Aug
15

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God KNOWS what is around the next corner!

This next ONLY GOD story is written to encourage you:

1. GOD IS in the details!

2. God is with us in our pain and often wants us to walk forward in Hope, because He knows what is around the next corner!

3. God hears our prayers.

This next couple, they inspire me! They inspire me towards marriage, as I see them honor one another, enjoy each other and love God with all their hearts!

Now let’s  journey back to South Africa, over 20 years ago.

Meet two young couples: Dionne and Bridget van Zyl, and Greg and Michelle Haswell.

Both were married a few weeks apart and served on staff together at a local church in Pretoria, South Africa.

Dionne was later called to the marketplace, and while on a business trip in Germany encountered the presence of God in his hotel room. He took out his journal and wrote down the words “Atlanta” and “Georgia,” not knowing until later that those two words were even connected to each other.

Soon, it became obvious God Himself was calling Dionne and his young family to move to the US and specifically Atlanta, GA.

A few years after the van Zyls moved, Greg Haswell had a dream about “shifting continents.” It wasn’t clear right away what the dream meant, until after he, Michelle and their young daughter Nicole visited the van Zyls while on a vacation in the US. While flying back to South Africa at the end of the trip, Michelle turned to Greg and said, “It feels like we’re leaving home.”

It wasn’t long until they also picked up and moved to Atlanta, GA to start a church called Northlands!

Meet Lindsay

Lindsay is young, wise beyond her years, discerning and a generous spirit! One thing I know and love about Lindsay is her natural comfort on stage with microphone. And a little fact I just learned about her that DOES NOT surprise me; the girl preached her first sermon at age 15! Lindsay has spoken so much truth into my life, I admire her so!

Lindsay grew up on the coast of North Carolina and is the oldest of five children! Her family served at the same church for all of Lindsay’s childhood. When Lindsay was 19, their church merged with another church in town. That new church was affiliated with a group of churches, one of which was Northlands Church in Atlanta, GA

A year or two after the merge, Tyler (Lindsay’s brother) would meet his future wife Nicole (Greg and Michelle Haswell’s only daughter) at a conference at Northlands Church.

As Lindsay’s brother was falling in love in Atlanta with sweet Nicole, Lindsay’s heart was breaking alone in her dorm room just an hour north.  It was an (on again, off again) relationship that had ended with a guy back in NC, at the time Lindsay described the entire thing as horrific, more than just the relationship was lost, one of “those” where the pain just runs deeper for several reasons.

The kind of heartbreak that makes you question a lot about life!

Thankfully God knows the plans He has for us, plans to prosper us not to harm us! His plans are ALWAYS better than ours!

Nicole (Lindsay’s brothers girlfriend) encouraged Lindsay to emerge from her dorm room and come to Atlanta for the weekend. It was at the end of that weekend, Lindsay and Nicole ended up snowed in (note, it doesn’t really ever snow in Atlanta) at the van Zyl’s House.

It was at that house, alone in the guest room Lindsay says she felt the “the ties break off.”

She said, “The hardest part about a breakup is the amount of time it takes to get over it! I remember thinking all weekend, ‘I don’t have the strength for this. So many years wasted. Lord, how long will it take to get over this? I need to heal quickly. I don’t want to waste anymore time.’”

Lindsay walked out of that room and suddenly felt free for the first time in a long time. God had answered her prayer, right there, right then!

She walked around the corner and unexpectedly locked eyes with Bruce..…

Let’s pause and connect the dots!

Remember Dionne and Bridget from the beginning of the story, they are Bruce’s parents and also now elders at Northlands Church.

I KNOW, kind of complicated, but the amazing part is, it’s not complicated to God! He knew ALL ALONG!!!!

Back to the story, as Lindsay locked eyes with Bruce who was standing in the kitchen, she thought to herself  “Where have you been all my life”

Then, she quickly looked down shaking her head, “That was weird, no, no, that couldn’t be, I mean, it couldn’t be.”

She kept her newfound fondness of Bruce to herself for 2 months wondering if it was just a rebound situation. She wanted to keep her distance, BUT they “ended up” on the same team to plan a youth conference for Northlands Church.

Problem was Lindsay had convinced herself that Bruce couldn’t like her because he never flirted with her, not even once!

2 months later, Bruce invited Lindsay to coffee and she was freaking out, she had convinced herself he had found out about her crush (ON HIM) and that they could no longer be friends. Her stomach in knots, wishing she could teleport herself out of the very coffee shop.

Bruce started to talk, and very carefully describe how he felt about her. He was being careful because he was convinced Lindsay didn’t like him (because she had been so on guard about it!).

Pressed for time, Lindsay blurted out:

“Bruce, I want to be your girlfriend!”

Shocked at what just came out of her mouth, the few seconds that preceded his response felt like weeks.

He then responded with a smile, “Well that’s good because I want to be your boyfriend.”

2 years later they were married at (guess where!) Northlands Church by guess who Greg Haswell!

I love these two! I love this story! They are both hilarious. I often tell Lindsay, the stories she tells me about Bruce encourage me so much in knowing the kind of man I want to marry!

Thanks Bruce for being an inspiration to me by leading your wife in such a beautiful way

God knows what details have to happen in order to get us from here to there! He knew Dionne would have the dream and he and Bridge would to move to Atlanta. He knew Greg and Michelle would then follow to start Northlands Church. He knew Tyler would visit, meet and marry Nicole. He knew Lindsay’s heart would break, He knew she would be stuck at the Bruce’s house in a snow storm (IN ATLANTA- where we don’t have snow storms). He knew He would answer her prayer to “heal her quick” so that when she walked around that next corner, she would see her future husband for the first time!

Yes, God knows! So Let Him write your story!!! He knows what is next in your life too!

!


Aug
3

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Help! By Stasi Eldredge

Below is what the blog world calls a guest post (this is my first “guest” to stop by my blog) and I couldn’t ask for a better person honestly! It was Stasi’s book Captivating that opened my heart to the real tangible love of Jesus Christ just this past winter. It was seconds before something would happen that would test my faith to the core.

God’s timing is ALWAYS perfect… 

Stasi Eldredge wife of John Eldredge for all you dudes out there are both amazing writers, communicators and lovers of Jesus! Find more about them at Ransomed Heart Ministries 

Stasi and her team have been so kind to not only stop by my blog, but also give my readers (that’s you) the first chapter of her new book that launched JUST YESTERDAY.

The book called {Becoming Myself} is sitting on my couch, I just got it. I will dig in soon, I do hope you enjoy!!! {Putting the Pencil Down’s Only God Stories will return SOON!}

Now, Welcome Stasi…..

You’re not supposed to blog on Fridays.  Or so I’ve been told.  But I am not good at timing these things.  Nor at following directions as to what I’ve been told. The thing is, Friday or not, I need help.

So I reach for the Word and I look up references for “help” and God leads me to exactly what my heart needs.  I need to know that he will help me.  I am the man in Mark 9, asking again, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

“’If you can?’” said Jesus.  “Everything is possible for him who believes.”  Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.”

Psalm 18:6  In my distress I called out the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice, my cry came before him, into his ears.

18:16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters, he rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Psalm 30:2  O Lord, my God, I called to you for help and  you healed me.

Isaiah 40:27  Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Stasi, “My way is hidden from the Lord, my cause is disregarded by my God“?  Do you not know? Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

41:9  I called you.  I said, “You are my servant. I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; so not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

I need help.  Even if it’s a Friday.  I need help to believe that the issues in my life that I am tired of losing battles to are not disregarded by or unimportant to God.  I need help to believe that though I am ashamed of my failures, God is not.  I need help from my strong God to reach down and take hold of me, to rescue me from enemies and patterns of behavior and beliefs that are too strong for me.

I need to know that my God is doing this because he is good and he is mighty and because he delights in me.  My faithful God answers my cries for help.  He knows what I need.  I look again to him with faith, in weakness, unable to save myself, and I cry for help.  I look again to him who does not grow tired of me or my cries—to the One who has called me and chosen me and promised that he will help me.

And I feel my faith rise.  My belief.  My knowing that nothing truly is impossible for God—not ever changing, freeing, delivering, and helping me.

Jesus still says, “Everything is possible for him who believes.”  Living water has been sprinkled on my parched faith, my battered hope.  I cannot make my own heart rise, but this God, this Jesus, this faithful one—he reaches down and rescues me.  He rescues all of us again and again and again as we call out to him for HELP!

Each and any day of the week.  Even Fridays.  Thank you, God.  Oh, thank you.

Thank YOU Stasi for stopping by and for this 1st Chapter Becoming_Myself_Chapter_1 of your new book! We are thrilled to have you! We love visitors. 

Jul
4

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One year ago TODAY! Only GOD!

Meet Sarah!

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As the evening ended, this girl Sarah started to pray. I thought to myself, who is this girl?  Who is it that she LOVES so intimately, I mean I love Jesus, but I don’t know that I know Him like she does.

Honestly, hearing this girl pray made me want to go home stay up all night and read the Bible. I so desperately wanted to know who it was that she knew. She spoke of Jesus with such familiarity and admiration!!

I wanted to know Who and what she knew. So I started to come to every gathering she held, to every retreat she planned, I couldn’t get enough of her passion for God and Jesus. I wanted to know the Creator of the Universe like she knew Him! She would tell candid stories and speak such truth and teach straight from the Bible and I was shocked by this girl. Then I met her family and thought “Oh my word they all know Jesus like she does” I just hung around them every chance I got!

a little history…

About 10 years ago Sarah was engaged  and thought it was JUST WHAT GOD HAD PLANNED- including a ministry, money,  and “fame” all in the very name of Jesus!

But life takes turns and sometimes turns we least expect! Her dreams were suddenly shattered by a realization she came to while spending time in prayer with Jesus.  Trying to fight it with everything in her, she knew, it wasn’t right! Shattered and heartbroken, her faith was tested to the core. As Sarah has said, “God saved her from what she thought she wanted and gave her what she really needed instead, Himself in a deeper way”!

God used this very life shaking event in her life, for her good and His glory! 1 Peter 5:10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.….became her verse, and then became her ministry. He began to strip her from the identity craving she had defined by marrying a certain person and replace it with who she was IN CHRIST.

Her brokenness, she knew God was asking her to leverage this story for His glory and continue to wait well in the midst of “lack” and in the wake of losing everything. She was asked to speak on several platforms and guess what story the Lord wanted her to share! Not the one she “thought!”

Sarah threw herself into the arms of God and let Him direct her steps from there on out, although she wasn’t expecting a decade of singleness it was in that decade that her now ministry called Establish Her was born! Officially in 2008!

Pause on Sarah, Meet Josh.

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Josh on the other hand led a different life than Sarah, truly a wandering soul (which I can so relate) Josh, after many failed relationships, striving after worldly success and money, a deep family crisis that divided all he ever knew as love, found himself sitting on a tree stump one evening staring at the moon and cried out to God without anywhere else to turn. In 2008, Josh surrendered his life to and in the power of Jesus Christ.

Anyone notice how these two lives began a new chapter in 2008! #ONLYGOD!

From that very moment Josh sought Christ with everything he had. He began to fervently pray for older men as mentors. He continued to find his source, his conviction, and his healing in the person of Jesus. His successful marketing career in the corporate world was transformed by God into one in the non profit sector where he is the director of marketing at Atlanta Mission.

You see, timing and preparation are everything! Josh would not have been ready to meet such a gal like Sarah any earlier than he did. Sarah would tell you that she would not have been free to receive or trust his love any sooner than when God released her heart to do so. Ironically, they actually lived only 4 miles apart in the major populated city of Atlanta and shared multiple groups of friends.

Late spring last year Josh and Sarah both “ended up” speaking at this gathering, although in different months. Later they were connected but more out of a ministry heart than a “you should date heart”.

God knew!

So Josh and Sarah had coffee (one year ago TODAY!) to talk “ministry stuff”…

The very next week, a huge group of friends gathered for Sarah’s 30th birthday, Josh was on the invite list, but that wasn’t abnormal, it was a big party!! Sarah was truly not sure what she thought of Josh at this point but will tell you she was drawn to his presence!

God had a plan, because it was at this party that God allowed Josh to meet Gary!

Now Gary is the man you want to meet if you want to know more about Jesus. Remember, Josh had been praying for a Godly mentor.

Apart from Sarah even knowing, Gary and Josh simply connected over Christ and agreed to meet for biblical discipleship, the very next day. Hours every week they opened scripture together. Sarah never was the topic. Josh would take avid notes weekly as Gary would share his wisdom throughout the last 50 years of journeying with Christ.

 Technically, Josh began dating Gary before he ever dated Sarah! (which as Sarah thought back is exactly what she had prayed for)

God remembers ALL our prayers!!!

OH and did I mention Gary is Sarah’s dad? (I know CUTE)….

I remember sitting across from these two that “were not dating yet” thinking, this dude, he knows his stuff about non-profits, about social media, about marketing, about fundraising, hmmmm, this guy, he could really help Establish Her…. but I knew not to tell Sarah this yet, I didn’t want to freak her out!

 God was still waiting and weaving until the moment in August that would change everything.

God knew, God knew when Sarah was heartbroken years earlier that ‘this guy’ would come along. He knew because God puts us on this planet to accomplish what He wants accomplished, He knew Sarah was an anointed, gifted teacher of His Word, and He knew that her husband would have to be a humble but confident man who would help her steward this gift of God.

He also knew Sarah had to be broken, poured out, and single for longer than she had hoped but even she will tell you it was the best path! God, He knew, He knew He was raising up just the man. He knew what needed to happen in both of these individual lives in order for His purpose and their good. It is all about His kingdom advancing first. They had prayed separately, “Your will, Your way Lord”. Which is how we have to be… as hard as it is!

There is much more to this story and these two amazing people, a story only God could write and it is just begun as they are getting married this November! To read more about Josh and Sarah see http://ottdeyton.ourwedding.com/view/9639975701316041/34297430

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OH AND RE: Josh and Gary:  Josh and Sarah’s younger brother, Seth, have encouraged Gary to start a men’s Bible Study much like Establish Her but for men! Guess who is doing all the social media and website design on this one!!!! I love how God works! (I wish I could go, I love to hear Gary teach on the Word, but guys only) 🙁

Men Check Out www.hungryheartsbiblestudy.com

I asked Sarah and Josh what book they would recommend while in a season of waiting (waiting for a mate, a baby, a house etc…) and they said “Falling in LOVE with JESUS” so watch on my Putting the Pencil Down Page on Facebook as I am going to do a couple book give-aways of this book!

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