Category Archives: Prayer
Remember that post I just did on surrender? If you don’t, you can read it here. Basically, it was about me struggle bussing to surrender my plans and desires and life to the Lord even though I know that He is definitely the one who should be directing my life. Not me.
Well, yesterday the Lord blew me away.
Not only did He heal my shoulder miraculously, he also provided something I have been praying a very long time for.
Let’s start with the shoulder.
I have had pain in my right arm/shoulder for eleven weeks now. Yes. Eleven. That’s almost three months. I can’t tell you what in the world happened to injure it, especially to injure it for a full eleven weeks and counting; I just woke up one morning with sharp pain in my neck (which is nothing new to me considering that neck pain is a chronic, daily reminder of my life with VEDS) as well as my shoulder, which was very new. The strangest part was the decreased range of motion in my right arm/shoulder. I couldn’t lift my arm to the side past a 45 degree angle and I really couldn’t shrug my right shoulder either.
This pain and reduced range of motion, as well as some surging/traveling pain down the entirety of my right arm, have been consistent for eleven weeks now. The surging comes and goes, but the limitation of movement and pain has been a consistent companion. Many people had mentioned that it sounded like a rotator cuff injury, so after putting it off for so long, I made an appointment with my doctor. He did some x-rays and decided that he thinks it is a problem with the vertebrae in my neck, not my shoulder. So, an MRI of my neck was ordered and I am still waiting for them to contact me to schedule it.
That night, I went to the Monday night prayer meeting at my church, like I always do. I told the ladies about the persistent pain and what the doctor had said. This isn’t the first time that I’ve brought physical pain to prayer. In fact, I bring that with me almost every week. Those ladies are always faithful to pray for whatever new pain exists or the lingering pains that cling to my muscles or joints and refuse to be released. They prayed for me, as they had done many times before, and we all went home.
That night I couldn’t sleep. My whole body ached all night and when I woke up yesterday morning, my neck was so tight that my right shoulder was one to two inches higher than my left shoulder at rest.
I tested out my arm to see how badly the neck pain and tension was affecting it.
It went passed the 45 degree mark all the way above my head. I tried it again. And again. I just did it again now. It still pops and my neck hurts some, but my range of motion is back!
I shrugged my shoulders to test the movement there. It went passed the typical stopping point. Although my neck still hurts and I don’t have full range of motion back, it is definitely a God thing!
You can’t look me in the face and tell me that going to the doctor and getting proof of an injury and then waking up the next day with the evidence almost completely gone is just a coincidence. That, my friends, is some divine healing! A touch from the Lord’s hand! Can I get a hallelujah!?
So, needless to say, yesterday was already shaping up to be a phenomenal day. However, that was just the beginning.
Yesterday I also received a letter containing a check that pretty much covers the rest of my graduate school tuition. Read that again. And again. Now, that may not be impressive to some people, but that is a direct answer to my prayers followed by an overflow of blessing on top.
I have been praying fiercely that the Lord would provide the money that I need for my tuition each semester, which is no small sum. I asked Him to surprise me and I have have no doubt in my mind that He would provide in one way or another. The past three semesters, God has provided my tuition in a myriad of ways and on a timeline that I could never understand, but He has never delayed and He has never let me down. He has been more than just faithful. He has been… Wow. There aren’t words. There is no way that I could contain how good and perfect and absolutely, miraculously, indescribably incredible the Lord has been to me. There just aren’t words. He cannot be contained in a paragraph or a phrase. He cannot be described with the meager words of my unremarkable language. He has certainly surprised me more than once just in how He has provided for this one particular area of need and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will continue to surprise me and He will continue to be the Almighty, Sovereign God that I know Him to be. I know that He will continue to defy the odds and do the impossible. He is good. All the time. And all the time. God IS good.
So. Yesterday was an absolutely phenomenal day. I saw the Lord answer not one, but two major prayers in my life right now. I had been praying for another $4,000 just to get through the coming Fall semester. The Lord did one better and provided enough for this semester and the next! Thank You, Lord! Thank You, Lord! Thank You, Lord!
And thank YOU! Thank you to everyone who has prayed for me and with me. Thank you for believing and trusting that the Lord would answer. Thank you for encouraging me in prayer and in person. Y’all are awesome and I pray the Lord blesses your socks off and reveals Himself to you in new and awe-inspiring ways.
God is good! Can I get an Amen!?
Surrender: (sur·ren·der / səˈrendər). verb. 1) Cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority. 2) Give up or hand over (a person, right, or possession), typically on compulsion or demand. 3) Abandon oneself entirely to (a powerful emotion or influence); give in to.
Definition credit: Google search engine.
If you ask 20 different people what surrender means to them specifically, you will probably get 20 different answers. For instance, if I were to ask you to define a moment in your life in which you felt as though you had surrendered or were surrendering something or someone, your answer would differ from mine.
That, my friends, is called perspective.
I have a totally different perspective on the verb “surrender” than you probably do. And in all honesty, I’m sure that my viewpoint on that ever so complex word will likely change within the next year. Why? Because I am going to face a magnificent moment of surrender sooner rather than later.
Allow me to explain.
This word, surrender, has been coming up frequently in my life. It was the topic of a weekend camp that I attended and since then it has refused to leave. In fact, it has decided to swirl amongst the inner workings of my mind and drive me mad. Or, more likely, the madness I am currently experiencing secondary to the swirling surrender will draw me out of the bondage within me that holds me prisoner and will free me to be a much better me. I’m hoping for the latter of the two.
You see, the word “surrender” isn’t really a pleasant one. It entails leaving something behind or giving something up, usually for good. As in, when you surrender it, you don’t get it back. Ever.
Well, sometimes we do get surrendered things back. And sometimes when we get them back, they are better than before; or maybe we are just better than before. Maybe we had to go through the time of surrender to better understand what we had so that we could appreciate it all the more once it was given back to us again. Or maybe, just maybe, we have to surrender something that we perceive as being the best for us so that we have open hands to receive what truly is the best for us.
The problem is: when you surrender something, you can’t just expect to get it back. That’s not the point. The point of surrendering something, especially when you are surrendering something to the Lord, is to humble yourself enough to say, “I don’t have control over this anymore; it’s all Yours.”
Easier said than done, right?
My Sunday school teacher has a lovely saying: “The problem with living sacrifices is they keep crawling off the altar.”
Can I get an Amen??
I mean, seriously. We sit there and say, “Oh, Lord, You are so good! You created all things and You know all things. You are working everything out for good and I know that You are sovereign and You are in control. I am relinquishing control of (*insert whatever you are surrendering here*) to You. Thank You for taking my burdens and giving me Your peace that surpasses all understanding.” Then what do we do? We pick up the thing we just laid down in surrender and we walk away carrying it as if we know better than God! I know I do it. I lay down my worries and anxieties and then I come back later that day and pick them up again! It’s a never ending cycle. I’m just thankful that the Lord puts up with me and loves me and gives me more grace than I could ever deserve!
How do I surrender? How do I take my life and every single thing in it and give it up? How do I take my worries about the future and lay them on the altar of sacrifice? How do I take my plans and desires and relinquish control of them? How do I surrender all that I am and all that I have?
It should be easy, right? My mind should be able to grasp the concept that God is more than able to handle my life and all of its relatively minuscule facets. I should be able to accept the fact (not theory or assumption, but fact) that God is far more qualified to run my life than I am.
Let me try to use an example: Me trying to control my own life and refusing to surrender it is like me trying to fly an airplane or spaceship with no prior knowledge on the subject. I look at the innumerable controls that I know nothing about and think that I’m qualified to not only operate but control it all. In the meantime, I am refusing the help of the wise and knowing pilot who is sitting back, just waiting for me to ask him for help (the Lord is our pilot, He is the one who directs our paths and teaches us where to go). I am also refusing to even attempt to read the manual that tells me how to fly the aircraft (the Bible, which is like our manual for life) because I can totally do it on my own. Oh yeah, and I have no clue where in the world I am supposed to be flying the plane or spaceship, so I’m basically just wandering around and acting like I have it all under control and I know what’s best for me… All the while, I am gracelessly flying myself into oblivion; ignoring every warning sign that passes me by; ignoring every flashing light warning me of my imminent demise… And the worst part is, I think I’m better off like that. I think I’m better off with me in control, rather than removing myself from the driver’s seat and surrendering control to the pilot, who knows where we are going and knows the best route to get us there with the least amount of turbulence…
One day I hope I learn how to keep myself on that altar. I pray that the Lord helps me to be a living sacrifice, completely surrender. I pray that I obediently go where He leads me and surrender the things that I need to relinquish control of. I pray that God teaches me how to walk away from the altar without picking everything back up. I pray that I humble myself enough to walk in obedience and servitude all the days of my life.
He’s getting me there. One day at a time. Very slowly, but surely, He is getting me there.
So here’s to tomorrow: a fresh start and a new day. A new opportunity to surrender what needs to be released and leave it there. I’m willing to try. Are you?
At the beginning of my time as a graduate student, one of my professors had us write a letter to ourselves and seal it in an envelope. This was done so that we could read our letters one day. When things were tough and we couldn’t remember the joy we had at the beginning of it all. When the insanity that surrounded us never ceased and rest was no where to be found.
Today was that day.
Life is tough as is. Throw in graduate level classes, clinic schedules, enough homework to drown the most studious of individuals, financial struggles, and work responsibilities… Well, you get the picture. Basically life is crazy and we’re swamped. I mean, I’m sure there are some phenomenal women in my cohort who are thriving and pushing through this insanity with grace and ease. Sadly, I am not one of them. Not even close.
Today my professor brought our letters into class and I opened mine.
I pulled out the envelope to see that I had written quotes on the outside of my letter:
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” -Philippians 4:13
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified or discouraged for the Lord Your God will be with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9
“Who by worrying can add a single day to his life” -Matthew 6:27
“Cast your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” -1 Peter 5:7
“________ is a big problem, BUT GOD IS BIGGER!”
The one that caught my eye was the last one. It is something I came up with for a lesson on David and Goliath and one day I want a plaque with those words to hang in my home at the height of Goliath. I made each child a laminated bookmark so they could write and rewrite their problems on the line and then realize that although it was a big problem, our God is bigger. God is even bigger than the insanity of the Speech Pathology graduate school program!
Once I opened the first part of the letter, I realized I had written even more things on the next flap of paper before I was able to read my letter. These grabbed my attention even more than the first verses and quotes because they are all things that God has said to me. Whether through a time of prayer, a song, or a Bible study, each of the following has been the voice of the Lord in my life speaking directly to me. (If you need the Lord to speak to you, maybe He can use these!)
“It’s gonna be worth it all.”
“Seek Me and be still.”
“Quit worrying. I’ve got this. Now, let Me got this.”
“I will provide.”
“Don’t give up. I AM here and I always will be.”
“Be [I AM] still.”
“I will give you rest.” (PRAISE JESUS FOR THIS PROMISE!!)
“Circle, then shout, Gentry. Then I’m going to bring the walls down. This battle will not be won with muscle, mighty warrior. This battle will be won by faith.” (this refers to the battle of Jericho when the Israelites circled the city in prayer and then shouted in victory)
And the real kicker:
“I’ve gotten you this far. Do you really think I’m going to give up on you now?”
I don’t know about you, but that one just slapped me in the face. Duh! Of course God won’t give up on me. He’s been faithful and gotten me through every hardship up until this point and I firmly believe that He will get me through this insanity.
If you would like to know what my full letter of encouragement said, please feel free to continue reading. I hope these words can help even one person remember that God truly is in control and He has a purpose and a plan for everything that is happening in your life. Don’t give up. He’s got you.
Take a deep breath. You’re fine. The Lord’s got you in the palm of His hand, remember? Everything that you are going through has a purpose and He will reveal that purpose to you when you are ready for it. Don’t forget about all of the other times that He’s been there for you and literally walked you through.
Remember when you sat in a quiet room with your family and two doctors seated around a big table. Remember how it felt when you heard the doctor say, “you tested positive for Vascular Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.” Remember the days and weeks after that appointment when you realized that your mom and brother had VEDS too, that you would probably never have your own children, that life with Brandon would forever change, and that your life would forever be marked by a bracelet with a label on it. Remember that feeling of being completely overwhelmed?
Now, do you remember how the Lord got you through all of that? How He walked with you through every question and every valley of darkness. How He sent people to pray for you and help you through it. Remember that? If He got you through every part of that valley, don’t you think He will get you through these two years of grad school?
“You will get through this. It won’t be painless. It won’t be quick. But God can use this mess for good. In the meantime, don’t be foolish or naive, but don’t despair either. With God’s help, you will get through this.” –You’ll Get Through This, Max Lucado
Calm down, be still, and seek the Lord. All you have to do is ask Him and He will give you what you are lacking. So ask. But make sure that you aren’t too far away to hear Yhwh speak. This graduate program is only two years of your life, but your relationship with God is eternal, so make sure you are putting Him and keeping Him first. “Seek first His kingdom and all of His righteousness and all of these things will be aded unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
You’ve got this because He’s got you. Don’t worry. It won’t help anything. Instead, pray like the overcoming warrior that you are.
-Your Wiser Self
In case you were wondering why I spelled Yahweh without the vowels, it was purposeful. Try to pronounce it without the vowels. It’s a whisper! Yhwh is a holy name of God that is literally only a breath. The thing is, you can’t hear Yhwh if you’re not close enough to hear His whisper. So get close and listen up!
Just a little food for thought. It’s one of my favorites.
Have you ever had a crazy encounter with the Lord?
You’re sitting there, minding your own business and you feel the nudge to go grab your Bible or a devotional or just take a moment to pray. When you’ve fought with yourself long enough to realize that no, it wasn’t just you having a random thought, it really was the Lord nudging you to move, you get up and go find a quiet place and obey.
Then He hits you. Hard.
This happened to me in the beginning of August. The third day of August to be exact.
I was minding my own business when I felt the Lord nudge me to find a quiet place and do the Bible study I was working through, Believing God by Beth Moore. So, after a moment of soul searching, I knew that I needed to obey and I needed to do so right then. So I did. I’ve learned over the years that if the Lord tells me to do something and I don’t listen right away, or at least as soon as I can, then I’m in big trouble.
I settled down with my Bible, markers, and study in hand and opened the page to see that the topic of the day’s lesson was Joshua and Jericho. “Okay,” I thought, “I know this story. It’s a great story and I’m sure God has awesome stuff to tell me today.” Little did I know that what He had to tell me that day wasn’t something that I could shrug off. In fact, it took me 3 whole weeks to complete the task He set before me that day…
If you have never heard the story of Joshua when he faced Jericho, you can find it in Joshua 5:13-6:27.
Joshua encountered an angel who told him that the Lord had a message for him. That message included God telling Joshua that He had given Jericho into his hands; in other words, God was telling Joshua that he already had victory over the city of Jericho, which also happened to have a massive wall around it and gates that allowed no one in or out. God also told him the plan for victory: walking around the city. Not fighting or preparing a sneak attack. God simply told them to walk around the city once per day, for six days, and then seven times on the seventh day with the priests blowing trumpets and then give up a final shout. Then, after all of that, the Lord told him that the walls around the city would fall in so that Joshua and the Israelites could rush in.
When they obeyed and carried the ark of the covenant around the city once per day for six days and then seven times on the seventh day and offered up a shout, that is exactly what happened. The walls fell in and Jericho was taken.
The reason Joshua and the Israelites were faced with Jericho was because it was directly in the way of their promised land. To get to the promised land, they first had to get through Jericho.
As I read through the lesson, I was prompted to take a moment and ask God what my Jericho was. So that’s exactly what I did.
I put the Bible study aside, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath. Then I saw it. I was standing high upon a cliff overlooking a vast, desolate wasteland. I searched the desert for a city surrounded by a round wall (because that’s how I envision Jericho must have looked). I looked, but saw nothing. I even tried squinting my eyes, but again saw nothing.
Then, suddenly, the Lord was standing on the cliff by my side. I asked Him to show me where my Jericho was; to point out the city and then name it for me. I knew my Jericho wasn’t actually a city that I needed to walk around. Instead, I figured the city I would find in the desert would be a symbol of something else and the Lord would name the city with what it was that I needed to pray circles around.
The Lord stretched out His hand and pointed into the distance. I looked, but I saw nothing but the desert laid out before me. He continued to point and said, “Look right down My arm to the point of My index finger and see what I see.” I leaned over; so close that I could see straight down His arm. He was pointing into the distance, beyond the vast desert before us. I could see mountains in the distance, but that was all. “No, Gentry, not with eyes of man” He said, “Look with eyes of faith! See? See it My way!”
Then I finally saw it.
The mountains weren’t just mountains, they were my promised land! Those mountains represented a previous vision the Lord had given me: when Brandon and I kneeled to pray, closed our eyes, and then arose from our prayer as an elderly couple, years into our marriage. “That is your promised land,” the Lord said. “This vast, desolate desert you see before you is your Jericho.”
Yes. the entire desert. As in all of it. As in a wasteland.
“Lord, how in the world am I supposed to circle the entire desert?” I asked.
I opened my eyes. I knew exactly how to circle a vast desert.
I found a piece of cardboard, a sharpie, a ruler, and a box cutter and I went to work. I measured the piece of cardboard and cut it into a 250mm x 250mm square. Then, I labeled it, “Jericho: a vast distance: 250 miles.”
That desert in my vision was indeed a vast, desolate wasteland, but that wasteland represented the vast distance between myself and the man I love. The distance which has been in place for more than four years and seemed to desire to stay that way for many more years, that was my desert. It had plagued me. That distance of 250 miles caused me so many days of worry and anxiety and stress and even depression at times. It was the source of so many problems, and yet I knew the Lord had that distance in place for a purpose. But I had gotten to the point of being so completely done with the distance between us and I was more than happy to circle that distance in the hopes of it crumbling.
I had grown so tired of the distance. So tired of only seeing Brandon for one weekend out of each month, save those nice times when we were at camp or able to visit after three weeks or even two at times. I had prayed so many prayers outlining just how tired I was of the distance and asking God to lessen it. And it seemed in that moment that He may have finally heard all of my prayers and finally decided it was time to let the distance crumble.
I was dedicated. For three weeks I laid that piece of cardboard on the floor and silently walked around it as I prayed in my mind for six days and on the seventh, I walked around it seven times while praying aloud and claiming the victory of my promised land even in the face of my Jericho.
During that time, God gave me a very specific prayer to pray, which aided in my circling. That prayer had to do with asking the Lord to hasten the day that Brandon and I would finally be able to be together. At the time, it looked as if we would have to wait another three to four years to be together because of school and work and the insanity of life. So I gladly prayed the hastening prayer that the Lord gave me.
At the end of those three weeks, the Lord answered my prayer for hastening and cut the projected time we would have apart in half. Praise Jesus! He opened doors and opened our minds to see His plan for us. He opened our eyes to see with eyes of faith, rather than simply seeing what was placed before me in this life with the eyes of man.
I found my Jericho. I circled my Jericho. In reality, I still am circling my Jericho, but victory is already mine and I can see my promised land looming on the horizon.
Now it’s your turn. Take some time and ask the Lord what is standing in the way of your promised land. Identify your Jericho and then circle it until the walls shatter into oblivion. You might just be surprised by what He shows you, but I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Have you ever had someone look you in the eyes and say, “Dream bigger! Your dreams just aren’t good enough.”?
Well, me either. Not really. It wasn’t so much a person as the Lord’s voice in my head one day as I was praying. He was very clear, though; my dreams were not up to His standards. So I upped my game.
First, I brought Him all of the dreams I did have: a house, family, good job, blah, blah, blah. Basically, all of the typical girl dreams, including a nice guy with a ring and a wedding eventually. Yeah… I’m pretty basic.
Then, I gave up my dreams and asked God what it was that He wanted me to be dreaming of. (That is an absolutely terrifying question to ask Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent God… Do it. I dare you.)
His answer wasn’t what I was expecting. Actually, He rather surprised me.
It was as if my dreams were pieces of clay that I had molded and spent so much time perfecting myself. They were well thought out and I had taken pieces of each of my dreams from different places: a detail from my best friends dream wedding, a characteristic from the storybook prince, a spark of life from my past experiences. But all of my hard work wasn’t good enough…
The thing is, God didn’t just waltz in, snatch up my dreams, and throw them by the wayside. Instead, He asked. He requested that I willingly surrender the things I had worked so hard on, but He also promised something better. So I did. I gave them all up. And what He offered me was so much better than I ever could have imagined.
I gave Him my dream of a house in the country with a wraparound porch and a swing. He gave me a massive house ready to hold friends and family from near and far, ready to serve anyone who walked across the threshold. He gave me a home filled with love and joy that echoed off of every wall. He gave me a wraparound porch for all of the kids I love and teach to run in circles throughout the day. He gave me a swing to sit with friends and family and converse about life and to sing to the kids around me as we swing away from the worries surrounding our lives.
I gave Him my dream of a family which had been shattered by the diagnosis of VEDS. He gave me a home filled with kids from all over the world. He gave me a family of adopted kids better than anything I ever could have imagined on my own. He gave me a church family bigger than any biological family I could ever have.
I gave Him my dream of a good job with good pay. He gave me a better job than I ever could have found on my own. He gave me experiences I didn’t know I needed. He gave me coworkers who would support me in Christ. He gave me my mission field in the midst of my work life. He gave me everything I would ever need, provided by His hand, not mine.
I gave Him my dream of a nice guy, of prince charming or whomever else girls dream about. He gave me a man to stand by my side when no one else could. He gave me a man wiling and able to support me when I forget to support myself. He gave me a man better than any prince charming, shadowhunter, Mr. Darcy, or superhero could ever be. He gave me a man who kneels in prayer with me and worships beside me. He gave me a man who would never run away, no matter how bad life gets.
Then, He gave me a new dream: to travel. To see the world He had so deftly created and continues to create and renew each and every day. But He didn’t just give me the desire to see it on a TV or computer screen. No. He gave me beauty beyond my wildest dreams and joys I never knew I could behold, all with my own eyes. Adventure. Journey. Explore. Travel. To see it all for myself and enjoy every step of the journey, every moment of the adventure that takes me wherever He leads.
The Lord didn’t take my dreams and toss them in the trash. He transformed them. He remolded them into something more beautiful than I could have imagined, something I never knew I wanted.
So go ahead. Dream bigger. I dare you.
If you missed the first part of the story, you can find it here.
I know it’s been a little while since I last posted, so I’ll give you a quick recap of my last post: Brandon and I decided to take a break from any kind of communication for the whole month of October, 2012 in order to focus more on the Lord and seek out His will for our relationship. We were not dating at the time, just “talking” and we had not seen each other again since we said goodbye at camp.
October was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It took a lot of self-control to not look back at our text messages. It took even more self-control to decide to block him on Facebook after I realized that even though we weren’t supposed to be communicating, I could still see everything he posted on social media (that was horrific by the way, especially when he posted sweet things). At one point, one of my friends was talking to him and ever so nicely came over and said, “Guess who I’m talking to!” Yes, they knew about October. Yes, it stung. Yes, it hurt. And yes, I put on a smile and laughed along with them so they didn’t feel bad about it.
You know the quote that says, “You never know what you have until it’s gone?” Whoever coined that phrase knew what they were talking about. When I woke up on October 1st, I still almost expected a good morning text from Brandon. I expected to see his name pop up on my phone at some point during the day. I expected to get a phone call that night and hear his voice before I went to sleep. I knew it shouldn’t come and it never did. But that was what I wanted, right?
I wanted Brandon to agree to not communicate with me for a whole month. I wanted him to agree to not text me, not call me, and basically vanish from my life for a month. Well, I wanted him to vanish as much as someone can when said person was constantly on my mind and seemed to come up in almost every conversation I had… The problem was, I had asked for this. I asked for the distance I didn’t want. I asked for the communication I so desired, to be cut off completely. I asked for it all. Literally. At that point I was questioning everything I thought I had heard from the Lord along with my sanity, of course.
But God is and was good and He brought many blessings and revelations through October.
When Brandon didn’t freak out about my absolutely insane request to cease communication, it was the first time I realized how serious he was about our relationship. Now, please remember that I asked all of this of a guy I had only known for three months and also hadn’t seen again in those three months. I also may or may not have mentioned to this boy that I was looking for a man worthy to marry. And he didn’t even flinch. At all. I’ve never known another 18 year old guy to react with such a calm and accepting spirit. Three months in…. I’m just praising the Lord that He has turned that 3 months into more than 3 years now. But that’s a story for another time.
October was a time that the Lord gave me to ensure that I was placing Christ at the center of my life rather than allowing myself to place a boy in His rightful place. It was a truly freeing experience, despite all of the craziness. We both learned a little more about who we were in Christ before we pursued a relationship together under the Lord’s guidance.
Now, let me just tell you that I cannot possibly express the number of different emotions that I experienced during October. It was like an emotional rollercoaster on steroids. The problem was, the highs never lasted long and the lows were lower than I had ever known them to be. However, through it all, God was right there with me. He rode with me on my crazy rollercoaster and I know that He was with Brandon as well.
The moment that we were able to talk to each other again, I got a call. November 1, 2012 at 12:01am. I know this is all about to sound like the crazy, mushy movie stuff, but I’m going to say it anyway. The moment I heard his voice, it made every single second of October worth it. The moment he said, “I missed you,” I knew that we had made the right choice. It was like that one moment made up for the month of insanity that preceded it. Hearing his voice again and knowing that he missed me and hadn’t decided that I was absolutely insane (which I definitely am) or given up on me brought so much joy. To know that October didn’t make him run screaming for the hills made me realize just how much I liked that boy.
Even though our conversation only lasted a little while that night, the days, weeks, months, and years of communication that have followed October have been blessed because of our obedience to the Lord in that time.
We decided that we didn’t need to change much about our relationship, other than truly striving to keep Christ at the center of our individual lives as well as at the center of our relationship, of course. Neither of us felt like God was leading us to start a relationship right at that moment, but we also didn’t feel like He was telling us to back away from it. So, we just kind of picked up where we left off, with our minds set on doing God’s will, not our own.
October was a doozy. It was nowhere near my idea of fun, though it definitely fit my criteria for following God when He tells you to do something even when you really don’t want to. We both came out stronger in our faith and we learned more about ourselves and each other as well. It was a blessing disguised as a trial; so I’ll just keep praising the Lord and counting October as pure joy, just like James said to do in James 1:2.
I know it’s been a while since I posted, but life has been absolutely insane. Today, I am going to talk a little bit about something other than VEDS. I want to tell you about another way that I am walking along “A Path Less Traveled” in my life: my relationship. This will be the first in a series of posts because this story is a rather long one.
Let’s start at the beginning. To set the scene, we were at church camp during the summer of 2012. Now, if you know anything about being at a camp with high humidity, southern heat, no A/C, late night services, and a ton of games that get you hot and sweaty, then you may understand that I never actually looked presentable. I’m not one of those girls that gets dressed up for the services at night, though I applaud the girls who do because they are better women than I will ever be. Summer camp is also usually a place where teenagers have what I call a “Camp Fling.” A camp fling occurs when a guy and girl decide that they kind of like each other and then proceed to flirt with each other throughout the week of camp. It never escalates to more than just flirty comments or sitting together at meals and service, and by the end of the week, it is over. Thus termed a camp fling.
I had been known to have a camp fling or two over the years that never lasted beyond the last day of camp. However, that year I determined that I would focus all of my efforts on the Lord and refuse to have a camp fling. Yes, I am completely aware that this should have been my focus from my very first year at camp, it just took me a while to get there.
So there I was, seventeen years old with a heartfelt desire to serve the Lord and forsake any camp fling that was flung my way. I had literally spent hours in prayer during the months before camp praying that I would be completely focused on God and what He had planned for my life, rather than trying to find a boyfriend. (That was a big deal for me to pray considering I had never had a boyfriend before and I longed for it, despite the people who said I was better off alone.) Little did I know, the Lord had a different plan.
He allowed me to complete my week at camp without a single camp fling. After that week, however, all bets were off. I came back two weeks later to counsel at a camp for younger kids just like I had in the past. That week, the Lord placed a guy named Brandon right in the palm of my hand. Literally. There is no other way that he would have gotten to that camp.
Brandon had never been to this camp before. His friend Stephen called him the night before camp started and let Brandon know that his church would pay for him to go. His dad said yes and they left the next morning for camp.
Brandon met the director of the younger camp while he was at our camp two weeks before. No, we hadn’t actually met while we were at camp together during that first week. Well, not unless you count me almost refusing to give a random guy (who just so happened to be Brandon) a tissue because his nose was bleeding during a game of ultimate frisbee. Yes, I know I’m a terrible person. The Lord dealt with me in that moment and I did end up offering him a tissue and repenting for my bad attitude. I’m very competitive and their team was being particularly snotty during our game. But now I’m getting off topic.
The director of the younger camp asked Brandon and his friend Stephen to come back to counsel her camp and they were only barely able to. They came up the day the camp started rather than coming the night before, like the rest of the counselors did. I was already set up in a cabin and had two other guy counselors on my team with me. The following morning, however, I got moved to a new cabin which put me on a team with Brandon and Stephen, otherwise known to me as “the funny guy (Stephen) and his tall friend I don’t really know at all (Brandon)…”
But I’ll save the rest for another time.
When you think of praying, what do you see? Most people see something like a person kneeling with their eyes closed and hands folded. That used to be my view too, but that changed in 2014. Now, I see a garden. Let me explain by taking you through the same thing I went through at an international youth conference.
Now, you’ll probably want find a quiet, cozy spot and take a deep breath.
So here we go! Actually, side note first: this is much better if it is done with your eyes closed and someone actually talking you through this. However, since I absolutely refuse to record myself in any way for you, you can read it to yourself and then go through the steps yourself at a later point in time. Or, if you’re really creative, you can get a friend involved and ask them to read it to you. Slowly. And I mean really slowly. If you rush it then it doesn’t have the same affect. So, now let’s get started!
Close your eyes.
Imagine a garden. What kind of plants are in your garden? Are there trees? Flowers? Is there a water anywhere? Where are you sitting? Is it a bench? Or a tree branch? Or the ground? What do you see? Imagine your garden completely. Don’t leave a single detail out.
Now, you see someone walking toward you in your garden. You realize that it’s Jesus.
He asks to sit with you. Respond however you wish.
Jesus sits down right there with you. What is He wearing? What color are His eyes? Look into His eyes. He has kind eyes. There is no condemnation or judgement in His eyes. They are filled with love for you. Love and kindness.
He has something to tell you. Listen. Don’t speak just yet. Just listen to what Jesus has to tell you. What did He tell you?
Now, look down at your hands. Think of all of the things you’ve done wrong. Things you’ve said. Things you’ve thought. Things you shouldn’t have. Think of all of your worries and anxieties. Think of all of the things that cause you stress. Each of those things is a box or some other kind of physical item. Place all of them in your hands. How many are there? Can you carry it all?
Jesus stretches out His hands. He tells you to place everything in His hands. You can choose to give it to Him or you can choose to keep it. He won’t force you to do anything. If you give everything to Him, it all disappears into His capable hands. Your hands are empty. Ready to receive.
Jesus asks you to hold your hands out. He puts a box in your hands. How big is your box? What color is your box? What shape is your box? How does your box open?
Remember, this is a gift from Jesus. He says that it has everything that you need for today. Go ahead and open it.
What’s inside of your box?
Keep talking to Him. It’s a conversation. A two-sided conversation. You speak to Him and then He responds to you. You are literally sitting with Jesus having a conversation with Him. Don’t let that pass through your mind before you fully grasp the significance of it.
You can open your eyes now.
Now you can go to your garden and meet with Jesus any time that you want! This way of praying has helped me immensely because it allows me to have a visual and have a legitimate two-way conversation with Jesus. I talk to Him and He comforts me when I’m upset. He wipes away my tears and holds me in His arms so that I can hear His heartbeat. He’s alive. He’s real. And we speak daily.
If you get tired when you’re praying and have a hard time staying focused, this can help you more than you know. If you don’t like sitting and talking to yourself for hours (or at least that’s what it feels like to you), then this could be your answer. Give it a chance.
If you think all of this is gibberish and there’s absolutely no merit to it, then I dare you to try it. Take a moment. Find a quiet place. And actually try it. Have a conversation with the Lord. I bet it’ll change your life. It changed mine.