The List Of Ten, part 2 (“Miracles”)

In my last post “The List of Ten” (please read the post below), I left it as a “to be continued”. I needed to save the second part of this amazing story as it’s own post. It’s deserving of that. It is not merely a series of coincidences, as some may call them, but to me, they are miracles. I say that because at that time in my life, I did not believe these things were possible. When I prayed over my list daily, I told God that they were impossible for me to accomplish alone. But I’m never alone when I’m with Christ, am I? And is anything too hard for God?

As I said before, I thought this was such a silly idea. But within 9 months of praying, all of these things had come to pass. To review, my list included these things (as well as a few others that are so very personal, I’ve decided to keep them private for now):

  1. I want Mark and I to move out of this hotel we’ve lived in for two years and into an apartment.
  2. I want to get a car.
  3. I want to reinstate my driver’s license and fix my tag so I could drive legally.
  4. I want to marry Mark, in a church chapel, officiated by a pastor (not a notary).

We had a car, but it wasn’t running well, wasn’t dependable, and wasn’t legally registered. I began riding the bus to and from work daily. I’d never taken a city bus anywhere before and was quite concerned I wouldn’t be able figure out how to do it, but I did. I took the bus for a couple weeks until the great city of Jacksonville decided to change the bus routes, causing me to have to make 2 stops, with an hours’ wait in between. So I decided I needed a bike to ride to and from work. The hotel we were living in was only about 3.5 miles from work. So I thought “seven miles a day, I can do that!”. But I hadn’t been on a bike since I was 12, and now just over 2 decades later, my muscles were screaming at me “are you crazy?” The Pastor at the church we were attending at the time bought me a good, road worthy bike. This, the first in a long line of blessings to come. I road my bike all winter long, albeit a Florida winter, it still gets cold, and it still rains. I carried a huge backpack full of my work clothes, shoes, lunch, makeup, hairbrush; everything needed to put myself together once I got to work all sweaty.

I rode that bike for nearly 4 months until Mark’s mother decided to give us her car. Give, yes, I said give. She no longer drove it, and she’d been thinking of getting rid of it. I believe God helped her think about giving the car to us. It was, and still is, and amazing blessing. So now I had a car, but I did not have the money to register it, or pay for taxes, tag, or to reinstate my suspended driver’s license for unpaid traffic tickets. I kept praying. One day, my mom decided to help me with these expenses. I felt like the blessings were raining down on me! Soon I was a legal driver with a legal car, and driving again. Praise God! I am so grateful to our mother’s who blessed us with these gifts.

One of the other things on my list was that Mark and I be married in a church chapel. Now remember, we had already been living together for over 10 years. We had talked about marriage, but could never afford it, or other circumstances prevented it. Mark usually suggested we just marry at the courthouse with a notary. But since coming to Jesus, I wasn’t having any of that! I wanted to be married by a Pastor in a chapel. At the time, we were attending a church that met in a school, so there was no chapel, and we were not truly happy at that church for different reasons. We had been visiting other churches, trying to find something more traditional. We found Deermeadows Baptist Church, and both really liked it. We met a Pastor there, whom I’ll call Pastor “Michael” (because I haven’t asked his permission to use his name in my blog). Pastor “Michael” had been at Deermeadows for a long time, and was a senior member of their staff. He seemed to like Mark and I, and we both liked him. After about 3 months of attending, we asked about becoming members of the Church, which Pastor “Michael” counseled us on. He talked to us about what it meant to be a member of the church. Shortly thereafter, Mark and I told the Pastor that we wanted to be married. Pastor “Michael” did premarital counseling with us for a few weeks. We felt so loved and not judged by Pastor “Michael”, despite our current situation and our past.

Deermeadows Baptist is a huge Church with a large campus. The main sanctuary holds thousands. One day, while looking for the ladies restroom, I stumbled upon a couple of doors I’d never seen before. An ethereal glow emanated from the glass in the doors. I tried the handle, it was unlocked. I walked in. It was the most beautiful little chapel I had ever seen. Wall to wall in stained glass, with the centerpiece, a floor to ceiling stained glass of Jesus. I sat down and cried my eyes out, thinking “this is where I am going to be married. Mark and I will stand under that picture of Jesus and make a covenant between each other and God, to be wed and love each other forever“. And so it came to pass that we were married there on September 26th, 2015 by Pastor “Michael”. Though I couldn’t afford it, my family gifted us with things like a photographer, a make up lady for me, my dress, Mark’s suit, and a reception. Pastor “Michael”, however, returned the checks I’d written to him and his wife (who would be there to help). “It’s part of my ministry” the Pastor explained, and he did not want to be paid. Bless.

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Chapel we were married in.
So now we’ve come to the best part of this post. The most amazing miracle of all, what I asked for first; to be able to move out of the hotel we’d lived in with our beloved dog for 2 years. How we got there is a long story, but once there, we were stuck due to financial problems and bad “rental” credit history. We tried to apply at apartments time and again, but were denied each time due to our credit history. I understand that I was responsible for the bad credit history. I take full responsibility for our situation. This hotel was not nice. It was full of, well, people like us, people with problems, and bad people. Drug dealers and such.

At the time I was very much involved with an online bible study. It was the end of January and we were studying Acts and I read the story of Rahab in the Bible for the first time. I read how she lived in the walls of the city, on the outskirts of society, and was doing whatever she could to care for her family. I also read about how she’d heard about God and the great things He was doing for His people. And she believed. I imagine that she had nothing but bits and pieces of information about God that she heard in passing, or from the men she “worked” for. I felt so much like her. I connected with Rahab. Living on the edge of society, in the bad part of town, hardly surviving, and doing what she could to care of her family.

When a couple of God’s people came into her city as spies to determine how they could capture the city God had promised them, they met Rahab. (Please forgive my recounting of this story from my memory, as I may have some of the details wrong, but the main point is spot on). Rahab trusted what they told her, and trusted that they would save her and her family if she would just believe and have faith. Rahab had faith. Perhaps just a mustard seed of faith that she kept deep in her heart, but it was there. So much like me, in the beginning of my coming to Jesus. Having not been raised in Church, and knowing nothing of God, Jesus, or the Bible, but I like to think my faith was strong. I’ve said before: if God will take my life and trade it for the life He has planned for me, the life Jesus died to give me, I will take it!

“I am Rahab”, I thought. 

Rahab knew God was going to take the city, and so she helped the spies and told them what they needed to hear: that the whole city was afraid of God and what He was doing through his chosen people.

I wrote in the bible study comments that day about how much I felt akin to Rahab and why. I explained in an open, honest, vulnerable way that I knew what it’s like to be Rahab. I wrote more details than that, not because I wanted pity, but because I was so amazed that I could relate to a woman who lived I don’t know how many thousands of years before me. I was hardly able to type through the tears. Rahab inspired me. Her little bitty faith saved her and her families’ life and made her the great great+ grandma of Jesus. Rahab, just an ordinary woman, like me, being used by God for greatness. “Could He use me?”, I thought.

Later that day in the bible study, a woman whom I will call Robin (to protect her privacy) commented. She did not know me at all, except from the comments I’d written over the time I’d been involved in the study. She asked, very timidly, if she could help me. She didn’t want to make me feel like it was charity. After all, I had not asked for help. Because she asked for it, I gave her my P.O. Box address and a few days later I received a card from her with a beautiful message, a monetary gift to add to my bank to help us move, an a picture. The picture was of a young girl in a 3rd world county, to whom she’d donated, in my name, a bicycle that would allow that girl to get to and from school. I cannot type this without crying. God is SO amazing. He works miracles everyday!

I could end this story here, and it would be nice. But we aren’t even close to the end.

Over the next few weeks, everyday when checking my P.O. Box, I began to receive cards from other women who did not know me. Cards from all over the country. Some cards contained monetary gifts; $1, $5, $20 or more. All of them came with handwritten words of encouragement, or scriptures, and they wrote about how my story, and my willingness to be so vulnerable and honest was inspiring and encouraging to them. I also received a beautifully bound bible that I still take to church each Sunday, a bracelet engraved with the words “Sisters in Christ“, and other gifts. I would bring the envelopes home, and Mark and I would sit on the bed in that hotel room, and pray over each envelope before we opened it. Most of the envelopes had no forwarding address and the letters were signed with only first names or initials. Meaning, no “thank you” was expected. I received a total of 46 letters and cards. I had no idea that my story of my broken life was encouraging to these woman.They told me I was a blessing to them! Which, by the way, completely breaks me down into tears, even now, years later.

The money I’d been gifted was enough for Mark and I to move out of that hotel and into a second chance house community who ignored our credit because we put down such a big nonrefundable deposit. We were able to leave the hotel. Praise God!

No one but God could have made that happen. No One. God deserves ALL the Glory here. 

And I bet that some of you, faithful readers, are some of those women who sent me a card, letter, or note, to bring me though the darkest time in my life. Now, because you left no forwarding addresses, is my chance to say “thank you” from the bottom of my heart, thank you, and God bless.

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The List of Ten

After I’d been a believer for about six months, maybe a bit longer, I was really struggling. Not with my faith. My faith came on fast and strong. I didn’t need much convincing. If God wanted my problems, and would actually give me forgiveness, grace, and mercy in exchange for my problems, well, I was all for it! You bet ya! Thank you God, and thank you Jesus for what You did to facilitate me to have this awesome relationship with my Creator.

However, my worldly problems were still there of course. There’s no magic wand that comes with faith and “poofs” your problems away. The good news is that you can put your faith into action and watch, yes watch, God work in your life. God’s grace makes his promises available, but your faith makes them possible. In fact, you must put your faith into action. I didn’t know that at the time, but Sarah was about to teach me.

When she told me what to do, I thought it was the silliest idea I’d ever heard. I probably laughed at her. Maybe not out loud, but certainly in my head. This idea was ridiculous. If I haven’t said so already, “I’m sorry for laughing, Sarah”.

Since Sarah had been listening to my woes for quite some time now, she told me to make a list. “Make a list of the top ten most impossible things in your life. Things you think you’ll never accomplish. Then pray about them. Everyday.”

“Why?” I asked.

“You’ll see, just trust me.” And since she hadn’t lead me wrong yet, I told her (after much complaining, I’m sure) that I’d do it. I had to trust her. She was all I had. Little did I know that at that very moment Sarah was sharing with me the most wonderful thing I’ve ever learned. Priceless. And if you, dear reader, have read this far, keep reading. You’re going to want to hear this.

It was the end of December. That night, in my dismal, lonely hotel room, I sat with a pen and paper and made my list. Despite how awful my life was, I could only come up with seven things I thought impossible. I’m much more creative now, but at that time, I didn’t realize the enormity of what was about to happen. I probably wasn’t too serious about the whole thing. Nevertheless, doing as Sarah said, I prayed about my list of impossibilities daily.

Some of the things on the list I can share with you. Others are really personal.

  1. I want Mark and I to move out of this hotel we’ve lived in for two years and into an apartment.
  2. I want to get a car. (Note: Mark was not working at the time, money was tighter than tight).
  3. I want to reinstate my driver’s license and fix my tag so I could drive legally. (Note: Expensive!)
  4. I want to marry Mark, in a church chapel, officiated by a pastor (not a notary). (Note: we weren’t even members of a church yet.)

So, those are a few things on my list. (The “notes” I added today for clarification). To me, these things all felt totally impossible, mostly because of financial circumstances. There were other things on the list that I might share one day.

So daily, I prayed. “God, I cannot do these things on my own. I need your help“.

To be continued…

OK, I know you hate “to be continued’s”, but I’ll give you a hint: within 9 months, everything on my list had come true in ways you’d never imagine. Ways only God could have come up with.

Please come back to read what happened next, because a series of unexpected miracles is fun to read about! You aren’t going to want to miss this, and I have a feeling some of you, yes you, might have been “in” on the miracles and not even know it.

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Sunrises, Sunsets, and a Father’s Love.

Let’s talk about what got me back here writing again; it’s been a while.

It’s about yesterday. I could start this post off like Charles Dickens’ book A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. Only yesterday was different because it was the best of days and the worst of days, but because of God in my life, there were two possible outcomes.

Yesterday started off like any normal day, waking at 5:45, on the road to work by 6:15. The joy of my two hour commute is seeing the sunrise, different every day, and presented to me by God. I take lots of pictures. It reminds me of when I was little, and my daddy used to stop the car so we could watch the sunrise. It never mattered if we were on the way to school, or he needed to get to work. He would pull over so we could watch the sunrise, even if just for a few minutes. We’d take in the beauty, the colors, and the majesty of it all. We knew we were loved by our daddy. Even if we were just happy about not getting to school so early – and you gotta give me a break here – my sister and I were young, that’s what kids get excited about, you know?

I bet at the time, 30-something years ago, my daddy had no idea how much this would mean to me as I grew up. Even now, as I write this, I’m teary eyed because, daddy, every time I see a beautiful sunrise, sunset, or sky full of stars, I wish I were watching it with you. Because I know that no one would enjoy doing that with me as much as you would.

I send pictures to my dad, but pictures don’t do a sunrise justice. Just like anything created by God, you can’t capture it. My camera can’t capture the beauty of a sunrise, and there’s no way to hold onto it like a balloon on a string, keeping it with you all day long. You have to experience it for yourself. See the glow of the rising sun, smell the fragrance of a beautiful flower, feel the breeze on your face during a hot day. God gifts these things to us because he loves us; because we are His children. Just like daddy gifted my sister and me a chance to stop and watch the sunrises. You have to experience God for yourself, no one can gift that to you, and even if they did, it wouldn’t be nearly as awesome.

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Sunrise
On the way to work yesterday I ran into terrible traffic for miles. Literally 3 lanes crawling down the interstate; there was an accident right in the middle of downtown. Busiest section of the road. Waiting until the last possible moment, hoping not to have to, I finally sent my boss a text message that I was going to be late and why. He wasn’t happy. He’s an amazing lawyer and a businessman. He’s actually one of the best lawyers I’ve ever worked for. However, he hired me to do a job, which requires that I’m at work by 8:30. He doesn’t care how far away I live or if an accident is holding up traffic. He needs me at work by 8:30 to open the firm, among other things. Though I’m rarely late, when I am, the entire firm is affected. I get it. I understand. Someone has to answer the phones and do all the things I should be doing. Meanwhile, that someone is missing out on time to complete their own work. I know his reaction to me was not personal.

When my boss arrived to work, I asked him if I could talk to him (before he had a chance to call me into his office). No one wants to be called into the principal’s office, right? I wanted the upper hand, or to at least feel like I had it. I prayed before going into his office. We spoke. I left, and prayed some more. I told God that this was difficult, I was scared for my job, and upset because everyone was mad at me. I asked God to help me find a silver lining to this situation. I told God I did not want to stay angry, upset, fearful, sad, or worried. In fact, I made a decision right then to not be any of those negative things. To do that, I needed to focus on something positive. So God and I “collaborated” in prayer and came up with an awesome idea; or, rather, He came up with an awesome idea.

My “conversation” with God:

God: You know all that time you’ve been complaining about, Bree? Unable to write, unable to blog, or to even participate in the IF:Equip Bible Study you love so much, because you’re commuting for work so many hours per day, and don’t have internet at home? How about you leave home extra early, and when you inevitably arrive to work early, you can use that time to blog, or study the Bible, or read. You’ll be on time for work, and get your blogging done.

Bree: Yes! That’s a great idea, God! Instead of staying late after work to blog, I will do it in the mornings before work. Great solution! (God and I make a good team.)  🙂

Let me tell you that for the rest of the day I felt amazing! I felt like the favor of God was with me all day. It was as if I had a basket of blessings, one after another, that kept popping up. By the time I left work, I was in a great mood. I was so excited about starting to blog again.

I’d always wanted this blog to be my confession, and my testimony to the Glory of God and how Jesus has changed my life. I’d been feeling guilty for not writing, especially after getting all these followers and people who liked my writing and truly wanted to hear my story. I felt guilty about not continuing to tell my story of how Jesus was changing my life. God gifted me with the ability to write well, and I wanted to use it, I needed to. I want everyone to know the God I know. And I want to know Him even better, growing in my faith.

This lesson I learnedgo to God first with my problems, and wait, with expectancy, for the right answer. What you learn will be with you for seasons to come. Certainly, I will need to do this again. Answers don’t always come right away, but they will come. His will will be done, and His will is always good for you. I felt so safe and warm. Surrounded by God’s army of love. It felt like the unconditional, unstoppable, unchangeable love that my daddy has for me.

How lucky am I? I have a Father in heaven making beautiful skies for me to see daily, and I have a daddy on earth who taught me to stop and enjoy the beauty God creates for us. Even though it wasn’t explained to me like that as a child because I wasn’t raised in Church, it’s completely relevant to my life now. I am so blessed. I am so loved. I am so lucky.

Thank you, daddy for teaching me how meaningful it is to stop and watch the sunrise.

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Sunrise through the fog.
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