Friday, April 30, 2010

Faith's Journey to Hope, Part 3: The Voice of Hope

(So excited that Diane is sharing today's post. This is not just my story, it's ours. Love ya friend!)

“You need to be careful, after all, you don’t even really know this person.”
“ Remind me, how did you connect with her again?”
“ Isn’t 10 days a little long? Are you sure about this?”

Those were just a few of the loving questions of concern I was met with the day I told my close friends that Joy was coming to visit me. Isn’t it a shame that we live in a society where we have to challenge our hearts and motives? As much as I appreciated their care and interest, never once did I doubt the motive of Joy's visit. I had been given perfect peace about the timing, length and purpose of her trip. Let me take you back to the beginning of my story.

I met Joy when I joined an on line blog with Proverbs31 Ministries. I was amazed that because of one woman's commitment to read through the bible in a year, “Faith” met “Hope”. Every day I would go to this blog and read the comments from precious women who were daily seeking God's heart. We became a circle of friends. We shared in each others everyday lives. The only thing missing was physically meeting eye-to-eye.

As the months went by and this group grew closer, I felt led to pray and petition for many of my new friends. I purchased a new pink journal where I recorded their names, as well as their “blog” names. Before I knew it, I had filled page after page with prayers and praises for them and their loved ones. These women were from all around the world. Kristen from California, Lori from Arizona, Nancy from Missouri, Channa from the Bahamas, and the list goes on. We all connected because of one woman, Wendy from North Carolina, who simply said, “Yes God, I’ll commit to facilitate this study.”

When Wendy needed to travel for a speaking engagement or take time away, although seldom done, she would ask Joy to fill in for her. That is when I think I really connected with Joy.

I had met her on the blog, loved reading her comments, and found her insight amazing. I also knew that during this time her heart was heavy for her daddy. You see, he was very sick and Joy asked for a lot of prayer for him. I remember praying continually for her dad. As time went on, her dad's condition worsened. All of us were praying daily for God to show Joy, and her loved one, evidence of His mighty hand.

I would pop in and out on Joy’s blog, leaving her notes to try and let her know she wasn’t alone. Others did the same and there was such a bond with this particular group of women, that words fail to give it justice. Over the next year Joy and I would write back and forth. As I reflect now, I think God was planting roots in our hearts.

Several of us planned to meet at the She Speaks Conference in North Carolina last summer, but Joy was not able to attend. I felt led to be her eyes. I took pictures for her and narrated the entire trip. It was funny how I would seem to capture pictures of the exact people Joy knew and wanted to see without her even asking. Since that time she has revealed to me how precious it was that I sacrificed the time to do this for her. It made her feel so special...almost as if she was there.

Now, let's return to our present adventure. Joy has already started you on the journey, but there are two things, that out of love she has not revealed to you yet. Through all of this I was going through a divorce. I also live with some disabilities. These details don't matter, except that if I omit mentioning them I will rob the Lord of countless praises and fail to let you see the many wonders of His mighty love for me!

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Faith's Journey to Hope, Part 2: God's Provision

“I'm praying for you my friend, but is there anything else I can do?” My question was filled with longing to minister to a need. I waited to hear how I could put action to my prayerful petitions.

“What time is your flight arriving?”

It was this response that echoed in my heart time after time. It was this answer that quenched anxiety and fueled faith. It was this reply that called me from complacency to courage and turned timidity into triumph. It was discovering that there are times when love trumps fear.

Longing to visit my friend, I began to pray for God to make a way. Many of you know that I am a white-knuckle airline traveler, yet I told the Lord I was willing to get on a plane if He asked it of me. Never had I felt such a pull to surrender all my inadequacies for the sake of another. Not only did I want to go visit Diane, I wanted to be Releasing the timing to the Lord was hard. Would He bring it about quickly? Surely He saw the need. Surely He would intervene. I would trust in Him.

Not long after I was sitting with a friend at Bible Study. She was excited as she shared about her upcoming trip to Florida. She and her husband were going to have a couple of weeks in the sunny South. They were leaving soon and driving down for a holiday. As I listened, a question formed in my mind and burst out of my mouth before I could contain it.

“You wouldn't want to drop me off in Virginia would you?”

Her immediate response: “Sure, no problem”.

As I was half joking with my question, I assumed she too was joking with her response. It seemed too easy.

Five days later I “happened” to see her again. Her first question to me was, “Did you really want to go to Virginia?”

Did I really want to go? Oh, I'd been praying for nothing else. Yes, I wanted to go!

Then, it was settled. She had already spoken with her husband and they would be happy to provide my transportation. My friend was thrilled to know that God was using them as an answer to my prayer. It would take us twelve hours to drive to Virginia and they were thinking of stopping there the first night anyway. They would 'throw me out' of the car at a designated destination and Diane could pick me up. Within minutes the plan was put in place.

I remember sending Diane a quick e-mail saying, “Friend...I hope you were serious...'cause I'm coming down!”

Within 24 hours I had rescheduled two weeks of appointments and agenda in order to take care of things while I was away. Every detail fell into place. My son received his driver's license and would have my car for transportation while I was gone. My husband was so supportive of this trip and encouraged me to go. I was able to arrange two weeks of Bible study in my absence and found a replacement for teaching Sunday School. Not one detour or roadblock appeared. Confirmation of God's hand on this timing.

I was as giddy as a young school girl. I had never taken a holiday by myself...ever! The adventure was about to begin!

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Faith's Journey to Hope, Part 1: Unwrapping Hope

“Good morning there sweetie,
Would you join me this morning for a cup of virtual tea?
We can just sit and enjoy each other as we wait for your results.
I would like to hear all about your life, family and what it is like to live in Canada.
I will share my life with you.
We can share all the blessings God has given us.
If at any time we need them, there is is a box of tissues beside us. We can use them for tears of fear or laughter.
Near the tissues is a Bible, ready to lead us to any of God's words as He directs.
There is my hand, ready to hold and my arms are ready to hug.
because I care.
Joy I am there today and I care my sister. HUGS!”

I had awoken that morning filled with fear. A series of medical tests had been completed and this was the day the phone should ring and results be shared. The possibility for unwelcomed news had birthed panic, instead of the peace I longed to claim. Anxious. Afraid. Alone.

A notifier on my computer indicated I had mail. The message above greeted me. Tears began to flow.

I first 'met' Diane through a Proverbs 31 Speaker's blog. She and I often left comments on the same site. We shared some mutual friends. I did not know her, but I always enjoyed reading her remarks. They were real...sincere...and frequently made me smile. She had a wonderful sense of humour, and my life had been lacking genuine laughter.

In the summer of 2008 I actually remember seeing her while attending the "She Speaks" conference in North Carolina. With almost 600 women in attendance, something...Someone...drew me to take notice. I heard life had recently been unkind and recognized a soul's emptiness through her eyes. I had often seen that same reflection in my mirror. Lack of courage kept me cocooned and I did not meet her, but her face was sketched on my heart.

Then, in January of 2009, we both embarked on a journey together to read through the Bible in a year. Daily I would leave comments on our facilitator, Wendy Pope's blog, and I'd always check to see if Diane had shared her response to that days reading. She many times would pen my thoughts and I looked forward with anticipation to find her heart revealed. Her authenticity and vulnerability drew me into her life and I longed to know her in a deeper way, but my insecurities kept me from reaching out on a more personal level. I was so afraid of rejection.

I began to pray for her...and I also continued praying for a kindred spirit friend...not knowing that God would intersect those two prayers and knit together one answer.

In March of that same year my world was turned upside down with my dad's unexpected nine-month hospital stay. My faith was tested. I was walking a road of tremendous heartache. Days I felt like I was suffocating in uncertainty and pain. I was questioning God and longing to see His hand restore healing. At times when I thought I couldn't endure another moment, a message would appear on my computer.

“Praying for you Joy,

“Have no regrets, no matter how hard, my friend. God has his hand in the center of your back and he will give you all the strength you need, and then just a bit more.
I am praying and thinking about you,

“You have been in my prayers and in my heart. Standing with you my sister”

I'm ashamed to say I rarely responded to her kind notes at first. I was just so exhausted. So weary. I appreciated her kindness, but blanketed in despair, I felt I had nothing to give, yet she didn't go away. As I look back over all her messages now, almost daily she was pouring into my life. She was a constant amidst the turmoil and the tears. For some unknown reason, she had taken up a burden that was not her own and was holding me up, encouraging me and showering me in love.

Having had friends walk away in my life recently, fear bound me. I couldn't stand the ache of rejection. Not now. My heart couldn't take loving and losing. I was cautious. I longed to respond, but I just couldn't find the strength to trust.

She continued to reach out. She included me in so much of her life. Unable to attend the "She Speaks" conference last summer due to my dad's extended hospitalization, she even took me with her via camera and video. I felt like I was there as I received pictures of my friends and 'talked' across the miles via the Internet. I couldn't fathom such kindness. No-one had ever given me so much.

Return now to a day in January earlier this year, and an invitation for virtual tea. She remembered. She cared. My heart was overwhelmed. Barriers of protection fell. The safe distance I had wanted to maintain disappeared. I was going to risk opening my heart and life.

Late night chats. Skype. Prayers. Tears. E-mails. Even comfortable, contented silence. Slowly I started to realize I had found a safe place. I began to see the blessings in brokenness and the delight found through a path of despair.

One night an honest, innocent statement was shared and all my defenses fell. The strength to resist collapsed. Like a retaining wall destroyed because of one weak crack, a flood of emotion poured forth and "Pandora's Box" was opened. My words were met with understanding. No judgement. No wrongs. No rights. Complete acceptance. As she received my heart without question, held it gently, cried with me, prayed and encouraged, I realized the most amazing gift had been placed in my hands.

I began unwrapping Hope.

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