God spoke to my heart today; I have no doubt I have heard from the Father. I don't know how I am going to type as fast as my mind is working, but I'm going to try:
I want to start this post by giving some background. For those of you who don't know me, I have loved the Lord with all of my heart my entire life. I can't remember a time in my life that I haven't wanted to please Him with all of me, until 6 months ago. For the last 10 years, my husband, Chappy and I have held a family meeting and Bible study each night in our home. During this time, the kids are welcome to voice anything on their minds while having our full attention. After our meeting and Bible study, we always end with prayer. Our prayer and message has most often centered around the scripture that says: "He searches the earth for those whose hearts are fully committed to him." Chappy and I continually ask the children: "Are we going to be a family He is searching the earth for? Are we going to be a family He can use?"
As I've shared before, when Hope was born, we began an even deeper prayer and faith journey in praying for her heart and believing for healing for her heart. So many verses are clear that if a believer has faith, mountains will move.....not might move, but will move. As a family, we claimed those scriptures, have memorized most all of them, and have spoken them in prayers daily over Hope. After 4 years of faithful prayers for Hope, 2 open heart surgeries, we were told in January she was going to have to undergo a 3rd, probably much more serious, open heart surgery. I cannot relay to you the anger I felt that day! I felt abandoned by God! A person came to my mind that day, a person who is lost, and I thought.....Hope is going to have to suffer, and it is so this person will find the Lord. I remember the thought very clearly. I also remember thinking to myself: "Oh no you don't, God"...... and I stood up to God and spent 6 months, literally, reading every book I could find that explained why He is not real.....why Jesus is not the Messiah, and why Christianity is a big hoax. This is the honest truth. I then embraced those books and made them my Bible.
From January through June, I refused to speak to God. When someone prayed, I would not bow my head or consider closing my eyes. I would not listen to Christian music and we ceased the nightly Bible studies and prayer time we had been doing faithfully as a family for over 10 years. Chappy was angry too, not as angry as me, but he was more than ready to give God a break after getting Hope's January heart news.
In early July, I began to soften a little bit. The children were missing church, prayer and Bible study. We never shared any of our bitterness toward God with them, so I'm sure they were wondering what was going on. To make them happy, Chappy and I started going to church again. Immediately, God brought 3 new friends into our lives who have little ones with Down Syndrome. They attend this church, and we began hoping to see them at church and often sitting with them. God is so sneaky. Pretty soon, Chappy and I found ourselves looking forward to going to church again to see these families.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when Pastor Steve Berger entered the church on Sunday after preaching his son, Josiah's, funeral on Friday. Chappy and I were at church that Sunday. We hadn't come to hear Pastor Steve that day, we had come hoping to see our new friends. Little did I know, that God was going to shove Himself back into my life on that Sunday. However, before telling you what happened, I want to go back even further, to my 20th week of pregnancy with Hope.
Pastor Steve's heart was probably crumbling on the Friday he preached Josiah's funeral service. My life fell apart on a Friday too. At my 20th pregnancy week, I found out Hope had Down Syndrome, a stomach defect, brain lesions, and a serious heart defect. On that day, I was told she probably wouldn't live to be born. Through the weekend, I cried out to God in complete despair, opened my Bible and begged Him to show me His plan. That weekend, we decided to name our little unborn baby girl, Hope, because the Doctors had given her no hope. (Each time we speak her name, we speak God's hope over her. Love her name.)
So, on this particular Friday, my life fell apart, and on the following Sunday, we attended church. Chappy and I scooted in at the end of a pew that Sunday near the front. I had never seen the woman that I sat next to, we made eye contact and gave brief nods, but that was about it. This particular church, it is near Gallatin where we were living at the time, rarely plays hymns; however, this Sunday, they played the hymn: "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand.....all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand". That song resonated with my soul, and I sang the words at the top of my lungs and wept as I sang. I cried so hard I was shaking, but I kept singing.
The lady next to me put her arm around me and asked if I was ok. I told her no and explained the news we'd been given. She told me she is a part time nurse at Vanderbilt and would be praying for our little Hope. Fast forward the reel to Hope's 2nd open heart surgery 18 months later, this nurse, Kelly, was one of Hope's nurses. Accident? No. We spoke of our one and only meeting at church that fateful Sunday. She had been praying for our little Hope and wondering what had happened to her. Meeting her again was a true blessing.
Now, back to Steve Berger and Grace Chapel Church......Steve preached Josiah's funeral on a Friday.....and he entered the church sanctuary the following Sunday morning just when the song: "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand" was beginning to play. Steve raised his arms....actually pumped his arms.....toward heaven and shouted the song from the depths of his heart with tears streaming. Then, I broke. On that day, in that moment, God brought back the memories in a flood.....and my will broke. Chappy knew. He put his arm around me and knew.
Since then, I have repented. I put the "anti-Christian" books away and read 3 Christian fiction books right away....."The Oath" by Frank Peretti, "Lunatic" by Ted Dekker, and "Elyon" by Ted Dekker. I opened my Bible again and poured myself back into His Word. I made a choice to believe. It was a "free will" choice. I wanted Him to audibly speak to me to prove He was real.....He didn't. I wanted Him to send an angel to visit me to prove He was real.....He didn't do that either. It all came down to a choice. Hope of eternity or no hope at all. I chose hope. And, the best news is, once I opened my heart again, the Lord met me there.
Fast forward the reel to last Wednesday, the day of Hope's heart cath.....that evening, nurse Kelly, the same nurse Kelly that I had met in church over 4 years prior, popped her head into Hope's room to ask if I needed anything. She didn't remember me this time, but I remembered her. I chose not to say anything to her, because I understood why this "part time nurse" had again showed up in my life. God was letting me know He is in all of this. He was reminding me: "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand". At the exact time Kelly popped her head in the door, I was alone in the room holding Hope in my arms in a rocking chair taking in all of the news I had received that day.....a 3rd open heart surgery, an aneurysm on her heart......etc. I looked up and answered that I didn't need anything. When Kelly was out of sight, I said aloud to God: "I know, You are here with me and You are asking me to stand on the Rock".
The Sunday prior to Hope's catheterization, we had a birthday party for Hope. At the party, I was discussing Hope's upcoming catheterization and potential surgery. I told another mother that I knew why Hope was going through this valley.....I told her about the lost person. The same lost person I had thought of in January.....the same lost person who still needs a Savior.
God works in mysterious ways. Late last night this was confirmed to me through an email. I received this email from a person I have met only one time.....months ago. She is a friend of a friend. Although I had met this woman one time, and have had no contact or thought of her again, over the last few days, she has been on my mind and I knew I would hear from her and even told Chappy a few days before receiving her email that I would hear from her. AND, crazy as it sounds, I already knew what her email was going to say before I even read it. Imagine how I felt when I read her words:
Here is part of the email she sent:
i would love to write more, but for now the Lord wanted me to tell you that He is going to use your sweet little angel to bring _________(named the lost person) to a greater knowledge of Himself. I'm sure that you would really just like to have your sweet hope healed ---even by human hands that God uses, and perhaps you could care less about the soul of a lost man. but I can tell that from reading your blog that you know that it is God's glory at stake and as painful as it is that He would use our closest loves to further the Kingdom, "He searches the earth for those whose hearts are fully committed to him."
Part of my reply was this:
to answer your question as to whether I "could care less about the soul of a lost man"......wow. Would I be willing to lay down the life of my own child to save another? That pretty much puts into perspective what God did when He sent Jesus, doesn't it? I'm not God.
I went to bed after talking about all of this with Chappy for about an hour, knowing God's hand is at work in all of this..... No escape. Chappy posed the question: ".....where is the free will in this?" Just before he asked the question, I had already asked the same question in my heart and had immediately received an answer: "We have free will. We have a choice to get on board with God's plan and go with it.....or we can do what I have done for the last 6 months, be angry with God and be of no use to Him, or anyone else, at all". We both went to bed with all of this weighing on our minds.....searching God......wanting to hear from Him.
This morning I took Hope to preschool (2 days per week from 8:30am - 12pm). For some reason, I dressed her in a little green smocked dress that has a school bus and school children around the neckline. She looked like a doll. I didn't know this was school picture day, because Hope was absent all last week due to surgery, so I was elated to realize I had dressed her perfectly for the day. We went into the classroom and were immediately told about a little fella who seemed to be getting sick. The teachers wanted to give me the option of whether I wanted to let Hope stay and risk her getting sick or take her on home to be safe. I decided to take her home. One of the teachers walked out with me and said she wanted to see if she could pull some strings to go ahead and get Hope's picture taken before we left.
We walked to the area where school pictures of what looked to be a kindergarten or 1st grade class were already being taken, and were told we could "cut line" with Hope. The teacher of the class we "cut" walked over to me and said: "Your little girl looks like my sister". I asked, "Your sister has Down Syndrome?" She replied: "Yes, and she is 40 years old. Due to a serious heart condition, she wasn't supposed to live, but she did". This teacher knew nothing about Hope's heart condition, so I began to tell her as I cried. She hugged me and said she would pray for Hope. Accidental meeting? No. I now know God was softening me for what He was preparing to reveal to me.
Hope smiled for her school pictures (can't wait to see them), then we left to take Lydia to her homeschool tutorial classes. On the way, she was refreshing her memory for a science quiz she will take today, Hope was listening to a Sesame Street DVD, Natalie had fallen asleep in the backseat with our little black schnoodle, Trudy, Charlie was asleep in his carseat, and I was left with my thoughts. I began to pray and listen for God's voice.
Above, I mentioned reading 3 Christian fiction books after getting back on God's path again. Today, God brought one of those books back to my mind. I finished it weeks ago, but it has come to mind several times, because I didn't completely get it. The book is "Elyon", and it is #6 in a series called "The Lost Books" (I read everything Ted Dekker writes). In the book, to be saved, believers must dive into a thick, copper-tasting, red-colored lake, swim deep, suck in the water, and drown. When reading the books, I understood the message Ted Dekker was trying to get across with head knowledge, but today, in the car, I understood it with my heart.
God met me in my Honda mini van. Isn't it wonderful how the King of the Universe can meet us in the silliest of places. He isn't on any time constraint, He's just waiting until we have time to hear Him. He spoke clearly to my heart and told me to drown. Then, in my mind's eye, I visually saw the red lake that I had read about, and it all came together for me.
For years, I have begged God to make me that believer He is searching the whole earth to find....the one who is committed.....one He can use for His purposes. For years I meant it with all of my heart. Today, I finally realized, He has found me worthy of a task. He searched and chose me, my family, little Hope.
There is a red lake in front of me, and He is not asking me to take a swim.......He is asking me to dive in with arms spread wide, to swim with all of my might to the depths of the blood-filled lake, the lake that is red because of HIS sacrifice, and then, when I have gone to the very depths, to suck in and fill my lungs with it until I drown. He is asking me to put Melanie completely to death. Drown her. Get rid of her. And suck Him in completely with reckless abandon. Not worrying about the consequences. Not worrying about the details. Eager to trust. Eager to "faith". Eager for whatever He has in store.
What was Abraham asked to do? I'm no Abraham, but I can say, if God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, then why wouldn't He ask "plain old me"? He would, and He is. Don't misunderstand me, God hasn't told me that Hope is going to die so this other lost person will come to Him. I'm not saying that at all. The lost person I've been speaking of still has a choice to make; even though I know for a fact God is "romancing" this person to Himself and has been for some time.....using many believers who have been plopped into his life. Chappy, Hope, and I are just 3 of many.
I am saying this.....actually my soul is shouting it: He is asking me to completely abandon myself to His will, so that I am willing to give him everything.....including Hope. THIS, He can use. The dilemma I have had for the last 6 months over Jesus has been all of the healing scripture that offers healing to those who believe. I spent many moments (I am unproud of) shouting at God that He is a liar.....telling Him that His Word is not true. I threw those healing scriptures back in His face and told Him it is a pack of lies invented by men. I crucified Him. The One I said I would NEVER not believe in, I turned on, spat on, whipped, and crucified. I put Him in a grave, rolled a stone to cover it, and I left Him to go on my own to the desert.
I spent 6 months in the desert. He was silent. I wasn't. Occasionally, I would still find myself screaming at Him like a nutcase, reading every book I could find that spoke against Him, daring my husband to turn on a Christian radio station when I was in the car with him.....
Then, on that Sunday morning, thinking the Jesus in my life was dead, crucified, and buried......He rose again. When the song: "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand" played, He rolled the stone away, left the grave in my heart I had buried Him in, and He hugged me. I felt it. And I hugged Him back. I had missed Him so much.
Does He offer healing for those who believe? He certainly does. Does He move mountains for those who believe and are called according to His purpose? Yep. Is His word true? You bet. But in the wonder and mystery of Who He is, there is something so much deeper than: I'm going to read scripture, pray, believe with all of my heart and get my way. That "deeper" is what He is teaching me. That "deeper" I could never have learned had I not gone into the desert alone. He knew that. It was part of my journey too.
So, I wrote a couple of days ago about the beautiful package that I am to open on October 12th. The package that holds God's plan for Hope this time around. Today He is preparing me for the celebration party. Just like Queen Esther was "beautified" before going before the king, God is preparing me by making me more beautiful in order to meet Him and receive the gift He has wrapped for me. Before I can open that gift, I have to take a swim in a red lake, in fact, I have to do a swan dive into the lake, then I have to dive really deep and suck in. I have to drown.
Still at His feet......still praying with all of my heart for my baby girl.....still believing...still marching!