Thursday, June 20, 2019

When God Has You In The Waiting Room

A popular storybook from my childhood years was Goldilocks and The Three Bears. It's a fairy tale that's almost 200 years old now, yet parents and teachers everywhere still share it, and young readers across the globe still love it. It seems as though no kid is able to resist laughing at the theatrics of adults as their voices change octaves in an attempt to mimic what a family of bears would sound like if they spoke our language. The story is quite an entertaining one... but only because it's fiction.

In real life, the thought of being in this little girl's shoes and living her experience is nothing short of frightening. I've often been teased because when watching TV shows and movies on the big screen or even when reading books; I have a tendency to draw a spiritual message from actions and scenes that are merely intended for entertainment purposes. To be quite frank, we should all keep our spiritual eyes and ears open, because we never know what vehicle God may use to relay a message of hope when we need it most.

This age-old tale introduces us to a child by the name of Goldilocks. There's no indication in the story that she was a troublemaker or even mischievous. She was simply hungry and tired, and in her naive exploration, she found a place that provided what she needed. But note that her needs weren't met immediately. This is the portion of the story where my spiritual ears perked up!

Goldilocks came across food that was too hot and too cold before finally discovering a meal that was just right. She had to endure lying on a hard bed, and then one that was excessively soft before she found one that was just right. If Goldilocks had walked away after sampling from the second bowl, she would have still been hungry. If she'd given up after sampling the second bed, she would have left with no relief from her weariness. She had to be patient. She had to be persistent. In other words, not only did she have to wait until the right thing was within her reach, but she also had to wait for the right time to grab it. And to many of us--in our nonfiction real life existences--WAIT is truly a four-letter word.

In Psalm 27:14, the Word says: Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD. For most Christians that's a familiar passage of scripture. Many of us can quote the words from memory, but despite all that, applying it to our lives can be frustrating and downright agonizing. Waiting can make us want to lose hope, lose faith, and settle for what we have (or don't have) versus continuing to strive for what we need and deserve.

Our spiritual "waiting room" experience seems to become particularly uncomfortable when we, like the girl in the classic fairy tale, are tired and hungry. Tired of the same-ole-same-ole and hungry for change. Hunger and fatigue have a way of making bad situations appear to be even worse than they are. Waiting can get even rougher when we know full well that God has something greater. We feel like we're looking out a window, and our "something greater" appears to be right there with nothing but a glass pane separating us from it. Yet no matter how hard we try, we just can't seem to obtain it.

have a dear sister-friend who often starts her sentences off with, "Can I be real?"😄 In other words, let's just tell the truth and shame the devil. The fact of the matter is, when God has us in a waiting room, ALL the chairs appear too big or too small, and ALL the beds feel too hard or too soft. It's just not a comfortable place! But through it all, we have to trust Him, which includes trusting His timing. Things don't always happen when we want them to, or how we want them to, but if we just be patient and squash the urge to get ahead of God or His perfect plan; we will find that the end result will be worth the wait.

Does God have you in a waiting room right now? Maybe it has to do with your physical health, your relationship/marriage, your job situation, or something else for which you've been praying will change for the better. I believe at some point in our lives, we're all put in a waiting room where our patience and faith are tested by God. He definitely has me in one right now, and yes... I'm tired and hungry. I know God has something better for me, but waiting for it to materialize has taken much longer than I would like. Perhaps that's your testimony too.

Well, let me encourage you as I encourage myself. We can't give up or give in because doing that won't bring satisfaction either. Victory only comes if we fight and win. So as we continue to wait, we must also continue to pray. During this waiting period, we'll likely see what appears to be multiple ways of escape - many doors may come within reach that we feel can offer us what's needed and desired. But we can't get ahead of God. Just because a door is there, doesn't mean it's our door. If we walk through the wrong door, what we thought was a better situation, might actually be worse. Perhaps the food on the other side of that door would be too hot or too cold. Maybe the beds would be too hard or too soft. But when God fully reveals His provision... when HE opens a door... it will be just right. So I will continue to wait. And I encourage you to do the same.

Wait, I say... on the Lord!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Who Encourages the Encourager of Encouragers?

As I was driving my vehicle into the parking lot at work this morning, my cell phone rang. A sister who comes to me whenever she needs encouragement and spiritual counsel was on the other end. She was in tears as she expressed to me some of the things that are currently going on in her life. I quietly listened until she was all talked (and all cried) out, and then I began to share with her the things that were on my heart and the Word of God that rested in my spirit.

I always arrive at work early; well before the required "clock-in" time. Most days, I go ahead and enter the office and take a few moments  to pray and meditate, and then I grab breakfast and get a jump-start on whatever work assignments await. Today, one phone call altered my normal routine. Although I still got into the office ahead of schedule, it was necessary for me to use some of that time to encourage a heart that was hurting and to help rebuild a spirit that was breaking down. 

By the time we got to the end of our "counseling session," the sister was laughing. Her joy was on the rebound! Just before we disconnected our call, she said to me, "I consider myself an encourager, Kendra. People come to me when they need a lift, but they just don't know that this encourager needs encouraging sometimes too." Then she laughed and added, "Since I come to you when I need encouragement, I guess that makes you an encourager of encouragers." We ended our call shortly thereafter, and as I got out of my vehicle and began the short walk to the entryway of my place of employment, I thought to myself... So who encourages the encourager of encouragers? Sometimes those of us who are known for being strong can be so solid, sturdy, and enduring in our faith that people forget that there are times when our spirits need to be rebuilt, refueled, and reinforced too.

There is a once chart-topping gospel song that says, "Sometimes you have to encourage yourself... sometimes you have to speak victory during the test. And no matter how you feel, speak the word and you will be healed. Speak over yourself, encourage yourself in the Lord." Later in those same lyrics there is a sentence that says, "As I minister to you, I minister to myself." And for me, I believe that's where the answer most often lies. Yes, I have been blessed with a couple of trusted and devout confidants in my life that I know I can go to if I need the listening ear of another Spirit-filled human being, but often times I have found that when I allow God to use me to minister to others, I find, in my own words, the very encouragement for which I've been searching. As I pour into them, I'm pouring into me. As a reward for my obedience in sharing God's word with others, it's as though God, in turn, allows those same words to empower and encourage me. God is awesome like that!!

Psalm 46:1 is a dynamic verse of scripture that reminds us that no matter what comes our way, God is not only our Strength, but He's also our Protection. It says, God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. That assures me that even if it looks like I'm by myself in a battle; I'm never alone. If I try to call my trusted friends and they're otherwise preoccupied and can't come to my rescue, I can always look to the Lord. In fact, He should be my first recourse because He is ALWAYS there, and He never fails. He will give me what I need so that I can encourage myself and go forth in victory. Thank God for being the ultimate ENCOURAGER of the encourager of encouragers! 😊

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

2019: My year of "Exceeding... Abundantly... Above..."

Growing up in the church, I remember hearing new slogans being broadcast from the pulpit on a near annual basis. It usually happened during Watch Night Service as we greeted the New Year with praise and worship. The slogans were generally very catchy, inspiring, and they almost always rhymed. We were encouraged by sayings like, "God will open the door in '74" and "We're coming alive in '85" and "It's already done in '91." 

This practice may seem silly nowadays to a generation that seems to have migrated so far away from the Lord, but I remember these annual slogans as words that empowered the people of God and gave us increased hope and the faith to push forward with great expectation. On a broad scale, churches don't do this any longer. It seems to have been a season in Christendom that has now passed and become a distant memory. However, in spite of it not being done corporately, in recent years the Holy Spirit has been directly giving me similar affirmations to apply to my personal life for the coming year. They aren't particularly catchy nor do they rhyme, but they're very specific promises that God gives me for the year ahead.

By definition, I became legally separated in 2010, and in 2012, I made the difficult, but necessary decision to completely cut ties with and divorce my ex-husband after 15 years of marriage. As that year faded, I was lying at the foot of my bed staring up at the ceiling when I heard the Spirit say, "2013 will be your year of better. Better home. Better job. Better relationships." And He did not lie! God opened great doors and granted me immeasurable favor that year. He took what was meant to destroy me and turned it into something amazing. He rewarded me for remaining faithful and full of integrity despite the enemy's plot to try and destroy my testimony, my sanity, and my life. Everything about that year was BETTER. God blessed me with a management position on a great job. I acquired a home that I loved and God proved to me that He was my source; not man. I paid my own rent and not once was I late. I took out my own trash. I washed my own car. I paid all of my own bills... and I loved every minute of it. God had given me complete joy and contentment.

That dissolved marriage was my second one, so I was completely done! Love was a four-letter word, and I was over it! Many years earlier, my first husband--the man who introduced me to what it felt like to truly love and be loved--had passed away, leaving me heartbroken and with two toddler daughters to raise. Ultimately, I trusted another only to be left embarrassed and utterly disgusted at the discovery of and the details surrounding our shattered wedding vows. I was still in my 20's when the title of "widow" was forced upon me. Now here I was accepting the title of "divorcee." When I walked away from that marriage, I told God NEVER AGAIN! However, God had other plans. My girls were all grown up and living on their own by now. I still recall the day in January of 2013 as I stood in my kitchen preparing dinner for myself when God softly reminded me that His promise of "better" included relationships. I had begun making a few friends so I'd surmised that those had been the relationships that He was referring to. But there was more.

I remember being torn and going to my parents' house to share the details of the spiritual encounter with my mother. I told her that I never wanted to marry again but I had the feeling that God had other plans. She advised me not to resist anything that God had for me based on past experiences. "If God does it, it'll be done right," she said. And she was on point. Four months later, I met the man who would become my husband. I wasn't broken. I wasn't needy. I wasn't lonely. I wasn't even looking. Regarding Michael, I've often said that He's the greatest gift I never prayed for. We married in March of 2014, just ten months after meeting. My mom went to be with the Lord later that year and it was a major blow to the heart of our family, but in the midst of it all, God continued to bless.

His voice came again as the year 2014 came to a close. Just like in times before, I was lying in bed when I heard, "2015 will be your year of double-blessings." I ran from our bedroom into the living room where my husband was sitting and I told him what God had said. He joined with me in believing it to be manifested, and it was. When we married, I left the management job that I had been working and relocated to the city where my husband was already established. I found employment there but I only worked for a few months before God opened the door to a new job that paid double the salary of the first one. It was the most money I'd ever made on a corporate America job. Additionally, I witnessed double engagements and then double marriages when both of our daughters got engaged in 2015 and then got married in the same year (which also blessed me with double amazing "sons-in-luv"). I received a bonus child (an adult son) when I married Michael, and that son gave us double granddaughters when his twins were born. My husband and I were blessed with two complete living room suites that were given to us free of charge. We were able to pass them on to other families in need. The double-blessings that year came back to back to back. God had once again held true to His words.

The past three years have been quiet ones as far as the Holy Spirit speaking and giving direct words to me about what I could expect in the year to come. As 2015 closed, I heard nothing specific. As 2016 closed, I heard nothing specific. The same goes for 2017. But in each of those years, God continued to prove Himself strong. I was blessed with the opportunity to create and host my own Internet radio show. As ordained elders, my husband and I were elevated to the positions of church pastors. We relocated from one state to another to be closer to the ministry that had been entrusted to us. The relocation was a major sacrificial transition, but God made it a smooth one. Most recently, we were blessed with a beautiful new home. Prayers have continuously been answered. Divine favor has continuously been granted. God has continuously been good to us even in the stillness of His voice. But near the midnight hour of Sunday, December 30, 2018, I heard Him once more. And yes... I was lying in bed yet again. This time I was on the verge of drifting off to sleep, but the voice of the Holy Spirit fully awakened me and brought me to an upright seated position.

"Exceeding. Abundantly. Above." Those were the three words He spoke to me. He told me that in my professional life to date, EAA has always stood for Executive Administrative Assistant, which has been my specialty pretty much from the start of my corporate career. However, the Lord assured me that in 2019 those letters would stand for Exceeding Abundantly Above! He said this is going to be my year of increase and that He's going to make this an Ephesians 30:2 year; doing exceeding abundantly above all that I could ask or think. I couldn't wait to share the experience with my husband when we woke up to prepare for work the next morning. How is God going to do it? I don't know. But I have no doubt that He will, and I look forward to the manifestation with great expectation. God has never failed me yet. Everything He has ever promised; He has brought to pass.

I look forward to sharing the testimony!