God Answers Prayers in Unexpected Ways

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My Toyota Scion sped pass the “Welcome to Maryland” sign. I’d been driving over twelve hours from my home in Orlando, Florida. Finally, my GPS announced I’d arrived. I pulled into the driveway and stared at the house I’d now call home. I resented the move—this disruption in my life—but I’d lost my job due to an economic crash.

I’d spent months praying and sending out resumes to no avail. Until one day I received an offer for a design position. The only problem…the job would require a move to Maryland. My heart sank at the thought of leaving life-long friends, family, and the only town I’d known as home; but I glanced at the stack of unpaid bills piled on my desk knowing I had no choice but to take it. God answered my prayers, just not in the way I envisioned.

Despite my discomfort and the fear I felt of the unknown, I packed my bags and followed the path He placed in front of me.

‘At least I’d have my sister,’ I thought.

I’d planned to live with her, her husband, and my two nieces for six to eight months, until I could get back on my feet. Although, grateful for the bedroom that housed all my belongings and the bath I shared with my nieces, I needed a place of my own.

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I hustled every day to eliminate my debt. Before long, I searched for an apartment, but reality slapped me with a setback. The cost of living in Maryland/DC far exceeded the housing costs of central Florida. After paying my bills (car, cell phone, credit cards) there wasn’t enough money left over to afford the matchbox-sized apartments. I felt defeated, helpless, and filled with anxiety. I questioned if I’d misunderstood God to begin with.

While living with my sister, not wanting to intrude on her family, I spent much time alone; but I never felt alone. On long drives, I prayed over my circumstances. The moon slipped through the tall northeastern trees—trees I didn’t have back home. On those nights, God filled me with peace about my situation, and I grew closer to Him.

I chose to trust.

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Meanwhile, as I financially bounced back so did the Florida economy. I didn’t want to overstay my welcome and applied for jobs in Florida again. While visiting my friends and family in Orlando, I reached out to a former rep of mine. He told me I’m in luck, his company was hiring. I applied and sadly, after two consecutive interviews I didn’t get the job.

A few days later, the owner of the company asked me—via text—to meet him that night at an ice cream shop. I thought it odd but agreed.

I arrived first and when I saw him enter I greeted him; but he seemed surprised to see me. While waiting in line we chatted. He stated his wife and kids sat outside on the patio. (Which explained his hefty order)  I couldn’t understand why he’d bring the entire family, but silently prayed I’d get the job. I followed him to their table. I cracked jokes with his little ones and rubbed shoulders with his wife. After a while his wife made a comment about their friends being late in joining them. ‘There were more people joining us?’ I thought.

He glanced down at his phone and realized he’d been corresponding with me instead of his friends all along. He explained what happened. Embarrassed, we had a good laugh and finished out the evening. The following day, he offered me the job. He thought I handled myself well, and I would be a great addition to the team and work well with their clients. I accepted.

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Looking back, I’m grateful for my time in Maryland. At that time, I didn’t see it as my wilderness journey. It was a time in my life I learned to lean on God and spend time with Him in constant conversation. Sometimes God calls you out of your comfort zone in order for you to learn to rely on Him solely. He calls you to a place His voice can’t be drowned out by the constant chatter; much like the Israelites wandering in their wilderness. The only option they had was to fully rely on His grace before He allowed them to enter their promised land.

A verse that played in my thoughts during this time was “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5 New International Version.

I recognize this time as a pivotal point in my life, but God didn’t stop there. A year later, He continued to open doors—one leading me straight into my husband-to-be’s office.

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Today my efforts are no longer spent paying the bills but raising our twin boys. Isn’t it funny how God works? What about you? Has there been a time in your life God has called you out of your comfort zone so you would learn to lean on Him?  I hope my story gives you hope in knowing that even when it seems like God has abandoned us… maybe it is because He has already planned it all out for us.

FullSizeRender.jpg-2Lisa Sciacca is a regular contributing writer at The Hallelujah House. Her passion is her family and telling her story through photos. Lisa enjoys connecting with other moms and exchanging information and encouragement. You can see examples of Lisa’s work on instagram @Life_inPieces. Here, along with her photography, she shares what she’s learned along the way from recipes to quick teaching strategies. If you would like to connect with Lisa her email is life_in pieces@yahoo.com. To read her complete profile, you can find her under the “Team” tab above.

If Chestnut Trees Could Talk Week 2:

Don’t you love it when God speaks to you through nature? I don’t recommend putting nature above the Word, but He does reveal great wisdom through His creation. Last week, we started to hear from the Chestnut Tree, if you missed it, you can find it in the previous blog post. This week we will continue to listen to the wisdom this tree speaks…

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Life Lesson 2:  You must prune the little sprouts at the bottom of the tree in order for its energy to be used in growing fruit at the top.

The Chestnut Tree wants us to know that as followers of Christ our energy should be used in creating fruit, not wasted on the sprouts. Have you ever heard the expression “If Satan can’t tempt you to sin, he’ll make you busy.”? He would love for you to waste your talents on meaningless busyness. This is a constant battle in my own life. I get opportunities thrown at me from every direction as I’m sure you all experience. If you spend all your energy on too little of too much, you will be throwing your pearls to swine. We must remember to prayerfully seek God’s will of where He wants our talents and time to go so we can grow fruit that points towards heaven.

Currently, I am wife to Jay, mother to three teenage boys, and a three -year old daughter. I am writing a memoir, keeping up with a blog, and on the writing team for She Leads Daily. I lead a women’s Bible study, keep up with a pet-filled home, and on weekends you will find me working on a painting or heading to the farm. It’s a full life…an abundant life…a blessed life.

How do I get it all done? First be clear, I’m a work in progress, but God has given me three time-management tools that I utilize. The first is to start your day with a quiet time. I awaken before Bella, grab my coffee and spend time reading the Bible and praying. This has become so important in my life. My mind is sharper and I’m more focused on the “have to” list.  I don’t look at this as a check-off item, but the time I savor with the Savior. It is a treat to start the day in peace and spend time listening when your days are full.

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The second time management tool is to pray before committing to any opportunities that come your way. Recently, She Leads Daily underwent new ownership. Throughout the holidays, I leaned toward ending my writing job with them once the new editor took over. I prayed about it, knowing my decision was to be rendered by Sunday. I worried if I spent time writing for SLD, that would be time away from my blog and book. I also feared running out of inspiration and creativity.

Saturday morning, I attended a women’s conference at my church and the speaker, Christi Haag said several things that resonated with me. First, she said to extend grace, “always pour out grace.” The new editor for SLD needed grace in the form of a writing team. The speaker also challenged us to “do things afraid.” If you do things afraid, your stepping out of your comfort zone and God will strengthen your faith. I needed to trust God would work alongside me and see to it I didn’t run out of time or inspiration. The last thing was, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 New English Standard. By putting God first in my daily routine as I was already doing, time, productivity, and inspiration will follow.

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The last time management tool is to get out your cutting shears and cut away at time-wasters — any activity that lacks eternal value. Take notice of what activities in your life are time-wasters. I want to be clear we all need activities that relax, refresh and we enjoy, that is not what I am referring to. I’m describing the afternoon we stop our work to check out Pinterest for just a few minutes, which leads to insecurity about our wardrobe, leading to an online shopping spree including price comparisons, then…awe what’s that?  I see there’s a picture hanging on the wall behind the model, I have to have it, search for it, I know it’s somewhere, I knew I’d find it! Oh, but Jay will kill me if I spend that much on a painting…I could probably paint that, but I don’t have time to paint it…go to eBay and find it used…hours later no luck. Instead of cooking dinner for the family, I’m standing in the line at Michaels buying the canvas, that lands in the closet for a rainy day project.  See what I mean? Waste. As you can see I speak from experience. I found myself frustrated and anxiety-ridden when deadlines popped up. I locked myself in my office feeling blocked when God shined a light on how much time I wasted surfing the internet over silly non-eternal stuff. Don’t waste your life. Get out those shears and cut away those little branches so you can utilize your energy on something that will produce a more satisfying fruit with eternal value.

What about you? Is there anything you need to clip away from your life in order to release your energy toward something eternal?

Next week, we’ll examine what happens when you stake a Chestnut Tree too tight. See you by the Chestnut.

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Closing the Envelop

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She pressed the pain button on the pump wedged beside her and turned to me. “I think God’s timing is so different from ours,” my sister said. “When I go to heaven, it may seem like I haven’t seen you in a few minutes, but for you it will feel like a lifetime.”

God’s timing is a mystery to me. I believe His timing is not linear in the way we experience it, but falls in circular patterns, like the closing of an envelope, our past folds over and seals our present. We hum the Nocturne of our present, knowing His fingertips composed it somewhere in the past.

After posting my last painting, “Out of the Boat” to social media, I received a text from my sister-in-law, Tracey.

It read:

“The title of your new painting were Tricia’s last words to me. She said, ‘I have to get out of the boat! I have to get out of the boat!’ I pushed her down in her seat and told her to stay right where she was. That’s when she looked at me and said, ‘How are you going to stop me with your skinny self?’ I thought she was hallucinating, but she was still herself.”

I didn’t know this story when I painted the picture. I didn’t know it when the story of Peter stepping out onto the stormy seas kept reappearing in my devotionals. One thing is clear, I know God closed this envelop and is preparing me for something different, but I am humbled and saddened to admit, it is not for me to move to the farm.

I have a Cabinet of Curiosity in my Orlando home. Behind it’s metal grate doors, there’s a collection of treasures. On the shelves, to name a few, there’s a rock from Appian Way, the road that leads into the gates of Rome, another from the walls of a pirate’s handmade tomb I found on an undeveloped island, a rock from the catacombs (I hope it’s a rock), and a human skull I purchased from an old southern gentlemen’s garage sale in Windermere. (Yes, I did, much to my parent’s horror.) In my cabinet, are things from the natural world I treasure and love to bring out, hold in my hands, and ponder on.

Metaphorically, God’s timing is also there. When I think I’ve understood one tiny thing, and filed it away in my box of knowledge; after time, it springs out like a jack in the box revealing something more. Maybe that’s my mistake, trying to put anything about God in a neat square box. Around the cabinet, I’ve peered through the metal, curious why He’s telling me to step out on faith, to step out of the boat, if it’s not to walk across the cow patties? Moving to the farm would take tremendous faith! I’ve tried to convince Him of this.

The same husband who told me to get the boys registered for the new school admitted he was following my lead and had no peace about the move.  He listed his reasons: his ministry is in Orlando (he teaches business men in Abiding in Christ), his office is in Orlando, and we’d be apart from one another three to four days a week, Jay feels God wants us to use the farm house for Bible retreats, and if we lived there it wouldn’t be, I would be spending most of my day carpooling children in and out of the city. He didn’t like the idea of me riding those country roads alone after dark. On and on he went and when he reached the end…

“That’s just great! Well, thanks a lot for blindsiding me, after I’ve put myself out there on my blog!” I said. “In one fell swoop you’ve obliterated my credibility, squashed my ministry, and killed my dream of riding my horse and growing my own food!”

“You don’t even like to cook!” He said. “You will have to cook every night.” He’d already stated this. Mentioning it twice proved what I suspected, he hated my cooking.

But, I would not be defeated. “I’ve been preparing. I bought that cooking school book. I could become a chef if forced to,” I pointed my finger at him, “but now you’ll never know my full potential.”

He didn’t appear disappointed. “Walk me through what a day looks like living on the farm,” he said. “I don’t think you’ve grasped what it will be like.”

“I can ride horses. Bella can run and not get hit by a car. Do you realize we are losing our boys to other houses? The boys will make friends at their new school and our house can be the hangout place. You know boys would love hanging out on a farm.”

“What if they don’t make friends?”

I shrugged. “Then, we’ll come back.”

“You want to uproot the boys from a school and friends they love, so you can ride horses?”

It sounded selfish when he put it that way, but it wasn’t truly about the horses.

I stared at the floor. “It’s not just about the horses.”

“Explain to me what it is about.”

“I can hear there okay? Here, the landscapers never stop. I can’t think. It’s quiet on the farm.” I struggled trying to explain it. “I see things in nature. I grow creatively. I need to try a different life.”

He nodded. “You feel inspired there.”

How did he do that? I nodded.

            “You can go to the farm anytime. The boys are in a good school and have good friends. Why rock the boat? Until I know it’s what God wants, I’m not on board with it.”

“Fine!” I stomped out of the room.

Funny thing about time it brings clarification. I’ve stayed away from the blog and given myself time. Time to lick my wounds and wallow. Time to hear. Time for prayer and acceptance. Time to rewrite this essay over and over. Time to repaint the walls of our Orlando home white, breathing light back into this Mediterranea. I’ve made other changes. I’ve moved my art studio into the formal living room. I am surrendering my studio space, so the boys will have a place to hang out with their friends.

Easter at the farm, my boys celebrated two gifts of grace. I teared up as I explained to them, I am giving up my dream of country living and leaving them rooted where they are happiest in Orlando. That evening, Jay drove the Dually packed with my large easel and painting supplies to bring home. I followed behind in my SUV. He waved and blew kisses to me in the mirror at every stoplight. Charmer! He knows how to get on my good side. I’m no longer mad or sad, but humbled. How could I have gotten it so wrong? Did I run ahead of God? I have a tendency to do this. I like to lead… to step on toes…to be the boss.

Recently, I spoke with one of my spiritual mentors Linda Case about how I got it wrong and am now eating crow. “I suppose God wanted to humble me,” I said.

Linda’s smile can light up a room. “I wouldn’t look at it like that. Maybe you found a hallway. You realized God was telling you something and you opened a door to a hallway of more doors. Door by door, that’s how we walk in faith. We just have to keep ourselves willing to opening doors. You’ll find His will behind one of them, but it will happen in His timing.”

Did I mention, God’s timing is a curious thing?

This blog post was supposed to be about how to hear from God through scriptures, but I’ve asked Linda Case from “All for Jesus Living Waters Ministries” to write on the subject of hearing from God. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us.

While my pet goat returns to the herd and my Tennessee Walker vanishes from its stall, all I can do is pray and wait. Besides, God’s timing is not like mine. He will close the envelop when He knows I’m prepared to receive the missive. Until then, my readers the content I’ve planned for the year is in the trash. I’ve lost my way a bit. Please be patient as my blog may swirl around through loops and circles. I apologize in advance. Until the direction is clear, sit back and enjoy the ride.

Out of the Boat

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Out of the Boat

The day I posted my painting to social media and titled it “Out of the Boat.” I neglected to share what inspired me to paint it. Last year, I felt a yearning to move to the farm, but I didn’t know if this desire was from God or myself, so we began praying last fall for confirmation. Around January, I noticed within sermons, devotions, emails etc. the story of Peter stepping out of the boat onto the water kept popping up. I dreamt this painting. I saw myself looking across the deep at the light of Jesus. As I painted, I stepped back and saw the monsters in the water. Through all of this, I knew God was telling me, He wanted me out of my comfort zone, but my farmhouse is the epitome of comfort.

Jay and I scheduled a tour of the best and closest Christian school, a thirty- minute drive from the farm. We told each other if we felt comfortable with the school, it was meant to be. We would move. We stood in the stained carpet hallway with the moldy vents when the bell rang. Hoards of dark-skinned giants (football players) flooded the hall along with all the light-skinned students who looked a bit rumpled and wearing their stiff pants. It was a far cry from the campus at our private school in Orlando, the picture of perfection. Waves

We toured the football field. Hoping to find our comfort zone. Christian is our football player and this school has one of the best football teams. Our guide rambled on about the school’s championship wins and the college coaches that attend their games. The field looked more junior high stacked next to ours. Under the bleachers weeds grew up between the weight equipment. Waves

We returned to the car. “Well, that was disappointing,” Jay said. I felt the same. I didn’t have my peace that we were supposed to move.

We drove back to the farm and I stared out the window down those country roads. Confederate flags flapped in the wind, and we passed several pick up trucks with the good ole Dixie hanging off the back or in the window. What am I doing? Moving my bi-racial family to a town like this? A town filled with good ole boys. Waves

            Black versus white…in all honesty, I’m uncomfortable in the cultural extremes. I’ve found my comfort spot in the warm, buttery brown, where cultures blend and bleed into each other easily.

I pray and pray for what’s best for my children and Peter keeps stepping out of the boat onto the rough seas over and over again. What are you telling me Lord? My father-in- law (Ompa) recently said, “At least Peter had the courage to get out of the boat.” That stuck. It takes courage to step out into the uncomfortable… the imperfect…the inconvenient.

I see Orlando through a different lens now.I drive around passing luxury vehicles and perfectly manicured shopping centers.The boy’s school has a sparkling new gymnasium complete with large screen tv’s. Tourist flood here to savor perfection, a place to get away from their own bitter waters for a bit. Orlando is beautiful and takes constant polishing to keep it that way. It is not real, not true to life…It is a facade. I have to ask myself, is God’s plan for His followers to be so comfortable when it is in the moments we are uncomfortable we feel more alive and closer to Him? We reflect back on those times as spiritual growth, a time when God showed up or we felt Him lean in close.

I’ve had to examine my heart, and go to the Word for my answer to prayer, rather than find it through my biased viewpoint and in my feelings. The Bible is called the living, breathing Word of God. It has all the answers. It speaks to us as individuals and in whatever situation we are in. It convicts, answers, and helps us to get know God on a more personal level. Although, there are other ways God speaks to us, we need to trust the Word to have the last Word in our lives. Peter is stepping on the waves. I am stepping on the waves. My boys will step on the waves.

Do you wonder how to find the answers in the Word of God? Stayed Tune to part 2. Next, how to Abide and Hear from the Lord through the Bible.