier trails that should take about an hour, the Double Run Nature Trail.

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This was a very special time for me.  I had not gone hiking with the family in so long, I can’t even remember.  I would always stay back with Ashlyn.  With her delayed walking and then club foot deformity, she could never navigate a trail.

It was cold and lovely in the woods.  Areli, Calvin, Courage and Annalise were excited!  We came across a few little waterfalls.

It didn’t take long before we realized that this wasn’t an easy trail.  Soon we felt like we were going straight up a mountain…on a path littered with large rocks and roots…with a four year old and a two year old.

What was I thinking when I suggested this?

“How long is this trail?  Are we going to be able to make it back to the van?”  the adults were wondering to ourselves as we took turns giving piggy back rides.

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Finally, we began the descent and found the Cottonwood Falls.  It was all worth it!

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We returned to our meeting place and found the boys waiting for us.  They were a bit dejected since no fish were biting.  We ate a picnic lunch and the children played at the playground.

Then we drove to the Loyalsock Canyon Vista.

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I suggested we check out the Rock Garden.  I thought it would be a boulder field.  It was not what I was expecting!  Huge rocks jutting out the ground in random ways.  The children loved it.  The boys climbed and jumped from one high cliff to another.

I was tied up in knots on the inside as I watched them.  I felt terrified as I tried to help Annalise and Courage navigate through.  There was no desirable path and I was worried the older ones, who were running ahead, would get lost.

“Please, let’s go now!”  I pleaded over and over again.  Finally we all walked back to the van as the boys excitedly talked about how that was the best thing ever and please mom can we go back again tomorrow and again next year and again and again…

I could breathe once more as I watched all my children with their feet on solid ground.  I choose to put out of my mind the possibility of ever returning.  I’ve always been afraid of heights, and I am even more afraid of my children being UP ON THE HEIGHTS!

We drove to the High Knob overlook.  We could see for 40 miles, the beautiful expanse of Penn’s woods.

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I searched the sky for birds but saw no eagles.  How amazing would it be to see this view from the vantage point of an eagle!  We returned to the cabin, tired but happy, ready to cookout again and enjoy the amazing stars in the black, black night sky.

As our last day dawned, we pondered what we should do before we had to pack up and clean the five bedrooms and 5 bathrooms.  The previous day we had seen a sign for a DSC_0659general store.  At the visitors center we learned that the women who used run the World’s Best Snack Shop was now at that general store.  The children had dollars that they wanted to spend on some exciting souvenir.

So we set out to try and find the general store.  We finally found the Hillsgrove Country Store and decided to stop.

As soon as I walked into the little shop, something caught my eye.  There was a photograph of a bald eagle mounted on cardboard and wrapped in plastic.  It was beautiful!

I thought to myself, “This might just be my eagle!”

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I asked the women who was at the counter (who used to run The World’s Best Snack Shop) how much the eagle picture was.

“Forty dollars!  Isn’t that a great price?!  A local photographer spent three months watching two eagles before he got this picture,” she answered.

“Where did he see the eagles?” I asked.  Maybe I could see them too!

“Just a few miles down the road at the Slaptown Bridge.”

I considered $40 to be quite a hefty sum, but I didn’t want to miss this God moment.  He had led me right to this lovely eagle and I couldn’t leave him behind.

Courage and Annalise picked out 25 cents worth of penny candy.  The other children purchased chips, drinks, and sausages.  Finally I walked out the front door and sat down to wait for the other children. I looked out to the street…

THERE IT WAS…

A Real Live Eagle!

It was flying from across the street and came right towards us!  It was so close that I could almost see individual feathers. This didn’t look anything like a vulture!  It was larger.  Its wings were absolutely straight.  There were lighter feathers underneath.  There was a stark white head and white tail feathers.  It was majestic and noble…and beautiful!

Areli just happened to have her camera with her, and she snapped a few pictures when the eagle sat in a tree.

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Then it took flight again, soaring higher and higher, further and further away.

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Chris was almost excited as I was.

“I am so happy for you!” he kept saying.

We watched it until it was joined by another eagle.  We watched them until they were so far, they looked like tiny black dots against the sky.

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We finally headed to Hunter’s Lake to let the boys try fishing again.

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The lake had just been stocked that morning and quite a few fishermen had gathered.  We ate a picnic lunch and enjoyed that lovely view.  We learned that there was an eagle’s nest along the water’s edge.

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The fish weren’t biting, but we were delighted by the multitude of monarch butterflies on the goldenrod.

I didn’t see an eagle at the lake even though they are very fond of fish.  However, the entire afternoon, eagles were soaring in my imagination.

I was in awe of how God perfectly orchestrated this eagle sighting.  I had asked Him, and He had answered.  How could I ever doubt His words to me?

He created me to be an eagle!

I have been born to fly!

After 41 years on this earth, I think it is high time that I stop saying that I am afraid of heights…

and start to learn to how to soar.

 

 

A Hawk, a Vulture, and an Eagle: God’s Voice!

I heard Bill Johnson say recently;

“Instead of emphasizing our inability or our weakness in hearing God’s voice, it would be wiser for us to emphasize His ability to be heard.”

I just experienced God’s amazing ability to be heard despite my reluctance to listen.

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The Hawk

I was just minutes from home, returning from a trip to the farm.  Calvin and I were enjoying the peaceful Saturday drive while listening to Revelations on CD.

“WHACK!!!!!”

Suddenly a huge bird slammed into the corner of my windshield with such force, I thought that certainly it must have killed itself.  I saw it only for a split second before it fell and disappeared, but it looked like a hawk.

I felt shaken.  I felt sad and guilty and wondered why this had happened.  You see, I had been searching the landscape for hawks lately.  I longed to catch sight of this bird of prey, hoping to unlock some mystery. Now I had just encountered a hawk much closer than I ever expected, and it wasn’t a good experience.  Just a moment after the sickening, “WHACK!”, a voice on the CD said…”I saw an eagle flying overhead…” (Revelation 8:13)

It had all started over a year ago when I remembered that God had told me that I was an eagle and I was to raise my children as eagles.  I wrote an article about it.  My interest in eagles became an obsession as this majestic bird kept showing up in my God encounters.  (See my some of my other articles, The Sky and the Ocean, Maleficent .)

I was never much of a bird watcher, but lately I had been watching the skies constantly, trying to spot an eagle.  Whenever I took a drive in the country, I would see huge, dark birds.  They looked so beautiful and so free, soaring high above me.

Chris was with me one day when I spotted some of my “eagles.”  I was so excited to show him.

“Those are buzzards.  You know, turkey vultures,” he informed me.

“What!  How can you tell?  They are so far away?” I said.  I was so disappointed!  Had I really been looking to the vulture for spiritual inspiration?

“Trust me, those are buzzards!”

“But I want to see an eagle!  How will I know when I see one?” I wondered.

“I don’t think eagles circle like that, and they are usually alone. They don’t spend as much time in the sky circling like the vulture does. Like the hawk I saw today, sitting in a tree.  ” Chris answered.

Google had told me that there were two eagles that lived in Pennsylvania, the Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle, but they didn’t seem very common.  I decided that spotting a hawk was a much more realistic expectation.  I could learn what I needed to know from the hawk, which was very much like the eagle, just smaller, I reasoned.

I concluded that I would look for a hawk from now on.  They were smaller and lighter colored, such as the Cooper’s Hawk or the Red Tailed Hawk that Cadin had seen close to our home.  I wouldn’t get them confused with a buzzard.

I told Chris about my violent hawk sighting.  He said jokingly, “God is trying to tell you something.  He wants you to get the message so badly, that He had to smack that poor bird into your van!”

Perhaps God wanted to discourage me from looking to the hawk.  He had spoken to me about an eagle.  He had told me that I was supposed to be an eagle.  Perhaps I should believe that He would show me a real eagle.

Immediately my mind reeled.

“How ridiculous!  There probably aren’t any eagles living around here!  Even if there were, how could I see them up in a tree somewhere.  If they were flying, how could I ever tell them apart from the vulture…and I don’t want to make that embarrassing mistake again.”

The fear of disappointment came to me with such force when I even considered believing God for a real eagle sighting. The many disappointments of the past few years had conditioned that response.

The thought that I was destined to actually BE an eagle –  lifted by God’s presence, seeing from a higher perspective, speaking with a prophetic voice – seemed even more farfetched and foolish to me.  Me, the one who had been admiring the VULTURE, for goodness sake.  All my recent shortcoming flooded my mind.  I didn’t feel at all like the person I was meant to be.  I didn’t feel like I would ever learn to fly.

There it was!  The point God was trying to get across!  I had given up on being an eagle because it seemed impossible.  I had downgraded my vision to the hawk.

Then He began to show me that my thoughts and attitudes recently had been very self-loathing, full of my own failures and weaknesses.  I was reminded of a conversation I had with Chris just a week before.  I had been investigating avenues for publishing my first book.  It seemed that every possibility turned into a dead end.  The only option I found was to pay what I considered to be an exorbitant sum for assisted publishing.  And what if we spent all that money (which we didn’t have) to publish my book and no one bought it?  I was afraid to even ask friends to look over my manuscript and give feedback.  What if they thought it was too long and too boring?

Chris couldn’t understand my fears.

“Do you believe in your writing?  Do you think God Gave it to you?  Do you think He will use it to impact other people?  You have to believe in it.  The way you are talking, you sound like the vultures in Rick Joyner’s vision.” Chris said.

The Vulture

I was very familiar with this vision from the book, The Final Quest.  It meant a lot to me because I used to be a prisoner in that camp of fear.  I used to have those vultures of depression vomiting their condemnation all over me on a regular basis.  But I had found the freedom to live in the love and joy of the Kingdom of God…or so I thought.

Chris continued, “It sounds like you are speaking the words of the vultures, vomiting lies all over yourself and your writing.  You need to stop!”  Chris sounded mad.  At the time I felt that he just didn’t understand, that my insecurity and fear were justified.

Yet now, I was realizing that I had been living under this cloud of depression, thinking that it was normal.  God brought to my mind another bird sighting that had happened back in November.  God had stretched me beyond what I thought I was capable of, and I felt my authority increasing.  I had prayed crazy, unrealistic prayers.  I had received unbelievable answers to those prayers.  An amazing victory had been won!  I felt elated!  Still on an emotional high, I began to read a prophetic word posted on Facebook by Veronika West. In essence it said:

 The enemy had endured a devastating wound, but we should be on guard because a backlash was coming.  The enemy wasn’t going down without a fight.

As I pondered what that meant, I looked out the kitchen window and saw a huge vulture sitting on the roof of the church right across the street.  It was looking straight at me, and it gave me the creeps.  Perhaps it was a physical manifestation of an evil spirit, so I prayed that God would hide me, and I told it to leave. I saw the dark bird take flight, circle the church steeple, and fly away.  I had never seen a vulture in my neighborhood before that day, and I have not seen one since.

Now God was reminding me of the incident.  The light bulb went on in my head.

  My Good Father allowed me to see the strategy of the enemy against me.

The enemy knew that if I would submit to fear and allow those vultures to vomit their lies on me, I would live under that cloud of depression.  I wouldn’t be able to see clearly.  I wouldn’t trust God to flow through me.  I wouldn’t believe in Him or believe in myself.  I wouldn’t be able to take flight and become an eagle.

“Forgive me for thinking the lies are more realistic than the words you have given me,” I prayed.

The Eagle

As God began to shine His light on these things, I decided to take the risk to believe again.  I began to ask Him to let me see an eagle, a real live eagle.  I wanted to see one close enough so I wouldn’t mistake it for a vulture.

I also began to ask Him to make ME into an eagle, as unrealistic as that seemed.  The dark cloud began to lift and I began to hope again.

While all of this was taking place in my heart, I was hard at work planning a family vacation.  The first three days in October we would be staying in a cabin up north, enjoying the outdoors.  It had been three years since we had been able to get away. This was so special, so important for our family, that I wanted everything to be perfect.  I began to worry.

“What if I put in all this effort to plan and pack, and it is all for nothing?”

A thousand little details began to transform into a thousand things that could go wrong.  The fear of disappointment reared its ugly head again.  I began to think back to the last time I had tried to plan a family vacation, the last time I had prayed that God would give us a family vacation.  It was two years ago.  We had just endured 4 years of the toil and stress of business ownership.  We faced the heartbreak of having to close our business.  We were in the process of selling our sign shop.  I was praying for enough money to break even, and just a little extra to take the family camping for a week.   A week to reconnect and to heal.

My heart’s desire was deferred.  The sale fell through.  Bills, debts, and bankruptcy ensued…but no family vacation. Why did I think that it would work out for us this time?

“I am doing it again! I will not live under that cloud of fear and lies!   I need to believe that my Good Father is working everything out for us.  I need to just trust Him!  This will be a wonderful vacation!  It will be a blessing to each child and bring us all closer together,” I thought to myself.

My faith began to rise again.  I watched my Good Father work out every detail.  He gave us a cabin to stay in for free!  He worked out the schedules of all the children and gave us everything that we needed.

I was getting the feeling that my Father was orchestrating this vacation to be a redemption of the one that we had lost.  I was beginning to expect Him to speak to me in wonderful ways while we were away.

“And perhaps I will even see an eagle!”  I began to think.

To Be Continued…

 

 

Our 21st Honeymoon: A Moonrise, A Sunset, and a Sunrise

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Chris and I celebrated our 21st anniversary on August 3rd.  It is always so hot in August, and we are not fans of heat and humidity.  Why did we pick August to get married, we ask ourselves?  Last year we celebrated our 20th on the hottest day of the entire year!  This year we decided to wait until October.  God provided a beautiful beach getaway at Ocean City, Maryland, and it was lovely!!

I have only been to the beach a handful of times in my life.  Florida when I was a preschooler.  Ocean City, New Jersey when I was in Elementary School.  The beautiful white sand beaches of Belize after I graduated from High School.  Brigantine Island for our honey moon.  Duck, North Carolina with the family 6 years ago.  This time I think I really understood why people return again and again.

First we decided to walk on the beach and then the boardwalk to see what we could see.  We ended up walking 68 blocks that day and night, because we didn’t know much about Ocean City.

Finally we found a beautiful restaurant with great Italian food.  We could sit outside and watch the full moon rise over the ocean.  My first moon rise over the ocean!

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The next day we decided to drive rather than walk.  We drove to the very end of the board walk which was the most exciting part.

 

We saw lots of little shops.  We saw hundreds of fancy cars in a car show.  Chris got some Boardwalk fries and frozen custard.  We went to the Life Saving Station Museum.  It was amazing to learn about the men who would patrol the beaches at night, looking for ships in distress.  The accounts of rescues touched me deeply.  The men would risk their own lives, work for hours in freezing temperatures and horrible weather, and think of nothing else except the person they were trying to save.

“That is like you, Jesus.” I prayed. “Give me your heart for your people in distress.  But how do I save them if they don’t even know that they are dying?”

You don’t have to do my job.  You don’t have to save them, heal them, know everything about them, or make everything right for them.  Just love them and obey Me,” I heard Him answer.

Later we ate a delicious meal on our balcony overlooking the bay.  Then we walked on the bay as the sun began to set.

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It was my first sunset on the bay…

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Night falls.

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The next morning we woke up early and walked to the beach one last time.  The sun was about to rise.

I was surprised by all the other people gathered, watching the horizon.

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There is the first bit of sun peeking over the ocean!  My first sunrise on the beach.  We watched as it rose quickly into the sky.

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We shared the beach with the trucks and the morning fishermen.

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And a woman doing acrobatics.

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And two pelicans.

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I could feel His presence in the wind that carried the birds.  As we walked along the edge of the water, I could hear God’s voice in the waves.  They were unrelenting and drowning out all other sounds.  I can see why people love it here.  Away from the rest of the world.  Encounters with God come loud and clear.

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I am struck by how God reveals himself in His creation.  He is like the ocean.  Unpredictable.  Just when you think you have figured out where to walk to just get your feet wet, a large wave comes and gives you more seawater than you had bargained for. Uncontrollable.  The waves push and pull and can’t be stopped.

Unimaginably beautiful.

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God Encounters ~ Part Three; Maleficent offers a message of Hope!

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After going through a season of loss, it is hard to allow yourself to dream again.  There is something beautiful and freeing about surrender.  Lay all my dreams down and cling to God alone?  Sure, I can do that.

But what happens when I feel dreams stirring in my heart again?  Old dreams.  New dreams.  Forgotten dreams.

It should thrill me and fill my heart with excitement…but instead, I feel fear.  The fear of being disappointed again.  The fear of being wrong, of being foolish, of going around that same painful circle again.

God sent me a message that gave me permission to dream again.  And he sent it through a famous Disney villain – Maleficent!

If you haven’t seen the new live action movie, Maleficent, you might want to watch it before reading this article (I don’t want to ruin any surprises for you).  I never had any interest in seeing this movie.  I hate Disney villains!  They are so scary!  I don’t let my small children watch them.  Yet when the movie Maleficent came on the TV, I was drawn in.  Maleficent was a young girl with piercing eyes.

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She was a powerful fairy.  In fact, after the death of her parents, it fell to her to protect the fairy kingdom of the Moors.  She didn’t look at all like a fairy with great horns growing out of her head and massive, dark wings.  Yet she was wise and good.

I was captivated when I watched her flying with her strong wings,  joyous and free, shaping the clouds with the force of her flight.  I wished to do the same!  My recent obsession with eagles that I wrote about in “God Encounters ~ Part Two”, fueled the desire that I could enjoy that same freedom that Maleficent had.

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She trusted a young boy even though humans were usually enemies of her kingdom.  She and the human fell in love, and on her 16th birthday, the boy gave her, “true love’s kiss.”  Her trust was rewarded by abandonment and an empty heart.  Soon the boy forgot about her in his ambition to become King.

Years passed.  That boy had become a man and returned to Maleficent with kind words.  She forgave him and let him into her heart again, only to be betrayed. The man had intended all along to kill her, for whoever killed Maleficent, the great protector of the Moors, would be given the human kingdom that wanted to conquer it.  This man couldn’t bring himself to kill the dark and beautiful creature he had once loved.  So instead he drugged her and cut off her wings, thinking that this would be all the proof that was needed.

Normally I am not that deeply impacted by a Disney fairy tale, but this time I truly grieved for Maleficent.  To see her painfully crippled by the one that she loved hit close to home.  I could feel her pain.  What a tragedy for her to be earthbound when she was created to fly!  The sorrow and suffering turned into bitterness in Maleficent’s heart, and she cursed the daughter of her betrayer, Aurora.

Aurora was so sweet, so happy, so innocent, and so defenseless that Maleficent began to love the child despite herself.  She became Aurora’s sustainer and defender, her “fairy Godmother.”  As I watched Maleficent’s heart turn from unforgiveness to love, I still felt so sad.  Sad to see her only a shell of what she once was.  Yet that happens to many of us in this life.  I comforted myself with the thought that even if our physical bodies are broken and our circumstances are prison-like, we can still be free on the inside.  Our spirits can still soar above the clouds in God’s presence.  Still, we long to see restoration with our physical eyes.

Maleficent tried to renounce the curse she had put on Aurora, but she could not.  When Aurora turned 16 and fell into the death sleep, Maleficent showed no concern for her own life when she brought a prince into the castle to give Aurora “true love’s kiss” and break the spell.  It didn’t work!  Maleficent was heartbroken, coming face to face to with the fear that has always haunted her – there was no such thing as true love.  She promised to always protect the sleeping girl.  When Maleficent stooped to kiss the one she truly loved with a selfless devotion, the spell was broken!  Aurora was awakened!

The king, now a tortured and crazy man, did not even notice that his daughter was well again, so intent was he on killing Maleficent.  Aurora ran from the battle and came upon Maleficent’s wings, locked in a glass case.  They were still alive and flapping!  This was something I never expected!  Cut off a body part and it surely dies.  In the years that had passed, they would have decayed and been long gone…yet here they were, as strong and true as ever.

Aurora shattered the case and the powerful wings were reunited with their owner, carrying her above the battle.  Maleficent’s true identity had been restored, and it was a wonder to behold.  This was a miracle!  I was rejoicing!  This is the type of miracle that only happens in fairy tales…or is it?

Could this just be a message from God to get my attention, to lead me to the real miracle of the restoration of all things found in Is 35 and again in Is 65 all throughout the Bible?  This will really happen in all people and to the entire earth…someday.

But what about right now, inside of me?

Could it be that God is restoring my true identity – the parts of me that were stolen or crippled?  My true self, my purpose and all of the freedom and thrill and excitement that comes along with it?  Could God be storing up all of the dreams I ever had, all the dreams He ever had for me?

-before they got trampled and crushed by life.

-before I experienced betrayal and pain.

-before I hear the words “You can’t,” “You shouldn’t,” “You Never Will!”

-before I morphed into a shell of what I was created to be, a wingless eagle living in the dirt.

Could those wings of mine be alive and viable somewhere?

Perhaps I WILL feel the wind rushing around me!

Perhaps I will rise above the earth again.

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Perhaps I will see the miracles I once expected.

Perhaps I will be whole and strong.

Perhaps I really will be a fearless one!

Perhaps I  was born to fly!

And perhaps you were too…

 

 

 

God Encounters ~ Part Two: The Sky and the Ocean

It has been a difficult season for me, being sandwiched between the needs of my children and my mom.  I feel so busy, so responsible, and so drained that it is almost suffocating.

Yet, all this is pushing me deeper into God.  I am asking for strength and for wisdom.  I am asking for His love to flow through me when I am empty.  I am listening for His voice.  He has answered me with the most beautiful string of encounters with His presence.

                One – The Wind

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One February night I was having a quiet time in my room.  I turned on some “Bethel Without Words” and just sat in the music.  I felt God’s presence.  It was like a wind blowing through me and around me.  I was reminded of my childhood, when I used to climb the maple tree in my front yard.  I loved to climb as high as I could, until the branches got thin enough to sway gently in the wind.  I felt a breathless exhilaration.  I felt peace and joy.  I felt the wind.

                “That was me,” I heard God whisper.  “The wind was my presence.  I have always been with you, even before you knew me.”

The presence of God was so sweet.  It blew away my fears and left me feeling refreshed and new and loved.  I practiced trying to find this “Wind of His Presence” during the course of my day; when I was stressed about all I had to do, when I was worried that I wasn’t enough, when I felt my frustration rise and my sanity shaken.  I would close my eyes and feel the wind softly rock me back and forth, like a mother rocking her baby.  I was safe and loved, and this reality was where I wanted to live every hour of every day.

                Two – The Heartbeat of Love

About two weeks later I was enjoying worship at my church on a Sunday morning.  It is so easy to connect with the presence of God in that place.  I felt the wind again.  Then it began to pulse through me like a heartbeat.  I began to awaken to the truth that this love was also pulsing through everything everywhere…All THE TIME!  The universe was founded and built by His love.  It is operating and expanding by His love still.  This love is alive and active like the wind blowing, like a river flowing, like blood being pumped through every cell.

This was challenging my current world view.  I had seen the world as a very cold and hard place much of the time, full of dangers and toxins that I had to protect my children from.  Many scenes that flashed through my mind were not pretty; broken down cities full of corruption, once beautiful wilds polluted and dying, great mountains of decaying garbage inhabited by sick and hopeless humanity.   Yet God was telling me that His love was pulsing through all of this.  Scenes of great evil, people experiencing unspeakable horrors at the hands of other people, also flashed through my mind.

“There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still…”

I knew that Corrie ten Boom had said this after living through a concentration camp, but now God was telling me that it was really true.  HIS LOVE IS EVERYWHERE!  Of course there is a lot in this world that IS NOT love, that IS NOT part of God’s original plan.

But His love is still there, bigger and stronger.  If only we could be aware of it.  If others have found His love in the depths of darkness, certainly I could find it in every circumstance of my life.  If His love can bring redemption from the worst of the worst, certainly He can do the same in my slightly messed up life!  When I began to look at the trials as potential miracles, my burdens began to turn to wonder.

              Three – The Eagles and the Wind

Eagle silhouette in Kachemac Bay where many birds can be seen

In the following weeks, I practiced feeling God’s heartbeat of love pulsing all around me and in me.  I imagined it flowing thought everything I looked at.  I imagined it touching everything I thought about.  Many times I would feel the wind of His presence, so full of love.

At the same time, I found myself searching the sky for eagles.  I know that there probably aren’t many eagles around here, but I was eager to see any bird of prey.  God speaks to me so often through nature, and right then I had an obsession with eagles.  It started when I wrote the article,  A Cure for the Negativity that is All Around , in which I told about a vision I had about 12 years ago.  I saw a nest full of baby eagles on the side of a rocky cliff.

God said, “You are eagles and you are to raise your children like eagles.”

Eagles play a huge part in the visions that Rick Joyner tells about in the Final Quest Series.  The eagles seemed to represent the prophets, flying high enough to see clearly what others cannot see.  They instruct, encourage, and warn the other believers.  They bring refreshing winds of healing when they flap their great wings.  They set believers free when they devour the snakes of shame. They carried many scars from the battles they had fought with courage. The Final Quest books have impacted me deeply.  I have read them many times and felt challenged and uplifted each time.  A small, timid voice inside my heart would say, “Perhaps I am meant to be an eagle.”  My mind would quickly dismiss the silly thought…until I remembered that vision.

I still didn’t understand how I could be an eagle in the spirit, but I wanted to find out.  So I began to search the skies for a sign.  Perhaps if I caught sight of the noble creatures (even a hawk would do!), they could teach me something.  As I drove through the country to the farm I frequent once a week, I would see large birds high the sky.  I would marvel at their freedom and wonder what they were seeing.

“How I wish I could fly up there like an eagle!  How I wish I could feel the wind as they do and see as they see!”  I thought to myself.

As I watched, I realized that they usually didn’t work hard or even flap their wings.  They simply allowed the wind to carry them.

                “The Wind of my Presence will lift you up so you can see like an eagle.  Being in my presence is the key to the vision you desire,” I heard the Spirit of God say to me.

In a split second He married my two obsessions, the wind and the eagle. I wasn’t crazy!  God was taking me on a journey that I didn’t understand, but it seemed as though He wanted me to be an eagle as much as I wanted to be one!

The scripture I received at the Women’s Encounter brought all of these encounters into focus for me.

Psalm 27:4-5 “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life (His presence – YES!  That is what I want more than anything!), to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.

For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” (That’s where my baby eagles and I live!  That is where He is positioning me!)

Four – The Sky and the Ocean

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One Evening in April I was attending Women’s Prayer at my church.  The worship that night was simply a play list on a cell phone plugged into the sound system, yet I felt the Presence of the Lord so deeply.  I felt His love pulsing through me!  I felt His wind!  I imagined stretching my wings.  The beautiful wind lifted me high above the earth, above my circumstances, above the doubt and fear and anger of this world.  I could see that all was love, all was victory, all was good.

Right at that moment a song came on that I didn’t know, but the vocalist was singing about the wind of God.

“I can feel your wind blow through me.  All of me cries out for all of you!”

The words perfectly captured what was going on in my spirit. (Later the leader told me that she hadn’t picked that song and didn’t know why it had come on…but I did!)  I was soaring on the inside and feeling incredible freedom and peace.  Then I encountered the clouds in the sky.  I became the rain, falling to the earth.  I became part of the great waterfall that Hannah Hurnard talked about in Hinds’ Feet on High Places.  I was one of those happy drops of water, throwing themselves down from the High Places with thrilling abandon to be broken on the rocks below.  We continued to flow to the lowest place, down to the Valley of Humiliation to bring life and love to suffering humanity.  The water persisted in its journey until it reached the ocean.  And there I was, water in the depths of the ocean.  I could lay my life down to bring His love in the lowest place.

The wind and the rain

The Sky and the Ocean

             “This is what I am offering you.  This is the necklace from your dream.” The Father whispered.

Then I remembered necklace and my dream (God Encounters ~ Part One)!  The beautiful silver necklace with light blue jewels each inlaid with smaller dark blue gems.

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The light blue was the wind.

The dark blue was the rain.

The light blue was the Sky.

The light blue was the Ocean.

The Sky was limitless freedom and potential and vision.

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The Ocean was His Love and Peace in darkness and suffering, humility and servant-hood.

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My Father was offering me the vast expanse of the Sky and the deepest depths of the Ocean.

How could I, an imperfect mortal be worthy of such a gift?  How could I even understand such a gift?  How could I ever accept it and live in its reality?  Then the answer came.

                “You can’t work for this.  You are my daughter.  This is your inheritance.  Just accept it.”

So in my spirit that night, I accepted the gift that I could barely comprehend.  My Father, the King, placed the necklace around my neck and clasped it in the back.  It felt light.  This was no burden!  This was no heavy yoke!  This was the Sky and the Ocean…and it was mine.

 

 

 

 

Encounters with God ~ Part One: Dream Interpretation Please!

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I had an interesting dream in December, one full of symbols and a meaning I knew I needed to understand.  God was trying to talk to me, but what was He saying?

I was climbing up one of those attic staircases, the rickety kind that fold up into the ceiling when you are not using it.  I climbed up into the attic of my church.  It looked like a storage room for a museum, containing priceless treasures from all over the world.

                One of my pastors met me at the top of the stairs.  She had a smile on her face as she offered me a beautiful silver necklace.  It looked like it had belonged to royalty.  It had many large, silver bangles hanging from it, each one inlaid with a light blue rectangle with a dark blue circle in the center.  I hardly noticed the necklace, so it is a wonder that I can remember what it looked like at all. 

                I politely told my pastor, “No thank you.”  I really didn’t even consider accepting such a gift.  I was never one to wear large pieces of jewelry, and I just didn’t think it would suite me.  Plus I had my eye on something I thought was much more important and exciting.  Down the hall was an Egyptian Mummy.  As I child I had been fascinated with mummies, getting every book that the library had about the topic and pouring over the pages again and again.  I used to dream of becoming an archeologist and traveling to far-away places and uncovering untold treasures.

This mummy was encased in a very plain, clay sarcophagus.  It was apparent that I had already spent many painstaking hours chipping away at the clay to reveal the mummy underneath. I was excited about the significant discovery I was going to make, uncovering pieces of history that had not yet been revealed.  So far I had only uncovered the feet and the lower portion of the legs, dark and shriveled with age.  I was eager to return to my work.

Unfortunately I had left the sarcophagus in the walkway of the attic, and other people were coming and going.  I knew I had made a horrible mistake as some people brushed up against the mummy’s legs and feet.  I watched in horror as the fragile legs simply disintegrated into dust and blew away.  I felt devastated.

I pondered this dream for the next few days and here is what I think it means.  The mummy symbolizes human significance, the approval of men, the history books written here on earth.  Ever since childhood I have been intrigued by the work of men that can endure long enough for future generations to marvel and wonder.  Even now it is a deep need of mine to live a life that makes an impact and leaves a mark on the people of this earth.  However, if my focus is on achieving significance that is recognized by men, it will be like working carefully and diligently to reveal a mummy.  Anything can destroy that mummy.  It will not endure.

I immediately thought of my work to become a writer.  I long to be a writer.  I tell myself that my writing is mostly for myself, to document all the amazing things that God has done in my life.  Every time I type out a story, God’s goodness becomes more real to me.  Every time I read over something I had written years ago, I am overcome with the Goodness of God that I had forgotten but now remember again because I took the time to write it down!  I tell myself and others that my writing is mostly for my children, to give them a written history of what God has done in our family.  These things that I tell myself and others are very true.

Yet, my Big Dream (my Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is that my writing will go all over the world, impacting lives.  I want to be like the writers whose words have become a part of me and who have shaped the person that I am.  Many of them have died, yet their words live on, still rippling through time, shaping the generations.

I also want to be a writer who makes money from my writing.  It seems to me that the only way a writer can really make money and influence lots of people is to become known by the masses, to write a best seller, to have her name mentioned in households everywhere, or to have a blog article go viral.  I can’t imagine how this would happen to me, but it is still a dream.  I feel like every time I sit down and write something, however small and insignificant it may seem, I am that much closer to achieving that goal.  But is my work like chipping away at a mummy?

I think God is trying to keep me on track.  When I connect my dreams with the image of that mummy, I shudder with a cold chill.  That is not what I want!  I do not want to spend my life working for something cold and lifeless that most certainly will be blown away by any small wind of criticism, changing times, or fickle public opinion.  If this is my focus, I will most certainly fail.  I can only write something of significance if it comes from my relationship with God and is written to please Him.

Next my thoughts turn back to the necklace that I had so flippantly passed by.  That must be the treasure that God has for me, the goal of my life.  What exactly is that necklace supposed to represent?  Silver with light blue and deep blue.  A necklace fit for a queen.

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I am certain that the necklace represents the presence of God.  How could I pass up such a beautiful gift in favor of a mummy?  I have begun to evaluate my days with this test – am I going after the necklace or the mummy today?

Many times I think that His presence is my goal, but I get so distracted by getting things done.  Many times I think that all I need is His approval but find myself straining to gain the approval of others.  Many times I feel so discouraged by how little progress I make on anything measurable during the course of my day.  But it is the immeasurable things that really matter in this life.  I am determined not to miss those things!  This takes exercising my faith and spiritual eyes, because those things are invisible and so easy to pass by.  But in the light of eternity, they will grace me with the identity that will last forever…the Bride of the King.

In the months following this dream, I have had several encounters with God.  He began to slowly and gently reveal more about His presence and the treasure of this necklace…more about that in my coming articles; Encounters with God Part 2 and 3.

 

 

 

Fear Won’t Steal My Voice

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As a young child, I believed several lies about myself.  I felt that I was vastly inferior in certain areas such as physical appearance, social graces, coordination, athletic ability, and the ability to speak with people I didn’t know very well.  I was sure that I would be rejected, so the fear of rejection was my constant companion.  I didn’t know about “the fear of rejection”, this was just my reality.  It was just the way the world worked, and I lived and made decisions to protect myself from rejection.

In Elementary school I always got an “A ”in conduct, because I was well behaved and talked very little.  I didn’t want to do anything that would draw attention to myself. I wanted to hide or at least blend in to avoid any negative reactions.  In new situations with new people, I felt almost paralyzed by the fear.  Faced with a social situation that required small talk, my mind became absolutely blank.  I couldn’t think of a single thing to say.

Fear would steal my voice.

This continued until junior high when something amazing happened.  God began to alter my path.  My first boyfriend, Jesse, invited me to his church (Word Fellowship which is now Life Center) for a youth event.  I agreed to go simply because I liked Jesse so much.  I found myself in the church gym, surrounded by the overpowering smell of fresh onions, helping to assemble hundreds of subs for the youth fundraiser.  [Here is a little fun fact: who do you think rode into the gym on a skateboard and was introduced to me as Jesse’s best friend?  None other than Chris Brandenburg!  Of course I was too shy to really talk to him at that point.]

This youth fundraiser was also an overnight event complete with food and fun games.  Jesse was very outgoing and knew everyone at the church.  He also loved the game of bombardment, which is similar to dodge ball.  The thought of participating in anything that would expose my physical awkwardness was terrifying to me.  I was hoping that Jesse would sacrifice his love for the game to stay with me.  But he didn’t.  He left me in the youth room while he returned to the gym.

I found a chair to sit in and felt completely alone.  The fear of rejection had me so paralyzed that I didn’t move from that spot for what seemed like hours.  Other students came and went, some sitting close to me to carry on a conversation.  But not a single person spoke to me.  I didn’t move or even look at them.  I tried to become invisible and wished I had never come.

Yet when Jesse invited me to come to a Wednesday night youth service, I found myself saying, “I’ll be there.”  I showed up that Wednesday night, but I still felt very uncomfortable.  A ray of sunshine by the name of Patty Leach (wife of the youth pastor) shone on me.  She said with a big smile on her lovely face, “So you are Anne?  You are a lot prettier than Jesse’s last guest.” [Disclaimer: Jesse’s last guest was a boy so this was not really an insult to say that he wasn’t pretty.]

Just the fact that someone had spoken to me and called me pretty was very encouraging!  I continued to come for a few months and felt confused by this charismatic church culture.  It was all new and strange.

One wintery Wednesday night changed everything for me – forever!  There was a guest speaker who I had never seen before.  At the end of his sermon, he asked us to come up to the front if we wanted prayer.  I found myself standing in the front with a whole crowd of other teenagers.  I don’t know how I got there, as usually fear would have me rooted to my seat.  He began to pray for the students and they seemed really impacted. A few of them started to cry.

“I wonder if he will know that I don’t believe in this stuff.”  I thought to myself.

Sure enough, he knew.  The youth pastor, John Leach, appeared seemingly out of nowhere and asked if I wanted to be saved.  The truth was, I didn’t know what “saved” meant and had never heard the “sinner’s prayer.”  But I said yes, and repeated the prayer after John.  I hadn’t been looking for God.  I didn’t believe in Him or felt that I needed Him.  Yet He burst into my heart anyway.  I felt Him and I felt His amazing love for me.  The scales fell off of my eyes and the world seemed entirely new to me.

This was the beginning of my freedom from fear!  It didn’t happen overnight.  I came each Wednesday night to youth group which was called Heirborne, but I still hadn’t made many friends.  It seemed that everyone else was a part of the group but me.  I was a silent observer most of the time.  One night I went home feeling the sting of rejection.  No one had been mean to me, but I felt like such an outsider.

“I can’t continue to do this to myself, this is torture.” I reasoned.  I would just have to tell Jesse that this church thing wasn’t really for me.  I was very serious about never returning to Heirborne again.

I never did have that conversation with Jesse. I was probably just too shy.  I found myself at youth group each Wednesday and gradually I made friends.  Slowly I learned that small talk wasn’t brain surgery.  Slowly I began to feel like I belonged there.

Sometime during my high school years, John’s brother Bryan took over as youth pastor.  He had a crazy idea; the youth should help to lead Heirborne.  He chose a group of us and called us the SALT team (Student Action Leadership Team).  Just the fact that Bryan had chosen me sent me an important message.  I had value.  I didn’t have to be like anyone else.  I could be myself, and I could be an important member of the team.  Bryan and his wife Marcey helped me to realize my worth.

We would meet once a week to pray and plan the next youth meeting.  We would take turns being responsible for different parts of the service – offering, announcements, and the teaching.  We would brainstorm wild ideas for skits or fun games that would illustrate the main point of the teaching.  I found myself up front speaking, teaching, or even dressed in crazy costumes doing ridiculous skits.  Talk about being out of my comfort zone!

Just the fact that I was able to get up in front of a group of people and talk was MIRACULOUS!

Once I was chosen to portray a “party girl” in a skit.  It was supposed to be a game show that had many different types of people answering the questions.  I would have never chosen this character for myself, being just the opposite of a “party girl.”  Yet I was determined to do the best job that I could.  I wore the closest thing to a mini skirt that I owned (which really was practically down to my knees).  A friend teased my hair until it was perfect 80s “big hair”.  I got out there with all the other crazy characters and acted as loud and obnoxious as I could, yelling out about wanting a case of “Red Bull.”

I felt absolutely ridiculous, yet there was no fear!  I wasn’t worried about being rejected by the other teens at youth that night.  I was just having fun and hoping that I could help the other teens have fun, feel a part of the group, and learn about God.  I stopped thinking about myself and began to want to be a blessing to others.  Fear became less and less a part of my life as I graduated High School and did missions with Youth With A Mission.  Preaching in front of others and meeting new people from all over the world became exhilarating.

I came back from YWAM and married that kid on the skateboard, Chris Brandenburg.  After a year of working and being youth leaders, we moved to Colorado Springs. We became part of a small church, but after 7 years I experienced the biggest rejection of my life.

I had always dealt with the FEAR of rejection but now what I had dreaded had come upon me.  The church (which was comprised of our leaders, closest friends, and spiritual family – almost our ENTIRE support network there in Colorado), kicked us out.  The main leader, Mary, told Chris that we could no longer be part of the church because of MY iniquities.  She said that I was interfering with their prayers.  She said I was holding Chris back from his destiny and that I was not the woman that God had wanted him to marry.  She said that I would one day leave him.  Once that happened, Chris could return to the church. Imagine hearing these words from someone you honored and respected as your leader.  I honored and respected Mary, but I also feared her. Mary had spoken harsh words to me before.  I had tried my best to follow God, yet she was always able to find something about me to criticize.  I remember thinking, “I will never be free until Mary dies.”  Isn’t that horrible?

Thankfully Mary didn’t have to die for me to be free from fear.  She just had to reject me, and God began to set me free!

I sought God like never before and do you know what I realized?

All of His words to me were good!

He loved me, more that I could take in or comprehend!

He delighted in me and actually liked me!

He gave me so much joy, more than I had ever had before!

He began to show me that the church that had rejected me did not have His heart.  Rather, they were working for the Accuser of the Brethren.  I am sure that the enemy of my soul, that dirty rotten liar of an accuser had a plan that he thought was fool proof.  He would link my heart and my identity to this little church and then turn them against me.  I would finally suffer the dreaded REJECTION and receive a mortal wound that would fester until the bitterness had consumed me.

BUT GOD…

GOD came down and saved me and filled me with His acceptance.  He loved me no matter what I had done right or wrong.  He loved me whether I had accomplished anything important or not.  Because of Him, I had a value that nothing could ever take away.

I had come face to face with my greatest fear.

I had met REJECTION and stared into its ugly, contorted face and you know what…it wasn’t so bad.

In fact, I actually felt honored that a church that had fallen so far from the Amazing Grace of God had rejected me. I wouldn’t have wanted to be the type of person that they would have accepted – one that feared men more than God.  It was a compliment that The Accuser had felt that I was enough of a threat to come after me like that.

Now I look back at that rejection and feel that it was one of the biggest blessings in my life!  I learned so much about God and about myself, and I was set free from that cult.  Of course I had a lot of healing to do, a lot of wrong teachings to unlearn.

Again, Life Center played a big role in my freedom from fear.  A year after that big rejection, Life Center offered Chris a job and helped to move us back to PA.  The atmosphere of love and acceptance at that wonderful church was just what we needed to heal.

I would love to say that now I never feel fear, that I boldly go speaking the Words of God wherever I go.  That is not the case.  Fear, specifically fear of rejection, is still my biggest hurdle to overcome before doing anything out of my normal routine.  Something as simple as making a phone call, walking across the street to talk to a neighbor, initiating a conversation with a stranger, or speaking in front of a group can bring on a flurry of anxious thoughts.  I would rather stay in my safe zone and never have to risk rejection again.  But now, it is usually very easy to silence those thoughts.  I simply stop thinking about myself and ask God to make me a blessing to whoever I am going to encounter.

Speaking at the Propel meeting was just an example of this.  I have enjoyed attending the monthly Propel meetings over the last year.  I have sat in the audience and looked up on stage at the many beautiful women and have been touched by their amazing stories.  Yet, I would think to myself, “I would never want to sit up there with them where everyone could see me and realize that I am not as pretty as the others.”

When Patty called me last week to ask if I would share at the February meeting, immediately that fearful thought flashed through my mind.  I heard myself saying, “Yes, I can be there,” because there was a much more dominating thought.  That thought was, “I know that God has put something inside of me that could be a blessing to the other women…

 and I don’t want fear to steal my voice again!”

Fear tried to silence my voice.  But in God I have found my voice.  Many times when I talk to a group or one on one – I can feel God speaking through me.  I feel lies being broken.  I feel atmospheres shifting.  I feel hope rising.  I feel peace coming down and settling.  When I am in tune with Christ, THERE IS POWER in my voice!  Yet many times I must chose to overcome fear before I am able to open my mouth.

Fear feels to me like Paul’s thorn in the flesh.  In 2 Cor 12:8-10 he says, “Three times I pleaded with the LORD to take it away from me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

There is also power in my written words.  Power to crack open strongholds.  Power to impart wisdom.  Power to lead others to God.  I have loved exploring the power of my written words with this blog.  There is a certain amount of fear involved with telling your inner most thoughts to the world.  But I am not trying to make myself look perfect to avoid rejection.  In fact, most of my articles are about my weaknesses, my insecurities, my mistakes, and my failures. That is where I find His Grace.  That is where my real power lies – in my imperfection.  For when I am weak…

Then God shows Himself Strong!

Why Did I Think We Needed a Puppy?

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I have always been anti-dog.  My house is already full of loud, messy, needy creatures.  What do I need a dog for?

“It would be so good for the children,” my husband would argue the pro-dog position.

“They are so cute!  And it would be fun,” the children would chime in.

“Don’t worry, we will get one…someday…when we have a lot of land and the dog can be an outside dog,” I would always answer.

I had no intention of sharing my home with a stinky, hairy animal that may or may not destroy the furniture and pee on the rug.  God, however, had different ideas.

I drive to a farm once a week to purchase raw milk and pastured eggs.  A few years ago, beagles began showing up on the farm until there were three beagles in three separate pens.  Soon there was a litter of the cutest little balls of fur in one of the pens.  The children would “ooohhhh” and “ahhhhh” over them and try to pet them through the chain link fence.  The puppies would trample over each other to get to the children, wild with excitement.

The children would come home with tales of the adorable puppies.

“Just call and find out how much they are,” Chris urged me.

“We don’t need a puppy right now.  I don’t WANT a puppy right now,” was my reply.

“Just call,” he said.

After I called and found out that each puppy would require a sum of $450, the talk of getting a puppy ceased.  The puppies grew up and were all adopted.  Then six months later another batch of puppies would appear wobbling out of their little dog house and into the penned-in yard.  I let the children have fun talking to them and petting them, but my heart was unmoved.  I never thought that beagles were that cute anyway.

This September, there was a new litter of seven puppies.  The farmer invited me and my children to peek into the dog house.  We saw the tiniest black bundles snuggled up to their mother. They seemed different somehow.  They were black and white.  Had any of the other beagle puppies been black and white?  I couldn’t exactly remember.

Soon they grew enough to venture into their yard.  I felt strangely drawn to these tiny creatures.  They were so adorable.  Areli took a pictures of them with her phone.  Cute, right?

The farmer let the children hold one, and they were in love.

“So how many of them are you going to take home?” the farmer asked.

I just laughed!

The next week there was a new sign at the farm that read, “Border Collie Beagle Puppies $100.”  I started thinking, “Hey, we could afford $100!  If all the children would pitch in, they could cover all the costs and help to take care of a puppy.”

Yet my thoughts scared me!  What was I thinking, even considering this?  We didn’t need a puppy!

I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind.  The children would be overjoyed to have a puppy, and I would love to fulfill their heart’s desire.  I told Chris my thoughts and he said, “If YOU want to get a puppy that is all the confirmation I need!  Call them and ask if we can pick one out.  You better hurry before they sell them all!”

I called the owner, who was the wife of the farmer’s brother.  She told me the funny story about these $100 puppies.  She and the farmer’s brother were planning their wedding and decided not to breed the beagles this season since the puppies would arrive right around the wedding date, early September.  Well nature, the dogs, or God himself had different plans.  When the female beagle was in heat, the Border Collie who lives on the farm chewed into her cage.

I laughed about the unplanned pregnancy that had produced such adorable pups.  I set up a time to bring the entire family to the farm that Friday evening.

On Friday morning I was feeling very nervous about this rather impulsive, impractical, and life changing decision…to go PICK OUT A PUPPY!  What was I thinking?!  I asked God to give me a scripture to confirm that this was a good decision for our family.

He gave me Psalm 34.  I read the beloved verses such as:

I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Look to him and be radiant so your faces shall never be ashamed.

The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Peace began to flood my soul and I thought, “A puppy must be a good thing that God wants to give to us.”

Later that day, all 11 of us crowded into a room in the barn.  The floor was wet since all the puppies had just been given a bath. They were so little and cute and active!  They would run around wagging their tails rapidly; licking, chewing, and jumping the entire time.  I had prayed that the Holy Spirit would highlight the perfect puppy for our family, yet I couldn’t even tell them apart!  I finally settled on one puppy that seemed to like Ashlyn. I always had thought that a dog would be good for Ashlyn since she loves animals. Cooper and Cadin picked another puppy with distinctive brown eye brows who was identified by the owner as the most active puppy of the bunch.  Areli and Cole had bonded with a shy little girl who had been so scared by the bath, she spent the first half of the visit in her owner’s arms.  Once she was let down to the floor, Cole scooped her up and she fell asleep. photo-10Areli took a turn cradling the sleeping pup.  Cole and Areli were in love.

After much discussion and debate, we finally settled on the sleeping pup.  A sweet and docile dog would be a good complement to our overactive boys.  She was the only puppy that the owner had already named because she was the favorite.  Her name was “Happy” due to her constantly wagging tail.

It was a good thing we went to the farm that night because the very next day, all six of Happy’s brothers and sisters were adopted!  We decided to keep her name “Happy” because we couldn’t all agree on a name.

Chris wanted to name her “Dog.”

Cadin wanted, “Gigi.”

Cooper thought something like, “Skullcrusher” would be more appropriate.

Areli and I preferred a sweet name like, “Ellie”.

Cole suggested, “Gonorrhea,” for the entertaining shock value.

Mercifully, the named had already been chosen!!  Now we just had to wait until Oct 8th when we could take Happy home.

After the exciting trip to the farm, I sat down to read through Psalm 34 again.  When I got to verse 8, it was like a revelation from God.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good;

HAPPY are those who take refuge in him.”

God knew that Happy was the puppy for us.  I felt that He knew it all along, and that He had planned all of us to bless us.

When October 8th came, we were all very excited!  The children held a rather apprehensive Happy on the van ride home.  She had already gotten bigger!photo-4  She seemed uncertain about her new home and finally found her happy place, snuggled in Ashlyn’s lap.

Neither Chris nor I had ever had a dog.  We knew very little about being dog owners.  I had gotten all kinds of books and DVDs from the library which the children and I had been studying.  I was preparing myself for a lot of work initially.  Areli said she would take Happy out during the night.  Cole said he would train her.  The other boys said they would take her out for walks and play time.

I had a vision in my head inspired by the many books and movies I had seen about dogs.  The children and the dog would be best friends, almost inseparable.  She would look up at them with adoration in her eyes, longing to please.  She would join them on their adventures in the woods.  They would become responsible pet owners and grow in maturity.

Three days after we brought her home we noticed something in her fur.  Fleas!!!  Just two of them, but I had never had fleas in my house before.  The internet said that one flea could turn into hundreds, maybe thousands in just a week.  My skin started to crawl and I was officially freaking out.  How do I naturally deal with fleas?  We gave her bathes in flea shampoo and vacuumed every day.

After a few weeks, we were all worn out and it seemed as though Happy hadn’t learned anything.  She hadn’t learned to sleep through the night and Areli was walking through her day like a zombie.  Cole hadn’t trained her to do anything.  Someone was assigned to watch her at every moment and take her outside every half an hour.  Still, dog pee and poop on the carpet was the new normal.

I thanked God that our carpet was so old that it really should be replaced anyway, but the smell and the extra cleaning was frustrating.  Just to make it interesting, Happy barfed and had diarrhea a few times as well.

I began to realize that I really knew nothing about dogs.  Is this all normal?  Is she ok, or is she sick?  What would I do if she got sick?  I know all about taking care of children and babies.  I know exactly how to treat all of the childhood maladies, but a dog I had no clue about.  How could we afford vet bills?  What vaccines does she need and which ones are unnecessary?  Should we get her spayed and how?

I reminded myself that Happy was a BLESSING from God and He would work all this out.

Happy are those who take refuge in Him, I would remind myself over and over again.  My happiness was not in the circumstances but in His unchanging love and goodness.

More weeks passed and Happy continued to chew on EVERYTHING!  We had to keep the floor cleaner than if we had a baby crawling around.  When she got something that could be dangerous, it became a game of, “who can catch the puppy and pry this thing out of her mouth.”

The most distressing reality to me was the fact that she like to chew on PEOPLE!  My people!  My little defenseless people!  Annalise was afraid of Happy because Happy could knock her down.  I would have to hold Annalise or put her in her highchair when Happy was around, and this was incredibly inconvenient.  Courage wasn’t much better, but at least he could run away and climb up on the furniture to escape her reach.

Courage took to hitting and kicking the puppy.  I thought he was just being naughty, until I realized that he was really angry at this new “baby” for hurting him and scaring him.  The truth was, I was angry too and couldn’t blame Courage for his emotions.  I tried to teach him how to play with her nicely, but it ended up more like refereeing a mixed martial arts fight.  Happy just thought they were her brother and sister and wanted to play.

Ashlyn, who loved to play with Happy, would mess with the puppy endlessly.  This resulted in many bites and scratches.  The saddest moments for me would be when one of the middle boys would be playing with the puppy.  Happy would get over excited and bite hard.  The boys would end up bleeding and crying.  My idyllic vision of pet ownership was crushed.

I became very upset over the entire situation.  My day was much more difficult and messy and sad and frustrating.  Why did I think we needed a puppy?  I began to wish that I never had this stupid idea!

Happy are those who take refuge in Him, I tried to remind myself.

dsc_0093The children began to fight with me about taking Happy outside and cleaning up after her.  When I talked to Chris about all of these things at supper time, his response was very simple.

“This is just a dog.  All of you promised to help with her.  If you don’t help, or if you give Mama a hard time about it, I will get rid of the dog.  I have no problem posting on Facebook, ‘Free Puppy.’”

Chris was very serious.  I actually wanted to take him up on his offer!  What a load would be lifted!  Yet, I felt that God had brought us this specific puppy, and it wouldn’t be right to give her up.  I felt that eventually she would be a great blessing to our family, although in the moment I couldn’t quite imagine how.

Dealing with the inconveniences of a new puppy is a rather small trial.  Yet God was using this to teach me lessons I needed to navigate through the real trial in my life; the heartrending trial that is just too deep and personal to write about yet.  I was dealing with a situation that I had always hoped and earnestly prayed that I would NEVER HAVE TO DEAL WITH.  And now that I was in the middle of it, I just wanted to retreat.  To be done, to give up, to admit defeat.

Happy are those who take refuge in Him, I remind myself every time I look at our puppy. Just like this puppy, I know that God will use this horrible situation for my good and bring a blessing out of it.   I can’t imagine what the blessing will be, but I am trying to believe that there is ALWAYS a blessing to everything that God allows to enter our lives.

J.R. Miller expressed it perfectly when he wrote:

“Every difficult task that comes across your path – every one that you would rather not do, that will take the most effort, cause the most pain, and be the greatest struggle – brings a blessing with it.  And refusing to do it regardless of the personal cost is to miss the blessing…

“Every battle field you encounter, where you are required to draw your sword and fight the enemy, has the possibility of victory that will prove to be a rich blessing to your life.  And every heavy burden you are called upon to lift hides within itself a miraculous secret of strength.”

Now the puppy has become less of a trial.  The children had a real attitude adjustment and began helping more willingly.  They began to have fun playing outside with her and taking her to the park.  She began to sleep through the night!  She started to calm down with the chewing and biting.  She actually became very gentle with Annalise and better with the other children as well.  She started to obey some commands!

We take pleasure in petting her silky fur and scratching her belly as her tail thumps on the floor.  We love to snuggle with her on the sofa when she curls up to take a nap.

photo-12 She has stopped using our house as a toilet (most of the time) and her schedule has become more predictable.  The flea infestation that I had worried about never manifested.  Whenever I look at her I can’t help but think that she is the prettiest puppy in the entire world, and I am glad that she is ours!

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Happy is a constant reminder that Happy are those to take refuge in Him and every trial holds the promise of a blessing whether we can see it or not.

America, this is God’s Mercy!

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I have never prayed so much for a presidential election.

I have never prayed so much for my country.

I have never sought God more for His presence and His will.

On the morning of Nov. 3rd I was thinking about the article I had posted the night before, Heartbroken and Troubled by the Election? Be Encouraged!

“God, do I have your heart?  Have I heard you correctly?”  I found myself asking.  I turned to the Bible and asked Him to give me a scripture.  I was still wearing my pajamas and doing my morning exercises.  The little ones were playing around me, and I should have been getting on with my day, but I just had to hear His voice.

I opened the Bible to Hosea 11 and began to read.

When Israel [I felt like God was putting the USA into this place] was a child, I loved him,

And out of Egypt I called my son.

The more I called them, the more they went from me;

They kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols.

It was the hand of God that formed our nation.  Yet our nation has largely turned away from our Biblical foundation.  Our country sacrifices the blood of 3,000 children a day to the idols of fear, selfishness, wealth, and convenience.

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim [America] to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them.

I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love.  I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks.  I bent down to them and fed them.

God had abundantly blessed our country and given us freedom and prosperity, but systematically over the years the government has turned from Him.  Most of us are complacent in seeking him.

They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me.

Swords will flash in their cities, will destroy the bars of their gates and put an end to their plans.

I can see how America deserves judgement from God.  My heart is heavy.

My people are bent on turning away from me.  To the Most High they call, but He does not raise them up at all.

At this point my heart is beating fast.  I am panicking and full of grief.  “No, God!” My heart is whispering, “We cannot endure this.” I continue to read.

How can I give you up Ephriam [America]?  How can I hand you over, Israel [USA]?  How can I make you like Admah?  How can I treat you like Zeboiim [cities that were destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah but no longer remembered]?

My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.

I WILL NOT execute my fierce anger; I WILL NOT again destroy Ephraim [America]; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I WILL NOT COME IN WRATH.

I did not know this chapter of the Bible by heart, so when I came to these verses telling of God’s mercy; relief and deep, deep gratitude flooded my soul.  I found myself on my face on the living room carpet, weeping uncontrollably.

His word is MERCY!

We deserve judgment, but He has said MERCY!

All I could do was worship Him with tears as my little ones continued to play, unaware of the collision of heaven and earth that had just occurred inside of me.

Then I continued to read Hosea 11:10-11.

They shall go after the Lord, who roars like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west.

They shall come [with eager haste] trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the LORD.

This election has served an important purpose; to expose the problems in our nation and awaken the church.  This is going to continue!

God is roaring like a lion!!!

Do you hear him?  Will you come to Him like never before to seek Him for the healing of our land?  He wants to provide every American with peaceful dwelling places, secure homes, and undisturbed places of rest (Is 32:18), but it will take quite a battle to get there.

After I read these verses, I was sure that whoever was elected would be God’s mercy to us…and I was about 98% sure that it would be Trump.  Nov. 3rd was my day to spend 3 hours in the Furnace (prayer room) at my church.  This was such a pleasure for me since I love to intercede but don’t have many chances to leave the distractions of my busy household.

Those of us in the Furnace felt incredible faith to plead the blood of Jesus over our land, which speaks a better word than judgement and the Accuser.  I prayed out Is 40: 22-24 which talks about God’s breath as a whirlwind, blowing away evil rulers like chaff.  I prayed that every evil in our government and in our culture would be blown away by that whirlwind and that the Kingdom of God would replace it.

When I returned home I found confirmation to all of these things on Facebook.  The importance of Hosea 11:11 was highlighted to me when both Rick Joyner and Lance Wallnau announced that they are having important meetings on 11/11/16 and Veronica West saw that same day as a day of justice.  Another post from Veronika West went like this;

“DAUGHTER WHY DO MY PEOPLE LISTEN AND PAY ATTENTION TO THOSE THAT CRY OUT JUDGEMENT, JUDGEMENT, JUDGEMENT IS COMING, FOR SURELY I TELL YOU MY HEART OF LOVE AND COMPASSION IS TURNED TOWARDS THIS NATION, FOR I HAVE HEARD THEIR CRIES FOR MERCY, MERCY, MERCY, MERCY, MERCY, MERCY, AND NOW MY MERCY IS MAKING A WAY WHERE THERE SEEMED NO WAY”, says God.

As I was reading these words I had a video playing on another tab.  It was a service in which Dutch Sheets and Chuck Pierce were prophesying over America.  It had just been recorded in Las Vegas a few days earlier.

MERCY, MERCY, MERCY, MERCY!” they kept saying over and over.

I continued to read the post from Veronika West;

“THIS IS THE 11th HOUR, FEAR NOT, FOR HIS MERCY IS MAKING A WAY, AND HIS GRACE HAS NOT GIVEN YOU WHAT YOUR SINS HAVE DESERVED, GREATER ARE THOSE THAT ARE WITH YOU, THAN THOSE THAT ARE AGAINST YOU!…

AMERICA, I DECLARE THIS IS THE 11TH HOUR, THE HOUR OF DIVINE INTERVENTION AND GREAT REVERSAL!!!

WATCH! HERE COMES THE WHIRLWIND OF REDEMPTION AND RESTORATION, LOOK UP! THE SPIRIT OF MIGHT AND POWER IS RISING UP IN THE LAND, THE GRACE AND MERCY OF GOD IS OVERRULING, OVERTURNING AND UNRAVELING IN THIS 11TH HOUR.

Then I heard the spirit say, “BELOVED HAVE I NOT SAID, I AM DOING A NEW THING? OH YOU OF LITTLE FAITH! REPENT OF YOUR DOUBLE MINDEDNESS, AND YOUR COMPLAINING, AND RETURN TO YOUR FIRST LOVE. LOOK! HERE COMES MY DIVINE INTERVENTION AND GREAT REVERSAL, FOR MY MERCY IS MOVING AND MAKING A WAY WHERE THERE SEEMED NO WAY, GET READY FOR MY WHIRLWIND OF REDEMPTION AND RESTORATION IS COMING QUICKLY AND SUDDENLY, I HAVE HEARD THE CRIES OF MY PEOPLE AND IN MY GREAT COMPASSION AND UNFAILING LOVE I HAVE NOT GIVEN YOU WHAT YOUR SINS HAVE DESERVED, BUT MY HEART AND MY HAND HAS BEEN MOVED TO SHOW YOU GRACE AND UNMERITED FAVOUR IN THIS 11TH HOUR…”

Whether you like him or not, Donald Trump is part of God’s plan for mercy.  Trump will not do everything right, but he is God’s way of resetting the clock to give the church in America more time.  More time to do what Jesus asked us to do, make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19) which means OUR NATION!  It is time that we stop listening to the media, to people, and to the Accuser.  It is time that we start listening to what the Spirit of God is saying about Donald Trump and the USA!

He is saying Mercy!