There are two words that have been surfacing in my vocabulary over the past few years on a very regular basis…
What do those words make you think of? They are important to me because of Ephesians 3:20-21,
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
One version says, “far beyond all that we ask or think…”
You see, before May 3, 2016, when my sweet husband, Clay, was diagnosed with Glioblastoma, my life was so normal. It was wonderful and filled with blessings, but it was normal. And, somewhere, deep down inside of me, I always knew there was more. I knew it. I yearned for it. For what? What was “it”? Good question. I had no idea. I just knew there was a deeper purpose in me. I knew God was preparing me for more.
And, now, after quite a journey, I can see it clearly. I can see the purpose in the pain. And, I want you to be part of it. God is writing a beautiful story and I believe He intends to use it to heal believers who are suffering the pains of this life and need help understanding why God has allowed them to hurt.
Back in July of this year, I had been dealing with another really difficult situation that I had to keep very private. It involved another person, so I couldn’t share the details of what was happening. I was holding it all in, not letting hardly anyone see what was really happening, and I was crumbling. I felt the beginning of a spiral and I could feel the devil taunting me with thoughts of depression, and even the idea of quitting.
I reached a place that King David knew well, but not that I had never actually experienced, yet.
I found myself crying out to God for mercy. I opened up my Bible to Psalms and I found David giving words to my feelings…
“To you, O Lord, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy:” (Psalm 30:8)
“Let your mercy come to me that I may live…” (Psalm 119:77)
“Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt.” (Psalm 123:3)
There are more, but you get the point. I was there, y’all. I was telling God that I wouldn’t make it if He didn’t step in and show me His mercy. And, not only did God so kindly allow me this moment to pour out my heart to Him, but He heard me and answered my cry.
Within just a few days, I was reading my Bible and praying, and I heard God speak to me. There was a dream in me that had been there for a long time. I hadn’t really buried it. It was just untouched. I had laid it to the side while I was working through my own healing. But, God pulled it up in me really quickly and gently.
And, He told me, ever so clearly, that it was time. “It’s time?!?! Now?!?! Now, when I’m crying out for mercy?! Now?! When I’m at the end of my rope?! Now?!?!”
The dream? A retreat center. A place of healing. A place of surrender and hope. A place where people can come to meet with God in their greatest time of need, and leave healed, helped, full, and ready to be used by God.
So, I opened up Zillow and started looking. My first thought was to find a place in Mississippi. You know how pretty it is just over the state line? There are beautiful farms and country homes. I wanted something close enough that I could be there often while maintaining my life, church involvement and work in Baton Rouge. Y’all, I heard God say St. Francisville. He literally just dropped those two words into my spirit and I knew to look there.
So, I changed my search – “St. Francisville, LA”. I found a few houses that were lovely and would have accommodated a lot of people. Then, I noticed this huge roofline in a picture of a place called “The Victorian”.
As I clicked through the photos, I could easily see that this location had been used for a venue – probably weddings. It was huge and beautiful. The property was 10 acres and had a lovely pond in the front. Wow. It was gorgeous.
Again, I heard the Lord….”Go look at it.”
So, I called my dear friend, Danielle Musso, and the conversation started something like this,
“Danielle, this is way out of my reach, but I feel like God is telling me to go see it. Maybe I’ll just leave with some good ideas. Do you have time to take me?”
She was perfectly willing, and we were both excited about just spending some time together. I was nervous to tell her more about my dream because it felt so unattainable. But, she was happy to listen and to show me the place. So, Danielle, my dear friend Kayla and I went for a drive.
The Victorian was the very first place we visited. Y’all, it was the very first place I even looked at, and now it’s mine. It’s so crazy and overwhelming to think about that moment. I got out of the car and all I could think was, “This is impossible.” I honestly just enjoyed walking around and viewing it. The house was built in the 1800’s and has been very well kept. Old pine floors, gorgeous fireplaces, 6700 square feet of living space, a hidden 3rd floor and a widows’ peak. It was amazing.
But, it was far out of my reach and I couldn’t imagine owning it. I submitted some questions to the owner that day and he answered me within hours. He and his wife bought the house 13 years ago to be a wedding venue. They had obviously put a lot of money into it, but they had changed their minds and decided to just retire in Baton Rouge. Within a week, I asked to see it again and the owner met me there himself. I shared my story with him and told all about the work God has done to heal me from grief. I shared my dream to create a place of healing for others. He was so supportive and encouraging. I could tell he genuinely loved the idea of the house being used for such a good purpose.
So, the negotiations began. I actually made my first offer for the property on September 12, which was the 3rd anniversary of Clay’s death. It was a sweet blessing from God and it made that day so special for me.
Every time I spoke to Danielle, it felt like an out of body experience. Especially when we met on November 13 for the closing. The generosity of the current owners and the favor of God were fully on display through this entire experience. It was a complete miracle that God allowed me to purchase this property. I feel like He gave it to me.
After the paperwork was signed, we posed for a few pictures, and Dr. Vemla Menon came over to me. With tears in her eyes, she spoke the most beautiful words over me. She told me that she saw me as a tree planted by rivers of water and that much life would come forth out of the work that God is doing. She told me that she believed the house was always mine. That God always intended for this to happen. Y’all, I was crying so much. I couldn’t control it.
There was such a sense of relief in me. That moment was a culmination of so much that God has spoken. So much that He has done. He brought me here. I couldn’t have made it to this place without Him literally carrying me so many times. Grief wanted to swallow me. The devil wanted to kill me. Death wanted to take me out. Depression wanted to suppress me. Loneliness wanted to paralyze me.
But, God won. He delivered me. He heard my cry and showed me His mercy. His lovingkindness and His deliverance rescued me! And, His love worked purpose into my soul. A purpose that I can’t escape. Believe me. I tried. I’ve tried a few times to tell God that I want to do something else. I considered going back to my business career. It was easier. But, I can’t. He won’t let me. He has a work that He needs to accomplish and He has made me part of it.
Y’all! That is so incredible to think about. God needs you. He designed His plan to be dependent on you. For the world to see His glory, He needs a glorious church who will live by faith. We get to live our lives for His glory. And, the lost can be saved when they see God at work in and through us!
So, I plan to tell you much more over the coming weeks and months. For now, I’ll answer a few questions I’ve received a lot…
I am not planning to move there right now. I have no idea what this will all look like in the end. Right now, I’m focusing on some slight renovations and furnishing the house. It will sleep 25 immediately, and 32 after a little work on the 3rd floor. There is room in some detached buildings to house at least 30 – 50 more people. God will have to make a way for all of this to get finished, but I believe He will do it.
Most of you know that I am simultaneously working on my first book proposal with Proverbs 31 Ministries. God will have to do some miracles there, too, but He is able! The book I am writing will be a foundation for the teaching at the retreats I will offer.
I have named the house. I hope to write to you in the next few days and share the name and the significance of it. I know it is straight from God.
I do plan to offer the house as a wedding and event venue. It would be an amazing location for an outdoor concert or prayer rally. I can see so many possibilities for ways to use it for God’s glory. I can’t wait to tell you more.
And……I haven’t quite decided what I will do with the foyer. It’s been fun to see your very strong opinions. And, really, it just makes me smile to feel like you are in this with me. Even though it might just be a simple comment or “like” on social media, every time you respond, it makes me feel tremendous support. Thank you for that. The devil likes to remind me that Clay is gone and I am embarking on this huge project “by myself”. So, your friendship, love, prayer and support mean so much to me.
Y’all, this is God’s house. It is His ministry. It is His testimony. It is His desire. I’m just the vessel.
My prayer for you today is that God will fill you with faith. Faith to believe for the impossible. Faith that takes action – even when you are terrified. Faith that can see the future – even if it’s a little blurry. Faith that is willing to lay everything down for this cause.
Live your life for the glory of God and trust Him to do “far beyond” anything you could ever imagine. That’s who He is…..the God of “far beyonds”. Let Him prove it to you.