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Standing holding hands on one side with a dear friend and on the other a new friend, I looked at the other women in the circle around the room. It was quiet. We were going to be led in prayer for God’s Holy Spirit to fill us anew, to relight dwindled fires in our hearts, to do whatever He sees fit to do. Our leader was walking quietly around the circle, sharing a few words, her voice low but strong. She paused in front of one woman and spoke encouragement to her, then stopped to pray with another woman who needed physical healing. I bowed my head, looking at the floor, thinking about all I had learned over the weekend.

On the first night, we heard stories of transformation, of lives that were changed dramatically by God’s love, changed so they could show Jesus to other people and live out their true purpose, changed to live in peace and grace.  I had struggled through the worship/singing time to focus on God because I’d been focusing so much during the day on my concern for my girls and their future with God.  

I’ve let go of that concern before (like every day) but that night it was as if I couldn’t do it. It was a heavy weight pulling down on my heart. I asked God why it was so hard this time and the answer was very clear: “You don’t trust me.” I felt terrible. God has done so much for me in the past, why don’t I trust Him more right now? I remembered a father in the Bible who brought his troubled son to Jesus for healing and when Jesus asked if he believed He could heal his son, the father replied, “I believe, but help my unbelief.” I prayed the same.

Saturday morning the lesson stung a little, too. As we sang songs, a friend walked over during the songs to hold tight to the young lady standing next to me who is facing some really hard times. I had been so caught up in myself I wasn’t thinking about other people hurting and needing encouragement. I asked God to forgive my selfish attitude. It’s not all about me, I remembered.

Sunday morning I was enjoying the songs and being with everyone, but still feeling a little distant from God, numb in a way. When the offer was given to come forward for several different prayers I walked to the front with others. I’m taking steps, God. I want You to help me be what You want me to be. I need You.

All these thoughts swirling in my head stopped when I felt a hand grip my shoulder and looked up to see the steady, unblinking gaze of the prayer leader. It’s important to note that I had just met her the day before, she didn’t know me. But, she was talking to me.  “You have a tender heart. You’ve been going through some things, feeling discouraged, sometimes like you even want to give up.” Whoa, I instantly realized it was not just this woman speaking, but God through her. “You may have even thought, ‘God, are you hearing me?’ And God wants you to know He sees you, He’s with you. Things are going to start turning around for you, things are changing.  You just worship and praise God with all your heart. Worship Him, trust Him. If you don’t see it right away don’t be discouraged, don’t look for it and ask ‘Where’s it at, God?’ just worship Him.” I was fighting tears but kept looking into her eyes that never looked away as she said, “I see freedom, as if things are falling away, off of you.” She took a step back, never breaking eye contact and gestured with her hand as if taking something down from my shoulder as she continued, “Some things aren’t turning out the way you thought they would, some things in your family need healing, relationships, some who you’re concerned over, comparing yourself to others, discouragement…it’s all falling away. You just worship and praise God.” 

As she walked away I bowed my head again, dissolved into quiet sobs. The strain, guilt, fear, pressure, and hurt was washing off of me, leaving me feeling so relieved and at peace. 

I felt such love and reassurance – God spoke to me. To ME. He KNEW I needed a sign of His presence with me, a tangible reminder that He’s trustworthy and always at work answering prayers, even those we can’t put into words.  And His message wasn’t a rebuke, it was an understanding and compassionate exhortation. Discouragement from ministry, concerns about the future, parenting, stressful work stuff, forgetting God’s acceptance of me and not having to earn His love…it had piled up and only God could move it for me, push it off of my heart, and help me up.

Since then, whenever fear tries to creep back in, I hear God’s voice saying all those lovely words again and I remember that moment. When I told my mom about it she said, “That’s your Ebenezer.”  In the Bible, after God had granted victory to his people, Samuel set up a stone and called it “Ebenezer: God has helped us,” so they wouldn’t forget. The words of an old hymn say, “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’ve come.”  I will never forget, God: You see me, You know me, You love me, and You have helped me.