“Mom, I’m hungry. Let’s go eat.”
Chuckling, as I turn around . . .
Wait. What? Seconds pass before I comprehend that both of my daughters are in the hotel room. How’s this possible? I walked into the room with one daughter, Christy; her twin should be in Texas.
“Surprise!” Giggling in unison.
“Carolyn! What are you doing here?!”
“Oh, I thought mother-daughter time would be fun!”
“I can’t believe you flew all the way from Dallas to spend an evening with us.”
“Mom, I’m going to the women’s retreat with you.”
I’m speechless. Carolyn hasn’t been to church or any faith-based event in years. She became a Christian as a preteen but began struggling with her faith in college. Unhealthy relationships, health problems, and an unplanned pregnancy are just a few of the challenges that pushed her onto a path of stressful self-sufficiency. Could this be the weekend she finds peace?
Our evening is spent with good food, laughter, and tears. I fall asleep listening to them whisper and giggle like little girls. My little girls.
Our drive to the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville is filled with discussion of marriage issues, job challenges, and ways to change the world. My mother’s heart wishes I could freeze time.
Driving these mountain roads reminds me of my childhood home in the hills of East Tennessee. Curves and dips imitate a drunk snake, and I think the twins are getting motion sickness.
Brochures cannot capture the beauty of the Cove. Breathtaking is inadequate to describe its splendor. There’s also an aura of reverence surrounding the property. I’m standing on holy ground.
I honestly feel like a little girl again as I inspect the gardens, the conference center, and our room. Lord, thank you for the blessing of sharing this time with my girls. I can hardly wait to see what You have in store for us this weekend.
Anticipation pulses through my veins upon entering the worship center. Christy introduces us to so many of her friends, I can’t keep up with their names. I’m so happy she has such a wonderful group of believers with whom she can grow in her faith. As she introduces Carolyn to a gentleman, Carolyn discloses that she hasn’t been to church in nineteen years.
“Wow, you’re definitely going all in, aren’t ya?!”
Walking away, Carolyn asks, “Christy, who was that again?”
“That’s my pastor.”
Carolyn’s face flames bright red, “Oh no, I’m so embarrassed.”
“I think it’s hilarious. Nothing like getting secrets out in the open to the preacher.”
Service begins as we sing, “Who am I that the highest King would welcome me? I was lost, but He brought me in . . .” Suddenly Carolyn collapses against me sobbing.
I just hug and rock her as she sobs.
The service continues with worship, praise, and the sharing of God’s Word. Carolyn alternates between crying and singing. When the service ends, the three of us sit holding hands as Carolyn struggles to talk.
“I came here this weekend because I need help. I need to come back to God, but I don’t know how. I need to be a better mother to Collin. He’s struggling terribly, and I know I need strength to help him through the terrible depression he’s fighting.”
Our teardrops mingle as they splash on our hands. I cover my daughters in prayers and kisses. Walking back to our room, a stirring in my spirit whispers, “Her heart of stone is softening.”
During the next morning’s prayer session, I try listening as Carolyn speaks with three prayer leaders. She’s trembling as incoherent sounds tumble from her soul.
Lord, restore her fellowship with You. Revive her soul. May she know your joy and peace again.
Hours pass following the prayer session before Carolyn shares her experience, “I’m the one sheep Jesus rescued after leaving the ninety-nine.”
That’s all she had to say. Joy and gratitude blend within my shouts of praise. Years of prayer have been answered. She is now equipped to face the darkness ahead.
“What do you think? If someone has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go and search for the stray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over that sheep more than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray” (Matt. 18:10-13).
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Matt. 10:11).
For those of you who feel far away from God, He is right beside you. Fall on your knees and talk to Him. Confess your sins and failures and ask Him for restoration. God promises in First John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
If you are uncertain that you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, please reach out to me through the contact section of this website. I will be honored to pray with you about your relationship with God.
For those of you praying for loved ones – never stop praying – no matter how hopeless their situation may be – no matter how many years it has been – never stop praying. During times when I wanted to give up, the Lord reminded me that He loves my children, my husband, my family, and my friends even more than I do. He will not stop pursuing them until they return home.
Never give up.
“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:17).
“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
TO ALL OF MY READERS, MY PRAYER FOR YOU:
“Now, may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus – the great Sheperd of the sheep – through the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with everything good to do his will, working in us what is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Heb. 13:20-21).
Kathy Garrett McInnis