By Brenda Franklin-Strout
A moment. That’s all it takes, Sisters. As Mother, we know it takes but a moment for our children to soil even the best of Easter outfits. As Wife, it was just one moment to become his Mrs. And as a woman, called by God…it was that one moment that changed the direction of my life and suddenly clarity in my destiny was crystal and the doors swung wide and welcomed me to the party that others in my life knew all along. I am HER.
Let me back up before I’ve lost your attention and you begin to wonder if I’ve lost my mind. This particular moment was at the Northwest Ministry Networks Women’s Conference 2016 and the Director of Women’s Ministries, Angela Craig, was unraveling my heart with every word spoken.
I know you know what I’m talking about, Friend…that moment you are listening to someone speak and you feel like they just read your mail. Yep, it was that moment.
If you know my story, you know of the early adult years spent acting out of childhood sexual abuse, adult rape and my life as a momma, raising her two children. My promiscuity was there, which was simply looking for a father’s security when my own earthly father was so very sick and you know of my rejection, time and time again, from family, from relationships and from the church. For those that love me best, you know my life now and it’s fullness of God’s healing with the help of tools…classes, counseling and care from God, a great mental health professional and a wonderful man that is now my husband. My healing required total surrender to the One that created me and could put me back together, in His desired fashion. My trust was critical to the necessary steps that, at times, I couldn’t see in front of me but I knew He would confidently navigate me through. Verses 18-20 of Hebrews 6 in The Message paraphrase says this, “We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us.” It’s where I have sat for years now, secure in His grip…and will continue to, all the days of my life. I know what He saved me from and continues to keep me from, even now.
To tell this story, you need to know that 2+ years ago, God called my husband, John, and I out of the local church and into the Throne Room. We’ve attended church only a handful of times, at his prompting, and have allowed each week to pass with a deepening intimacy and healing that only isolated time with Him could have brought. This time brought serious rebuke and questions from folks around us. Our kids went to school at our church when they were growing up, our daughter and son-in-law were serving as youth pastors in the very church we were leaving, and we had attended there for over 17 years. When you serve and are visible in your pursuit of the things of God as we are, there were those wondering how we could step so far out of obedience, quoting their own personal biblical translation of <in my best KJV voice> “Thou shalt not forsake the gathering of the brethren”. When unable to meet, due to scheduling, with our senior church leadership to share our hearts and plans, they lovingly sent emails that conveyed their trust that we knew the voice of the Lord and were stepping obediently and that we were always welcomed to come home, should God direct us. They were sure to add that they would be there, arms wide open. Those emails from Dr. Troy Jones and his wife Jana, along with Ricardo and Karen Quintana are amongst our greatest affirmations and treasures. We love them so very much for their love, care and support.
It wasn’t our church leadership that questioned us, Tribe, not for one moment. My goodness, and with all grace I say, we have a long way to go in our support and empathy for those following God’s direction when it differs from our own opinions or takes us out of our own comfort zones.
After 2+ years of waiting on God, in the beginning days of February 2016, the Holy Spirit spoke to both my husband and I and said “Your season of wait is over. Behold, I am doing a new thing.” We were already feeling some of this as God had physically moved us from the house we had been living in to a much smaller two bedroom condo as empty nesters. The empty nest season already brings a momma’s heart much emotion but then to leave the space you’ve raised your babes…well, let me tell you…it’s a heart work, for sure. So days after moving into our new place and hearing God’s words, we knew to wait as we had, for HIS NEXT STEPS…instead of once again filling our calendars and populating church pews. 13 days after moving in, I was landing in the East Africa country of Malawi, not even close to prepared for, in my assessment, what God would do in my heart while I was there but every bit prepared as His daughter whose has sat in His presence, surrendered. It was the most challenging trip I had been on after 12 years of back and forth to the continent of Africa. God had a plan…and it prepared me for.
Upon arriving home from Africa, my husband lost his job on a Friday in March and the invite to come to the NWWC was calling my name the very next morning, Saturday. So there I was, in the pew, listening as Angela Craig, Director of Women’s Ministries for the NWMN, was sharing the history of the Assemblies of God church formation and the richness of diversity found there. Women like Jenny Evans Moore along with her husband…African Americans and a Woman, founding the church with others like them, full of the Holy Spirit, at a time when segregation was running rampant in our country and folks didn’t like either preaching from the pulpits. You see, a woman with a past like mine, was/is often rejected to serve and definitely never approved to speak in some gatherings and certainly not from the pulpit or platform. My own mother, back in the 70s, was not allowed to teach Sunday School because she had been divorced before. Nevermind that it was before she came to Christ and my biological father was an adulterer. Nope, not fit for teaching about a redeemed life in Sunday School. Again, I remember on a missions trip one year to Mexico, the missionary on post there said that everyone in our group was allowed to speak from the pulpit on the goodness of God, except me, because he didn’t want the women in his congregation to feel that promiscuity was approved by God. Nevermind that I was almost 10 years removed from that season of my life…healed…redeemed…set free…Nope, that missionary was holding the shackles to once again bind me to my past. I sat quietly free, disagreeing but honoring his decision, knowing my time would come to share of his goodness, refusing the bounds of bitterness that could have held me long after I left that place. I knew that while many felt me unqualified that it was only God that qualifies the called…and I was confident that one day, God would give me my voice to help heal the brokenhearted and aid in setting the captives free. Too many times I was refused, rejected and reminded of what I had done and the explanation that it disqualified me from speaking. I could lead small groups, I could help on the conference team for my local church but rarely, could it be from the stage. It was this message that Angela spoke so eloquently of. She quoted Don Ross, NWMN Network Leader, saying that the only man that you need permission from has already given it and that man is Jesus. WOW! WOW! WOW! I was called. I did hear Him clearly. The conference theme was, Her Voice, and I knew, in that instant with tears streaming down my face, that. I really am. I am the woman that confidently declares that Jesus is Lord and I have a voice. I am the woman that depends on her God to do good through her for His glory. I am set free, redeemed, restored and renewed by His touch, His presence and His favor. I am a daughter of the Most High God and I have been given permission, for such a time as this!!
Now that is something to get excited about, I AM FREE!!! Thank you, Jesus!!!
THAT, my Sisters, was my moment. Don’t get it twisted now…and let me be very clear. I was ALREADY redeemed. I had ALREADY been given permission. I belonged. I just joined the party in the self recognition of my freedom and the rights He gave me. I now stand without doubt, discouragement or disqualification that. I am the woman that God created me to be.
Please know, Beloved, that NOTHING afforded me in that moment or any other moment is something that you, Mighty Warrior, cannot have, possess, apprehend or be confident of.
In Ephesians 1: 3-14, it says this. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
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#IamHER – Now we start a global movement. We will proclaim that we are who God created us to be.
A collection of ramblings from a girl in love with her God and obediently sweeping the temple to get healthy and whole. I invite your thoughts, suggestions and ideas on best practices and what is and is not working for you! Above all, may this be a forum of honest and transparent discussion of our triumphs, challenges and the joy we experience along the way! He is my Trainer, my Great Physician and my God. I can do all things through Him. No, really… I can!!! You can find more blogs by Brenda at sweepingthetemple.wordpress.com.
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