(On 10/26/22 I sent this to a spiritual director whose counsel and devotional teachings were having a significant impact on my life.)
Re: …. awareness, attention in preparation for planting, to secure attunement, attachment, affection, abiding, and abandonment
“In Nov 1996 I noticed that as the holidays approached I was finding a prime parking place everywhere I went… calling on client offices in my job, shopping at Walmart, grocery store trips, everywhere. After a week I thought, “This is strange. No way it’s coincidence.” I attributed it to God’s favor, knowing how stressed my schedule gets as the holidays approached. So I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving each time it happened and it kept happening until the week after my birthday in February of 1997. Then it ended as suddenly and obviously as it had started. So I found myself parking a half aisle or more further out and walking. I accepted it as God’s decision that it was time to walk now instead of being pampered. I had written about it in my journal when the favor started. I told my husband about it who began to notice it happened when I was riding with him, too. I told one of my pastors that I was beginning to see in my relationship as a Child of God that there are no coincidences in life of a Child of God. He said God’s definitely involved in even small details of life but he wouldn’t go THAT far!
It was late February when I prayed a pew prayer of surrender to God’s Word I talked about in the Holy Spirit story I had sent to seedbed.com.
I had already known He is Present,, that He is Good, and He is Sovereign. This evidence of the degree of His attentiveness to my every need, desire, action, thought, etc now drew me in to the realization of how personal and Intimate His Love for me, individually, actually is, too! I felt “cherished…” a long- time desire of my heart. It was a game changer in my understanding of God. Attention moved to a new level of attunement and attachment.
It was March 20 when the phenomenon of hearing Him speak became SOOO palpable and personal, too, and continued for 2 months.
And even as I began to realize some of what I was experiencing was NOT of God, I was so secure in His love that I knew there had to be a reason for it and gave my whole-hearted effort to trying to understand and learn during the two months I experienced extraordinary phenomena, insights, and confirmations…. and learn I did. I’d asked God to just show me what He wanted me to do. It didn’t have to be confusing, I was all-in. Abiding…But it was like drinking water from a fire hose and I became exhausted and eventually collapsed from the effort to take it all in. I had six days hospitalized with “religiosity psychosis”, (which were wonderfully restful days with lots of support and confirmations!) … then beginning outpatient counseling with a wonderful Catholic counselor with whom I debriefed. It had been a crash course in discernment and learning to lean into the Word and Spirit. I described that ti’ve e to her like an “inoculation” into life in the Spirit, learning how to navigate the narrow space between the two realms. It took about six months to regain my footing and move forward from that season in which God told me marvelous things. Life became “normalized” again with a wonderful new job, one I had pursued off and on for 17 years. And I discovered exactly why God had withheld it so long and why He allowed it in October 1997. Over the next five years he began moving me into a 2 year course of Christian Ed certification, completed in 2006.
In 2002 I had begun part time at our church 8 hrs a week as Director of the Sunday School Dept. In late 2006 I left my full time job to pursue graduate school in counseling and psychology, still working at church part time. I finished in spring 2008 and began work with Women’s ministry at Rescue Mission recovery program while still part time at church, now as adult education coordinator in charge of small groups and Sunday school. In late 2008 I met with my pastor and District committee regarding candidacy for deacon.
Abandonment…..I worked through the requirements, and was commissioned a provisional deacon in June 2012, expecting ordination in Feb 2014. All along I was affirmed and reassured, had good feedback and reviews. Late in 2013 my Dad died and three months later we were burglarized during a home renovation that had begun before Daddy died, to move my parents in with us,
I ran into conflict with a new executive director at the Mission and with our daughter who’d been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. We got a new senior pastor who cold-shouldered me quite obviously. In February 2014 my first ordination interview was like being ambushed with a buzzsaw, God was sooooo present though, and even when all this was confusing for me, I stood firm in my confidence in His care. In April 2014 I left the Rescue Mission and church adult Ed position and started Titus 2 Partnership, Inc. ministry for women… I worked like crazy through the next few years with good support of my husband (in retirement), donors, and volunteers. It’s been a wonderful 8 years. After pursuit of ordination in The UMC ended in 2017 and after Bill’s death in August 2020, God began directing me in new ways…. I’ve had no problem or reluctance in following His lead, but the path has been hard at times.
I’ve learned a lot about the transformational and confirming power of trials and suffering. God doesn’t send all the conflicts and resistance, but He certainly is present in the midst of it and leads me through it! I have come to trust God in ALL THINGS! I have several close friends who are experiencing God more in similar intimacy, too. We talk several times a week about what He shows and does…There are lots of parallels and shared experiences where we see God bringing our ministry activities together in mutual support and shared learning. Pretty exciting. Yet reassuring and confirming all at once, too.
Several big decisions have been made this year… to downsize from 5 beds to 2-3 beds and work with fewer women, still intensively in discipleship, though.
Titus 2 has moved to partner with a local ranch where I am going to be a tenant ministry at their property and GOd is leading all the way. New Room was pivotal in moving me forward in that direction. I’ve decided to sell the house my husband bought for the ministry in 2014 and no longer have that responsibility.
I’ve had five groups of individuals come to meet with me in the last two years to explore how to set up their own programs… from Valdosta, Ga ( now fully operational), a similar program in Niceville is now getting up and running…, one from Tampa is now getting its board and IRS 501(c)3 started. This week 2 women from San Diego, vacationing in Destin, called and came to meet with me. They have 2 sober houses and want to expand to a faith-based recovery program… 6 beds, residential like ours. Good meeting!
Then yesterday, too, I got a call from my former pastor of 18 years and DS for 8 years…. asking if he could nominate me to serve on a start up Global Methodist Church leadership group as it begins the set up of a conference in our area….a total surprise, but I’d be happy to participate. He also asked if I’d be interested in pursuing deacon ordination in GMC. I am content with my ordination in Christian Leaders Institute and don’t feel led to pursue additional credentials.
I see God giving me more time to study, write and do more diverse ministry. I have even regained my own desk back at the church again from which to do Sunday activities and to do community care benevolence ministry case management for assistance requests to take that off the pastoral staff, which I began doing a couple of years ago and pastors now rely on me to handle.
Change, while difficult and confusing at times, has always resulted in new and fulfilling directions. I’m confident I have a few more “good” years, God willing. It is definitely the start of a season of planting, having gone through plowing over the last 2 years. I am soft and pliable, ready to see what God brings forth”
“Cathy, this is a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it with me. You are into your Kingdom Prime years for sure. Praying for a solid 25 years of it, along with flourishing health. You are interpreting it well. You are and will be adding to your vocation from spiritual mother to spiritual grandmother and great grandmother among other things. it is filling up and yet slowing down a the same time– which I believe is a mark of Jesus Kingdom life. Fuller and slower. Not harder but more costly.”
seedbed.com Holy Spirit Story: Cathy Boyd Byrd