2017 was the most difficult year of my life. Our friend, Pastor Keith Frix, asked for a one word description of the past year, on Facebook. I couldn't do it. Negative words like- painful, difficult, challenging, disappointment, loss, grief came to mind, but so did positive words like- hope, peace, God's presence, reassurance, provision, newness, friendship, healing, miracles, and joy. It was definitely a year where God showed up in my hurt. In my valley of the shadow of death, He was with me. He prepared a banqueting table beside me. His rod and staff comforted me. And I am grateful.
As I've reflected, I wanted to share highlights of ways in which God prepared me for the year and then revealed Himself to me. Mainly this was through private quiet time with Him, sermons, and songs. I am not going to highlight or go into the battles fought, but I will say that there were many days where I didn't think I could breathe for the despair and hurt that was attacking me. Just know that in the midst of blow after blow- there was weaved in the following...
January 1- Pastor Shannon Wooten- No matter what, God is LARGE and in charge. I Peter 4:12-13 Dear Friends, do not be surprised by the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. God weaves every dark thread of your life for a purpose. Your life in His hand. Satan doesn't want your stuff! He wants you defeated- off track for what God desires for you and from you. Don't disconnect. Stay more tied in, not less. (This was hard.) God specializes in turning messes into miracles.
The next day, I read mark 6:20-23 where the disciples were in a horrible situation- desperately needing to be anywhere but in the middle of a lake, in the midst of a violent storm. Suddenly, they saw something or someone coming toward them. The Bible says, they RECOGNIZED it to be Jesus. They EAGERLY WELCOMED Him into their boat and IMMEDIATELY they arrived at their destination. There it was, an example of how being in God's presence will get you where you need to be. Then I came across John 20:26. "...the doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. "Peace be with you," He said. JESUS IS NOT BOUND BY LOCKED DOORS! I had such sweet times of prayer in 2017. I anticipated meeting with Him, hearing Him, and welcoming Him into my desperation and locked doors.
At about this same time, I found this beautiful collection of songs. I'm so thankful for anointed ministers that use their gifts to create an atmosphere of worship. Here it is-
In mid February, I sensed the Lord saying, "I am going to do something new." At the time, I thought that meant confirmation that we would be making a move to SC for Byron's job. I was wrong about that, but nevertheless, I did hear him say over and over- "I am going to do something new." I was reservedly hopeful. Breakthrough seemed close at hand. Then, about this time, a lady at our church came up to me with a word of knowledge. She said, "God is about to birth something new in you. It will be birthed out of much pain." I looked at her and said, "I think that is an accurate word. I have just come out of a terrible season of pain and need. I receive that word." I remember her looking at me, like, "No, I don't think you've experienced the worst of it yet." As we stood there, I thought, "Dear Lord, Please tell me that I'm right and the worst is over. Surely, it can't get worse." But it did.
About this time, I was listening to a CD that I had had for quite awhile, when a song just 'jumped out at me'. It was a David Baroni song called, "Within the Heart of God". I remember sitting in my car, weeping as I listened to the lyrics, as if for the first time. I was so grateful for the reminder that I was welcomed by God- not banished. Welcomed.
In April, the group, Brothers McClurg came to our church. I didn't want to go. I was tired and had a lot to do, but I'm glad I did. If no one else experienced the presence of God in that place that night- I did! So many of their lyrics touched my heart. From their song, Waymaker.
May your voice be louder than my own!
You are the way,
You are the way,
You are the Waymaker!
And from another-
Take my dreams and gather them
So they don't worry me.
I wanna go when you go with me.
surely your goodness will follow me.
From Beautiful Grace-
Lord, you are my Lord.
Will you go and make a place
where I can fall on my face
And lay my all before your beautiful grace.
All the world holds dear
It will be stripped away
By your beautiful grace.
At the end of April, in my daily bible reading, I read Psalm 143. The words summarized my prayer at the time.
**I don't own the rights to any of the songs embedded in this blog post. Just sharing as part of my experience this past year.