When God Speaks in Unexpected Places

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I cried at the end of my spin class.

My eyes closed, tears leaked from the cracks and joined the sweat in a race towards my chin and neck.

I didn’t cry in defeat. Nope, I’m too many months in to do that. But I will admit an hour of cycling three times a week isn’t easy. I didn’t cry in pain, but oh, how my legs were on fire.

The class was almost over. We were to the best part – the cool down and stretch. Our instructor, Betty, played a relaxing song for us to “shake out our legs” and “ride easy.”

“Close your eyes and let your bike take you wherever you want.” Betty encouraged us from the front. She was on the beach headed towards a bonfire, she told us. Now usually when she plays this particular song and tells us to go somewhere great, I choose Greece.

I’ve never been but I’ve seen pictures and movies. I imagine Alan and I riding bikes down the spiraling roads beside the crystal blue sea. I’m not sure why I chose a different place or how my train of thought laid new tracks, but when Betty stressed, “You can go anywhere!” I went to Heaven.

Don’t ask me what made me want to ride bikes down the streets of gold. It’s not on my “Things to Do When I Get to Heaven” list. Nevertheless, I was riding my bicycle through the pearly gates.

The streets were lined with people. They were cheering and yelling. Some were waving their hands back and forth and jumping up and down. I smiled at the encouragement and pushed myself to keep riding. By this time, actual chills were running down my arms and legs in the spin room. I know I must have looked silly, riding with my eyes shut and the biggest grin on my face ever.

The music was so beautiful it didn’t take much to close my eyes and be there. I pressed on, soaking in the cheers of all those faces, and then I saw them. Through the faces of people cheering me, I saw my Grandmother and Papaw, side by side. It didn’t take too much to spot my Papaw with his height. They waved wildly and grinned as I passed. Next I saw my Memaw and Pop clapping and clapping. They looked me in the eyes as I rode past.

I kept riding, tears welling until I saw my aunt Gail, who died earlier this year. She was yelling my name. “Go Carol! We are so proud of you!” I bit my lip to keep myself from the ugly cry, and I smiled harder through my tears. I saw my childhood friend Stacey, who died while we were in college. I saw my friend and former Sunday School teacher, Shawn.

Can I tell you I never wanted the song to stop? In my head, I spoke to God. Wow! Thank you, Lord for letting me see this. And suddenly this verse came to mind. I believe God placed it there.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1 NIV

And right there in the Bodyplex spin room on a stationary bike with a gel foam seat, God confirmed the work He is doing in me and through me. I understood the “cloud of witnesses” were those people who are my encouragers. I knew in my writing and speaking, in serving and loving, in being the Everyday Missionary, I had to press on.

It was as if God stood before me Himself and said, “Good job, Carol. Now keep going.” And so I cried. So now when I feel discouraged, I close my eyes and remember my “cloud of witnesses” and keep going.

Have you ever had a God moment in an unexpected place?

Here is the song Betty played for cool down that day. It’s beautiful.

If you are reading this through email, click HERE to listen to the song.

Carol

In His Presence

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I’ve been promising to write about my mission trip to the Dominican Republic for a while. Forgive me for putting it off. Honestly, I could sit and talk about the experience all day. But strangely, when I sit to write about it, I still find it hard to put into words. Does that even make sense? Anyway, One Vision asked me to write an article for their newsletter about the trip and this is what I wrote. I thought I’d share it here with you. IMG_7941

We bumped down a dirt road, and I squinted out the window of the bus, trying to take in everything on this my first international mission trip.

A friendly face smiled and waved at our pink bus as a rooster scooted behind her. Claudia, the local One Vision missionary, called to us in English.

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“We’re here!”

Nine of us filed off the bus and down a mud path towards the children’s center. We rounded the corner of a concrete block building surrounded by Palm trees and lush vegetation and immediately heard the sing-song “Hola” – the voices of the children greeting us.

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I’m a mom.

It’s who I am. So my first reaction to seeing the children was an emotional one. I wanted to scoop them up and squeeze them.

The sweetest faces smiled at us as the team set up for a Bible story and craft. One group headed out for a prayer walk through the community. Another told the story of Jesus and made a Popsicle stick cross with markers, stickers and glitter. While they did their craft, I took pictures of the kids who needed sponsors.

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Through the lens of my camera, I tried to frame up the children so people back home could see who they were. But how do you capture such personality and sparkle through a tiny glass square? My viewfinder didn’t do them justice. With each click I prayed, “Lord, provide a sponsor.”

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Much to my amazement, this small cinderblock children’s center services 150 children. They provide snacks, help with homework, lead them in crafts, but most importantly, they show God’s unconditional love. Sponsorships from people like you and I help provide that. Being there helped me see how important that support really is.

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An hour later, covered in glitter, sweat and love we left and prepared to begin the women’s conference. Each of us worked in the gift God gave us to minister to these women whose language we didn’t even speak. I was the speaker and shared with them about how when we don’t think anyone notices all the things we do, God sees. God chose each of us for our specific tasks, and He can use those ordinary things to do something extraordinary.

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The women communicated time and again how God spoke through the messages. Each of the ladies on our team led incredible workshops about relevant topics like forgiveness, grief and prayer.

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Our team member Roberta led a prayer corner for them, and they lined up for their turn to pray. Tears were shed – both theirs and ours. It’s amazing to watch as God uses each of His children for His glory.

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On one of our last nights, we sat around a table at the hotel and sang worship, while one of our interpreters played his guitar. Another hotel guest heard the music and told us through translation that he was drawn because he could feel the presence of the Lord.

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I could say the same of this trip. The Lord drew me to the Dominican. He drew each of the team to the children and the women there. While ministering, we felt His presence. And in His presence, we all have been changed.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV

Would you be willing to partner with One Vision to sponsor one of the children there? Or perhaps you want to experience a trip for yourself. Contact One Vision and find out how you can get involved.

Carol

Don’t Forget Mighty God

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It’s summertime! You’ll have to forgive my long absences as I’m trying to make the most of the time I have with all my kids home from school. We enjoyed going to the beach with family and now we are maxing and relaxing at home. I’d love to hear what fun things you are doing this summer.

My four-year-old, Grace, is learning to pray. Join me at the Internet Cafe today to hear a great Grace story where she ended up teaching me a thing or two. Click HERE to read my devotion.

Carol

The Gift I Never Got

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Mother’s Day rolls around each year a month after my birthday. And for the past twelve years I’ve watched my husband and children scramble around to present me with the perfect gift that says, “We appreciate all you do.”

They’ve come up with some great ones over the years. With a creative and thoughtful husband, I’ve been lavished with jewelry and flowers but also one-of-a-kind presents. There was the year he dressed them up and took pictures of them holding the signs to say, “I love U” and the year he gave them each a canvas to paint along with the letters to spell out M-O-M.

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As Mother’s Day approached this year, I thought about the many mothers I’ve had over the years that have poured into my life. The one who learned everything she could about diabetes and bought all the foods I liked so I could spend the night at her house with her daughter. The one who taught me in Sunday School and helped me learn the books of the Bible. The mother who put up with my smart mouth as a teenager in church Acteens and loved me anyway.

The mother who bought me a teddy bear the first Halloween I was diagnosed with diabetes just to make not trick-or-treating a little better. The mother who listened while I shared my broken heart over my latest break-up. And that doesn’t even include my own mother who poured into my life daily.

So this Mother’s Day, I decided I really wanted to invest in another mother. I wanted my gifts from my family to go to a mother who really needed a break.

So, this past Sunday my sweet family presented me with my most memorable gifts to date. They gave me mosquito bed nets for a family of four, $350 worth of medical supplies and a custom wheelchair – well actually they gave them to another mother in my name. I get teary every time I think about it. I want my life to make a difference. And this gift is helping to do that.

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Through World Vision, you can choose a large variety of things to donate to needy families. I browsed through their online catalogue and these things caught my eye. The bed nets will allow a family to lie down and sleep in peace, knowing they are protected. What mom doesn’t need a good night’s sleep?

The medicine, which only cost $35, is actually $350 worth of life saving drugs – antibiotics, pain killers, surgical supplies, anti-parasitic drugs, deworming medications and more. My own children have been sick a lot lately, so I can’t imagine not having the medicines to give them.

Then there is my favorite: the wheelchair. Many kids in third-world countries cannot walk due to polio, landmines and poor medical care. If they can’t walk, they can’t go to school. If they can’t go to school, they won’t be able to get an education that could possibly help them rise out of the poverty in which they live. So, through my family’s donation, a child will have a custom built wheelchair shipped to their home.

Can you imagine your child needing a wheelchair and not being able to provide it? I was telling my mom about the wheelchair gift and she got a little teary. My Papaw, her father, had a wooden leg. He lost his leg to cancer at age sixteen. His family couldn’t afford the prosthetic. They paid for a small part of it, but couldn’t purchase their son a leg. But God sent someone along who made a donation for the rest of the leg so my Papaw could walk again.

I’m almost too teary to even talk about what this gift means to me. So, I’ve decided from here on out, for Mother’s Day, I want my family to give to another mother in honor of me. Do you remember what you got last year for Mother’s Day? I honestly can’t remember. But this, friends, is a Kingdom gift that I’ll never forget – and I bet the recipients won’t either.

It’s funny to think my best present ever was a gift I never got.

Want to honor someone today? Consider buying a gift for someone else in his or her name.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40 NIV

 

*Photo credits: Flowers – RGBStockPhoto.com, Wall photo – personal, Wheelchair – World Vision

Carol

Set the Captives Free

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You know how much I love getting to teach and minister at the prison. I’m always asking the men to tell me their stories. I just love to hear about how God redeemed their lives.

Many times they will give me copies of the papers they’ve written for classes that tell their stories. I always ask for permission to use them in my writing. I want to share what God has done but also want to be respectful of their privacy. They always want me to share. Because in my sharing, it means their lives are being used. Their pain and bad choices aren’t just the tools that put them behind bars but are part of a greater story that God can use to change other lives. That’s powerful.

Today at the Presidential Prayer Team, I tell the story of Maurice. He would love it if you would go read it – and so would I. Click HERE to read his story of redemption.

*Remember the PPT devotion links are only direct for today, May 12. After today, you’ll have to click this date from the drop down menu on the site. 

Carol