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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Heart Chocolate

Isn't that title a cool phrase? I have to give credit where it's due though because I didn't birth that saying. My dear friend Heather used those words in a recent blog comment. I've been thinking about heart chocolate ever since.

It’s a pretty neat way to describe something that nourishes the heart with a sweetness that makes you long for more. This past week and a half was so full of heart chocolate that I’m only now starting to really process through it.

Right on the heels of my awesome beach vacation I attended a writer’s conference in Nashville. It was my third one with ACFW. I learned so much from the awesome teaching. Even more from the incredible people that make up this neat organization.

My first inkling that God was doing something big came on Friday morning. There was a special time of prayer and I was on my feet before I could think. I ended up in a line with two incredible authors praying for the people who came forward. One of them was a dear friend who knows my story and has prayed for me throughout my desert journey. The other was a lady I had the privilege of praying for, along with many other ACFW authors, years ago. (Her miraculous story of healing from Lyme Disease is worth your time to read. Here’s a link to Brandilyn’s story.)

I thought I was up there to pray with Deb and was calm knowing I didn’t have to explain anything about my life, because she already knew. But God had me there to pray with Brandilyn. I so wanted to ask her to pray for my healing from diabetes. But I knew my husband had been praying for this and he wanted to be a part of God doing this particular miracle in my life. So I stumbled through asking for prayer for my marriage and that God would use me to touch people’s hearts through my writing.

Brandilyn did pray for a miraculous healing in my marriage~ which God has most definitely been doing and continues to do. But she also prayed something that struck me as very odd at the time. She prayed I would make friendships at the conference. Why was that odd to me? Well, because I’d come to Nashville with two wonderful new friends, was rooming with my best friend, and I had other established friendships there.

Little did I know God was going to stretch my heart to include even more. Sort of like chocolate does to my thighs. But it's all good.

Later that same day I talked with Brandilyn, in the restroom of all places, and explained why I hesitated with my prayer request to her that morning. I told her about my diabetes and my husband’s prayers. She prayed for me again, not only that God would heal me, but also that this healing would be used for even deeper healing in my marriage. She spoke about walking in faith that God will answer this prayer and that my husband will be a part of it.

If you read my last blog post, you have to know I struggled to receive this. What if it wasn’t God’s will for my healing? What if it didn’t happen? I talked that over with God and left those questions with Him.

The conference continued with its typical ups and downs. Excitement for the many God appointments He had for me. Sadness that what I’d hoped would happen with my writing career didn’t happen. Joy over a new direction and deep growth in my relationship with my best friend. Physical exhaustion. God kisses.

Amid all the ups and downs, Brandilyn’s prayer for friendships became a reality. I quickly connected with two amazing people. And one of them offered me a bite of her very special imported dark chocolate. ;-) These were totally unexpected and a clear reminder from God that He knows exactly what I need and He has a very good plan for me.

I also got to hang out with my amazing crit partners who make me a far better writer and person than I would ever become on my own. And I spent one evening talking with the author who got me started in ACFW. Connecting with her was a time of real encouragement both for my heart and for my writing.

Then came the closing time of prayer. After an amazing testimony by another precious author friend of mine about her healing, Brandilyn invited people to come up front and she would pray for them. I kept my behind on the seat knowing that for me to go forward was not an act of faith. For me to sit in my seat, believing God had already answered the prayers prayed for me, was my walk of faith. So I sat. Then God nudged me to pray for another lady still sitting at my table. One of the precious new friends God had given me. I prayed for her and we cried together as Brandilyn, totally not knowing her situation, prayed specifically for her. God is so good!

After that it was time to go home. I thought I’d received all the heart chocolate my mind could conceive. But God had even more.

My wonderful mentor talks often about asking God to give you others who you can “pull up.” Those that God speaks of in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” I’ve been praying for someone who I could pull up and encourage. I thought it would be another writer after I had a little more writing experience, so I wasn’t really looking for that person.

Well, she found me. Just before I left Nashville, I got to talk with another author whose life journey is much like mine. We’ve emailed often ever since. Not only do I have the privilege of walking this journey of healing with her and sharing my experiences that she is now going through, but she is also a great encouragement to my heart. I get to relive the amazing things God has done for me as I share with her. And I get to hear amazing things God is doing in her life as we email and pray for one another.

I went to Nashville with the hope of loving others well, of praying for people and encouraging them. I also went hoping for clear direction in my writing journey. What I received was so God… heart chocolate. In such abundance that I’m still overwhelmed at the thought of it all. Sweet stuff that doesn’t hug my thighs, but that makes my heart and my capacity to love grow even greater.

God is so good. In giving myself in honest transparency, I received far more than I asked or imagined. Heart chocolate… bar upon scrumptious bar to be savored for a lifetime to come.

How about you? How’s your chocolate stash? Wherever it stands, I encourage you to ask God to show you where He can use you. Not what you can do for Him, but what He wants to do through you. In so doing, I know you’ll find what He’s promised. That the plans He has for you are so good and so over and above what you can dream.

I’d like to close with my favorite scripture prayer from Ephesians 3. I often personalize this with my name and the names of those I love. Prayer is such an awesome way to love well and see God do amazing things through you!

I pray that out of Your glorious riches You may strengthen (my hubby and precious daughters) with power through Your Spirit in their inner being, so that Christ may dwell in (my husband’s and girls’) hearts through faith. And I pray that (my husband and daughters), being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that they would each be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to You who are able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to Your power that is at work within us, to You, Daddy, be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Lost and found

My girls and I have this list we've recently dubbed the "lost and found praise list." It's a series of lists in various places in my journal where we've lost something, prayed about it, and seen God answer. It started as my simple suggestion to pray and ask God to help us find a pair of lost sunglasses~ my two year old's favorite cool purple sunglasses. She smiled and I offered a half-hearted prayer, sure we'd left them at the beach. We didn't find them until a year later when we unearthed our beach toys bag from the closet. She was thrilled to have her sunglasses back, even if it had taken a year for that prayer to be answered.

Then she lost them again. But this time they belonged to her little sister.

This little sister suggested we pray right then. So both my girls prayed we would find the sunglasses that night. By the end of the evening, I stumbled onto the glasses tucked away in a stroller out in the garage.

After that, the suggestion to pray about anything and everything has been met with an enthusiastic round of little girl prayers. I add my reluctant prayers, usually wondering what I’m going to say to “bail God out” when we don’t find the little puzzle piece because someone threw it in the trash can.

But we find it. And I’m left to wonder if I will ever have the faith of a little child.

Each and every time when I’ve thought the lost item was too insignificant or even impossible to find, God’s shown us right where it is. My girls whoop and holler about how good God is. I shake my head and wonder why I don’t just trust Him like my girls do. Especially when our list has grown into pages of “little things.”

So God keeps working on me in totally unexpected ways. A case in point is our last day at the beach this past Sunday. We’d had an amazingly wonderful time hanging out as a family and enjoying God’s beautiful ocean. Saturday we pumped up a raft we’d forgotten we had and carted it out to our beach chairs, adding it to the pile of shells, my sandals, and another raft we’d purchased that year. We hoped with another raft, all three girls would agree to go out farther than they could stand. We’ve done that other years and come within feet of a huge sea turtle that was awesome to see.

Well, the girls agreed and we had a blast floating in the ocean and watching fish and crabs and even a huge jellyfish. We left it well enough alone, and fast! But when we came back in and packed up our stuff, I was missing one of my black flip-flops. We quickly realized it had caught a ride on our old raft and gone out to sea with us. Only it didn’t return.

True to form my little ones promptly prayed that God would “bring Mommy’s shoe back to the beach so it could go home with us.” I balked. Then I tried to explain that there was no way that little shoe would wash back up on this beach anytime soon. It was most likely somewhere out in the vast expanse of the Gulf, never to be seen again.

My oldest, with hands on her hips, (don’t know where she got that from!!!) pretty much told me that God could do anything and we should just wait and see.

My husband added his prayers that God would let us find my shoe on the beach the next morning. Feeling very “protective” of God’s honor and trying to bail Him out in case my shoe was indeed lost at sea, I launched into my usual lost items prayer. I asked God to help us accept whatever was His will and to trust that He knows best.

My girls gave me that “Oh mo-om” look and just grinned. Like I’d lost even more brain cells than I thought I had.

The next morning as my hubby and I sat on our balcony reading our Bibles, he got up and pointed out to the beach. “Do you see that?” It was a black “thing” far to the left of where we’d been stationed the day before. There was no way the tide could have run opposite its normal course and dumped my little shoe that far up the beach.

My husband just grinned and went to retrieve my shoe.

The black “thing” turned out to be a huge rock, far bigger than my foot~ thank you very much I told him later. But instead of giving up on God bringing my shoe back to us, he listened to the Lord whisper for him to look to his left. Even farther away from where we were playing the day before.

And there was my shoe.

My little, insignificant, black flip-flop was right there on the beach.

My eyes filled with tears and my heart nearly burst. First there was regret for once again not believing God would do something like that for me. Then there was overwhelming thankfulness that my girls would grow up knowing such a big God cared about even the smallest things we brought to Him in prayer.

When it was my turn for a little early morning stroll on the beach I wanted to find something too. But we hadn’t lost anything to pray about finding. So I thought maybe I’d find a sand dollar my girls had hoped take home, but didn’t yet have. Maybe a cool message in a bottle? Something.

Like I needed more proof God cared.

Out I went. I found nothing. All I could think to do then was sit in a little deserted beach chair and sing. I actually signed, something I do when I really want to praise God. I finally got that God had already done something big and instead of wishing He’d do more, I was ready to just say “thanks.”

After a neat time of hanging out with my Daddy, I knew I should head back inside. As I turned around, to my left, the gorgeous orange/gold sun was peeking up over the buildings. Immediately, I felt the Lord’s overwhelming presence. The thought popped into my head that this was a kiss from God. A reminder that He did see me.

As tears welled in my eyes, I realized that I had indeed found something that morning. Something I’d lost. Something precious to me.

My childlike faith.

The faith that just believes. The faith that says with my heart, words, and hands, “My Daddy loves me.” And in believing receives a most precious gift… His gentle kiss. His whisper that it wasn’t my shoe that was important to Him—it was my heart.

On the way home we lost something else and my girls immediately prayed. I started to utter my “bailing God out” prayer and stopped. My husband smiled and my girls cheered. What I asked instead was that the Lord would show us where my missing ring had gone and I added that I trusted Him to give it back to me.

Then I lifted one last bag hoping my ring was in there. It wasn’t. So I picked up another bag, one I’d already checked in, and my heart ring popped into my lap.

All I could do was laugh. God does indeed have a sense of humor! And He never wastes an opportunity to show His slow-to-learn child that He really does have it all under control.

Even lost black flip-flops and little heart rings.

What an awesome God!

“I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was blind, but now I see.” Lord, may Your incredible grace be ever new and ever amazing to me!
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