Stormy Rains bring Spiritual Growth

Though I don’t “like” being tested with the storms of life, I realize they are needed. As I look back, all of my spiritual growth has only taken place after the storm and rain. Change has only taken place after gusty winds have blown through my life and as God has revealed to me many times over, those winds let me know of His presence in my life. Just as the grass and flowers die after an extended period of no rain, and the lakes will dry up in a drought, our lives reflect the same outcome if we don’t experience any storms. If it doesn’t “rain” in our life, we will be much like the lakes and dry up. We need the rain from those storms in order to grow spirtually. Do we like it? No! Do we get excited every time a storm comes? No! Do we like the growth that takes place in our lives after the storm has passed? Absolutely! I know I do!

Recently I have been through a few of those storms. No matter how severe or mild, they equally tested me, just in different areas of my life and in my heart. Sometimes we can see God clearly in the midst of the storm like that rainbow in the sky in the midst of an afternoon rain shower while the sun is still shining, other times, we can’t see past the dark clouds that looms over our heads, the heavy rain in front of our eyes, or hear His voice over the loud booming of the thunder that is rattling our very being. My biggest struggle that I have in the midst of a storm has changed over the last couple of years. My biggest struggle used to be having faith that God was going to work it all out and take care of me in the storm, now it’s more of Am I handling this the way God wants me to? Am I doing the right thing? Am I moving in the right direction? How do I know this is what He wants for me? I let fear grip me so bad that it hinders me. I am so afraid of making the wrong decision and not being in God’s will. But I have had to be reminded that God didn’t give me that fear and doesn’t want me to have it.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self control. 2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

I just want to hear from God so clearly in a situation or circumstance and be sure that I am in His will for my life. The only way for me to do that is to spend quiet time with him in prayer, spend time in His word, seek Godly counsel if it is needed, and be open to hearing Him and not just telling Him. So I broke away from all the noise, all the distractions of life, and hid myself away from the rest of the world, and placed myself in the presence of God, boldly before His throne, seeking His will for this storm in my life. Seeking His will first takes place with confessing my sin to Him, where I went wrong, where I messed up, where I fell short as we all do (Romans 3:23)If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened – Psalm 66:18. I know that I am not perfect and will never handle everything that comes my way just perfectly, if I was perfect I would no longer be walking this earth. So I spent time confessing to God where I believe I had sinned, and asked Him to reveal to me any unconfessed sin that I had in my heart. I poured my heart out to God, every fear I had, every hurt that I was feeling, every area that I was struggling with and in. I wanted to seek God’s face, His will, His heart. I didn’t want to speak one word, didn’t want to move one step without doing what it was that He wanted me to do, His will for my life. Some times I would hear from Him immediately, other times, I waited patiently to hear from Him. I still struggled. How can I know for sure that what I’m hearing is from God? Have you ever just really wanted God to sit in front of you and just grab your face between His two hands and say, “This is what I want you to do!”? I sure have. I longed for that clarity. I spent so much time in confusion. That should have been a clear sign to me at that very moment. 1 Corinthians 14:33 says, “For God is not a God of confusion, but of peace.”

Why did I continue to battle with what I was hearing clearly from God? Easy, The enemy! He didn’t want me hearing from God, he wanted me hearing his lies because if I heard his lies over God’s truth then I would stay right where he wanted me to, in his pit of destruction, in this storm and in bondage to him. When we are in the midst of the storms of life, the enemy has a plan and will for our lives just the same as our Father does. We have to listen carefully to the voice of truth and not listen to his lies. He doesn’t want us to be free, or to be in Gods will. What use are we to him then? I needed more instruction from God, more counsel, more prayer, I just needed to be completely clear that what I was feeling, what I was hearing was of God for sure without a shadow of a doubt! I needed that clarity and that confirmation. The bible says in Proverbs 15:14 that “The discerning heart seeks knowledge”. I was seeking knowledge, it also says “Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.” Proverbs 23:12. I was applying the knowledge that God was giving me through every way or source He was sending it to me, some subtle some as clear as could be.

Everytime I felt God’s peace, the enemy would throw some bait out and dangle it in front of me. After an extended time in prayer, counsel and knowledge, and in the stillness of His presence while I sat at His feet, many times with tears streaming down my face, my heart broken and shattered in many pieces, God revealed Himself to me in some mighty ways. He sent knowledge to me that I could see no other way but through Him. He opened my eyes to things I could never have seen on my own. Confirmation came to me from my Father and I had to make a conscience decision to no longer listen to the enemy and his lies, to no longer take his bait. I had a decision to make, keep believing his lies and falling into his trap that kept me trapped in a horrible pit, or take God’s hands, trust in Him, believe in Him, and climb out of that pit with His help. The enemy tried, but I chose to listen to that voice of truth, the voice that was telling me,“Angie, here’s what I want you to do, believe in me, trust in me, I know what’s best for you, I see the big picture and you don’t, I always have your best interest at heart, and I have plans for you and those plans are not to harm you, but to prosper you, plans to give you hope and a future.!” (Jeremiah 29:11) I made a decision that day, a decision to walk out of that pit, and when I did, the storm clouds cleared, the sun came out, and I had more peace than I could have ever imagined! “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:7 knows the peace I am talking about!

Through these storms that I have been through, I believe there has been some growth. I could not see it taking place then, or not even right after the storm had began passing. It was only after some evaluation started taking place in my heart. After listening to my pastors sermon about spiritual growth, I found myself sitting there and asking myself “Did I grow through all of this?”, “How did others view me throughout these storms?”, “Would they be able to say they saw my faith or a difference in me & how I handled the storm this time compared to the past storms in my life?” I went to my husband and asked these questions, not certain of what I would hear, but I knew I could count on hearing the truth in love from him. He had confirmed what I had hoped to hear, he saw growth. He pointed out that how I handled myself throughout these storms is so different from how I have handled myself in past storms, that I sought God first in everything, waited patiently on Him & His instruction, and exercised my faith in ways he had never seen before. Sometimes we just need to check our hearts and that’s just what I did. I would hate to think that after facing some of the most trying storms, that I had no growth. I consider the fact that my biggest struggle was not in having faith that God was at work and in control, but seeking His will more than mine being a huge growth mark for me on my spiritual growth chart! 

Pebble in the Water, Part 3: Redeemed!

That evening after the surgery, Carrie’s Student Pastor had left the hospital to return home, and it had been storming and raining earlier, and he sent me a picture mail that showed a rainbow across the sky as he drove down the road! That rainbow that God always promises at the end of a storm, a promise in itself that God has shown us many times over through many storms in our lives! It left us all feeling so hopeful, we knew that our God was there and taking care of everything…..

It was the night following the surgery and we sit by her bedside watching every move, constantly checking the monitors to be sure her oxygen level is where it should be, that her heart is beating just as it was created to do. I find myself thinking of the course of the day before and I am overwhelmed with emotion. The next few days found themselves to be very testing and trying. It’s as if we found ourselves on a roller coaster in an amusement park there at the hospital. I didn’t want to leave her bedside and I rarely did. Each morning brought new chest x-rays, to be followed by afternoon x-rays, which brought us to the Dr’s coming by the room to let us know how things were progressing. They had turned the chest tube off of suction to see how the lung did, only to find that air seemed to be leaking once again which was in turn causing the lung to begin to collapse again, which caused them to turn the suction back on the chest tube to draw the air out & allow the lung to inflate yet again. By the 2nd time this was happening, I knew I needed to breakaway and find some alone and quiet time with my Father. So David sat with Carrie and played games with her, colored with her, and done crafts with her as I made my way downstairs to the chapel.

As I walked into the chapel I found nothing but silence and stillness. I walked over and took a seat, I laid my head upon my arms on the pew in front of me, closed my eyes and sat in silence and then began praying, “God I don’t understand this, I don’t understand what’s happening and why everything doesn’t seem to be getting better. I trust you with everything that I am, and I have faith in you, and I know that you are going to take care of her and heal her completely, I just don’t know when, and I am coming to you right now and asking you to strengthen me and my faith. You have done so much already Lord, and I know you’re going to complete this, but I am asking you Lord, help me stay strong, give me what I need to hold onto every ounce of faith that I have within me right now Lord. Send me the words I need to hear, allow me to hear your voice over the alarms and monitors in the room and the doctors voices. Drown out everything else, and just let me hear you Lord. Thank you for all that you have done already God, for how you have taken care of her, I know she was yours before she was mine, and I know she has been in the best care possible! Thank you for hearing me now Lord, for touching my heart and strengthening me even as I pray! In Jesus Name, Amen” I sat still in the silence of the chapel, listening for God’s voice. I heard him telling me to get up and take a walk outside, not sure why at that moment in time, but I did just as He told me to.

As I walked outside, feeling a little warmth from the sunshine, experiencing natural daylight, it was something that felt nice to my eyes and my skin. I walked up to a bench and sat down at the front of the hospital. As I sat there, waiting patiently to hear what God had to say, I felt the wind start blowing first gently across my skin, and gradually picking up speed and intensity, and I began feeling my hair blowing. I looked up at the sunshine and as I did the leaves on the tree right in front of me caught my attention. It was then I heard God saying to me, “Angie, do you remember the last time this happened, after Carrie was back at home, the two of you were sitting on your front porch in the glider enjoying my beautiful creations together? As you spent that time together, I allowed the wind to start blowing that day, and I spoke to you then and told you that the wind is a lot like me, some days you will feel it’s presence stronger than others, but it’s always there. Angie, feel this wind right now, as I let it start out gently and slowly allowed it to become more present, take rest and comfort in knowing that I am always here, and just as I allowed you to feel the wind strongly just now, you too will fill my presence strongly at the right time. I never leave you, even in those moments you may not feel me as strongly as you do at other moments, I am here, I have not left you, I will not leave you. I have a purpose for the light breezes just as I have a purpose for the gusty winds, so trust me my child, I have a purpose for this storm in your life, I will send the light breezes at the right time and I will send the gusty winds at the right time, and in due time you will see the rainbow once again, just as I have always shown you at the end of every storm!” 

I stood up from that bench feeling as if I was a different person than when I sat down. There is nothing quite like hearing from God so clearly! Sometimes it takes breaking away to a place of solitude to just sit and patiently wait to hear what He has to say, and I am glad that I listened to him! I walked back up to the room feeling amazing! On that Thursday morning at 6 am,they were taking x-rays, and as we received the results, it showed once again still a small collapse of the lung. The Dr said at this point they were going to clamp the chest tube which would simulate not having it in at all, repeat the x-ray and see what it does. We didn’t seem to like the way he put it, but we knew who was in charge so we trusted God. After leaving it clamped for a few hours, repeated the x-ray yet again, and we sat and waited. I had walked out of the room for a moment and as I walked back in I seen the Dr and his nurse walking down the hall. I rushed into the room and told Carrie and David that they should be in soon that I had seen them. Carrie said, “Can we pray before they come in?” So David and I sat on each side of the bed, grabbed her hands, and we all prayed together as a family right there. As we let go of one anothers hands, we all looked at each other and smiled, we all felt the same peace.

The door opens and they tell us that the x-ray still shows a small air pocket at the top of the lung but they are going to go ahead and remove the chest tube. I wasn’t sure I understood why, and began asking my questions as any mom would. The Dr explained that she could go on even with that small pocket and be fine, that they have let other kids go home like that and it was fine. So as the Dr and his nurse raises Carries bed, turns on the bright light above the bed, and we gather around ready for them to pull the chest tube, and they begin cleaning the site and preparing, we hear Carrie’s voice! She spoke up and said, “Wait! We need to pray first!!” David and I looked at her in such amazement! The Dr and nurse looked at her and said, “Okay..sure.” So we all stopped right there & prayed together! What a moment, a moment of being proud, astonished, and blessed! At that very minute, I don’t believe the Dr needed that bright light in the ceiling above the bed because that little girl laying in that bed shined brighter than any of those lights could have!

So as we sit and wait a few more hours for the next x-ray to be taken to see what the lung did after the tube had been pulled, we talked about how proud we were of Carrie for stopping everything and saying we need to pray! I don’t think she realized how powerful of a witness that was! Time marched on, and we prayed once more for the results that we were waiting to hear. As I heard a knock on the door, and saw the nurse walk in, she says, “Are you ready to go home?” Carrie says Yes! She said.”We’re going to get your paperwork together and you can go!” So the results were that the air pocket that had been staying at the top of the lung for the last 7-8 days and didn’t want to go anywhere, yeah it was GONE! No more air pockets, no more air leaks, just a perfect lung just the way God designed it! And as the nurse says this to us, Carrie looks over at me and says, “That was God!!!” I found myself wanting to cry, smile, and shout all at the same time!

All this child has been through, every ounce of pain, every needle, every x-ray, every scary moment, and surgery, this girl is sitting in her bed speaking her faith, telling people all around her about her God and how powerful He is! What a witness she has been to every single nurse, Dr, nurses assistant, food worker, child life worker, and visitor she has had! Every nurse was coming by to tell her how much they were going to miss her, what a joy she was to take care of, and telling her to come back and see them, but not in that way, just to visit!

All packed up, in the car, riding down the road, we were all just in silence for a while. I had my CD playing that I had been listening to for quite a while, and one of my favorite songs that Carrie & I had been singing almost everyday on the way to school began to play. As we all sang that song, tears began streaming down our faces as if there was a river streaming into the ocean.

Healer – Kari Jobe

Fast forward two months past the surgery… We have seen God work through this situation in ways that are simply amazing. We have seen lives that have been touched by Carrie and her faith in God throughout everything. We have seen the faith of many be strengthened, we have seen lives change, we have seen some of the hardest hearts become soft, we have seen a soul be saved, we have seen clarity appear once again through many situations, priorities get back in line with Gods. We have watched our daughter grow even closer to God, talk about him and what He has done for her, and become an even stronger witness for Him. We have seen our faith grow stronger than it ever has been, we have grown closer to God in our relationship with Him, we have found ourselves in the place in our lives, in our relationship with God, the way we had desired it to be once again. God has opened ears, eyes, arms and hearts through all of this! All of this is just in the lives of those we know and are around, and I just know that one day we will find out how it touched the lives of those Dr’s, nurses, and hospital staff that was in contact with her throughout those 9 days in the hospital! Her light shines so bright for God, she loves Him with all of her heart, she desires that relationship with Him, she wants to live her life for Him! She has told us that if all of this was to do God’s work, to reach somebody for Him, it was all worth it! God has great plans for her life! We just know that she’s going to do even more great things for Him and His kingdom! I am more than honored that God chose me to be the Mom of this child He has handpicked to do His work! My heart is so full and satisfied as I watch her walk with Him hand in hand, everyday! Just like that pebble thrown in the water, it has ripple effects that goes on and on, further and further out. Some of those ripples we may see, some we may not, but they ripple on!! The trials that we face in our lives are not only meant to touch our lives, they serve a purpose in the lives of those around us as well, and we may never know it!

Nothing is impossible for you, you hold my world in your hands!! I believe you’re my healer, I believe you are all I need! I believe you’re my portion, Lord I believe you’re more than enough for me! Jesus you’re all I need!!

Pebble in the Water, Part 2: Endured

It happened again…. On the morning of March 9,2011 as I was getting ready for work, preparing for my day ahead, I heard this familiar sound coming from the living room, a cough from my daughter, my heart stopped for a moment as I said to her, “Are you okay?” and to which she replied, “Yes Mom.” I had just started drying my hair & I felt her presence, I turned off the hairdryer, turned back to see her standing there, leaned up against the wall with that dreadful look on her face as she says, “Mom, I feel the same way I did last time, my chest hurts & I feel as if I can’t breathe.” My heart sank to feet, I was sure that if I looked down at them I would find it there. I can just remember looking at her and saying “Oh Carrie”, I rushed to finish drying my hair since it was cold outside, threw just anything on, and we rushed out the door headed to the Emergency Room once again.

As we walked through the doors, the nurses looked at us as if the remembered us, and they did. As the rushing around began, I felt as if I was standing in the middle of a whirlwind. Then those words were spoken to me & they seemed to echo louder and louder in my mind and even more so in the canyons of my heart, “Her lung has collapsed again, we’re going to have to put in another chest tube and get her transported back up to Presbyterian.”

This time I found myself standing alone be her bedside because my husband hadn’t got there yet. I wanted to break down in tears at the very thought of her enduring such pain once again. I tried my best to stay strong for her because I knew if I cried, she would cry and I didn’t want her to mess up her breathing and cause too much stress on the one lung that was functioning. So much happened over the next half hour or so, it’s almost a blur in my mind now just as it was then. I still hear her cries as they made the incision once again in the same place it was made just three weeks before, the cry out in pain was enough to shatter my heart into millions of pieces! My child isn’t suppose to hurt like this, she’s not suppose to feel this kind of pain! Those were the thoughts that ran rapidly through my mind. I was trying to do anything I could to get her to calm down while they inserted the chest tube, it was at that moment that I recalled the song that her & I had wrote together just two days before, and I began singing the chorus of it into her ear as I gently stroked the hair out of her face and wiped away her tears. It was as if God had just poured his peace over her like rains from the heavens! She became as still as the lake on a day with no wind. I kept repeating the chorus of the song into her ear, over and over, as many times as it would take. As my husband entered the room, our eyes met and I could see that he was feeling the same way I was, I just wanted to run to him, bury my face into his chest & burst into tears, but we both held it together. I remember stepping out into the hallway and around the corner and hitting my knees in prayer as I cradled myself up against the wall, and just cried out to God for His comfort & peace for her and us as well. I told God, I did not understand why this had to happen again, but I trust him & please just take care of my baby!

I found myself sitting in the back of the ambulance making the trip to Charlotte as I sat there with my eyes upon my precious daughter laying on this stretcher with all of these heart rate monitors hooked up to her, oxygen being fed into her nose, IVs running through her veins, and watching as her facial expressions revealed the pain that she was feeling as she tried to rest. Walking into the emergency back entrance of that hospital felt as if I was walking down a path that I was determined I wasn’t going to have to walk back down again. My eyes were seeing all the familiar faces and walls, as we approached the Children’s Hospital part. Carrie was awake and the look in her eyes told me that she was a little scared, but her words were so different. She told me she was scared but she was okay because she knew God was going to take care of her. As they got her set up in her room, we had no idea what the night was going to bring to our hearts. We already knew that they were preparing for surgery in the morning and that was a relief yet it was gut wrenching. We heard the sounds from the chest tube that sounded as bubbles were being blown into water, those sounds confirmed what we already knew, she had an air leak from her lungs and that was the need for the surgery. The more they prepared her for surgery the next day, the more pain she seemed to have to endure. That first night was one of the roughest nights I have ever had to endure and I know it has been the worst she had to endure so far in her life. The things they had to do to her, the screams, the cries, the pain, it was so much for a mom’s heart to bare! I had hoped that someone would awake me from this nightmare that I had found myself stuck in, but no, it was reality. David & I tried to sleep some, but it was near impossible. Every time we heard the alarm go off for the heart monitor or the oxygen saturation, we both would sit straight up with our ears perked, praying that when we looked at her, she would be just fine, and she was!

I learned something that night, something I thought I already knew but never grasped the way I did then. I learned that her eyes are watching me at all times, and she is learning from me on how to handle herself in every circumstance in life. I learned that she has already developed such a strong faith in God! With each pain she felt pierce her, with each fear that struck her, with every spoken word of what was to come the next day, she would turn to me and say,“Mom, can you come pray over me?” It was in those moments that I realized, she is watching me. It was bittersweet to be quite honest. Sweet in the sense that I could not be more proud that she turns to God for everything, that she has already learned to depend on him for ALL things, that she recognizes the importance of prayer, and that she knows the power in prayer! Bitter, well, because I knew that I needed to hold myself together, and there were times I wasn’t sure I could do that, not because I had lost my faith in God, but because I am living in the flesh, and my heart was breaking as a mom to watch my child go through so much, and I had already pinkie promised with her and my husband, that if one cried, we could all cry. I’m not saying there was anything wrong with crying, and especially when we cry out to God, but I wanted to be strong for her because I didn’t want her to cry and have irregular breathing. As I leaned over her in her bed and placed my hand upon her pretty little head and prayed for her, I could feel both my faith and her faith getting stronger. There was nothing that took place during her hospital stay that she didn’t want prayer over! Of all things going on around me that made my heart shatter, this is the one thing that made my heart smile, just watching her faith grow and shine to all who were around her, and watching as she held onto God’s promises to her, His child, His daughter, His princess!

Before surgery the next day, she was surrounded by people who love her dearly, family, friends, Pastors, and I know that she was surrounded by the ONE who loves her more than any of us ever could, her Father, her King, her God! As we prayed with her before they took her out of her room, and as myself and her Dad prayed with her right before they took her back into surgery, I seen nothing but peace in her eyes and that peace spoke right through her words. It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do so far as a Mom as I walked out and headed towards the waiting room with my husbands hand holding my left hand as tightly as he could, and My Father holding my right hand as tightly as He could! We cried together, but we trusted our Father to take care of her, and that’s what gave us the peace that we felt. The next few hours were the hardest as we sat in the waiting room, waiting patiently to hear updates on how things were going, and to hear that everything was done and okay. They came to get us and walked us into the little room to wait on the surgeons, and as we waited, we held tightly onto her two teddy bears that she instructed Mom & Dad to babysit & take care of, switching off every now and then so they both got to feel our love. The surgeons walked in and said those words that we long to hear, “The surgery went well, she’s in recovery and she’s doing just fine.” Ahh, that was truly music to our souls! They then showed us a photograph they had took with this tiny little camera of her right lung that kept collapsing, and that photograph showed us that she had a pocket full of tiny little holes all in the top of that lung that was leaking air out and causing it to collapse. So many questions wandered through our minds, what caused it, is it normal, will her other lung be the same, will it happen again? Even though they are surgeons, they couldn’t answer every question we had, only God truly can, and some of those questions He has not gave us an answer to just yet, but we know He will in His time. 

Oh the joy that filled my soul when I saw that beautiful sweet face of this precious gift that God gave us 11 years ago!! That’s my baby girl right there! I was so proud of her for what she had endured! One thought that entered my mind several times was this, “She is too young to have had to deal with any of this, she shouldn’t have to endure this much pain at her age.” At that moment each time that thought crossed my mind, I heard a voice say to me, “My child, her pain will not go unredeemed, it will not be wasted, and neither will yours or Davids!”

To Be Continued……