Ava Maria

She was at her lowest point. Alcoholic. Bulimia. Questionable relationships. Her family and friends had called off the search team, and they gave her an ultimatum through fearful and sad tears. Her last direction from them was to see a priest. As she walked into the sanctuary, the carpet, the candles, and the smell of incense captured her senses, but the picture of  Mary with Jesus healed her soul.  It was in that moment she felt loved and accepted just the way she showed up–tube top, stilettos, smudged makeup, and a physical hunger from not eating in days.

“Mary is not what people think she is. She is what I needed. She is the hiding place I’ve been looking for. My parents sent me to the right place.” (Glennon Melton, Love Warrior, pg. 55)

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I know what you might be thinking. What about Jesus? Jesus is there. I marvel at the perfection of His love, and how he captures the attention of those who are desperate. God has used a talking donkey, the Red Sea, belly of a whale, Angels, and prophets to advance His Kingdom of love and mercy. As I’m reading this portion of my Love Warrior book, I’ve become desperate for Glennon.  I’m equally relieved that she has found a sense of belonging and acceptance.

We all understand this “love warrior battle” at some level, even if we question theology and religious practices.

Jesus is bigger, creative, and stronger!

In my earlier years, I would put so much effort in being something that would “get something”. If I act, dress, or do this, will I get that? I had convinced myself that “that” was the answer.  Much like Glennon, the sweetness of Jesus in the arms of Mary touched my life and began to help the unbecoming of my faulty ideas.

I lingered in this portion of the book.  The shame Glennon felt when the religious leader came to counsel with her gave more evidence of the true love of Christ.  He desired her to do things in order to “get something”. She was tired of constantly being sorry for who she was. Jesus saw the good in her. One will never know, but maybe the religious leader needed reassurance of his goodness and acceptance?

God is good to keep talking to us through our work. A few days later, a friend of mine shared that she had lost her father-in-law. I was deeply grieved for them and their loss.  As we began to talk about the service, she requested “Ava Maria” to be sung at the funeral. That is not an easy song on a good day to sing.  My bronchitis and lack of singing this song for years made me think–“I can’t do this.” God was insistent that I would.  Each time I rehearsed the song I thought of Glennon, and all of us, who desire  to be forgiven and loved. This way of love came through baby Jesus–our Savior.

As her father-in-law was brought into the chapel, “Ava Maria” was sung. His life honored and His soul wrapped in loving arms. He is complete. His total unbecoming glorified. I sang from a heart of imperfection and joy of knowing the Perfect one. It was not perfect, but my heart and soul was connected to the Spirit of love.

Glennon describes her life journey as the yellow canary in the coal mine–sometimes life is too toxic and you stop singing. I want to sing of His love. The opportunity to sing brought such joy to this canary who found her way into a coal mine of toxic stress. Singing again has brought peace to my soul. 

LATER IN THE EVE:  

Later tonight I received a text from my daughter who just had a baby. She told me that she really enjoyed the post, and that the picture of Mary touched her. “How?”, I asked. Her awe inspiring simplicity of heart profoundly shared:

“Like Mary would have done anything for Jesus. And Jesus has done everything for us! Jesus loves us where we are.” 

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted…Isaiah 66:13


I hope you can listen to my song. Thank you Jesus and my beautiful friend Krista and her family for the opportunity to experience this passion.

Audio:

“Ave Maria”

Ave Maria!
Maiden mild!
Oh, listen to a maiden’s prayer
For thou canst hear amid the wild
‘Tis thou, ’tis thou canst save amid, despair.
We slumber safely ’til the morrow
Though we’ve by man outcast reviled
Oh, maiden, see a maiden’s sorrow
Oh, Mother, hear a suppliant child!
Ave Maria

Ave Maria, gratia plena
Maria, gratia plena
Maria, gratia plena
Ave, ave dominus
Dominus tecum

The murky cavern’s air so heavy
Shall breathe of balm if thou hast smiled
Oh, maiden, hear a maiden pleadin’
Oh, Mother, hear a suppliant child
Ave Maria
Ave Maria

Golden Opportunities

When opportunities arise but doors are shut it’s natural to go into a somewhat desperate “What next mode?”  Mark Batterson, a pastor, spoke of two major doors that were shut–out of his control–that impacted the future of his church. He honestly spoke of the instant fear, but in hindsight it was God telling this body of believers to move.  What would you do as a pastor if the building you were meeting in decided to close its doors? How could you shuffle all those people, equipment, and find the space to continue God’s work? You’ll have to read how God fulfilled His promises!  Mark calls it a “golden opportunity”.

As I look back, I laugh at the fact that I was so scared when the doors to Giddings School closed. I even have the journal entry where I wrote that we had been “backed into a corner.” It felt like we had fallen into a pit with a lion on a snowy day. I couldn’t see a way out at the time.

And the same thing happened when I got a phone call informing me that the movie theaters at Union Station were shutting down thirteen years later. At first I was scared. How do you relocate a congregation that has grown into the thousands? Yet in the years since Union Station closed its doors, God has given us prime properties of our own worth more than $50 million. That’s unbelievable to me, and it’s no coincidence that it started with a closed door. Mark Batterson (https://www.bible.com/en-GB/reading-plans/2949-chase-the-lion-dreaml/day/4)

I read stories like this and wonder how strong my faith would be if I were faced with similar circumstances? Small irritations and inconveniences seem to get in the way of progress. We also seem to fold to the status quo when we’ve tried so many times to prevail. When a God-sized dream could never come to fruition because of  your practicality and looming disappointments. Oh, and it’s hard. Really hard.

In less than 48 hours, I kid you not, I’ve read my Bible app plans, blogs of interest, and God’s Word.  In those 48 hours, I’ve had random “speaking into my life” from friends, acquaintances, and family. All of these unconnected events have a common thread in which God has, at this point, written His message in the sky.

“Listen to God speak to you.” (a random text)

“Listen….” (another random text)

“It will happen. You’ll see how it just happens because of community.” (A conversation with a shop owner)

“Closed doors are opportunities. God’s greatest moves are pre-moves!” (Bible study and God’s Word)

“Closed doors are like the story of Joseph who was sold by his brothers into slavery but in the end God used it for good….” (A friend speaking into my life, the next day’s Bible Study)

After writing these connections it seems anticlimactic, because you can’t convey the thoughts and feelings in the moment, the timing, and the Holy Spirit’s voice inside your soul work . One text literally came to me the moment I stepped out of a meeting, in which, a decision needs to be made.

Golden opportunities.

I don’t know how golden you are feeling right now. Maybe you were chosen–you obtained the golden ticket!

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Maybe you feel like a character on the Golden Girls (I’m definitely the Maude type.)

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Or maybe it’s been a long time since you’ve felt like you’ve desired a golden opportunity.

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No matter where you find yourself in your station of life, God cares about your story, your dreams, and your disappointments.

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After much prayer, I’ve decided to offer a time for us to talk about our battles and learn how to live courageously.

Please check out this link for an opportunity:

http://shoutout.wix.com/so/2LSKeuzc#/main

 

Nana’s Coconut Cake

This recipe is from our Nana Reardon passed down to the generations and new brides setting up their favorite recipes for their kitchen.

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Ingredients

One box of your favorite Vanilla Cake Batter Mix, or you can make your favorite cake mix from scratch

Coco Lopez Cream of Coconut (1 -2 cans) depending how sweet you want it

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Frozen tub of whipped cream thawed

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Enough sweetened coconut to cover the top (approximately a bag)

Directions

Make your cake in a sheet cake fashion and let it cool

Poke holes all through the cake on the top

Pour your mixed Coco Lopez all on the top so it soaks into the holes

Cover top with the whipped cream

Sprinkle with coconut

I usually let it cool, but start the process when it’s slightly warm so the Coco Lopez can melt a little into the cake.  You can also heat the Coco Lopez if it’s “lumpy” prior to pouring.  You can sprinkle a little bit of coconut on top, or pour it on.  You decide!

This recipe will make your home smell delicious and tasting along the way is divine!

Refrigerate.  In fact, it tastes better the next day after coconut has had time to settle. We also like to eat the cake after the baking process –slightly warm.  You can’t go wrong with this recipe.

We miss you Nana.  Your love for cooking, family, and Jesus lives on in us!

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Are You Ready to Chase Lions?

Several years ago my husband and I led a Bible study with the college aged folks. The book was by Mark Batterson and it was called “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day”.  Great book. I enjoy my Bible App which offers 7 day reading plans emphasizing certain book studies or themes. I started a new one today called Chase the Lion by Mark Batterson, which is based on his book he wrote many years ago.  This is a good way to see if you would like to read the actual Bible study.

Picture a warrior dude in the snow, traveling to his destination, when a lion appears. The lion decides not to pursue, but runs. Most of us would be like “Whew, thank God I was rescued from that scary, life-threatening situation!” And, to be honest, some of us would change our minds on the journey–re think the present situation, and see it as a sign of some sort to abandon the journey.  This is too hard and too dangerous, I’m done.  Not this warrior named Benaiah.

Benaiah chases the lion into a pit on a slippery, snowy day and lets him know who is in control of his destiny–his journey.  This man of God knew that once you spot a lion it’s only a matter of time that he sneaks up on you again, maybe with more lion friends, and you’ve become dinner.  Benaiah knew to stop and take care of business.  No messing around.  He may come out with more battle scars and loss of limb, but no enemy was going to stalk and scare him.

“In every dream journey, there comes a moment when you have to quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. You have to go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. You have to go big or go home.  You have to take the road less traveled or settle for status quo.  You have to bite the bullet or turn your back on your dreams…….You can run away from what you are afraid of, but you’ll be running the rest of your life. Or you can face your fears, taking a flying leap of faith, and chase the lion!” (Mark Batterson, Chase The Lion Devotional App, Day 1)

Yesterday my 12 year old was reading her new devotional book for Woman of Worth Mentoring Ministries.  She paused and asked, “Mom what is divine intervention?” I find it as no coincidence that her question is found in my Bible study this morning.  As I explained to my 12 year old the difference between man’s doing and God’s miracles, I was encouraged and prayerful. I need divine intervention.

In my prayer garden this morning, I closed my eyes and imagined myself chasing a lion, but the lion was not an animal, it was my collections of fears and worries.  I can be busy enough to ignore or keep them at bay, but do I have the courage to flip the script and destroy them? Battle them in the pit.  Do I have the courage to believe that God’s plan for my life will unfold despite the reality I see in front of me. Can I chase the lion seeking to devour my children, family, and home and stand strong against the enemy.  You will not have my life in any area. You are done! Get out in Jesus’ name!

Wherever you are reading this post, I pray this over your home.  War Room is a great movie to change your prayer life and teach you how to chase lions.  Priscilla’s book FerVent is a must read for your prayer time.

The Color of RED

A recent baby shower turned into an amazing connection of beauty and hope.  I met a wonderful woman, Susan. As soon as I came into the home in which the shower was taking place, my eye caught a richness in the art displayed in the kitchen area. You knew right away that they were originals, and that someone took the time to paint the unique paintings.  I asked the hostess “who”, and she introduced me to her friend, Susan.  We began to talk about dreams that take flight later in life.  She enjoyed art and painting as a teenager and through the years, but it was not until she was about 50-60 years old that she took a class and took a hold of her dream. She is now involved in her community art center, and she paints on a regular basis–her joy! I shared with her some of my “late in life dreams”, and how the risk of exploring them has been invigorating.

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Previously, the night before, I had a vivid dream. In my dream, my pastor and his wife were talking to me.  They had huge smiles on their faces and kept saying things like, “Anna, you are ready.” “You can do this!”  They had samples of my work, and they kept encouraging me to move forward.  The dream was so real, and that morning I took a huge step towards my goal.

Meeting her after that huge step was confirming for so many reasons. We talked in-depth about our life, dreams, and feelings surrounding this area of risk-taking, and we had a kindred spirit.

Sunday, our pastor spoke a powerful message on the color red.  It’s bold and represents the love of Jesus and passion. He took a blank canvas, which to me represented new beginnings, and he painted a red heart with a cross.  He is not an artist, but took the risk to paint in the moment –publicly.

Passion and purpose are developed and lived out when we take a risk. Was it perfect? No!  The beauty of the imperfection made the painting priceless. I admire the works of great artists such as Monet, but something about my pastor’s painting brought greatness down to earth. It made it possible for all of us to paint on a blank canvas. In the midst of the crazy, unpredictable, and confusion, we have clarity.  We really do.

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God took this connection and work and gave me a word:

GOODNESS

Yes, it’s part of the fruit of the Spirit.  It’s one that gets looked over because more of us struggle with patience and self-control. Goodness abounds in you.  I can’t explain the healing in detail–it’s supernatural. I usually feel good about something or bad.  God is showing me how to live within the hard, or the bad, and still see His goodness.  He is showing me that I can speak and react in goodness despite the unfair or injustice.  It feels good.  Praise God!  It’s the color red–LOVE: (by the way, my daughter Victoria just sent this to me via text while writing this post)

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It’s simple and hard but freeing.  It’s the bittersweet.  It’s my Jesus in the eye of the storm.

Please check out this website for Susan’s gallery in Colonial Heights.  They have an open gallery night every third Saturday of the month for the community from 4 to 7.  Susan encouraged me and you to

“In your spare time between work, grand-daughter, life, etc. pick up a pencil and sketch or some cheap acrylics and slap them on canvas; it is really relaxing.”

http://sidestreetgallery127.com/

 

Worship with me:

In The Eye Of the Storm (this ones for you Jodi!)

 

 

 

 

A Dentist Appointment and Their First Date!

How they met! by Tom Lloyd

ARRESTED BY GRACE

 I had to post my dad’s comment:

Wow ! How did Louise and I Meet?I went to the dentist, and I saw the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. I didn’t have the courage to call her, so I called the dentist and asked him to talk to her about going out with me. I then called her and we had our first date.I remember going to the door to meet her, and then I jumped into my car and saw her standing in front of the car.I wanted to change the fact that I did not open the door for her, but she graciously open the door and got in.
We had a good evening, and I knew I had fallen in love with her the first time I saw her in the dentist office. She placed a bib around my neck and I looked into…

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Happy 59th Anniversary!

Today is the 59th Year Anniversary of Tom and Louise Lloyd, my parents. My Bible verse this morning was from

Deuteronomy 6: 6-7
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Thank you mom and dad for living out these verses! I wanted reblog a previous post from their 55th Anniversary. Looking forward to our celebration tonight!

ARRESTED BY GRACE

55 Years ago today Tom and LouiseLloyd (my parents) were married at First Baptist Church in Richmond, VA on Monument Avenue. 

Top 10 Things Their Marriage has Taught Me:

1.  No matter what you work it out.

2.  Learn to love each other despite differences, struggles, disagreements.

3.  It takes work and forgiveness to build a strong marriage, don’t give up on each other.

4.  Opposites attract and God uses those differences to support and encourage the relationship, and grow you individually.

5.  Put Jesus first and raise your children to love Jesus.

6.  Pray together.  Know that storms will come, and through prayer and faith you will make it through.  Don’t give up in the middle of the storm – push through, press on.

7.  Enjoy the journey and don’t sweat the small stuff.  Forgive daily and don’t keep a record of wrongs.

8.  You’ll always worry about money, raising…

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