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The Old Paths: Our Loss, Heaven’s Gain

(This was originally published in The Stokes News on December 8, 2011, in my regular column, “The Old Paths.” Due to the fact that all Internet links were broken to our old articles when Civitas Media switched websites, I am slowly but surely posting all of my old columns in my blog so that they will be archived as they SHOULD’VE been on the newspaper website.)

Mike Joyce, the longest-running sheriff in Stokes County history!

Mike Joyce, the longest-running sheriff in Stokes County history!

It was a breezy Sunday morning in Iowa. The September sun shone on my ballcap-clad head as I walked into the tunnel made by the arching cornstalks at the Field of Dreams.

I plucked an ear of corn and guiltily put it inside my jacket. Even though I had found no restrictions on picking corn, I still worried that I was committing a crime. Was that the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson shaking his head at me?

But ever since former Sheriff Mike Joyce had shown me the ear of corn his stepson Joe had brought him from the Field of Dreams, I had been determined to have one. And now I couldn’t wait to tell him about mine.

I never got to tell him.

Once home, I had to work furiously so I could resign from The Stokes News in late September. One of my final stories was about Joyce preparing for a bone marrow transplant and the importance of him being shielded from infection.

So I figured I would just save the story for when he came home from Duke Medical Center at the first of the year. He and I had big things to do! We shared a dream–to create a Stokes County Sports Hall of Fame/Museum.

On the old paths, I’d go to Danbury each Thursday to pick up the public records for the paper. If it was “my lucky day,” Sheriff Joyce would beckon me into his office–a baseball lover’s dream. His cherished baseball memorabilia adorned the walls, the cabinets, the desk.

I never tired of hearing his stories–usually baseball stories, because he was one of the few people I knew whose passion for that most excellent sport surpassed even my own. He’d loan me baseball movies, tell me little-known baseball facts and often discuss Stokes County’s own rich baseball heritage.

Sheriff Joyce felt that Stokes should have a place where local sports heroes and their accomplishments could be memorialized for the public to view. His idea captured my fancy.

I imagined the fruition of that dream. I could see the ribbon-cutting, with Sheriff Joyce presiding and local sports legends present–the Nunn brothers from up Nancy Reynolds way, Kenny Dennard, Bill Murrell, Dusty Ackley, Mikey Joyce and so many others.

I had a sneaky little plan to persuade museum supporters to name the museum in honor of Mike Joyce. I kept my idea under wraps because he would have protested, being the incredibly humble and unselfish man that he was.

We never got to plan that museum together. Just two months after Sheriff Joyce announced in late 2009 that he would not seek re-election, he was diagnosed with leukemia.

I watched him fight the good fight for nearly two years. Although I wasn’t the sports editor, I begged to cover him throwing out the ceremonial first pitch in April 2010 when Field Two at Lions Park in Walnut Cove was named after him. He reminisced about coaching teams there, telling me how he still had the game ball from when his son Mikey pitched a perfect game.

It was a cruel blow to hear that the leukemia had reared its ugly head again late in the spring of 2011. But through aggressive treatment, it was soon forced back into the abyss where it belongs.

And then it was time for the final assault on the disease–a bone marrow transplant that would conceivably put the lid on the cancer and bring Joyce home again to his beloved wife Gail and family, his trusty motorcycle and plenty of good sports to watch.

But none of us are promised tomorrow, and neither was Sheriff Joyce. Before the transplant, leukemia came back with a vengeance for a third time. I kept thinking that surely such a great man who had done such enormous good for Stokes County wouldn’t die before enjoying retirement. It didn’t seem fair somehow.

But that’s not how it works. In this fallen world, the rain falls on the just and the unjust, and as Billy Joel sang, sometimes “only the good die young.”

I was on the road to Orlando, FL, when a county leader texted me on December 1, “He’s gone to Heaven.” I was asked to write the newspaper story even though I was on vacation and was no longer the editor of The Stokes News. I gladly wrote it on my laptop as my daughter drove. It was loaded to the website using McDonald’s free Wi-fi in a little Florida town.

I spent the evening searching for remembrances of Sheriff Joyce on Facebook, taking notes on the heartfelt stories I found there. And then it hit me. I was doing exactly what writer Terence Mann (played by James Earl Jones) did in the movie that Sheriff Joyce and I loved so dearly, “Field of Dreams.”

Mann collected notes from personal testimonies about the life of a small-town doctor–Archibald “Moonlight” Graham. I had once compared Sheriff Joyce to Graham in a feature story I wrote, and now I was collecting testimonies about him. Both men had dreamed of playing professional baseball.

Here are the last couple of paragraphs of my 2009 story:

Archie Graham makes it to the majors for about five minutes—not even long enough to get one at-bat. He returns to his hometown and becomes a doctor who is beloved by the entire region for over half a century.

Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) agonizes over Graham’s coming so close to a dream that was never realized. “Some men would call that a tragedy,” he insists.

The wise old doctor replies, “Son, if I’d only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes, then that would’ve been a tragedy.”

Many would argue that the analogy is a good one for Sheriff Mike Joyce’s life. Law enforcement may not have been the “field of his dreams,” but he has striven to fulfill his destiny with loyalty and integrity. A tragedy, perhaps, for Joyce that he didn’t get to play major league baseball, but a tragedy indeed, for the citizens of Stokes County, if he had.

When Mann interviewed the locals about Doc Graham, he heard how children who could not afford eyeglasses or milk or clothing would never be denied these essentials because Dr. Graham would make sure they were provided for.

Similarly, I heard stories of Sheriff Joyce’s big heart. Kathy Grubbs Marshall told how she dropped in one day to see her grandpa about six months after her grandmother died. Sheriff Joyce was there and confessed that he often went by to check on Mr. Burke. He was so at home there that he went to get the “nabs jar” and they all shared a Pepsi.

Mr. Burke was a staunch Democrat and Sheriff Joyce, a rigid Republican. But that didn’t matter when it came down to deeper issues of the heart.

Another person told how the unpretentious sheriff once dressed up as a woman to take part in a womanless beauty pageant to benefit a young boy who had leukemia. Jennifer Mickey Fulp shared the story of Sheriff Joyce going weekly to visit her ailing grandpa, former Stokes County Sheriff Clyde Duggins.

No fanfare, no self-promotion, no ulterior motive other than doing the right thing and caring about fellow human beings.

Was he perfect? Of course not–the only perfect man walked the earth 2,000 years ago.

But Mike Joyce will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the best people to ever breathe our good ole Stokes County air. He was one of the most beloved leaders in county history, with support from people in all political parties.

Sheriff Joyce, I will miss your quiet laugh that sometimes made no sound but shook your body. I will recall your compassionate eyes and hear your slow-paced, kind voice. I will remember your true humility and integrity and use it as a model to aspire to.

I will even admit that I pulled for the Texas Rangers in the World Series but am still glad your beloved St. Louis Cardinals won, for your sake.

I hope to press on with plans for a Stokes County Sports Hall of Fame/Museum, but it won’t be the same without you. I won’t rest until it bears your name, but how I wish you could be there to cut the ribbon.

But you’ll be watching from Heaven, I figure. I’ll bet that somehow you even know about my ear of corn from the Field of Dreams in Iowa. Hope to see you on the other side–on the new paths where there is no leukemia, no sickness, no pain.

And if there’s a field up there where old baseball players go to play the games of their dreams, save me a spot on the bleachers right beside you, will ya?

Me and Mike Joyce at WCLL

Me with Sheriff Mike Joyce on the opening day of Walnut Cove Little League when Field 2 at Lions Park was named after him. He threw out the first pitch of the 2009 season.

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A Veterans Day Remembrance: Jay Kitts

(I wrote this back in 2012 when I was a reporter for The Stokes News. It was originally published as “Just in time for Veterans Day. . .Walnut Cove soldier returns from Afghanistan” on Nov. 15. The subject of the story, Jay Kitts, passed away on June 13, 2015, from cancer at the age of 54. The article has been edited accordingly.)

vet jay--pam and guysVeterans Day holds a special significance each year for Pam Kitts of Walnut Cove. Not only did she have a husband in the military but a son as well. In 2012, with her husband Jay still deployed with the U.S. Army Reserves to Afghanistan after 14 months and her son Nathan stationed with the Coast Guard in Ohio, the upcoming holiday was destined to be bittersweet.

Or so she thought.

Just a week before the Nov. 11 holiday, Pam received word that Jay would be coming home. He landed back on American soil in Texas on Nov. 5 for medical checks and briefing. It looked to be perhaps a couple of weeks before he would make the flight back to North Carolina.

But then Pam got the call that made her heart rejoice. Jay would be flying home on the eve of Veterans Day–Saturday, Nov. 10.

“The unit in Ft. Hood, TX, worked overtime to try to get the soldiers home for the Veterans Day holiday! We were not expecting them for another week,” Pam explained.

Before she knew it, she was on her way to PTI Airport in Greensboro. “I was anxious and so excited,” she recalled her emotions. “I just couldn’t wait to see and hug him!”

Waiting for Jay to arrive....

Waiting for Jay to arrive….

Pam and several family members and friends were on hand with banners and American flags to welcome Jay home late in the day that Saturday. Before long, he was back in the arms of his wife and home just in time for the day that honors him and all of those who serve in this nation’s military.

“I was ecstatic to see my family and friends and grateful to be back home!” Jay said.

vet jay--airport crew

Jay is home at last!

The Kitts family reunited!

The Kitts family reunited!

It was a long time coming. Master Sergeant Charles Jay Kitts had been deployed three times overseas, serving active duty in Desert Storm and stationed in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. He was also deployed another time stateside as an RDO (Rear Detachment Officer).

But that most recent deployment with the 378th CSSB (Combat Sustainment Support Battalion) out of Fort Indiantown Gap, PA, may have been the toughest. During the two months of training in NJ and then TX, followed by 12 months in Afghanistan, Jay’s father-in-law passed away, Pam had two surgeries and his 14-year-old daughter Katelyn underwent three surgeries.

“It was hard leaving behind your family and worrying about what’s happening with them and not being there for all the hardships and milestones,” Jay admitted. “I kept my faith in God and trusted that He would keep my family and me safe and bring us back together soon.”

A specialist in logistics, Jay worked 12-16 hour days in Afghanistan, always with the knowledge that enemy forces were out there to bring harm to the military. He faced protestors and occasional Afghans who would try to get into the camp.vet jay--w:arabs

“It was tough,” he confessed. “Days were long.”

But during that time, there were things Jay accomplished that he was proud of. He actually helped build a forward operations base in northern Afghanistan and served as acting mayor of the base.

vet jay--on duty

In 2012, Jay had been with the Army Reserves for 30 years with six years of active duty. This Wytheville, VA native remembered first wanting to enlist because his dad served in World War II and because he, too, wanted to serve his country.

And Jay did not serve alone. Pam was right by his side. They met on the job in the summer of 1986 when he moved to Walnut Cove, quickly fell in love and married in Feb. 1988. Pam said that since she and Jay had been able to put down roots in Walnut Cove–not having to move around–deployment was perhaps harder on them.

“The toughest thing about THIS deployment,” Pam noted, “was that I had to deal with my emotions and pain of losing my dad to cancer without Jay by my side.”

Jay was allowed to come home on emergency leave for two weeks for his father-in-law’s funeral, but when he had to go back to Afghanistan, Pam said her emotions hit their peak.

“I think the shock of my dad being gone and Jay gone again was so unbearable,” she recalled. “I needed him. Jay was truly my soulmate and my rock to lean on besides God. . .but God saw me through, and friends and family helped me, too!”

One of her comforts was her daughter, then a freshman at South Stokes High School. “Katelyn helped me so much in keeping my spirits up,” Pam declared. “She showed me what a remarkable young woman she truly is!”

Pam said that although Katelyn–a daddy’s girl–had missed her dad and longed for him to be there for her, she was very proud of him and remained a trooper and big supporter for both parents.  

Pam and Katelyn were all smiles when Jay got off the plane in Greensboro that 2012 Veterans Day weekend. By their side was Nathan whose unit had worked with him to allow him to come home to greet his dad.

Pam was relieved to have Nathan there: “It’s one thing having to worry about your husband, and then it makes it tougher to worry about a son, too! I am proud of my husband and son, but I have to say I pray a lot that my son never experiences having to go overseas or any war. I worry a lot about that.”

But Pam put those worries out of her mind that weekend when her family was finally reunited. They spent Veterans Day together in a church service that was dedicated to veterans and included a testimony of thanks from Jay and a special outdoor flag presentation by the South Stokes High School JROTC. They hung and flew the US flag that Jay had flown over Afghanistan in honor of Germanton Baptist Church for their support of him and his troops.

Home at last!

Home at last!

When he got home, Jay said that he planned to transition back with his family, spending quality time with them while getting back into the routine at his job.

Pam remembers being overjoyed to settle back into life with him. “There were so many things about my husband that made me so proud of him,” she declared. “Jay was dedicated and loved God, family and country. He truly stood for what he believed in.”

RIP, Jay Kitts–you are missed every day by those who so loved you. But they will be with you eternally one day!vet jay--abroad

A Wake-Up Call

14This past summer as September 11 drew near, I abruptly became besieged by the number “14.” Yes, I meant to use that very word “besieged.” I couldn’t quit thinking about it. “Fourteen,” I would murmur, “what is it about the number fourteen?” I told the hubster how obsessed I suddenly was with that number.

And the feeling of obsession was eerily familiar. It reminded me of how I was obsessed with “9/11” for 5 days before the terrorists struck our country on September 11, 2001. I even wrote a blog about it in 2012, recalling how I felt God had shown me that 9/11 was coming as early as 9/6 of that same year. You can read that fascinating account at:

https://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/remembering-9-11-and-knowing-that-a-10-18-is-coming/

Now here I was obsessed by another number–14. And again, we were nearing 9/11. What could it mean?

In early September 2015 during my obsession with “14,” I was going through an obscure bottom drawer, looking for some paperwork from years ago. I stumbled upon a gold mailing envelope that read “Spiritual Stuff.” Upon opening it, I found an old dream typed on a piece of paper back in late 2002. Fascinated, I began to read it and was flabbergasted to see that the only number in the dream–repeated twice–was the number 14.

This was no coincidence. I had found the record of the dream at just the right point. Let’s go back in time to see how it originally transpired…..

On Christmas Day 2002, a dear friend of mine contacted me that she had had a dream she considered from God. She was a person who didn’t often have spiritual dreams, although she was (is) a very spiritual person. So when she said this one was meaningful, I took it to heart. She felt she should tell me this dream for some reason; in fact, she felt it so strongly that she typed it up for me. I filed it away for safekeeping. Here is the dream exactly as she typed it, with a name left out for privacy purposes:

“Leslie and I were staying together in a large hotel. I remember us going up to our room together–we were on the 14th floor in room #14. As we looked out the window of our room, there was a large storm brewing over the water. It appeared to be something small enough to see, such as a tornado, but it gave the excessive rain and storms usually associated with hurricanes.

“As we watched it, we decided to go downstairs to a lower level, thinking we’d be safer, but others in the hotel kept telling us to stay where we were. They continued to repeat, ‘Stay up here. You’ll be safer the higher you are. Don’t go down onto the lower levels.’ Although it seemed against all reason, we decided to stay on the 14th floor.

“The storm passed, and everything seemed to brighten up again, so we decided to go out onto a large deck at the rear of the hotel. It was on our floor. As I began to walk out onto it, I noticed that the deck itself had come loose from the building. It didn’t seem in imminent danger of collapsing, so I went out there anyway.

“Throughout the dream, I have a recollection of seeing other church people, although I can’t remember any specifically, other than **name omitted for privacy purposes** sitting out on the deck when I was out there. There were only a few people sitting out there, but they were all sitting in chaise lounges, relaxing and having something to drink.

“About the time I got out there, I looked over the water and saw that the storm had reversed direction and was headed right back toward us. Nobody else there acted as though they could see it. I felt the Lord was telling me to get off of there as quickly as possible. I began to yell at everyone to come back inside. Everyone else got back inside, and as soon as I got both of my feet back into the hotel, that deck collapsed.”

(DISCLAIMER: I asked my friend last month if I could have permission to share her dream, with names omitted. She said yes, of course. She also said this: “I’ve literally read the entire books of Ezekiel, Daniel, Revelation, Zechariah, Obadiah, Joel, Amos, and parts of Isaiah and Jeremiah in the last week. Let’s just say I’ve read a lot about judgment, and had some keen realizations lately that people are not watching, and it’s happening right under their nose.”)

You can imagine my amazement when I found this old dream with the 14’s in it. In the following days, I continued to seek God and ponder the significance of the number.

And suddenly, clarity came.

In a few days, we would be commemorating the 14th anniversary of 9/11. FOURTEEN.

trumpetsAnd something I had been teaching on–the very meaningful Biblical Shemitah year–was about to end on Sept. 13–at which point the new Jewish civil year would begin–on September 14. FOURTEEN. This is a huge day for me every year…..the first day of the holy 7th month on God’s calendar…..the Jewish New Year…..the day we celebrate the Feast of the Lord, Rosh Hashanah–also called the Feast of Trumpets–which symbolizes the Lord’s return to earth. Each year it is on a different day of either September or October, since God’s calendar is a lunar one, and thus, fluid. This year, it “just happened” to come on the 14th.

Two days I was anxiously awaiting were part of the “14” puzzle–the 14th anniversary of 9/11 and September 14th–Feast of Trumpets. And I didn’t realize it until AFTER the obsession with “14” had hit.

I knew then what the “14” in my friend’s dream meant:

–We stayed on the 14th floor which represented the 14th anniversary of 9/11.

–We stayed in Room 14 which represented September 14.

–A floor of a hotel is a bigger entity than a mere hotel room–just as a 14th YEAR is a bigger entity than a 14th DAY of a month. There is a room 14 on every floor–just as there is a 14th day in every month. But there is only one 14th floor–just as there is only ONE 14th-year anniversary. (Hope that logic makes sense as to why the floor corresponds to a year and the room corresponds to a day of the month.)

Why were these 14‘s important? Because the Christian world (and much of the secular world!) had been waiting for this year’s anniversary of 9/11 AND for the start of the Jewish New Year. Why? Because there had been so much teaching and warning about something big happening this September. Why? Because it was the end of the Biblical Shemitah year which only comes every 7th year and resulted in the biggest stock market crashes in history in 2001 and 2008…..at the end of Shemitah year…..both on the 29th day of the 6th Jewish month of Elul–the final day of the Shemitah year.

shemitahThis year, the 29th day of Elul–the final day of this once-every-7-years Shemitah year–would fall on September 13. Since it was a Sunday and the U.S. stock market would be closed, many folks were waiting with bated breath to see what happened on the next day–Monday, September 14th. It seemed even eerier since this year the anniversary of 9/11 AND the end of the Shemitah year were the same weekend. That didn’t happen in 2008–the last time we had a Shemitah year. In that year, the end of the Shemitah year occurred a few weeks after 9/11, again due to the Jewish calendar being based on the moon and therefore fluid.

Indeed things did seem to be building toward something catastrophic as the stock market experienced some dark days in the days/weeks before the end of the Shemitah year. Even many stock market analysts with no Christian ties were predicting dark days ahead financially.

But nothing catastrophic happened…..just as in the dream, when the storm was approaching the hotel where we were in the 14th room on the 14th floor…..and then suddenly turned back out to sea. A dangerous storm that seemed destined to strike the hotel didn’t actually strike at all!

Then all is well, right? NO. Notice that the deck at the rear of the 14th floor was loose–not securely attached to the main structure…..perhaps in danger of collapsing.

I began thinking of that one person my friend remembered seeing on the deck (although there were others). Nothing was coming to me about why it was that particular person–very frustrating. Shortly after the 14th anniversary of 9/11 and the September 14th Jewish New Year came and went without great fanfare (just as the expected storm did no damage at that time), I suddenly realized that the person on the deck had a first name that was the same as a unit of U.S. money. That seemed very significant to me with regard to our financial system.

Then it hit me to Google the meaning of this person’s last name. Imagine my surprise when I found that this person’s surname meant “someone at a high place, in a raised-up area.” And this was the person sitting high and raised up on the 14th floor deck! It all seemed to fit. Symbolically, our financial system was still in an exalted position on that deck–just as the person with the monetary unit name was sitting comfortably up there where folks were relaxing in chaise lounges and sipping drinks.

But that deck was loose and not sturdy or trustworthy…..perhaps like our financial system here in the U.S.

The very next morning after I felt God had revealed to me the significance of that person’s name on the deck, I opened my Bible to read my daily chapter. At that time in September 2015, I was already in the Book of Revelation. And the morning after I got revelation on the person’s name, the very chapter in Revelation that I was scheduled to read mentioned the actual name of the person on the deck–the monetary unit…..in connection to a global financial failure!

Color me astonished at the timing!

waterspoutWhat happens next in the dream? The storm that everyone had earlier expected reversed course and began heading back to the hotel. This time, no one was looking for it and couldn’t seem to see its approach. In other words, they were fooled. So when it struck, the faulty deck collapsed…..the deck that had been coming loose for a time, but which still seemed to be able to support those relaxed people, FELL catastrophically.

Do I think something is coming to our country that will cripple us and perhaps surprise us by its arrival? Yes. As for me, I’m coming in off the loose deck where we are so wrapped up in our own leisure and personal fulfillment, and I’m getting into a place where there is a firm foundation.

II Timothy 3:1-4 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents,ungrateful, unholy,  without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,  treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”

LOVERS OF PLEASURE RATHER THAN LOVERS OF GOD.

We need to have our feet on a firm foundation rather than on a pleasure-seeking, loose deck suspended above 14 stories. That firm foundation is a strong relationship with Jesus Christ. “Oh, I believe in God,” people say. Yes, the Bible says the demons believe in one God, too, and TREMBLE. Our belief does nothing for us if we keep living for ourselves and not in close relationship with Jesus. Just believing in God will not get us into Heaven.

I urge you to enter into a true relationship with Him. The time is now. “Make haste; don’t delay” was a word of prophecy given to our church group a few weeks ago.

I have kept the revelation of this “14” dream to myself for 2 months. Yes, I am ashamed to admit I don’t like to be mocked or made fun of for claiming revelation from God or predicting something. But I’ve finally passed the point of caring what people think of me. What does God think? THAT is what matters.

I should’ve learned my lesson last spring with an experience I had. On Monday, April 20, 2015, a solemnity fell upon me suddenly–the sense that something catastrophic was about to happen somewhere in the world and that I needed to intercede. I have witnesses of this, since I testified of this prayer burden on Wednesday, April 22, at our weekly Bible study at The Well. That very night in a vivid dream, I saw a catastrophic avalanche on Mount Everest–so disturbed me that I told my hubster about it the next morning. But I didn’t tell anybody else.

avalanche everestThree days later on April 25, the devastating earthquake struck Nepal, and Mount Everest suffered the worst avalanche in its known history–22 people killed by the deluge of falling snow. I had seen it before it happened, but who would’ve believed me had I told it? Was I supposed to alert the Nepali government–some unknown gal from Walnut Cove, North Carolina, telling them an avalanche was coming? I can’t see that I had an outlet to share this, but maybe I’m wrong.

This past week was my bimonthly week to write my original newspaper column–“The Old Paths”–for The Stokes News. On Monday, November 9, as I wrote it, I mentioned the word “hankering” which, Google informed me, had Flemish roots. “Flemish?” I thought. “What is that?” Google once again provided help: Flemish means it came from Flanders, a region in Belgium.

Hmmm…..I was suddenly reminded that I had once dreamed of Belgium…..years ago…..maybe in about 2005? (I mean, who dreams of Belgium? Really!) In that dream, I was in Paris, France, when the city had been struck by absolute panic. There was pandemonium all around, and the government there closed the borders. I was in the heart of the city with a man with longish, curly hair; I wore his ring. (At the time of the dream, I had never even met the hubster–a man with longish, curly hair–whose ring I now wear.)

Ex-ETAMAT de Thouars (79)

All I knew was I needed to escape the terror in Paris. I began to make my way north toward the Belgian border–to try to sneak across there. Soon I was in a barren area that looked like a wasteland. I even saw barbed wire borders and began to wonder if I was safe in this desolate area. (Tonight, when I Googled the border of France and Belgium, I found a region called “Zone Rouge”–the red zone–an area left so devastated by World War I that it is technically a wasteland even today. I found a picture of it that looks almost exactly like the area in my dream. There, 99% of animals and plants perish.)

What are the chances I would suddenly write a column about a word from Belgium that reminds me of a long-forgotten dream about such terror/panic in Paris that the borders of France are closed–just 5 days before terror actually hits Paris and the French borders are closed?

I have been beating myself up all night tonight as I watch the tragedy unfold in Paris. I feel that if I had been in consecrated prayer as I should’ve been this week, God would’ve given me warning about this. Instead, my 3 kids here at home were all hit with a bad respiratory bug which resulted in my body fighting it off with aches and pains. Instead, my plate was overly full of things that had to be done (or so I thought). Instead, I did not steal away to my prayer closet the way I normally do.

Prayer is key right now. Through His Spirit, our God WILL reveal things to come. Why? That those of us on the wall–the watchmen (you and me, if you know Him)–will know to sound the trumpet, to send the warning, to cry out for God’s people to prepare their hearts and to be more dedicated than ever to bring in the harvest of souls before it is too late.

mushroom cloudI have people asking me what else I have seen in dreams that seems to be a portent. There are many things, but I will tell you this one: I saw what I thought was a football game going on. Upon closer inspection, I saw it was a bloody battle of competition on a field of play–seemed much more serious than a simple game of football. What they were tossing about on the field seemed to be not a football but rather a weapon of mass destruction. (Perhaps football is a time factor? I don’t know.) Suddenly a cloud of smoke went up over a major city in the U.S. (My first thought was NYC, but it has not been confirmed to me.) The cloud was similar to a mushroom cloud but perhaps not as big. I remember that one of my older daughters was out of town at the time this happened, and I was desperate to hear if she was okay. After the attack, I saw people of a Middle Eastern nationality (no, I’m not racial profiling here–I’m just telling you what I saw…..and it IS key that ISIS is such a threat right now) riding through our streets in the U.S., with guns and terror. Even our very homes were not safe. Just as I, too, began to panic–just like the people all around me–I suddenly felt the Holy Ghost surround my very body just like a shield or a suit of armor. I knew then that the power of God was the ONLY thing that would protect us in the day of terror–not manmade weapons, but SPIRITUAL armor/weaponry.

THAT is what I would say to you: get yourself spiritually armed and ready; be clothed in the Spirit of God which is the ONLY thing that will bring you peace, love, joy, patience and every other good quality that will be needed as these last-day birth-pangs hit this earth. I don’t believe in spouting off doomsday warnings all the time or using scare tactics. Those of you who know me can attest that I preach the Gospel–the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ–and that I teach optimism and positivity. Some say I even wear “rose-colored glasses.”

But when He gives me something like what I have shared with you tonight, I cannot keep it to myself any longer. So take heart and listen to the words of our Savior:

John 16:33 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

Luke 21:28 “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Psalm 91:9-11 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways”

He’s got this, Church! And He’s got us right in the palm of His hand and in the shelter of His wing!

psalm 91

Praying for Opportunity

mission field

I have long been one who sees everywhere I go as a mission field. I anticipate running into someone at the grocery store who is hurting emotionally and needs to talk, seeing someone at the restaurant who has just been diagnosed with something and wants me to agree with them in prayer, smiling at the person getting gas next to me in hopes they can feel the love of God. Brochures advertising my church are crammed into my purse. Anointing oil is ever-ready in a little container on my keyring.

But when my son Elijah told us all at our church, The Well, one recent Sunday morning that we needed to start praying ahead of time for opportunities to minister to people wherever we go, it really struck me. Yes, I look for such opportunities, but had I been praying beforehand for such opportunities to be created? No.

Hmmm….

Trust God to speak a good word to us and then give us a chance to put it into practice….always with a little twist, I must admit.

Yesterday was my chance. And talk about frustrating! By noon, I was asking God what in the world was going on that I was being hindered everywhere I went. That’s my problem when I have to wait on anything: I often start asking “Why?” rather than trusting His timing.

Because I had stayed up super-late on Wednesday night, I ended up sleeping later than I anticipated. Then I went downstairs to find that Abigail–who had been told to get up early so we could go to the DMV in Kernersville–had forgotten to set her alarm. By the time I got my sons settled with schoolwork to do, it was much later than I had planned on leaving.

Well, of course, the gas hand was dipping low, so I had to stop and fill up. Still, I remembered going to the Kernersville DMV–a very well-run place–on another Thursday not too long ago, so I relaxed. It had been nearly empty–we were in and out quickly. Rarely have I waited long there.

Oh, the shock when we pulled in to find a full parking lot and standing room only inside. Most every eye turned to look with pity at us as we walked in. They looked even more sympathetic as they watched me stand at the front desk for over 15 minutes–waiting for an examiner to simply acknowledge I was there. Finally we were able to check in, be given a number and take a seat….on the hard tile floor.

After quite a while, I told Abigail I was going to walk to the License Plate Agency to change my name on my car title. I walked for quite a ways and was relieved to see a short line. Very soon, the kind attendant was doing my paperwork. I paid the $20 fee with my debit card and thought I was on my way….

….until she told me the notary fee of $5 had to be paid in cash. Now in this day of plastic, yours truly does not normally carry cash. She pointed to an ATM inside the building but told me it would cost $3 just to get $5 out. Hmph! No way–I’d go to the CashPoints ATM in the next complex of buildings. She said she trusted me and would let me go get the cash.

Due to the distance to the ATM, I walked all the way back to my car at the DMV, checked on Abigail, then drove to get the cash. With Elijah’s words ringing in my ears, I had prayed ahead of time for an opportunity to minister. But by the look of things, I’d have to wait until later since things were about to wrap up at the Agency. I headed back, cash in hand.

And then came the slowdown. There was now a line at the Agency. Plus, in my absence, two people had come in to buy/sell a car and do a title transfer…..with the very attendant I needed. I prayed she would be free by the time I got to the front of the line. But she wasn’t. So I had to start letting people pass me to go to the other two attendants…..one…..two…..three…..and on up to seven people passing me as I stood there feeling stupid. Meanwhile, the other attendants were glancing suspiciously at me, obviously wondering why this “strange lady” kept letting everyone pass.

I struck up conversations with everyone who passed me, but I sure didn’t feel any ministry opportunities. My mind was racing…..Were they calling Abigail into the office for her test and she needed me there?…..What if she was texting me and my phone was in the car?……How much longer should I wait?

And still, the title transfer dragged on…..and on…..over half an hour of “on.”

Then it happened. Just as I was thinking about giving up and coming back later, a lady–maybe my age–limped in with a cane. My heart quickened within me. I smiled, she smiled, we began to chat. Before long, I learned she had MS and was worried because she was aging so rapidly and rarely felt well enough to get out for such business transactions. Aha–here was my ministry opportunity; I could feel compassion welling up in my very soul.

Then an attendant called, “Next!” It was my turn again, but it wasn’t my attendant. I told the lady she could pass me, and she thanked me kindly. As she finished her transaction and began to hobble out, I heard that still small voice deep within me say, “Follow her out.”

“NOW? Give up my place in line after all this time?!” I asked in panic–seeing that the title transfer was wrapping up with my attendant.

“Yes, GO.”

No more questioning–I took off out that door, catching her before she crossed the parking lot. “I hope you have a good day,” I said. “And I hope you get better.”

She smiled a sweet, trembling smile, “Thank you!”

I patted her shoulder and continued, “I believe in divine healing, and I know it’s God’s will that you be made whole.”

Suddenly she was very moved and said excitedly, “I believe in divine healing, too!”

That’s all it took. Right there in the parking lot, I laid my hand on her back and started praying for healing in the name of Jesus, speaking that by His stripes she was healed. I wasn’t loud, I didn’t embarrass her and I wouldn’t have even done it had I not felt from God that she was receptive.

She was overwhelmed with gratitude and thanked me fervently. We introduced ourselves by first names only and parted with huge smiles–the love of God marvelously flowing between us. Why? Because our good God had advised our congregation–using my son as a vessel to tell us–to pray ahead of time for ministry opportunities everywhere we go. Many Christians are probably already doing that, but I confess that I had not been.

I finally got to pay my attendant. Abigail finally got called in for her test at the DMV; she didn’t miss a question and is now driving! We even had time to enjoy a late lunch before she had to report to work. The hindrances were suddenly gone. What I was thinking that the enemy meant for my harm–the many delays, the many temptations to be frustrated–GOD used for my good! If I hadn’t been delayed at home, at the DMV, at the license tag agency, I wouldn’t have met this precious lady who needed encouragement.

He’s an on-time God. Yes, He is.

I will long remember this sweet lady He placed in my path. I will continue to speak that she is healed of MS. I will believe that wherever she is, she is noticing incredible improvement. I will trust that one day in Heaven, we will be reunited; maybe she’ll come running over to tell me about her miracle!

What if we all went out every day praying in faith BEFOREHAND for the Lord to CREATE opportunities to minister everywhere we go? Wow–what a revolution we would see! May that be our strategy every day for the rest of our lives on this earth.

Luke 10:2– “He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Our Miracle of Healing! Pt. VII: Keeping the Faith

(This story is much too long to share in one blog post, so I have divided it into parts. Be warned that it deals with a sickness that was so severe I must occasionally delve into graphic descriptions of the symptoms. This is necessary for the telling of the story.)

The kids and me just 3 months before the parasites struck.

The kids and me just 3 months before the parasites struck. (See a picture of us NOW at the end of this portion of the story!)

On that Monday, October 26, Keith stayed home with us all day and fielded phone calls for me, since it was ringing off the hook. Finally Vicki called. Again, she had been reading something in the Bible that was meant just for us at this time.

BEFORE the healing, I kept asking her, “So what is God telling you? Are you coming across anything in the scriptures?” She had been puzzled because all she kept reading involved false idols and how God’s people needed to get rid of them. That didn’t seem to fit at the time. But after my experience the day before the healing when we had to purify our house from ungodly movies, tapes and even things like totem poles and certain Native American memorabilia, I knew now why those scriptures about false idols DID apply.

(NOTE: Keith and I both have considerable Native American blood and are proud of our heritage. But some—not all—Native American items purchased in the modern marketplace are representatives of heathen gods or are tied to religions other than Christianity.)

Now on this beautiful October Monday morning, Vicki told me she had just finished reading in John. As she closed the Bible, she felt led to open it again. She told the Lord she would open it, and He could direct her to what she should read. She opened immediately to II Chronicles 29. The first word she read was “Hezekiah,” and she smiled. Aha!

This chapter told of Hezekiah sanctifying the Temple, throwing out idols and cleansing the sanctuary. She couldn’t help but think of Keith furiously throwing away anything even questionable. Then she said, “Leslie, when Keith purified your house, what day of the sickness was it?”

I did a mental calculation and said, “The 16th day.”

Vicki began to laugh and then read aloud verse 17 (there’s that 17 again!): “…so they sanctified the house of the Lord…and in the sixteenth day…they made an end.” I nearly came off the couch! I told Vicki I was going to have to run or shout or something. That was amazing!

Then she told me how that, after the Temple was sanctified, people began to bring thank offerings. She said the Lord told her to tell us that people were going to bring thank offerings to us and that when they did, we were not to say, “Oh, you shouldn’t have!” or anything apologetic like that. We were to simply say, “Thank you.”

This seemed strange to me. Thank offerings? I didn’t see why anyone would bring us anything. I said, “Have you talked to someone or something?” Vicki said no, that’s just what the Lord told her to tell us.

Then when I told her how I had awakened and was told at 1:11 a.m. that I would be tested on this, Vicki laughed again. She had finished her Bible reading this morning with the portion of scripture that told how—after the wonders were done in the Temple after sanctification—God left Hezekiah for a time to try him to see all that was in his heart. Now I was even more determined to prove to God that I trusted Him.

I had just hung up with Vicki when my mom called. She was thrilled to hear the news (Keith had told her this morning), and she totally believed. She said that my Great-aunt Fannie (whom I don’t see very often) had brought over a gallon of homemade chicken soup and just felt as if she wanted us to have it. I was stunned.

But the thank offerings had just begun. Someone else came with money for hospital bills. Then Mike Lane called to tell us the church had taken up a love offering for our hospital bill, and he’d bring it to church Wednesday night unless we needed it sooner.

Cordelia Hairston from my church called to say what a miracle it was and how it happened to strengthen our faith at Christ Temple. Then our church friend, Nancy Bullard (Jody and Joy’s mother), called to tell us that the miracle had helped spur a revival of miracles at our church. She said, “Rebuke Satan if he tries to bring something on you to make you think you’re not healed. Bind him.”

My Aunt Darlene Heath from South Carolina called to say, “No weapon formed against thee shall prosper.” I needed that at the moment, because Tracey and I had just been talking on the phone a few minutes before about people voicing unbelief. The last thing she and I had discussed had been how the prophecies seemed to be for Elijah Blue only. Some people had already called her and discussed this.

Darlene knew none of this, yet she said she felt strongly she must tell me that Meghann, Chelsea and I were ALL healed. Every time I had talked on the phone that morning, I had ignored the beep that told me another call was coming in. But for some reason, when Darlene beeped in as I was talking to Tracey, I answered the call—without even knowing who it was (no Caller ID). Thank God I did!

I started to wonder throughout the day what else was going on, because I kept noticing strange things that seemed totally unrelated yet pertinent somehow. For example, the birds had completely left our backyard feeder some weeks before, but suddenly today, I heard their chirping and knew they were back. Then I found a ladybug in the house. They, too, had been gone for a while, and now the first one was back in our den where they like to congregate.

Meanwhile, the phone kept ringing. I couldn’t get all the calls, so some people were calling Vicki and Tracey to check on us. I kept thinking about those scriptures in Hebrews that Joy had read to me on Sunday afternoon about rest, and suddenly, I wanted so desperately to get away and rest. We had been penned inside for so long. But I knew it wasn’t time. I needed to stay home and accept my thank offerings!

A sister in the Lord came and brought so many bags of groceries I didn’t know where to put them all! I had to go to the basement and store many things on the shelves down there. Keith had gone out for a brief time when she brought them. When he came back and saw the multitudes of groceries in the kitchen floor in bags, he said, “We’ve got enough to eat and a bunch more!”

Immediately, I thought of a portion of the scripture Vicki had read to me just that morning about the purification of the Temple. I ran for my Bible and read it to Keith: II Chronicles 31:10—“…Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the Lord we have had enough to eat, and have left plenty: for the Lord hath blessed his people; and that which is left is this great store.” We both started laughing. It was so true!

Tuesday, October 27, dawned—another lovely fall day. Again, the phone was consistently ringing. I called Vicki for a word of encouragement since Chelsea, who was feeling better physically, was still fighting a mental battle. Vicki said she was sitting with the Bible in her lap, waiting for me to call. She knew she had to read Psalm 105 to me. She read it, and oh, what a comfort! It spoke of giving praise unto the Lord for His marvelous works and how we should talk of these works and make them known among the people.

Vicki told me that this morning she had been wondering why Chelsea, at only 8 years old, was the one having to fight this battle of faith. Then Vicki’s mom, Betty Blansett, called her and out of the blue started talking about a dream she had when she was only 8 years old—a dream of two roads—one so well-travelled that dust was rising from it as if it was a cattle trail and the other one narrow but green and shady and refreshing.

Then Betty looked up and saw the skies part for the Lord to appear. The dream terrified her so badly she slept with her grandmother for a while afterward. She didn’t totally got over it until she received the baptism of the Holy Ghost when she was 12 years old. When Vicki heard this dream, she realized Chelsea was certainly not too young to have spiritual things happen to her.

Then my Aunt Sammie Bray stopped by. She “just happened” to have some yard sale clothes she had bought, thinking of my kids. They “just happened” to fit Chelsea—an expensive pair of Nikes, like the ones Meghann had gotten for her birthday, and four cute turtlenecks. I simply said, “Thank you.”

I told my aunt the story of our healing, and she became teary-eyed. She totally believed. Nancy Bullard then called and said she had some cute shoes that her granddaughter had outgrown and that Chelsea might be able to wear. I felt this was a definite confirmation that God was sending thank offerings to Chelsea in particular.

People kept calling, telling us how this miracle had totally changed them. Heather called to say people had told her they were so moved by the miracle that they had made vows to God to give up things that would be difficult to sacrifice. She didn’t mention these people by name, of course, but I was touched just the same.

Parents/relatives of backsliders called to say these backsliders had heard about the miracle and were pricked in their hearts. What if they should need a miracle? Would they have the right to ask God? Some who had shown no interest in God for years suddenly wanted a tape of Sunday’s service. A fairly new believer in the church called someone else to say, “I don’t know why they had to bear this, but this was for the church.”

And still the manifestation of the healing amazed me—no more vomiting, diarrhea or sleepless nights for any of us. Elijah’s bowel movements still became more solid and normal. It was fascinating just to watch the progression! (Yes, it’s strange what things you’ll take pleasure in after you’ve escaped a near-tragedy!)

Vicki called again to say that she had been humming a song all day and had just thought of the name of it: “You Can’t Make Me Doubt Him.” That became my theme song. Then when I told her Keith had just brought me Mexican food from “Mi Pueblo,” Vicki laughed. She had stopped by the same place to take food to the hospital to Robin who had travailed in natural labor while we travailed in the Spirit.

Vicki had told me earlier that morning to anoint my phone so that only those calls that would be uplifting and not doubtful would come through. Then when she went to the hospital later, she found that Robin had been placed in a confidential room—the number of which would not be revealed except to those who absolutely needed to get in to see her. The parallels were incredible!

Wednesday came, and we were so excited about going to church. A faithful saint of God called to say that as she was praying, she felt the Lord told her He had healed us from a parasite—a worm—to show that He was going to restore what the cankerworm and the caterpillar and all those parasitic worms had eaten and stolen from the church. That sounded good to me.

Several people called to say I needed to be writing this down, and I assured them I was taking good notes! I, too, had felt a huge compulsion to write about the experience.

Suddenly I remembered a strange dream I had dreamed the past August—a dream I had recounted to Keith and Vicki at that time because it had such an effect on me. I had been standing in my living room talking to our Stokes County 4-H Agent, April Bowman. As we chatted, snakes began to crawl from my walls and run toward the open front door. I was astounded that April never saw the snakes. As I looked more closely at them, I realized they weren’t snakes, but huge worms. (When I reminded Vicki of this dream, she reminded me that I had told her two months earlier that the worms in the dream had teeth and monster faces like the strongyloides Keith saw in the microscope!)

In the dream, after the 4-H agent left, I went into the bathroom to—guess what? Give Abigail a bath. I couldn’t because the bathtub was dirty (just as it was the night God revealed the parasites to us)! So I went to the back door which was also standing open and looked out at the rolling hills with beautifully-colored fall foliage at the peak of the leaf season. Then I woke up.

I had dreamed that in August. Now here it was October, the peak of the leaf season, as well as the week that ended our official 4-H year (April leaving our house in the dream). And all of these things had happened!

Recalling this prophetic dream that I had forgotten until this day gave me total confidence that the parasites were not only gone from our bodies but from our home as well. I had seen them crawling out the door in the dream.

As I sat on the couch that afternoon just before getting ready for church, I was thinking that the thank offerings had been nice but that they were over now. At that moment, the phone rang, and it was Dee Dennis from church, asking if she could bring our supper to the service that night. As instructed by Vicki, I once again simply said, “Thank you,” just as I did the day before when a 4-H friend brought my lunch and my sister brought my supper.

I smiled as I hung up the phone and then suddenly froze in disbelief. I heard a sound that I had not heard in a while—raindrops. The entire time we were sick, there was no rain at all. The meteorologists kept making a big deal out of the consecutive number of days with no rain. We had noticed how the drought days matched our sickness days. The last rain had come on Thursday, October 8—the very day we started feeling strange before we woke up sick on Friday, October 9.

Now I looked outside and saw that a brief shower was passing through. There was no rain at the airport that day, so the meteorologists didn’t list the trace of rain in their weather record books. But at my house, it truly rained on that Wednesday. I couldn’t resist calling Tracey to tell her that I could hear the sound of an abundance of rain—the latter rain.

God had been faithful and true and right on time once again.

Me with the kids today--with a new child, Malachi, added since our miraculous healing 17 years ago! (Baby Abigail--far left--is now taller than her sisters Meghann and Chelsea--far right!)

Me with the kids today—with a new child, Malachi, added since our miraculous healing 17 years ago! (Baby Abigail—far left—is now taller than her sisters Meghann and Chelsea—far right!)

Our Miracle of Healing! Pt. VI: The Visible Miracle

(This story is much too long to share in one blog post, so I have divided it into parts. Be warned that it deals with a sickness that was so severe I must occasionally delve into graphic descriptions of the symptoms. This is necessary for the telling of the story.)

My kids just out of bed about a month or two after the divine healing--never another sign of the parasites, praise GOD!

My kids just out of bed about a month or two after the divine healing–never another sign of the parasites, praise GOD!

Assistant Pastor Mike Lane was preaching that Sunday night, and we didn’t want to disturb the service as we had that morning, so we settled down to wait at the side hall door. I couldn’t quit praying in the Spirit even though people were coming and going and staring at me. I knew if I let up on my faith and prayer and started conversing with people, I’d lose my train of thought and my focused belief that something supernatural was about to happen.

I kept staring through the windows in the door, determined to go in as soon as Mike gave the altar call. I was afraid to move for fear I’d get sidetracked and miss the opportunity to be first at the altar. Because I was so much in the Spirit, I didn’t realize the people inside the sanctuary could see me and were beginning to worry about me. Finally, an usher came and said he had been asked to move me from the door.

It was then that Elijah began to scream. He was screaming for the thermometer. Somehow he had developed the belief that the thermometer would make him feel better—as if taking his temperature was some sort of treatment. He was in obvious pain and smelled absolutely rotten—a characteristic I had noticed for a few days. Whether he was able to go to the bathroom or not, he had developed an awful smell, even right after a bath. His very breath smelled like decay and rot. Now it was particularly noticeable in the hall.

Finally, Elijah got so loud we were forced to take him to the back foyer. He was screaming for a bowl, which was a sign he needed to throw up. Our close friend, Sandra Strupe, came out and said, “We need to get someone out here to pray.”

I was on the floor, already praying, when she came back with Joy’s brother, Jody Bullard, a fiery young preacher. He began to anoint Elijah and pray, but the child kept writhing and screaming in pain. I finally said, in utter desperation, “Why can’t we take him into the church?”

Jody looked at me calmly and said, “Well, why can’t we?” And off we went, Rusty carrying the little buddy to the altar in the midst of the preaching, with Keith, the girls and I close behind. Again our beloved church friends gathered around us immediately and began to pray as if the house was on fire. The whole time, Elijah was crying and/or screaming.

Mike Lane especially called the young people up closer to pray for us. I’ll never forget the fervent prayers from these youth—especially those of young Josh Elkes laying hands on Elijah and praying with as much anointing as I’ve heard many a preacher have. Nothing seemed to be happening still.

As the volume level began to subside, Jody—bless his soul—took the microphone and pleaded with people to stay at the altar and pray. He told them we had been at the hospital, and we had a parasite that couldn’t be diagnosed. That did it for awhile. The volume of prayers swelled once more.

After a while, things tapered off again. I kept thinking, “The Lord told Vicki we need to travail. Forget these normal little ten-minute prayers.” Then I had to leave the altar for a short time as the leaders asked me to come talk to them up on the platform. While I was gone, Keith also walked away with Elijah because he was crying so loudly.

People began to talk to me, and again I felt a confusion I didn’t like. Suddenly I felt absolutely dead inside and out. All the life and hope seemed to be seeping out of me. I’m sure that to those looking on, my whole body appeared to slump. Sister Teddi led me to the chairs on the platform and had me sit down. She said, “You are worn out.” I could barely answer her through my confusion.

After a while, I walked off the platform, down the steps to where Keith had been talking to a lady, Brenda Henry, who worked in a pathology lab. She was astounded that the doctors had treated us the way they had. I was too heartbroken to even converse with them.

As I tried to make my way through the crowd toward the back of the church, Barbara, the herb lady, walked with me. She was trying to tell me to give him a garlic enema since he needed desperately to move his bowels. She said, “Leslie, do you think you can do that?” In her desperation to help us avoid a hospital stay, she was attempting to buy us more time, thinking the enema would prolong his life until we could receive our healing. Thank God for her compassion!

Like a person in a drunken stupor, I just stared at her and shook my head. “No, I can’t do that,” I sighed a sigh of resignation. “I guess we’re on our way to the hospital now.” Looking back on that statement, I’m so disappointed in myself. God had given me so many clues that He was going to do something miraculous if I’d just hang on a little longer, and now I was giving up.

So many people had implied to me that the child needed to go to the hospital that I began to doubt what God had told me. I’m so ashamed that my ears were not tuned directly to Him and Him alone. And again, it’s not that there’s anything wrong with hospitals. If a person is severely injured in a car wreck, let’s pray for them while we rush them to the hospital.

But this situation was different. Elijah would’ve been dead before they finally proved he had strongyloides. I’m sure of that. And besides, God had dealt with me so strongly even before Elijah was conceived that I would indeed bear a son one day; that had seemed impossible at the time, considering the long span of infertility I was in the midst of. But of course, His Word came to pass, which made it easier to believe His next directive to me about Elijah, as noted previously—that he was not to be trusted to man but rather unto God in this last day.

This is why I had clung so tightly through so much suffering to all of the evidence God had given me that Elijah would be healed of the parasite. Yet late on this Sunday night—my mind wearied from all of the advice that seemed to go against my gut feeling, my body weakened by weeks of malnutrition and sickness and exhaustion—I was too far gone to hold on any longer.

BUT GOD! Once again, my God proved Himself faithful and true and RIGHT ON TIME!!! Just as I walked away from Barbara in total despair, my choir director, Patsy Todd, began to speak a message in other tongues. Everyone immediately became totally silent. I fell to the floor on my knees with my head touching the carpet. Patsy spoke for a while, and then we waited breathlessly for an interpretation. When it finally came, she ended with, “Just praise God. He is healed!”

That place went absolutely haywire with joy. I began to sob but somehow couldn’t get up. A dear friend and neighbor, Sherry Richardson, was there, sobbing with me. She had her arms around me. Later she told me she had felt my pain as if it was her child and he was about to die. I believe God gave her some of my pain, because otherwise I could not have stood it.

Rusty was watching the proceedings from the back of the church where he had retreated to as we left the altar. He recalls that he saw Patsy rise up tall as the Spirit came upon her, and she began to speak. He said the Holy Ghost was upon her with such force and power that when she finished, she crumpled and sat down, as if being used that forcefully by the Lord had sapped her strength. He, an admittedly backslidden person at that time, was totally convinced that what was going on that night was absolutely genuine.

Still I could not get up. I seemed to be waiting. I didn’t even know where Elijah was, much less whether or not he was improved. As if to drill it into my head that He is always on time, God moved again just in the nick of time.

I had finally risen to my knees, thinking I probably should get up now, when Jody, who had also been down on his knees on the platform, began to deliver another message in tongues. This was something I had never heard him do, but it was sure enough legit right now. This time I fell to the floor, totally flat on my face as I listened.

He spoke for a while then interpreted. The interpretation was forceful, all about how God had done this healing—even though there was doubt and unbelief—that we might be in unity. God said this was but the first miracle of others that were to come. My favorite line was, “Who is the devil?” as if to scoff at the enemy.

God had spoken by the mouth of two witnesses, and I felt complete again. I was able to get up, but I felt strangely light on my feet. People were laughing and crying and telling me I looked drunk in the Spirit. I felt very happy but far away from everyone.

Heather came over and put her arms around me. God had told her over and over again to come to me and speak these words: “Hold fast to what thou hast, and do not doubt. For what I have said, that will I perform.” Those words were to comfort me much in the coming days.

I turned to see Elijah in the back of the church, playing with the teenagers who had swarmed him. Keith said that a minute or two after Patsy finished speaking, Elijah suddenly quit screaming and got down from his arms to go to a young girl, Ashley Flowers—at which time he started asking for pizza and to go to the youth game room to play. People were crowded around, staring at him, while others fell all over themselves to bring him orange drink from the kitchen—anything they could do for this child they had seen almost literally rise from the grave before their very eyes!!

The thing I noticed most was that he didn’t smell bad anymore. The smell of death was totally gone. That absolutely blew my mind. God had done just what Heather had told me He would do—something miraculous to set the church on fire. He was right on time!

We celebrated that night with pizza at Rusty and Vicki’s with a whole gang of people. After a while of joy and laughter, I escaped to the bedroom where all was quiet to nurse Abigail. As I lay there, pondering the events of the night in my mind, suddenly I realized everyone had been focused on Elijah Blue. What about Meghann, Chelsea and me—all of whom had also suffered from those nasty parasites? My blood felt as though it began to run cold as I thought, “Hey, maybe just Elijah was healed.”

Then God spoke to me in a gently-laughing yet loving manner, “Will I not heal thee also?” My whole body suddenly relaxed and became peaceful again. Of course!

As we drove home that night, I was still worried that Elijah had not gone to the bathroom in so long. That was my next prayer request. We had no sooner entered our house than he looked at me, his eyes big, “I gotta go potty!” We barely made it to the bathroom before he relieved himself quite fully. For days and days, his bowel movements had been more like pure green liquid. Now they were already beginning to firm up and change color. I was so relieved! He slept peacefully the whole night through and NEVER ONCE had another sign of the sickness.

But peace was not to be mine that night. Everyone had said, “I know you’ll be glad to finally get a good night’s sleep at last.” And I did fall off to sleep quite easily. But then I woke abruptly, and these words were spoken to me,  “You will be tested on this.” I looked at the clock, which said 1:11. I immediately thought of the oneness of God and His power and immediately fell back to sleep.

An hour or two later, I heard little feet running to the bathroom. It was Chelsea, who was crying that her belly hurt. Now, if God had not awakened me and told me I would be tested on this, I probably would’ve panicked right then and there. Instead I was ready. I felt strong and full of faith. I smiled at her and comforted her and told her to go back to bed. I reassured her that she was healed of the parasites, but that Satan might try to bring something else on her to make us doubt.

Chelsea went back to sleep but still battled the next day. She kept feeling that she was going to get sick, although she never once did. Again, I was calm and kept encouraging her. Suddenly I had an idea. I asked Chelsea to let me check the sores that just yesterday had been festering on her backside. Glory be to God—they were already closed and healing rapidly! That was my proof that she was going to be just fine.

Elijah woke up feeling great, wanting food. He was still pale and weak, but that was to be expected after three weeks of virtually no nutrition. I began my job of fattening him up!

TO BE CONTINUED…..See Part VII at https://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/our-miracle-of-healing-pt-vii-keeping-the-faith/ .

I just realized tonight that there will be 7 parts of this story. I did not plan that; it “just happened” to end up as God’s perfect number 7. I simply divided it up into readable increments, and this was the result.

Our Miracle of Healing! Pt. V: In the Stillness Before the Miracle

Elijah, age 2--healthy and happy just a few months before being stricken by the parasites.

Elijah, age 2–healthy and happy just a few months before being stricken by the parasites.

(This story is much too long to share in one blog post, so I have divided it into parts. Be warned that it deals with a sickness that was so severe I must occasionally delve into graphic descriptions of the symptoms. This is necessary for the telling of the story.)

Then came the confusion.

People began to gather around me and question me. Some said, “You’re going to have to do something.” Others said, “You need to take him to the emergency room.” The Huddleston’s cell phone rang, and it was my mom. Her friend who is a nurse had told her frightening tales of strongyloides and said to let her know if I decided to go to Duke or Baptist Hospital because she knew some people who could possibly help. My parents were very worried.

I sat on the pew in a daze, seeing an ocean of concerned faces above me, all offering advice. They loved me and were only trying to be helpful, but I felt so confused, so dizzy. Tracey sat down beside me and touched my hand. She, too, felt the confusion and knew I must be about to go crazy. She said softly, “Why don’t you go on over to Rusty and Vicki’s?” She felt that I should get out of there immediately.

Joy sat down behind me and put her hand on my back. She began to whisper, “Lord, give her faith. You are not the spirit of confusion, Lord. Help her be strong.” Those two calming hands on me—Tracey’s and Joy’s—were what I needed right then. I stood up and said, “I’m going to Rusty and Vicki’s.”

As I walked to the back door, I paused to read some pages Polly had printed off the Internet regarding strongyloides. When I got to the part about the itching sores in the hinder parts, which is where the parasites make their exit in the night hours, I stopped in my tracks, my eyes large. I grabbed Chelsea and yelled, “Keith, come with us to the bathroom!” The three of us nearly filled the tiny nursery bathroom. We examined her and found the evidence of the parasites in open, bloody sores—just another sign that the original lab technician was right about his diagnosis of strongyloides.

Everything in the paper fit us to a tee—nausea followed by a remission followed by more nausea, primarily at night when parasites are most active. Strongyloides migrate from small intestine to lungs and lay eggs with each migration in each place. Respiratory symptoms often follow the abdominal symptoms. We had also noticed that very thing in our case.

We spent the afternoon in the peace and quiet of Rusty and Vicki’s house. At last, I felt a calming stillness that allowed me to regain my faith and strength. The children rested while we four adults sat around the table and talked. Our assistant pastor’s wife, Teddi Lane, had put in a call to her doctor in Kernersville whom I had liked immensely when I had met her months ago. We were waiting to see if perhaps that doctor would meet us at her office.

I wanted the ELISA test—a special blood test which detects strongyloides by a blood serum antibody level without all of the mess and time lapse of yet another stool sample. When the call came that only a nurse on call was available, my heart sank again. Elijah was getting weaker and weaker; his stomach was distended with bloating, a sign of the third and critical stage of parasite infestation.

Then Teddi called back with a suggestion. Her daughter, Tanzy, worked for a doctor at Baptist Hospital. That doctor was on her way to the hospital at that very moment and had suggested we take Elijah to the Pediatric Emergency Room to see if the attending physician, whom she highly recommended, would administer the blood test. My interest was sparked. Elijah could simply go in, have blood drawn and come home without being admitted and used as a guinea pig.

Keith agreed and took off with a pale Elijah in his arms. I thought my heart would be torn from my chest as I watched them leave. My little boy needed his mommy with him, but baby Abigail still relied solely on me for her food, so I couldn’t leave.

The rest of the afternoon was a tortuously lonely time for me. Rusty went outside to work on a car, Vicki went to the basement to get some rest and the children watched a movie. Poor Vicki had been up all night helping Robin deliver the baby at the hospital. She had unselfishly come to church that morning just to pray with us.

The whole time we had been at her house, she had been talking about the labor she had just witnessed. At first, I was puzzled. Here we were going through the biggest crisis of our lives, and Vicki wanted to keep talking about a woman I didn’t even know having her baby?!!

Then I realized that Vicki wasn’t being insensitive at all. She saw a genuine parallel with the labor and our situation. When Robin’s epidural wouldn’t take, and the pain was intense, she had to travail for the entire night. When Vicki prayed about our sickness, the Lord told her to tell us to push on through—no matter what.

He also spoke to her saying, “What will you do when the epidural won’t work?” Like Robin, would we keep pressing on through the pain toward deliverance or give up? Tears welled up in her eyes as she told us what the Lord wanted us to do. Here was all of this proof that God wanted to do His sovereign work; my faith was increasing steadily.

As I sat upstairs, all alone, the phone rang. It was Keith, and he was upset. They wouldn’t even let him go back to the Pediatric ER without full admission to the hospital. He told me to call Tanzy and see if she knew what the deal was.

Tanzy was puzzled; she said Elijah’s name had been given to the attending physician who was waiting for their arrival. When I called the hospital back, the Pediatric ER nurses told me this was true; they had my son’s name and wanted to know where he was. And still the front desk people wouldn’t let Keith go back to the nurses until he went to registration and admitted the little buddy.

I was again stunned! We were being hindered everywhere we went. As I hung up the phone from talking to Keith, whom the hospital had located for me, he sounded resigned and said, “I’m headed to registration to admit Elijah.”

At that moment, a van pulled into the driveway. It was my herbalist friend, Barbara Whaley. We sat on the front porch and talked awhile. She had brought me some herbs that could possibly help us feel better. As we went inside to the dining area, I suddenly got an overwhelmingly strong feeling in my gut.

“Barbara,” I said, “I just talked to Keith at the hospital, and he’s in the process of admitting Elijah. I don’t want that. I want the blood test and that’s all. I don’t want him in a hospital bed in a room without me there, with him so sick and hooked up to machines.”

Barbara nodded in agreement. “Call him back,” she said, “and tell him to get Elijah out of there even if he has to boldly pick him up and walk out.”

Instantly the phone rang. It was Joy. She read me some scriptures in Hebrews that spoke of rest; I was comforted. I asked her to help me pray and explained to her that I was about to call the hospital one more time. She agreed to pray. As I dialed the Baptist Hospital number, Barbara sat at the dining room table, praying in the Spirit as hard as she could pray.

When the front desk finally located Keith, he had already admitted Elijah and was waiting in a room for the doctor to come in. I told him to insist on the blood test and not to let them keep him, no matter what. He agreed. Hanging up the phone, I felt relieved. At least I had done my part to bring Elijah back home.

(NOTE: I am not against hospitals; thank God for the purpose they serve and for the many great doctors/nurses there! I cannot explain why we were led this way in this case, but when you feel a strong leading of the Spirit of God, you need to follow that—no matter what.)

After Barbara left, Vicki woke up from her short nap. I decided to pray in her bedroom while she got ready to take her daughter, Ashley, to church for youth choir practice. Vicki and I had decided to wait for Keith to get back from the hospital before going to church ourselves.

I had prayed just a little while, asking God to guide us, when Vicki knocked softly on the door. She came into the room, looking apologetic for bothering me. She said, “I felt like there was something I had to tell you, but since you were praying, I decided to take Ashley on to church then come back home and tell you then. But when I passed this closed door, I felt I needed to tell you right now.”

Needless to say, I was intently listening. Vicki smiled and said, “When Robin was laboring early this morning on her hands and knees, determined to finish having the baby with no more medicine, the anesthesiologist came in and said, ‘I recommend you have a second epidural.’ Robin, in intense pain, said, ‘No thanks.’ After a while, the anesthesiologist repeated firmly, ‘I think you need another epidural.’ Again Robin replied, ‘No thank you.’ She was weak but determined to travail to the end.

“When Robin’s doctor entered the room, the anesthesiologist, probably thinking she now had an ally in this effort to get Robin to take the medicine, said arrogantly, ‘It is my recommendation, Doctor, that she have another epidural now.’ The doctor looked calmly at her and said, ‘Thank you, but we won’t be needing your assistance.’”

Just as Vicki paused with a smile on her face, the phone rang. The timing was perfect. It was Keith. He said, “The doctor thinks Elijah is in bad shape and needs to stay here overnight with I.V.’s and the works, even though he admits we’ve done a good job of keeping Pedialyte in him, and he’s not dehydrated yet. When I hesitated, he left the room and came back with two other doctors, including the head of the department. They recommend that Elijah stay here and be turned over to the infectious disease specialist who will be in on Monday morning. They don’t know anything about strongyloides and don’t even have the ELISA test. Leslie, the pressure is on me. What do you think I should do?”

I quickly told this to Vicki. She merely smiled and said, “Tell him to tell them, ‘Thank you, but we won’t be needing your assistance.’” I then hurriedly told Keith the story about Robin and the epidural, but he was too stressed to really listen.

He said, “Pray for me. I don’t know what to do. I guess I’m coming home. I’ll tell them if Elijah isn’t better after church tonight, we’ll be back tomorrow morning.” I hung up the phone and sighed. There seemed to be stumbling-blocks every way we turned. Little did I know, the doctors were stern with Keith and made him sign a paper saying he was taking Elijah home against their recommendation, and they were not to be held responsible if anything bad happened to him.

While we waited on Keith to come back, I got on the phone to Chapel Hill and then to Duke. Neither of them could do the ELISA test in-house. They would have to send the blood work to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta and wait perhaps a week for the results. For some reason (probably the fact that I wanted to go on Oprah Winfrey’s show to tell how our doctors misdiagnosed us so that others with parasites would take heed and get help), I was determined to find someone to do that blood test.

Rusty was back inside by now and sat silently at the table. He had indeed been at church that morning and had been very much affected by what took place as we went to the altar with our family. For the rest of the day, he had been extremely quiet. I suddenly desperately wanted him to go with us to church that night. I began to beg while he shook his head no. I followed him around the house begging, even when he went into the basement. I was crying and desperate. I knew that tonight was the last hope for us. My little boy was possibly dying.

Finally Rusty shook his head yes. He’d go with us to church, but he wouldn’t carry Elijah to the altar as I was also asking him to do. As he went into his room to get dressed, I went into the kitchen and fell to my knees at the table. I had never been more desperate in my life. Keith and Elijah were back, and everyone was waiting for Rusty. It seemed to take forever. As we walked out to get into the car, I tearfully asked him one more time to take my son to the altar. He didn’t answer.

To this day, I’m not sure why I felt that Rusty had to carry Elijah into this second service. Perhaps it was the ultimate act of humility on Rusty’s part—a man who was running from God at that time—which would help remove hindrances to our healing.

All the way to church, Keith and I prayed in the Spirit. The night service had been going for a good while, so we felt the need to hurry.  As we all parked in the back parking lot, I was still crying and praying. No one knows desperation like a mother, at the point of total exhaustion, who feels she is about to lose her child. As we approached the door, Rusty quietly said, “Give Elijah to me.” I thought I’d faint right then and there.

TO BE CONTINUED…..See Part VI at https://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/our-miracle-of-healing-pt-vi-the-visible-miracle/ .

I just realized tonight that there will be 7 parts of this story. I did not plan that; it “just happened” to end up as God’s perfect number 7. I simply divided it up into readable increments, and this was the result.

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