Raise Your Gaze!

robin beachI admit it:  I get homesick sometimes.  Some days this beach-girl misses the salt and sand so much I can hardly stand it.  I found myself longing for the past recently, and wondering, “What am I doing here?”

Over the last few days we’ve been doing some serious grading in our yard which has created quite the mess!  It has rained nearly every day since the new year, and the red clay of the upstate has turned to sludge-mud (which we could not even stand up in)… and it is EVERYWHERE!  Our clothes are stained, our boots are covered, and our white dog has turned orange.  Our patio, garage, and half of our towels are covered as well.  We have been digging holes and planting new trees and bushes, and I reflected back on our well-manicured lawn at our old house in Conway, replete with dozens of vibrant knock-out roses, white fence, and swimming pool in the back yard.  I mused that even the sandy dirt that our dog tracked in there was much easier to clean than this blessed red sludge!

backyard 4

This morning I stood at my kitchen window sipping my morning coffee, looking out over the back yard and the mess that had been created.  The sun was shining brightly upon the slow-drying square that Ed finally got leveled out yesterday.  Weather permitting, there will soon be a concrete pad poured over that mud pit, and a new pool erected that a precious neighbor is gifting us.  Eventually, we will pressure-wash all the mud off of the patio that we just recently laid down ourselves.  Yes, we do all these projects ourselves on our limited budget.  I raised my gaze up toward the back of the yard and there it was:  The remaining cross beam in the old, dilapidated house in the woods behind our property, standing tall and strong, overlooking our domain.

backyard 3

backyard 2

I smiled as I was instantly reminded that our Lord brought us to this place, and He is still with us.  He put us in this marvelous home just two days after selling our home in Conway.  We could not have asked for a nicer house on a safer street with any more privacy than where we are, moving into a city we knew absolutely nothing about!  Ed’s job is going better than ever, and I am slowly getting more part-time hours which helps, but still allows me time to write and hopefully return to fulltime preaching eventually.  He allowed the rain which softened the yard for our necessary digging, and has now brought out the sun and gentle breezes so we may dry out (and recover) from our tedious (and messy) labors.  He truly is in complete control of this thing, and I need not worry nor fret, nor long for the “days of old”.  He did not lead us this far to desert us; He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you
have.  For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
(Hebrews  13:5)

So let me encourage you today that no matter how discouraged you may be; no matter how dreary things may look; no matter how dirty and stained your life may seem right now…  RAISE YOUR GAZE!  Lift up your eyes and know that God has this, and He has you!  He watches over you day and night, and truly is in complete control.  Surrender every aspect of your life to Him, and breathe easy.  Stop looking down at your situation, your problems, and your mess.  Don’t focus on the muck beneath your feet, but raise your gaze, and release your praise!  The God of this universe who created the sand and the mud, and the luscious green grass, the rain and the sun, the beaches, the mountains and the tall trees of the forests, has you, dear child, in the palm of His hand.  You are an intricate part of His amazing plan for the ages.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills – from whence comes my help?  My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.  He will not allow your
foot to be moved;  He who keeps you will not slumber.
(Psalm 121:1-3)

 

 

Am I There Yet?

journey-week-2-blog-picRalph Waldo Emerson penned the famous declaration, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”  Stephen Tyler of Aerosmith brought the phrase to a new generation when he recorded it in a hit song back in the 90’s.  Today, this sentiment still rings true for me, as it should for you!

My Facebook Memories reminded me that “on this day” seven years ago, I began a new job at Novant Health in Winston-Salem as an Insurance Specialist.  This fulltime gig came with great pay and benefits, and I was set!  The secure position within this large corporation enabled me to purchase a new car; something I had not been able to do for some time.  I made friends quickly as I learned a new side of the industry.  Within weeks I was clearing my accounts and getting nods from my supervisor.  I was able to tithe generously to the small church I was pastoring, and life was good.  I started squirreling away money into the company’s 401(k), and I determined that this would be my spot until retirement.  This would actually work out well for me!

My new friend and trainer who sat next to me began to tell me how she used to work for one of the insurance companies that we at the hospital had to contact on a regular basis. Imagine my surprise when I learned that this same insurance company (Tricare) had a large office located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina!  What a dream that would be, to work for that insurance company and live at my most favorite place in the whole world!  But I was set, and that was only a dream.

About six months later I visited my long-time friend down at Myrtle Beach and attended her church that Sunday morning.  I was introduced to several of her church friends, including a sweet lady who worked in the Human Resources Department of the Tricare office!  Was that a coincidence, or a divine appointment?  We exchanged emails and kept in touch for a few months.  And then I got the call:  “We’re hiring!”

I applied online, and scored an interview that November.  I was hired in December, and in January I returned to my beloved Myrtle Beach.  I was now taking calls from Novant Health and other facilities, having been trained on the flip side of the industry.  If not for my friend and co-worker at Novant, I would not have even known about Tricare’s office there.  Had I not gone to church with my beach-bestie, I would not have met the friend in their Human Resources office.  I had a fulltime job and was living in Myrtle Beach.  I was set!

I quickly settled in at church and as a minister, offered to coordinate a new Singles’ ministry there.  Later that summer, August 11, 2013 to be exact, the pastor had me stand up as he introduced me to the congregation, inviting any “unmarried” men and women to talk with me after the service.  Imagine my surprise when a tall, dark and handsome man approached me, asking, “Are you Robin?”  I wanted to respond with, “Are you SINGLE?” but I kept my composure.  That is the day I met the man I would fall in love with, and marry a year later.  We bought a house and a boat, and we were set!

We enjoyed beach life for five years, and then the Lord opened a door through my husband’s work for us to relocate again, out to Lake Hartwell.  We sold our home in just 24 hours, and bought our new house at the lake two days later.  It was a whirlwind move, but we will soon celebrate our second year here in the upstate of South Carolina!  Are we set and settled?  Only the good Lord knows.  But I have learned that each new thing, each new job, each new address, is a divine appointment and glorious stop on this journey we call “life”.  Each new opportunity is not a dead-end, but rather an unforeseen portal into the next great adventure!  I have also learned that while I love each and every place I have lived, this world is not my home.  I’m just traveling through, and making the most of every mile along this incredible journey!

So be encouraged!  That job, that house, that neighbor, that contact, that random stranger on the street…might just be a hidden stepping stone toward something unimaginable!

 

 

 

 

My Heaven on Earth

murrells inletI haven’t shared many beach pictures lately because we no longer live on the coast. But master photographer Dan Thompkins (Southern Living Photography) captured this amazing shot of my most favorite place on earth: Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. It’s considered the “Seafood Capital of South Carolina”, and home to the famous “Marshwalk” and the best seafood restaurants around. It’s the launching place of deep-sea fishing excursions, jet-ski rentals, and more.

But for me it has long been my prayer garden. The sunrise over this magical place is brilliant, but so is the moonlight dancing on the water at 2:00 a.m. It’s the place where my mother lived with my step-dad Cliff during some of the happiest days of her life. It’s where Cliff took my young nephews to spotlight alligators. It’s where I bonded with my step-sister, Ronna.  I spent hours upon hours walking these shores with my mother, and also alone with God. It’s where I got baptized in the Holy Ghost. It’s where I met AND married the great love of my life, Edward Leitch.  It’s where Ed and I came face-to-face with a giant sea turtle swimming alongside our boat. It’s where I sat in a boldly-painted rocking chair, listening to steel-drum music while watching the goats and peacocks frolic on the island across the way.

Yes, to some it’s just a grassy body of water opening up to the mighty Atlantic ocean. To me, it’s a piece of heaven on earth. God willing, we’ll be camping there soon.

Resting at Rock Bottom

rock bottomWe are all too familiar with the term “Rock Bottom”.  It conjures up images of rocky terrain in the valleys winding through desolate deserts. We may visualize the fallen person as sitting on the rocky floor of a deep, dark well, having lost all hope of rescue.   Nobody ever desires to hit “rock bottom”, as it is perceived to be the worst place a person could ever land.  And yet many of us have found ourselves right there.

We all go through various trials and tribulations along life’s journey.  But rock bottom happens when everything seems to fall apart at once.  Think of poor Job in the Old Testament.  That godly man hit rock bottom with a loud thud!  He lost his children, his wealth and livelihood, and then his health.  Even his wife told him that he should just curse God and die!  (Job 2:9)

Rock bottom happens when we lose our jobs; when our spouse cheats on us or leaves us; when a child dies; when we lose our homes; when we lose our health.  My husband and I both experienced rock bottom moments years before we met.  But we both can shout and testify that those rock bottom moments were the moments we had to depend on the Lord 100%.  We each renewed our faith and emerged healed, filled and delivered!  Divorce and foreclosure, the deaths of parents and a child, and simultaneous job losses found each of us (at respective points in our lives) lying face down on that cold, hard surface of circumstances.  That lonely desolate place where all hope seemed lost is where the Savior Himself reached down and held us, promising to never leave us nor forsake us.  (Hebrews 13:5)  Although it seemed that everyone had left us, Jesus was right there… even at rock bottom.

I Googled images of “rock bottom” and retrieved a plethora of desert photos, mountains and valleys, and even a few cave openings.  Yet in almost every picture captured, no matter the surrounding terrain, at the very bottom there was water:  a stream, a river, or a lake.  The Lord immediately spoke to me saying, “I AM the river in the desert.  I AM the Living Water.  If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me.”  (Is. 43:19-20, John 4:10, John 7:37)  “I AM your rest and refreshing.  Lean on Me, and be healed and filled with my Spirit.  My joy shall be your strength.  I AM your hope of Glory.”  (Mark 6:31, Acts 3:19, Psalm 147:3, Neh. 8:10, Col. 1:27)

My friend, if you have found yourself at rock bottom, it makes no difference what chain of events may have dropped you there.  I know your fall was great, and painful.  I know it seems lonely and desolate where you lay.  But this is not your end.  You shall live and not die.  This is your time to reflect, to seek, and to heal.  Cast all of your cares upon Him, for He cares for you!  (1 Peter 5:7)  May you be refreshed and strengthened in Christ Jesus.  Your rock bottom is not a desolate grave, but rather a launching pad.  Get up and look up, for your redemption is nigh!  Cling closely to the Lord Jesus, and He will raise you up – healed, filled and delivered!  Rise up and walk again!

 

The Reigning Prince of Peace

Isaiah 9.6At Christmastime we recite the well-known story of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus from Luke Chapter 2.  We exchange gifts and spare no expense in decorating our homes, our work spaces and even our vehicles.  We display our nativity sets and sing “Silent Night” in remembrance of the greatest gift the world has ever received:  the birth of its Savior.  We gorge ourselves on Christmas goodies, treats and feasts, excusing our gluttony in Jesus’ Name.  It is His birthday we are celebrating, after all.

Yet there is something going on in the spiritual realm that is immensely bigger than anything we can wrap our little human minds around.  Father God, who orchestrated this entire event that we have been celebrating for over 2,000 years, is grander and infinitely wiser than the most intellectually elite, and we would do well to heed His majesty and sovereignty.    He created the earth and all who inhabit her; and He is in complete control of how His well-laid plan will unfold for humanity, and for each of us individually.

Yes, we are given free-will and endure consequences to our choices, good or bad.  But He designed a plan for mankind, and His will shall ultimately come to pass.  He gave His Son as a sacrifice to pay our insurmountable debt, so that we may be reunited with Him, our Creator.  Once Jesus paid that debt with His own blood on the Cross at Calvary, our salvation was sealed.  All we must do is repent, ask for His forgiveness (which He is quick to extend in His mercy and grace), and commit our lives to Him forever.  We can be assured that we will spend eternity in Heaven with Jesus and our Heavenly Father, but what about today?

It took me a long time to truly grasp the meaning of “Let go and let God.”  But once we realize that we are His children, covered by His blood and His promises, then we truly have nothing to fear.  We can release the worrisome waves that drown us in anxiety, anger, depression, sickness and despair.  Once we give our lives over to the Prince of Peace, then and only then, may we know the peace that passes understanding.  (Philippians 4:7)  The Bible says that even the government shall be upon His shoulders.  (Whew!)

Whatever emotions this Christmas conjures up in your spirit, let the Spirit of the Prince of Peace wash over you, and rest easy.  No matter what troubles may come, He has never lost control, nor will He.  I do not understand a lot of things in this world, but I know that my life is hidden in Christ, and I lay it all down at His feet.  My life is in His very capable hands.  And with that assurance, I rejoice at His coming as a baby in a manger, and look forward for His soon return!  He is coming again!

 

Rivers and Goats in the Desert!

EliseAs 2018 draws near to its close, I continue to be amazed by Father God’s provision and delightful surprises!  In January of this year, the Lord called me to leave my corporate job with Blue Cross Blue Shield to devote more time to ministry.  Although my husband’s job has been going well, I was still a bit nervous walking away from a fulltime job that provided consistent paychecks and insurance benefits.  For the last three years, I had been blessed to perform my job from home, which enabled me to retain my position when Ed and I relocated to the opposite end of the state.  I wondered if giving up that privilege was really the right thing to do.  But the Lord spoke and I obeyed in faith, trusting Him completely to provide by whatever means He chose.  When we truly submit to His will, He really does honor that blind faith, giving us the desires our hearts.  (Psalm 37:4)

I prayerfully and carefully comprised the email to my supervisor that would serve as my official notice of resignation.  I would process medical claims for two more weeks, and receive only one more paycheck from the company.  I drew a deep breath, and said, “Okay, Lord,” as I exhaled and pressed “send”.  It was done.  The fear and anxiety of uncertainty left my body with that exhale, and I was overcome with a sense of peaceful calm and freedom!

I pursued a return to elder-care (which I quickly realized is a ministry in itself), and began a part-time assignment before my notice with BCBS was complete.  By the end of February, I had secured a steady position with a precious lady who I got to love right into the arms of Jesus!  She and I talked about the Lord and His Word, and I prayed with her often about her own fears and anxiety.  By the time she passed away a few months later, I had become great friends with her family, and even enjoyed a few weekends pet-sitting for them as well.

During this time, the Lord provided a laptop computer, and I was able to start writing again.  In September of this year I published my first book appropriately titled “Freed Bird”.  This is my personal story of finding freedom through forgiveness, but there will be more coming as the Lord has graciously delivered and released me from so many things.  All the while, whimsical odd jobs and “gigs” have come along, and the bills have miraculously been paid.

goat walking 2Since leaving the security of my corporate job last January, I have ministered to three elderly saints, enjoyed the love and company of dogs, and packed up a closing retail store for a friend.  I have fallen in love with the cute goat pictures being shared Facebook, so I had to smile at God while recently taking a pair of goats for a walk through the woods and down to the water’s edge.  This week I am helping a friend decorate her lake house for Christmas, and she is teaching me how to use QuickBooks, a skill that will come in handy when managing funds for our ministry.

This afternoon I will deposit an unexpected refund check, equaling a normal week’s pay.  I never know what the next “gig” will be, or what 2019 will hold for me.  But just as the Lord led the Israelites through the wilderness, providing everything they needed all along the way, I know He will provide as I follow Him blindly, submitting to His call to “go and tell” the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  I know that if and when He sends us out with the Prayer Tent, perhaps living the RV-life fulltime, He will also provide wherever that journey may lead us.

Friend, wherever you are on your journey, whether in the lush fruitful plains or the dry, desolate rocky soil of the desert, God is with you!  Whether you are nearing retirement, facing a layoff, or starting your own business venture – I encourage you to have faith and trust in the Lord!  For it is He who gives you power to get wealth… (Deuteronomy 8:18).

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,
and  ALL these things shall be added to you. 
Matthew 6:33