This week I was reminded of the power there is in obedience. A quote from one of my favorite pastors, Charles Stanley, has stayed with me over the years: “Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him.” I attended a ladies retreat last weekend, and my fire was reignited, my spirit renewed, and I was blessed over and over again by many “but God” moments. I stepped out in blind faith, obeying something the Lord told me to do, and oh how wonderfully and powerfully I was blessed!
Back In June, the Lord spoke to me and said: “Go to the ladies retreat”. I knew it was from the Lord, because it just came out of nowhere in a quiet moment, and I had not attended or thought about a ladies retreat in several years. So I looked into it briefly, then brushed off the idea and forgot about it. About two months later, God spoke to me again, in a stronger voice, “Go to the retreat!” That jolted me a bit, and I remembered the quote about obedience, so I diligently searched for the information and registered. It was a giant leap of faith, as I knew I would not know anyone who would be attending nor whom I would be rooming with. Then I rested and waited in peaceful anticipation of what the Lord had in store for me.
True to form, whenever God is preparing something to work in your life, the enemy tries to come in and steal your joy and peace and prevent whatever good thing God is going to do from happening. So a little over 2 weeks before the retreat date, I came down with the dreaded virus. And it hit me hard; I was down for 2 weeks. All I kept thinking was “Lord, please don’t let me miss this retreat!” But this time of illness was actually a blessing, as it was preparing me and my heart for the retreat. It made me cry out to the Lord in my misery, asking for strength and healing. I kept remembering scriptures of when Jesus healed people, like the lady who was made well by touching the hem of Jesus’ garment: “Your faith has made you well….go in peace (Mark 5:25-34), or the leper who said “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean” (Matthew 8:2-4). It made me appreciate and love my husband even more; he was my nurse and attended to me constantly, and more importantly, he prayed for me continuously. Another unexpected blessing from this illness was that it broke my dependence on coffee (caffeine), of which I have reaped many benefits that have improved my health. I sleep better, waking up earlier and more refreshed now, giving me more time to read the Word; my heart is no longer racing and working hard, my blood pressure has dropped, and my legs and body don’t ache as much. All of this was preparing me to be ready for the retreat and sit at His feet, opening my heart to be still, and stripping any hindrance and ridding me of myself, allowing me to hear only from Him for 3 days. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose “– Romans 8:28.
The theme of the retreat was “Beautifully Broken”, and I knew why I needed to be there. For years, I have struggled with regrets over my past sins, mistakes, and failures. I know that many things I have done have affected my children, and I struggle with mother guilt, battling the “I coulda, shoulda, woulda” in my mind. Sometimes it is pure torment, but a beautiful sister there reminded me that it is the enemy telling me these things, and don’t let him in my mind that way. As a mother, I may always struggle with this, but a song I heard at the retreat said, “Our sins they are many, His mercy is more.” When these thoughts creep in, I have to keep reminding myself of God’s Word and promises for me. Yes, I did sinful things in my past, but the blood of Jesus cleansed me and wiped the slate clean (Isaiah 43:25). I became a new creation when I confessed my sins and accepted Jesus as Lord of my life (2 Corinthians 5:17). Hebrews 8:12 says “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” If God doesn’t remember my sins anymore, why should I keep rehashing them? I am free from that bondage. And this is why it is so important to read and study the Word of God, because when these battles of the mind, the spiritual battles in the dark hours of night when we are alone and feel beaten down, we can recall these scriptures that are implanted in our hearts and shout them aloud, strengthening us and reminding the enemy he has no place here!
Another “but God” moment for me was through Secret Sister/Prayer Partners. This was an optional activity, where you submit your name and prayer requests and someone draws your name and vice versa. You commit to praying for your “secret sister” at the conference and for the year, along with giving her 3 gifts during the retreat. The first night, when I opened my first gift, this note card was inside (mind you, I have never met, and still don’t know who my new “secret sister is, but God used this to speak to me):
This blessed me so much and spoke to me in a very powerful way! Another thing I struggle with is my feeling of inadequacy and always feeling like an oddball. I don’t have a dynamic, vivacious personality. I was always the last one picked for teams in school. I have always been quiet and a loner, doing things by myself. In crowds or groups, I retreat to a quiet little corner, watching all the life-of-the-party people do their thing. So I have struggled to find my place in life. The older I get, the more I have accepted that l am just “different”. When I read this note, tears started to flow. I said to myself “Yes Lord, You did! You created me and You get me! I will obey You, and You will do the rest!” So again, I took a leap of faith, and started being open with sisters I met, seizing opportunities to speak blessings to them. I was hesitant at first, since I had long ago put up a wall around me because of past hurts and because I felt my past attempts at reaching out to others was not well received; I felt rejected. But the Lord said to me “keep doing this, and if it isn’t received, shake off the dust, and move on to the next one” (Matthew 10:14).
During the time of worship and prayer, I asked God to help me be a better wife to my husband and a better helpmate to walk alongside of him in his ministry, and to speak to me about how He wants to use me and my gifts, whatever they are. During this time of waiting on the Lord to speak, this song came on, which is now on my list of power songs: Canvas and Clay. It spoke to my struggle with past mistakes, and how they aren’t wasted. It spoke to how wonderfully I am made, and how He makes all things work together for my good and His glory. As I was deep in prayer, I heard the very last words of the song “He’s not finished with you yet”. I looked up and said "Okay Lord, what is it?", and He told me to go back to writing. In October 2020, I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease. In addition to the numerous physical symptoms, there are cognitive ones: brain fog, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, etc., all of which have been a battle for me and has put a damper on my writing. There are studies that show that brain volume loss occurs in Graves’ disease, so as they say, the struggle is real. But listening to the many wonderful ladies who spoke at the retreat about their many difficult struggles, which are much worse than mine, and seeing how the Lord continues to use them, the Lord showed me that He can still use me. My body and mind might not be the same anymore, I am adjusting to this new normal, but I see that I can still be used by God, just in a slower, stiller and simpler way. So here I am, writing once again.
One thing I noticed of all the ladies that spoke or I met, was that in spite of all their pain, suffering, loss, difficulties, etc., they all had the joy of the Lord. They all emanated this light and peace and love and pure, unspeakable joy of the Lord. That is what aging gracefully is. That is what obedience to the Lord is. It is submitting to the Lord, no matter what circumstances befall you. It is having that peace that surpasses all understanding, and trusting that the Lord will continue to sustain you and be there for you and bless you as you navigate through life’s many challenges. It is being receptive to what He is telling you to do, and following in faith, sight unseen, to whatever it is the Lord is telling you or leading you to do. You will be abundantly and unbelievably blessed. I found this out by my simple act of obedience in heeding the Lord’s call to go to the retreat. I arrived not knowing a single person, but I left having new sisters in Christ. I left with my soul and spirit renewed, realizing God is not finished with me and He can, will and still use me, no matter what I’ve done in the past, or how much of an oddball I feel like I am. I left knowing that He has equipped me with certain gifts, has uniquely made me, with my quirky personality, scars, flaws and all, to bless certain people. He accepts who I am and I can sit still and be who He made me to be.
He’s not finished with me. And He’s not finished with you.
Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey. – Luke 11:28