Here in Western Kentucky we are experiencing “much” snow. It is quite beautiful. So we are basically “hunkered in,” and I am reflecting on how I have been encouraged lately.
This past weekend I had the privilege of being with the ladies from Marietta, Georgia’s Mt. Bethel UMC. We were in Opelika, AL. It was a six hour drive for me, but was well worth the time. My friend, Jeannie Kay was to drive over from South Carolina and meet me there. Because of surgery a few days before, she couldn’t come. After some prayer, I decided to spend the weekend alone at the retreat. Maybe then I would actually focus on why I was there…to minister to others instead of focusing on myself. Little did I know the return I would receive.
The drive proved to be long with rain, but I prayed, sang, worked on my talks, talked with my brother on the phone. When I arrived the ladies welcomed me. With each session that we were together, we bonded. At lunch I got to spend some time with Kris, Jane, Janet and others. It was at that time that I shared some of my “insides.” What encouragement I received. They just listened, shared their thoughts and we moved on. But we weren’t the same, now. We had grown a little closer because of the vulnerability and acceptance. So many precious gifts were given. One sweet lady gave me a pair of earrings that I had been admiring in the bookstore (not to mention the bracelets and elaborate goodies in my speaker’s bag that I also received!) Among the gifts given, my favorite was from Janet. As we were saying our good-byes, she called me aside and basically told me to be faithful where the Lord had me…that He was using me right where I was. I don’t really want to be where I am right now. I am being stretched! But because of these precious women…I am seeing differently. I am not the same!
The drive home was sunny, beautiful. My contacts were drying out and fogging up from so much crying. The only way I knew to be able to keep them in and still see was to continue to keep them moist…keep crying! Ha! So during the ride home, I listened to a CD that I have had for almost a year, but had not carved out time to listen to it. It was a CD of my precious friend’s memorial service. His name is Hal Norton. He went home to be with the Lord last year around this time. It saddens me so to know that I will never see his sweet, round face again on this earth or hear his charming, southern gentleman’s voice again here, but as I listened to the CD, I laughed. “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion” said one of the characters from “Steel Magnolias.” I agree. Rev. Norton was quite a character, and in that memorial service, many shared about his joking and stretching them to be more than they thought possible. I remember that he wanted me to do a music recording and had asked me why I hadn’t done that. I told him that I didn’t have the money and I didn’t know if my heart was right. He said “I’ll get the money. You get your heart right.” He did, but I’m not really sure my heart ever was “right.” We did the recording. (Rev. Norton did tell me to do it!) I realized that because of Hal Norton in my life…I am not the same!
One other stop in Nashville on the trip home was to get in a quick visit with my friend Lisa Harper. She was the one who had recommended me to do the Mt. Bethel retreat. Lisa is also the one who wanted me to go para-sailing in Florida. (She always has “fun” ideas about what I can do!! I choose NOT to do the para-sailing.) I might add that she is the one who thought it would be a good idea to write a book. We did. She stretches me and is always encouraging me to be the best that I can possibly be. Because of Lisa…I am not the same.
Because of our Lord and His using circumstances and precious people in our lives, we can forever be changing…from glory to glory. I know He is doing a work in me…in spite of me…I am not the same!