Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hugging the Curb

Driving with my Dad has become an interesting adventure. Each excursion is different than the one before. Age has made him cautious. His eye-sight isn't what it once was and his confidence has waned with the years. He has definitely become a "curb hugger". Sitting on the passenger's side, I sometimes feel like we're going to be jumping the curb! Dad likes to drive as close to the right side of the road as possible and seems hesitant to face any on-coming traffic. Given that he will be 83 shortly, I suppose none of this is overly surprising.

As I was reflecting on this earlier today, I thought how often my life is that of a "curb hugger". I can be hesitant to face new situations. I can be fearful to move out into the fast lane for Christ and run with the enthusiasm that should characterize a Christ-follower. I can hold back, be silent, remain seated, ignore holy nudges and turn away from God's promptings. Fear too often keeps my seatbelt on, the door closed, the windows up and the door locked. Instead of journeying into all that God desires for me, I'm on a safe track like those little cars at amusement parks. Restrained by a self-imposed security bar, it's impossible to venture off the road and experience wonderful adventures with God.

God doesn't want me foolish, but He wants me free. I'm not going to take ridiculous risks, but I do need to embrace and enjoy the adventures He has in store for me. I have to leave the comfort the curb affords and drive in the traffic, trusting God.

As I've been contemplating what this means personally to me right now, this morning my heart was stirred by one in a series of posts on Tracie's blog. Today I read a challenge where she encouraged the reader (that would be me) to take a "leap of faith" and embrace the call that God has placed upon my heart. Now, I have a choice here. I can keep 'hugging the curb', or I can seriously respond to what I have felt God speaking to my heart...not just today, but over the past weeks, months, and yes, even years!

You know, it's so easy for me to write words on a piece of paper or craft together a beautiful, thoughtful writing that will encourage hearts, but it remains only mixed letters on a page if it isn't followed by action. Most of you reading my blog only know me through the computer screen, and I can write anything I want, share insights, formulate stories, highlight truths, but if I'm not sharing the reality of what God is doing in me, the good and the not so good, I remain by the side of the road, letting life pass me by. Words can be hollow, nothing more than a sounding gong and a tinkling cymbal. So...

Tracie's challenge today has spoken deeply to my heart. With my job coming to an end (my last day is tomorrow), my family will begin two weeks of vacation. I sense I already know what God is calling me to do, but fear has kept me from following. My mind recalls a saying that goes, "It is better to have tried and failed, then never to have tried at all." I don't know that it's failure I'm afraid of. I'm more afraid of wasting my time because I'm traveling down a "Joy path" instead of a "God path". I want to live my life in the center of His will. I'm going to take these next two weeks to really pray about His leading. I'm not going to make a move until these next two weeks are over, and then, I'm driving in!

One thing won't change though. Just like when I travel with my earthly Father, I must remain in the passenger's seat and let the Lord take control of the wheel. He will steer me into the God-adventures He planned for me before I was born.

Are you hugging the curb or daring to drive in the direction God leads? Gutters and garbage are curb fare. Won't you join me? I think we're in for the ride of our lives! I know I am!!!!

Monday, July 28, 2008

High Maintenance

We’ve all met them. “High Maintenance” people. They’ll suck the life right out of you if you let them. You give them an inch, they take a mile. They are constantly needy. Friendship with them is draining. Seeing their number appear on the “call display” of your phone, brings hesitation as to whether you have time to pick up the receiver. Hearing their voice stifles an inner groan. Inviting them over for coffee takes mental and emotional preparation as they leave you exhausted. You pray for more patience and for God’s love to change your heart so you will see them though His eyes of love, but it’s still hard.

I received a comment on one of my recent blog posts remarking that it’s a good thing God doesn’t need to take a nap, because my life was keeping Him rather busy! My friend was joking about my constant need for God, minute by minute, hour by hour while I was away at the “She Speaks” Conference in North Carolina. I guess I ‘d have to agree with her - I was a “high maintenance” Christian during that weekend. However, when I thought about that further, I believe God desires us to be ‘high maintenance’. He wants us to be completely and totally depending on Him.

Websters says that the dependent person relies on another for support or aid; a person who depends on someone else for existence. Who are you putting your faith and trust in today? We often sing that chorus, “You are the air I breathe”. If you sincerely believe that truth, then you recognize that God is maintaining and sustaining each second of your life. Scripture says that apart from Him I can do nothing. NOTHING! God doesn’t want me independent and self-reliant. He desires that I lean fully on Him for everything.

Sometimes circumstances arise in our life that force us back into a relationship with Him where we are totally and completely dependent on God. We recognize that we are entirely helpless and that without God's miraculous intervention the outcome looks bleak at best. Don't loose hope. Our Father is more than able to handle all that concerns us today. Don’t try and take matters into your own hands, but in sweet surrender trust God. He wants us desperate for Him and He doesn’t groan with each request. He longs for us to cast all our cares on Him because He cares for us. He will carry us through every situation. We don't need to preface our concern with an apology. God yearns for us to share everything with Him and expect everything from Him.

As I write this my parents are leaning on God with high house maintenance concerns. The last several days of rain have brought havoc to the structure of their home, but their foundation is in Him. I have a friend whose daughter is causing unexpected high emotional strain of betrayal, hurt and disappointment, yet she’s clinging to the hope she has in Him as I'm sure many are storming heaven on her behalf. I personally am coming to Him with so many questions, cares and concerns, yet He doesn’t shy away from my dependency, but welcomes it. He say’s, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Don’t be afraid to share it all with Him. He can take it and He’ll never leave you or forsake you. Today He wants to carry you.

God loves us to be “high maintenance”, trusting in and on Him for everything. Can you say today, Lord, You are my all in all? Don't blame yourself for past mistakes, or camp on "what if's". Let Him breathe life into whatever situation is consuming your thoughts and breaking your heart. He's right there my friend...just reach out and take His hand. Fall into His secure embrace.

*** Before I close, I must thank Susan for “tagging me”…I think! :o)

To answer her request, I must post 6 random things about me. So….I went to my 16 year old son and asked him to supply my answer. This is what he said:
1.Mom loves dark, orange chocolate.
2.Mom likes anything associated with “dancing” and “Princess” themes.
3.Mom spends as much time as possible reading and writing.
4.Mom hates the kitchen (to which he added – This is demonstrated in her cooking ability!)
5.Mom loves God and doing Bible studies with friends.
6.Mom is always wrong (spoken like a true 16 year old boy!)

Friday, July 25, 2008

By Faith Joy...

"I Found Joy in a BIG God" Part Twenty-One

How does one begin to wrap up a lifetime of longings fulfilled? Although this will be the final writing in this series, it is only the beginning of a new chapter that God is writing in my life.

If you have been following this journey from the beginning you saw how I was welcomed home with the visual testimony proclaiming God’s goodness written across my garage doors. The perfect exclamation mark!

I spent the Monday morning I arrived home with my friend Carol who had been such a part of this journey with me. Outside of my husband and son she was the first to hear all my God-stories. Excitement has punctuated each re-telling. I earnestly pray that the Lord will never, NEVER let me forget one second of this journey. I pray that with each remembrance the feeling will only grow stronger, propelling me forward and energizing my walk with the Lord.

There are those who know truth and there are those who know The Truth. Some spend life learning, others living. I’ve spent years studying His Word. Seminars are great, but God desires surrender. More than research He wants response. More than intellect He longs for intimacy. Fear took a step of faith. It was a big step into the arms of a BIG God.

Where are you in your walk with God? Just earlier this year my heart was longing for an over-the-top God story. I was disappointed with choices I had made that had allowed my life to be too safe. I wanted the courage to free-fall and know His arms would catch me. I wanted Him to step into my life, not quietly, but loudly. I wanted God to do something so amazingly miraculous that there would be no other explanation and no denying Him. Instead of longing for the experiences of others, I wanted a fresh taste of God. The God who parted waters, turned water into wine, resurrected life, slayed giants. I didn’t want to read about others adventures I wanted to write my own. Not a fiction tale of the seemingly impossible, but a legacy of truth to pass on to my family that would offer hope when trials come. Like Peter, I ‘walked on water’ to be with Jesus.

Now I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to be satisfied with lesser things. I want to walk paths that are so far beyond my abilities that I will fail without God’s intervention. Safety is over-rated. Could this new lifestyle bring difficulties? Yes. It will demand the intentional choosing of truth over feeling. I’ve heard Truths heartbeat. It’s unchanging and unconditional. It beats for me and it beats for you.

By faith many before me have walked this road. Since the recording of God’s Word their stories have been written to offer hope and encouragement as generation after generation have come to a moment of decision. Even as Christ followers we can sadly be living apart from Christ, resting in our own strength and capabilities. Decide today to jump into faith and then please send me your God-story.

By faith, Joy, when she was called to obey by going to “She Speaks” where she would experience God’s surpassing goodness, went, not knowing exactly what God would have in store. By faith she booked a flight and traveled to a foreign land, dwelling with Lorie, Elaine, Melissa, Holly, Lysa, Renee, Lynn, Kelley, Susan, Zoe, Charlene, Cheri and other fellow heirs of the same promise, for she was looking for God. By faith Joy, when she was tested by an uncertain flight, offered up her fears. She considered that God was able to watch over her coming and going both now and forevermore. By faith she chose to endure the uncertainties rather than enjoying the passing pleasures of momentary contentment and security. By faith the walls of captivity fell down after she abandoned her fears under the shadow of His cross.

And what more can I say? For time will fail me if I told of all the ways God has sustained my life moment by moment. All along His hand has guided. Therefore, I will now lay aside every encumbrance and the anxiety that so easily entangles me, and run with endurance the race before me, fixing my eyes on Jesus, that author and perfecter of my faith.

I ask you now to consider Him.

By faith what is God asking of you today? God wants to write a Bible story of your life.

By faith___________......

Fill in the blank with your name and then share your story. I found Joy in a BIG God and you can too!

Blessings, hugs, love and prayers to you all.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Through the Storm

"I Found Joy in a BIG God" Part Twenty

The plane was much fuller for our flight home. Almost all the seats were taken, but the stewardess informed us that the back row had three seats together. Hmmm…stay in the second row by myself, where I was told the ride would be smoother, or move to the back with friends…friends won!

From the on-set I knew this experience was going to be different. We had only taxied out to the runway when the pilot announced that Toronto was undergoing heavy, violent weather and again we would be detained. “Violent weather” didn’t sound positive to me. I’d be happy to sit on the runway for as longs as he deemed necessary. Minutes later the pilot reported that he had received an “all clear” and we were ready for “lift-off”. Thus began a very turbulent flight home.

The girls beside me tried to be so calm and encouraging. Conversation flourished as they tried their best to keep my mind from panic, my stomach from turning and my eyes from observing the threatening black clouds out the window. “Thunder Run” at Canada’s “Wonderland” was my only roller-coaster comparison, and it was tame compared to the drop, rock and roll that was shaking and plunging us uncontrollably. Having an aisle seat, I kept glancing at our stewardess. Her head wasn’t between her knees. I thought that was a good sign.

Although current circumstances appeared bleak, I kept repeating and claiming the verse God had given me back in March. “The Lord will watch over my coming and going both now and forevermore”. I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew God would be with me. As the storm raged, words to a Scott Krippayne song kept ringing in my heart, “Sometimes He calms the storm, with a whisper ‘peace be still’, He can settle any sea, but it doesn’t mean He will, Sometimes He holds us close and lets the winds and waves go wild. Sometimes He calms the storm, and other times He calms His child”. I desperately cried out for God to calm His child.

For almost a full hour and a half our seatbelts remained on as our little 50-seater plane braved the elements. There was about a fifteen minute reprieve during the flight and as the stewardess quickly distributed drinks she inquired how we were faring in the back row. I think my single, non-syllabic moan spoke volumes as she turned to me and said, “I’m sensing a nervous flyer”. I laughed and responded, “Oh, you don’t’ know the half of it”. At this moment it felt like she and I were the only two on the plane as she looked right into my eyes and said, “Oh, don’t be afraid. Our pilot never would have taken-off if he hadn’t have felt certain we would reach our destination”. Her words reminded me again of my Pilot’s promise to watch over me.

I was never so glad when shortly thereafter I began to see something other than black clouds out the window. Landmarks started to come into view. The CN Tower. The Roger’s Center. I suddenly found courage to take a couple of pictures, “memory stones” of trusting God like I never had before.

As the plane made its final descent before touching down my heart overflowed with joy. The Lord had indeed fulfilled every promise He had spoken to me. He had done more than I could have ever hoped or imagined. Stepping off the plane I did a “happy dance”.

This wasn’t a journey of information but transformation. Truth was accompanied with proof. Years of head knowledge had been lived out in experience. I had faced my biggest fear and faith had won. Lorie and Val were quick to confirm that our travel home was indeed horrific, but they had rallied to keep me from sensing their own feelings of unease. Lorie said, “Joy, your family needs to be so proud of you”.

Lord, are You pleased with me? Did I bring a thrill to Your heart by stepping out in faith? Did my total trust in You make You smile? Father, did I honour You with my obedience?”

In His warm embrace I heard…”Well done my child…well done”.

** Be sure to come back tomorrow for the final post in this wonderful God-journey. **

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Final Boarding Call

"I Found Joy in a BIG God" Part Nineteen

I had never seen so much activity. This was a busy place. All the seating was quickly filled and travelers were lining walls, sitting, standing, all seemed anxious to be on their way. I wondered where they were all going. Was their vacation just beginning or, like me, were they traveling home? Where was home? Were they anticipating a welcoming arrival or returning to loneliness, mundane, struggles, having taken a brief reprieve from crushing life circumstances. Was their time away for business or pleasure? I looked at faces. Some seemed tired and confused. Cell phones were active. Conversations swirled around me. Few were sitting like I was - taking in their surroundings. To many this was just the means to an end, a stop over, a necessity before life would continue. I silently prayed that God would help me be sensitive to needs even here.

Being a 'people watcher', I took note of details. The man who looked bothered by the noise as he read his paper. The young family trying to keep their eyes on restless children. The very fidgety gal, probably nervous of the flight ahead. The young person desperate for sleep, eyes closed, slumped uncomfortably in his chair. All strangers to me, yet known intimately by God.

As time passed, minutes turned to hours. It was now less than an hour before scheduled take-off and alarm bells began to ring inside my head. First of all, there wasn't any sign of my friend Lorie. Where could she be? I knew she had gone shopping with some other gals and was meeting me at the airport, but I had assumed she would be here by now. Also, as I glanced around again, I only saw "United Airline" signs and I was flying "Air Canada". The room was crowded, matching my ever, increasing thoughts. Panic began to rise. Was I in the correct area? Announcements of destinations and delayed flights were frequent, but I hadn't heard mention of Toronto, Canada. Familiar feelings of anxiety began to surface. Inwardly I cried out to the Lord to somehow confirm my location.

The sweet, elderly lady who had recently sat to my right suddenly turned to me and inquired, "Are you traveling to Toronto, dear?" Yes! Yes I was! She asked if I had heard that our flight had been delayed. No I hadn't. I compared exact flight numbers to be positive she was indeed on my plane, and thanked the Lord for again having compassion on my weakness.

After double-checking with an airline attendant as to the estimated departure of our flight, we discovered we had at least another hour delay because of severe weather in Toronto. Realizing we now had an almost 2 hour wait, this sweet new friend asked, "Dear, would you like to go get something to eat with me?" Oh yes. Yes, I would!

Just a stone's throw away was a pizza kiosk, enough to satisfy our rising hunger pains. As we sat and talked together I discovered this lady was on her way home from visiting her daughter's family and had spent a precious week with adoring grandchildren. Home for her was down East, and Toronto was just a stop-over on her journey as she had to make a connecting flight. (Oh, Thank You Lord, for not giving this woman a direct flight home!)

Conversation drifted to my reason for visiting North Carolina, and as Lorie and Val joined us at the table, we shared with her some of the experiences we had personally enjoyed with God over the past two days. Sharing about my verse and "word", it was thrilling to see Val as she hunted for her card. With tears in her eyes she received the very word she so needed to hear from the Lord.

Looking at my watch I realized it was about 40 minutes until take-off, so excused myself to run to the washroom. Our elderly friend went to check on any further delays. As I was coming out of the washroom she was running frantically towards me waving her arms exclaiming, "They're calling final boarding for our flight!' AHHH!! Running to notify Lorie and Val, I grabbed my belongings and took off as fast as possible to our Boarding Gate.

Can you imagine being so close...only feet away...after waiting so long and then missing your flight? So close, yet missing your trip home. Sadly many around us are in that exact same condition. "Close" doesn't count when it comes to salvation. I've often talked about friends who I feel are "so close" to accepting the Lord, but if they were to die this moment their knowledge without personal acceptance doesn't put them 'close' to heaven. Their destination remains hell. I had a dear friend who was seeking. She was asking questions. She even acknowledged that it quite possibly could be God she was missing from her life. She was so close to taking that step of faith, but instead she took her own life. I will never forget that loss and the realization that 'close' is never close enough. Had I missed that final boarding call, the flight would have left without me. One day Christ will return. Are you ready for His final boarding call?

Thank You God. Thank You for the gift of this sweet little lady. Thank You for the friendship she extended. Thank You for the fellowship we shared. Thank You for using her to get me home. Lord, I pray something in our conversation will continue to ring in her heart that would help get her her eternal home.

Well, friends, keep hanging in there. I have two more posts to write to bring this journey to a close. Sweet blessings to you all today!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Balding Angel

"I Found Joy in a BIG God" Part Eighteen

The Charlotte Douglas Airport resembled the interior of a bank. A long counter with 'tellers' lined the wall facing me. Lines that snaked across the floor led to each wicket. I took a couple of steps to the right scanning signs for anything that indicated Air Canada. Nothing. I turned and walked a few feet in the opposite direction. Nothing. I returned to where I had entered the building and stood perfectly still. In my head I uttered a prayer. 'Lord, one of two things needs to happen right now. One - let an airport personnel walk by so I can ask for direction - or - two, help me see where I am to go.'

Almost immediately I noticed an elderly, balding gentleman standing behind the counter. The sign over his head read, "United". Although this room was packed with travelers, no-one was at his wicket. I waited and watched for a few moments not wanting to run forward and take the place of someone who had been patient in line. No-one came. I waited a few moments longer to confirm I wasn't overstepping someone's turn. Realizing God had provided this opening just for me, I approached this kind looking man and asked for direction to "Air Canada".

He said, "Ma'am, I can look after you right here."

To confirm he really understood my destination, I repeated that I wasn't flying "United", but "Air Canada Jazz". I still needed to obtain my Boarding Pass and check my luggage. This didn't faze him at all. Again he reiterated that he could take care of all my needs. Within minutes he had not only secured my baggage and handed me my Boarding Pass, he offered specific directions as to where to head next to pass through security and volunteered information on finding eating areas as well as my Boarding Gate. God again was guiding me every step of the way.

I followed his instructions precisely, found a seat in the waiting area, all the while praising God for being my Guide and Provider. Little did I know how soon doubt would arise and I would begin to question His supply.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Before I Called, He answered

"I Found Joy in a BIG God" Part Seventeen

The tears that punctuated each good-bye had at least momentarily stopped flowing and I was sitting in the 'She Speaks' reception area of the hotel. My plane wasn't leaving until close to 6:00pm and it was just noon time now. Not in any rush to embark on my journey home, I was content to wait and let others with earlier flights board the shuttles that would provide needed transportation to the airport.

Cheri, my friend from 2005, walked over and took a seat beside me. She too had some time to spare before returning her rental car for 3:00pm. She suggested we have lunch together and I jumped at the idea of spending some precious time with her. As we gathered our belongings I saw Melissa and hurried over to say goodbye. She was the last of my 'hope-to-see' friends before I left. I shared with her that Cheri and I were going for lunch and that Cheri had also just offered me a ride to the airport.

Upon hearing this Melissa grabbed my arm and said, "Joy, that's such a God-thing". Not fully understanding, Melissa went on to explain. Without going into detail she expressed that there was some difficulty with the shuttle service and encouraged me again that God was really aware of my every need by providing me with this alternate, definite transportation. Before I even knew of my need, God had provided His answer. Giving Melissa a final hug, Cheri and I then headed to the parking lot.

Cheri knew of a "Chili's" restaurant nearby and within minutes we were seated and enjoying her recommendation of a delicious salad bar and chicken-pot-pie. As tasty as this meal was, it was the company that was satisfying my hunger. Cheri began sharing with me all the ways God had been leading in her life over the past few years. Ministry opportunities. God's guidance. Family activities. Future hopes and plans. My heart just soared to be given this extra blessing of time with this treasured friend. In this short visit God was knitting our friendship together word by word. Cheri's passion for the Lord is so deep and genuine; I just know the Lord has wonderful plans in store for her. Her joy of the Lord increased my passion to serve and honour Him.

All too quickly it was time to head for the airport. After returning the rental car, we boarded a complimentary shuttle bus that drove us to our respective terminals. I was our driver's first stop, so with a quick hug and promise to stay in touch, I grabbed my belongings and embarked on another 'first'. Taking a deep breath I walked through sliding glass doors, facing the unknown.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Hidden Treasures

"I Found Joy in a BIG God" Part Sixteen

I have always enjoyed surprises. Not the scary, heart-stopping kind, but the fun, sweet, thoughtful kind. I can remember Easter mornings when I was a child, racing around the house searching for chocolate egg surprises and collecting them in a colourful basket. Being a twin, the race was always on to hunt quicker and uncover more before my sister had opportunity to claim the biggest booty. However, when all was said and done, we would sit down on the floor, sort our eggs by colour and share equally all we had discovered.

Today I want to share with you a hidden treasure I discovered Sunday morning while at "She Speaks". I awoke a good hour before the alarm. The weekend was going by so quickly...TOO quickly. Overwhelmed by God's presence, lying nestled in the comfort of my bed, tears streamed down my cheeks as my room-mate slept peacefully. I began pouring out my heart of thanksgiving and praise to the One who had re-captured my heart with His love.

Hesitant to really ask for anything when God had already done more than my heart could contain, there were four people on my 'hope to see' list today. I had already met them during the course of the weekend, but not knowing when or if our paths would cross again this side of heaven, I asked the Lord if He would please allow us to connect before I left today. I surrendered this desire to God, completely content that it was in His hands. I have to admit almost apologizing to God for asking for anything more when He had been so good to me, but His Words says, "You have not because you ask not", so, I was asking. In response to my prayer I sensed God saying within me, "It's only Sunday morning, Joy. I'm not finished revealing Myself to you yet. There's more to come". Although excited at that thought, my mind questioned, 'Lord, what more can there be? You have enveloped me with Your goodness through this entire adventure. I feel like I could burst with love for You.'

As I walked into the lobby not long after, a voice called, "Hey Joy". I turned to see Renee. Oh God - You are so good! Renee was one of the names on my "hope to see" list. Wow Lord, that was fast. One down, three to go! I had opportunity to share with her briefly how her message had spoken so deeply to my heart the night before. I also told her about the verse God had given specifically to me. After telling her my precious scripture passage, Renee asked, "What was your word?" Word? I didn't get a word, I received a verse. Renee went on to explain that in the 'shadow' behind the scripture verse was a word. A hidden treasure a special word from God to me. I couldn't dig my card out of my purse fast enough to read the 'word' that God was speaking over my life. Friends, my word was "FREE".

Oh Father, just like you proclaimed Gideon to be a 'mighty warrior' while he was still shaking in his boots, Lord, You are proclaiming that I am 'free' while the clanging of chains dangle from my wrists. Thank You Lord for Your promise and Your perspective.

I was so glad to have been with Renee when I found this truth. The Lord had used her again powerfully in my life. He had to make her cross my path that morning because His message to me from the previous evening wasn't finished. He used her to help me find His truth.

Before the morning was over God did bring all three of my other friends to me as well. You can be sure each one heard my 'word' story - in fact - I was still sharing it at the airport on my way home.

I don't know how you need to see God today. I don't know what situations you are facing, but God has a word He longs to speak over you. Maybe it's 'peace' or 'trust'...'hope'...'remember'....'possible'...'healing'...'secure'...'Mine'...'believe'...'rest'...'restore'...'beautiful'...'forgiven'...'grace'...'loved'.

To all of us He is saying...'Come'.

**Well, there is still more yet to write, but I'm taking a break this weekend, so I will be back on Monday with more of my adventure. Thank you to all of you who have been faithfully following this journey and rejoicing with me. God longs to be just as personal with each one of us. I enjoy visiting your blogs and being encouraged by all God is doing in your lives. Love to you all. See you Monday!**

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Freedom's Calling

"I Found Joy in a BIG God" Part Fifteen

If you didn't read yesterdays post, please scroll down and read below before continuing here.

Beneath the shadow of the cross I placed my list of fears and doubts. I didn't want to be just going through motions. I wanted to be free once and for all. This couldn't just be a walk to the front for momentary reprieve, but a sincere surrender and letting go.

As I turned to walk back to my seat, the P31 Speaker Team was standing at the front handing out verse cards to each lady who came forward. These cards had received much prayer, believing that God would orchestrate each pairing of scripture verse and recipient. I saw my friend Melissa close by, so headed in her direction. As I got within a couple of feet of her, Rachel Olsen stepped forward and handed me a card.

Now, you must understand, I have nothing against Rachel. I'm sure she's a lovely gal; I have just never had any contact with her. I had wanted to receive my verse from a friend, so I have to admit, I experienced a moment of disappointment. Melissa saw me however, grabbed me into a hug and I walked back to my seat.

I sat down almost too nervous to look at the promise I held in my hands. What if it had no particular significance? Yet, it must be God's choice. Look at how He had interfered with my plans and arranged my receiving it. I practically had this card thrust into my hands - it wasn't of my choosing. (For the record, I still carry the verse I received in 2005 in my wallet. I pray P31 never stops doing this - God makes it new and personal every year.)

The lighting was dim, but I was able to read the words I held in shaking hands. It was from Jeremiah 29. "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you" declares the Lord..."

I stopped reading right there for a moment, thanking the Lord for this beautiful promise. Beginning in January of this year I had worked through a Bible study by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, "Seeking Him". More than anything I want to know God. Not just know about Him, but really KNOW Him. I want an intimate friendship with Him. I want Him to be the very air I breathe. I want to experience Him as my all in all. What a precious verse this was to me.

I glanced back at the card and continued reading. "...and will bring you back from captivity." My breath caught in my throat. Tears swelled in my eyes. My friend Lorie leaned over and inquired about my verse. With awe I said, "Lorie, God is going to bring me back from captivity".

I have been bound by shackles of fear and doubt for too long. The prison doors are going to open. Chains are going to be released. I had laid my burdens down and God was promising to unlock restraints that have kept me from experiencing the freedom for which He had already given His only Son to secure. My life has been nullifying the work already accomplished by Jesus on a hill called Golgotha. I have been living deprived of the effectiveness of the cross and denying its power. Christ's last words - "It is finished" resounded through my soul. My bondage is self-imposed, as freedom is mine in Christ.

In awe I read those words again. God is going to bring me back from captivity. This was the exact promise I needed to hear. Again God had spoken. Across thousands of miles He had placed me here at this moment to receive His Word. As I listened closely, my heart heard freedom calling. I recognized it immediately, because it truly had been there all along.

I went to sleep that night so full. I was content and at peace. God had spoken so profoundly to me. But, as the saying goes, "You ain't seen nothing yet"!

Be sure to check back again tomorrow. Believe it or not, it will get even better!!!

The Wonder Of Your Cross

The wonder of your cross shall be our meditation
To gather in that shadow when the sun went down
To weep with those who thought that you were leaving,
You were leaving, Jesus
The humble King who never wore an earthly crown.

To steal away at night when they took down your body.
With love and tears to leave You in a borrowed grave
To go with Mary to the place they laid You,
Where they laid You, Jesus
And in the morning find the stone was rolled away

The cross, O the wonderful cross
What Glory, what victory, I've found
I'll come to the wonderful cross
And my whole life I lay down

Were heaven's praises silent in those hours of darkness?
Your Holy Spirit brooding round that empty throne?
Until the declaration "He is Risen", You are risen, Jesus,
"He is not dead, behold He lives for evermore".

The cross, O the wonderful cross
What Glory, what victory, I've found
I'll come to the wonderful cross
And my whole life I lay down

Copyright © 2004 Integrity's Hosanna! Music.

**I would appreciate your prayers today as I have a Dr's appointment at 10:00am. I have been coping with continual abdominal pain all week. Friends are suggesting either gallbladder or ulcer. Please pray whatever needs to be found, will be found. I'm sure today will just start a series of tests. Thanks. Love to you all.**

**Update: Well, I was right, further tests will follow. I went straight over to the blood clinic for different tests, and I'm scheduled for an ultrasound this coming Tuesday, 11am, out of town. (My Dr's receptionist, who is also a personal friend, thinks the clinic at this other site is much more thorough. It's nice to have friends in high places...and of course God is controlling it all.) Can't eat or drink from midnight Monday until after the tests that morning. I'll keep you posted, and thank you to all of you who posted comments or sent e-mails. Love y'all!**

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

At the Foot of the Cross

"I Found Joy in a BIG God" Part Fourteen

How do you approach God's presence or come to hear His Word? I come with anticipation. I can't say I've always entered His gates with such enthusiasm or His courts with expectation. I remember enduring sermons as a young girl just so I could go out with the youth group following the service. If sitting still for an hour in church was all that was mandatory before enjoying a couple of hours of social fun, I could do that easily. Besides, I could scout out the adorable and eligible, cute guys while the message was being delivered. Oh come on ladies...don't tell me you never did that! If you have teens in your home who are attending church with similar less than perfect spiritual motivation, in hope of finding Mr. or Mrs. Right, be thankful. At least they are coming to church even if their incentive isn't what you desire for them. God promises His Word will not return void. It's amazing the truths that will take up residence in their heart and return unexpected when needed.

As an adult I have come to hunger and thirst after righteousness. Nothing was different this night. Sitting in the back corner, notebook open, pen poised, I was ready. Earlier my heart had been prepared as I had sat before His throne of grace in the sacred surrounding of the Prayer Room. Having just completed a delicious dinner, I was physically filled, but spiritually still thirsting.

The voice delivering the message was sweet, yet the power behind His words strong. Filled with God's anointing, Renee began sharing with us the story of Gideon found in Judges. The title of her message, "Beyond the Shadow of Doubt".

I don't know how many of you live with doubts, but they have plagued my life for years. I have to confess that I doubt almost everything - except my salvation, but that too was in question several years ago.

Marriage, a beautiful home, an adorable little boy, leadership positions at my church, countless blessings, yet inwardly my life was falling apart. Withdrawal, uncertainty, emptiness all characterized my existence. Seeing God alive and active in others, I became suspicious of God's love for me. Why didn't I have an amazing testimony like these ladies? Where were my God stories? I could easily accept that He loved everyone else, but not me. As I retreated more and more into myself, doubts disturbed and destroyed. Truths I'd always embraced at face value came into question. Doubts that God could love me, led to doubts that God had saved me, which transitioned to doubting that there was a God. I was on a spiral down. Numbness. Apathy. Void. Had I truly made a decision to follow Christ, or was I like Oswald Chambers writes, simply sorry for having made foolish mistakes, a reflex action caused by self-disgust? The devotional, “Utmost for His Highest” states that the forgiven person proves he is forgiven by being the opposite of what he was previously. I wasn’t even slightly opposite. I felt my life being weighed in the balance and found wanting. (Daniel 5:27) I was ‘Counterfeit Joy’.

Time and space do not allow for the telling of that story today. Doubt can take us down roads of depression, but can also be used to lead us into an absolute trust and dependence on God if we invite Him into our confusion. Thankfully God's love did eventually pierce my darkness, however it still left a wake of fear. My fears are vast, wide, high and deep. They encompass every moment of every day. Some are based on fact, others were taught and even more imagined. Worry and anxiety are my heritage.

As Renee was sharing God's message, several things about Gideon's life began to speak into mine:

1. God didn't give up on Gideon even though doubt and fear were prominent attributes in his life. God was saying to me - Joy, I will not give up on you. I'm here for keeps. No matter how long this takes and how fierce the battle rages, I will not leave you or forsake you until victory is won. I see beyond what you are now, to what you can become.

2. God called Gideon to stop focusing on what he didn't have and start trusting in the strength he had available to him. It's so easy to keep our minds fixed on what is lacking - my insecurity; thoughts of never being able to measure-up; comparisons; etc... I even struggle with doubting what I do have. Even receiving compliments can be a challenge. I doubt the other person's sincerity and my ability. Are they just saying that to make me feel good? God was calling me to fix my eyes on Him.

3. I must remember that God is the One empowering me. On my own I am nothing, but with God nothing is impossible.

4. Finally, God was promising me His constant presence. I was reminded again of the verse God gave me months ago, "I will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore."

As Renee brought her message to a close, the lighting on the platform changed. My eyes were drawn to the wooden cross on the stage. As she shared about times when her doubts loomed larger than life, her shadow grew larger than the cross. However, when she surrendered her fears and anxieties, her silhouette diminished at the foot of a saving cross.

Renee then shared Luke 1:35, "The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.'"

Sitting on a chair in a conference room in North Carolina the presence of the Most High began to overshadow me. Renee began asking questions about our personal doubts and the things that we needed to surrender at the foot of the cross. Cards were available at our tables on which we could prayerfully record what God was speaking to our hearts. Three wooden crosses were set up across the front of the room, and as ladies felt led, we were encouraged to come and lay our burdens at the foot of the cross. This was a personal time of yielding control. Acknowledging weakness. God's presence was so evident as hundreds of women made their way down sacred paths of surrender. I was one who took that journey. My card was full. Much needed to be released and voluntarily abandoned.

In exchange for my obedience, God would give me a precious gift...but that's tomorrow's story. :o)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Unwrapping His Gifts

"I Found Joy in a BIG God" Part Thirteen

'Joy, stand up. Stand up. She's asking for volunteers. The sooner you get this over with, the sooner your heartbeat will return to a normal rate and your hands will quit perspiring. You'll feel better once you get this over with. The gals in this room don't look like a lynch mob. Just do it. Stand up'.

Those were the thoughts running through my head three years ago as I sat in my first Speaker's Evaluation Group at "She Speaks". Suite 412 of the Renaissance Hotel would be my platform, and other aspiring speakers my audience. Though fear was strong, passion for the Lord and His message did propel me to my feet and the journey began.

Leading this evaluation group was the kindest, most encouraging gal. She was so happy and cheery, presenting a very non-threatening atmosphere. Lovingly she shared words of advice to counteract the knocking knees and unsteady nerves. Her constant smile during my entire mini message was an invitation to keep going. She seemed excited to hear what I had to share. She made going back the following evening so much easier. Her countenance created a safe and welcoming harbour. God and His Word are my life, and I had an attentive assembly.

One gal in this peer group captured my heart. She sat quietly. Her heart had recently been grieved, yet in her pain she was ministering to us. Tears flowed. She was real. Despite her loss, God's strength was sustaining and shaping her and giving her a testimony to share. She touched my life in a profound way. We exchanged e-mails, but like so often happens, life interrupted plans of staying in contact. However, I often thought of her. In our brief encounter that weekend her name was written across my heart.

Now, three years later, I was excited to be seeing my group leader again. We had e-mailed back and forth, increasingly more as the Conference was drawing closer. In fact, she made a visit to Canada weeks before I was to head to the States and it was such a surprise to receive that message informing me of her whereabouts. Unfortunately, her schedule didn't allow for any free time, but we did visit via computer.

Saturday morning, just before lunch, it was so great to connect again with Charlene. We hugged and shared and enjoyed a quick time of reminiscing together. While speaking with Charlene, she asked me if I knew that one of the gals from our group in 2005 was at the Conference again this year too. When she told me who it was, I knew God again was acting beyond what my heart could imagine. Can you believe it was this gal who had touched my life so deeply three years ago. Charlene said she would try and find her, and if she did she would bring her over to see me. Now, you must realize, there were over 500 women at this Conference. For Charlene to make this happen, she would have to first find this gal, and then find me! Not an easy task...BUT GOD!

Saturday evening while eating supper I felt a tap on my shoulder and it was Charlene standing there with Cheri. I couldn't believe it! God is SO GOOD! Our time together was far too short - only minutes and a quick picture, but again I felt so blessed. God was lavishing gifts on me that I would treasure always. (*As an aside, God was going to bring Cheri back into my life for another God-story before this weekend was over, so be sure to stay tuned!)

My Mom has a saying I've heard so often, "Each new day holds some lovely secret waiting to unfold". God loves to surprise us with unexpected blessings. He enjoys giving good gifts to His children. Thank Him today for some of the many blessings He has given to you and be sure to include His best gift ever - Jesus!

Tomorrow I will unwrap with you the message that God sent me to North Carolina to hear. Y'all come back now!

Monday, July 14, 2008


"I Found Joy in a BIG God" Part Twelve

Saturday afternoon I found myself with a little "free" time. I decided to begin filling out the evaluation form included in my "She Speaks" package. I'm not a last-minute-gal. Having served on the "Women Of Grace" conference committee, I also realize the value feedback provides and I like thoughtful time to write extra, encouraging remarks. Although I wouldn't be able to complete it entirely, I could answer the majority of the questions. So I found a comfy chair and pulled out my pen.

Many of the queries were standard, asking the reader to rate the food, accommodation, personal value etc... As I worked my way down the page I came to a question that I interpreted to be asking, What was my #1 take-away from this weekend?

Everything thus far had been above excellence, all done for the glory of God. However, so much of this trip had been about the process that my mind was still reeling over God providing a travel companion and giving me the incredible victory of facing my fears. All else paled in comparison.

As this was only Saturday afternoon, I prayed that if God wanted to reveal any more of His treasures and wonders, He would keep me from missing anything He had prepared for me. I don't want to live in past God experiences - even though they may just be yesterdays delights. I remember asking, 'God, what do You still have in store for me?'

After answering as much of this form as possible, I spent some time visiting with friends and then felt the longing to spend time with my Best Friend. I headed to the Prayer Room. Renee would be sharing after dinner and I wanted to storm heaven on her behalf. I also really needed to sit quietly in awe and reverence before God, in thankfulness for all He had done and was doing for me.

Entering the Prayer Room almost took my breath away. The room was dark, except for some candles casting a gentle glow around the room. Soft music was playing. Chairs, placed in groupings of two, pillows, a sofa, all provided a quiet oasis to meet with Jesus. I bowed my head and had such an intimate time in His presence. It truly was a time of refreshing, sitting at His feet, and expressing my praise to the One enthroned on high.

I discovered later that I missed a precious gift in this sanctuary. On a table against the wall, were placed all the names of those in attendance at the conference. Over the names of all the ladies were placed the various Names of God. Since coming home I heard from a gal who found her name under Jehovah Jireh - God provides. This was exactly how she needed to meet the Lord that weekend - as Provider God. I was wishing so much I had been aware of this beautiful ministry while I was in the Prayer Room, although, I'm sure over my name would have been written, "I AM", as God revealed to me along this journey that He is everything to me.

"And all of You
Is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with your love
And all I have in You is more than enough" (Jeremy Camp)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Experience that Lasts a Lifetime

"I Found Joy in a BIG God" Part Eleven

Lest you all begin to mistakenly assume all I did was socialize at "She Speaks", I want to share a quick overview of the excellent, encouraging, equipping and empowering teaching I received.

"Developing the Character to Match My Calling" was the opening session Friday evening led by Lysa TerKeurst, President of P31. Looking at Psalm 23, and examining the life of David, we saw how character is developed in the ordinary, daily routine of life.

Agent Bill Jensen led an informative Breakout Session entitled, "The Changing World of Book Publishing". I found this especially fascinating as he spoke of how the small bookstores are closing due to easy access of on-line ordering. This has certainly affected the Christian bookstore where I am currently employed, and is no doubt partially to blame for our closure in another month.

Saturday morning began bright and early with Karen Ehman, "Embracing Your Little and Your Lot". Based on Philippians 4:11-13 we looked at the meaning of "contentment".

From "worrier to warrior", Zoe Elmore challenged us to "Dare to be Dangerous". Using an acrostic, she showed us nine characteristics of a "Dangerous Woman". Our most powerful weapon? Prayer!

Developing writing skills was the heartbeat of Glynnis Whitwer's session, "Magazine Writing 101". Pages of fabulous, practical ideas, as well as grammar tips, made this hour so beneficial and worthwhile.

Instruction for making my dream come true was presented in Lysa's session, "How to Write a Book". As she reminded us, the world doesn't need another book, it needs real life. It was during this session that God planted an idea in my heart. Lysa asked us to write down a possible book title and the words that flowed from my pen to the paper were not what my head had been thinking. As I stared in awe at what I had written down a dream seed was planted. Trusting God with the watering to see this take root and grow.

Marybeth Whalen brought "Passion to Your Platform". She "passionately" helped us explore eight characteristics that would infuse our life with fresh zeal if we acted upon them. She invited us to live creatively.

For some fun during some "free time", I attended "The Ultimate Blogging Q & A" hosted by Lysa, with input from Sophie, "Boo Mama", Shannon, "Rocks in my Dryer" and Melanie, "Big Mama". This was an informative hour of blogging tips and advice.

Saturday closed with what would be for me, another life-changing moment. Without going into too much detail here, Renee Swope shared, "Beyond the Shadow of Doubt". I will be writing an entire post on her message and the impact it has had on my life. Be sure to journey back to see how God spoke to this "mighty warrior".

Sunday morning closed with Micca Campbell infusing us with hope through, "What Have They Got That I Haven't Got?" Drawing parallels from "The Wizard of Oz" characters, the cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow seeking wisdom and the heartless Tin Man, Micca reminded us that God's Word says we can abound in every good work.

All weekend we were so worhsipfully brought before His throne of grace through the ministry of Lindsey Kane. She is a gifted songwriter, singer and musician who calls those around her to participate in a symphony of praise to our God, the One who deserves all the glory and honour.

In conclusion, this weekend was uplifting and inspirational, enlightening and instructional, bonding and encouraging. Overall it was an incredible experience. One that will last a lifetime.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

His Princess

"I Found Joy in a BIG God" Part Ten

I've heard some people described as "a party waiting to happen". I know this personality exists because I had the pleasure of encountering the origin of this definition just a couple of weeks ago.

Clicking on to her blog for the first time, immediately I knew I had found a kindred spirit. You see, on the side bar of her blog was a beautiful Princess crown. For those of you who don't know me well, let me explain the significance of this small detail.

When I was a little girl, I would dream of being a Princess. I would sit mesmerized as I watched movies like Cinderella and The Frog Prince, captivated by castles, tiaras and gowns. When I was 8 years old I asked the King of Kings into my life, but unfortunately, as years passed, I began living like a pauper within my own kingdom.

Doubts, insecurities, depression, worthlessness all could have described my daily existence. I'll never forget the day God's love broke through my darkness and for the first time I began to comprehend just how much God loved me. From that day forward I have surrounded myself with visuals of who I am in Christ. I have Princess pillows, mirrors, signs, mugs, stationery, key chains, car antenna toppers, jewelry, etc... I need that constant reminder to keep me from slipping back down the slippery slope of insecurity.

That is why, upon seeing the delightful crown on this blog, I wanted to stay for a visit. I began leaving comments and she responded. One day I shared with her my overwhelming fear of flying and she was so kind to encourage me with scripture passages and ideas to do on the plane that would occupy my mind and keep my focus on my real pilot - Christ. She shared with me her own personal flying story in the "cracker box" airplane her son was piloting. She indeed could empathize with my anxieties. If her schedule allowed, she even offered to celebrate my victory in Charlotte with an arrival party at the airport. This message came complete with party hats and blow horns!

I was so excited when I discovered that I would be attending one of the sessions she was leading. Saturday morning I couldn't walk to her room quick enough - and there she was - as pretty as a real Princess - trying to get her microphone adjusted correctly. Yes, even royalty experience technical difficulties. As I introduced myself, she just threw her warms around me in a great, big welcoming hug.

Zoe, you truly are His Princess. You are absolutely adorable, inside and out. I sat spellbound as you shared. The title of your workshop alone is the cry of my heart - "Dare to Be Dangerous"! Zoe, there isn't a dangerous bone in my body, but you admonished me to go from "coward to conqueror".

The story you shared of your field of dreams as God surprised you with countless bouquets of His love will forever remain written across my heart. You are an example to me of a woman of prayer. As His Princess you acknowledge the need of your King and daily bow before His throne. All great Princess work overflows from time spent in His Throne Room.

Thank you for royally accepting me. You are His precious heir and your life regally displays your majestic inheritance.

And now, I pray for you,
"For this reason, since the day I heard about you, I have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And I pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the heritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued you from the dominion of darkness and brought you into the kingdom of the Son he loves." Col.1:9-13

Love, hugs and prayers,

To any of my dear friends reading this today, would you pray for my friend Zoe. She recently lost her Daddy and I know she would appreciate your prayers. Love and thanks.

Friday, July 11, 2008

His Peace for the Journey

"I Found Joy in a BIG God" Part Nine

I'm about to embark on the most exceptional task. I am going to try and pen the impossible. Knowing this day has been approaching I have tried several times to gather my thoughts, but I come here now - blank page before me. It's not that I don't have anything to say, it's that I have too much. My heart is so full and I wonder where and how to begin.

One night while visiting my friend Renee's blog, I read a comment that called me to linger in a moment of sacred wonder. Renee was writing a series of posts on the Woman at the Well, and this author had written, "His thirst led Him there. Her thirst kept Him there." I just loved that! I wanted to "meet" the gal who penned such stirring expression. I took what would become the first of many visits to holy ground.

That was March 10th. On March 17th this very new acquaintance sent me an untitled e-mail. It read, "Joy...Have you thought about attending the She Speaks/She Writes conference in June?...Think about it..."

Little did she know I had been doing nothing but thinking about it. For over a month I had seriously been praying, searching, seeking, waiting, wanting God to write across the sky or in the sand His direction for me. I wanted to open my Bible and read a verse I had never seen before: "Joy, thou shalt go forth, to a land you know not of, and attend the She Speaks Conference in June." I remember writing a blog post in my confusion - "Delay, Denial, Don't Know!" There were so many unknowns. Couple the unfamiliar with my fear of flying and the fact that the conference hotel was already fully booked and it seemed too much for this very timid little "Much Afraid".

Three and half hours after receiving this message I was in the middle of pouring my heart of indecision out on the computer to my friend Holly, when another message arrived in my Inbox. Without even a salutation her words began, "If you decide you want to can room with me...I'll be praying that the Lord directs your path." She assured me that I would know what to do and ended with these words, "Maybe you already do."

I replied to her e-mail, still seeking God's direction. Wondering, was God clearly guiding and providing for all my needs, but I was responding like the man of whom the story is told who is sitting on the roof of his home while flood waters rise around him. The man has prayed for God to rescue him. A helicopter flies overhead and offers to air-lift him, but he replies that he is waiting for God. A boat drives by, willingly offering to row him to shore, but again, he is waiting on God. The man finally dies. When he arrives in heaven he inquires of the Lord. "Why didn't you answer my prayer?" God responds: "Who do you think sent the boat and the helicopter?"

Was I being just like this man? Was God making His way very obvious, but fear was blinding my eyes and my heart. I mean, this was huge! A gal I had only 'met' seven days prior through our blogs, was inviting me to join her in North Carolina and offer lodging when it was so difficult to locate.

As Paul Harvey says, "Now you know the rest of the story". God had opened up this gals heart to love and accept me, sight unseen. He had called her to extend His invitation and she obeyed. She offered me more than a hotel room. She embraced me in love and gave me room in her heart.

Elaine, you are the best! You have faithfully continued to speak hope over my life. From the moment we met, it was like we had always been friends. Your writings call me to a deeper and closer walk with my Lord and Savior. Visiting your blog is like curling up with a good book, knowing my heart will be changed before I walk away and I will have seen Jesus in a fresh new way. Your words are a symphony of praise to God. You have the act of making a beautiful melody that my heart longs to sing. You share with conviction and authenticity. I savor each chord. Delight in every harmony. I sit back filled, knowing I have been with the Great Conductor Himself.

A visit to Elaine's blog should not be rushed...cannot be rushed. She is a new generation of Oswald Chambers and her posts require lingering and pondering. I need time. They deserve time. She pours out her heart and soul. Each writing must leave her completely spent as she withholds nothing, but allows the King of Kings to move her hand, from His heart, and like Solomon of old, unearth treasures in darkness. With the palette of the written word, she paints lasting pictures on the canvas of my heart, creating a priceless masterpiece of truth. She has discovered that the sacred resides within the ordinary and she draws me to a deeper longing for the holy. Her writing invites me to pick up my own paintbrush and add the finishing touches to this piece of art with my own personal response. I can't walk away from the gift of her words without surrendering my life anew to the God who longs to paint His story over my life.

Elaine, you bring pleasure to God. I know He smiles when He looks at you. You have a heart filled with passion for the Lord. You have traveled many roads and He has given you His peace for the journey.

I love you my friend. And so, I echo back to you, your writing led me to your blog, your friendship will forever cause me to stay.

Hugs and prayers,

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bouquets of His Love

"I Found Joy in a BIG God" Part Eight

Having a blog has opened up a whole new world to me. My friend Carol was the one who encouraged me 3 years ago to begin sharing my thoughts and life through this avenue of writing and I'm so thankful that she did. I never could have imagined the friendships and connections that have developed as I've poured my heart out, unchecked, sitting at my computer in the comfort of my own home.

That's why the first event at the "She Speaks" conference filled me with excitement. A "Blogger's Reception" was hosted for those of us who have connected through cyber space.

I was thrilled and delighted to meet Lynn. She and I are fairly new friends. She is a speaker and writer and has an amazing ministry with teenage girls. She has God sized dreams and is following and trusting His leading. She has been such an encouragement to me. Just two days ago Lynn sent me an e-mail inquiring how she could be praying for me right now. That's friendship!

Lelia, led a study I participated in on-line. Every Tuesday I would share my respone to Lysa TerKeurst's book, "What Happens When Women Say 'Yes' to God". It was great to meet my faithful leader face-to-face.

Another member of that book study was Pamela. We were able to share a lovely visit Saturday afternoon. Her sweet and quiet ways blessed me abundantly.

Susan was a surprise friend. While I was waiting in the lobby of the hotel Friday afternoon, this lovely girl approached me and sweetly asked, "Are you Joy?" She then explained that she was aware of how nervous I had been to fly from Canada to North Carolina on my own and she had been praying for me throughout her entire drive to the Conference! It was so wonderful to be able to share with her all that God had done. She was such a special blessing.

Last, but not least, my Kansas friend Kelley. Kelley was the first new blog friend I met across my computer screen. I would have loved the opportunity to have spent more time with her. We had been e-mailing almost daily prior to the conference, trying to hold each other accountable in certain areas of our life. So often her messages to me were, and still are, just what the Doctor ordered as she points my heart to the Great Physician.

Before closing today I must share a God-story that happened while attending this bloggy gathering. When speaking with Lynn, a gal approached us. I assumed she knew Lynn as I didn't recognize her at all. We turned to say 'hello' and she reached into a bag and handed me a single daisy in a small, glass vase. I was stunned. Why, out of all the women in this room, was I receiving a daisy? I asked her if she knew that daisies were my favourite flower and she said, 'No'. She quickly walked away and I was left standing there in awe.

You see, I call daisies God's "I love you" flower. If you've been visiting my blog for any length of time, you know that this blog design, (a gift from my sweet friend Kelley) reflects the knowledge that God loves me. With God it is never, "He loves me, He loves me not", but always, "He loves me, He loves me, he loves me..."

God was delivering me His personal message of love. I had stepped out in faith and obedience and followed Him to North Carolina and He was showing and proclaiming His love for me.

Know today that He has a bouquet of love for you. If you happen to see a daisy today, linger in His presence and promise knowing God is saying, "I love you".

(Be sure to visit my other blog "Pondering in His Presence" to see the amazing truth God was teaching me this morning!)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Covered in His Dust

"I Found Joy in a BIG God" Part Seven

Several years ago I purchased a little book that would forever have major impact on my life. It wasn't long after acquiring this little gem that I was seated at a Women's Conference, waiting with eager anticipation, for the author who penned those treasured words to walk out on the platform and share her heart. I was so excited; my stomach was doing crazy little flip flops. The Coordinator of the event appeared and began introducing the speaker. With hands clasped in my lap, I sat straighter, not wanting to miss my first glance at the gal who God had used to so inspire my heart.

My spirit soared from her very first 'Hello' and I was held captive as she began opening up the book of her life and sharing with all who were gathered there that day. I clung on to every word as I heard of God's mercy, grace, forgiveness, acceptance and unconditional love. She was an ordinary woman - yes, but being used by an extraordinary God in extraordinary ways. The pages of her story were filled with doubt, confusion, heartache, pain, loss, surrender, joy, faith and obedience. Oh yes, obedience. Full. Complete. Radical.

At the conclusion of this Conference the Lord planted a dream seed in my heart. For years I watered it with prayer and committed this dream to God. On February 2, 2008 it would become a reality. This very author was going to be speaking at my church. Booked well in advance, for a year she was prayed for daily. Once a week I would meet with the Events Coordinator and we would lift her name, her family, and her traveling companion before His throne of grace. This endeavor was bathed in prayer and God touched many ladies through His faithful messenger. Little did I know that God had orchestrated our paths to cross again that day for reasons beyond what I could have imagined.

Sitting at my computer late one evening this past March, her name suddenly appeared in my "Inbox". Caught completely by surprise, I opened her message. From her salutation to her closing remarks, my heart was wrapped in love. She was offering me an invitation, a word of encouragement, reminding me to trust the Lord, calling me to overcome fear. She was sharing what had been impressed on her heart concerning me - and knowing her past track record with God, I didn't doubt for a moment its accuracy. Her message closed with prayer and the promise of continued prayers.

I'll never forget how my hand remained poised on that computer "mouse", holding on for dear life as literally every part of my body was shaking. This was more than a friend's e-mail. It was a call to face my giant and begin journeying a road from fear to faith. Her message ushered in a sleepless night of wrestling with God. To hold on to the familiar or abandon it all for the sake of His call.

Lysa, how do I begin to thank you? Words are inadequate. I pray that for a brief moment, God will let you listen to my heart. It swells with so much gratitude to God and to you for your continual, selfless expressions of His kindness - not just to me - but to so many others. Your life is a reflection of Christ. You follow so closely in His footsteps that you are continually shrouded in His dust. It's a beautiful covering that speaks of your intimacy with the God of the universe who loves and delights in you.

I don't know where God will lead me next, but because of the journey I recently embraced, I know I can trust Him. Thank you for saying 'yes' to God. Your obedience called me to a deeper level and a higher plane - both spiritually and physically. :o)

I know you enjoyed the game show, "Let's Make a Deal", but you're the "Real Deal" my friend. Completely genuine. The Lord has given you many gifts, yet you remain humble and authentic. You inspire others to slip into sandals and walk the trails that God has blazed before us, reminding us that His footprints are trustworthy to follow. Your total dependence on God is such an example to me. Your complete surrender calls me to join you in reckless abandon.

Thank you from the depths of my heart for reaching out to me. I marvel at 'why'. Me, a shy, insecure, quiet, often overlooked, unchosen, 'passed by' gal - but through your actions God said, "Not this time - today I paused for you."

May He continue to use you to hand deliver His 'pauses' to seeking souls who need to see the reality of Jesus lived out in your life. You live for His glory. May you take a moment to rest today and listen as He pauses over your life and whispers, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Love, Hugs and continued prayers,

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Her Father's Eyes

"I Found Joy in a BIG God" Part Six

In booking a speaker for the Women's Winter Interlude event at our church this past February, we discovered our guest would be traveling with a companion. We knew the speaker, but who was this other gal, her "assistant", who would be joining us on this occasion? Along with our guest and her family, I began praying for this other lady daily. I truly believe it was at this point, without ever meeting her, God birthed a very special friendship.

As soon as we met, I knew a kindred spirit had been found. She has a quiet confidence and grace that is so attractive, all wrapped in outward beauty as well. Almost instantly two things about her unnerved me, yet, at the same time, drew me to her. She posed a lot of personal questions and she looked past words as she listened to my heart. No passing, casual comment was wasted. She dug deep. She asked the how, what, where, when and why's. I received her undivided attention and felt appreciated and valued.

At supper that evening I'll never forget the kind gesture she made. As we sat across from one another, she leaned forward, blew out the candles on the centre of the table and said, "I want to see you when I talk to you." She is all about 'seeing'. Seeing past phrases, sentences, facial expressions, body language and into the very core of my heart. She knows the art of listening, and realizes it involves so much more than just 'hearing'.

Before we parted ways she hugged me and told me to keep in touch - a kindness she may have regretted, as I took her up on this invitation. E-mails flowed back and forth and she became a trusted and true friend.

One night, in much confusion, I poured my heart out to her regarding a decision I needed to make and fears that were consuming me. She did more than just encourage. She acted on my behalf. Not saying a word she put into motion the path that led me to "She Speaks". Without her intervention, I wonder if my ears would have been so tuned to hear God's 'Go'.

Holly, you are a treasure. You read between the lines and respond to words not spoken. You offer advice and encouragement. You point me to Jesus. You've shared wonderful ideas with me to empower my prayer time with my family and strengthen my marriage. Your words are so often showers of blessings poured over a scorched and thirsty soul. Although you are so busy, you still always find time for me, and your messages hold depth of insight and wisdom. Excitement abounds. Enthusiasm explodes. Love lingers.

Seeing you again a couple of weekends ago was such a highlight for me. I was so excited to share with you how God had answered prayer in such an awesome way - above and beyond what I could have asked or imagined. When your eyes met mine Friday afternoon, I no longer felt so alone in the foreign country God had called me to - I had a friend. You know that feeling when you've made an appointment with a friend for lunch or a movie and you arrive first at the location, waiting for your girlfriend to arrive? As you scan a sea of faces with expectancy, suddenly you see her and your heart lifts with delight. That was the anticipation and joy I was feeling.

You are continually blessing me. Just a couple of days ago you sent me such a word of encouragement. You dream God-sized dreams for me and call me to pray and seek God's plans for my life. You invite me to travel from the mundane to the miraculous and not settle for mediocrity.

Without the action you took on March 17th I may well have missed the most amazing weekend of my life and lost a precious opportunity to find joy in a BIG God. I owe you so much my friend. I can never repay you for what you did, but I pray God will bless you abundantly and fulfill all the desires of your heart. I think God sent you to our church in February as His gift just for me. I'm sure the tag on the wrapping must have read, "To Joy, From God". You were a beautiful surprise package who's friendship continues to be one of my greatest blessings. Thank you for seeing me through our Father's eyes.

Love, prayers and hugs,

Monday, July 07, 2008

From Stranger to Friend

"I Found Joy in a Big God" Part Five

It was shortly after 7:00pm on Saturday, August 6th, 2005. I had just finished the most delicious dinner provided by the Renaissance Suites Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina, when a petite gal approached the microphone to share God's Word with a room full of ladies. The session was titled, "Speak Lord, I'm Listening."

Opening up God's Word, the speaker began to share truths unearthed through the story of Mary and Martha found in Luke 10:38-42. Challenging us to live in the 'hear' and now, she took the word 'listen', and using it as an acrostic, guided us through six steps to sitting attentively at the feet of Jesus.

With each truth conveyed, my heart beat quicker. This was the message the Lord had sent me cross-country to receive. God began doing a new work in my heart. Through her gentle delivery, John 11:44 came alive. "Take off the grave clothes and let (her) go." God was beginning to speak freedom over my life, and He was releasing me from the chains that bound me.

I have never forgotten the message shared that night, nor the one through whom it was delivered. Now, here I was, three years later, attending the same Conference, and Saturday night's speaker was none other than this very same gal. One thing had changed though. This time I would sit in her presence, not as a stranger, but as a friend.

Earlier this year the Lord had very strongly impressed her name across my heart and I had responded to His call in obedience. God had called me to commit to pray for her and through a mutual friend we were able to connect.

As I sat now waiting to hear the message God had written for her to share this year, my heart overflowed. This time her message was titled, "Beyond the Shadow of Doubt" and I was eagerly anticipating all that God would say to me through His faithful vessel. I was not disappointed. She opened His Word with assurance. She spoke His truth with genuine love. She shared, not as one who lived a text-book Christianity, but as one who has met Jesus face-to-face and knows the challenges of walking with the Lord, as well as the surpassing greatness of His glory. She may be small in statue, but she is mighty in His power. Her message had God's anointing. My pen couldn't write fast enough, as again God used her to speak the language of His heart.

Renee, thank you for infusing my life with hope. Thank you for allowing me the honour to pray for you and your family. Thank you for the verses of encouragement you sent my way when fear threatened to strangle all faith. You didn't just send scripture, you personalized God's Word calling me to see that His promises applied to me today and His Word is alive and active. You challenged me to dress in His armour and prayed victory over my life.

As I've had the privilege of getting to know you, I see a very real woman who has discarded masks for authenticity. Your sweet and quiet manner welcomes my timid spirit and I know my thoughts find safety with you. I love your heart. There's no false pretense. No cover-up. You share your doubts, concerns, passions, joys, successes and failures and let me know I'm not alone.

I'm so glad I was with you Sunday morning when I found God's Word spoken over my life. That was so exciting!!! (I'll be posting about that another day!)

Your smile is contagious. Your heart so precious. Your friendship a treasured gift. I love how you already believe I'll be back next year! So, I won't say goodbye - just see you next time.

Love, prayers and hugs,

PS. For those of you reading this today, would you pray for Renee and her family. They are facing some challenges, but we have a God who hears and answers prayer.
"On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many." 2 Corinthians 1:10-11