The simple truth is we just don’t always know where God is leading us. And, even when we think we might have a clue or two, we still long for affirmation and confirmation and provision. Or, in my case, I sometimes just want God to spell out every last detail and provide me with every assurance of success before I’ll get my feet headed down the path He’s taking me. Yes, I know it’s called faith and that means trusting without knowing with absolute certainty, but even when my faith is strong, sometimes my fear is stronger. I can only say that it’s a good thing we have a very patient God. A. Very. Patient. God.
It all started about three, almost four, years ago. With a simple prayer. God, use me. (DISCLAIMER: Be prepared if you pray that. You are 100% guaranteed that He will!) And that prayer led to a burden on my heart for the women in Gatesville prisons and three long years… Three. Long. Years!… of praying God would provide a way for me to serve the women there. That’s a whole story in and of itself and I’ll save the details for another post, but the short version of it is this. He did!
And so my love affair with the women in white began in November 2012 by serving on Sunday evenings in the faith-based dorm at the Murray Unit. With 56 women who stole my heart instantly. Then in February 2013, this happened.
I met these two girls. Yes, girls, or as the prison system chooses to label them, “Youthful Offenders.” Girls under the age of 18 who have been tried, convicted, and sentenced as adults. Sweet Jesus.
The picture above is an outreach weekend we did at the Hilltop Unit, and despite all odds (and maybe even a few rules) that I would not have an encounter with these girls, God arranged it. Perfectly. And my heart was broken. Completely.
I bawled my eyes out and prayed the whole way home and all that Friday night. God, please provide a way. Please provide a way for me to serve the girls who don’t know You and Your saving grace and the hope that is Jesus Christ. And then I asked everyone I knew to be praying, too. And I waited. And I waited. And then God provided. I began serving at the Hilltop faith-based dorm at the end of May… one step closer to the young girls there, but still no answer. You see, the prison system intentionally separates the girls… from everyone and everything. And I prayed. And I waited. And God provided once again. A miraculous provision only He could orchestrate. And I began serving these girls on Thursday nights in July.
I could write volumes about what God has taught me in the last ten months. He has held my hand and calmed my fears and walked patiently with me down this new path, and I have loved every minute. Oh, the joy of being part of the revival! Of standing together, holding hands, pouring our hearts out to God, worshipping Him from the deepest parts of our soul. Me and broken women just like me.
And then I get a voice mail message on Wednesday. Will you preach a Sunday morning service at two units on August 18? And I think my heart quit beating. Literally. And then the begging began. Please, no, God. Not me. I don’t preach. I’m a teacher. A Bible study leader. I’m not a preacher. I began my Moses routine of all the reasons why not. I was terrified.
So I did what any terrified woman would do. I went to Bible study that night and asked my girlfriends to pray for me… to pray that I would make the right decision.
And then we watched Video #4 from Priscilla Shirer’s Gideon study. Mind you, it was a video I had already seen twice. After all, I’m the teacher and I needed to be prepared. The video was on one thing. The. Patience. of. God.
And as I sat there watching the video (my third! time) with my Bible study group… it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was so overwhelming I almost could not stay in my seat. If I am truly thankful… truly thankful… for God’s patience with me, then what should my response to Him be? I knew the answer as surely as I knew my name, so the moment the video ended, I asked the question to the group.
If I am truly thankful… truly thankful… for God’s patience with me, then what should my response to Him be? Precious Nina Musil didn’t hesitate with the answer. She knew it just like I’d known it sitting there during the video.
There is only one answer. One answer. And it’s obedience. It’s Yes!
I told the girls that I no longer needed for them to pray for me to make the right decision about preaching at two of the prison units. My answer was the only answer it could be if I am truly grateful for God’s patience in my life. Yes! Yes! Yes!
But, just as God would have it, the story doesn’t end there. It just gets better, so stick with me here and read to the end. I know this blog post has already broken every rule about length, but I promise it’s worth it.
Thursday morning. August 1. I wake up to the sweetest email from my friend, Amanda Torbert. She is encouraging me, and she’s praying Scripture over me. Titus 1:1-3. Powerful, powerful verses. So powerful, in fact, that I decided they would be my memory verses for August 1. You see, along with many thousands of other women, I memorize two verses a month (on the 1st and 15th) with Beth Moore’s Siesta Scripture Memory Team. I keep a handy little spiral notebook on my desk where I record my verse to memorize. The notebook is propped up against my computer monitor so I see it daily.
So after reading Amanda’s email, I reach for a pen and my notebook. I flip the page with the July 15 verse so I can write the verses Amanda has shared with me for my August 1 verse… except…
I had already written a verse for August 1. I didn’t even remember writing it. I don’t remember ever reading the verse. Don’t have a clue what led me to the verse. I haven’t been studying in Ephesians, so where had this verse come from? What was I thinking when I wrote it down?
God knew. Before the phone call ever came.
Patience. Affirmation. Confirmation. Provision. Sweet mercy for my soul.
I hit my knees instantly, overwhelmed by a God who can orchestrate a love letter unknowingly written by my own hand and then miraculously and perfectly timed for my reading at the very moment I needed it most.
That’s the God who loves me. That’s the God who loves YOU!
Ask Him to use you.
Thank Him for His patience.
Get ready to say YES!
And then soak in the sweet joy that can only come from serving Him.
P.S. And then please share your stories of victory with me!