Friday, October 14, 2016

Waiting on the Lord

Waiting on the Lord
Nancy Gardner

            In 2006 my husband and I were making a critical decision about our future.  He had already retired; I was to retire in six more years.  This was the year that my husband proposed a shocking idea for what he would like us to do when I stopped working.  He wanted us to pull up roots - move from Florida where we had been living for 45 years and build a home in North Carolina.  Prior to Rocky discussing this plan with me, he had already been to North Carolina and seen property he'd fallen in love with.  It was high up a mountainside having a panoramic view overlooking three states.
            Making such a move would be very hard for me since I had grown up and raised my family in Winter Park.  It would also require me to leave my family, my friends, and the places I was so familiar with - especially my church.  My church was as much a part of me as breathing!  Not only was it the place where my journey with the Lord began, but also where my children had begun their faith journey. The members of my church family were very dear to me -- having sustained me through some difficult times.  In addition, I had spent years directing the children's choir and singing in a ladies ensemble. Moving would be a real life changer!
            A short time after proposing this plan he took me to see the property.  It definitely had a  breath-taking view!  Now I had to make the very difficult decision. I agreed to go along "on this ride." However, I did have one fervent desire which I made known to my husband.  I was going to have to find a church where God's presence was evident and that had a warm and welcoming congregation.  It also needed to have strong music program where I could continue using my talents for praising the Lord.
            For the next eight years after buying the property and while the house was being built, I kept praying, asking God to help me find the right church.  During this span of time on our visits to check on the progress of the house, we stayed with friends.  My search was on.  We visited many churches, but neither of us felt as though the Holy Spirit was leading us to any of them.
            As our move into our new home approached, doubts flooded into my heart about leaving my family, friends, and a loving church.  However, I quickly learned to say, "Lord, I'm trusting you.  I know you will provide."
            Finally after moving into our home in 2015, I started searching the Internet to look for a church.  I found one that might fit us, but it was a forty minute drive from our house.  However, we did know people who attended there, and it did have a large music ministry.  Then while still online, I found myself looking at another church in a town closer to us.  This church offered a full music program, and there was even an orchestra!  To this day I know God directed me to this site.  My heart was so full.  I knew this was a God experience!
            The next Sunday evening we attended - thinking it would be a more relaxed atmosphere.  As soon as we got out of the car, we were welcomed by people in the parking lot; the pastor's sermon spoke to our seeking hearts.  Two people sitting behind us even asked me to join the choir!  I was so overcome with joy I could hardly speak.  Driving home that night I asked the Lord,“ Is this where you want us?" It certainly was even more than I was expecting. 
            We decided to go again the next Sunday morning just to affirm our feeling that we were in our new church home.  Afterward my husband and I both felt the peace of the Holy Spirit fill our hearts.  As I looked out over the tranquil mountains on our drive home, I was full of praise and thanksgiving for what the Lord had done.  It was another special moment with God.  These Scripture verses came pouring into my heart.     
            Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according    to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!
                        (Ephesians 3:20-21)

            Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will         find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.
                        (Matthew 7:7)

During the long nine years of waiting, I had kept on asking and seeking his perfect place for us.  Finally, the door opened. 
             Has this journey been easy? No, but I know through this experience that my God really does supply all my needs. And I will do as Psalm 146:1-2 directs:
            Praise the LORD, O my soul.
            I will praise the LORD all my life;

            I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Best Planner

The Best Planner
Esther Taggart

            In 2011, I turned 76.  I was energetic, going to Curves three times a week for exercise.  I was also active in church and enjoyed going out with family and friends.  However, during December I began feeling ill.  I lost my appetite which was unusual for me.               
            After seeing my doctor, my friend Valerie noticed I was not getting any better.  She said, " If you ever feel ill during the night, call me. I live a lot closer to you than your family." 
            I managed to get through Christmas, but on January 6, 2012, to my surprise, I woke up on the bathroom floor.  I was too ill to get up.  I did not even remember getting out of bed and falling.  I lay there for awhile before crawling out of the bathroom and to my night stand.  I phoned my friend Valerie who said, "I'll be right there."  It was 5 o'clock in the morning. 
            Soon I was in an ambulance on my way to the hospital.  The testing started right away.  The hospital staff was so kind to my family and my friend who were so upset.  When the ER doctor came in and told us I had cancer, I remember feeling sorry for the doctor.  He seemed so sad to be telling us that news.  After receiving two units of blood I was transferred to another hospital where I could be treated.
            Valerie called Rev. Tony Clark, who was our former pastor. He came and prayed and anointed me.  I was so glad to see him and I remember thinking "one way or the other I'll be healed."  I knew I was in God's hands.
            The final diagnosis was: diffused large B cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma over the coronary descending arota.  They could not do surgery or radiation.  Chemo was the only option.  My oncologist ordered 6 rounds of chemo - each one three weeks apart.
            The first chemo treatment was done in the hospital.  They started it in the evening, and my daughter Melanie and granddaughter Hayley stayed with me all night.  When I was discharged a few days later, I went to Winter Park to stay with my granddaughter Courtney and her husband.  She is a stay-at-home mom so I was not alone.  The rest of my chemo treatments were done as an outpatient.  I was blessed to have one of my two daughters take me each time.  
            During my stay with Courtney, my friends came to see me when they could, and we would go out to lunch. I was with Courtney six months. It was then that they sold their house, so my daughter Carolyn asked me live with her in Clermont, a town some distance away.  Fortunately, by this time I was able to stay by myself during the day. I was able to take nice walks around the neighborhood.  I also enjoyed reading my Bible and spending time with the Lord. 
            Sadly, the chemo treatments weakened my immune system. Consequently, I got a bad infection - ending up in hospital three times during 2012 with C. diff.  The third time, they let me stay home, and I was given a special medication which was hard to get. The Lord worked things out, and I was so grateful to be able to stay at home!
            Thankfully, by 2013 I was cancer free.  The good Lord answered each prayer that had been said for me. 
            Now that I was living in Clermont, I didn't get to see my friends often.  But the good Lord took care of that, too.  By chance, I discovered an old friend, Marge, was now living a few streets from me.  We had a nice reunion.  I attended Marge's home Bible study every Wednesday and on Tuesdays we went together to another Bible study.  God is good!
            I have favorite Bible verses that I say every day.
            My grace is sufficient for you for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
                        (2 Corin 12:9)
            With God all things are possible.   
                        (Matt 19: 26)
Reciting these gave me the help and comfort I've needed to sustain me during the challenging times I experienced.

            Now here it is 2016, and I'm now living in Maitland in my own apartment and attending church and a Bible study at the Church of the Good Shepherd.  Though I can no longer drive, I am within walking distance of my new church family.  My daughter Carolyn moved from Clermont and is living ten minutes from me.  And my granddaughter Courtney and her family live only a short distance away.  God is the best planner!

Friday, September 30, 2016

In His Light

In His Light
by Joan Schultz

            Have you ever experienced a moment when you felt you were in a special place at a special time that had a divine impact on you?  That kind of experience recently happened to me. 
            I arrived very early for the noontime Ash Wednesday service.  After my husband dropped me off in the parking area, I made my slow journey to the chapel using my walker.  On this day it was cold and windy - no one else was going in my direction yet.  The sun was being reflected off of the big, old refurbished church bell now mounted on the grounds nearby.  Shadows of leaves moved as though they were dancing - also caught my attention.
            Finally I reached my favorite spot along my walk.  It was at the start of the long, wooden ramp leading up to the chapel entrance.  Here, in between the wooden vertical supports for the railing, are wooden slats with cutouts in them which form a cross.  On this particular day and at this particular time the subdued sunlight coming through the overcast clouds was being projected through this cutout of the cross - forming a shadow on the horizontal floorboards of the ramp.  On this day I was going to have to actually step on the reflection of the cross as I made my ascent up the ramp.   Halfway up the ramp there was another such cutout and another shadow of a cross being cast in my path.  I had never experienced stepping on the crosses in the many other times I had made this walk.  This was a special happening. 
            As I continued up the ramp to the entrance I had to make a turn which made me rise above the part of the ramp I had just been on.  When I looked down on the shadows I had just seen, they now were at such angles that they took on the appearance of arrows.  Suddenly I noticed these arrows were pointing towards the two stations of the cross which were mounted outside the ramp on posts.  I was enthralled with the beauty of my surroundings - enjoying the solitude.
             All these visual images were powerful for me.  Shadows, reflections, glimmers of light - no people - only my sensing the strong presence of God.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Hope in What is Not Seen

Hope in What is Not Seen
David Brust

            In April of 2015 I was diagnosed with a rare condition --myelodyplastic syndrome.  This infirmity causes the bone marrow to become so thick with fibrosis (scarring) that it can no longer produce blood cells.  My doctor told me without a bone marrow transplant my life expectancy would be about three months.  With the transplant he said chances for my recovery would be in the 10 percent category.  I decided to have the transplant. 
            For someone who had been healthy and energetic all of his life I found myself thrust into an infirmity that came as quite a surprise!  It was at this point in my life that I came to realize how a person whose life is in jeopardy has a new motivation to turn to God - wanting to walk very close to Him.  My wife and I had been Christians for more than 30 years, so turning to God now was not going to be anything new to us.  Our focus was on scripture that pertained to health and healing, and we were definitely praying concerning the condition I was experiencing.  As a result, I developed an aggressively positive attitude about my being healed.           
            The transplant took place in June.  During the following seven months I had been going in for bi-weekly bone marrow tests.  Regardless of my condition during the months of treatment, my faith continued to give me confidence that I was going to be all right! 
            In January 2016 when I went in to see my doctor, his words were: "a miracle has taken place."  He told me that the most recent test results showed the bone marrow had completely healed itself of all scarring and was producing blood cells in a normal manner.  In other words, there were no blasts (i.e. cancer) cells present.
            Without taking away any of my appreciation for my doctor and the rest of his medical team, I felt compelled to share with him my testimony.  I relayed to him how God had revealed to me back in April that I was healed.  It was as though He had spoken to me in such a way as to provide me with an understanding in my heart and in my mind that He had already ordained my healing.  Since that time I had been professing, "I am healed, and I am getting better and better every day in every way."  On this day God gave confirmation to this testimony!
            Another point of interest has to do with the donor of the stem cells for my transplant.  Remembering him, I sent him an appreciation note.  The rules for engagement between donor and recipient is ... we would not be introduced to each other until one year after the transplant.  Therefore, we had to use some discretion in what we shared with each other.  We could not know each other's names or locations.  My note extended to him my gratitude for his willingness to be a donor - volunteering to help a stranger recover from an infirmity.  I took a chance and also informed him how marvelously well the transplant has gone.  I knew the letter would be monitored by the medical team prior to being forwarded.  I was told everything in my letter went as written except I had signed my first name at the end.  That was removed.
            I received a response from my donor letting me know how much my note meant to him.  I also found out he was in his last semester of college, graduation coming up soon.  He also expressed an interest in our being able to meet after the one year silence period.  I am looking forward to that with some apprehension knowing how emotional this event will be for me.  He signed his note, "your blood brother."

            At this writing it has been 217 days since my transplant.  I am thankful for all the prayers offered for me by so many.  It is definitely a great day for my praising God for his healing touch and for the connections He has made in my life!  I certainly want to thank Him for revealing to me in advance that I was healed before I even began my treatment.

Friday, September 16, 2016

His Protection

His Protection
Mary Brinson

            Years ago, my husband and I lived in Louisiana.  After serving four years in the US Marines, including a tour of duty in Vietnam, we were then in Louisiana because he was a full time college student there.
            When our son was only two years old, I took him with me to Atlanta, Georgia, to attend my youngest brother's college graduation. I had packed only enough clothing for the weekend. As we prepared to catch our flight back to Louisiana after the commencement activities, my mother insisted on taking my son home with her to North Carolina. Although I explained that he only had enough clothing for the weekend, she replied, "I'll buy him more." Her urgency to take him with her was unexplainable, but eventually I relented.      
            Several weeks after my return, a friend and her toddler came to visit us at our home. Suddenly without warning, the sky on that summer afternoon became very dark. The wind howled with a volume that was unfamiliar to me. With a very intense voice, I said to my friend, "Take your baby and please leave!"
            My friend had not been gone more than 10 minutes when a tornado touched down on us. It totally destroyed our home and all of its contents. Amazingly, although our home was reduced to just a pile of rubbish, my husband and I survived with just the clothes on our back. I feel it was God's direction telling me to emphatically insist that my friend leave. I also came to realize afterwards, with certainty, that my mom's insistence on taking my child was no coincidence.

            I have no doubt it was God's infinite power that protected us!

Friday, September 9, 2016

His Mysterious Ways

His Mysterious Ways
Nicki Ridenour

            A little boy once said," My mommy always comes when I call her in the middle of the night. She doesn't always come right away, but she always comes." I have begun to
increasingly think of God in that way. Actually, God often comes even before I remember to call upon Him. And He sometimes responds when I am not even aware of a danger or a need.
            This year in the midst of having financial stress and strain, my BiPAP machine,
which I use to help me to breath at night, was damaged due to an accident involving
a great deal of water. Since this had happened once before, I knew that the repair
cost was $640.00. Insurance had paid most of it the first time, but I knew they wouldn't
pay a second time. This second occurrence happened right before Christmas. What was I
going to do?
            While trying to figure that out, I got a text from my husband's cousin and his wife. They asked if I had received their Christmas card. I thought this was odd; I never call to ask people if they've gotten my Christmas card. Since I hadn't gone to get the mail yet that day, I didn't answer. Later that day when I did retrieve their card from our mailbox, I forgot about their earlier text message. I put the mail aside to be opened later.
            That evening I got a phone call from them, asking the same question. While still on the phone with them, I opened their card. Inside was a note which said, "We got a refund for a car repair, and we thought we would share it with you." There was a check enclosed. For how much?  $638.00!!!  Amazingly, they had no prior knowledge of my BiPAP delimma.
            Is this a God story or what?! As you can well imagine, I was giddy with surprise and delight - my giddiness must have gone on for ten minutes. I shed tears of gratitude
for their gift and for the God who orchestrated it. I am sure that God was behind it all, and they agreed.
            Opening the card in their "presence" was also a gift since we were all able share firsthand my joy and thankfulness. A true blessing from God!

            Thank you, Lord! Amen.

Friday, September 2, 2016

He Did It Again

He Did It Again
Meg Folsom

            On July ninth I came down with the flu and bronchitis. For those who know me... I prefer all my healing to be done through natural remedies and prayer, but since nothing I tried had worked and I was leaving in 9 days on a trip to Europe, I decided to go to the doctor.  The doctor put me on medication and told me to stay home from work and rest.
            As a result of this illness, I lost my sense of smell and taste. However, I was well enough to travel. It was awful going to Europe without being able to taste the food!             
            In early August on my return from Europe, I went to the doctor again, and I agreed on more medical testing. He did blood work that came back normal.  He now recommended that I see an ear, nose and throat specialist, so I saw one a couple of weeks later. The specialist also prescribed more tests to be run.  On my follow-up appointment the specialist told me that all those tests results returned normal. After giving me that news, he just simply dismissed me saying, "Sorry, it's probably permanent since it's been so long." I felt very hopeless.  This condition had now gone on from July until now -- October!
            After leaving his office, I very angry at the way I had just been treated.  I sat in my car and cried out of frustration and prayed for healing.  Not tasting and smelling is more difficult than I could have ever imagined.  I began to worry. What if there was a gas leak from the stove or smoke in the house when I was alone! I wouldn't be able to smell it. What if no one cleaned the cat box, and the house smelled awful.  How could I win the upcoming chili cook-off contest if I couldn't taste! And Thanksgiving wasn't far off - -I'd be missing out on some of the delights of the holiday.  Then my mind went straight to CANCER. I had been in remission from cancer for 8 years, a lot longer than the oncologists ever thought. Was it coming back?
            The only good thing that came of this trying time was loosing a few pounds. What's the point of eating chocolate if you can't taste it and, trust me, I tried.  I would get little whiffs of taste and smell, but they only lasted for about 30 seconds or less. 
            In November I tried to make an appointment with my oncologist to eliminate the possibility of it being caused by the return of cancer.  I was told it would the middle of December before I could get in.  GRRRRR... another brick wall.  So I did what I know works... I prayed to God for His will to be done, no matter what.
            It was now going into the fifth month of my not being able to taste or smell, and I was also experiencing terrible headaches.  I decided to make an appointment to see my chiropractor for the headaches.  Almost a year earlier my son had given me a gift certificate to have a massage.  I thought this would be just the right time to use it.  I tried making a massage appointment for the same day I would be seeing the chiropractor. I tried to schedule Jessica to give me my massage.  I felt very comfortable with her since she was a former patient of mine whose baby I helped deliver five years ago.   However, she was booked for that day, so I made an appointment with a new person instead.  Then I received a call saying that appointment had to be canceled due to overbooking, so I just said," Please give me the first one available with Jessica."  I saw her the next Tuesday evening.  After hugs and updates I told her to please focus on my back, shoulders and neck.  I never mentioned what was going on with my taste and smell.  I tried hard to relax and stay in moment asking the Lord to please guide her hands to any areas that were blocked and PLEASE UNSTICK THEM if it was His will.  
            I headed home feeling much more relaxed and pain free from the headache. When I got into the garage, I noticed I could smell dinner and it was for more than a few seconds.  When I came inside, I yelled to my husband Keith, "I can smell dinner cooking!" I quickly grabbed a few green beans and ate them. I could taste! I grabbed some potatoes. I could taste! I got a piece of chocolate. I could even taste it!  I went into my bedroom and sprayed my perfume. I could SMELL. I was speechless!  
            After dinner, I got ready for bed and then sat in my chair contemplating what had just happened. Keith had gone on to bed. I was alone reflecting on the whole experience. I wanted to tell someone else so badly. I texted my friend Mary, but she never responded.  So what's a girl to do who's just been healed by her loving Father? Post it on Facebook. I don't normally put too much of my stuff out there on social media, but I wanted everyone to know about God's healing.  I also sent Jessica a personal message explaining everything I had been going through. Her response was one of love, amazement and gratitude for her work.

            I have experienced God's healing more than once in my life. I am so very grateful!  I am very happy to say I have seen my oncologist, and I am still in remission despite the stats saying I shouldn't be doing so well. I know that God loves me and wants me to be whole.  And I believe God had something to do with the timing of my massage appointment so that I could finally be treated by Jessica.  I'm so thankful that God answered the prayers offered up for me by my church's prayer team and by so many others. God gets all the Glory!