Sunday, January 7, 2018

Reflecting on 2017

I thought I might revive, at least for this post, my blog.  It's been 5 years since my last post, and while I don't see myself blogging on a regular basis, I have something on my heart and felt that this might be the best format with which to communicate.
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.
January 15- Pastor Faith Simmons spoke at our church.  The service that day impacted me for the remainder of the year.  It was what I would call a 'marker' on my life. Byron and I went to the altar that morning, weeping.  So many people surrounded us there- praying, crying, reaching out to heaven on our behalf.  It was so humbling and healing to us. At the end of her message, Pastor Faith had said that God had shown her a long hallway with many doors.  Each door had a label- joy, peace, provision, ministry etc. but the doors were all locked.  She said, "You want what's on the other side of the door, but the closest you can get is to look the key hole.  But here's the key to opening those doors- the presence of God."

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-
Pastor Dave Consulo was the next person to deliver a third power packed message that was significant for the year. Important take-aways for me that day were- Don't look back, doubting because things haven't worked out in the past. The attacks against us don't define us!  Private worship includes a battle cry to the Lord.  We need to persevere in seeking a new zeal and fresh anointing.  We need a fresh dose of the power of God everyday! Psalm 144- "...the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.  ...blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!"  THE GIANT IN FRONT OF YOU IS NEVER BIGGER THAN THE GOD WITHIN YOU!

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.
Some of my favorite lines include- "There is a Rock.  A rest for stumbling feet."  "Favored, blessed and broken." (Just because we are broken doesn't mean we aren't favored or blessed.) "There is a peace, to heal the troubled mind.  A silence from the thundering." "Oh love, that chases fear away. And strength to run and win the race. My heart has found its resting place, within the heart of God."

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.  
Psalm 143: 4- 12  NLT 
I am losing all hope;I am paralyzed with fear. I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works and think about what you have done. I lift my hands to you in prayer. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain. Come quickly, Lord, and answer me, for my depression deepens.  Don't turn away from me, or I will die. Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you.  Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you. Rescue me from my enemies, Lord; I run to you to hide me. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.  For the glory of your name, O Lord, preserve my life. Because of your faithfulness, bring me out of this distress. In your unfailing love, silence all my enemies and destroy all my foes for I am your servant. 

The sweet thing about this chapter is that it's from Psalm 143.  Since our dating days, to Byron and I, 143 has stood for "I Love You" based on the number of letters in each word.  It was like this prayer was a little love note from God to me- once again reminding me that He has not forgotten us! Also, during this time, I found a credit in our bank account of $143.00.  I didn't add it back in to our actual record book until months after discovering it so that I could remember the added blessing of this surplus.  
On April 30th, my friend, Di Brown, shared an Elisabeth Elliot quote with me. "God's stories do not end in ashes." 

At the end of August, we were in a new place- geographically.  God really did have a plan in mind that we would have never guessed.  On the last Sunday of the month, Pastor Chris Cleveland, felt that he should change gears and preach his Sunday Evening message, that morning. I'm so glad he did.  It was another one of those 'marker days' in my life- a moment in God's presence that I hope I never forget and yet I can't really tell you exactly what happened that day at the altar.  I remember crying ugly tears!  Just releasing my all to the Lord, and really not caring what anyone thought!  Here were highlights from his message about Jairus and the woman with the issue of blood from Mark 5. 
  • Desperate experiences have purpose.  
  • Allow previous experiences of God's faithfulness to impact and speak to your faith NOW!. 
  • Don't be afraid or shaken, just believe. This is an opportunity to know me better. Cling to faith in God! I will never fail! Put stock in those who increase your faith.  Away with the naysayers. 
  • Jesus still responds!  
  • Here's what Jairus found out- Jesus will be with you all along the journey- from the beginning to the miracle!  This was such a simple, but beautiful insight.  Jesus didn't just show up at miracle time.  He had been with Jairus on his way to his miracle where there was disruptions, other people getting miracles, distractions.  He didn't have to face that alone, and neither do we!  
September 20th- I went to sleep and woke up with this thought in my mind- "You can trust me!"  

September 23rd- Had another one of those ugly cry altar times.  I don't even know what precipitated that response, except that God was there and I was undone.  

October- I listened to a message from Jimmy Evans where he shared what our response should be when the enemy attacks us in our thinking. It's found in Matthew 7- We should say, "I have a perfect Father who loves me and knows everything about my life.  He is faithful. So, SILENCE!" 
Later that month, Pastor Chris had this word for someone- "Even in the storm- He calms the heart.  God is faithful.  Focus on WHO GOD is, even in the moment /times of trouble.  Just when you think you're sinking, He reaches down. When it's too much- God is going to come through! 

Heartsong came to our church and sang this song, sometime towards the end of their powerful service.  It was my anthem during the days leading up to Thanksgiving.   God is not through with us!!!  It's not over. 

At the end of November, I had a devastating night.  Everything went wrong and when I got home, I let myself go to a very dark and hopeless place.  But, He lifted me out of that pit.  In school, the girls and I had been reading this book called, "Kingdom Tales".  The main character, hears a hum- a melody that reminds him of his king.  In the same way, the Lord's song, as faint as it seemed, brought and sustained hope in my heart.  The next day, Pastor Chris said that as he was praying that day, he felt he needed to encourage someone who, like Joshua and the Israelites marching around Jericho, was marching around situations that seem unwavering- maybe for years or decades.  The message?  God is moving.  he prayed faith would increase and the enemy's plans thwarted and defeated by our faith.  

On the last Sunday of 2017, my sunday school teacher, Keith Alexis, asked us to write a letter and bring it to class.  We were to be the recipient of the letter and the author was to be the devil.  In it, we were to describe all of his accusations and threats against us. I did it.  It made me feel physically ill, but I did it.  
In our class that day, Keith told the story of Hezekiah and how the King of Assyria had issued a letter that mocked King Hezehiah, his people, and his God. This is what God said in response to the letter and to the one that I wrote...
  1. I've heard your prayer about your enemy.  
  2. And to the enemy- Who do you think you are and who do you think you are talking to?  You're not talking to my people, you are talking to me. 
This was the take away- "When the enemy hurls threats, God takes it personally.  Lay your letter before the Lord and let Him handle it."  

So that was my year. Looking at it this way, makes me even more thankful for the past 12 months.  I still pray that God will birth in me what He desires.  I don't want to waste these experiences or any others that follow.  
I'm thankful for God's presence, but also for the many, many people that He used this past year to meet our physical, spiritual, and emotional needs.  I am truly humbled and amazed. 



**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. 

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