an angel in the night.
I woke up early one Sunday morning a couple weeks ago, before church, and decided it was time to sit down to write an already overdue blog. I wrote and wrote and wrote. It was one of those times where I felt like the words were just flowing, that God was giving me sentence after sentence. Sometimes I like what I write, other times I'm not so sure, but I trust God in it. This was one of those times where I actually really liked it and was excited to finally have something ready to send out. I read it through one last time before handing it off to Garth to edit. Last minute I decided I better do a final save. Bad call. Really bad call. I hit save and the screen went blank. Completely, totally blank. Certainly the back arrow would work and bring it all back up...nope. What about digging through old saved blogs?...nope. Nothing. I'll just say it - there were tears. Lots of them.
My thought process after that happened was pretty much this: why did that happen?! I'm trying to be obedient to God in writing like He asked me to. My time is so limited that when I do sit down to write, it's kind of a big deal - in my world anyway. So why did it go away and why couldn't I get it back? I walked away from my computer that morning and it's now been over four weeks since my last blog... maybe longer. I'm pretty sure in the blogging world that's not how it's supposed to go, but I couldn't make myself do anything about it.
I know no one is holding their breath or actually suffering from me not releasing any blogs, but I am. Because it's what God asked me to do, and one little setback from the enemy stopped me from being obedient. So here is my "getting back in the saddle" moment with God. My, "Satan you aren't going to win this one" moment. God woke me up early, told me to sit and write, and I'm supposed to go back to my original lost story about angels.
Take two (for me) of an angel in the night...
I think I've established at this point that I'm a big chicken. I wish I wasn't. I really, really wish that. It's not even a normal kind of chicken. It's the kind of chicken that requires army crawling under windows so no one can see you from the outside at night. Or the kind that physically freezes in odd positions when startled, strikingly similar to a fainting goat. (If you have never seen a fainting goat, do yourself a favor and Youtube it...you're welcome!) It's kind of funny, but at the same time it's not. And it certainly is tough to get much done when I'm in full panic mode. I need lots of light, blinds on my windows and a knowledge of exactly what's around me. So when we decided to move to Georgia and the house we found was surrounded by woods, with no blinds, I had to make a deal with God - I needed to feel safe. Woods are scary to a chicken, after all - there is a lot of opportunity for something to jump out. Likely it's only flying squirrels or snakes, but you just never know.
One day I was sitting in my chair in the middle of the yard, because that's where the sun hit and it's where I spend some of my best time with God. It's quiet and it's peaceful. And it's daytime, so I can be near the woods without being nervous. That day, I remember praying and asking God for something - some kind of sign to show me that I could feel safe here in my house surrounded by woods. And He answered that prayer. I looked out into the woods and grabbed my phone to snap the picture. What He showed me was a shield around our house - a kind of force field of protection. Some might call it a camera or sun flare, but I call it an answered prayer. An arch around the woods that told me God was listening and that He would protect me. I carry that promise with me every day and it's what has given me freedom in my home to feel safe and secure.
I tell that story because it's an important part of where I am now in dealing with my fear. Everytime I'm afraid, God shows me that He's there, He's in it and there is no reason to fear, just like He did that day in the woods. But there is still always that little bit of fear. It's a growing process that I'm still working on, and little by little I'm getting there. One of those areas of fear that He's working with me on is angels. I'm sure that seems random...I would guess most people don't fear angels or really even give much thought to them. I didn't (give much thought). Not because I don't believe, I believe in angels. I love angels - everything about them. But in one really random moment, it all of the sudden occurred to me that God might send me an angel in the night - and that kind of freaked me out. I mean, He had started to do some things in my life that I had never even given thought to before...so why not an angel? I decided at that random moment, that I was too scared to see one - like I get to make that call! So I actually asked God not to show me any. Really? Who says that? Who doesn't want to see an angel?! A chicken. Hi, I'm Janaé, the chicken who doesn't want to see an angel.
And then I remembered how God works in my life. You don't want to see an angel...looks like it's time to see an angel. I did a little panic dance in my head and tried to act like I didn't hear that. Does anyone else play those games, or is it just me? Like if I move on, God will say oh okay, you must know better than Me. Anyway, I knew what was coming so I braced myself and just kept praying God would not allow my fear to kick in. And then the picture in the woods would come to mind. He is always there, no matter where I am. Which is good, because the next thing I knew, I was in Seattle, Washington staring fear directly in the face. And I suddenly wondered...does that shield of God's from the woods travel?
Seattle, a bustling city where most people don't have a whole lot of time for God, is where I found myself for a 1-week outreach with Time to Revive and where my next big face off with fear occurred. April 2014. The week was hard and the people were harder, but there were also pockets of victories that gave us hope that God was moving in the hearts of Seattle. Toward the beginning of the week someone had shared a vision God had given them of an army of angels above the city, on roof tops and balconies, surrounding the city...but they were all asleep. The person shared that they were sleeping because there wasn't any work to do in Seattle. I remember my heart feeling heavy at that thought and I began praying earnestly that we would make enough waves in the city to wake the sleeping angels. And then I realized an answer to that prayer would also mean angels in our midst...maybe even near me...
Both of my parents usually come to the outreaches, but this time only my dad could make it. Since he was alone and had a spare sofa bed in his hotel room I decided to stay there for the week to have a little father/daughter bonding time. That didn't really work out since the days were long and there wasn't much time spent at the hotel - we got in late, spent a minute or two debriefing the day, then crashed for the night - but it was still great to have the company. This particular night started off no differently...we caught up from the day, got ready for bed and said good night. As I lay in bed I remember thanking God for the day and asking for sleep to come quickly. Sleep never did come that night, or at least not any long stretch of it, because God had something different in mind.
As I closed my eyes the visions started coming and, instead of sleep, I suddenly found myself looking up into the clouds at a picture of Jesus in a frame. It was a beautiful image and nothing that should have instigated fear, and yet I found myself sweating profusely. Like, dripping with sweat and beginning to panic. I'm not even sure why. I prayed for sleep to come and briefly I fell asleep until, only moments later, I awoke again drenched with sweat. I heard the Lord telling me over and over to open my eyes, Do not fear for I am with you, my rod and staff, they comfort you...Why was I feeling so panicked? Why was I sweating?! Why was God telling me to open my eyes? I felt an intense burning sensation in my stomach, the hairs on my arm stood straight up and I squeezed my eyes even tighter. At that point I saw spiraling glowing white rings, two of them, spinning over and over in the clouds. It was truly awe inspiring and I began to relax a bit as I watched the peaceful movement, wondering what God was trying to show me. Then, suddenly, the image disappeared and two cats wearing hoods, with scary, glowing green eyes, sitting in a pew, were staring right at me (weird, I know!). I whispered quietly under my breath "In the name of Jesus go away!" They left my vision and then there was nothing. Just darkness, panic, a lot of sweating and now shaking. I knew deep down inside I was not supposed to be scared, that I was supposed to open my eyes...so that I could see an angel. I just knew. I honestly don't know how I knew, but I did. Fear won, however, and I never opened my eyes. The arrival of morning hit me like a ton a bricks. I was drained and disappointed in myself and in my unwillingness to trust God when He told me to open my eyes. I didn't understand what had happened and I wasn't even completely confident I missed anything, but I did know that in those moments, I forgot that the shield God provides does in fact travel.
And then my Dad came into the room. And I knew. I had missed out on something really big.
He came rushing in, full of excitement, and asked me if I saw the angel. What?! The angel that came into our hotel room in the night?! The angel that walked through my room, past me and into my Dad's room?! Nope. I missed it. You know, because of that fear thing. I couldn't believe it...my Dad's lips were moving as he was describing the angel that stood in the corner of his room, but I didn't hear a word. I could only think about how, at the exact moment I sensed the presence of something in the room, at the exact moment God told me to open my eyes, I chose not to listen. My heart sank. My Dad had opened his eyes and saw what I believe God had intended for me.
I left Seattle with a new deal I made God...next time I would open my eyes and look. I wouldn't let fear get the best of me...instead, I would trust what He had for me. I didn't want to feel that way again - like a child who knew they did something wrong but couldn't really do anything to fix it. And I certainly didn't want to miss something as amazing as what my Dad had described.
Three years later at an outreach in Ohio, God gave me what I would consider my second chance. We were at the beginning of the evening worship service, praising and worshipping the Lord for all He had been doing that week. Countless lost lives were found. Relationships were restored. Love rekindled with the Lord. There were so many reasons to be praising and that's exactly what I was doing, singing my heart out (probably a little too loud according to my kids), eyes closed, hands raised and thanking the Lord. I felt the urge to open my eyes, so for a brief moment I looked up and what I saw took my breath away. The church we were in had beautiful stained glass windows at the front of the sanctuary, five large panes in total. But when I looked up at that moment, the windows were completely gone and in their place were a choir of angels worshipping alongside us. There were about six of them, some standing with hands raised high, some sitting on the ledge, legs swinging down below the windows - but all were singing with us. It stirred in me a deep well of emotion and I couldn't stop the flow of tears. It was truly overwhelming. That God would allow me to see such an amazing sight was humbling. That angels would come worship in our midst was breathtaking. And that God would shield me from the fear long enough to see, with my own eyes, how much He loves us, no matter where I was.
Since that night, I've told God that angels are welcome in my room. I know He doesn't need my permission, but I just want Him to know I'm growing up, one day at a time. And next time, I will open my eyes, I promise.
A verse a friend sent to my Dad the morning after the angel appeared in Seattle, without knowing anything about it - "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." -2 Corinthians 4:18