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

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Our Miracle of Healing! Pt. IV: Hindered But Not Halted

(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.)

Chelsea, Elijah and Baby Abigail--just weeks before the parasite crisis began.

Chelsea, Elijah and Baby Abigail–just weeks before the parasite crisis began.

Somehow, I forced myself to go to bed, but there was to be very little sleep for me. I lay in bed alone; Keith was sleeping on the couch in the den. My body was so tense that every move the kids made, I jumped. For 17 days, I had heard little feet hit the floor and go running to the bathroom to throw up or have diarrhea. The habit of listening intently for those running footsteps was a hard habit to break—one I had trouble with for weeks afterward.

But the night passed quietly. I prayed almost nonstop, strangely enough not asking for the healing of my children but for the peace of my children. At the same time, I felt the need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. (Strange, I’ll admit.)

When morning finally came, I was up and on the phone. I began calling the lab to see if the pathologist had arrived yet to look at the parasites. “No,” they continually replied, “he’s not.” One lab tech (the helpful ones from last night were off-duty now) was very arrogant with me and said, “How can anyone prove those parasites in your bathtub really came out of you?”

Well, DUH! In all of these years of my life, I had never found parasites in my bathtub. Now, just when we have what seems to be a parasitic illness, we find them, and the lab says, “You can’t prove they came out of you.” It made no sense whatsoever.

I had even called “Joe,” the friendly lab tech, in the middle of the night to ask him once more, “Are you sure those are strongyloides?”

He said, with no hesitation, “Yes.”

Keith had looked at them under the microscope and said they had horrid teeth and monster faces like something out of “Star Wars.” He helped the lab techs look through their books and charts and compare the worms to the pictures and descriptions. He, too, was sure they were strongyloides. Now if you found strongyloides crawling in your bathtub where you had been cleaning out the bowls you had thrown up in, wouldn’t you say chances are good the parasites came from your body? They are primarily an animal parasite, and we had no animals in our home.

I spent at least one hour on the phone that Sunday morning, calling all around just to see where the medicine Ivermectin could be found. I was determined to go to church that morning, even if we had to be carried in. I was believing God for a miracle, but at the same time, I wanted to know where the medicine was—in case we needed it later. (Some faith, huh?)

Meanwhile, God saw my doubts and began to systematically close every door I tried to open. I called every pharmacy in the area, including the ones at all hospitals from Winston-Salem to Chapel Hill to Duke to Raleigh. No one had Ivermectin nor could tell me how to order it. One pharmacist finally told me I’d have to get it from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. I even called there, but they said my doctor would have to call with a prescription. I felt so helpless, knowing that my doctor wasn’t about to call.

My cousin, who is a pharmacist in Walnut Cove, said he was giving his horse Ivermectin for strongyloides right now. If horses in Walnut Cove can get them, then they are definitely in our soil here. Our pastor even thought that was what his dog had had some years ago.

When the time came to leave for church, the pathologist was still not in the lab. We didn’t have a cell phone in those days, so we left Mike and Annette Huddleston’s mobile phone number with the lab so they could contact us at church. Annette, a close friend for many years, had called me earlier that morning, quite agitated. She had been praying for us when God told her to call and read Ephesians 6:12 to me: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wickedness in high places.”

Annette didn’t know why I needed to hear that, but I did. I, like Pastor Eaves in Mississippi, and the friend who had called to ask if we had taken anything into our house since the sickness began, felt an evil stronghold here. This was more than just sickness; there was a demonic component. You may laugh that off, but if you had been walking in my shoes since October 8, you would believe it.

We dressed the children as best we could. We were all so weak that we looked fairly pitiful, with Elijah in purple sweatpants and a Lion King sweatshirt. I was pale and plain, but at this point, fancy clothes and makeup didn’t matter to me. I needed the Lord to move for us, and I needed it NOW.

We crowded into our little blue car, kids stacked on top of each other in the backseat–towels and throw-up bowls in hand—and off we went. Because of my last phone call with the lab, we were running behind schedule. Suddenly, about five miles from home on an empty country road, there was a roadblock. I couldn’t believe my eyes! They were doing roadwork on a very minor road on a Sunday morning. To my memory, this had never happened to us before on a Sunday.

I began to panic, but Keith was strangely calm. He just looked at me and said, “I expected this, so calm down. We are going to be hindered getting to church. It’s not over yet either. But don’t worry. God’s timing is exactly right.” Finally, the man in charge let us drive on through.

We went another five miles on our usual route and suddenly saw a big sign that read: “ROAD CLOSED. MUST DETOUR.” I looked at Keith in total disbelief. Since he had felt this was coming, he just smiled. We had to hit Interstate 40 and go a totally different route. By now, I was certain we would be late, but I finally had confidence that God would be right on time.

The closer we got to our church in Winston-Salem, the harder we prayed. When, at last, we saw that huge white steeple stretching high into the sky, the relief was intense. I began to cry, sobbing, “I have never been so glad to see that church.” I had always loved Christ Temple, but now it seemed like such a refuge.

I knew service had already started, and for that reason, I dreaded walking in late—just us alone. Thank God, when we pulled into the back parking lot, our friend, Lisa Stevens, and her family were pulling in right beside us. They had been praying around the clock for our family for days, sometimes even getting up in the night every hour to pray, setting their alarm clocks to remind them. When I saw them, I began to sob even more—out of pure relief.

As we opened the door to the church, we could hear the music swelling and voices raised in singing. It was a beautiful sound, and we all began to weep even harder. We opened the door to the sanctuary and marched up the aisle, Elijah laid out in Keith’s arms like Isaac in Abraham’s.

Little did we know, something supernatural was going on with Tracey. She had been worshipping God with all of the others for about 10 minutes. Suddenly, she began to pray for God to dispatch His angels to the altar—that it was time. As she opened her eyes, we walked by her to the altar.

Needless to say, even with all the detours that morning, God was right on time.

As Keith laid Elijah on the altar, pretty much the entire church left their pews and gathered around us, praying with heartfelt fervency. I fell onto my knees on the altar steps as the preachers anointed us. Our praise leader, Steve Marler, led the praise team in “I Have A Friend” and other worshipful songs to help usher in the presence of God. We prayed for a while, then gradually people returned to the pews so the service could move on. Our friend, Sarah Widener, in tears, whispered in my ear, “God told me Wednesday that something marvelous would happen today.”

Periodically, I had to leave the service to answer a call on Mike and Annette’s cell phone. At one point, the doctor’s office called to say that the pathologist wouldn’t even look at the parasites because there was no written order to do so. They were faxing one to the lab at that moment. I was so flabbergasted. This whole thing was like a twisted and sick comedy.

I sat in the hall just outside the sanctuary, mouth open, phone in hand—unable to believe the hindrances set up against us. At that point, I felt hope oozing out of me. We had pushed ourselves to come to church, obey God and lay our child on the altar. Yet it seemed that nothing had changed.

Suddenly, the special singing group for the morning, led by my dear friend, Tammy Crawford, began to sing. Tammy’s voice rang out: “If when you have done your very best, And it seems you just can’t stand the test, Keep holdin’ on, The darkest hour is just before light, God said He would make things all right!” That was the very song they had sung in December 1995, the first service I attended after Elijah’s birth. I had been very down at that time (postpartum blues), and that song seemed to heal some of the hurt. Now, October 25, 1998, they were singing the same song, and I took it as a welcome sign.

(NOTE: Click on the link below to hear Tammy singing this song, backed by my daughter Meghann and me, at the healing service we held on Saturday night, Oct. 24, 2015, as commemorated the 17th anniversary of our healing.)

Keith sat on our pew with a still-sick Elijah in his arms. The girls sat wanly beside him. Then came the call from the doctor that the pathologist couldn’t positively identify the parasites, but that he didn’t think they were anything to worry about and probably hadn’t even come out of our bodies. I sat in stunned silence then asked, “So what are you going to do?”

“Well,” said the doctor, “bring Elijah back tomorrow, and we’ll start all over—maybe some new stool samples.” I smiled grimly as I hung up the phone. The medical field was closing all doors on us. I had never seen anything so ridiculous in my entire life.

The physician’s assistant who had called Keith yesterday to check on Elijah had already seemed upset with us that we didn’t immediately start the antibiotic and Zantac. Now they were telling us they wanted to start all over again. The girls and I probably had time to start over; Elijah did not. If we had given him the antibiotic, he probably would’ve been dead already, since Septra would’ve killed the few good bacteria that were left lining his intestines. An antibiotic can’t differentiate which is good or bad bacteria, so it wipes them all out. And who knows what Zantac would’ve done to Elijah had we given it to him?

Just as our pastor, Bob Williams, was starting the sermon, I walked back up to our pew and whispered the doctor’s news to Keith. He just stared numbly at me. The doctors were no help, and none of us seemed healed yet; what more were we to do?

Then we stood with the congregation to read the Scripture, II Kings 20:1-11. When I heard the name “Hezekiah,” I perked up, then began to smile. It was too uncanny. Our pastor was preaching on Hezekiah being sick unto death, and Pastor Bob had stated that this was something he had been planning to preach for a while. In other words, it had nothing to do with our situation. (Oh, but it did!)

As the Word spoke of Hezekiah turning his face to the wall to weep and remind the Lord of how he had been a faithful servant, Bob pointed to us and said we had the right to ask for healing. I knew he was right. We had not been perfect, by any means, but we had diligently tried to serve the Lord all these years.

I kept reminding the Lord that today, October 25, was a very special day for me. Seventeen years ago that day, He had baptized me with the Holy Ghost. I kept saying, “Jesus, this is my Holy Ghost birthday. I want healing as my birthday present.” As I sat there praying that, I thought how Elijah had been born on the 17th. This was my 17th “birthday.” This was the 17th day of our sickness. Then Bob told of how Hezekiah asked for 15 more years. I realized that Elijah was two years old and in 15 more years would be 17. All of these seeming “coincidences” were gathering together in my mind to increase my faith. (Note: It hit me as I began to publish this blog in 2015 that it was going online for the first time ever at the 17th anniversary of the healing. Another 17!)

Then we read verse 7. Isaiah the prophet told the people to place figs on Hezekiah’s boil. I almost gasped aloud. I had just read that figs are one of the best foods to combat parasites. This was too much to deny!

Then came verse 8 where Hezekiah asks, “What shall be the sign that the Lord will heal me?” Isaiah said that since it was a hard thing for the shadow to go backwards, that would be the sign. I nearly came out of my seat in astonishment! This day, October 25, was the day that Daylight Saving Time had ended, and the clocks were turned backwards one hour. This was absolutely not coincidence! I was flying high now. These things HAD to be the sign of our healing.

But still I didn’t know what to do. When altar call came, I walked to the front and sat on the front pew. I bowed my head and repeated over and over again, “I need you to talk to me, Lord. I need you to talk to me, Lord.” Then our organist, Chuck Lewis, began to lead the praise team in the song, “We Need to Hear From You.” I began to weep with the knowledge that even the altar song fit exactly what I was praying at that exact time. Everything was fitting together like a beautiful jigsaw puzzle. Surely the healing was coming!

TO BE CONTINUED…..See Part V at  https://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/our-miracle-of-healing-pt-v-in-the-stillness-before-the-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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Our Miracle of Healing! Pt. III: A Breakthrough At Last

(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.)

Elijah and Abigail about 2 months before the parasites struck.

Elijah and Abigail about 2 months before the parasites struck.

We spent a while packing up our things, including sleeping bags and pillows. Keith was finishing up last-minute cleaning around the house, and I was anxious to leave. The three sick children had been bathed, but I had decided to wait until we got to Vicki’s to bathe baby Abigail.

Just as Keith began to pack up our little blue car, the phone rang. It was a very disturbed Vicki. She said, “You’ll never believe this, but the lady I’m going to be coaching at the hospital has just gone into labor. I’ve got to go to her home to help her.” I was stunned. What timing this was! Vicki said, “You can come on over if you’d like. Rusty will be home later, and I’m sure he won’t mind you all spending the night.”

I hung up the phone in a daze. When I told Keith, he immediately said, “Then let’s stay here. I didn’t want to leave in the first place.” Normally I would’ve fought him on this one, but strangely enough, I pondered the situation for a few minutes then agreed with him. We’d stay here one more night. I was disappointed that we wouldn’t be able to spend the evening with our friends, but I felt an unusual peace about staying home.

I arose from the couch with a resigned sigh and said, “Well, I guess I’d better go ahead and give Abigail a bath. Watch her for me while I clean out her little baby bathtub.” She had been bathed by other methods for the duration of our sickness, so her little baby tub had been unused for some time. It was stored in the regular bathtub when the shower was not in use. Since we had been cleaning out our throw-up bowls in the tub, I was afraid that the baby’s bathtub had perhaps been contaminated by all the splashing. I knew I’d better Clorox it before putting her into it.

As I walked into the bathroom, a feeling of helplessness swept over me. I looked into the mirror, lifted my hands and said, “Lord, you’ve got to help me! You can show me what is wrong with us!”

I walked over to the bathtub, opened the shower door and picked up Abigail’s little white tub. In the foam backing, which was still damp from the constant rinsing of bowls in the bathtub, were tiny black worms, burrowing into the foam. Where the backing had dried out, the worms were dead; where there was moisture, they were alive and trying to burrow. I gasped in absolute shock. I ran into the den, telling Keith, “I know what’s inside of us!”

He looked inside the tub and said, “Oh, my!” His eyes were huge with amazement. I immediately picked up the phone and called my pediatrician. Since it was Saturday night, I only got the answering service people. I told them I needed to speak to a nurse ASAP.

Meanwhile, the wheels in my brain were turning. I called the laboratory where Elijah’s stool samples were being monitored. The lady at the front desk, by the grace of God, connected me to the lab technician in Microbiology, something not ordinarily done. I talked to the man whom I will call “Joe” to preserve his anonymity. I told Joe all about our case and how I had just found these parasites in our tub. He was extremely interested.

Since the lab policy is to act only on a doctor’s written orders, he advised that I call my pediatrician. I hung up the phone, very disheartened. Still the nurse did not return my call, which I was to find out later was divine intervention.

In my agony of indecision, I had a sudden brainstorm (Spirit-inspired, I’m sure). I knew the doctors would tell me to wait until morning, and I knew I needed to try to sidestep them. I called Tracey and asked her to pray quickly with me that when I called the lab back, Joe would agree to look at the specimens I had found.

I took a deep breath after prayer and dialed the lab number once more. This time I knew the lab technician’s name, so I asked specifically for him. I told Joe that my doctor had not called me back, and I asked if we could please run the worms out there for him to look at. He hesitated, knowing it was against policy, then he said, “Sure, bring ‘em on out.” I was overjoyed! Keith left immediately.

While he was gone, the doctor’s office called back, and I told them what had happened. They said a doctor would call me back shortly. I called around to a bunch of church friends and told them how God had answered my prayer and let me see the parasites in the bathtub.

Then I walked the floor and prayed. The children were in bed, sleeping well for a change with no obvious sickness. Of course that usually didn’t come until the wee hours of the morning. All I could do was pace and pray.

About an hour later, the phone rang. It was Keith from the lab. He and Joe were looking at the parasites under the microscope. He said “Well, we’ve identified it. It’s strongyloides.” I had just read about that particular creature in the parasite book Joy had loaned me! Then his next words threw me for a loop: “They can be fatal.”

My heart sank, even as I tried to have faith. He assured me that the lab tech was on the other line even as we spoke, talking to our doctor. He’d be home shortly, presumably with medicine. At that point, I was ready to take medicine, even though I knew in my heart this whole thing had been orchestrated somehow to teach me something about faith.

I picked up the phone and immediately began to call the faithful prayer warriors who had not let me down thus far. I prayed as best I could while the phone rang over and over again. Polly called after she researched strongyloides on the Internet. She was very solemn. “This is dangerous,” she said.

After so long, she told me, the bowels close up and the intestines rupture, thus opening the door for septicemia—deadly blood poisoning. We discussed the different drugs used to treat the parasite, the best one being Ivermectin. I was just sure Keith would come home from the hospital with it.

Time passed rapidly. My pastor called a few times, worried about us. My mom kept calling to see if Keith was home yet.

Then Heather called, nearly in tears. She said she had been on her knees praying ever since I called to tell her what the parasite was. “You’ll think I’m crazy,” she told me, “but when I got up off my knees, the Lord told me to call you and tell you that He’s RIGHT ON TIME—not to worry about your children—that He is going to do something miraculous that will set the church on FIRE!” Then she began to cry, and I did too. I was so blessed by that.

At that moment, my call waiting beeped. I said, “Hang on, Heather.” It was Joy on the other line. I told her I’d call her right back. Heather and I talked some more, then hung up.

I called Joy back, and she was all excited. She said that as she got up off her knees from praying for us, the Lord spoke to her. (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?! This probably happened at about the time God spoke to Heather.) He told her to go to the Word—James 2, to be exact. She read it once, and it was about not having respect of persons and about faith. She didn’t understand. She said, “Lord, is it that we don’t have faith, or what?”

Then she reread it. When she got to verse 21, the words jumped off the page at her. She knew she had to call and read verses 21-22 to me for some reason: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?”

When Joy read these verses to me, I nearly came unglued with excitement. All day I had been visualizing taking Elijah Blue to church the next morning and carrying him to the altar, not upright, but lying down in Keith’s arms. I knew we were to lay him out on the altar as a sacrifice. I had told no one this, so Joy reading me these verses hit me very hard. Abraham laid his only son upon the altar, and his faith shone true.

I said: “Joy, if the ram in the bushes had appeared too soon, Abraham’s faith wouldn’t have been tested. Had it appeared too late, Isaac would’ve been dead already. Would you say, Joy, that by God putting the ram in the bushes at exactly the moment He did, He was right on time?”

Joy replied, “Absolutely. He was right on time.”

I continued, “When you called me, Heather was on the other line, telling me that God had spoken to her during prayer and told her to call me and tell me He’s right on time.” We both nearly went wild! By the mouth of two witnesses, the Word came, and I can’t adequately express how much it encouraged me.

I hung up from Joy to call Rusty to see if there was a way I could reach Vicki. I had spoken to her once earlier while she was at Robin’s house, helping her labor before going to the hospital. But now it was too late. They were already at the hospital. Little did I know, Robin’s labor was to parallel our healing process.

Meanwhile, I told Rusty the whole story, and I believe it very much moved him. I said, “You’ve absolutely got to come to church tomorrow morning, even if Vicki is still at the hospital. You don’t want to miss this. Something great is going to happen.” At this time, Rusty was not a churchgoer, although he believed firmly in God. He wouldn’t give me a concrete answer, but I knew he was deep in thought about all of this.

I had been in contact with Pastor Kenneth Eaves in Mississippi earlier in the day. He and his church were in prayer for us. He had promised early on that he would go before the Lord with prayer and fasting. He had noted that October is a month when Satanic powers are at a peak due to Halloween. He had advised me to have Keith take authority over this demonic infestation, because he felt strongly this wasn’t just a physical sickness but a stronghold of some sort. He had prophesied that when we came out of this, we’d be more on fire than ever before.

I called him on this breakthrough Saturday night to tell him the disease had been identified. He assured me we’d be all right and that he was earnestly praying.

Kristi, Joy’s sister in South Carolina, called to encourage me and let me know she and some faithful prayer warriors at her church were binding together for us. They were praying around the clock. Heather had posted the situation to an online Apostolic prayer list, and people were praying around the country. I was so lifted up and encouraged by the fact that these people who barely knew us—or didn’t even know us at all—were actually fasting and praying for us. It’s hard for me to fast even for my own needs, much less the needs of someone I don’t know. What good saints the Lord has!

Then I heard Keith pull into the driveway. I met him at the door, but he just shook his head grimly. “No medicine?” I asked, nearly panic-stricken. (Oh, Leslie of little faith!) He shook his head again.

He said that our doctors didn’t believe it could possibly be strongyloides because they’re rare, so they wanted to wait until morning when the actual pathologist came in to work at the laboratory. I was absolutely furious. I immediately called and spoke with the doctor on call, who assured me this couldn’t be what we thought (he had not even seen the parasites) and who said the stool sample from Elijah was still negative.

Joy’s book on parasites informed me that strongyloides were indeed rare, found only in Southeastern Asia and the southeastern United States—exactly where we lived! The book also said they were one of the hardest parasites to diagnose because they cling so tenaciously to the intestinal walls that they rarely surface in stool samples. In fact, in about 70% of the cases of strongyloides infestation, the stool samples are negative.

In my anger, I called another doctor from the practice, who was, of course, deep in sleep by now. I woke him up and told him my situation in a very friendly manner—only to be fed the same hogwash. He even said he must be crazy to be talking to me at 12:30 in the morning. I thanked him calmly and hung up, determined never to visit his office again.

I felt absolutely betrayed. No one would listen to me, much less believe me. (Now of course I see how God was shutting all fleshly doors in order that He might work.)

Meanwhile, Keith was working furiously in his closet in the den. I turned to see what he was up to and was stunned. As fast as he could, he was throwing videotapes and audiotapes into bags. I said, “What on earth are you doing?”

He said, “Cleansing my home,” and he continued to work. Now of course we didn’t have any awful videotapes, nothing pornographic certainly, but we did have a few R-rated movies. He was ridding the house of them all, and I was glad.

He also had lots of music tapes he’d bought to learn better guitar techniques—no real heavy metal or music with satanic lyrics, but a few rock ‘n roll cassette tapes that he felt were too worldly. Gone they were, into the trash bag. I was overjoyed. He said, “What right do I have to ask God to help us when I have this ungodly stuff in my home?”

TO BE CONTINUED…..See Part IV at https://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/our-miracle-of-healing-pt-iv-hindered-but-not-halted/

An Abortion Story–well, sort of but not really

abortion--beating heart“We now know when life begins because the test-tube baby proves that life begins with conception. What do you have in the dish? An egg and a sperm. What do you add to it to get a baby? Nothing.” (Former Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop)

Today, on the 42nd anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision to legalize abortion, I don’t want to get into an argument about this controversial issue. But since it is a subject I am intensely interested in, I feel the need to speak out–in love always.

Last night at the church I pastor, The Well, we studied the Biblical view of when life begins. We concluded that the Bible leaves no doubt on this subject. Of course, we read the typical Scriptures in Isaiah and Jeremiah; both of these men of God wrote that God had ordained them to be prophets in their mothers’ wombs, and yea, even BEFORE conception.

“Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name. . .” Isaiah 49:1

“Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” Jeremiah 1: 4-5

Once I got home from church, got the kids in bed and kicked my feet up on the reclining couch, I had some down-time to really ponder the aforementioned verses. They reminded me of my own experience with pregnancy in the case of my third-born child, Elijah Blue. If I was even tempted to accept the idea that life does not begin at conception, what happened to me in that pregnancy would convince me otherwise.

Megh and Chels at Easter 1993

Those two little daughters who were also appointed and anointed of the Lord!

You see, back then, I had gone through a long stretch of infertility. Although I already had two healthy, beautiful daughters, I did not feel complete in my childbearing experience. So every month when the evidence came that I was not pregnant, I would weep in utter discouragement–year after year.

One night in the fall of 1994, I was at my church during a particularly anointed service. As the congregation sang, “Look What the Lord Has Done,” I was praising the Lord with abandon–not even thinking of my troubles or anything negative. Suddenly, I heard the Lord’s voice clearly. He simply said, “Look what I have done.” It was so shocking that I stopped singing abruptly and stood stock-still. I knew that He was talking about my childbearing situation.

A bit puzzled, I looked down at my young daughters sitting on the pew and thought, “Oh, okay–He’s telling me to be content with the children I have.” But immediately that thought was supernaturally struck down, and everything became as clear as Waterford crystal to my amazed mind.

He was telling me I would bear another child.

I know what you’re thinking: He used past tense in His Word to me. Yes, He did. But without a doubt, I knew He was instructing me to stop worrying and trust Him, because to Him–it was already done. He doesn’t exist in time as we do. He sees the future as if it’s already “a done deal.” I was to change my attitude and begin to praise Him for the coming baby because it was already COMPLETED in His mind.

Oh, the rapture that hit me at that moment of revelation! I began to weep with joy and praise Him with a heart of thanksgiving. It didn’t matter that I didn’t get pregnant the next month or the next or the next. No more tears every 28 days. God’s promises are “yea and amen.”

About six months later, I went back to my bedroom for a time of prayer. My “prayer closet” was behind my door at the heat duct so I could be warm in winter. Although this was a spring day, still I knelt behind that closed door out of habit. After a short time of prayer, suddenly I had an experience that I had never had before and have never had since. Out of the blue, a strong anointing flowed through my being as though it were warm, soothing oil. My entire body went tinglingly, numbingly aglow. (I can’t explain the feeling of pinpricks of glowing anointing all over me; I have felt the anointing many times since then, but never again like that.)

Immediately, I knew I was pregnant. No audible voice, no still, small voice–just an unshakeable inner knowledge. I had had no clue–no missed menstrual cycle or symptoms. The 28th day of my cycle wasn’t even close yet. But I knew that I knew that I knew that I was with child.

As I basked and almost dared not breathe in that “glow,” I at last heard God’s voice down deep within. He asked me if I was willing to bear a son (yes, the sex was specified) that would have a very special call of God on his life. Without even thinking, I cried out, “YES!”–weeping with joy.

me and elijah--baby

Elijah Blue has arrived!

Sure enough, I was a few weeks pregnant with Elijah at that time but hadn’t even considered the possibility nor suspected it when I innocently knelt to pray that day. He was born December 17, 1995, and was, from the first, very cognizant of the Spirit of the Lord. Still, I pretty much kept my mouth shut about what had happened during that spring prayer session. I wanted Elijah to exercise his free will, as to his walk with God. I didn’t want to influence him in any way.

In other words, I didn’t want to affect what God could do very well without me.

So although I did train Elijah up in the Word and in prayer, at the same time he grew up as any other normal kid–sports, schooling, dance classes, youth groups. As a homeschool mom, I also prepped him for the typical educational path–do college-prep classes, take the SAT, win a scholarship if possible, go four years to a university, get a good job, live a good life. I even offered to send him to public high school so he could have a better chance in the sports world, but he made the decision to stay at home.

In the past year, my son has begun to move more and more in the power and anointing of God. With some hesitation (fearing my disappointment), he recently confessed to me that he doesn’t necessarily feel he is supposed to attend a typical four-year university. He instinctively and urgently feels a different path for his life–a headlong commitment to Christian ministry/service.

I’m embarrassed to say that when he first told me, my pride rose up, tempting me to urge him to go the normal route that he had been educated in preparation for. How would he succeed in life without that college degree? Were all of those years of pushing the college-prep agenda wasted? Wouldn’t he make such a great leader on a college campus? What if he could walk on to play baseball for a college team?

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Elijah opening up the STOKES STOKED Youth Rally at Lions Park in Walnut Cove on Aug. 30, 2014.

But before I opened my mouth to say a word, my gut instincts kicked in. They reminded me of that day long ago in my prayer closet. Hadn’t I known all along deep down that he wouldn’t take the well-worn path but rather the one less traveled by? Didn’t I feel with absolute certainty in my spirit that he was absolutely correct about what he was feeling?

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Elijah and I on the evening of his induction into the NC 4-H Honor Club.

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Elijah and I, with our friend James, getting ready for the opening blast of the STOKED STOKED Youth Rally on Aug. 30, 2014.

I have thus had to say, “God’s will be done.” And now an intense joy fills my heart each time I think of my son working side by side with me in my hometown of Walnut Cove, as he has indicated he feels to do.

So what does this have to do with abortion? It has a lot to do with the “uncertainty” of when life begins–a critical component of the abortion argument.

The evidence is clear now that God indeed ordained this path for Elijah even before he was formed in my womb. God told me he was coming six months before he was conceived. God told me he was in my womb when he was probably too small to be seen with the naked eye. God told me what his future held–a call to minister. So I cannot believe that the egg/sperm mixture in a womb is a “fetus” that we can choose to either keep or terminate; it is a living child already.

If you don’t subscribe to the Bible, this probably sounds like baloney to you. I understand that. I truly love you just the same because I don’t get mad at people who don’t agree with me; how un-Christian is that?

But if you DO have a Biblical worldview, please consider my point. When I was two weeks pregnant, Elijah was NOT just a nonviable mass that I could choose to have suctioned out of me with an electric vacuum pump if I felt I couldn’t handle a third child. If God was already telling me what Elijah was predestined to do, then that two-week-old “mass” floating around in my uterus was already a PERSON with a future and potential.

Based on my experience, as well as the Bible, I have no doubt of one critical fact in the abortion argument:

Life begins at conception, although in the mind of God, it actually starts BEFORE THAT.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. . .My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:13-16

children are rewards

Peace in the Valley

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My front yard is not really a yard at all, but it’s lovely!

My heart is overwhelmed on this late June evening to be sitting on MY deck–not the landlord’s deck anymore, but OUR deck. The journey to this monumental day of home ownership started about six years ago….

It was 2008. I was a struggling mom–separated and headed toward divorce–who lived from paycheck to paycheck on my meager salary as news editor of our county newspaper, The Stokes News. I was desperate to find a place to live that would be appropriate for my children. One day after covering a county commissioners’ meeting for the paper, I went up to Commissioner Leon Inman, who is also a realtor, and said, “Leon, I need you to find me a house.”

Helpful as always, he smiled kindly at me, “Tell me what you’re looking for, Miss Leslie.”

At first, I simply said, “A place big enough for my kids and me.” Then almost unconsciously I shared my heart, “And I’d like a bigger-than-normal lot with a creek and woods.” I was taken aback by my very specific and idealistic request, but then I thought, “Why settle for less? Ask for the best.”

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The entrance to the property

The VERY NEXT DAY, Leon called me to say, “I have just the place for you.” I drove to Danbury where he took me to a little house, sitting on about 2 1/2 acres with a creek in the backyard and big, beautiful trees everywhere. He admitted to me that the house was rough and needed a ton of work, and boy, was he right! It had been in the hands of his realty company for quite a long while and had not sold yet.

It was nothing to look at really, but somehow I took a “violent fancy” to it. That is the phrase Almanzo Wilder used to describe what his “Little House on the Prairie” wife Laura Ingalls Wilder felt when they first spotted the deteriorated farm they later bought and turned into a paradise in Missouri. Almanzo said, “. . .coming from such a smooth country, the place looked so rough to me that I hesitated to buy it. But wife had taken a violent fancy to this particular piece of land, saying if she could not have it she did not want any because it could be made into such a pretty place. It needed the eye of faith, however, to see that in time it could be made very beautiful.”

When I saw the property in Danbury, I felt like Laura, one of my favorite people who ever lived. I had “the eye of faith” that she had; I saw that the property had the potential to be a veritable paradise. I could even visualize what the rundown house could be turned into.

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The meadow I look at every day!

One thing that struck me was that the house had an exquisite view of a lush green meadow where a beautiful black horse roamed. One meaning of my name “Leslie” is “from the meadow.” I thought in amazement, “My name even fits this locale.”

Yes, I’m a Walnut Cove gal–that is my hometown where I have been called to minister primarily. But I was born in Danbury, our county seat, and have always been captivated by that quaint little “Gateway to the Mountains” town. For years, when we’d ride down Highway 89 through Danbury, I’d point over to the general area where this beat-up house was located (couldn’t see the house from the road) and  say to my family, “Man, I wish I could live over there!”

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Tucked away in the valley!

So here I was with a chance to live by that very meadow, and I couldn’t afford to buy the little house, even though it was a steal of a deal. In desperation, I found a way to get the owner’s name, and I called him, asking if he’d consider a “rent to own” deal. He said he would’ve, but that the house was in the hands of the realty company. My heart sank, yet I held onto the faintest silken strand of hope.

At the end of many county commissioners’ meetings in Danbury, I’d ride down to the deserted little house, sit in the driveway and let the peace of the valley it nestled in overtake me. I watched the leaves turn brilliant colors all around it. I watched its bare trees caress the winter-blue sky. I watched spring begin to awaken in that valley all around the little house that seemed as vacant and lonely as I felt some days. The longing in my heart to live there was overwhelming.

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Guineas from the meadow paying us a visit!

Months went by, and then one day, the phone call came. The owner contacted me at The Stokes News office and told me the realty company’s contract on the house had run out and he was willing to rent to own. Overjoyed, I leapt at the chance. My daughter Meghann was now a college graduate with a full-time job, and she wanted to move into the downstairs area and pay part of the rent.

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My personal “Rivendell”!

The landlord, being a very conscientious and super guy, put new carpet in two rooms upstairs, painted the walls and replaced some of the ceiling tiles, so the house didn’t look quite as bad as it had originally. We moved in on July 1, 2009. The house had a multitude of issues, as any house that has been sitting vacant for a long while does. But nothing dimmed my enthusiasm for it.

I remember the thrill of seeing the golden late-summer/early fall flowers burst into bloom all around the perimeter of my new yard. Opening my windows and hearing the pleasant gurgling of the creek was pure pleasure for me. The black horse grazing in the velvety meadow became known as “Jet” to my daughter Abigail. When spring came, I didn’t even mind push-mowing the huge yard, because the lush green grass was full of yellow dandelions and purple violets to feast my eyes upon. From my yard, I could see the curvaceous mountains we Stokes County folks call “The Three Sisters.”

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You can grow some good watermelons down by a “crick.”

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The hubster’s garden spot!

I finally remarried, and the hubster moved in on Sept. 1, 2010. My daughter Meghann gladly relocated to another rental house with my other adult daughter, Chelsea; Meghann had never been fond of my little house since we found a black snake and assorted lizards in the downstairs area where she slept. The hubster, however, quickly fell in love with the place and teasingly used Almanzo’s words to describe me: “The wife took a violent fancy to it.”

We tried unsuccessfully over the next few years to buy the place, but no mortgage company would touch it, despite our good credit and accumulated savings for a hefty downpayment. The house was indeed built very oddly, like an eccentric and unusual vacation home; therefore, no comp values could be found for it. In other words, nothing comparable to it was selling in the area during the recession, and comp values are absolutely necessary in this era of new and stricter mortgage laws.

There were times I felt downright desperate–realizing we were futilely throwing money down the tubes via monthly rent payments. I felt angry as well–agonizing over how unfair it was that two people with good jobs, good credit and a nice savings account couldn’t get a loan just because their house was a strangely-built one with no comp values to be found. I still owned half of a house from my first marriage which I had the right to move back into, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to live there again after all the heartache of the broken marriage.

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Life at “Deer Creek Cottage”!

In the meantime, my kids had also fallen in love with the little house by the meadow. My teenage son begged me to stay there, saying he had grown immensely fond of it and enjoyed its proximity to the 4-H office, somewhere we spend a lot of time. My little boy also said he wanted to keep living here. My teenage daughter was a bit more reluctant about it, mainly because her cousins live next door at the former house. Eventually she too admitted how much she loved what we sometimes called “Deer Creek Cottage”–after a Thomas Kincaid painting and because multitudes of deer frequent our creek.

For nearly two years, I was petrified to apply for yet another loan–to be approved until the end, only to hear the underwriter say, “No, we don’t want to take a chance on this weird house.” I was paralyzed by a fear of being disappointed yet again.

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Paradise even in winter!

Finally, in the summer of 2013, I wrote on a piece of paper, “Buying our house,” and put it in the big family Bible at “The Well,” our ministry house in Walnut Cove. I placed the little note strategically at Psalm 55:22–Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” I literally cast that burden on the Lord, and I determined not to worry about it any more–to simply trust Him with the house situation.

AT LAST, we found a company that agreed to finance, although they made us jump through what we felt were crazy, unnecessary and aggravating hoops (expensive structural inspections and all sorts of extra stuff). My poor hubster earned even more of my respect as he dealt with the issues singlehandedly. He handled every bit of the financial side of things and the loan application which was all-consuming for many months. There were constant delays, due a dishonest appraiser who seemed to delight in coming up with complaints about the house, which made the mortgage company delay the closing time and time again as they nitpicked about trivial things that ended up not even mattering at all.

The stress of it was wearing on Alan, although he kept telling me to not worry about anything. But I knew he was eaten up with the burden of it.

My turning point came one day in May as I stood barefoot in the morning sunshine in our garden near the creek. I turned to look at the little house, and my heart felt positively pinched with love for it. Suddenly, I felt Him comfort me, and I said aloud, “The Lord will provide.” A peace settled over me, and I repeated that phrase for the next few weeks….until at last, the loan went through, as satisfactory comp values were finally found in the area.

Today–June 27th, 2014–we closed on our little house. Despite a respiratory virus that was trying to attack me, I felt a deep joy all day long. Now we could begin to repair the little house. Our wonderful landlord had done some great things while we rented–even put on a new roof. But there is much more yet to be done; we hadn’t wanted to spend money on something we didn’t own.

I may not stay here forever, but why pay rent when you can own and resell one day if you choose? And if I ever decide to sell out my half of the other house I own, the hubster and I will use that money to pay off this house that we got for WAY under tax value. Then we will pretty much be debt-free. We would be able to travel extensively if we so chose and live out our dream of visiting every MLB stadium in the country, God willing. Not many people our age can already be debt-free.

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Our frequent visitor to the creek

More than one family member has said they have no idea why we would want to buy this fixer-upper house. I simply reply that the hubster and I adore it, the kids have BEGGED us to buy it, and the house isn’t as important to me as the lovely lot on which it sits. Several of my friends, when they drove down here for the first time, breathed deeply and said (and I paraphrase), “Wow, I feel such peace down here in this lovely little valley.”

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Jet has provided much viewing pleasure for us, particularly Abigail!

Yep, tonight it’s peace in the valley for me. We are homeowners at last–in a historic and picturesque town with a gorgeous state park just minutes away and the mighty Dan River within walking distance. But I’m content most days just to stay here and listen to my little creek meander merrily along and watch Jet graze in the sunshiny meadow. My beloved Walnut Cove is just 12 minutes away down a beautiful highway, and I’m there nearly everyday at another house I love–“The Well.”

Doubly blessed? Yes, I am. And I thank God for it all. You think He won’t give you the desires of your heart? Think again, my friend. Delight yourself in Him and watch Him work!

My "front yard"--growing richly in the blessings of God that hover over us!

My “front yard”–growing richly in the blessings of God that hover over us!

The Old Paths: Pass It On

*This was published in The Stokes News on June 24, 2010, 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.

**This particular column was perhaps my very favorite of all I ever wrote. It was about my precious friend, Anita Burroughs Mabe, who died of cancer at the age of 46 on June 22, 2010. She passed away on our weekly newspaper press day, and I knew I had to write a column about her–whether or not I had time. So late that night when everyone else had left the newspaper office, I poured my heart out in this column.

When I finished proofing it, I looked at the clock; it was 3:11 a.m. on June 23. When I saw the 3:11, chills went all over me, because that particular number always reminded me of my beloved hometown of Walnut Cove, since Highway 311 runs straight through it. If anybody understood my one-track-mind calling to Walnut Cove, it was Anita.  I began to sob so vehemently that I fell off the chair into the floor where I lay for a while, weeping loudly in the grief of losing Anita. She had always supported my ministry to my hometown, and now she was gone. But there was still a mighty work of God to be done, and she would’ve urged me to continue.

The next spring, I sent off the application to finally incorporate the ministry God had told me to start in Walnut Cove–Times of Refreshing (on the Old Paths). I waited and waited for it to come back from the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office. When it arrived at last, I was taken aback by the date stamped on it–June 22, 2011. Exactly one year after Anita’s passage to Heaven, the ministry was approved by the State.

So every year on June 22, I celebrate the calling of God He put in me for Walnut Cove, and I think of Anita–that bright soul who is probably smiling down now, saying, “You go, girl! God’s got your back!” Here is the column I wrote the day she passed:

Anita at one of her final Relay for Life events--her dear friend Jan Clary to the right. Jan has also gone on to be with the Lord.

Anita at one of her final Relay for Life events–her dear friend Jan Clary to the right. Jan has also gone on to be with the Lord.

One of my favorite church youth group songs back when dinosaurs roamed the earth was “Pass It On.” I remember the swelling feeling in my heart as we sang those beautiful words, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going, And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing.”

We often sang it at summer camp, sitting around a campfire in the dark of the evening. I would sing it, tears in my eyes, yearning to be one of those sparks that would spread God’s love. I could envision the world catching on fire with the glory of the Lord as all of the “sparks” spread what they had to others.

We lost one of these “sparks” this week.

Anita Burroughs Mabe’s earthly light was extinguished on Tuesday, June 22, 2010.

Or was it?

My first clear memory of Anita was at First Baptist Church when I was six years old. I was sitting on the front row in Sunday School one summer morning when my little friend Anita walked in. My eyes bugged out at the change I saw.

In an era when all little girls wore dresses to church, Anita appeared in a little shorts jumpsuit–blue, if I remember correctly. What was even more shocking was the fact that her blond hair was almost gone–not just cut in the popular girl’s “pixie” style, but cut like a boy’s.

Turns out that while her mom was away, her dad had to chop off her hair for reasons I can’t remember now. Was it that five-year-old Anita had begun to cut it herself or did she have something in it like gum? I don’t recall.

Whatever the reason, she ended up coming to church dressed like the little boy she looked like that long ago day. I can still clearly see those big blue eyes defiantly daring me to say a word.

Anita with her family at Old-Fashioned Day at First Baptist Church long, long ago. She is the girl in the white cap to the far right.

Anita with her family at Old-Fashioned Day at First Baptist Church long, long ago. She is the girl in the white cap to the far right.

That spunk carried Anita through many a tough year. Diagnosed with cancer about five years ago, she fought the good fight of faith and did not waver in her belief that everything would be all right.

The day of her passing from the earthly realm was press day for me–the most demanding day of my week. I alternated between crying and laughing all day long as we rushed to get this week’s paper completed. I’d look over at my general manager, Shannon, also a dear friend of Anita’s, and tell a funny Anita story. We’d laugh awhile then grow silent and weepy again as we realized our time with her was done….for now.

As the day grew more hectic with reports of power outages in King and last-minute stories to write, I escaped by mentally reliving the serenity of my last day alone with Anita.

It was a May afternoon. There had been a Wednesday morning prayer meeting at Anita’s house. She sat on the couch, fully participating, even reading aloud her assigned Bible passage. We all watched a video composed of pictures taken at the benefit event held for Anita at Germanton Park the week before, set to beautiful praise and worship music. Those bluer than blue eyes that had changed very little from those in the determined face of the five-year-old girl I once knew welled up with tears of gratitude for the community support. As everyone began to leave, Anita looked at me and with a calm smile said, “Stay awhile, Les,” using her nickname for me.

We spent a few hours in her quiet living room, peace pervading the atmosphere. She, the ever-busy and always-in-demand, longtime funeral director, and I, the too-busy and also in-demand news editor–enjoying a slow and easy spring day, talking about the things of the Lord and the joy our children had brought to us.

At one point, her eyes widened as she looked at me, and she exclaimed, “You’re MARRIED!” I was flabbergasted. Not even my family knew that I had recently eloped, but somehow Anita sensed it. She was thrilled when I admitted that I had indeed remarried. For months, she had encouraged me to do so, telling me with a poignant knowledge that I better snatch up this opportunity because we never know when our last days on earth will be.

All good things must come to an end, and so did our rare interval of peace together. As I drove off, my last glimpse was of her waving to me as she very slowly and weakly walked to the mailbox, the bright sun shining down on her.

That same joy was on Anita’s face on Friday, June 11, as she attended her son Colby’s graduation at South Stokes High. She smiled at me and said, “Hey, girlie girl,” another of her nicknames for me. Later, I saw her in her wheelchair looking out onto the football field minutes before Colby marched down the track. Her face was expectantly smiling, almost childlike with joy and wonder.

No matter what your religious beliefs are, allow me to believe that’s what Anita’s face looked like this morning as she passed into the presence of her Savior. Before, she could “only imagine,” but now she knows.

The legacy of friendship and compassion that she left behind from her years of comforting the bereaved all across Stokes County is monumental. Was she perfect? No. Who is? Should she be idealized? No. She was mere flesh and blood, as are we all.

But even in her humanity, Anita carried with her a spark of the divine. That spark warmed me during a cold period in my life a few years back. How can I forget how she picked me up one winter’s night when I was feeling like a prisoner in my own life and took to me to Walmart, out to eat and riding around on dark Stokes County back roads late at night–just two gals pouring their hearts out to one another.

I believe you call that true friendship.

I told her how much I appreciated that at a time when many of the people I thought were friends had made themselves scarce while I struggled to stay afloat. She said  she would never forget something her daddy told her–that a true friend is someone who would drive from here to Georgia to bail you out of jail without even having to know if you were guilty or not.

A month or two later as I struggled to see the light of day from the pit I had fallen into, Anita once again came to get me. She took me to Kernersville and bought me a cheeseburger and fries.

She fed my body with my favorite comfort food, but she fed my soul with the unconditional love of God.

As I looked into the mirror on Tuesday while getting ready for work, I threw up my hands and cried out, “But I just want to talk to her again!” My world seemed a little darker with Anita’s spark extinguished.

But then a revelation hit me. Any candle that glows brightly and uses its fire to light other candles will never truly go out. That individual wick may be bare of light, but the same fire that once engulfed it now engulfs other candles that still burn brightly. A candle that has shared its fire with others is never truly extinguished.

And so Anita’s God-given spark lives on. What would she want us to do with it? Pass it on….by loving others with the love of God, reaching out to improve the lives of those around us, helping youth, praying for our communities, comforting those who are hurting and being a true friend no matter what.

We lost a friend temporarily, but while we yet live, let us endeavor to keep the fire of God’s love going. “It only takes a spark to get a fire going . . .Pass it on.”

**One way we are passing on that spark is by resurrecting the annual youth rally that Anita began in the summer of 2008. For years, she and another group of moms had gathered at the start of every school year to pray for their children. That gave her the idea to hold a “Stokes Stoked” youth rally to kick off each school year. The first one at Lions Park on Aug. 30, 2008 brought about 400 people out. The next summer, weather forced it indoors to London Gym, and the turnout was not as good. By the next summer, Anita was gone.

I felt then that we should continue the youth rally in her memory, but life was more than I could handle at that time. LAST SUMMER, however, was the time to do it! We reserved Lions Park for Sat., Aug. 30, 2014–remarkably enough, the exact same day and date that Anita held that original rally–and had over 500 people in attendance, with at least 24 local churches participating. We plan to hold STOKES STOKED again this year–probably around the Labor Day Weekend once more. Contact me via email at: theoldpathsatwalnutcove@yahoo.com if you would like to play a role or give a donation toward the many expenses we will incur–stage rental, hot dogs for giveaway, Bibles and more. LET’S PASS IT ON!

Crazy Faith

All things r possibleCrazy Faith. Radical faith even. World-changing faith. That is what I want.

Is it more important that I be loving? Yes. I Cor. 13 teaches me that love is the most important Christian trait of all. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also want the other good things the Bible tells us are possible to obtain.

For many years, I had faith in God–that He existed, that He was faithful, that He was amazing. But there are levels of faith I wasn’t exposed to until many years after my salvation experience.

When I became deathly sick in 2000 with a mysterious ailment that doctors couldn’t even diagnose, I learned a new level of faith. I had believed that God COULD heal, that God SOMETIMES healed–IF it was His will. But through those dark years of sickness, I came to believe that it is absolutely His will to heal–no question or doubt in my mind.

knowing God will

I can’t find one example of someone Jesus refused to heal in the Bible. If He took the stripes for our healing, then it was for all Christians, because the Word says He is no respecter of persons. WILL everyone be healed? No. In the same vein of thinking, WILL everybody be saved? No. Yet the Bible tells us it IS His will that none perish and that all be saved (II Peter 3:9 and I Timothy 2:3-4). Is healing a Heaven or Hell issue? Goodness, no. You can enter those pearly gates just as easily having died of cancer as if you simply died of old age.

But let’s don’t go there. That’s a whole different subject. Let’s talk about crazy faith.

faith--seeing light

You see, I am radical. I believe the Word when it says: “Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’” (Mark 9:23) Do you know what “all” means in the Greek? ALL! (My good buddy Revonda reminds me of that a lot!) I take Him at His Word when I read Luke 1:37: “For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Now, the scholars will chime in to say that we must ask according to God’s will. I agree. James 4:3 says “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss.” So when I ask something that I know by the Word is God’s will, then I believe that I receive, that it won’t be impossible, that it WILL come to pass.

I can find very few people who will stand with me in this kind of faith. I’m talking about the Luke 11:5-10 kind of “knocking in importunity” faith that doesn’t give up, the Luke 18:1-8 faith that faints not and continually cries for manifestation to take place. If we only believe when we see results, then is that faith at all?

faith--Voltaire

Last night my water pipes froze in this record-breaking Arctic blast we’re experiencing, despite my dripping water faucet that I left on all night and despite my heated house and well-house. At first, the water seemed to be running okay. The hubster had just gotten into the shower after coming home at 8:30 a.m. from his third-shift job and had just soaped up his face when the water suddenly stopped flowing. I suppose the little water that came out at first was what was in the pipes already before the freeze stopped the flow closer to the well-house.

So like many others, there we were without water, with the danger of ruptured pipes and with a forecasted high of 22 in the cities south of us, which meant down in my shaded valley of Danbury, it might hit 19 degrees as tops. Not much chance of thawing out.

The poor hubster–already tired from working overtime through the weekend–ended up downstairs in our freezing cold basement, using a hairdryer on the pipes unsuccessfully, using a space heater on them to no avail. He finally gave up and turned the little heater off. We put our EdenPure heater downstairs in the early afternoon and hoped it would help a bit.

All morning and into the afternoon, I waited to hear the drip of water begin from the turned-on faucets in the kitchen and nearby bathroom. But not a sound nor a drip came forth.

The frustrated hubster said to me, “Well, it’ll probably be tomorrow before it thaws out.”

I felt something rise up inside me. “I refuse to believe that,” I replied.

“Well, it is what it is, Leslie,” he answered in a very negative voice.

“Well, I believe we can lay hands on those pipes and command that water to flow,” I declared.

“Then do it,” he challenged me.

I sat there a minute and realized I was rather angered by his pessimistic attitude and approach. I knew I didn’t need to go lay hands on the pipes in my present state of mind. (Or rather, my wrong state of HEART!) “I will shortly. And you’ll see a miracle,” I said, not arrogantly but confidently.

Then I softened and began to worry about his unusually downcast mood. “Do we walk by faith or by sight?” I asked him. “Do we believe God can do anything or don’t we? Why are you so depressed when you have lately been so convicted by God to study faith and healing?”

He confessed ruefully, “Because when I soaped up my face this morning in the shower, I began to praise God for His favor in protecting our water pipes. As soon as the words left my mouth, the water quit.”

I began to feel more sympathetic toward him, but at the same time, my faith rose up, and I began to preach. Yes, preach. I preached by the Spirit with tears, power and anointing for over half an hour, maybe much longer. I spoke the Word from II Cor. 5:7 “For we walk by faith, not by sight” and from all over that Bible, including the Scriptures I mentioned above.

I testified of how radical faith makes us look crazy to the world–daring to say we are healed when we still manifest symptoms of sickness, stepping out to proclaim no lack even when the bills are past due. Why? Because His Word says that He wants His people whole, that He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can even ask or think, that He came to give us life and life more abundantly, that it is a Godly desire to prosper and be in health even as our souls prosper.

life more abundantly

“Am I speaking ‘name it, claim it’ faith, like laying hands on a Cadillac or some such stuff as I’ve seen abused on TV?” I cried out. “NO! I don’t believe that lustful junk. I’m simply saying that our God wants us to have the things that we need and that are part of His will for our lives, and lack isn’t a part of that.”

I told the hubster, who was attentively and hungrily listening to my “sermon,” how Habakkuk 3:17-19 had been strong upon my heart lately:

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. . .”

“Well, it’s pretty hard to rejoice and have faith when you ain’t got a sheep in the stall or a crop in the fields,” the hubster remarked drily.

“Of course it is,” I replied. “But TRUE faith comes forth in tough times. We are like gold being refined in the heat of the fire; when it is heated up, the impurities rise to the surface. When we go through trials and hard times, what’s really deep within us will surface, and it often ain’t pretty. It’s all fine and dandy to rejoice when things go well, but can we keep the faith and joy of the Lord when darkness falls?”

I told him that when tough times come, we don’t have to pretend to like it. But it is then that we say to the Lord, “Father, I don’t like what is going on. I don’t understand why it is happening. This is threatening to take me under. But I KNOW that You are faithful and wise, so I am going to trust that You are going to work a miracle from this tragedy or calamity or obstacle, in order that Your glory will shine forth!”

beat darkness--thank God

Finally, the hubster melted and came over to kiss me. “Then pray for my unbelief. I want to have the kind of faith you’re talking about.”

I melted, too, and smiled at him, “I don’t have the level of faith that I want either. So we’re on that journey together, aren’t we? The Bible says that ‘faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.’ I have just preached the Word of God for quite a while now. You have heard it, and your faith will therefore be increased. I am believing for a miracle with this water situation. It IS God’s will that we have water–a necessity–and it is NOT His will that suffer lack by having hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of repairs if the pipes burst. We have the authority to command the water to flow freely in our house–even above the laws of nature which say it is frozen. We believe for the ‘SUPERNATURAL’ which means ‘OVER AND ABOVE THE NATURAL.'”

That humble man of God hugged me and walked out the door to go up the street to get us a hearty meal–our occasional Tuesday treat. I got up from the couch to use the toilet, not even minding the thought that it hadn’t been flushed in many hours of use. As I walked into the bathroom where there still wasn’t even the faintest drip of water from the open faucet, I realized that I was now totally at peace. The frustration/semi-anger that so often blocks faith and healing prayers was gone.

I looked into the mirror and smiled delightedly at myself as the unexpected thought hit me, “Lord, now I can pray with a clear conscience, can’t I?” I had gone in there simply to use the toilet, but instead I pointed to the faucet and spoke in full confidence and with great boldness, “In the name of Jesus, I take authority over the ice in the pipes and declare that it is God’s will that His children have water, and I command the water in MY house to flow freely RIGHT NOW!”

AS SOON AS I SAID THE LAST WORD, water burst forth from the faucet like lava erupting from a volcano, like a fountain springing up in the desert. It didn’t begin with a drip or a trickle; it was an immediate stream of water flowing forth! And I’m not talking about a five-second delay, like on television. I’M TALKING TO-THE-SECOND IMMEDIACY! The last word left my mouth, and in the same second, the water gushed out in obedience.

I screamed in joy and began to praise God loudly! With shaking hands, I grabbed the phone and called the hubster. He didn’t answer. Within a few minutes, he pulled in, and I ran to throw open the door–cold air and all!

“Alan!” I cried. “We’ve had a miracle! Come see!” His eyes wide, he hurried in and saw the kitchen faucet running, with fresh, pure water coming forth. Before I could even tell him the story, his eyes filled with tears.

“Tell me exactly how it happened!” he urged me, following me into the bathroom so that I could reenact the story. He listened and cried, wiped his eyes and listened again, then he began to praise God with me, tears streaming down his face.

“I could almost believe that He let the water freeze to build my faith and reassure me that He can do ANYTHING,” Alan speculated.

“Perhaps,” I replied. “Who knows? He works in mysterious ways indeed.”

faith sees the invisible

Our rejoicing went on throughout the afternoon. The scoffers will say that it was the heating of the day (yeah, it was up to a blistering 15 degrees at that point) or the EdenPure heater that did the trick. Maybe they helped. But you’ll never convince me that the water literally GUSHING FORTH at the EXACT SECOND that I commanded it to was a coincidence. I choose to give all of the glory to God who can do ANYTHING according to His will.

I hate the term “Bible-thumper” that is used derogatorily against Christians today, but I will admit that I did pat the Word emphatically a few times during my preaching today to stress that if the Bible says it, then it’s true–no matter what circumstances may imply or what negative symptoms are being manifested. I refuse to back down on the veracity of His Word. I will believe that healing is His will, no matter how many times we battle sickness around our house, no matter how many times my prayers seem of no effect.

His Word cannot lie. WE are imperfect and can fail or fall into unbelief, but HIS WORD IS TRUE NONETHELESS.

Radical faith. Crazy faith. Faith that the lost world mocks you for, that even some Christians scoff at you for, that many whisper about you behind your back for. That’s the faith I want. Faith to raise the dead, see blind eyes opened, have food multiplied in times of lack, walk on water if need be. Yep, that’s the faith I want.

If the world is gonna call us crazy anyway, we might as well be crazy indeed–CRAZY ABOUT JESUS!

God we serve--miracles

Living a Life That Brings Joy. . .

The joyful life of Inez!

The joyful life of Inez!

When I was five years old, my parents decided to build a house. What an exciting time it was for this very young couple! They enlisted the aid of a local builder, L.G. Brown, who was quite a bit older than them. He and his wife Inez already had teenagers, but they also had a young daughter named Donna–only 14 days younger than me. Donna became my first-ever best friend, so her mother, Inez, became a sort of extra mother to me.

Inez and Donna not long ago

Inez and Donna not long ago

The years flew by, but Donna stayed a constant in my life, as did her mother. My elementary school friends and I saw quite a bit of Inez who brought Donna to school each day. Most of us rode the school bus, but Donna was having separation anxieties, being the youngest child in her family and very attached to her mother. I usually bought a cafeteria line lunch, but I remember that Donna almost always brought her lunch in those early years. And yes, I suffered some childish pangs of jealousy when I’d see Donna’s cheese puffs, packed by her mommy.

When it came time for me to begin leaving the nest a little–occasionally spending the night with a friend once I was eight or nine–it was to Donna’s house that I went first. Inez always gave us free run of the place–letting us stay up as late as we wanted, letting us eat junk and pretty much leaving us alone (but always safe). My first-ever movie with a friend was in fourth grade when Donna’s older sister, Bobbie, took us to a Disney flick. We were late for the one we wanted to see, so we ended up seeing Kurt Russell in “The Computer Who Wore Tennis Shoes.” Then we went back home to Donna’s where Inez was waiting to warmly enfold me in a bear hug just as if I were her own child.

Junior high brought the same situations–sleepovers at Donna’s. Only the locations were different, as they often moved to different houses that her dad built, fascinating me by a change in venue. There were 1 a.m. runs through the yard after telling ghost stories, stepping on slimy slugs that we couldn’t get off our bare feet. There was “The Midnight Special” on late-night TV, sometimes followed by “Shock Theater.” There was the donging of the big grandfather clock that never failed to disrupt what little sleep I got. There was delicious food ever available, even at 3 a.m.

And there was Inez–always wearing a smile, often laughing a laugh that was more like a gurgling girlish giggle, and forever loving us all with her very expressive type of love.

Inez and Donna's daughter Laura not long ago

Inez and Donna’s daughter Laura not long ago

When it came time for the big move to high school, Inez took Donna and me to Hanes Mall–a fairly new establishment with awesome stores like the “County Seat” and “Just Pants” where we could get Levis in any color of corduroy. The day before we entered South Stokes High School, Donna and I bought matching royal blue corduroy Levis and light blue sleeveless shirts to wear on that oh-so-important first day, since I was spending the night with her. (I believe we ended up chickening out of actually wearing the matching outfits that first day, lest the coveted boys from the neighboring town of King think us immature!)

By that time, Donna lived in a square house. Wait, you say. Many houses are square, right? What’s the big deal about that? Well, let me explain. Donna’s house was a square with the middle cut out with space for a big old swimming pool. So to reach the other side of the house, you had to walk the whole perimeter of the square to get there. Very unusual but very cool to a teenager like me. Donna’s room was at one end of the house with a living area between it and her parents’ room. So we could play our music and laugh and be loud. Inez never fussed at us, no matter how loud we played “Float On” or “Boogie Fever.”

The very jolly Inez in costume, joking around as she often did!

The very jolly Inez in costume, joking around as she often did!

All too soon, we were adults, but Donna and I kept in touch. I was at her wedding in the middle of the square house. We had our daughters, Chelsea and Laura, the same year. Donna was the secretary at the Extension Office when I led a 4-H club, putting us in constant contact. And always in the background was Inez, still grabbing me for a bear hug whenever she saw me around town. When she was first diagnosed with lung cancer in the late ’90s or early 2000s (can’t remember), I invited her to a healing service at my church in Winston-Salem. She and Donna came, and before I knew it, there was Inez at that altar, her hands uplifted, having the preachers lay hands on her. Her faith was shining out of her bright eyes!

Inez always kept us laughing and was so full of joy you couldn't be sad around her.

Inez always kept us laughing and was so full of joy you couldn’t be sad around her.

Inez and I became even closer when I went to work as news editor at The Stokes News. Our office was beside the pharmacy where Inez would often go. My desk was right in front of the big picture window that looked out onto the sidewalk traffic. Inez would suddenly appear in that window, her whole face engulfed in smile wrinkles, waving to me or blowing me kisses. More often than not, she would rush in the door to give me a quick hug before going next door. Sometimes she would share with me a new poem that she had written. Once I even used one of these poems about her childhood memories of the creek in my “The Old Paths” column entitled “Down By the Crick.” She was so thrilled with that!

One of Inez's beautiful poems. I have a whole folder of them--handwritten onto lovely notepaper.

One of Inez’s beautiful poems. I have a whole folder of them–handwritten onto lovely notepaper.

After I quit my job to become a full-time mommy once more, I didn’t see as much of Inez, but Donna kept me posted on her health. When I heard that Inez had become primarily bedridden at the age of 83–almost 84–I told Donna I would try to visit her mother. Well, I stay very busy and kept putting off my visit until finally Inez called my mother and said, “I thought Leslie was coming to see me!” I had to laugh because I could hear Inez saying that in her vivacious way.

Inez never lost her smile or her joy. And Donna, her sister Bobbie and the rest of the family were constantly there for her.

Inez never lost her smile or her joy. And Donna, her sister Bobbie and the rest of the family were constantly there for her.

So I went right over that very day, taking my eight-year-old son Malachi with me. I knew Inez’s health had been failing rapidly so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I entered her bedroom. But I should’ve known she’d be lying there with a big grin and still laughing that very distinctive laugh that made you feel good just to hear it. We talked and prayed and laughed and had such a good time together! I went to make her feel better, but as usual, it was the other way around.

While we prayed, I opened my eyes to see her eyes shut tightly, her feeble hand clutching mine, her lips trembling as she praised God for touching her. It was as if the glory of God was in that peaceful room where this woman of faith lay in trust of her Savior. Malachi helped me pray, which blessed Inez so much.

Before we left, she insisted on blessing us. She made me pick out some jewelry that she had so enjoyed making. So I took a set of pinkish/lavender pearls.

My precious pearls that Inez made.

My precious pearls that Inez made.

Then she told me to get a silky white scarf from her dresser and take it as my own.

My scarf from Inez!

My scarf from Inez!

As if that wasn’t enough, she told me to pick a book from her shelf, telling me she had already read those and wanted to bless others with them. I chose one called “The Journey” by Billy Graham.

The book Inez wanted me to take and read

The book Inez wanted me to take and read

Then it was Malachi’s turn. She had a supply of toys that he could choose from. I thought he would surely choose a stuffed animal, but he picked a pink heart-shaped case. He promptly drew a picture of me on it with black marker and said I was his heart.

Malachi with his heart from Inez

Malachi with his heart from Inez

As I left Inez that lovely summer afternoon, I did not know it would be the last time that I saw her. I got a very sweet thank you note she wrote me in her own fragile handwriting. Even the tone of that sounded cheerful and upbeat, despite her intense suffering.

The card I will forever treasure

The card I will forever treasure

I kept thinking I would go back by there but never did.

I got the word on Tuesday morning, August 20, that the end was nigh for Inez. My mother had gone by there to pray for her and said that although Inez’s eyes were closed and she could not respond, she seemed to be humming something. Donna thought it was a Steven Curtis Chapman song–something about “perfect.” I immediately thought it could be “His Strength Is Perfect” which would’ve been ideal for the situation. A dying woman, no strength of her own, realizing that all she had to rely on was HIS strength. Inez’s humming proved to me that our spirits are aware even when our flesh realm seems out of commission.

A few hours later, I heard that she had passed. Several times that day, I sneaked off to the bathroom to cry. (Yes, maybe I am still too proud to really cry in front of people.) I would read something Inez’s granddaughter Laura had posted on Facebook, and I would tear up. Then I’d act as if I were simply going to the bathroom, and I would weep privately a bit. Many of the tears were happy ones. I could absolutely imagine joyful Inez, with her preciously childlike spirit, entering the presence of the Lord. What a reunion with her Savior and those that she loved, such as her beloved husband L.G. and their firstborn son, Mike!

Somehow Heaven seemed a bit closer knowing that Inez had just entered those beautiful realms of glory.

Tonight I will pay my last respects to this woman who was such a constant in my life for so many years. And I will know that she leaves behind the kind of testimony that I want to have. When I think of her, I see a smile that takes up her whole face. I hear that giggle that sounded like a teenager. I feel the love that she oozed toward me and others. I remember a generous heart who wanted to give more than receive. I recall a go-getter personality that at the same time, almost paradoxically, exuded peace and a laid-back feeling. She didn’t care if her house was spotless and dust-free; she’d rather play with her kids. She didn’t feel the pressure to be at every regimented church meeting and program; she simply lived the Gospel each and every day.

Yes, the angels surely rejoiced when Inez leaped through the door of Heaven , whole and strong once more. But for those of us left behind, the world is a little bit gray today. The comfort is in knowing that it isn’t over. We who know our Lord Jesus will see Inez again, and we will spend forever in eternal bliss where the Lamb is the light and there are no more tears. Inez will never shed another one, but today, I just might.

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