This blog is where I can pour out my heart with my longing for God.

Archive for December, 2012

My New Year’s resolution: Take this world from me. . .

I LOVE New Year’s Eve.new-year-resolutions

Booze? Nah. Crazy parties? Nah. Listening to famous singers on TV and watching the ball drop? Nah.

Once I became a follower of Jesus as a 19-year-old, I spent most New Year’s Eves in my church in Winston-Salem. We called them “Watch Night Services.” We were prayerfully “keeping watch” as the New Year came in.

I loved such services–anointed music, great preaching, a break for delicious snacks before praising in the New Year!

But since about 2002, I’ve been compelled to be in my hometown of Walnut Cove on New Year’s Eve–in the town that I am called by God to intercede for. After I helped start a church there in 2003, we began our own watch night services each Dec. 31. A couple of times we even held a revival during the last week of the year, finishing the final service at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Although I left that church in 2009, I still felt convicted to be in my town on this pivotal night of the year.

Then came the end of 2010. I had a huge desire to be in an anointed prayer/praise service on the last night of our calendar year. But my teenage son asked me to take him to a local church that was having simply food and games. Although I loved the church, I wasn’t thrilled to just play games and eat. It seemed carnal when I was yearning for spiritual.turn your eyes upon Jesus 2

But I felt from the Lord that I should be thankful for a 15-year-old son who wanted to be in a church on New Year’s Eve–even IF he was simply playing games. So I took him. When we were done with our fellowship and games, I dropped him off at his dad’s (his turn to have him) shortly before midnight. As I drove home through Walnut Cove, I put my hand out of the window into the frigid air and proclaimed blessings on this town that I adore.

Too soon, I was home–all alone, with my kids at their dad’s and my hubster at work. Quickly I turned off the car, thinking that I wanted to hurry in before the ball fell in Times Square. That is something I haven’t seen really since I was 19, having not been home at midnight since then.

Then it hit me: “Leslie, you wanted something so spiritual tonight. The ball falling isn’t wrong or anything, but it’s what the WORLD does on this day. YOU don’t want to do what the WORLD does; you want to do what GOD says to do.” You see, we Christians are not of this world. We are IN this world, but we are not OF this world. We are pilgrims and strangers passing through.just pilgrims passing thru

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. . .” I John 2:15

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So I sat in my car in the dark coldness, praying for wisdom from God on how to spend this symbolic night. Suddenly, I felt to turn on the radio which stays on 94.1 K-LOVE. I heard the Spirit of the Lord instruct me to take the first song that came on after midnight–in 2011–as my motto for the year. I became very excited, anxious to hear what song played.

The music started and these words came forth:

“Take this world from me
I don’t need it anymore
I am finally free
My heart is spoken for.”

It was so perfect that I nearly shouted! “Take this world from me; I don’t need it anymore.” That is what had been in my heart. God had confirmed exactly what I was strongly feeling.

this-world-is-not-my-home

Today–on Dec. 31, 2012–it has been two years since that wonderful New Year’s Eve when my Lord spoke to me through song. As I told our church group on Sunday morning, I still long to have more of the world taken from me by God. I yearn to be less worldly, less carnal and more spiritual.

Now, I don’t want to be so heavenly-minded that I’m no earthly good. Instead, I want to be so heavenly-minded that I am an ENORMOUS earthly good to all who need to hear the Gospel!

focus on JesusWhat is it in this world that takes your focus from God’s kingdom? Do you have too much going on in your life? Are you spread too thin? How can we have a single vision when we are pulled in so many different directions?

2013 is almost here. Why not turn our eyes upon Jesus and focus so solely on Him so that our every step in life is guided by His Spirit? If you are born again, you are already a spiritual being. Yet you live in a physical world. REMEMBER that despite your physical surroundings and fleshly temptations, you are primarily a spiritual, eternal being. You may go through a physical death one day, but you will live again. You are already eternal.

So why not take 2013 and live like those spiritual beings that we are? This entails focusing on Him so that all worldly things follow in the wake of you following Him.start 2013

It’s all well and good to make lists of New Year’s resolutions. But as my very wise daughter Meghann intimated in church on Sunday, have you considered asking God to help you determine what those should be, lest we endeavor to fulfill them in our own strength? And then, why not ask Him throughout the year to help you meet those goals?

For example, you are craving Reese’s peanut butter cups (king-size pack–two measly cups, like 24 hours in a day, are never enough) and taco-flavored Doritos for lunch. However, you realize that this goes against your New Year’s dietary goals and is not the best option for a healthy body. It also is not exactly what your Creator would want for your lunch menu.

I usually consider two options:

A. Eat the Reese’s and Doritos and resolve to do better tomorrow

OR

B. Struggle to fight the temptation, bitterly eat a salad instead–all the while salivating for chocolatey goodness.turn your eyes upon Jesus

But there is an option C: pray for God to help me fight the temptation and even take the urge away from me. I will confess that I don’t usually go for option C, but in 2013 I intend to. I want my New Year’s resolution list today to be Spirit-led and my attempts to keep these resolutions throughout the year to be Spirit-enabled.

Don’t you?

C’mon–join with me this year to say, “Take this world from me; I don’t need it anymore.” And let’s focus on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith!

(Click on the link below to hear MercyMe’s great rendition of the song I heard to start 2011 and am again using as my motto for 2013!)

A letter to my little son

Dear Malachi,DSCN7129

This has been a day that will go down in infamy–December 14–when 20 young children were shot and killed in a Connecticut school. I know that you were somewhat aware of what was going on due to me watching CNN all afternoon, but I tried to keep you occupied with the pleasantries of our daily life so that you wouldn’t totally process what happened. I know that you, with your sensitive nature, would’ve deeply pondered the senseless killing.

I’m writing this to you so that one day, you can look back and read it and understand just what your mommy went through on this horrific day. Parents nationwide are shaken to think that innocent children were slaughtered in what is supposed to be a safe environment.

I’m also writing this because you are not with me tonight, and I long to hold you close. I’m reading on Facebook tonight how parents all over America are clinging to their children as if to reassure themselves that surely this couldn’t ever happen to them. I just read comments by hard-nosed newspaper editors and reporters who said they rushed home from work to clasp their children and tell them how much they love them. One man said that his daughter is in college, but all he could see today was her five-year-old face.

I do not begrudge you your time with your dad. I am so glad you have a daddy who wants to be with you and will take good care of you while you’re there. But that doesn’t mean that I am not having a particularly hard time tonight with you gone. At the time of such tragedy, parents naturally want to be near their children. And tonight I sit alone when what I need is your little head on my shoulder as is your late night custom.

After you left tonight, the house was suddenly so quiet. But I know that, God willing, you will soon be running around the living room again, playing your brilliantly imaginative games with your Mario figures. It makes my heart ache to think about those parents in CT whose houses will never be the same again. No five-year-olds playing with their Barbies in the floor. No six-year-olds running their Lightning McQueens and Maters over the furniture.

Empty

A few minutes ago, I heard your little voice on the telephone. You said, “Mommy, when are you gonna pick me up?” And when I told you I’d see you early in the morning at your basketball game, you cried out, “Yay!!” Before I hung up, you said, “Wait a minute, Mommy!” Then I heard your voice bark like a dog. You told me, “That was my doggie telling you good night.”

You insisted that I tell our dog Rocky good night for you. So I, too, barked like a dog and said, “Rocky says good night to you, too.” Then your sweet little boy voice told me, “I love you, Mommy.” And I choked back tears as I said, “Love you, too, little buddy.”

I am tormented by the thought of the parents of the deceased school children–parents who would literally give a limb or vast amounts of money if they could only hear the sweet voice of their little child. No more “I love you” at night before bed. No more “Mommy, will you read me a book?” after bath time.

I find it comforting that just before and at the time of this tragic school shooting, I was able to spend such great one-on-one time with you. I will never forget your face yesterday when you reached your decision about attending the midnight showing of “The Hobbit” with your four siblings. You had had such trouble deciding–having looked forward for so long to the premiere of that movie–but when you did, you were rock-solid. You smiled at me and informed your brother and sister, “I’m staying with Mommy! I want to see the movie with Mommy!”

My heart just melted like warm butter when you said that. And when they all took off a little after 10 last night for the movie, you and I snuggled up on the couch to watch “Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer.”

Remember how we bundled up to go outside on the deck and watch the Geminid Meteor Shower? You saw the first one and pointed it out with joy! The memory of the two of us in the frigid December air, our faces looking heavenward to the crystal clear sky where stars glistened with unusual clarity, the peaceful silence of the night, is a memory that has now been etched in my heart.

When we got too cold to stand out there, remember how we rushed inside, turned off all the lights and watched from the big window in the living room? We each saw a few meteors streaking through the sky–gasping with delight at the sight–before we gave up the vigil and went to bed. You barely had time to strategically place your favorite stuffed animals around your pillow and kiss me before you were asleep. I remember gazing upon your innocent face before I switched off the lamp and snuggled up beside you.

Empty

This morning, weren’t we so excited to wake up and know that it was OUR turn to go to the movie?! I kept looking back at you on the ride to Winston-Salem as you were happily staring out of the window at the sunny December day. When I’d ask, “You okay, buddy?” you would nod and smile. I remember telling Alan what a nearly perfect boy you are when your other siblings aren’t bugging you!

So there we sat in the darkened theater, our 3-D glasses on our faces, ready to see Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf and our other friends from Middle Earth. We shared our popcorn, and I kept admonishing you not to drink too much so that we wouldn’t have to miss part of the movie to go potty. Through the exciting movie, I kept looking over at you–just wanting to see the joy on your face. Sometimes you would feel the scrutiny and turn to smile reassuringly at me. Occasionally, I would take your hand and you would squeeze mine.

When it was done, I enthusiastically asked you, “Where do you want to eat, little fella?” You thought for a minute, having been torn between Burger King and Taco Bell (after telling me with superiority that you just didn’t care for sit-down restaurants), and decisively said, “Taco Bell.” How you tore into those soft tacos! And weren’t you thrilled with the Baja Blast you don’t normally get to drink?

In the midst of this idyllic day when I was so thrilled to have this mother-son time with you, there came a text that changed the mood of the day. It was your sister Meghann telling me about the elementary school students being shot and killed. For a split second, the world stopped turning as I imagined the horror for the children before they died, the torment suffered by their parents and the scarring of the children who escaped but witnessed the carnage.

And I held you even closer, trying to come to terms with the fact that we live in a fallen world where monsters exist all around us, clad in normal clothes and walking the ruts of life just as we do.

I wish I could tell you it will never happen again. I wish I could assure that you will never feel hurt in your life. I wish I could shelter you from the pain and sadness that are inevitable parts of this life on Earth.DSCN7243

But I can’t. I can only point you toward a God Who loves you unconditionally, Who has promised us peace in the midst of the storm, Who holds us in the palm of His hand despite the rigors of life in a fallen universe. And I can pray that you will see His light in the gray day of normal life, that His love can spread to the Adam Lanzas of this world so that they no longer feel the need to strike out with harm to others.

Before long, you will be too big to sit on my lap. You will eventually grow taller than I and move into a place of your own. I would hope that you will have children so that you can experience these feelings that I feel for you.

But until then, I pledge to take care of you, to mentor you, to protect you as best I can, but most of all, to love you unconditionally in a way that only a mommy or daddy can do. Such love overcomes all tragedy and the hatred that leads to the violence we saw today.

I wanted you to know all of these things, my little son. This has been a day of great joy yet great heartache for me. But through the sun and the rain, one thing remains constant–the love that God has given me for you.

Love,

MommyDSCN9533

If you build it. . . (Part IV)

PART IV OF A DREAM COMING TRUE. . .

As the night of Feb. 5 drew nigh, I could feel the tension mounting. The fate of Lois’ house was in the hands of the congregation of First Baptist Church. Would I be able to have an Elisha house to provide a place of rest and refreshing for God’s people?

The enemy hovered near to whisper pessimistic things to me. “Those people don’t know the whole story. They don’t realize how Lois wanted you to have the house. They’ll vote against it.” Or “It’s Super Bowl Sunday. Your friends who go to First Baptist and who would vote to give you the house won’t be at church. They’ll be watching football.”Held on so long

Despite the dark thoughts that occasionally came, I endeavored to stand firm in the faith that God had promised us this house when we prayed over it on July 3, 2011. We never ONCE asked Him to give us the house. We simply asked Him to give us clarity as to what His will was, and He confirmed it was to be ours. We never once asked Lois for the house when she was alive, we never once asked First Baptist for the house when she died, we never once asked God for the house AT ANY TIME. Yet every single time, the house kept coming back to us like a boomerang.

All things r possible

Suddenly, I remembered a dream that I had dreamed a year ago that had seemed very spiritually significant at the time. I couldn’t quite remember the details exactly, so I scrolled through my Facebook private messages to find where I had sent the dream to my close spiritual friends when I first dreamed it.

When I found it, I gasped aloud. I had dreamed the dream EXACTLY one year before the deciding vote on Super Bowl Sunday 2012. I dreamed it on Sunday night, Feb. 6, 2011, which in the coming year was Sunday night, Feb. 5, 2012–THE VOTE. (Remember: Lois had not even offered us her house at the time of the dream! I had no clue that was coming.)

The setting of the dream was a Sunday night service at First Baptist Church (just like the vote time!). At the beginning of the dream, I slipped in late to a pew near the back on the left side of the church (if viewed from the back door–right side if viewed from the front). I went up about three to four pews from the back where there was a lot of space on the side nearest the wall. I slipped into the pew and slid all the way down to where my second cousin Joy Dodson and her husband J.R. were sitting on the end of the pew closest to the center aisle.

People were lining up to walk to the front of the church, making me think I had really missed a lot of the service. They were going out one row at a time from the front, the way you do at a funeral or wedding, but they were going to the front, not to the back of the church. It was almost time for our pew to go.

I whispered to ask Joy what was going on. She whispered that someone had died, a girl with no parents who had been adopted by an older lady in the church who had died earlier. Everyone was going forward to see the body.

I stepped into line behind Joy, feeling very self-conscious, wondering what people nearer the front would think as they saw me walk by, because I rarely ever go back to visit my childhood church. Many of my relatives go there, and I love the folks at that church.

As I got to the front, to the right of the podium on the platform (right if you’re looking from the back of the church), there was the body. When I looked down into the box (not a coffin really–more like a bassinet or something), there was a baby dressed in the same thing I was wearing–red and black plaid. I was in a jumper with a black turtleneck beneath it, but I don’t remember if the baby was in a red and black plaid jumper or just a red and black plaid sleeper or something a baby would wear.

What freaked me out is that the baby was moving and wiggling with open eyes, although it looked as if it had been asleep. I was thinking, “Hey, this baby is not dead!” Although I was freaked out, I didn’t say anything because the church was totally silent. I filed through the line and turned to go back to my seat.

That’s all I recall of the dream. I do remember it striking me heavily that the baby and I were dressed alike. I thought that perhaps the baby was me. My mom reminded me that when I was three months old, I was placed in a bassinet in that exact spot on the platform at First Baptist Church and allowed to stay during the worship service. It was a special service where they honored the oldest and the youngest person in the church–me being the youngest.

Now, a year later, the dream made perfect sense. I was indeed the baby, or perhaps the baby represented my ministry. Lois was the wealthy woman who had died who had “adopted” me and made me (the ministry) her heir. But in the years since my divorce, many people had thought that my ministry was dead–just like the baby.

But IT WAS NOT. The gifts and callings of God are without repentance–cannot be taken back! So the baby that everyone thought was dead was wiggling and wide-eyed. And I was sitting beside a lady named JOY. As I moved toward the front of the church toward the baby (my ministry), I followed closely on the heels of JOY. I was in the presence of JOY! (Even more interesting that Joy’s surname is Dodson–as in Lois Dodson Smith.)

An interesting aside: remember the Sunday morning that our church went over to pray at Lois’ house on July 3, 2011 and we felt that He gave us the sign that it was ours? Well, that very night, I had gone to the Winston-Salem DASH game with my family. Guess who I saw at the concession stand? My cousin, Joy Dodson! I had not seen her in a few years! When I asked her where she sat at First Baptist Church, guess where she said? EXACTLY where I had dreamed I saw her. And I had no way of knowing that.

I remember thinking on that July night at the DASH game that seeing Joy on the very same day that God had confirmed the house was ours and finding out that she sat exactly where she sat in my dream was yet another confirmation from the Lord that the house situation would work in our favor.

All of this was running through my mind on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012. How could all of these incredible happenings be false?

They were not false! They were true! First Baptist Church voted almost unanimously to give us the house. When one of the trustees called to give us the news, I was overjoyed!sunshine after rain

I had asked that a stipulation be put on the transfer: that if we ever decided to give up the house, it would go back to First Baptist. Lois would’ve wanted that, because she loved her home church. In turn, the church put a stipulation: that we must become a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation.

Although it took quite a while to finish the paperwork for the IRS and several MONTHS for the IRS to confer 501(c)3 status on us, at last that day arrived. In mid-October 2012, we received the long-awaited for letter from Washington, DC, congratulating us on our 501(c)3 status!

Shortly after that, we were invited to a morning worship service at First Baptist Church where my mother and I were called up front for a special ceremony of transfer of deed/title. It was a joyous time with my relatives and friends who attend that church. Pastor Jim reiterated to the congregation that he had heard Lois say numerous times exactly what she wanted to do with her house. I will never forget that man’s integrity. A less honorable man would’ve ignored a dead woman’s wishes and thought of the gain his church could have from such property. God bless Pastor Jim and First Baptist Church!

I sometimes think of how much easier it would’ve been on everybody involved had Lois’ wishes simply been followed before she died. We spent well over a year with nowhere to meet except a private home. We often felt as though we were spinning our wheels because we didn’t have a place to conduct our workshops, classes, Bible studies, counseling sessions. Meanwhile, First Baptist Church had to pay for insurance, lawn care, legal fees.

But a friend of mine reminded me that in my dream, I had to wait in line to get to the front to see the “baby.” There was a matter of timing. So I don’t worry about the lost time. God can even multiply time! And He will surely repay First Baptist for every penny they spent; they will not be the losers at all. I’m sure we all learned valuable things while we waited.Don't worry

So as I sat in First Baptist Church on that sunny Sunday morning, I was moved immensely. I saw the stained glass window in memory of my grandparents who were prominent members of that church. I saw the baptistry behind the choir loft where the mural was placed in memory of my grandmother–Irene “Reny” Richardson Smith–who taught Sunday School there. I thought of my grandpa–Papa Jack Smith–who had such a heart for missions. He was sent out from First Baptist long ago to revive Danbury Baptist Church and to lead services at Sunset Park and Hanging Rock, often taking me along to sing solos.

I knew that Papa Jack and Granny Smith would approve of the mission work their daughter and granddaughter wanted to carry out at Lois’ house. I knew that Lois was watching from Heaven, rejoicing that her wishes had been honored.

delight in the LordAnd I remembered a petite little girl, sitting in an upstairs Sunday School room long ago, listening raptly as her teacher told the class about the Shunammite woman who built a chamber for the prophet Elisha–a little girl who began to dream right then of doing the same thing one day, a little girl whose God did not forget her heart’s desire, a little girl who grew into this woman that I am today who never turned loose of her dream.

The house is very old. It has deteriorated in these years of vacancy. When we turned on the water this week, we heard Niagara Falls under the house and quickly shut it off. Mold and mildew dot the walls after years of little or no heat/AC. Some ceilings threaten to fall in. We have a very small congregation and little money at this time.

burdens into blessings

But when I walk into Lois’ house, I know that God’s hand is on it. And I know that if He has worked all of these other miracles, He is well able to help us fix the house step by step–in His time.

He is faithful that has promised.

Sandy and Darlene in the kitchen of Lois' house!

Sandy and Darlene in the kitchen of Lois’ house!

Me showing our church group the master bedroom suite which would be set aside as an Elisha chamber. Missionaries, evangelists, revival preachers could stay here for a season to seek the Lord, rest, be recharged and refreshed. We intend to make it available to any church in town who has a visiting revival preacher.

Me showing our church group the master bedroom suite which would be set aside as an Elisha chamber. Missionaries, evangelists, revival preachers could stay here for a season to seek the Lord, rest, be recharged and refreshed. We intend to make it available to any church in town who has a visiting revival preacher.

This upstairs room needs much repair. It would be a great place for the Walnut Cove History Room named after Lois.

This upstairs room needs much repair. It would be a great place for the Walnut Cove History Room named after Lois.

The top of the stairs in this house that was built in the late 1800s, possibly by a Mr. Allen. (That was the surname of some of my relatives in Walnut Cove in that same era!)

The top of the stairs in this house that was built in the late 1800s, possibly by a Mr. Allen. (That was the surname of some of my relatives in Walnut Cove in that same era!)

This upstairs bedroom could be used as an "upper room"--a place set aside for deep prayer and study.

This upstairs bedroom could be used as an “upper room”–a place set aside for deep prayer and study.

Looking down the stairs at the front door. This house was first owned by Amos Miller. Later Lois' dad, Wesley Dodson, bought it.

Looking down the stairs at the front door. This house was first owned by Amos Miller. Later Lois’ dad, Wesley Dodson, bought it.

This upstairs room over the master bedroom suite is perhaps in the worst shape of all. It could be part of the Walnut Cove History Wing or it could be a classroom one day. Who knows?! God does!

This upstairs room over the master bedroom suite is perhaps in the worst shape of all. It could be part of the Walnut Cove History Wing or it could be a classroom one day. Who knows?! God does!

Lois was so proud of her chandelier in the parlor. This would be a classroom or meeting room.

Lois was so proud of her chandelier in the parlor. This would be a classroom or meeting room.

Our group couldn't resist going in to see the house (most of them for the first time!) after the decision was made by First Baptist. The house has much potential and would provide the space necessary for all that our ministry wants to do! Praise God!

Our group couldn’t resist going in to see the house (most of them for the first time!) after the decision was made by First Baptist. The house has much potential and would provide the space necessary for all that our ministry wants to do! Praise God!

God will provide

If you build it. . . (Part III)

PART III OF A DREAM COMING TRUE. . .All things work together

When Lois–our would-be benefactress–passed away on Aug. 9, 2011, the dream of having her home to use as an “Elisha house” in Walnut Cove seemed to shrivel up and die with her. For weeks after her sudden death at age 93, I was confused, disheartened, without clear direction. I had been so sure that Lois would live to see her house in our hands and even be the guest of honor when we dedicated the Lois Dodson Smith Room of Walnut Cove History in that very house.

Now she was gone, and the house had passed to First Baptist Church–the very church where the dream of having an Elisha house was birthed in my heart as a little girl. In addition to the heartache of losing the house, there was the greater heartache of the loss of Lois. I was devastated, having intended to spend time with her once I quit my editor’s job in September, but she passed a month before that.

And my mind kept going back to Sunday morning, July 3, 2011, when I had been sure that God had given us a clear sign that the house would be ours. On that day, our Times of Refreshing group was having our regular church service at the beauty shop where we met. By our starting time of 9:30, only six people were there; several were missing. Strangely enough, the ones present were the only ones who had had ties with my ministry for several years.

I suddenly felt to tell this “elect group” all about Lois’ house and the controversy surrounding it. Up to that point, my mom, my hubster and I had kept the situation private. My friend Yvonne–my dear friend who used to be a crack addict before she devoted her life to the Lord–said that her street friends/crack addicts/drug dealers would come to that house if we ran it. She said she could feel the Spirit running all up and down in her the more we talked about the house. She was bold and said that she really felt that we would get it. She believed that end of town seems to be darker than the rest of Walnut Cove and needs a light somewhere.

I told them that I felt we should gather in a circle and worship together for a while, then pray individually for discernment, then actually go over to Lois’ house–less than a mile away. When our circle broke apart and we went our separate ways, I hit my knees and began to listen to the Lord.

Suddenly I heard Him say that the person who walked right up to the door of Lois’ house and touched the doorknob would know immediately if the house was supposed to be ours. It startled me so much that I nearly jumped out of my skin. I pondered getting a piece of paper and writing what He had said to me so that I would have proof it happened once we all got to the house, but I didn’t want to disturb everyone’s prayer time.

I began asking the Lord if I should go first and run to be the one to touch the doorknob. But no–I felt a peace that whoever got there first would be the right one. Even though my hubster and I brought up the rear of the vehicle procession to Lois’ house (we had to lock up the beauty shop), I still figured I could quickly get to the door. I assumed no one else would think to go to the door, since it was locked and they had seemed more interested in walking around the property.

But as I got out of my car, I saw Darlene march boldly up to that door. I felt my breath catch in my chest. She opened that outer door and grabbed the doorknob. I couldn’t believe (oh Leslie of little faith) that it was happening as He said it would.

My hubster took this picture shortly after Darlene first approached the door.

My hubster took this picture shortly after Darlene first approached the door.

Darlene immediately smiled and turned around to motion for me. She pointed to a decorative window area to the right of the door and asked, “What do you see?” I saw two slivers of wood that had fallen from the wooden framing and had landed on the sill in the shape of a cross.

I gasped, “A cross.”

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Darlene nodded and said, “We’re supposed to have this house.” We all began rejoicing and grew teary-eyed. Sandy felt to go get her anointing oil.

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Sandy brings the anointing oil to Darlene and Mama

Darlene anointed the front doorknob.

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I felt to go anoint the side door which was a separate entrance to the master bedroom suite (Elisha’s chamber!). I wept as I did it, imagining that my childhood dream of having a little room for the prophet was about to come true.

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As we later walked around the property. Darlene said it was like coming home to Grandma’s house. Two familiar crack addicts walked by, looking at us. I waved and called them by name. They are my friends. Yvonne said that the house would provide a place for such people to come–to have something to do, to get counseling, to find help.

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As we were leaving–in a jubilant mood, having even taken our picture in front of the house–my mom lifted her hands and said, “Eli-sha [pronounced in Hebrew el-ee-shah’]–God sets free!” I froze because when I anointed the bedroom door, I had remembered how I once thought we should call the house “Elisha House” in honor of the little chamber the Shunammite woman built onto her house for the prophet to be refreshed.

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I left Lois’ house that morning, knowing for the first time that it was supposed to belong to Times of Refreshing.

But that was in July. Now it was August, Lois was gone and the house had been given away. Were we wrong that July morning? Did we just THINK we heard the voice of God?

Before we knew it, it was autumn. Sometimes someone would bring up the disappointment over the house. By then, I had a strange peace and would just smile at them, saying, “It’s not over yet, you know.” It SEEMED to be over, but I knew down deep that it wasn’t.

We never said another word about the house to outside sources. Before Lois died–when she was so upset over her house not being given to us–I had pleaded with those concerned to follow Lois’ wishes–truly not out of gain to me (the house was so decrepit it would’ve been easier to let someone else have it!) but out of a desire to see a dying woman’s wishes granted.

But once she was gone, I took my hands off the issue and stepped aside. Hadn’t Lois’ last words to us been that it was in God’s hands now?

a way out of no way

And then one day, a miracle happened. A phone call came from a leader at First Baptist Church. We were informed that the pastor, a very Godly man named Jim, had told the church trustees that he didn’t feel it was right for them to accept Lois’ house. He recounted to them how she had told him time and time again that she wanted her house to go to me and my mom.

I was overwhelmed with gratitude! This was a pastor who truly wanted to do the right thing, whose heart must be pure before God. Even if nothing came of his desire to give us the house, I knew that I would forever honor him for his sense of justice.

When word came that the trustees had voted to give us the house, my amazement grew. Although I had trusted God to move in this situation and felt instinctively that the house issue wasn’t dead, seeing it unfold before my eyes was incredible.

But that wasn’t the last step. Next, the vote would go to the deacons. Pastor Jim kept insisting to them that he, with his own ears, had heard Lois make her wishes plain.

We were on pins and needles to hear the outcome of the deacons’ vote. What joy when the call came that their decision was also “yes”!

But it was not over yet. The final step would be to bring the issue to the entire church. The vote would be held on Super Bowl Sunday night, Feb. 5, 2012.

I was tantalizingly close to seeing my childhood dream of having an Elisha house come true, but it all rested on a vote by the people at the very church that helped birth that dream in me. . .

(Continued in “If You Build It–Part IV”)

always believe something wonderful

If you build it. . .(Part II)

PART II OF A DREAM COMING TRUE. . .

Lois at about age 50

Lois at about age 50

When I arrived that early spring day of 2011 at Walnut Ridge Assisted Living at the behest of the imperial Mrs. Lois Dodson Smith, I was nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. I loved Lois–feeling a kinship with her as far as our intense love for Walnut Cove–but she intimidated me just a little. She was a woman who knew what she wanted and usually got it, too! And she could be stern if crossed.

So with a bit of trepidation, I entered her room where I found her with her daytime sitter, Robin, and my mother, whom Lois had also requested to see. My mother had known Lois all of her life, having grown up in First Baptist Church where Lois was a prominent member. Lois had always been fond of my mom, calling her “my little girl” for as long as my mother could remember. And now, my mother went faithfully every Thursday to minister in song to the residents of Walnut Ridge, always taking time to visit with Lois, as she had for many, many years.

As we went to the dining room to talk, Lois pinned me to the chair with her penetrating gaze: “If I gave you my house, Leslie, what would you do with it?” Robin, who loved Lois like a mother, had prepared me somewhat for what Lois wanted to talk to me about, and I was still somewhat in shock over it.

Dodson hotel

The Dodson Hotel in Walnut Cove, run by Lois’ father

You see, Lois owned a large, two-story white house on Second Street in Walnut Cove. She claimed that it was one of the oldest houses in town–perhaps THE oldest. She had moved into it at age six after her father–the owner and proprietor of the famous Dodson Hotel–had passed away suddenly. From that point on, Lois lived in the majestic white house all of her life until she made the difficult decision to move to the Assisted Living at age 86.

In the early part of the 21st century, Lois donated her house to the Town of Walnut Cove, asking them to use it for their town hall. Her love for her town was well-known, as was her generosity and willingness to help others. The local paper did a big story on the donation, with a picture of Lois sitting on her porch.

The years passed, and the Town did not follow through with Lois’ desire to convert the house into a town hall. After studies were done, they determined that the cost to transform the house into a place of business such as they needed would be prohibitive, and parking would be an issue. The once-regal house stood vacant, deteriorating more and more as the years went by. The Town and other organizations used it for storage, and Lois constantly chafed at the thought that her house stood empty.

Once, in about 2006, my mother was visiting with Lois as she did weekly. Lois said, “Judy, I wish I could get my house back from the Town. I would give it to you and Leslie and your ministry and let y’all do something good with it!” My mother told me about the incident, but I merely shrugged my shoulders in resignation, never dreaming that the house would be owned by anyone but the Town.

So when the Town voted to give the house back to Lois in Feb. 2011, I was shocked. But I never dreamed she would remember that once upon a time she had wanted to give it to us. In fact, I don’t remember the thought ever crossing my mind.

Until the day the sitter called me. . .

Lois and her sitter, Robin, at Christmas 2009

Lois and her sitter, Robin, at Christmas 2009

As I sat with Lois, I nervously told her the visions and dreams I had for the town I loved so passionately–to have a place of refuge for those who were weary, burnt out, at the end of their rope. To see the the drug addicts set free. To see the alcoholics delivered. To see the chains of poverty and ignorance broken. To see God’s Spirit poured out in a mighty way in Walnut Cove!

Lois listened carefully and questioned me more specifically. How would I use her house for that?

I told her we would use it as a place for church groups to meet, for Bible studies to be held, for classes on healthy living, for workshops on how to break addictions, for a food pantry, for Christian counseling sessions, for whatever the Lord directed. I also related to her my childhood dream of having a chamber set aside for missionaries/evangelists/preachers/teachers to be able to stay for a time of seeking the Lord and/or rest. I mentioned as well that I wanted a room set aside as a historical museum for Walnut Cove, appropriately named the Lois Dodson Smith Room.

When my spiel was done and my heart for ministry had been poured out, Lois sat back with a satisfied look on her face. “I want you to take my house–you and Judy–and do something good for this town with it,” she said matter-of-factly. There were occasional times in that final year of her life that her mind wandered, but there were more times that she was the same old Lois she had always been, and this was one of those times.

And once she made her decision, she never wavered. Lois constantly talked to her sitters and the employees at Walnut Ridge about her desire to give the house to us. She was even bold enough (as always!) to tell the pastor and deacons of First Baptist Church who came to visit that she wanted her house to go to “Judy’s crew,” as she often called us.

But due to legal circumstances beyond our control, Lois’ will was never changed. Although our ministry, Times of Refreshing, was incorporated as a non-profit entity with the State of NC (churches are automatically nonprofit anyway, but we went the extra mile), we were not a 501(c)3 federally. For this reason, the house wasn’t transferred to us, despite Lois’ wishes.

I will never forget the last time that I ever saw her alive. It was a Tuesday–the worst day of the week in many ways for me. Tuesdays were press days and often found me working 18 hours straight to put out The Stokes News. When the phone rang that late July morning, I nearly didn’t answer it, but now I thank God I did.

It was Robin, Lois’ beloved sitter, telling me that Mrs. Lois wanted to see me. I began to make my excuses that it was press day, and I was running behind. Robin, who knew the rigid Lois better than probably anyone else, simply listened and then repeated, “Lois wants you to come down here.”

I sighed and knew then and there that I would obey. Within the hour, I was in Lois’ room, along with Robin and my mother. Lois kept asking, as she did every Thursday when my mother visited, “What are you all doing with my house?” We kept telling her that we couldn’t do anything with it, since it wasn’t ours. She insisted that the house be given to us. We once again repeated that the decision to do that was out of our hands. She even instructed Robin to pick up the phone and call her lawyer. I asked if we should leave the room, being very uncomfortable with the thought of being present while she talked to her lawyer. Lois told us to stay right where we were.

And so we did, eying each other nervously. We had never once asked for the house to be given to us, and although we felt that her offering it was God’s gift to us, we didn’t want to get in the middle of anything or cause trouble.

Lois and her best friend from childhood, Hazel, eating chocolates in their room that they shared at Walnut Ridge

Lois and her best friend from childhood, Hazel, eating chocolates in their room that they shared at Walnut Ridge

As I left her room later that day, I hugged her and told her I loved her. At the door, I looked back at her as she sat upright in her favorite chair. Her face was staring at the wall in front of her, leaving me to see only her regal profile. Her face was solemn, and somehow I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would never see her alive again. Tears sprang to my eyes, and I left quickly before I began to weep openly–something I finally did once I was alone in my car.

On Thu., Aug. 3, my mother saw Lois for the last time. They discussed the house which had not yet been willed to us, and Lois’ last words to my mother were, “It’s in the Lord’s hands now, Judy.”

Five days later, Lois Dodson Smith passed from this earth at the age of 93. Her house went to First Baptist Church, per her unchanged will. Bitterly disappointed, my mother and I decided to trust Lois’ last words, leaving it to the Lord. We never approached the legal system nor the church, opting rather to avoid any trouble or ill will and to honor Lois’ memory peacefully.

What had seemed like God’s beautiful answer to my childhood request to have an “Elisha house” now seemed, through Lois’ sudden death, to be no answer at all. To come so close to your dream and feel it slip away is a heart-wrenching thing, but I kept hearing Lois say, “It’s in the Lord’s hands now.”

And so it was. And so He miraculously moved. And so, through the goodness of many people, the dream did not die after all. . .

(Continued in “If You Build It–Part III”)

delight thyself

If you build it. . .(Part I)

PART I OF A DREAM COMING TRUE. . .

My childhood church, First Baptist of Walnut Cove

My childhood church, First Baptist of Walnut Cove

When I was a little girl, I loved going to Sunday School at First Baptist Church in Walnut Cove, North Carolina. My teachers would teach us wonderful Bible lessons, sometimes using the flannel boards that children so love. While the other kids clamored to hear the more popular stories–Noah’s ark, the baby Jesus being born, the miracle of the loaves and fishes–I was the odd man out.

You see, my favorite story was an unusual one–straight from the Old Testament in the book of II Kings (not a real popular book in the realm of children’s Sunday School!). Something in my little girl heart was touched to the core by the story of the woman of Shunem who talked her husband into building a chamber onto their house for the prophet Elisha.

II Kings 4:8-11: “Now it happened one day that Elisha went to Shunem, where there was a notable woman, and she persuaded him to eat some food. So it was, as often as he passed by, he would turn in there to eat some food. And she said to her husband, ‘Look now, I know that this is a holy man of God, who passes by us regularly. 10 Please, let us make a small upper room on the wall; and let us put a bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lampstand; so it will be, whenever he comes to us, he can turn in there.’ 11 And it happened one day that he came there, and he turned in to the upper room and lay down there.”

elisha-shunammite-womanThere’s more to the story, but that was the gist of it. Somehow, the thought of that Shunammite woman wanting to bless the prophet with a room of his own–a room in which to meditate on the Scriptures, pray unto his God, rest after the labors of ministry–blessed ME beyond measure.

I never forgot it. And I treasured a secret desire deep in my innermost being: the desire to one day do the same–to make a place for a man or woman of God to rest and find the presence of God in solitude.

But when I grew up and got married, there was never any room for visitors. We were financially-challenged much of the time, in small spaces with little room for guests. In our little rental house in Kernersville, there was no room. In the tiny mobile home on the Forsyth County side of Walnut Cove, there was even less room.

Yet still I dreamed.

When we finally bought a house, space was still tight for our growing family, but I wanted to be the Shunammite woman nonetheless! When a preacher came from Maryland to hold revival at our church in Winston-Salem, I quickly volunteered to provide room and board for him and his family, giving up my bed for them. Perhaps I couldn’t build a chamber on the side of my house, but I could give them my own chamber!

One day in about 2004, I heard that a big plantation-style house in Walnut Cove was up for sale. It had been the Pinecrest School–a home for mentally and physically challenged adults. I walked through the house, yearning to buy it so that I could take the little building to the side of it and make an “Elisha chamber” out of it. I drove through the property so often and talked to my four children about it so much that they started calling the little white outbuilding “the missionary house.”

But the asking price was way above our means, and the house was sold to people who chopped down the stately trees in front of my dream house and turned it into a horse farm rather than a place for burned out Christians and/or exhausted missionaries and evangelists.

And so I settled back into routine life, wondering if my dream would ever come true. When I eventually moved to Danbury, I decided that when the kids grew up, I would take one of the bedrooms downstairs and make it into a refuge for any Christian who needed a place to escape the rigors of the modern world for a time of prayer and seeking the Lord.

Still, that seemed like such a long time away.

And then one day in the spring of 2011, destiny came knocking on my door.

By then, I was a busy newspaper editor, trying to run a fledgling Christian ministry on the side. When my phone rang one hectic day, I really didn’t have time to talk. But the caller said something that stopped me right in my tracks.

Mrs. Lois Dodson Smith at age 92 eating at Walnut Ridge Assisted Living

Mrs. Lois Dodson Smith at age 92 eating at Walnut Ridge Assisted Living

Mrs. Lois Dodson Smith–a 92-year-old lady whom I considered the “First Lady of Walnut Cove”–wanted to meet with me and had directed her sitter to call me. I hurried down to Walnut Ridge Assisted Living to see what Mrs. Lois wanted. I had interviewed her in the past for my newspaper column, taking copious notes of her incredible memories of the history of my beloved hometown of Walnut Cove.

But I had gotten so busy working 24/7 for the newspaper that I had neglected to visit Lois in the past two or three years, and now I felt guilty when she called for me. Little did I know that her request to see me would change my life and start me on my way to fulfilling the dream I had nurtured since my long-ago childhood at First Baptist Church. . .

(Continued in “If You Build It–Part II.”)

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