The House Has A Name!

During Clay’s treatment, I wrote a blog named “Morning Will Come and I Will Stand on a Hill.” The following is a quick excerpt from that blog, which is one of the most powerful illustrations God has ever given me.

“Our situation makes me think of the Red Sea crossing. I imagine that as the Israelites were walking across the Red Sea and those towering walls of water rose up on both sides of them, they were probably filled with amazement and wonder. They were probably filled with joy and excitement at what God was doing.

But, every now and then, they must have glanced over at the millions of pounds of water, shooting up into the air, and the reality of the situation must have hit them hard. “We are walking on dry land, across the Red Sea, and at any minute this water could fall and crush us.” But they didn’t have a choice, did they? An army was chasing them, so they couldn’t turn around. They had to just believe God. They had to trust Him and walk on.

I’ve always imagined the walk across the Red Sea to be a joyful celebration, filled with singing and dancing and laughing.

But, now, my perspective is changed and I imagine that moment  differently.

I think it is more likely that they were rushing across as fast as they could possible go. They were probably filled with hope and excitement, but don’t you think they were scared, too? It was night and they were in a very dangerous situation. While God was showing them just how powerful He is, I bet they were really ready to get on dry land that was not surrounded by walls of water.

I imagine that they wanted that miracle experience to end as soon as possible.

And, it did.

It ended.

They made it to the other side.

Morning came. And, as they stood on that dry ground, they turned to watch as God completely destroyed their enemy.

Their enemy pursued them….all they way to his death.

I’m sure Pharaoh was laughing to himself and beating his chest in pride at the strength of his chariots and horses. He was probably telling himself that the people were wasting time running from him because he would surely catch them and kill them. Even as he charged ahead into THEIR miracle, he was filled with pride.

I wonder when it hit him that he was trapped in the power of God?

I wonder when he realized that his pride had led him right into the hand of God?

As the water crashed down on him and all his glory, the Israelites stood in a safe place and watched God utterly destroy their enemy.

If you’ve ever wondered why the Old Testament is important, I hope you can see the answer in this story. These stories in the Old Testament give us hope and they show us the character of God. They prove the power of God and the desires of God for us, His people. He loves us and He will stop at nothing to prove His greatness. He wins every time. Why can’t the enemy see this? I don’t know. Maybe he just doesn’t want to accept his defeat, but he is defeated.

Do you hear me, Satan??? You are defeated.

Do you hear me, Cancer????? You are defeated.

As Clay and I walk across our Red Sea, there are times when I notice the walls of water. There are times when the roar of the water is so loud in my ears. There are times when I want to panic at the thought that those walls could crush us at any moment.

But, then, I turn and see my arrogant, stupid enemy. I see him rushing into the middle of OUR miracle and I am filled with excitement to finish this crossing.

Because I know that morning will come!

And I will stand on a hill…just in time to watch the waves crash down on my enemy. God will utterly destroy him and he will be washed away in the current of God’s power.

We win.

God wins.

And, we get to stand with Him and watch as His power is displayed and His glory is revealed. Amen.”

When I was working out the details of the purchase of this beautiful house in St. Francisville, I was expressing my heart to my dear friend, Kayla. I want this place to be a place of surrender, healing, and hope. I want people who come here to leave triumphant and filled with endurance. My prayer is that those who are crossing a Red Sea, will come to this retreat center, and gain perspective to believe God that their enemy will be destroyed.

My words reminded Kayla of the blog you just read. She sent me a text the next day that said, “What if you named it ‘The Hill’? Morning has come and you are standing on a hill.”

EEEEEEEPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!

I immediately knew that was it. That is the name. “The Hill”!

First – this is MY hill. This is my moment to stand on this proverbial hill and watch my enemy destroyed as the waters close. He wanted to hurt me, destroy me, ruin me, demolish my family, crush my dreams, take my joy. But, instead, this retreat center is happening and God is going to receive so much glory for the great things He has done for me! My enemy is destroyed, and I will sing songs of praise to my God!

Second – this is YOUR hill! Those of you who will come here. This will become your hill, too. You will enter this property with heaviness, questions, doubts, fears. You will most likely be living in a moment when the walls of water are stealing your joy. The fear of millions of pounds of water crashing on you will likely have you gripped with fear. But, oh my friend, you will leave with confidence. You will leave with hope. You will know that your morning is coming, and your view from the hill will be glorious. Your enemy will be swallowed up and washed away just as the sun rises!

I am so excited about this!!! I’m bursting with joy at all of these words I’ve just typed. God is so wonderful. I LOVE the name. I LOVE the way God revealed the power of this imagery to my soul. I LOVE what He is doing.

You may also remember that the morning after Clay died, I wrote a blog called, “Morning Has Come.” I had just gotten our family pictures back from Ashleigh Jane Photography, and I didn’t even realize that we had taken this picture of all of us standing on a hill together. It was so precious to me in that moment when God spoke the words to me, “Morning has come.”

I knew we would be okay. I knew that in that very moment my enemy was destroyed. Death had no sting. The grave had no victory. Our morning came. And, though Clay was in heaven and the four of us were still here on earth, I knew that God had delivered us from our enemy. His plans were destroyed. His weapons were disarmed. God held the victory and Clay received his reward.

If you are reading this tonight, and you are in the midst of your Red Sea crossing, I assure you that your morning will come, too. The night can seem so long. The waves so big. The crossing so treacherous. But, He promises that morning is coming. If you keep your eyes on the pillar of fire, and finish your crossing, you will climb the bank and ascend to your hill. And, that view will be one you will never forget.

Thank you for praying. Thank you for following my story. Thank you for your love and support. I can’t contain my joy for what God will accomplish through this place. And, I sincerely hope you all get to be part of it.

I love you.

The Hill at St. Francisville

Far Beyond All That We Ask or Think

There are two words that have been surfacing in my vocabulary over the past few years on a very regular basis…

“Far Beyond”

What do those words make you think of? They are important to me because of Ephesians 3:20-21,

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” 

One version says, “far beyond all that we ask or think…”

You see, before May 3, 2016, when my sweet husband, Clay, was diagnosed with Glioblastoma, my life was so normal. It was wonderful and filled with blessings, but it was normal. And, somewhere, deep down inside of me, I always knew there was more. I knew it. I yearned for it. For what? What was “it”? Good question. I had no idea. I just knew there was a deeper purpose in me. I knew God was preparing me for more. 

And, now, after quite a journey, I can see it clearly. I can see the purpose in the pain. And, I want you to be part of it. God is writing a beautiful story and I believe He intends to use it to heal believers who are suffering the pains of this life and need help understanding why God has allowed them to hurt.

Back in July of this year, I had been dealing with another really difficult situation that I had to keep very private. It involved another person, so I couldn’t share the details of what was happening. I was holding it all in, not letting hardly anyone see what was really happening, and I was crumbling. I felt the beginning of a spiral and I could feel the devil taunting me with thoughts of depression, and even the idea of quitting. 

I reached a place that King David knew well, but not that I had never actually experienced, yet. 

I found myself crying out to God for mercy. I opened up my Bible to Psalms and I found David giving words to my feelings…

“To you, O Lord, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy:” (Psalm 30:8)

“Let your mercy come to me that I may live…” (Psalm 119:77)

“Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt.” (Psalm 123:3)

There are more, but you get the point. I was there, y’all. I was telling God that I wouldn’t make it if He didn’t step in and show me His mercy. And, not only did God so kindly allow me this moment to pour out my heart to Him, but He heard me and answered my cry.

Within just a few days, I was reading my Bible and praying, and I heard God speak to me. There was a dream in me that had been there for a long time. I hadn’t really buried it. It was just untouched. I had laid it to the side while I was working through my own healing. But, God pulled it up in me really quickly and gently.

And, He told me, ever so clearly, that it was time. “It’s time?!?! Now?!?! Now, when I’m crying out for mercy?! Now?! When I’m at the end of my rope?! Now?!?!”

“Yes. Now.”

The dream? A retreat center. A place of healing. A place of surrender and hope. A place where people can come to meet with God in their greatest time of need, and leave healed, helped, full, and ready to be used by God. 

So, I opened up Zillow and started looking. My first thought was to find a place in Mississippi. You know how pretty it is just over the state line? There are beautiful farms and country homes. I wanted something close enough that I could be there often while maintaining my life, church involvement and work in Baton Rouge. Y’all, I heard God say St. Francisville. He literally just dropped those two words into my spirit and I knew to look there. 

So, I changed my search – “St. Francisville, LA”. I found a few houses that were lovely and would have accommodated a lot of people. Then, I noticed this huge roofline in a picture of a place called “The Victorian”. 

As I clicked through the photos, I could easily see that this location had been used for a venue – probably weddings. It was huge and beautiful. The property was 10 acres and had a lovely pond in the front. Wow. It was gorgeous. 

Again, I heard the Lord….”Go look at it.”

So, I called my dear friend, Danielle Musso, and the conversation started something like this,

“Danielle, this is way out of my reach, but I feel like God is telling me to go see it. Maybe I’ll just leave with some good ideas. Do you have time to take me?”

She was perfectly willing, and we were both excited about just spending some time together. I was nervous to tell her more about my dream because it felt so unattainable. But, she was happy to listen and to show me the place. So, Danielle, my dear friend Kayla and I went for a drive.

The Victorian was the very first place we visited. Y’all, it was the very first place I even looked at, and now it’s mine. It’s so crazy and overwhelming to think about that moment. I got out of the car and all I could think was, “This is impossible.” I honestly just enjoyed walking around and viewing it. The house was built in the 1800’s and has been very well kept. Old pine floors, gorgeous fireplaces, 6700 square feet of living space, a hidden 3rd floor and a widows’ peak. It was amazing. 

But, it was far out of my reach and I couldn’t imagine owning it. I submitted some questions to the owner that day and he answered me within hours. He and his wife bought the house 13 years ago to be a wedding venue. They had obviously put a lot of money into it, but they had changed their minds and decided to just retire in Baton Rouge. Within a week, I asked to see it again and the owner met me there himself. I shared my story with him and told all about the work God has done to heal me from grief. I shared my dream to create a place of healing for others. He was so supportive and encouraging. I could tell he genuinely loved the idea of the house being used for such a good purpose.

So, the negotiations began. I actually made my first offer for the property on September 12, which was the 3rd anniversary of Clay’s death. It was a sweet blessing from God and it made that day so special for me. 

Every time I spoke to Danielle, it felt like an out of body experience. Especially when we met on November 13 for the closing. The generosity of the current owners and the favor of God were fully on display through this entire experience. It was a complete miracle that God allowed me to purchase this property. I feel like He gave it to me.

Danielle and James were our realtors. They did a wonderful job! Drs Prem and Velma Menon were the sellers. It was a joy to get to know them through the process.

After the paperwork was signed, we posed for a few pictures, and Dr. Vemla Menon came over to me. With tears in her eyes, she spoke the most beautiful words over me. She told me that she saw me as a tree planted by rivers of water and that much life would come forth out of the work that God is doing. She told me that she believed the house was always mine. That God always intended for this to happen. Y’all, I was crying so much. I couldn’t control it.

There was such a sense of relief in me. That moment was a culmination of so much that God has spoken. So much that He has done. He brought me here. I couldn’t have made it to this place without Him literally carrying me so many times. Grief wanted to swallow me. The devil wanted to kill me. Death wanted to take me out. Depression wanted to suppress me. Loneliness wanted to paralyze me. 

But, God won. He delivered me. He heard my cry and showed me His mercy. His lovingkindness and His deliverance rescued me! And, His love worked purpose into my soul. A purpose that I can’t escape. Believe me. I tried. I’ve tried a few times to tell God that I want to do something else. I considered going back to my business career. It was easier. But, I can’t. He won’t let me. He has a work that He needs to accomplish and He has made me part of it. 

Y’all! That is so incredible to think about. God needs you. He designed His plan to be dependent on you. For the world to see His glory, He needs a glorious church who will live by faith. We get to live our lives for His glory. And, the lost can be saved when they see God at work in and through us!

So, I plan to tell you much more over the coming weeks and months. For now, I’ll answer a few questions I’ve received a lot…

I am not planning to move there right now. I have no idea what this will all look like in the end. Right now, I’m focusing on some slight renovations and furnishing the house. It will sleep 25 immediately, and 32 after a little work on the 3rd floor. There is room in some detached buildings to house at least 30 – 50 more people. God will have to make a way for all of this to get finished, but I believe He will do it. 

Most of you know that I am simultaneously working on my first book proposal with Proverbs 31 Ministries. God will have to do some miracles there, too, but He is able! The book I am writing will be a foundation for the teaching at the retreats I will offer. 

I have named the house. I hope to write to you in the next few days and share the name and the significance of it. I know it is straight from God.

I do plan to offer the house as a wedding and event venue. It would be an amazing location for an outdoor concert or prayer rally. I can see so many possibilities for ways to use it for God’s glory. I can’t wait to tell you more.

And……I haven’t quite decided what I will do with the foyer. It’s been fun to see your very strong opinions. And, really, it just makes me smile to feel like you are in this with me. Even though it might just be a simple comment or “like” on social media, every time you respond, it makes me feel tremendous support. Thank you for that. The devil likes to remind me that Clay is gone and I am embarking on this huge project “by myself”. So, your friendship, love, prayer and support mean so much to me.

Y’all, this is God’s house. It is His ministry. It is His testimony. It is His desire. I’m just the vessel. 

My prayer for you today is that God will fill you with faith. Faith to believe for the impossible. Faith that takes action – even when you are terrified. Faith that can see the future – even if it’s a little blurry. Faith that is willing to lay everything down for this cause. 

Live your life for the glory of God and trust Him to do “far beyond” anything you could ever imagine. That’s who He is…..the God of “far beyonds”. Let Him prove it to you.