Wednesday, May 3, 2017

To Love Like Jesus

A few days ago I posted a picture on Facebook of Tobias taking a nap with me on the couch.  I had written that we had a long night and I would write a blog post later to explain it.  Well, here is later...

Last Friday morning, I woke up from a dead sleep at 3am and felt an urgency for Chris to put a lock on our backyard fence.  It was one of those wake ups that is really hard to go back to sleep because your heart is beating out of your chest.  As I was waking up, all kinds of  fears started popping into my head.  The main fear was  that if Chris didn't get that lock on the gate that our kids would be taken from our backyard.  I got up and went to the couch because Chris was heading out of town that afternoon for the Men's Retreat.  He would be teaching the sessions, and  I wanted him to be well rested for the weekend.  I go to the couch and spend some time praying, reading scripture/my devotional and begin to feel at peace. I am a dreamer, so I have learned to pray through some pretty upsetting dreams.  I figured there was no better way to handle this situation than through prayer.  Anyways, a few minutes later I hear a police car in full sirens drive by our house.  This is an unusually occurrence, but I didn't think too much of it since our street runs between two major streets.  I just thought that it was the quickest route to where the police officer needed to go.  I was still wide awake, so I decided to read a book on the Kindle to help me get sleepy.  Well, about 20 minutes later I see a person in our backyard with a flashlight!! Oh, the paralyzing fear that came over me!!!!  I get off  from the couch to head to our room to wake up  Chris and grab my phone.  As I was walking back to our room, I notice a police car idling in front of our house.  We call the police and all they told us was that they were canvassing the area.  We could see the police going from our yard to our neighbors' yards (five all together) for a good 30-40 minutes.  Then the police car started going down the street to the next section of yards.  Needless to say it was pretty hard going back to sleep.

Later that morning, I sent a text to some ladies asking them to be my prayer warriors. I shared with them what happened and then I wrote:

Please pray for me and my tiredness and taking care of these kiddos while Chris is out of town.  Sometimes in my tiredness I get grumpy and snap.  I don't want to walk around a grumpy/snapping momma the next couple of days!  I don't sleep well normally when Chris is gone, but with this event from this morning...well, I can't even imagine!! I told Chris that I was seriously considering putting all the hurricane windows down at bedtime.  I was kinda joking, but he encouraged me to do so.  I was hoping he would tell me I was being silly, but he didn't.  I don't want to walk around in fear...or should I say stay awake in fear.  I feel like a majority of this is a spiritual attack...I mean of all nights for this to happen, it happens the day Chris is to leave town for the weekend!  So just pray for us...for me...and for Chris.  Thanks, Ladies!

The love that came flowing through my phone after that was unbelievable!

"Ok, PRAYING for you and the family"

"Oh dear friend, I'm so sorry! I've never heard of anything like that happening in our neighborhood, it does seems to be a very special situation! Praying for you today and will continue to ask the Lord for practical ways we can help..."

"Standing firm in faith with you. Jesus, command your angels to stand sentry around the Greenwood home...and all of our homes as our husbands are away.  No weapon formed against us will stand. In your mighty name...amen"

"I'm sorry, Sara! We had that happen during the day at our other house so I can't imagine during the night!! Pray for peace and protection for you!! Love you!"

"Ahh...I can understand your fear, but God has you in his care.  I pray you have peace and sleep well knowing His protection is over you and your house.  I'm so sorry this happened."

Me: Thanks, Ladies!! Your prayers mean a lot to me and Chris!

"Love you!! Praying security of physical home and heart now!!"

"Isaiah 54:17 and Proverbs 18:10.  Praying both of these verses over the Greenwood household!! You are loved and you are SAFE with Him!! I love you!"

"Praying protecting on the Greenwoods!!"

"Oh Sara! That is completely terrifying. I'm so glad you weren't alone when it happened.  Rest in the peace of knowing you are protected under the shadow of his wing!"

"So many spiritual attacks are happening across the board in our KPC family! Satan does not want this weekend for our men to be successful.  But we know that greater is He that is within us and He that is within our men than he that is within the world!"

Me: Amen! We must be on bent knee this weekend!  Not only for the men on the retreat, but also for the ones at presbytery...elders and Pastor M. finishes the final step of becoming ordained.


"I love being a woman and wife in community with you all!"

"Yes!!! I totally agree!"

"We are praying for everyone at the presbytery!"

This is what my heart needed! The Lord knew I needed these prayers.  I could feel their prayers working! I felt loved by these ladies. But God in His goodness didn't stop there. He not only wanted me to feel their love for me, but He wanted me to experience His love!

Later Friday morning, I got a text. It said:
"Do you want me to come and spend the night with you tonight?"  
I felt tears rising in my eyes to receive such a loving offer.  

Then about an hour later I got another text. It said:
"Hey you need me to sleepover at your house?"
I was amazed! 

Another hour later, I got another text. It said:
 "I know it is a long shot, but would you want to come over and sleep at our house tonight with me and the kids? You are welcome!" 
I was beside myself!

Then later that afternoon, I got a phone call.  My friend was wanting to know if I wanted to load up the kids and come to their house for the night. 
I was in tears by this point.

Then that night I got another text.  It said:
"The hubby wants you to call us immediately if you have any concerns! Would it help if I came
 to sleep over?"  
 I stood in amazement of the love He was showing me!

As the day went on, my heart was exploding from all of this love coming my way...the love of God!  I have discipled many ladies through 1 John 3:16-17, but on this day I experienced the love of 1 John 3:16-17 in a tremendous way! 

"This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. You made it disappear."
-The Message

So early that morning, Satan was trying to bring fear into my life.  He was trying to keep our focus off of what God had called Chris to do that weekend to further His Kingdom's work.  I am thankful that I had friends to call on to be my prayer stand in the gap for me and my family. But what I am even more thankful for is that I was a part of God's love didn't disappear because these ladies listened and obeyed as the Spirit led them to love like Jesus! 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Beauty from Ashes

I still stand in amazement of all that has happened in the last three years.  As I look back over the last three years and see the work of God, I can't help taking time to reflect and praise God for all that He has done.  When you go through such a journey...such a transformation, it is hard not to take a moment and be still and remember that He is God around that life-changing event each year. 

And this year as I reflect,  it has been a little more emotional because of the fact that I joined our church.  As I slow down and am still before the Lord, I am reminded of Isaiah 61:3 (ESV):

"to grant those who mourn in Zion--
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified."  

When we started this chapter three years ago, I never imagined that I would have a beautiful headdress.  In my heart of hearts, I felt like I would be wearing ashes for the rest of my life.  I couldn't fathom ever replacing the spirit of mourning that I was in with gladness.  At the time my spirit was was faint, but today I stand here humbly wearing a garment of praise.  All of these things...the ashes to the beautiful headdress; the mourning to gladness; the faint spirit to praise...needed to happen so He may be glorified!!  

When we left our church almost three years, I wasn't sure if I ever wanted to be a part of a church again...let alone be a pastor's wife.  When you are broken...when you have felt pain in places that you didn't know existed, your natural response is to protect yourself. I am thankful God gave me two godly women who LOVE Jesus so passionately walk with me through this season.  One lady was my discipler and the other was a friend of the family who has spent many years walking with women through life changing them godly counsel and sharing godly wisdom.  Oh, how I have been blessed by Him through these women!  These women counseled me, they prayed for and with me, they shared God's word with me and they lovingly challenged me when I was not handing issues over to God.  

During this chapter, the Lord gave me a new life verse.  I was meeting with a lady that I was discipling, and she was going through a hard season.  I naturally went to Jeremiah 29:11 to give her some words of encouragement.  But as I got to the end of verse 11, the Spirit told me to keep on reading, so I did.  By the time I got to the end of verse 14, I was overcome with emotion and tears filled my eyes.  This was the first time in over a year, that I missed the fellowship of a church family and I felt like I was ready to be a pastor's wife again.

 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  
 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.   
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.   
I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.
 I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” 
declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
 Jeremiah 29:11-14 

I had sat in the bottom of a pit for so long, and I was tired of being there.  I realized that for too many months, I was in protective mode.  I was trying to control all the pieces, so I wouldn't be hurt again.  I called out to Him that day and He listened to me!  I began to seek Him with all my heart, and I saw Him in a whole new way.  I had lived in captivity for so long, but that day He carried me back to the place from which He carried me into exile.  It was around this time that the Lord brought me to a place of where I could forgive those that had hurt me.  And through this process of forgiveness, I felt a freedom that I hadn't felt in months.  As I continued on the journey, I was able to love people in a whole new way...I was beginning to understand what it meant to live and love like Jesus. 

Almost three years to the day the Lord has closed this chapter through joining our church.  It is not a chapter that will never be read again, but a chapter that will continually be remembered and visited.  A chapter that can't be forgotten because it had such a life-changing impact on me.  A chapter that I will share with others when the opportunity arises, so that He can be glorified. 

So, as my time of being still comes to a close, I can't help but to praise Him for giving me beauty from ashes, gladness from mourning, praise from a faint spirit so that He may be glorified through it all!!


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Obedience Is Action

I have been discipled since July of 2010.   I can't believe that it has been almost 7 years since I began this journey of not just gaining knowledge about Jesus, but to apply it to my every day life...that there must be action...fruit of what I am learning as I read the Bible. 

It has been hard over the years.  I am naturally an introvert, so I don't like putting myself out there...afraid of rejection...afraid people will analyze me.  But in the last several months, the Lord has been working in me...changing me...building a confidence in me. 

Just before Christmas, I was running an errand and saw this gentleman sitting by an empty store front with a backpack and a couple of grocery bags filled with some belongings.  As I walked by him, he caught my attention. The Lord reminded me of the bags in the back of the van that we made a few days before for anyone we saw who was struggling with homelessness.  I felt the Lord leading me to go get a bag and bring it to this man.  I continued on into the store and told the Lord that I didn't think it was a good idea to give a bag because I didn't know 100% that this gentleman was homeless...and I didn't want to offend this guy while trying to love him like Jesus.  I went about my shopping and paid for my items.  As I was walking back to the car, I see this gentleman again.  And very clearly, I hear the Lord say to go get one of the bags out of the van and bring it to this gentleman.  I knew in that moment I had a choice...I was either going to obey or disobey.  I continued walking back to the van and put my stuff in it.  I went to the back of the van and got a bag.  I took a moment to pray.  I told the Lord I was willing to go, but I need Him to give me the words to say.  I took a deep breath, shut the door and walked over to this gentleman.  The whole way over to him, I just kept praying..asking the Lord to use me as he saw fit.  Finally, I am standing in front of this gentleman.  I hold the bag straight out in front of me.  I explained to him that as I was walking into the store I felt the Spirit leading me to bring him this bag of items.  I asked him if he wanted the bag.  He nodded his head and reached out and grabbed it.  Then he proceeded to say how much he appreciated the fact that I had brought him this bag of items.  I asked him if he knew who Jesus was and he told me he did.  (In my mind I was thinking, "Who has taken control of me?"  because this is NOT my normal approach...ever!) I then went on to explain that I was giving him this bag because of what Jesus has done for me on the cross.  I shared with him the church we attend and invited him to come for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service.  I told him that he was more than welcome to come worship with us anytime he was in the neighborhood. 

On the way home, I just praised Jesus for giving me the courage to obey in this situation.  I don't struggle with obeying when it is something I am comfortable watching kiddos for friends, inviting people into my home, cooking a meal.  But this situation was COMPLETELY out of my comfort zone.  I prayed that the Lord would water whatever seed was planted that day. 

I write this blog post to say that even though I have been discipled for almost 7 years and have discipled many ladies over the years, I am still growing...I am still being stretched...I still have moments when I struggle with obedience.  But over the last couple of weeks as I reflect on this day, I am more and more convinced that obedience requires action.  Obedience is action.  I can't just read the Bible week after week with my discipler and not apply what He is teaching me.  I can't read the Bible week after week with the ladies that I disciple telling them that they need to obey as the Spirit leads them even if it makes them uncomfortable and not do it myself. 

So as a new year has started, I am listening for those opportunities that He lays before me. I pray that in those moments when I feel out of my comfort zone that my immediate response will be an obedient action instead of explaining to the Lord why it isn't a good idea or why it won't work.  I pray that I will remember: