The Open Window

“You’ll like this one,” her husband told her.

She wasn’t so sure. House hunting had turned out to be more time consuming and exhausting than she had expected. Between her job and her kids, she could barely squeeze in the time that looking at houses took. And, as much as she wanted to move out of their cramped trailer, she just wasn’t happy with the houses she had seen in their price range. So she had turned the bulk of the house hunting over to her husband. He and the realtor had already spent countless hours searching and touring houses – back when it all had to be done in person – and only involved her when they needed her opinion on the more promising ones.

“Actually, there are two houses, so if you don’t like the first one, we can go look at the second one,” her husband told her as they dropped off their kids with his mom and headed across town.

“Oh,” he added. “They are both a bit over our price range, but I think we can swing it.”

She turned to him. “How much over?”

 

“Don’t worry,” he responded. “It’s not that much.”

“How much?” she asked again.

“$150,000.”

“That’s not a little bit! We agreed we couldn’t go over $100,000!” She frowned. “This is a waste of time.”  What was he thinking? They were already counting pennies each month with the mortgage they were paying now. How in the world could they afford something that would be so much more?

“Let’s just go look at them for comparison. I really like them.”

Sure enough, the first house was so much better than any other house she had looked at. It had all the features she wanted, including a room upstairs that she could make into her private retreat. Then they went to look at the second house. As they pulled their minivan into the double driveway, she looked at the large two story brick front house and thought, “No way!”

Walking in the front door, she was blown away with the balcony overlooking the entryway and living room, and the large open floor plan. White walls were a welcome contrast to the dark paneling in their trailer, and there were large windows everywhere, including the floor to ceiling bay window in the living room.

“I love it,” she told her husband.”I could definitely be happy living here. But we can’t afford it.”

 

“We’ll see,” her husband said.

As they backed out of the driveway, she told him to stop for a minute so she could take a picture of it like she had done with the previous houses. She pushed the button on the door to roll down the window, stuck the camera out into the darkening winter air, snapped a picture, then pushed the button to raise the window. Only the window wouldn’t go up. She tried several times, then turned to her husband.

“It won’t go back up,” she said in frustration.

“Don’t worry. I’ll check it out. It’ll be too dark by the time we get home so I’ll look at it tomorrow.”

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She worried anyway. All the way home, shivering as the cold air from the open window blew over her, she worried about how much it would cost to fix it, and where they would get that money.

 

“Don’t worry, he told her again. “God will provide. Besides, it will probably be fine in the morning.”

 

He was right. In the morning, the window worked fine.

“It’s a sign from God,” he said.

The following Sunday they asked some friends to pray with them about the house. Should they let it go and stick to their price range like she thought? Or should they buy this house and trust God to provide the mortgage payments like her husband thought?

During the prayer, one of the friends said they believed the minivan window being stuck open was a sign from God, that He was giving them an open door – in this case, and open window – to the house even though it was way more expensive than she thought they could afford. “Trust God,” the friend said.

“See, I told you,” her husband told her.

So feeling she was walking on and would probably end up drowning in deep water, she signed the papers along with her husband, and moved into the house of her dreams.

Month after month God did provide although she couldn’t figure out how. Looking at their finances on paper, there was no way they should be able to make the payments. Yet they always did. She felt like she was living in an ongoing miracle!

Over the years, she would frequently stop and look around at the house – this gift from Him – and her heart would fill with gratitude to the amazing God who not only gave her more than she could have imagined, but gave it to her in such an amazing way!

P.S. For the rest of its life, that minivan window never got stuck again.

The Pit

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It was dark and cold. She sat at the bottom of a deep pit. How she got there, she didn’t know. She just knew she didn’t like it and wanted out.

She stared straight up at the faint speck of light she saw. She knew there was life up there – bright, warm life – because she vaguely remembered that she had once lived there and she wanted desperately to get back to that life, but how? She had tried calling for help until her voice went hoarse then eventually silent. But even if her voice had reached the top, no one had responded.

Maybe there were tunnels that would lead her out. She felt all around in the darkness but the walls surrounding her were solid.

Maybe there was a rope or something that she could use to pull herself up. No, she would have felt it when she was feeling the walls.

If she was going to get out of this pit, she would have to climb one of the walls. Although all the walls were made from dirt, she had noticed that they were also different from each other. One wall was quite bumpy with different size bumps sticking out in random places. Another wall was very smooth, almost slick, but seemed to have something like branches sticking out at different intervals. The holes on the third wall resembled the craters on the moon, with each hole varying in size and depth. And the last wall was plain dirt with no other feature that she could feel. Each of the first three walls appeared to be hard packed dirt but the dirt on the fourth wall was softer and looser. From time to time some of the dirt, knocked loose by a vibration or something, would drift down to her.

The wall with the branches seemed to be the best choice. Surely she could pull herself up branch by branch. She had always prided herself on her arm strength. She stood up and grabbed the first branch. Then standing on her toes, she managed to reach a slightly higher branch. Letting go of the first branch, she hung there not quite sure how to reach the next branch. She remembered some movies she had seen where people climbing mountains had swung on their ropes to reach one ledge after another. She didn’t have a rope, and she would have to swing using just one arm. Could she do it? She eyed the next branch she thought she’d be able to reach and began swinging. Back and forth in ever increasing arcs until she got close enough to grab it. Success! She tightened her grip on that branch and let go of the lower one. She chose her next branch and began swinging. She got this one too. And so slowly, branch by branch she got closer to the light at the top. Crack! The branch she was hanging from broke and she began falling. She tried desperately to snag a branch on her way down but was unsuccessful. She hit the bottom hard and lay there unmoving for what felt like hours. Or maybe days. Eventually she tried moving different body parts. Although everything was very sore, she didn’t think anything was broken. After a few more days, when she felt better, she tried climbing again choosing different branches. She got about halfway up before her grip on a branch slipped and she fell. This time her head hit the bottom and everything went black.

When she awoke later, her head was throbbing. At first she couldn’t remember what had happened. But as she lay there, it slowly came back to her – both her attempts at climbing the wall, and the falls. Not wanting to repeat them, she decided not to try the branch wall again.

She considered the other walls. Which should she try next? Maybe the one with the holes. With her feet in the holes helping to support her as she pulled herself up, she wouldn’t need to rely on just her upper body strength. She walked over to the wall and checked the holes. The ones she was able to feel seemed deep enough to put half her foot into – plenty big enough for what she wanted to do.

At first it was easy, and she quickly went from hole to hole. But as she got higher, the holes got further apart and she had to stretch to her limit to reach them. When she got near the top, using the light that made its way in, she couldn’t find any more holes within her reach. She looked down to retrace her steps so she could attempt a different path but the darkness prevented her from seeing her previous holes.  Her muscles began to tremble as they became fatigued. She knew if she didn’t move soon, she would fall.  But there was no way up, and no way down. Frustrated, she screamed and let her body fall.

When she awoke later, she could barely move. Every muscle hurt. There was no way she could attempt climbing again until she healed. So she curled up on the damp floor and cried. Eventually she fell asleep and dreamed of the freedom she would find if she ever managed to climb out of her pit.

There was no way to measure time so she didn’t know how long she had slept, but her muscles weren’t as sore when she woke. She stretched carefully and regarded the last two walls. One with bumps and one flat. The one with the bumps looked more promising. Like with the holes, she could use her feet to help stabilize and support her weight, and there were more bumps on this wall than holes on the other wall. As she climbed, she developed a rhythm. Reach, step, reach step. Again, at first it was easy. But as she neared the top, the bumps began to flatten slightly making them harder to grab and to step on. Sweating now, muscles beginning to tremble from exertion, she strained to reach the last few bumps. Just as she thought she had it, her sweaty hand slipped causing her to lose her balance. Scrambling frantically to grab hold of something, she managed to regain her grip only to lose it a moment later. She cried out as she fell, and hit the bottom hard, this time landing on her back. The breath knocked out of her, she lay there not moving, despair filling her.  Maybe it would be better to quit trying. All it has gotten her was more pain. But then she looked up at the faint light above her. There was freedom up there. There was life up there. If only she could reach it.

She turned her gaze to the last wall. The least appealing of the four. No hand holds. Nothing to grip. Just smooth, soft packed dirt.

How in the world would she get up that one? Or maybe she should try one of the other ones again? She shook her head, remembering the falls she had taken.

When she was able, she crawled over to the fourth wall and felt as much of it as she could. No hidden crevices, nothing sticking out anywhere. As she touched it, some of the dirt came loose and fell down by her. That dirt was way too loose even if there was something to grip. Wait… too loose? Could she dig her way out? If she could dig out the holes herself, she wouldn’t need to worry that she would run out of them when she got near the top, or that they would be too far apart. She tried scratching at the dirt with her fingers and the dirt easily fell away until she had a good size hole. She stood up and dug out another hole. Then another and another until she had five holes staggering up the wall, each one about a foot higher than the last. She carefully stepped into the bottom hole and eased herself up, her hands gripping the higher holes. The dirt held, so she tried putting her other foot into the next hole and again easing her weight up. But this hole crumbled at her weight and she slid back down to the ground. She wondered why the first hole had been strong enough but the second had not. Using her hands she studied the difference between the two and realized the second hole was not as deep into the wall as the first had been. She moved a few feet over and began digging again, this time making sure the holes matched that first one. As she climbed, she thought she could make it as long as she kept it slow and made sure the holes were consistent. But halfway up, she slipped and slid back down the wall. She tried a third time, then a fourth time. No success. She managed to get to varying heights, but each time, she ended up slipping back down. Eventually the wall wouldn’t hold any more holes and she was forced to give up.

Sitting back down in the center of her prison, she despaired. She knew there was life up there but there was no way she could reach it. This deep, dark pit was determined to keep her there no matter what she tried. Ok, fine. If that was the way it would be, then so be it. She accepted her fate, curled up on the floor, and waited to die.

However a part of her, a tiny piece of her from deep down, would not give up. So from time to time, she would call up weakly for help just on the chance that someone would be passing by at just that moment, hear her, and find a way to get her out. But she didn’t have much hope that it would work.

Then suddenly, she felt something wrap gently around her and start to pull her upwards. She looked up and was blinded by the brightness of the light that was so much closer to her already. Within minutes, she was out of that pit and standing on the soft green grass next to it. The light was so bright, the air so fresh, she couldn’t help dancing and shouting in delight. All around her people were doing the same thing. It was a glorious place, everything she had imagined and more. She turned to look for who or what had rescued her and saw a man standing nearby, a huge smile on his face as he watched her dance. She knew without asking that this was her rescuer. Crying out her thanks, she ran to him and was embraced by strong warm arms. As she let his love fill her, she knew she would never leave this amazing man. In his arms, she was safe, loved… and free!

In the Beginning, Chapter Three

She felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. Or, more accurately, a fear and a dislike.

She could go home early and chance finding her home had been visited again by someone unknown. She no longer felt safe in her house and usually tried to get there late enough that she could go straight to bed, cower under her blankets, and try to fall asleep immediately so she didn’t have to deal with the fear she felt.

IMG_20180221_154902913Or she could stay where she was, at her mom’s house, for a few more hours. But that would require she watch the stupid TV movie about Jesus her mom was turning on.

Neither option was good. Which was worse? Her fear of her home? Or her dislike of anything religious?

She stayed.

On the TV, she watched as Jesus was born, grew up, and began to preach. The acting was good, she thought, even though she wasn’t enjoying the story.

But that all changed at the first strike of the whip. Her world – the TV, living room, dog, mom, everything – disappeared as she was drawn into the story. She watched Him get whipped then nailed to a cross as if she was there. She almost felt the pain of the nails as they were hammered into his flesh. She felt such deep sorrow as He died.

Suddenly understanding flooded into her mind like light flooding a dark room when a light switch is turned on. She KNEW why He had died! She knew He had died for her sins and the sins of all people. She knew He died freely so they could be free.

Then she watched as He rose from the dead. Again understanding flooded her. He wasn’t dead any longer. He was alive! He was ALIVE! He IS ALIVE!

Her mind and heart on fire, she hurried home, dug out the bible she had been given years before but had never opened, and began reading. She wanted to know everything she could about Jesus.

In the following weeks, she could think of little else besides Jesus. Love for Him filled her completely and He consumed her every moment. She couldn’t help talking about Him to everyone she met.

“He’s alive!” she would say.

“Yeah, we know that,” they would respond.

But she knew by their lack of enthusiasm that they didn’t understand. So she would say, “No, you don’t understand. He didn’t just die, rise from the dead, and go to heaven. He’s alive! Right here with us right now!”

“Yeah, yeah, we know,” they continued to respond.

No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t make anyone understand. Sure, they listened to her – or at least most did – and politely agreed with her. But they couldn’t understand what she was talking about and they couldn’t understand the great love and excitement for Jesus that flowed throughout her entire being. They didn’t understand that her old life was over, and her new life was just beginning.

All they knew was the girl who never smiled had become a girl who couldn’t stop smiling!

In the Beginning, Chapter Two

She opened her front door and froze. Something wasn’t right. Her young dog was staring into the entryway, hair bristling, and growling deep in his throat. Oh no, not again, she thought. This was the third time her dog had acted spooked about going into her house after long days spent working and chauffeuring.

Was someone here? She looked as far as she could into the dark house and listened intently but saw and heard nothing.

“Someone here?” she called out.

No answer. There hadn’t been those other times either.

She slowly reached in without entering the house and turned on the light switch that was just inside the door frame. The light didn’t reveal anything out of place. But her dog was still growling and staring into the living room. That was strange. The last two times he had quit growling as soon as she had turned on the lights.

Should she leave this time? Go find someone to come back with her? No, she was an adult. She could handle this like she did the other times. She didn’t want anyone to think she was not capable of living by herself, of taking care of her problems herself.

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Heart pounding, she reached in and picked up the baseball bat she kept by the door for protection. Holding it up over her shoulder, she walked into the living room.

No one was there. And nothing appeared to be missing. However, the TV was on. Did she forget to turn it off before leaving this morning? No, that was impossible. She never turned it on in the mornings. She glanced around.  Wait. The slip cover on the couch was wrinkled like someone had been sitting there. And there was a glass on the side table with some ice melting in it. She tried to remember if she had forgotten to straighten the slip cover the night before. Regardless of whether she did or didn’t, that glass with the melting ice could not be hers. If she had forgotten to clean up before going to bed the night before, the ice would have been completely melted by now. And even if she had for some reason drunk something while watching TV that morning, it wouldn’t explain how the ice was still in there after the sixteen hours she had been gone.

Someone had been here! Maybe more than one! There hadn’t been any evidence the first two times, but this time there was. Were they still here?

She quietly made her way down the hallway to check the bedrooms and bathroom, her dog cowering behind her legs, a low growl still rumbling from his throat.

No one. The house was empty.

She turned and headed back to the living room, relaxing a little bit as her dog stopped growling. She checked that the doors were locked. They were, and the chain lock was still in place on the back door. So if they had been there, how did they get out?

Puzzling over who could have been there, no longer able to dismiss it as her imagination, and her nerves too frazzled to stay up, she decided to go to bed. She climbed in, pulled the covers over her head, and willed herself to escape into sleep.

In The Beginning, Chapter One

Her short life was at an end, or so she wished. She had no desire to go on. Nothing ever turned out in her favor. Every road she tried ended up in pain. So she went through the motions of life and waited to die.

People who saw her had no clue how she felt on the inside. They only saw a girl that never smiled. “Smile,” they would say. “It can’t be all that bad.” But she had no smiles left.

Her days were spent working at a job she hated, chauffeuring her mom who didn’t drive, and fantasizing about ways to end her life.  Her nights were spent crying and begging a God she didn’t believe existed to do something. “I don’t know if You exist,” she’d say, “but if You do, then do something. I can’t keep on like this.”

But nothing happened.

By day, she wanted nothing to do with God. Come to church, her mom would say. Pray this prayer. But she refused. She had tried that years ago but found it to be pointless. God didn’t exist. And if He did, he didn’t care. Maybe for some people, but not for her. So she ran as far and as hard as she could away from Him. But by night, she cried out to that same God.

Still nothing happened. Or so it seemed to her.

What she didn’t know – what she couldn’t see – were all the details God was weaving together into a glorious net that He would use to catch her as she ran.IMG_20180223_012950159

Faking It

She had a friend. He declared his love to her at a time she was incapable of returning it. Although he left, they stayed in touch.

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“I’m going to win her,” he thought

“I’m glad he’s gone,” she thought.

Over the next year she began writing to him about her new experiences with Jesus.

If I pretend to be a Christian, she’ll want me, he thought.

“Hey, I’ve started going to church, too!” he wrote her.

“That’s wonderful,” she responded.

I need more, he thought.

“I’ve started going to Bible study,” he wrote her.

“That’s great,” she responded.

Hmmm, he thought. What else? Maybe I really do need to go to church so I can give her more details. So he started attending a local church and they began writing about what they were learning from their respective churches.

“Hey! Guess what?” he wrote her one day after several months. “I got saved last night!”

“I thought you already were,” she wrote back.

“I just told you than because I thought it might make you want me. But the pretending became real! I guess all that church rubbed off on me!” he wrote.

“That’s awesome!” she wrote back and rejoiced with him in his new life.  His desire for her was replaced with a desire for Jesus – and they were both happy.

From faking it to win her heart,

his heart was won by God instead.

 

How amazing is that!

Hunger Part 3: Arrival

She managed to control her nerves by not thinking about it. At least she tried to. But as the weekend drew nearer, she found herself thinking more and more about the coming Sunday night. Driving through an area she’s never been to was not a problem for her. But meeting a group of strangers by herself was usually scary, and meeting this group of strangers was, for some reason. downright terrifying.

“They are going to be so different than you that you won’t fit in. You’re going to be soooooo uncomfortable.”

She considered that thought. What if they were totally different than her, than what she was used to? And she sticks out like a sore thumb?

“You don’t have to go.”

Maybe she shouldn’t go. Just not show up. No one would care. They probably already forgot that she had called. No. God led her to this group. If God wanted her there, then it’s got to be OK. She pictured herself there, strangers all around her – but also God there with her making it OK. No, she wouldn’t back out.

“They’re going to turn out to be a bunch of crazy fanatics. Jumping up and down, running all over the place, making weird noises. And when they pray for you, they’ll put their hands on you and yell prayers at you until you fall down. They’ll even try to make you do all those crazy things with them.”

What if they were weird? Really weird? She had read about some cults. What if they tried to make her do something she didn’t want to do? What if they got really crazy? Would she be able to get up and leave or would she be forced to stay to the end? Fear rose up in her. She began to think she couldn’t go through with this.

“Forget about going. That’s the smart thing to do. You don’t need to take this risk.”

She thought maybe she should just wait until she found another group. A safer group. But she couldn’t deny how God had led her to this group. God knew her, and He wouldn’t lead to a place that wasn’t good for her. She decided to trust in His guidance.

“By the time the meeting is over, it’ll be late and you’ll be tired. Maybe too tired to drive the hour it will take to get home.”

She pictured how Sunday night would go. She’d drive the hour from her parents’ home, arrive at the meeting at 7 PM, the meeting would last for 2 hours, then about half an hour of fellowship, so she’d probably be back in her car by 9:30. Another hour to drive home would get her there around 10:30. Add the time change, and she’d get home… wait…  it would be almost midnight before she got home! Not only would it be a long drive home, but she had to get up early the next morning for work!

“It wouldn’t be fair to make your work suffer because you’re tired from going to bed so late. This meeting is just held at the wrong time for you.”

She thought how her work always suffered when she was tired. She couldn’t attend these meetings. It wouldn’t be right. Relief in having a good excuse not to go this Sunday night began to wash through her but was stopped when she remembered again how she had prayed for a group and this is the one God led her to. He knew what was best for her. She would go this Sunday and trust Him to handle the tiredness issue.

“They aren’t going to like you. In fact, they aren’t even going to be friendly.”

What if she went in there and they ignored her? What if they didn’t want her there? She should just forget it. Why take the risk of being somewhere she wasn’t wanted? But then she remembered how friendly Pat had sounded, how excited Pat had seemed. If the group was as nice as Pat, it will be fine. She could do this. She would do this.

Sunday night finally arrived. She drove slowly towards the church. Her heart was pounding, her hands sweating, and she began to shake as the neared the church.This was too hard. She couldn’t do it after all. She drove past the church and headed for home. But after a few minutes, she turned around and headed back to the church. She had to do this. There was no other way to meet her need to worship.

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She slowed down and pulled into a parking space. Her hands touched the key but stopped before turning the car off. She sat for several minutes, watching people enter the church, before she could make herself shut off the engine. It was several more minutes before she managed to open the door and get out. She felt sick, her stomach all twisted into a knot. She could still turn around and go home. It wasn’t too late. No one had seen her. But even as those thoughts came, she knew she was going inside. Her desire for God outweighed her fears. She walked up to the door, opened it, and taking a deep breath, she went inside.

As she entered the hall, she immediately noticed two things. The cheerfulness of the light and the joy on the people’s faces. Some stood in small groups talking with each other, others were leaving by a back door. A few walked by her, talking about Jesus as if He was right there. She stood there uncertain of what to do. Where was Pat? She said she’d meet her at the door. But no one came.

“They don’t care about you. Pat changed her mind and won’t come meet you. They’re all ignoring you because they don’t want you here.  You should leave now before it gets worse.”

As the hall slowly emptied, she become increasingly uncomfortable and considered her options. Follow the people out the back door to wherever they were heading and risk being rejected when they see her? Or go back to her car and go home where everything was familiar and safe? She had just turned to leave when a voice called out to her. A lady hurried over to her and introduced herself as Pat, apologized for not getting there sooner, and explained the meeting was about to start in the church.

She followed Pat through the back door, down a sidewalk, and into the church. Music was playing and everyone was clapping as they sang along to the lively music. She found a seat in the back and sat down to watch. During the next few songs, some people left their seats to dance in the aisles, one man coming to sit by her momentarily before dancing off. Feeling welcomed by the smile the man had given her, she began to sing. After a few more songs, the music slowed down and the people raised their arms and began to worship Jesus. As she joined them, a sense of God’s love and of being home washed over her. And she knew that all she had gone through to get there was worth it. She raised her heart in thankfulness to the amazing God who had answered a simple girl’s prayer in such an amazing way!

Hunger Part 2: The Call

“I can’t do it.”

“Do you want this?”

“Yes, I do.”

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So call.”

She stared at the phone hanging on the wall. Call a number she had never dialed, to talk to someone she had never met? She shook her head.

What if they can’t understand me?  Her mind drifted back to her childhood, to a time when she had been ridiculed after trying to talk to a neighbor on the phone.  She had had trouble finding the right words to say and the neighbor had not been able to understand what she did say. Her mother had to complete the call and she felt ridiculed by her family.  After a few more experiences like that, she had pretty much avoided using the phone as much as possible. And now, years later, that insecurity had grown such deep roots in her heart that it had become a controlling force in her life. True, she managed to do OK talking to friends and family. But a complete stranger? That obstacle was almost too big for her to overcome.

I can’t. She walked away from the phone. She felt flawed and worthless. Why was something so easy for everyone else to do so hard for her? Why can’t she get past this?

She tried to straighten up the living room, but her thoughts kept turning back to the phone call. What if she never made it? Would God provide a different group for her to join, one that was easier to contact? Probably not. He had led her to this group. She would just have to trust Him.

She headed back to the phone. She looked at it for a long time, then took a deep breath and reached out for the receiver, but froze as her hand touched it. Sweat poured out every pore in her body.

“I can’t do it.”

“Yes you can.”

“What if my mind blanks and I can’t think of what to say? I should wait until I write down it down first.”

“It’ll be OK.”

“What if they can’t understand me?”

“They will.”

“They’re probably not home. I’ll call later.”

For the next several days, she repeatedly tried to summon the courage to call, but always chickened out with an excuse to procrastinate. What if they’re busy cleaning? What if they’re watching a TV show? What if they are in the bathroom? What if they just got their baby down for a nap and the phone wakes him up? What if they’re talking to someone else? What if they just got home from shopping and are busy putting the groceries away? What if they’re taking a bath? What if they went to bed early?  And she repeatedly ended with “I don’t want to bother them. I’ll call later.”

Maybe she really didn’t need to do this. Maybe just going to her local church would be enough. But she knew it wouldn’t . Her hunger to praise and worship God with others of like mind was too strong.

I’ve got to do this. God gave me this information. He’ll help me know what to say. “Right, God?”

“Right.”

She headed to the phone, and this time she managed to get the receiver in her hand. She started to dial but her trembling fingers hit the wrong number and she quickly hung up. After several long breaths, she picked up the receiver again, this time dialing slower, making sure to hit the right numbers. And waited for someone to pick up.

“God, You still there? You’re still going to help me?”

“Yes. Trust Me.”

“I am. That’s why I’m doing this. But what if…”

“Hello?”

Panic  seized her. What should she say?

“Say hello.”

“Hello.”

“Yes?”

“I, um, was, um. I found a directory with your number, um, I’m calling about the Earthen Vessels, um”

“Oh yes! We meet Sunday nights at 7. Do you want to come? We’d love to have you!”

“Yes. Um, thanks. Um…”

“You probably need directions.” The lady proceeded to give her directions to the hall.

“I’ll be looking for you Sunday night! I’m so glad you’re coming!”

“Me too. See you Sunday.”

She set the receiver back in its cradle. And all but collapsed on the floor as the adrenaline drained out of her. She had done it! She had made the call. And it hadn’t killed her.

“See?”

Her spirit lifted and she began to rejoice in her victory. The victory that wouldn’t have been possible without God.

“Thank You, God! I couldn’t have done this without You! She understood me even though I had trouble with my words!”

“You’re welcome.”

That’s over, she thought. Now comes the hardest part – meeting a group of people she knew nothing about. She decided to think about that later. Right now she wanted to relish in her accomplishment and praise the amazing God who cared enough about her to help her climb that mountain! It may seem tiny in some eyes, but to her, it was huge!

to be continued one more time

Hunger Part 1: Empty Yourself

“If you don’t give me a place to go by the time the weather cools off,” she threatened God like a three year old, “I’m going to that church!”

Ever since she had encountered Jesus months before,she had been seeking people who understood what she had experienced. People who knew Jesus personally – not just about Him. People who were excited about Him and where He was an integral part of their everyday lives. She knew these people existed because she had read about them. And the more she read about them the hungrier she got for that kind of fellowship. She also knew that the church she passed each Sunday night around 7 PM was probably filled with such people. But she had been raised in a denomination that frowned upon visiting other denominations and so, not finding what she needed in her local church, she had begun praying that God would fill that need in another church.

As she frequently did, she grew impatient waiting for God to act so she decided that as soon as the weather was cool enough to wear long pants instead of shorts in her non-air conditioned car (in her experience people didn’t wear shorts to church), she would check out that church. Even if it was a bit like running away from home.

A month later, just before the weather would begin to cool, while at a church, she again prayed for a place to praise and worship and celebrate Jesus like she craved. As she prayed, she heard in her spirit, “Empty yourself like an earthen vessel, and I will fill you.”

“Um, OK. I don’t know what that means, but I accept it,” she told God.

When the service ended, she made her way to the bathroom before leaving for the long drive home. The bathroom was crowded but she found one unoccupied stall. On the tank lid, she saw a green book. Some kind of directory she thought, and took it with her when she left the bathroom. Sure enough, it was a directory of all the charismatic prayer groups in her denomination in the state. She checked the city where she lived and worked during the week – nothing. She checked the city she traveled to every weekend to visit her parents – again nothing. Disappointed she closed the book and was about to set it down for someone else to find when, on a whim, she decided to check the city she drove through every Sunday night on her way back to her home city.

 

She didn’t have much hope because she had noticed most groups met mid-week. What were the chances of finding a group in that specific city, on that specific day, at that specific time? But she went ahead and looked. Then stared in amazement! There WAS such a group. And they were called Earthen Vessels! No kidding!

She drove all the way home filled with amazement at God’s faithfulness – and His sense of humor. The bathroom, Lord? Empty myself… in the bathroom?  And now He would fill her need with this prayer group!

She would soon discover that finding the directory was the easy part. What she had to do next would take all the strength and courage she had.

To be continue.

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Little Things

As she was walking her students out to the bus parking lot after school one day, she was thinking about how tight her finances were because of the new house she and her husband were in the process of buying.  Every penny they had was wrapped up in the sale. Both she and her husband enjoyed the jobs they had with the local school system, but their paychecks didn’t seem to stretch very far. With two young children, she frequently went without  extras for herself in order to provide for her family.  Extras like new clothes, hair salons, and fast food. She even packed her lunch each day to save the few dollars the school cafeteria food cost.

On this particular day, a long and difficult day, she was tired and thirsty. She had forgotten to bring a drink with her that morning for after school. Should she splurge and buy a soda from the vending machine in the teacher’s workroom? No, she couldn’t justify that to herself. Not when every penny counted so much. She sighed. It was going to be another hour before she could leave, plus a thirty minute drive home. True, she could take a sip of tepid water from the students’ fountain… but she wasn’t THAT thirsty.

“I sure would love a cold Pepsi,” she found herself thinking as her students followed her across the parking lot.

She happened to look down and couldn’t believe it – a quarter! Then a few inches away, another quarter with a dime! Sixty cents – the exact amount it cost for a soda!

IMG_20180307_212932645She gratefully thanked God for the treat. Then got to thinking about her young daughter who would be in her classroom waiting for her. She would be thirsty too.  Did she dare ask? She looked up and silently prayed, “Lord, it would be great if I could get Rachel a drink too.”  And before she returned to her classroom, she had found sixty more cents! On a gravel parking lot where hundreds of students and their teachers were walking! She  was overflowing with joy and thankfulness as she excitedly went to buy her and her daughter cold drinks!

How amazing is our God who cares for us even in the little things!  Has He shown you His care in something small? Something that filled you with joy but you felt foolish telling others because it seemed to be such a small thing? Please share your story in the comments below. I would love to hear it!