Preparing the Heart:
“What He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open.” Revelation 3:7b New International Version
Every doctor’s door I opened—feeling hopeful—closed without remedy.
For five months, I suffered with sever sinus inflammation, head pressure, ear -popping, and migraines. No one could locate what caused my debilitating health problems which left me feeling hopeless, and I feared I’d die from it.
During this time, I led a group of over 100 women through a Bible study called, “Me, Myself, and Lies” by Jennifer Rothschild. Some in my study noticed that I struggled with anxiety and the inability to focus, and they prayed for my healing. One day after another doctor’s doors closed, I cried out to God. I begged Him for peace and understanding as to why He shut every door giving me no remedy for my ailments. Once home, I opened my Bible to a passage in Matthew 7:7 (NIV) “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
“I’m asking for revelation God;” I prayed. “nobody knows what is going on with my head, except for You. I need Your revelation. Please show me what to do.”
That particular day in Bible study, Jennifer referenced Daniel chapter 10. During the Hebrew exile, Daniel received a troubling vision. He sought revelation and understanding from God. He mourned and fasted for three weeks. Afterwards, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and brought a divine answer.
Immediately, I sensed God calling me to fast like Daniel. The truth is I had never fasted for spiritual reasons before, and I didn’t know how or what to fast from; yet I was desperate for a discovery from God. Daniel became my fasting model. In Daniel 10:3 (NIV) “I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.”
For the next 21 days, I ate only fruits and vegetables, and drank only water. I. gave up coffee! Coffee had been my go-to all day, comfort drink. Serious business. In addition to abstaining from certain foods and beverages. I felt led to fast from dousing myself with perfume and bath sprays. Like coffee, smelling good ranked high on my daily regime. The final area I denied myself was watching tv. Yes, I gave up my favorite shows. In studying Daniel, I learned the spiritual warfare weapon of fasting and prayer.
For the first time in my life I understood that fasting was not so much about abstaining but rather, indulging. We as Christians get hung up on the foods we deny ourselves, rather than focusing on the joy of intimacy with God.
For three weeks I poured my heart out to God in prayer daily. First, I praised Him for Who He was, focusing on His attributes and His goodness. “Dear God, You are Jehovah-Rapha, and I praise You because You are the God Who Heals me.” Next, I confessed my fears and inadequacies and asked him to forgive my sin. “Lord, You. Know I’m scared that this illness is going to be the death of me’ please help me to trust You. Forgive me for worrying.” Then I petitioned Him on the behalf of others in my life to do what only He could do. “God, my son Christian is struggling with nightmares. I ask that you give him peace, so he can be at rest.” Lastly, I thanked Him for being so faithful and for answering my prayers ahead of time. “Thank you Lord that you have heard my cry, and I know you are working even now to do what’s best in my life.”
In the mornings when I craved a cup of coffee, instead, I found my comfort in the pages of His Word. As the day wore on and the hunger for something other than broccoli or bananas hit hard, I learned to feast on the Bread of Life, by digging into my Bible study. It was there that I found both physical and spiritual nourishment for my soul. By day 10 the cravings for coffee lessened and my desire for God increased. It wasn’t long before God’s peace filled me, and I knew no matter what He chose to do about my health I would be alright.
Isaiah 58:8-9 “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and He will say: ‘Here am I.’” (NIV)
By God’s providence—not coincidence—my primary care doctor had ordered a Cat scan and a full panel of blood work during my fast. Around day 17, I received a personal phone call from him.
“Liz,” he said, “we received the results of both tests’ I know what’s wrong with you. You have Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism. Can you come into the office so I can discuss treatment with you?” We finally had an answer! I felt perplexed by this newfangled terminology. I had no idea what it meant, or if it was life-threatening. Before he ended the call, he assured me it was a thyroid disease which was treatable and not to worry. As I hung up the phone, praise erupted from my lips, “Thank you Jesus! Thank you God; You are so good.”
In my doctor’s office, I learned that when my endodontist pulled one of my upper molars, it perforated my sinus cavity, which caused severe infection. Due to the fact that I had undiagnosed Hashimoto’s, the damage to my sinuses wouldn’t heal like a healthy person’s would.
“Your body is not producing the thyroid hormone and therefore cannot heal itself properly.” My doctor explained. “It’s no wonder you’ve been in so much pain. Your thyroid is your second brain. Before the discovery and treatment of this disease, most people died from it. Your blood work revealed off the chart records for Hashimoto’s. Let’s get you treated.”
Often I wondered why God didn’t reveal this sooner. Why did He continue to shut so many doors that could have helped me? Eventually, I discovered God closed the doors to redirect me into His perfect will and timing. Knowing God’s love and learning to trust His timing is paramount. Without the extreme discomfort of being left untreated, I wouldn’t have initiated the discipline of prayer and fasting. God also shut the doors so that He could provide something greater, more beautiful, and more powerful than anything I could have planned or imagined for myself. When it seemed God said, “No,” it caused me to seek Him more earnestly through fasting and prayer. He taught me a powerful spiritual discipline that would bless and benefit me the rest of my life. A greater “Yes” came when I realized God was more than enough, even when He shuts the door.
“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may. Have power together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory…” Ephesians 3:17b-20 NIV
Blog post by Elizabeth Hammond a team member of The Hallelujah House. Elizabeth can be contacted at Elizabethhammond8@gmail.com. To see Elizabeth’s full bio click on the “Team” link above.
(Please note: If you haven’t read part 1 and 2 of Half Naked and Picking Weeds, I suggest you scroll down and read those first as this is a continuation of it.)
I asked Vanessa what she wanted everyone to know. Before the words slipped from her lips, she closed her eyes to concentrate on forming them. “Every day counts,” she said. “I want them to know, every day counts.”
Every day counts. Even the humdrum days? Even the days when the kids are driving us cray-cray? Even the days we can’t wait to slam our bedroom door and disappear under the cool sheets because the to-do list whipped our butts? Even that day when her head is wrapped in cold rags and she has to wear sunglasses because her eyes hurt from a cancerous tumor pushing against her skull? She would tell you…yes, even that day.
I’m convinced there are days of our lives that count more than others. They weigh more in value on eternity’s scale.
The doctor didn’t lie when he said rotator cuff surgery was painful. I’d given birth to four children and after surgery the pain sent me moaning on the floor rocking back and forth. He’d stated my arm was so tore up it looked like an eighty- year old woman’s with an old tear and new. For six weeks, my arm was in a bulky sling and I couldn’t hold my baby, so I borrowed Vanessa’s arms.
You can’t help but get personal with someone who’s loving your baby. Her affection for Bella built the foundation of our friendship… our sisterhood. One day she casually mentioned that she worshipped the Hindu gods, Allah, and the Christian God.
I laughed. “What are you doing covering all your bases?” I said.
“Oh my gosh!” She burst out laughing. “Yes, I want to be sure I get it right. Besides, I think they’re all the same anyway.”
“You should look into the characteristics of each of them, that’s how you’ll know if they are the same,” I said. “I think you’ll find the Christian God is far more personal. He’s the only one out of the bunch that gave His life for mankind. He’s the only One who loves us whether we love him or not.”
I walked her out that day and knew when I closed the door, God just opened one.
The next afternoon, “So, how do you worship all three gods?” I said.
“I have three altars in my apartment. I’m drawn to the Christian God, so I go to church on Sunday, but I have a Hindu altar, an Allah altar, and an altar with a cross. I pray at each.”
“What do you pray about?”
“I just want some direction you know? I want to know what I should be doing in my future,” she said. “I’d like to use my experience with cancer for something good now that I’m healed.”
It amazes me when God opens a door. Sometimes, it’s just a crack, while other times it is thrown open so wide the light is blinding. Soon after, over the phone my father told me what he taught in Sunday school that week, the story of Paul’s travel to Athens.
“When Paul arrived in Athens he noticed all the gods and altars scattered around the city,” Daddy said. “but there was one altar titled the “Unknown god,” and Paul stood before them and told them about that God, our God. You see, baby, they were trying to cover all their bases, as many people do today, but in doing that, they are lost.” (Acts 17: 16-34)
I was blinded by the light.
The next day, Vanessa sat across from me at the kitchen table. Praying she’d understand, I slid my open Bible across the table. “Before you go, I want you to read something.” I pointed to the passage.
After she finished, her eyes widened. “Oh my gosh! That’s me!” she said.
“You said, you were praying for guidance and for your next purpose in life. How can God lead you if you haven’t made Him Lord?”
“I don’t want you to do anything for me, but you need to think about that,” I said. “God will never lead you if He’s not in the lead.”
She promised to think about it. I wasn’t there the day Vanessa chose to make Jesus Christ her Lord. God placed the seeds in my hands, I pushed them under the soil, and moved on to tend to the weeds of life, but God sent others to water it.
After I recovered, Vanessa remained Bella’s babysitter one day a week until Bella started preschool. Jay, my husband, then hired Vanessa to work at the office for him and his brother Shaun. She was so happy to be back behind a desk. One Thursday morning, Jay stopped by her counter.
“Why are you sitting there?” Jay said. “Come join our Abiding study in the conference room.”
“Really?” She jumped up and followed him.
She sat in a men’s Bible study every Thursday morning learning how to Abide in Christ. Between Jay and Shaun his brother, Vanessa had two very determined men pouring Jesus into her on a daily basis. She told them she’d made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as Lord.
It was then…the cancer returned.
Last week, I wanted to hear from her own lips she’d made a decision. I swabbed her bald head with a cold cloth. Our relationship had come full circle I was now at her home.
“The last time we discussed God, you told me you’d think about it. Did you?” I said.
“Yes, I chose Christ.” she said.
“Did you tell Him that? Ask Him to take your life?” I said.
“Yes, I did.”
“You’re undertaking the most important assignment of your life, but you know that don’t you?” I said squeezing her hand.
Vanessa nodded. “I do.”
“You are just as much a sister to me as Tricia was. Our relationship is eternal.”
“Really?” she said.
“Yes, in fact if Tricia wasn’t a Christian you’d be more of a sister to me.” I hugged her.
I’ve never seen a faith so strong in someone so new to it. How does she know He’s a loving God when as soon as she gave her life to Christ, her cancer returned? I’ve pondered this. I’ve asked God why didn’t He allow her some healthy years to use her faith for Him.
Then, I glance at Vanessa she’s filled with a peace that is not human. She knows God loves no matter what she’s going through. If anything in this life can give us comfort, it’s this…our circumstances are never indicative of God’s love.
What a relief! Having a bad day? God loves you! Husband’s left you? God loves you. Your son has passed away? God loves you! Your addicted to drugs or alcohol? God loves you. You’re sick with cancer? God loves you. Praying to the Hindu gods or Allah? God loves you right where you are. Vanessa’s proof of that.
It’s time to harvest at the farm. There are rows of heavy vegetables curling the stems. I don’t know about you, but there’s something satisfying about snapping them off and filling a bucket. We load them in the back of the ATV and drive them up to the farmhouse. In the sink, we wash them one by one, preparing them for the job they were born to do. Nourish.
Just like those vegetables waiting to be plucked off the vines, Vanessa’s story will become someone else’s spiritual nourishment. In time, someone will be walking ankle deep in the dirt and weeds of this world and feeling empty. They’ll wonder is this all there is to life? They’ll witness the light and color of a young woman’s faith and want to consume the invitation of salvation for themselves. The circle of life is eternal.
When Vanessa’s time comes, I’m so sure Tricia will run up and greet her at the gates of heaven. “Vanessa! I’ve been waiting for ya. What took you so long?” She’ll give her a hug with a hard pounding on the back. “Welcome home, sister. Welcome home.” She’ll wrap her arm around her shoulders. “So you gotta tell me, is Tammy fat? I sure hope so.”
If you would like to donate to Vanessa Raghubir’s Go Fund Me Page, please click on the link below. She is in need of some financial aid. The Go Fund Me page needs to be updated it is from her first diagnoses of brain cancer, but the need is even greater with the second. Thank you and God bless you for helping someone you don’t even know.
When I was a little girl we had this huge garden running alongside our house on Mockingbird Lane. Mornings and evenings when the heat was bearable we’d pull the weeds and collect our bounty in baskets. I can still feel the prickle of the cucumber stems and smell the pungent scent from plucking the tomato off the vine.
My sister, Tricia and I labored in our underwear. The sun-browned our bodies to the color of mahogany and we’d moon Granny our bright white bottoms because she’d laugh so hard tears spilled out of her eyes. We didn’t have air conditioning in our home until I was almost a teenager. Daddy clutched the coins and feared a high electric bill. In case you’re unaware, summers in the Tidewater area of Virginia can get extremely hot and sticky.
We didn’t have a microwave either. Momma feared her children would glow in the dark from the radiation. She was a purist when it came to feeding her brood. Most of our food was homemade for she didn’t like preservatives. While Tricia and I raided our cousin’s house for the Pop Tarts. No amount of begging in the grocery aisle would make my Momma cave.
“That’s junk!” she’d said. “Do you want your poop to turn green? I’ll bake you a banana bread instead.”
Momma was a firm believer in the color brown, brown eggs, brown bread, brown cereal, brown poop. She was obsessed with us having a good BM (Bowel Movement) every day. This obsession peaked in her wheat germ phase. As I sat guarding my mashed potatoes like a dog over a bone, and hoping Daddy would hurry up… for all things good and decent in this world… and say the blessed blessing so I could get in a few bites before she came around with that jar of brown granules…splat! It was too late, my potatoes were healthy-matized brown.
“There! Now you’ll get a good cleaning out,” she’d said.
I can still picture Momma clad in a halter top and shorts standing by the hot stove. Her dark hair piled on top of her head, while her brown skin glistened from perspiration, cooking up dinner or canning the cucumbers. Without air conditioning, summer meal preparation was a true labor of love. It probably explains why Momma’s lost the joy of cooking today.
I suppose my nostalgia stems from just returning from taking care of Momma after her surgery. Time has a way of turning the table. I was the one standing by the stove cooking the meals albeit in a nice cool kitchen.
I haven’t written in a while because I’ve gone through an extended season of illness. I had Influenza B, then strep invaded our home, after that a dear friend named Vanessa who’s been battling brain cancer took a turn for the worse, followed by my trip to Virginia to take care of my parents.
Meanwhile these last two months, I’ve felt half-naked in the scorching heat picking through weeds while they keep popping up through the soil of my garden.
Speaking of gardens, we’ve entered the garden season at the farm. The land is plowed and planted. The families on the farm are pitching in, to weed and harvest. We are then going to learn to can the produce in an assembly-line fashion. I’m surprised I’m excited about this, and yes, for all those dirty minds out there, I wear clothes when I garden now. (Farm friends you can thank me later…Ha!) Our last attempt at gardening, we ended up with vegetables rotting on the vine, that eventually sank into the earth and fertilized the soil.
Lately, I’ve thought about times we feel like that, the times we feel God out of reach or not answering our prayers, the times we think He’s neglected us, left us drooping on the vine. If only we could peer into the future and see our rotten times just may be the fertilizer in someone else’s life, would we be more willing to allow ourselves to be bruised… to feel neglected?
I imagine Vanessa feels that way as she lies in her hospital bed suffering from seizures. There were times my sister Tricia felt as if God left her dangling on the vine during her battle with breast cancer, but her rotten part revived the heart soils of those around her.
The older I get the more thankful I am for the rotten times. I hated my sister’s suffering, but it was through it my husband strengthened in his walk with God. It was through it, we all strengthened our faiths in a God who’s sovereign and holy. My sweet Tricia passed away in the winter of 2014.
When vegetables rot on the vine, they not only fertilize the soil, but their seeds fall into the earth as well. After the vegetables have been long forgotten, a new shoot springs up from the earth. Lately, I’ve witnessed one of Tricia’s seeds in the green faith of Vanessa.
( To be continued…)
I’m never one to read romance. There’s nothing wrong with romance, but if I’m going to take the time to read, it’s going to be something that will stay with me. I love the movie “You’ve Got Mail.” When Meg Ryan said, “You are what you read.” It was an aha moment for me, for I believe there’s some truth to that. So, if you get a book recommendation from me, it will be something I couldn’t put down, but will most likely fall into historical fiction, non-fiction, and memoir. They are my go to’s. This is a memoir.
I think too often we grow complacent here in the United States with our faith. I love to read soul stirring missionary stories, that remind us we serve a living God who performs miracles. This book is one of those stories. It is a book you will find hard to put down and reveals how God used this young woman’s childhood to prepare her to serve in the darkest places of India, and the miracles she witnessed by being obedient to the call. Check it out!
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.
“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.
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.
One of my sister’s favorite songs was “Where I Belong” by Building 42. Tricia would turn it up in my car, and nod her head to the music when it poured out the radio. At stoplights, one would see a bald-headed banger, whom might I add, was normally off beat.
You had to love her.
One night the words of this song must have played in her mind, as her son and daughter help her from her chair and into the kitchen, where the family lingered over their meal. Startled to see her up and moving, for the doctor had given her 48 hours to live a few days prior, everyone stopped talking.
She shuffled over to Momma and kissed her mouth. “Momma, I want to go home,” she said.
“You are home sweetie.” Mom replied.
“No…This is not my home. I got to go home!”
“Do you mean your eternal home?”
“Yes” She said before shuffling over to Dad. “Daddy I want to go home.”
Dad realizing what she wanted replied, “That’s alright baby,” he nodded. “You go on home now.”
“Thomas,” she turned to her husband. “I want to go home.”
Once satisfied all understood her intentions, she returned to her Lazy-boy chair, and around two weeks later, she went.
She went home to be with her Jesus.
I think about this all the time now. My sister Tricia knew this was not her home. In the end, she peeled herself free of the layers of this world… useless ambitions, materialism, obsessions with beauty, jealousies, grudges… to name a few. One by one, little by little, until all she wanted sitting in that chair was to be home with her Lord. I believe that is why allowing God’s timing in death is a gift to those who witness it. We get a glimpse of the truest form of someone’s spirit, shining through when all that useless baggage leaves them.
Around five years ago, I yearned for a simpler life. I wanted to move to Clermont, and give my boys a chance to grow up with the freedom to roam and have outdoor adventures. My boys loved visiting my family in Virginia where they could fish, hunt, and stomp through the woods, and I longed to return to the life of my youth.
My husband on the other hand, loved the convenience of living right down the street from all the five-star restaurants and the entertainment Disney and Universal had to offer. He said Clermont was too far out, and besides, he was not the “country boy” type.
If you are having trouble getting your husband to agree with you, I recommend sicking God on Him. I prayed God would change his heart, and make him want to move to the boonies. This advice comes with a disclaimer, God sometimes changes them too much, so be careful what you pray for.
Not long after, Jay took up hunting. Suddenly his closet was full of camouflage. Can I say here, I really don’t like camouflage? I grew up in Suffolk, Va. and hated camouflage then.
It didn’t stop there, out popped the flannel shirts on weekends, and casual work days. He grew a beard, and became a member of the NRA. He sold his Jaguar and bought a Ford Dually pick up truck. This was out of control! Did I mention he killed an alligator, and one day I found the thing on his feet. There is a line people! Alligator cowboy boots on a black man is just not normal! Between you and me, I’m giddy they are a little too tight.
My uptown city boy was changing and I began thinking ‘who is this mysterious cowboy lying next to me?’ Friends in Orlando must think he’s having a mid-life crisis.
In the middle of the madness, a dear friend told my husband he felt God wanted him to buy a farm. He invited us to come see a horse ranch he was considering. Jay and I spent the weekend at the house, skeet shooting and taking rides through the woods on the “quail truck.” We fell in love with the beautiful topography, for down every trail the trees and land produced something new to see.
Our last night there, while the trees tugged down the sun, I strolled through the large white barn. The stalls were clean and empty. There were no sounds of horses neighing or the swishing of their tails, but I imagined the stalls filled with stallions.
I prayed that if God didn’t want our friend to purchase this farm, then please allow a family to own it. It was used by an elderly woman to entertain her friends in card games, but this wonderland needed children running through it.
Unbeknownst to me, God was already answering my prayer, for in my womb my daughter Bella grew. The Father knows the desires of our hearts before we do.
Our friend purchased the farm and we made several weekend trips to see them. On one of these occasions, he offered us a plot of land to build a house. We didn’t have the funds to build a house at the time. We talked it over and prayed about what to do, while Jay steadily grew closer to the Father.
Soon, all the projects Jay worked on for the last 10 years began closing at the same time, and the money we complained about having to wait for, poured in at once.
I am still awed how God turns things around.
I was at the farm, the day my sister went home. I was standing on the lot we picked to build our house, I looked up at Jay and said, “I wish my sister could see this.”
Knowing her heaven call was imminent, he squeezed my shoulders. “Maybe she will,” he said.
I happened to glance at my watch at that moment, it was a little after 4:00pm.
A few hours later, back at our friend’s house, my family finally reached me to tell me my sister passed, and I wanted to know one thing.
“What time was it?” I said.
“It was a little after 4.” Momma replied.
I have to believe she saw the place where my temporary home will be, on the way to her eternal one.
Today, the farm house stands. We went vertical in July and in record timing the house was decorated and awaiting guests by Thanksgiving eve when Jay’s side of the family came pouring in. It was pure chaos! Due to the baby boom in the Adams family we hosted 4 newborn babes, and 13 children overall. God answered my prayer in the dark barn that night.
We can sit on the front porch and see the cows, and from the back porch we watch the horses. It may sound dreadfully boring to some, but to me, it is paradise. I don’t know if God wants us to move there permanently. He tends to reveal things little by little, step by step.
What I do know is while living in hectic Orlando, my heart yearns for the farm. It is a place to write, paint, and enjoy communion with other Christians. A place I feel at home and have peace.
It is a place to abide, to be still and know, but God calls us to be a light in a dark world doesn’t He? Let’s face it the darker the world gets the more we will be required to stand up and stand out.
We are not called to live for the security of our farm house, but for our eternal home.
What does a life lived for the eternal home look like?
It is a life lived with an uncompromising faith, giving unto others, loving God with all your heart, mind, and soul and believing His word is truth, whether you like it or not. It is a life not bound by political correctness, materialism, sin, a life of serving others, not self- promoting, not standing up for your rights, not complaining, and not filled with stubbornness. It is a life of sharing the good news of a Savior, and allowing your life to bring God glory. There may be persecution. There may be suffering. It is a life poured out for the sake of Christ and can only be lived by keeping your eyes, heart, and mind on Him. It is a life that will be messy, filled with temptation, and imperfect I can guarantee it.