Since moving to Southern Barton Heights, I have more anniversaries than I ever thought I could. So many memories. So many reasons to PRAISE GOD!
So many reminders that…
- God protects us.
- God is in control.
- there’s power in the name of Jesus.
- there’s healing in the name of Jesus.
- God cares for every. living. soul.
- obedience is key.
- Jesus is the Word that became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. (John 1:14 MSG) and…
- as Jesus Followers, Louis and I are called to our neighborhood.
- being a Jesus Follower isn’t the safest place to be on earth and IS absolutely the safest place to be…all at the same time!
- and…it’s totally worth it!
This week is another ‘anniversary’ that I will never forget! This time 6 years ago, Louis and I had been out like maybe 5 times in 4 weeks. So, we barely knew each other, and I wasn’t quite sure that I liked him…until January 26th – the date when I met Louis’ friends. That’s the night I decided I liked him. It was following weeks that I learned I really needed to consider him seriously. The next night, Frank got shot 9 times outside my back door and a bullet came in the house. Much to the surprise of everyone, Louis came back! Never hear this story? or want to hear it again, keep reading and check out the links below. If you are wondering where we got the name of our ministry Into The Neighborhood, read these links for that story, too!
This is the first song I heard this morning, while I was busy cooking breakfast for Louis and me. I was reminded again, that Frank is only alive today because he called on the GREAT NAME OF JESUS. As tears rolled down and dripped in the bacon, I praised God for his goodness, his healing, his tender loving care. It took me back to that night…. January 27, 2008 at 8:30pm when Frank was shot 9 times – right chest, left shoulder, left thigh, right hand and 5 times to the gut. The night that Louis and I met Frank we also gave him first aid. By the time the paramedics arrived that night, Frank was only breathing once a minute and had no pulse. I assured him that we weren’t leaving him. I prayed with him and shared that there was power in the name of Jesus. And if he called on Jesus’ name, he would be healed. Frank couldn’t talk at that point, but he did grab my thigh. I knew he was all good. Just as the lyrics say….”Sick are healed, and the dead are raised. At the sound of Your Great Name” (Rest of the lyrics are at the bottom of this post.)
This is what Louis and I were doing 6 years ago this week. Happy Reading!
Your Great Name Lyrics
Performed by Natalie Grant
Lost are saved; find their way; at the sound of Your Great Name
All condemned; feel no shame; at the sound of Your Great Name
Every fear; has no place; at the sound of Your Great Name
The enemy; he has to leave; at the sound of Your Great Name
Jesus, worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us
Son of God and man you are high and lifted up; that all the world will praise Your Great Name
All the weak; find their strength; at the sound of Your Great Name
Hungry souls; receive grace; at the sound of Your Great Name
The fatherless; they find their rest; at the sound of Your Great Name
Sick are healed, and the dead are raised. At the sound of Your Great Name
Jesus, worthy is the Lamb; that was slain for us
Son of God and man; you are high and lifted up
that all the world will praise Your Great Name.
Your Great Name.
Redeemer, my Healer; Lord Almighty
My Savior; Defender; you are my King
Redeemer; my Healer; Lord Almighty
My Savior; Defender; you are my King
“…for I know you well, and you are special to me. I know you by name.” Exodus 33:17
Wow! I think about branding and marketing. How we all know the swoosh of Nike and the golden arches of McDonald’s, right? And if you hear the term Shaq, Tiger, Cher, Madonna – there’s no second guessing who they are. Now…I hesitate to write this…because I nowhere near compare to the people of this popularity or status. No way! But, it is humbling when people don’t know you or your story….say….”OH…so YOU’RE Miss Marti!?!?!” Who knew?? It’s happened a few times lately. Most recent was a teacher who is new to JM (John Marshall High School). I met her recently at a dinner party in the community. She shared how one of her students told her at the beginning of the school year that she used a phrase was like something “Miss Marti” would have used. Again…who knew?
I tell this not to brag or point toward myself. I share this because it is humbling and scary….to know that what I am doing really makes an impact. What I say…how I react….how I act IS in fact being noticed…..whether it is good or bad. OUCH! I need to step up my game….for real. I confess that I lack in areas of patience, tolerance, and sometime grace and mercy. Thankfully, Louis makes up where I lack…in spades!
So…I need to step up my game….for the sake of my witness…AND because God knows me better than anyone. He knows not only my name, but my heart. And that can be much worse than the outside!
God forgive me…and thanks for sending me Louis and using him to teach me patience, tolerance, grace and mercy. He models it better than most! Amen.
there was a single 40+ year old woman who wondered if she would ever get married….
Yesterday was the 3rd Anniversary from when I married the other half of my pair, Louis. And it’s also the 4th Anniversary from the first time we spoke…on the phone. Time and time again, Louis and I have told this story of how we met. We try to tell it quickly, because we don’t want to bore the asker or monopolize the conversation, because the whole story could very well take all evening!!! LOL I laugh, but it’s true. But, to leave out the details would not be honoring to God, because that is where you will find God….in the details. And…I HATE details…usually. But, He loves the details of our lives. In this story, I love the details.
During Lent a couple of years ago, I started documenting the story of how I moved into my community and my life since, including the events leading up to meeting Louis. If you want the details of the story, start reading here (click the links), The Chair, where I begin telling the story and read forward to Don, Luke, Jesus & Marti, and SWF Seeks Other 1/2 of Pair, Be Still., Just for my friend, Jeanine…, For Melissa, Michelle and Jeannine….the list grows :) , in honor of Judy O’Hara and Change of Heart…Just in Time. The story picks up at 4 months after I moved into my community.
Louis and I need to practice telling it a lot quicker, but yet still glorifying to God…so let me start here, for those of you who don’t like the details. :)
I was in my forties and wondering if I would ever get married. If it was in God’s plan for me. After Don Coleman gave me a scripture, Luke 10:1-7, my prayer changed from a future husband to “the other half of my pair”. Friends were praying with me. (As a matter of fact, there are several friends that I still pray will meet their other half!!! I haven’t forgotten!!!) God used so many people in the process.
OK. I have written that paragraph over and over again. I can’t do it! Can’t leave out the details!!! I give up!!! So…you will have to read it from the blog! But, I do want to point out some of the things I learned…
- God loves the details in our lives. Don’t be afraid to share them with Him. Nothing is too small or too big for Him. He works in the details. Don’t overlook them. Actually…watch for them!
- God uses other people. If you feel the nudge to talk or do something, pray about it. It just might be the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Then, do it. If people weren’t obedient, they wouldn’t have been part of the story and witnessed God’s movement. God would have just found another way to get it done. He doesn’t HAVE to use us. He chooses to use us. He chooses to allow us to be part of His mission. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that!
- Pray specifically and radically. Yes, I gave God a deadline…I want to meet “the other half” by the end of the year. Some people think that is crazy or bossy. Whatever. I just call it praying specifically. Praying the what seems impossible is praying radically.
- Don’t be afraid to ask others to pray with you. Find a couple of people you trust to be transparent with your “stuff” and ask them to pray expectantly. Then, watch God move.
- Remember…sometimes, it takes time. It took 2 years since I prayed the first prayer!! I know some of us are waiting longer than that for our prayers to be answered. There are prayers that I haven’t gotten the answer I want yet. But, He hears us and He answers us.
- Read the Bible. Meditate on His Word. See what God says to you through it.
- Make time in your busy schedule to read the Bible, meditate and pray. You gotta get still and quiet to hear His voice.
- People watch you and your behaviors. We were very conscious of that especially while dating. Louis didn’t spend the night…EVER. The kids especially watched for us to slip….expecting us to have sex before marriage, which we didn’t. You probably want to know how we know. Well…let’s just put it this way. They asked. A LOT. They would try to “catch us”.
- I don’t fully trust God, but I am learning to trust Him with all my heart, soul and strength. Still a work in progress. But, this, along with many other times, reminds me…God is in control. I just need to follow his leading and be obedient.
- Regarding marriage: Lots of people go into marriage thinking…”If it doesn’t work out, I will just divorce.” I never thought that. Divorce is not an option for me. Marriage, for me, is for life. (I know…there are reasons!!!) But, Marriage is WORK! Dating is WORK! From the beginning (OK…the 2nd date), I chose to just be myself. I wasn’t going to play any games. I thought, I need to be real. This is who I am. No, I didn’t dump all my stuff…my baggage…in the first month. That would have scared him off, even though the bullets didn’t! Some ask me if I felt like I ‘settled’. No. God told me His plan. I just walked obediently. Now, 3 years later… is it hard? You betcha! No doubt! For some short moments, I feel like it’s not worth it. It was so much easier being single! But, as Gary Thomas asks in his book Sacred Marriage… “What if God designed marriage more to make you holy than to make you happy?” Yowza. That ALWAYS stings a little…ok…A LOT! Marriage is a ministry. Louis and I (with God) are one, yet a pair. We are individuals with our own likes, dislikes, passions, opinions, etc.
But, this I know…we have been called to serve the Lord together…through thick and thin, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse, and to love and cherish. In our whopping 3 years of marriage…we have experienced a little of all that…thick and thin, sickness and health, rich and poor, and better and worse. It’s teaching me how to love and cherish Louis…more than I do myself. It’s making me more holy. I confess…I have a loooong way to go.
Ministry can be hard work sometimes….and requires a little down time. That’s this afternoon…time to chill. Louis laid down on the floor for a few moments to stretch…and Wesley had to get right up there next to him. Well, the next thing you know…Louis is snoring…and Wesley is not far behind. I captured a few shots before Louis finally opened his eyes. Enjoy the pics of my 2 favorite boys in the world! Love ‘em both!!!
There has been a ton going on!!! We’ve been so busy that we really haven’t had time to blog about it! So, I will get you caught up….but in no certain order! Just random posts about what has been going on the last month! Although our calendar has been full of serving our community (and a few persecutions by some who don’t necessarily like what we are doing in the name of Jesus!), we had a awesome time relaxing with our family.
My aunt Pat (I call her Aunti Patti) came for a visit from Oregon in early July and stayed with us. On Friday night of her visit, we had a bunch of friends over so Pat could see them all at once. It was a wonderful time to catch up with long-time (note… I did not say OLD!!!) friends (and their kids who have grown up soooo fast!!!) who I haven’t seen in too long. Although, I hope that we will all do a better job of staying on touch! I didn’t get nearly as many pictures as I had hoped to!
In addition, my sister Rebecca and Nat, my nephew, came to visit! It was a great time of catching up with family! Louis and I even managed to take Nat and Madison (my local niece) to Water Country USA on one of those 100+ degree days! And…we managed to make it to our first Squirrels game….we won!!! And…we had chill time with family in Mom and Dad’s back yard. I can’t believe I didn’t get a pic of my sister!!! Argh!
Last Sunday, we also had a wonderful time of fellowship with The Walkers, who are long-time friends of Louis’ and missionaries in Panama, Brenda’s home country. We, again, had a gathering to provide Chris and Brenda an opportunity to share the work they are doing in Panama and Chris’ online ministry, Evangelism Coach. We had a great time meeting some new people, as we welcomed their friends into our home. We also had a special time of prayer for the Walker Family as they serve the Lord in Panama. (This time, I realized I got no pics of the kids…dag.)
OK….the last family/friend night….was in Charlotte, NC, Louis’ old stompin’ grounds. Right after he wrapped up his Math Degree (yes…I said MATH!!!) at Davidson, Louis served in a church across the street from Piedmont Court, one of Charlotte’s project. He and a friend, Richard, bought a house together and lived and served there for about 5 years. Richard lives in that same house and until recently, continued to serve that same community even though the projects had since been torn down and replaced with mixed income housing.
While assisting with his mom as she continued to heal from her knee replacement, Louis was able to reconnect with Richard. And on our last trip to Charlotte, I was able to meet his long-time ministry partner who I had heard sooo much about. Meet Richard…a man I have grown to love and respect….and appreciate for his sound advice. (And, Ladies…he’s single!!!!
We are sooo blessed to have friends and family who love us…and whom we love! Being in ministry can sometimes be tough…and discouraging…but, God has blessed us with wonderful, loving, and caring family and friends with whom we can fellowship…and just chill! We are glad to have done that…a lot…in July.
Louis LOVES to celebrate my birthday….more than I do actually. I love him all the more for it. My birthday conflicts each year with Memorial Day and/or the Greek Fest….falling either on one or the other. But, that’s OK. Because it extends my birthday usually for a week! Lots of little surprises along the way.
May 31st is my birthday…and this year…also Memorial Day. So, we had a cookout. Louis called it my birthday cookout; and I called it a Memorial Day cookout. We had a great time with friends and neighbors on a windy HOT HOT day!
I am soooo blessed with a wonderful, loving husband, fabulous community of family, friends and neighbors! Thanks for a GREAT evening! Love you all!!!
One of the birthday surprises was a new camera. Still learning how to use it…but enjoy them none the less. Maybe next year I will get photography lessons! LOL
I know….I’ve been kinda absent for a while…let’s call it a full month!!! I have left stories hangin’! Sorry about that! No excuses…just life gettin’ in the way! Ouch…just realized that my last real post was early May. That is B*A*D! So…let me get you caught up on our present lives and all of our distractions, then in upcoming days…I’ll take you back and finish a story or 2.
A lot has been going on lately, here in SBH and at M2H. Interestingly enough, on May 4th, I shared in Oh Happy Day! about what a great day I was having…and how the Lord had spoke… “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.” So…we get this clear message and we are feeling GOOD. Like we have our marching orders!
Then, WHAM! BLAM! ZING! out of nowhere….distractions hit. Why is it a surprise that we will be hit with distractions on the heels of a God moment?!?!? These distractions took the form of relational conflicts (yes, more than one….all at the same time!!!) where Louis was used as a sounding board and a peacemaker of sorts. In addition, a dear friend in Northern Virginia passed away. Louis gets sick as a dog. Poor thing was wiped out by a upper respiratory infection. Lastly, there has been a bit of conflict in our community lately…for which we are seeking prayers.
I won’t go into a lot of detail to protect confidences, but we have an AWESOME community!!! The residents of Southern Barton Heights are among the BEST ever! I have a sense of pride and joy when I look around and think about the many, many friends (dare I say family!!) that I have made…and the cohesive community that has formed and is forming even as we speak. I have lived here but a short 5 years….and Louis for a 1.5 years…and we know most of our neighbors up and down Barton and Lamb Avenues around our home. And…we continue to meet more! Louis and I have lived in a number of communities over the years and have experienced NOTHING like the sense of community that we feel here. I know more of my neighbors now than in all the other communities combined! I wouldn’t change it for the WORLD!
Although we may differ in our experiences, our opinions and our thoughts, for the most part, we respect one other. Now, there are some whose thoughts and actions differ GREATLY from where the overall community wants to continue to head and are NOT respecting others and are spreading fear, hate and distrust. But, we will continue to partner together and with the authorities to minimize these criminal and unlawful activities that we see and experience.
In addition, as reported on the news there was a multiple shooting just a block away, where 2 guys got shot at 4:30p on Friday, 5.28. Yes…that is 4:30 in the afternoon….when the kids are playing and riding their bikes. When people are coming home from work ready to start their weekend. When people are walking to the deli for something cold to drink. Thankfully, the 2 victims will survive! And…an investigation is underway.
Meanwhile, life moves on….the school year comes to an end. The H*O*T summer seems to have come early. The Stonehouse Pool in Battery Park is now open and a Memorial Day/Birthday cookout starts us out right. Pics and vids to come in the next post…
Do you ever have some days that are just better than others? I guess we all do! When Louis and I were in Austin for Verge 2010 we learned this song by the Aaron Ivey Band…Oh Happy Day! It’s not the Oh Happy Day that we have all heard before…but a new and different one.Oh Happy Day! Happy Day! You washed my sin away! Oh Happy Day! Happy Day! I’ll never be the same! Forever I am changed!
Celebrate! Jesus is alive!
The quality of the video isn’t the best…but take a listen….You will get the drift of it! While in Austin, we found ourselves jumpin’ up and down just like these kids were!
This is how I feel today! So, you are probably wondering why. I’m not quite sure, but I am going to process it here for a minute. I was just sittin’ here taking a break from work for a moment…looking out the window of my office and was filled with this sense of peace and joy.
Louis and I had scheduled our 2nd retreat for yesterday evening, which didn’t turn out quite like we thought it would, for we had planned to go back to Richmond Hill. But our friend, Marc came by for a visit, which turned out to be a wonderful gift from the Lord! As we sat and talked for hours, the Lord revealed much to us. Later, Louis and I decided to review our list of questions from our previous retreat (which can be found in Enjoy the Journey), and we had received answers or confirmations to many of our questions.
In a nutshell….our answers were centered around the verse…Matthew 6:33:But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
So…today, as I reflect on yesterday’s conversation, I look out the window and see how the birds are provided food and water. Sometimes the Lord uses nature to feed those birds…where the birds have to work and work hard for their keep. Other times…there are people like me who provide it through a feeder and a birdbath…making it really easy for them. Regardless, the birds…they get some food and water.
So, with Louis going half-time and my job coming to an end some time this year, questions come up like…how are we going to make money and pay the bills? Sometimes there is a slight panic (or not so slight panic!) that Louis needs to hurry up and find something to earn additional money. But, we have been sensing… “not yet”. Then, yesterday…the answer became clear! Seek ye first the kingdom! We need to do what the Lord has called us to do to seek the kingdom…not seek money or jobs…but the kingdom. Then Lord will provide when the time comes. We need to keep our priorities straight.
This thought then led me to when God provided manna from heaven for His people when they wandered in the desert. As Louis and I had our retreat in our own home, we listed the times just recently that our Lord provided for us in many ways….in surprising ways…to meet our needs….our “manna from heaven”.
Some folks like to say that the Bible isn’t relevant today…or that miracles don’t happen in modern times. But I am here to encourage you….THEY DO! We just have to be open to seeing them!
Marc, Louis and I were talking just yesterday….that our journey of faith holds many levels. First…we READ stories of faith and provision in the Bible…stories of those who have gone before us. Then, we HEAR the stories of our friends and families who tell of their faith journeys. Then…the sweet spot…the best…..is when you have your own stories to TELL!
If that isn’t worth shouting about…I don’t know what it! As Shirley Caesar and Marc taught me…”Hold my mule. I’m gonna shout right now!…That’s how I feel right now!…I feel like praisin’ Him!”
Swirl. That describes what is going on inside my head right now. Louis and I have been in a bit of a Swirl lately, but I think it’s going just a little faster after the last week. So much information, so many dreams and thoughts just swirling after 3 days at Exponential 10. It is good to just relax, play and laugh after such an intense time. Louis and I had an AMAZING afternoon at Aquatica yesterday. Then, after a light dinner we took a dip in the hot tub and sat by the pool talking about what was going on in our heads and hearts…unpacking a little of what is swirling. (We are having to do that a little at a time.) Now, today we are off to SeaWorld in a few minutes today. Shamu! Shamu!
So, you are probably wondering what is swirling around. Let me give you a little peek.
We stayed with a large group of friends from the Titus Institute of Church Planting, who Louis met a few years ago at the conference. So, most evenings we were able to hang out with other like-minded folks and talk about what we experienced. In addition, we also got to spend time with Wayne Krause, Louis’ friend and church planter from Australia. What a blessing it was to hang out with and chat with all of Louis’ old friends and getting to know some new ones as well. I enjoyed this as much as I did hearing people like Shane Claiborne, Francis Chan, Mark Batterson, Matt Chandler (We are praying for you, Matt!!!), Neil Cole, Alan Hirsch, Louie Giglio, Ken Blanchard, Efrem Smith, Brenda Salter McNeil and sooo many others!!!
Francis Chan’s story was one of the most moving and convicting for Louis and me. The video from the conference isn’t available just yet, but here is his sermon from Sunday when he discussed how the Lord has been moving in his life and the lives of his family recently. It is very similar to what he talked about at Exponential. I think many of us would agree that God is moving in a lot of us in a very similar way. Sermon: Surrender Listen to it and….welcome to the SWIRL! Let me know if we aren’t alone in this….what you are thinking…
Swirling with the Lord, Mart
For the last few months, I have been attending my church and Louis’ church. This morning was my first Sunday off from church since Lent started. It really got me thinking about the meaning of taking a Sabbath. Although I am so glad I went to church with Louis each Sunday, I learned that I missed my Sunday Sabbath tremendously.
When Louis and I first started dating, I did not start attending his church. As we got more serious, we also talked about what would happen once we got engaged and got married. The last thing I would want to do is offend him or his congregation. I was (and am) heavily involved in my church, Commonwealth Chapel. In addition, they have a Saturday night service. Since this service started, I quickly drew fond of the time and it became my regular worship time. It was the beginning of my Sabbath. My Sunday mornings became a precious time between me and the Lord.
After much discussion and prayer, Louis and I decided that I would continue to take Sunday’s off of traditional church. I know many of you might judge me saying…”You don’t go to church with your husband?” and “You’re a pastor’s wife?” ”Bad wife!” That’s ok…judge away! :o) But, my Sunday mornings were a form of worship, not just in the way most people would look at it. I am so grateful for our church family at Louis’ church for understanding!! And, we get to see each other about once a month when I attend there and we often do visitation together.
Knowing that I am home on Sunday mornings, Everett (the Gardna) started to visit with me as well. We would cook breakfast together, read the word and watch some Bobby Jones Gospel together on TV. We had “church” together just about every Sunday morning. (I am NOT advocating doing this as the only form of worship for any length of time. Yes…you CAN meet with the Lord any time…day, night, weekend, but there is nothing that replaces the fellowship of gathering together for worship!) Everett would eventually fall asleep on the couch, and the Lord and I continued on together. Sunday’s totally rocked! A true day of rest. In retrospect, it reminds me of the parable of the Lost Sheep. The shepherd left the other 99 to go after the 1. I was going after my 1….Everett. Then, my Sunday’s changed.
After Frank progressed out of ICU, Frank and I mainly spent Sunday mornings together. This allowed Vicky a morning off and Geraldine could worship at her church. Thankfully, Commonwealth Chapel has Saturday evening services. But, even if they didn’t…I wouldn’t have changed these moments with Frank for anything! It was just the 2 of us…no distractions. The first morning I went, Frank said something like it’s Sunday, are we doin’ church or what? So, each Sunday morning, Frank and I would spend time reading the Bible and discussing what it meant. Sometimes he would ask me to help him bathe, clean the blood out from under his nails, assist him in going to the bathroom….all kinds of personal stuff.
For some reason, he would rather me assist him than his nurse. Although it was awkward for me at first and I would resist big-time, the Lord would hear NONE of my excuses (and neither would Frank for, that matter), and I was reminded of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. I learned to perform these tasks with joy and love, and it became an intimate and bonding time for us. I learned what the Lord was modeling that day….service.
We talked about all kinds of things…getting real. Our pasts. Our lives. Our hopes. Our dreams. It wasn’t long before Frank was asking me about what was going on with Louis and me. I often wonder if he just wanted to get the subject and focus off of him and onto someone or something else. So, he too could see that Louis and I were “meant to be”. He also came up with my nickname…”Angel”, short for Guardian Angel. Through our talks and his conversations with others, Frank began to learn what God had done for him….how much God loved him and had a plan for his life.
As much as Frank understood and had truly accepted what the Lord had done for him, we talked about how life outside of the hospital would not be easy. When Frank finally got out, the pull of the street and his past and the realities and struggles of living a righteous life was strong. I have heard time and time again, that if you want to make a change…then you have to change your people, places and things. If you don’t…it is nearly impossible.
Well, we would learn what would happen when Frank didn’t change his people, places and things…