It Has Always Been Him Calling to Me

I asked God to give me something to share with a beautiful, familiar group of women. I would soon have the opportunity to speak to them and I wanted to leave something inspirational, something worthy of remembering, in their hearts. I’m not a speaker. My mind seems to forget everything I want to say when I want to say it. So, every time this type of thing comes along, I plead with God. Less of me, more of You.

He quickly dropped “I Will Enter His Gates” in my heart.  I sang it for a week and nothing I conjured up came together in the beautiful way I had imagined. Maybe he wants me to talk about this or that…. No, that’s not it, again and again. I crumbled up papers and deleted notes on my phone. 

I woke up at 5am Sunday morning, the day of the event, with a reason. The song I had been singing was a song I loved when I was a child, a song from our hymn book. It was a memory I needed to unwrap.

This is a small part of my story. But, you all have a story like this, a story of how god has always been calling out to you.

When I was born, my parents weren’t christians. We were lost. What was it that brought us to him? I was five and I remember. I remember the tiny churches in the country. I remember the open arms and the looks on their faces. They knew my mom was coming home. But, my father, they were working so hard. They visited him in the hospital when he almost died. They spent hours and hours there. The preacher prayed over him when he was asleep for a month. He prayed when my dad didn’t know us. He even stayed when he woke up and lead him to Jesus. I was five and I knew my dad had died but God woke him up because he was so close. He was close to finally winning his soul. Maybe the accident would show him how far God had gone to save him?

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(Picture of dad and the preacher about 1.5 years after his accident when he was walking again)

Dad recovered at home and we went to church. They sang “At the Cross”and “Victory in Jesus.” They worked tirelessly.  They cried when my momma cried. They threw baby showers when my sister was born. There were so many embraces. They sang “Jesus Loves Me” and lead the crafts in Sunday school. They cared when we didn’t come. 

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(My mom at my sister’s baby shower at the small church in the country)

Family reunions when I was 8 and 10 and 12, my uncle sang “Amazing Grace” with a guitar under the trees. They all stopped. All those people, 100 of them, stopped and felt him. The music, the prayer, it begged us to notice.  He was there, calling to them too. I remember looking around and seeing that they all noticed Jesus was there too.

Then, when I was 15, I gave my heart to Jesus. Those people actually had the guts to come and get me from my seat. They knew so much about me. More than I had told them. Their eyes said it all. But, I had been hiding. Hang out with us. We’ve got this thing called The Holy Spirit and you need it too. That’s when I decided. All those years, all that work and I finally said it out loud. Although, I had known long, long before that I could never live without Jesus. He would always be home, my resting place.

When my mom  almost gave up on people and stopped going to church, it was me that begged. If we don’t have them, what hope do we have? Those people, the church, they are Jesus. We can’t hold on to him alone. She listened.

It was always him calling me, following me, loving me.  He worked hard to keep my attention. From my earliest memory until right now, it has always been him.

We are the church. We are those baby showers, the embraces, the workers. We are the ones that sing songs and cut and glue in the classrooms. We are Jesus in the flesh.

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(Me around 1988 singing songs about Jesus)

When I asked God for something this week, he took his time and showed me something profound. The pulling, the tugging, the noticing, the calling, it was always him. From my earliest memory until this very moment. The entire thing, its been a journey towards him.  Just like it has been for you.

As we enter into the holidays thankful hearts, may it be full of those moments in time that cause you to notice. He’s been calling to all of us since the very beginning. Through music, prayer, love, embraces, pain and everything in between, it’s been him all along. He is the hope that shines in dark places. He is the joy that comes in the morning. He is everywhere, in everything. He has always been, and he will always be. 

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.

Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

 

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When God Says “You’re Welcome”

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THERE it is… THAT moment again. The one where God shows me that He is absolutely real. The moment when I pray and I feel him. Mostly, it’s when I thank him. Oh, how he rushes over me. So often, I think “Did that just happen?” Did I just feel God’s presence with me? Can we replay that because it was amazing?! It couldn’t be emotions.  I’ve replayed it over and over. I am happy at times. I am sad and overwhelmed sometimes too, but I never feel that. I might jump up and down when something makes me feel excited and thankful. But, I don’t feel that. It’s when I talk to Christ. That’s it. 

There has never been another sensation comparable in any way. I could turn inside-out with the thrill of it. It makes my heart feel like it could burst open with excitement. Usually, its head to toe goosebumps too and a quick rushing through my veins.  Really, there is no way to describe it appropriately. It’s like a drug. I need more of it. When you feel him, you KNOW it’s him. It is God almighty, the creator of the universe. His presence is made known and like no other.

This past week, I said “thank you” and there it was, rushing over me. That’s all it took, one simple  “Thank you.” No planning. Nothing strategic. Actually, it took me by surprise…. again.  It was like a GIGANTIC “You’re welcome,” right back at me. Ummm… can we repeat that God? Let me try that one more time. “THANK YOU… Darn!!” It didnt have the same effect the second time around. But, it was so good!

And every time it happens, I think to myself, but why? I’m so messed up, so sinful.  He loves even though I’m imperfect. How can this be? I surely didn’t deserve that. Regardless of the fact that I’ve made plenty of mistakes this week, he still made me aware that he was there, with me. It’s really fantastic and quite thrilling to know a God like this. There is no earning this type of love. He gives it away freely and unassuming. 
 

waves and wind

“The waves and wind still know his name…” Bethel Music

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Photo credit: indulgy.com/post/X9CrZUcO82/serenity

When I was a little girl, I would sit next to my mom in a small country church in Kentucky every single week. The walls were paneling and the pews were cold and hard. There were hymnals and Holy Bibles behind every seat. The room wouldn’t hold more that fifty people. They’d sing loud and uninhibited with only a piano and a voice leading them. Those people, they loved Jesus. They went to church until they died, literally. I have vivid memories of the man with the tracheostomy, 100-year-old ladies and sick people coming to the cross for healing. Age and crippling bodies didn’t keep them away. After all, Jesus and this community of like-minded believers were all that was true and eternal.

Sometimes the Spirit of God would fall and they would cry and shout. This “spirit” was God’s overwhelming presence coming to mend and love them. Tears would stream down their faces and sometimes they’d weep. They wept mostly for people they loved, lost souls. Sometimes they wept because God’s presence was so obviously answering prayers and healing their hearts. Those were tears of joy, so to speak. They were crying out to God from the depths of their hearts.

It scared me to death. I was so sure that this “presence of God” was real that I feared it would take over my body and make me cry or shout in front of people. Yep, no one had to tell me anything about Jesus. One moment around people overcome by His presence and He was REAL. Some people might look at that scenario and say it wasn’t healthy to fear God in that way as a child. But, God had shown himself 100% ever-present and real. The words to It is Well by Bethel Music sing “Far be it from me to not believe even when my eyes can’t see.” Even when I get mad and tired and frustrated, far be it that I not believe. He dug down deep a long time ago when I was a little girl and took root within my soul.

God was gentle with my heart back then. Everyone in the room would be feeling God’s presence and I would sit and take it all in. I felt it too, sitting there scared to death that God might take over my body like some sort of out of body experience. (Twenty-some years later, that has never EVER happened by the way.) But, God swarmed around me. And when I was ready, He filled me. He rested on me as a child like a dove. He whispered kind and loving words to my heart. I didn’t need to show it or even tell anyone, I held it all back for the sake of refinement.  But, God and I knew our secret. From as early as I can remember, He has been with me.

Recently, I was driving down the road listening to that song I mentioned earlier, It is Well, when I heard the words “the wind and waves still know his name.” All at once, I was reminded of these experiences I had as a young girl that I hadn’t thought about hardly ever. Honestly, those memories were filed away and destined to be forgotten. But, today, I suddenly felt a very familiar presence of God. It was a major déjà vu moment. I immediately associated it with that gentle presence of God I felt all those years ago, sitting and hiding behind a pew. It was just like being there again, back in time, face to face with the Holy Spirit.

Remarkably, God is the same as he was back then when I sat in that country church. The waves and wind still know his name because He is the same God that reached down and touched a little girl’s heart. He was there when I was formed in my mother’s womb. He was there when I was innocent and sad or didn’t understand. He was there when I made bad choices and when I turned my back on Him. He was there when I celebrated. He was there when I tried and failed. He was there in all the scary and difficult moments. His love is the only thing constant,  true and eternal, just as those believers taught me back then. He will see me through until the end. May His presence always be my dwelling place.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    in all generations.
 Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Psalm 90:1-2

 

tug-of-war.

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There is a war waging for our hearts, to shut them down and disable those who love Jesus.

I feel it stronger than ever before. I went away for a women’s retreat and found God in a place I hadn’t visited for a while. Not a physical place, but a place of depth within my soul. I found Him waiting for me for to crawl through the haze and reach Him.

There is power in people, in bodies who hold the same spirit. When we are together and dig down deep, our spirits unite and God seems to swell up and make Himself known in a way no one can deny. There is strength in unity and love. There is strength in wanting and needing God. There is strength in honesty and humility.

We found God. Anyone who was there can confirm that their hearts melted into one big pile of butter!

That is where I am finding myself now. I am butter before God. The moment I begin to worship Him, whether in my car or church, read the Bible or pray, there He is. I feel Him close and my eyes continue to instantly well up with tears. It’s like all that “stuff” that was between Him and I has diminished. I don’t have to work as hard to find Him. I don’t feel like He is a million miles away. He is close and I trust Him.

But, I have a feeling that something doesn’t like it.

I feel a strong pressure in my weaker moments to collapse, to give my thoughts back to the one who confines them. It feels like spiritual tug-of-war. Satan sees power in the hands of those whose hearts and minds move freely within God’s will. My days, since being home, have been harder than ever. I’ve thought things like “I should have just stayed in bed today.” On the other hand, my moments with God have been richer than ever. He is worth it. I choose to fight this fight against the one who devours. Our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil. (Ephesians 6:12)

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.” Psalm 121:1-3

If this is you, I encourage you to fight. Lift your eyes up and realize where your help comes from! He is worth it! 

HLC Women’s Retreat

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In His hands are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. Psalm 95:4

HLC Women’s Retreat starts TOMORROW! 

We are heading to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia! From the moment the retreat was scheduled, I began praying that every women who was meant to be there would find a way to make it happen! Every time someone added, I began dreaming about all the things God had in store for them.  So, for those of you who are going, it is meant to be!

God has something fantastic waiting for you this weekend!

XOXO

See you there!

Margie

what if it’s cancer

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My story is always the same. God always comes through.

My little family strives to live our lives the most obedient to God as possible. Not to say we are even near the mark because no one is ever sure. We may be completely off! I read a quote recently that went something like this… (Paraphrasing) “Just like a dad catching his child jumping into the swimming pool, God’s will moves with you. No matter how close or far that child jumps, the dad is going to move to catch him.” Isn’t God just like that! I’m jumping! I might not be jumping far enough or fast enough, but I believe God is reaching out to catch me where ever I may land! Isn’t there freedom in that statement? We don’t have to be perfect because it’s impossible!

I have a thousand stories to share about how we stepped out in faith and God provided. I always say that we are quite spoiled by this god we serve. I look back and see an overall favor upon us. We are healthy and happy and so much more.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Notice that scripture, along with many others, talks about “tribulation.” In the back of my mind, I’ve wondered how long this favor can last. I have believed in miracles. I know that God answers prayers. But, something has been looming over me that says, “bad things happen to good people.” How long can this goodness last?

My husband, David, has been ill for months. It has progressively gotten worse and we’ve been worried. A little over a month ago, we finally got in to see a fantastic family practitioner who wanted to run several test. One of those test was a CT scan. We anticipated the day as anyone would. We stated before the test, “As long as your pancreas comes back clear, everything else we can manage.” You see, David’s grandmother died at a young age of pancreatic cancer. David seemed to be displaying many of the vague symptoms of this terrible disease…..

The test went well and I left to visit family in KY. I wondered if I should leave with David being sick. Two days after being there my 7 year old developed a horrible virus that mimicked meningitis. We spend hours in the ER and cried many tears. I didn’t think my heart could take any more hurt and worry. Thankfully, he was cleared and sent back to my mom’s house to recover.

Upon leaving my mom’s house, David called. I was alone there with my kids and the van packed. We were walking out the door to drive 5 hours home. David said “There is a mass on my pancreas.”

Needless to say, my world collapsed. I didn’t need anyone to tell me about pancreatic cancer. As a nurse, I’ve seen it too many times. Nearly every mass is cancerous and almost no one survives it.

David had been sick for a long time. He had lost 20 pounds and even his bilirubin had been elevated. Often that is the first sign of pancreatic cancer. I’d seen him lie sick on the couch for days, unable to move with stomach pain and exhaustion. In that moment, I was defeated. It all made sense. I drove home with swollen, bloodshot eyes and tears streaming the whole five hours. I asked God a lot of questions like “Is this how my story is going to go?” “Has our favor run out?” It was like a dagger in my heart I’ve never felt before.

So, there is where our true journey began. The journey of test, studies and procedures. You name it and he had it done. We had to wait to see the only doctor in Chattanooga who could do the actual procedure to look directly at the pancreas. In the meantime, doctors were ruling everything else out. We crossed our fingers every time we completed a new test, hoping the doctor would say, “We found what is causing the pain.” Maybe if they could find it, the pancreas thing would be nothing. But, no one could find anything.

Each and every time, I sat alone, waiting. Once specific time, I was in a conference room that couldn’t have been bigger than 6x4ft. I wanted to pray but my mind kept on imagining. “Is this going to be the place where I find out the bad news?”  “Is this the moment our life officially changes forever?” I even took a picture of the chair across from me where the doctor would sit to deliver the news. Once again, he delivered no bad news. He didn’t even sit in that stupid chair.

My stomach had been in knots since the day David called me in KY. I couldn’t think about anything else. I tried everything to trust God. I tried every way to distract my mind and stay busy. But, that knot in my stomach didn’t go anywhere. It was a constant reminder.

Two weeks after the CT results came, the day arrived. It was time for the big test. The ONE that would tell us what was going on with David’s pancreas. I needed someone to watch my kids again. I needed someone to sit with me at the hospital. I couldn’t sit alone and imagine again. What if the news was bad? How could I handle it alone? My family felt further away than ever.

I reached out. I’m not good at reaching out. But, let me say that I am grateful I did for so many reasons. I didn’t know that there were people who loved so deeply right beside me. We aren’t “home” per say. The home I grew up in is KY. But, isn’t this what “home” is all about? Isn’t it about people who truly love and support one another? There were friends who watched my kids at 5:30am. There were friends that took days off work to keep me busy while I waited on results. I am grateful for the opportunity to see what was there beside me all along.

The doctor finally came out to deliver the results. He said, “I didn’t see anything unusual about the pancreas. It looked normal. There wasn’t even anything to biopsy.”

Psalms 34: 19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.

I haven’t processed all the emotions enough yet to write too much about life “after” our good news was delivered. After all, it was only a few days ago. Of course, we are beyond grateful and give God all the credit.  God has delivered us once again. My story will remain the same. God always comes through. I get to grow old with with man that I married. My kids will have a daddy to see all their great accomplishments.

Strangely, a part of me has felt sad. Why do we get good news and so many people get bad news? There are so many out there who are scared like I was. Do they have support like I did?

There was something completely remarkable about our lives being laid out before God. It’s like we were cut right open and only God controlled our fate. Nothing we could do change or fix a thing. We were helpless. All we could do was wait.

Also, over the years, my faith has become more “reasonable.” I have found myself hesitant to pray for miracles. It’s like my grown-up brain wants to think things like “sometimes bad things happen and we don’t understand it.”

Matthew 14:31 “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Why should I walk around waiting for our good favor to end? What a miserable and sad idea? 

God heals. He changes. He delivers. Nothing is impossible with him. David has felt better than ever since the day the test came back clear. Something happened inside of him. Was it a miracle? Months and months of sickness and now nothing? He’s fine just like that?

This process broke us down and humbled us. I want to stay here. It is the most realistic place.

Isn’t it amazing that the most realistic place of faith is also a place of miracles and dreams?

That grown-up, stuffy place is NOT real. That place in your life where you wonder if God is involved or if he just left you here to survive, it’s not true.  Neither is truth waiting for your luck to run out and the bad news to be delivered.

The truth is that God will supply every need of yours according to his plan!

Phillipians 4:19And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus”

 

something supernatural.

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Roman, my 7 year old, began today with a smile.

The morning was strangely quiet. So quiet, in fact, that David and I slept until almost 9am! Seriously, that has not happened since Roman was born. He and his brother, Jude, had been up since 7am. It seemed quite dreamlike to wake up after the sun had begun to shine, our boys quietly and happily playing, Estella still snoozing.

By noon, David and I began making comments to Roman about his unusual demeanor.

Tranquil: free from agitation of mind or spirit.

Oh yes, that would be the word to describe it.

You see, we’ve been praying for changes in this little one’s spirit.

He is an unbelievably wise child, understanding things beyond his years. Very observant, never missing a beat and very headstrong.

We have noticed him recently feeling very defeated. He has been in trouble, on average, 5-10 times every day for various things like yelling or throwing or pushing or saying hurtful words. If things haven’t gone as he wanted, an outburst almost always followed. He has felt very guilty after these outburst and had convinced himself that he could never be better. He comes up with the craziest ideas about growing up and becoming a bad guy or having a “bad” heart. Completely aware that these outburst are wrong, he said things like never being able to stop, that he can’t be better.

I can never stand to hear him so down on himself because, of course, I know the goodness that really abides in his heart. I know that he truly wants to show love and not anger. But, I will not be disrespected nor will I let my other children be treated poorly.  There is that great parental responsibility to show love through discipline. So, no matter how much I’ve wanted to just tip-toe around him, I’ve, instead, put on my armor and stood my ground

I’ve worried about him feeling very overwhelmed at not being able to control things. I’ve seen frustration rise up in his eyes and a complete change come over him when things didn’t go his way. Had there been something deeper I was missing? It has taken solitude and time to find his way to other side of these episodes.

We’ve tried everything and we have prayed our hearts out. I’ve wanted, more than anything, for him to feel loved and to be able to show love. I’ve wanted him to feel like he had control over his emotions. I’ve wanted him to know that he can call out to God and that God will help him. It has been heartbreaking to see such turmoil inside this little boy’s heart.

Sometimes, though, when you feel like NOTHING is working, God is doing the work.

The entire day today was drastically different. I couldn’t believe the way he was responding when I asked him to do things. He was speaking very softly to his brother and sister. He was stopping in his tracks to assist them. He was pleasant. I hadn’t seen this side of Roman in a very long time, months even. Honestly, throughout the day, I was waiting for the everything to change, waiting for another complete breakdown. That moment never came.

Tonight, just before our nightly reading, I asked Roman why he had acted so different today.

This is what he said. “I was praying alone in my room a couple nights ago before bed. I asked God to please help me to be good. I told him I didn’t want to be bad anymore. Today, God gave me a New Year’s present. The present was courage. I feel like He changed me. I feel like a brand new person. I’m a brand new Roman. I’m so excited! I can’t wait to be better! Now, I understand what I need to do. I feel good in my heart. I mean, look at me, I have tears in my eyes. I’m so happy.”

As he said these words, he was smiling and tears literally came to his eyes. He leaned over to embrace me as if the most wonderful thing in the world has just happened.

He was looking at me with these big contented eyes and I could see down to his soul. It was like he was saying, “Mom, everything you’ve been telling me about Jesus is true! He really is with me always. He really does come to help me when I call out to Him. His spirit really does live inside me.”

This boy has had his first God experience. I know exactly what he was feeling. I had forgotten but now I remember. The burning warmth behind the eyes as they well up with tears. An aura. A sort of giddiness.

God had always been with Roman, but now he senses His presence. I know the future for us all will be full of mistakes, full of learning. Nevertheless, progress comes when we are changing, when we are allowing God to teach us, when we are asking and listening and feeling.

 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19