Archive for May, 2011

May 23, 2011

Unspeakable Joy! (Val)

Thank you, Val for telling us about this powerful testimony. Thank you, Good Father for unspeakable joy that is available to us! I ask you for that joy to fill again all those who hear this testimony! If you search google images for “joy”, dozens of pictures of people jumping come up. I pray that today you would have the joy that causes your limbs to spontaneously fly into the air. 🙂

“The joy of the Lord is my strength.”  It’s a verse that I’ve quoted over and over for many years now.  Yet only now and then had I really experienced true joy or peace.

I lost my job in January 2010.  It was quite literally the greatest shock of my life, and yet driving home that day, sobbing to the point where I could hardly see the road in front of me, I drew a line in the sand.  I told the enemy that I already had victory in Jesus and that I would trust God no matter what.  Well, to say the least, it’s been an incredible 16 months.  I have grown in my understanding of who God is and who I am in Him, experienced deep emotional and physical healings, received very specific promises related to my life and situation, seen Him come through for me in the most kind and loving ways imaginable, and learned to hear His voice in almost every circumstance.  At this point, I can honestly say I would not trade these months – or the experience that led to them – for anything.

During this time, I’ve also heard some wonderfully uplifting, prophetic words spoken over me, including a number of people who have talked about the deep joy they sense in me.  For a long time I would just smile, because in many ways that joy seemed natural to me.  Then one day, God opened my eyes and I realized how overwhelmingly, jaw-droppingly amazing it was for people to see – and me to feel – such joy.  Why?  Because though I’ve been a believer since I was ten, I have experienced periods of deep depression throughout my life, and while I never actually attempted suicide, I had reached a point more than once when I seriously contemplated how to do it.

About three years ago, at the age of 48, I told God point-blank that I would and could not live the second half of my life as I had lived the first, never knowing when the depression and sense of hopelessness and emotional abandonment would hit or how long it would last, and that He had until I was 50 to heal me, or I would kill myself.  I know this sounds a bit over the top, and many people will find it horribly disrespectful toward the Gracious God of all Creation, but one thing I’ve learned over the years is that He expects and accepts complete honesty from us, and I believe that He knew that I meant what I said.  I didn’t know what He would do, or how He would accomplish it, but I put my trust in Him.  If He had a plan for me, he had to heal me.

Well, there’s no question that He’s been working especially hard in me these past 16 months, but when He tapped me on my shoulder not long ago and said, “Little Valery, do you see how I heard your prayer and have replaced your depression with a  ‘joy unspeakable’ that’s visible to people all around you? “, I was flabbergasted.  I don’t know how I had missed it, but He had done it, and I was healed.   And now when the enemy whispers something in my ear that could lead me back to those dark days, I stand firmly on the Truth of what God has done in me through His Word and Spirit.  When I think about His goodness, kindness and gentleness, and realize that what He’s done and is doing for me, He wants to do for every one of His children, I can only cry.  He is amazing beyond words, and sometimes only tears will do.  Tears of joy, of course.

 Val

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May 20, 2011

Thankful for His Faithfulness (Mel)

God is faithful. Sometimes we see this in the little aspects of our everyday lives – when we just catch the bus, when that cup of coffee is extra well-made, when you receive a surprise phone call from a friend. At other times, we can see evidence of God’s plan and purpose and faithfulness in larger events.
I had come to a new city to obtain my graduate degree two years earlier. The course-work was grueling,and I often felt inadequate as a member of my class; but I had been selected, by God’s grace, to be enrolled early into my program, and used that as a ballast to keep my faith afloat that I was where I belonged. The Lord then provided for me a job with a fabulous boss and co-workers, before I had even graduated my program. To be certified in my career, colleagues must also pass a board examination post-graduation which is quite expensive and requires approximately 9-12 months of study preparation.I began studying at the appointed time and used every available evening and weekend to hole myself up in Starbucks or another local coffee shop to prepare for my exam. As the date came closer, I began to feel more confident that I would pass, mostly due to my personal and group prayers with my friends for wisdom during the test.
The day of the exam, I walked in, mostly feeling relieved that this would be the last day I would have to worry about the test. But as I continued to take the test, I realized how many questions of which I was unsure of the answer. I started to get anxious, and prayed for God to calm me down. Several hours later, I finally finished and walked out crying because I was convinced that I had failed. I came home and my roommate talked to me for a while, suggesting that we pray about the exam. Over the next two months, as we waited for the results, we prayed that if my score was insufficient, the Lord would change it so that I could pass my exam, and not have to pay again and go through the studying for another year.The day finally came when that crucial envelop was placed in my mailbox. With shaking hands, I took it inside the house, sat on the couch, and I prayed that the Lord would be glorified in whatever the results were. I opened the envelop. On the top was written “Congratulations, you have passed your national board examination.” Reading a bit further, I saw that I had needed X number of questions correct to pass; I had received exactly X number correct, and am convinced that God had intervened, as He had with my interview into graduate school, grades during my program, internships, and job interviews, to allow me to be placed exactly where I am in my life.

Mel

May 11, 2011

He is Jealous for Me (Brittney)


Art has always been a sweet love for me! Sweet like the smell of your grandmother’s cinnamon apple pie, or Winnie the Pooh’s favorite honey pot, or even your the gooey droplets left over from a summer day popsicle. I moved to Chicago for this sweet love, and like a relationship it didn’t take all that much for me to drop everything I knew and move for something that I put first in my life.

Art and I had big plans! We were going to see the world, become successful together, live a long life together! Little did I know that a jealous lover would ruin all that.

After moving to Chicago and pursuing art full time at the School of Art Institute of Chicago, things seemed just as planned. I got plenty of encouragement from instructors, worked endlessly on large scale conceptual projects, and pressed-in any left over time in reading philosophical art books and partying with friends. Art and I were on top of the world, however my mother kept nudging me to get involved with some sort of church community, though art seemed to satisfy every facet of my being. Honoring my mother, I searched out a group, with the simple intention of telling her I had gone. I ended up at a religious meeting that I hated more than I could express. Bored and unfed I left without a fleeting thought. Stubborn like an ox, my mother sent over my information to a Campus Crusade instructor, who like my mother, could not take no for an answer. This Campus Crusade instructor ended up paying for me to go to a retreat over a weekend.

This is the beginning of art and I redefining our relationship. Going on a beautiful and God centered retreat, I found that I wanted Jesus more than my unsatisfying mistress, art. On this retreat, or affair as some may say, I could clearly see how far I had traveled without God by my side, yet he still seemed to pursue me with such an earnest heart.  While on the retreat, I met a friend and eventual brother that God used in such an amazing way. Tyler Culligan loved God and loved art and simply wanted to create a portal for children to hear of God’s goodness which stirred and intrigued me. My new friend fascinated me because he merged God with the passion he had. He invited me to come to his church and thats were my eyes were opened to the world of community. Art was quite demanding and had never allowed me to engage with others. I had allowed it to be a controlling lover that I identified as my “true” friend and complete community. Finding a church that ran after God’s own heart altered that perception.

During the course of settling into this new community of more than friendly people, I began to have financial issues in regard to school!  My sweet lover was becoming expensive and I did not have the finances to afford it’s particular needs. My heart began to crumble. Art was my everything, without it I had nothing. After many panic stricken prayers and begging and pleading God, I had to drop out of school. Funny enough, I didn’t go back to California. This new community that had settled in my life was something of substance to stay for. If I couldn’t stay for art, my true love, I could stay for these friends I had made.

I became complacent toward my situation but anger bellowed towards God; he had betrayed me! I let him in a little and he broke my heart! I cried and cried, I had lost the one thing that was my hope. That summer, though angry, I spoke to the Lord quite a bit. I journaled and journaled to the God I had gone on a weekend retreat with. I told him how it was a mistake and continuously asked, “if he loved me, how could he do this to me?” He finally answered me with a very simple answer. “ Brittney I could not let art come first any longer.” My heart softened some. He wanted my attention and wanted no idols before himself. He then expressed to me “I don’t just want your left over time, I want all of you, I am jealous for you.” I was shocked, art was never jealous for my time, it never wanted all of me, I gave it all of myself, but it never earnestly wanted to sit and talk with me, or just love on me.

Over time, my heart healed and I saw God’s hand. It wasn’t easy but I knew God was good. Jealous, but good. I began focusing my attentions on my new lover. Learning his character, his voice, his ways. I delved in with him, and he poured out more and more. He bought me gifts, and adorned me with heavenly riches and wooed me into a state of never looking back. He showed me a sweet lover’s heart. So I finally submitted my previous lover completely to him. The one thing I idoled before my God, I laid at his feet.

When in his hands the most beautiful gift was given. Almost a year later, I found myself volunteering at an art show. I helped pass out flyers and greet various individuals as they came and left. While greeting I met a young woman named Angela Bryant. We clicked instantly and she began telling me of how she owned a gallery. I told her I had not done art in months and that I was going through a season of putting God first. She politely asked for my information to keep in contact and if I would send her a few images of my work.

A week after meeting her I sent a few images of my work and my contact information to get coffee some time. Out of nowhere, she sent an email back saying she felt my work was in a mature place and she wanted to curate me into a show! I almost fell off my chair. It had been almost a year and a half since I had even thought about doing art. I could not believe she wanted to show my work. Within the next two months I painted faster than I had in school and had four paintings finished for the final show.

It seemed almost surreal as I walked into the gallery and saw my four large paintings sitting on the gallery walls. A year ago, I would have done anything to have my paintings on display for the world to see and now my paintings were up without me doing anything. God had placed it in my lap, out of sheer love for his girl. My jealous God did not want to take art away, he just refused to be in competition with a lover that was detrimental to me. He wanted me to know that He would always be my first love and that art could be my passion but only through and with him. My work is still hanging up in that gallery and as I think over how much of art the Lord is slowly, but surely, bringing back into my life, I’m in awe. Oh, how our sweet lover loves us jealously, and with an always good and always gracious lover that’s the best way to be loved, jealously.