Just a quick note to let you know I've moved my blog to the following address:

Please visit me at REDEEMED...RESTORED...RELEASED: One Woman's Story of Living Free to read more about what God is doing in my life and how He is working those things to set me free. Thanks so much for following, visiting, reading all about it and supporting me as you have done so many times these last few years. If you follow my other blogs, the posts from all three of my blogs are going to be transferred to the new digs for one big blog about our journey to restoration and freedom in Christ.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Blog Friends, Cyber Sisters, Build-a-Bear Comfort, Healing Worship, God's Word

I'm finally getting around to writing this special post paying tribute to my personal experience in San Antonio at the Living Proof Live Siesta Fiesta! Are you ready for my story in words and pictures? Here we Go!
On Friday while we were waiting to enter, Amanda came out and visited with us and posed for a few (more than a few) pictures with the Siestas. Rich Kalonick who is pictured above with Amanda took the following fabulous photos and has graciously given us permission to download, print and share these. You can view more on Rich's fabulous photography HERE.

Before the Siesta "Meet-up" after the conference, the Lifeway/Living Proof team organized us in large groups for photos with Beth, Amanda and Melissa. I in brown and white just to the left of Beth and the woman in the yellow jacket in this photo. The young lady in green immediately to my left is RHONDA. She is an incredibly friendly and funny woman who I met at breakfast that morning.
She, her mother (SUE) and sister (REBECCA) were up early and eating at the Cactus Flower restaurant in the hotel Saturday morning. I struck up a conversation with her mother while standing in line for the buffet. We happened to be sitting in the same section of the restaurant when we returned to our tables. I alone and they at a large round table with extra chairs. A quick, sincere invitation allowed me to join them for the meal. I was so very blessed by our conversation, their welcoming spirit and when we left Rhonda's mom offered to purchase my breakfast. It blessed me so much. I will not forget them ever... Hello Friends from Hallsville! I am so grateful to have met you.

Beth is so funny, ya'll! She totally asked for a picture of this moose posed with a dead armadillo (you may have seen it at the Siesta Blog) to put on her website. Okay, so Moose Mama (Melana from Wyoming) tossed Mr. Miesta Moose, the official Siesta Mascot, for Beth to hold in our picture. Rich took these close-up shots of our Mama Siesta and Mr. Miesta Moose! I'm the one in the brown and white to the left. It was fun and funny!

This is Melana (AKA Moose Mama) and Veronica, along with Tiffany (AKA For His Glory) - who graciously extended the offer for me to ride with her to San Antonio, and Adrienne (AKA as Fuzzytop). They are a sampling of the most genuine, beautiful, caring and special women I have met on this crazy blog journey. Melana and I shared tears as we talked about my son that day waiting for the event to begin. It was so precious to me. Tiffany and I became fast friends - it really seems as if we are long lost sisters - after our ten hours in the car together. We talked our way to San Antonio and all the way back - though we both were worn out and immersed deeply in our experiences from the weekend. SUCH Blessings to be sure!

Jennifer (AKA Jenmom) has been my internet friend since near the first of the year. She and I are regular IM chatters and so meeting her was a highlight of my weekend. I mean, a real highlight. I so looked forward to finally putting her face with her name. She walked with us and sat with us through the entire event and I loved every minute spent with her. She is a joy filled, beautiful woman of God. Love You, Jen! I did not have the opportunity to meet all the women in this photo, but I did meet Stephanie (AKA Ocean Mommy) at lunch earlier that day. She is in the middle, fourth from the left.

Valerie and her daughter, Kristen. Valerie and I have a friend, Teri, in common. And, Valerie and I have frequently emailed and written to one another through our blogs since Spring. I was really hoping to connect with her. As soon as I arrived in San Antonio my roommates told me they had met Valerie and she was asking about me.
Lora - caught in the act of worship. Read below about Lora, she is one of my roommates and she is a sister I will treasure forever and ever.
This is Tiffany again - she, too, was caught in the act of worship.
This, for me was the best part of the weekend. I am fairly certain I recognize these women, but I will honor them and their privacy in this moment. What I will tell you about this type of connection in San Antonio is this: Our hotel room held church each time we were in it especially from 10 PM - well after midnight that we were there. We prayed, cried, laughed, read Scripture and bonded in ways that defy the amount of time we had together.
Hearts knit together even before we met.

This is the other photographer featured in this post. Nesha is a quiet wife and mother from Virginia who went ahead of us early on Saturday to ensure we had great seats for the morning session. She took wonderful pictures and shared them with us! Can I be honest? Nesha was snapping away with her camera on Friday night, and I was weary of using mine so I just said, "I think I will let you take pictures for me, Nesha." I was half kidding, but she delivered and I love the photos. I will be sharing my favorite weekend shots of Beth and her girls in a future post but for now, suffice it to say - Nesha has an eye for beauty and captures it well with her lens. Thank you, Nesha. I miss our hugs and talks, too.

Okay, so this picture hosts the members of the First Church of room 1009 - Riverwalk Marriott, San Antonio, Texas. Our story is somewhat incredible so I will share it with you after introductions. First of all, meet (from left) Lora, Nesha, Me, and Alexia. We hail from Tennessee, Virginia, Texas and Illinois. Now, we decided that this represented the four points of the map - South, East, West and North... (in that order because of where we are in the photo).

What is incredible about our journey to San Antonio is the details planning of our God in putting us together - because only He could have gathered this motley crew of women with hearts so tender toward one another. You see, I had planned to come to San Antonio with at least one local friend who was to drive me down and share a room with me. A room that I booked through Kim (AKA Siesta Party Planner Partner to Patty). We had another friend who decided to join us in June and so I needed to fill one more spot with two months to spare - or so I thought. At the end of June, one of the local friends bailed out. Then the other friend, who I was riding with, she and her husband had some important family business to tend to which left her without the money to make the trip down. I was back to square one! Which didn't hurt my feelings, but I was beginning to think I was going to have a very expensive visit to San Antonio - but that big hotel room all to myself was not an all together bad idea. My husband, he didn't quite agree so I put the word out that I needed roommates.
By mid-July I had been contacted by three more women. Two from the deep South and another, Alexia, from the great state of Illinois. I was excited. I spoke to them both by phone. About a week later, I got yet another discouraging email. The two from the South were having some personal issues that might leave them without the money to make the trip. I told her that I wished I could offer her the room knowing she might have to cancell last minute, but I really needed to be sure I had those spots filled. She was gracious and agreed that maybe the timing was not right for her to make the trip.
I had turned away one other person who had contacted me about the room, Nesha. So I wrote to her and let her know the spot was still available. A few days, maybe a week later I got a call from her letting me know she was interested in the spot in my room.
And just about the end of July I got yet another email inquiry about a possible spot in a room for Thursday since my reservation was for Friday-Saturday. Lora wrote to me about that opportunity. I responded that I would be interested in one spot on Thursday night if it were still available after she had tried to fill the spots with three full weekend Siestas. She responded by asking if she might share our room on Friday-Saturday. I got excited, sent out an email announcing we had secured our fourth roommate and then learned that Lora had not yet decided what her options were.
I spoke with her by phone, we prayed about it and I released her to do what was best for her. A few days later she called and said that she had another room offer but felt the Lord wanted her to room with us. So - we set about trying to combine our two reservations to one. By the end of the first week of August we learned we had reservations in two separate hotels. She at Rivercenter and I at Riverwalk. I contacted Kim about the problems with the reservation and she suggested I extend my reservation to Thursday and cancel the Rivercenter reservation. I thought - that's a great idea, except I had called the week before to do just that very thing and was told there were no rooms for Thursday available.
After talking it over with Lora, we decided we should add her to the reservation since she would be arriving first to the hotel. I called back and inquired about adding Thursday to our reservation and adding Lora as well. I got the Thursday - Sunday reservation we were hoping for but the price went up $20 but that was okay. I called Lora back and we agreed it was our best plan. She had also learned of a special promotion for those with a Visa card on the reservation and she and her husband had just gotten one - so we got an additional discount.
I realized I had not gotten the total cost for the weekend since changing the reservation so I called back. This time the agent told me that if we had four people in our room that the cost would be $219 per night. I almost had a heart attack. With taxes and all it would come to over $800 for the three nights. He offered to cancel my reservation for me when I baulked at the price, but I told him I guess if the price was $219 plus tax we would have to pay it. He said, "Okay, well right now you have two on the reservation for $179/night, but it will go up if you add people to the reservation."
I called Lora and began to debrief her on the craziness of that phone call and the fact that if we got the good rate we'd have to effectively lie and hide the fact that we had four people in the room. We prayed about it, resigned ourselves to the higher price and I set about delivering the more expensive knews to our little group. That is when I realized that I still did not have the total and the new higher rate. I called back again (Okay... this is the third call within like an hour and a half). The new agent, Gilbert, assured me the highest rate we would pay with two to four people was $179/night. I could have hugged him through the phone. Lora would call a few days later and we ended up with the room for $150 and change per person for the three nights! WOO HOO! A Deal, a real life bonafide deal. Had we not agreed to the higher price in our hearts, or tried to get around it - I am sure we would have lost our luggage, been robbed or some other horrible twist of fate that would have left us completely miserable that weekend. We won the battle by trusting God over what we had heard and believed to be true.
After we arrived in San Antonio, Lora learned the other woman she was considering staying with had not even come after all, so she would have been stranded had she followed the other plans.
And if that were the sum total of our ROOM story, it would be enough. But it is not...
On August 1st - Lora attended the Simulcast Living Proof event and had been given a word to pray over me. Now let me just say she and I have never met or corresponded before we got connected on the hotel room opportunity. She held onto that word until the Lord released her to pray it over me that weekend. Which happened to be Sunday morning right before I left. The word corresponded with the chapter of Scripture God had been directing me to read in my quiet time (Isaiah 60) and agreed with a word I had been given in the Spring, a word I received that evening when a friend and I pressed in for confirmation from God (she had no idea what I had been told in San Antonio, but her word was confirmation of Lora's prayer and a word I had received last Summer when God showed me the key to healing in our family.) Needless to say I was a bit overwhelmed. I wrote about this experience on Friday in my Everday Doers post.
Around the first of August I had also gotten an email from another blogger who alerted me to the fact that God was preparing a divine appointment between Alexia and I that weekend. This friend assured me that no matter what she wanted to make sure we kept that appointment. And, God delivered the opportunity on Friday night.
By Saturday afternoon, we had all shared our deepest burdens and pains with one another and begun the knitting of our wounded hearts together through prayer and ministry. The only reasonable explanation is that God knew and had a plan for each one of us that involved being in that exact place at that exact time with one another for a healing work to begin in each of our lives. Such beautiful moments... Such beautiful memories. I am in awe of our God.
You see, each of us have been/had been dealing with our particular brand of woundedness. Each of us in different places with our pain - and each of us bearing different gifts to help the others through. The overflow of grace in room 1009 was AMAZING! AMAZING! God came down and shared Himself with us in the quietness of that room.
Okay... now on with the story because this post is already a mile and a half long.
A FEW BLOGGY FRIENDS - (I took these pictures.)

Tammy -(AKA Grateful in Georgia) - A kindred heart

Twinkle - MY GEORGIA friend. Twinkle and I "met" over at the Lifeway Forums some four or five years ago when I landed there through the online study of Believing God. She prayed with me through the difficult days of my son's last year and blessed with sweet words of comfort, encouragement and prayer in the aftermath of my loss. She is my Georgia friend who wore her hat, her boots and her wranglers because she was in TEXAS! I love you, Twinkle. I really am so glad we got to hug necks.

I captured this photo taken by Cindy off of her blog.

Cindy (AKA Still His Girl) and Gayle (AKA are very special NEW blog friends - as in we did not meet until San Antonio. I met Gayle when she needed to find her way back to the hotel after lunch on Friday. We soon learned that she is precious, gentle and well a genuine blessing of God even if only for a moment of the day. She made her way back with us by bus and there we got to visit. I was surprised on Saturday morning when I saw her sitting behind us. I came up the row before the session began and sat down to talk with her a few minutes...

That is when Gayle noticed my little dog, Justin. I had already had the occasion to introduce him to Margaret Kennedy ( while looking for Nesha on the floor. This little dog is named Justin. Gayle asked about him and I told her the story of how he reminds me of my son. She wrote about our conversation and what followed HERE. Sharing Justin's story is one of the ways I know that his life continues to have meaning. And, so God blessed me that day with two occasions to tell his story through this little Build-A-Bear Dog.

Cindy also took this picture of me as they sat behind us during worship.

Travis led us in a soul stirring song called, "Before the Throne of God." He told us to "sit down" while he sang, but truthfully, I could not stay down. The worship that took place inside of me during this song just turned me inside out and allowed me to pour out all the painful things I've carried for three years out at the foot of the cross. I found myself standing before His throne, just He and I.

I was able to pour out my love as an offering, a sacrifice of praise. He in turn poured out His healing Spirit upon my soul. He began to mend fully my broken mother's heart.

I want to leave you with the words to Isaiah 60 and the soul stirring words of "Before the Throne of God." You can sing the precious words of this hymn of faith in the video included in this post.


Chapter 60
The Glory of Zion

1 "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.

2 See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.

3 Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

4 "Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the arm.

5 Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come.

6 Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.

7 All Kedar's flocks will be gathered to you, the rams of Nebaioth will serve you; they will be accepted as offerings on my altar, and I will adorn my glorious temple. 8 "Who are these that fly along like clouds, like doves to their nests?

9 Surely the islands look to me; in the lead are the ships of Tarshish, bringing your sons from afar, with their silver and gold, to the honor of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.

10 "Foreigners will rebuild your walls, and their kings will serve you. Though in anger I struck you, in favor I will show you compassion.

11 Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that men may bring you the wealth of the nations-- their kings led in triumphal procession.

12 For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined.

13 "The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the pine, the fir and the cypress together, to adorn the place of my sanctuary; and I will glorify the place of my feet.

14 The sons of your oppressors will come bowing before you; all who despise you will bow down at your feet and will call you the City of the Lord, Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

15 "Although you have been forsaken and hated, with no one traveling through, I will make you the everlasting pride and the joy of all generations.

16 You will drink the milk of nations and be nursed at royal breasts. Then you will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.

17 Instead of bronze I will bring you gold, and silver in place of iron. Instead of wood I will bring you bronze, and iron in place of stones. I will make peace your governor and righteousness your ruler.

18 No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.

19 The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.

20 Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.

21 Then will all your people be righteous and they will possess the land forever. They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor.

22 The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the Lord; in its time I will do this swiftly."
(New International Version)

"Before The Throne of God Above" (Words Charitie L. Bancroft, 1863)

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence to depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,

Upward I look and see Him there
Who made and end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To long Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace,
One in Himself I cannot die.
My sould is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high, With Christ my Savior and my God!


luvmy4sons said...

Wow! What a time. What a blessing. I am so glad it was so wonderful!

Susan said...

Hey Michelle,

First off, thanks so much for stopping by to check up on us. I really appreciate your kinds words of love and encouragement.

Next, I LOVE YOUR NEW LOOK!! My favorite colors. Not sure I told you this already? It's just beautiful...

I so enjoyed this post!! what precious memories, and GREAT pictures.

I'm so blessed you were able to attend this. I pray I'll get to go next year.

You made me feel like I was there!!

Blessings to you my sweet friend.

PS Great song too♥

Gayle @ thewestiecrew said...

What an amazingly blessed weekend that the Lord allowed all of us to be a part of.

So very blessed....

Love to you my sister.

Ang baylis said...

What a great post, Michelle! I loved seeing all of your pictures and reading about your (our) special time together. I am still in awe that God could orchestrate such an amazing event. It seems our world is so much smaller than I imagined. I was in the same group picture as you! I was the one in pink standing behind Amanda! I heard the story about your bear and it made me cry! Thank you for sharing this post. I can tell it took a long time to prepare!
Much love,
Angie xoxo

Nesha said...

Just a wonderful recap of all the happenings!! Divine intervention is awesome and that weekend will be forever in my heart. You are just so precious!

Lora said...

I love you Michelle! I praise the Lord for allowing our paths to cross! Praise His Name!