Sunday, April 26, 2009

Closed Doors - Open Doors

The Henderson house was up for sale, and we had really thought that it was the house for us. We knew they had received an offer to purchase. We continued to trust in God’s timing. At the time, I was away in Toronto at the Leading Women’s Conference. While I was there, following a time of worship, we were told to break into groups of two, and pray for each other. I prayed with another woman, and when she prayed for me, she prayed “Lord, open doors where they need to be opened and put a stop to things that you need to stop.”  When I came home from Toronto, I drove past the house on Henderson, and noticed it had a SOLD sign on it. God had put a stop to this. I continued to have peace.
Right around that time, I got an email from a woman from my church, named Charlotte.  She encouraged me with words from a book written by Charles Swindoll.  I would like to share her email here.
Charlotte wrote: I recently read the book THE MYSTERY OF GOD’S WILL by Charles Swindoll, an amazing book. There is one chapter on “Closed Doors, Open Doors” that was enlightening. In Revelation 3 we read, “He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens…” Under a heading of guidelines he (Charles Swindoll) lists several observations that have been of help and I would like to list them:
  1. Since God is sovereign, He is in full control
  2. Being in full control, God takes full responsibility for the results
  3. The closing of a good opportunity occurs in order to lead you to a better one
  4. Not until we walk through the open door will we realize the necessity of the previously closed one
Charlotte continued: To me this is amazing. God is in control. He will open doors as He sees the bigger picture. So all the best with your (or should I say God’s) project. His timing is always right.”
There was so much that impressed my heart at that time. I realized that I needed to be like Abraham who chose to follow God even when he didn’t know where God was leading him. Surrendering our life to God means being led into a relationship with God that offers safety and helps us reach out to others.
There were some words on the back cover of a book that spoke to me. You see I was realizing that God uses ordinary people for His glory. I also realized that I was growing in my relationship with the Lord as a result of the Vision that He laid on my heart. The book cover, from the book IF YOU WANT TO WALK ON WATER YOU HAVE TO GET OUT OF THE BOAT says it like this:
Deep within you lies the same faith and longning that sent Peter walking across the wind swept Sea of Galilee toward Jesus. In what ways is the Lord telling you, as he did Peter ~ “Come.” Consider the indredible potential that awaits you outside your comfort zone. Out on the risky waters of faith, Jesus is waiting to meet you in ways that will change you forever, deepening your character and your trust in God. The experience is terrifying. It’s thrilling beyond belief. It’s everything you’d expect of someone worthy to be called Lord. The choice is yours to know him as only a water-walker can, aligning yourself with God’s purpose for your life in the process. There is just one requirement. If you want to walk on water you’ve got to get out of the boat. Or as my friend Lynda said to me, “All I can say is, fasten your seatbelt, you’re in for a ride!”

Saturday, April 25, 2009


December 6th, 2001 we filed the article of incorporation for the Vision. Just before Christmas, we got the approved document back. The Vision officially became Women Refreshed at the Well. We wanted a name that would capture the heart of the Vision ~ a place for women to come, to find refreshment, rest and renewal. A place to find “Living Water.”
Over and over again, the phrase “clay pots and broken vessels” came to my mind and I realized it all seemed to tie in with the woman at the well story (in the Bible, John Chapter 4). I realize that I am so often a clay pot and broken vessel and yet I know that God can use me in both mediums ~ cracks and all. He can use all of us! He is the One who can fix the brokenness and there are times when my brokenness is what God desires! He is also the one who can mould me and make me into the shape He wants me to be! Now when I look back to 1998 when Maxine shared her brand new song with me called Woman at the Well. I see how it all tied in, and how God moved me then, and still moves me now. I realize that I am the woman at the well! I have experienced the living water. I know were I can go to refuel, refresh and renew.
Around mid-December, Bill Fast (a businessman from our church) received our business plan. I was so thankful for this as I was feeling like I was floundering. So, when Margaret (Bill’s wife) told me that Bill would be glad to look over the plan, I was so thankful! I thought back to when the Lord gave me specific names that I needed to contact, and Margaret was one of them. I was very open to help from a business person’s perspective. Remember that there was no model that I could follow, or at least none that I knew of. I felt like I was very much just “winging it”. Alvin and I went and met with Bill and Margaret. We came away greatly encouraged and eager to get going on the ideas and suggestions that Bill gave to us. We walked away with their support as well as a game plan. Bill also put us in touch with a lawyer, who I met with to work through some of our by-laws and revisions. She did all the work for me “pro bono” (or in other words ~ free!).
My last working day at Sugar-N-Spice Kiddie Haven Inc. was December 31st, 2001. Was I excited? Very much so, as I sensed the “sitting on the edge of my seat” feeling. Was I scared? Yes, that too. But in the midst of it all was great peace. Did it make sense to quit work right at the time when I needed money to buy a house? It made no common sense. However, I had learned that God’s timing and ways do not always make sense ~ and I was perfectly okay with that! I also knew that I needed to take some time for myself. Those last two years of work at the daycare were tough ones. One of my closest friends Gail said to me that she thought that the timing was just right. Now I could renew, refuel and refresh before beginning the work God was calling me to.
Once I completed my 25 year career in childcare, I planned to focus totally on the next steps in Vision work. I knew that God had been stretching me way out of my comfort zone. I had a feeling there was even more s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g to come. I will agree, that scared me a little too!
It was at this point that I said to my husband Alvin, “If God chooses to close every door at this point, while my heart would be saddened, it has been such an amazing experience and I have learned so much about Him!” However, I really felt that this was just the beginning and that, like I said, I was just sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting for the ride to begin!
Over and over again during the year, God brought me back again and again to the verses in Jeremiah 29:11-14a: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you declares the Lord.”

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Continuing to listen

On October 30th, 2001, I wrote the following in my journal:  “Lord you know all about the Vision because you are the creator of it! Thank you for giving/entrusting it to me. Help me to listen with totally clear ears. Lord, please remove riffraff and distractions. You know what your timing will be. You know the heart of Mario and Sonia regarding the fact that they have to sell their house because they have bought another house to move in to. You know who will buy the Henderson house. Lord, will it be us? Help me to work diligently through the steps.  I pray that you will help me to share the Vision ~ help me to get the prayer support of church and family and friends ~ to get financial help. Lord help me to know how you want me to move. I pray you will soften hearts ~ mine included. I pray that I will not get anxious in waiting. Help me to wait in quietness and to “be still and know that You are God!”
During the weekend of November 9 – 11, I was at a women’s retreat and was asked to share after lunch, about the Vision. I was greatly encouraged by the prayer that our pastor’s wife, Naomi, prayed over me after I shared. I was also greatly encouraged by the affirmation and words that several women shared with me later. Women came to tell me that they were excited about the Vision and that they were there to help if I needed volunteers, if I needed an interior designer, or whether we were ready to receive donations yet.
In the evening on Saturday, the speaker challenged us to go and “listen to God” on behalf of each other. When the time came for the women to know who they had been in “listening prayer” for, and it was revealed to the one group that it was me that they were “listening” on behalf of, I found myself weeping again.  (I wept ALOT that weekend!) As a result of the time in listening prayer, I was given verses, songs, and words of wisdom from God as He laid them on the hearts of several women.
The words from the Lord were so right on for where I was in the journey. Many of the words given to these women, from the Lord, related to not being afraid, and to trust. I then shared with the women how I knew I had to leave my well paying job and to step out in trust. I shared that there was a lot of fear in that regard.
During the month of November, I formally resigned from my career in childcare. And you know, I had TOTAL peace and absolutely no regrets about leaving. God is so good. I thanked him for continuing to affirm to me, never tiring of the fact that I always seemed to be asking for affirmation! I think it was because this was such a new season in my life. Everything was so new to me.  I was and still am today, so thankful that He loves me so much, and never tires of me asking Him.
During the month of November, I received a phonecall, right out of the blue from someone who had heard about the Vision and her heart was stirred. She wanted to have lunch with me so that I could share the whole Vision with her. That day before I left, she said to me, “I know that God wants me to tell you that I am willing to be your servant. Wherever I am needed to help, I will be there for you.” This was so cool ~ but so like God as He continued to use people to affirm the Vision that He had entrusted to me! People wanted to be involved! All of this continued to affirm and encourage me in the calling that I felt from God.
A little while later, I was spending some time with the Lord, when a scripture reference in Ezekiel came to my mind. I was not sure why, but I opened my Bible to the place. It didn’t take me long to see the words that would be an encourgement to my soul. It was after reading Ezekiel Chapter 2 that something dawned on me. God CALLED Ezekiel. God EQUIPPED him with the Spirit to strengthen him. God told him over and over again to not be afraid! WOW! I wrote the following in my journal: “That is me ~ afraid at times.  You’ve called me AND I know you will equip me too!”
Then I got this portion given to me by God ~ Isaiah 55:1. This again affirmed the whole purpose behind the Vision entrusted to me. “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters.” God knows there are so many women who are thirsty for Him ~ who are thirsty and need to be renewed, refueled, and refreshed in body and soul. He is the source of all we need. It is no coincidence that when God entrusted his Vision to me, He also gave the story of the woman at the well (see STORIES) along with it!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Our desire to be open to God's leading, and sensitive to His voice!

The next time we met with Ken and Carolee Neufeld, we shared and compared our separate vision statements. Each time we met with them, we would finish our time together with prayer. We wanted to be open to God’s leading, and sensitive to His voice in all of this. Together, we had fun looking at some big houses in Winnipeg. It was alot of fun to DREAM!  After looking at a house, my husband Alvin made the comment that he was sure that he would know when it was the right one. Alvin has the gift of discernment, and so when I heard him say this, I firmly believed he would know, and I felt great security in this.
Summer was a time of learning for me. The verse in Psalm 27 Wait for the Lord.  Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” became a verse that I clung to. I was learning alot about waiting on God. At the same time, I was reading through the book by Andrew Murray called WAITING ON GOD.  My journaling in July included an excerpt about waiting on God ~ in regards to the Vision as well as to the job I held at the time, as a daycare director.
There I was, at the daycare that my father and I “founded” 20 years prior. At one time I had joked about working there until I was old, gray and needing a scooter to get around! Now, I felt that God was calling me away from Sugar-N-Spice Kiddie Haven Inc. I had a very strong sense that my time was coming to an end. Was this scary? Absolutely. I had been in the childcare field for almost 25 years ~ over half of my life! I didn’t know any other job but childcare!
A journal entry in July says, “The waiting is to teach us our absolute dependence upon God’s working and to patiently place ourselves at His disposal. Lord, I know if it’s your will, regarding the retreat house, that you will open doors. Thy will be done.”
In August, I finally bought the book that I had been hearing about for a while. Written by John Ortberg, it is called IF YOU WANT TO WALK ON WATER YOU HAVE TO GET OUT OF THE BOAT. I copied this excerpt straight from the book, into my journal:  “Walking on water is not about some great thing you do. In fact, by yourself, you can do nothing of lasting value.  It is about what God does with you by His power and grace.  But first you have to get your feet wet!”
This book encouraged me (and whoever reads it) to ask what your “boat” or place of comfort is. I knew without a doubt that my boat was my paycheck. Admitting to this made me feel and sound selfish. But I knew the truth. I knew that God was calling me out from the daycare BUT I was too scared to get out and get my feet wet.
On the September long weekend of 2001, I got a phonecall from a woman named Sonia. She shared with me that she had heard about the vision from a mutual friend. She told me that months before, when her and her husband Mario realized they needed to move to another part of the city, she had prayed for someone to buy their house and use it as a ministry for women. I got off the phone and wept and asked the Lord if this was the place for us ~ for the retreat house.
Alvin and I went and met with Sonia and Mario. After chatting for a while, we looked through their house. Every single thing that I was praying about, and asking the Lord for (in a house) was there in their house. It was as if we had a checklist and we walked through the house going check, check, check. I thought, “this is totally God!”
Before we left, the four of us held hands, and there in the studio, we prayed together. Mario said, “Maybe this is the house God intended for you, maybe it isn’t”.We got home and I asked Alvin what he thought about the house, keeping in mind what he had said in the summer about knowing the right house when he saw it. Alvin said he believed that this could be the house. In my heart, I felt the same way. The thing is…the cart was way before the horse, so to speak. The house was for sale, it had all the things that I had been praying specifically for, but we needed to do so much before we could even think of buying it! We began to pray for different things now, and I sent many emails to the prayer team.
I began to meet with many women, and tried to figure out the plan of action. This is what I had as a devotional on my calendar on Sept 4th, which was the day after we saw the house.  It was entitled WE KNOW THE WAY MAKER and it said,“When our desires seem overwhelmingly big and we don’t see the way to accomplish them, we should remember that even though we don’t know the way, we know the Way Maker!  God has a way for us to do everything He places in our heart!” 
Now, we were still in conversation with the Neufelds (we had talked about a partnership of some kind, merging the two ministries). We were supposed to meet with them the following weekend. We had begun to discuss charitable status, incorporation, and all those details. I was praying about partnering, but had gotten a strong sense that the ministry for women would not be a joint partnership. Several women close to me had encouraged me to not loose sight of the Vision God entrusted me with and to be careful not to compromise any of it. Alvin and I felt strongly that this would be a place for women only. That weekend, we met with Ken and Carolee and looked at three more houses they had picked. We went back to their house to talk and pray. At this point we shared what we felt regarding the house on Henderson Highway, and that the ministry was to stand alone and not in partnership with theirs. They gave us their encouragement and their blessing, and told us they would continue to pray for us as we ventured out.
I want to share with you about the quiet time I had with the Lord the next morning before I left for work. I had a brand new CD playing as I sat down to read and pray. Tears flooded my eyes and I stopped and just sat there in His presence. All of a sudden, the CD abruptly skipped to another song, and as I sat in quietness, these are the words that began to play. Needless to say, I got on my knees and wept as God spoke to my soul through this brand new song:
“As I come before you Father, there’s power in this place ~ to move the hands of heaven with a word.  You’re the God of all creation, and you hear my every prayer ~ and you long to give me more than I deserve.  So I pray in expectation, with great anticipation ~ So I kneel before you now.  I surrender to your will.  And I’m living in the hollow of your hands.  You have placed within my heart Lord, a vision and a faith that is bigger than what I understand.  So I pray in expectation with great anticipation.”
After this song, I carried on with my devotional time. Part of my quiet time included reading the book by Andrew Murray, WAITING ON GOD.  The chapter for that day was called WAITING ON GOD FOR INCONCEIVABLE THINGS.  This is the quote I put in my journal:  “But He wants us to expect it.  He wants us to believe and trust Him for the impossible. Look at ministry. So much of it is done by the wisdom of man. So little is in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. We must wait on God. We must cry with a cry that never rests. We must desire and believe.  We must ask and expect that God will do what is inconceivable. The miracle working God, who surpasses all our expectation, must be the God of our confidence.  Yes, let God’s people enlarge their hearts to wait on a God able to do much more than they can ask or think.”  
During this time I also continued to pray for affirmation regarding whether God really wanted me to leave my daycare job. One morning, while praying on my ride into Winnipeg (my husband and I live 30 minutes outside of the city), I was talking out loud with the Lord. I told Him that I felt that He was calling me out of the daycare, and how I felt He was telling me to work to the last day of the year ~ Dec. 31st, 2001. I shared with the Lord how scared I was, and how I felt that the joy had been removed where I was working. I asked God to please confirm this for me, beyond any doubt. That day, I met two of my cousins for lunch. As I shared my thoughts with them, my cousin Dora told me that she was going to say something that may sound rather mean. She looked at me and said, “Joy, you can’t really say you trust God, if you don’t let go of that paycheck and give it all to God!”  I knew these words were for me. I knew without a doubt what I needed to do. However, God also knew that He would confirm the prayer that I had prayed that morning.
A couple of weeks later, Ruth (my sister-in-law, and co-director of the daycare) and I met with two of the board executives. At the meeting they told us that they no longer wanted us to job share. They gave us two options to consider. I asked them when the new arrangement had to start, and they stated all change must be effective January 1st, 2002. Well, on my drive home from work I cried and cried. It wasn’t until the next day that  it dawned on me that God had used the two board members to confirm His will for me! It was like God had taken me by the shoulders and said “Joy, you wanted confirmation, so here it is again. You thought you would work till Dec. 31st, 2001 and you will.” The thing is, at this point, I knew without a doubt that I had completed that portion of my life, and I had till year end to tie up loose ends. There was incredible peace about the decision.

Monday, April 13, 2009

God's Vision - The Details As He Gave Them to Joy

Over the summer months, my husband Alvin and I continued to meet with Ken and Carolee. As we met with them, we decided that we (each couple) would write out the vision for ministry as God had laid it on our hearts. Theirs was for pastoral retreat ministry and ours was for women’s retreat ministry.
I had asked God if HE would define His vision for me ~ and when I sat down to type, it all came. From God’s lips to my hands…this is what God had given to me back when He first laid the Vision on my heart:
It will be a home, located within the city of Winnipeg, that women from all walks of life, could “retreat” to ~ to take the time out of their full lives, to be RENEWED through the time away ~ REFUELED through the quietness that the home has to offer ~ and REFRESHED in a retreat setting, away (for a time) from full and busy lives. It is a place where women can draw near to the “source” Jesus Christ. A place where they can seek Him and rest in Him. A place for thirsty and parched women to be refreshed by the living water that Jesus offers. A place where their faith can be strengthened and stretched, or perhaps for some, where they can come to know Jesus in a new and real way. The retreat house will be a place where women can come to pray or to be prayed with. The time at the house will allow for wonderful discovery, as women can “be still and know that HE IS GOD!!”
This is the Vision that God entrusted to me. The retreat house is to be a place that feels warm, inviting and welcome. A place that offers peace and rest. A place where cell phones are checked at the door. A place where each woman attending gets her own room for daily and/or overnight stay if they desire. The house will be a place of resources. A place where women can come, step out of the hustle and bustle for a time, and just “be”.
The retreat house will also be a light in the community. To this end we would like to offer times when the house would be available for women’s coffee evenings, or bible study. The house is to be a place of retreat. It is not a women’s shelter, although there may be women that come to be “sheltered” from the busy and hectic lives that they live.
Some added dimensions of the retreat house may include some or all of the following:
  • a newsletter that is available to women
  • workshops/bible studies/small retreats on weekends
  • community bible study for women
  • availability of using the space on weekends for ladies groupings
  • the availability of a Christian counselor (on request)
  • the availabilty of a massage therapist (on request)
  • and more as God leads and the Vision develops!
Today, some 8-9 years later, I see that God has not changed much about the original plans He gave to me. There have been just a few changes, but stay tuned ~ we will talk about these changes later, the obvious one is that we will be 15 minutes from the edge of North Kildonan, instead of being right in the city limits! God is in control. I am but a vessel!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Totally New Concept - Women's Retreat Ministry

The whole concept of retreat ministry for women was something completely new to me. To my knowledge (at the time, 2000), there was nothing like this in Canada. I made contact with a woman in California who runs a ministry for women. We connected and had a long talk on the phone. She shared with me that the house they have is used solely as a resource center, office and tea garden. She said that they would like to do something eventually, which would be similar to what I told her about. Patti encouraged me to keep praying about the Vision and to get a group of women around me, who believed in me, witnessed my walk with God, and believed in what I felt God was calling me to. She said it was also important for them to commit to pray. I had already formed a prayer team.
That June, God laid the names of two specific women on my heart. They were women from our church (Irma and Margaret). Over the summer, I continued to pray and to ask God to define the Vision, and His purpose for me. He knew that I was trying to run things on my own from time to time. I would say, “I just don’t know how this can be financially viable.” The Lord once again took me to Exodus where the Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short?”
Another friend, Sherryl, encouraged me to not put God in a box, because He can do far more than what we ask or imagine. I was learning that this was so true!
So I continued to be in prayer about it, to journal as God laid things on my heart, and to share with friends. When I finally touched base with Irma, it was a meeting of encouragement, affirmation and prayer. I can still hear Irma’s voice, and see her eyes, as she looked at me and said, “Joy, you have to take the next step. You have to do it.” Shortly after that, I spoke with Margaret, who after praying about it, passed on names of people she thought I should connect with.
2001 brought in many new and exciting things in regards to the Vision. 
The first prayer support letter went out in January, 2001. At this point, my prayer team had grown to about fifteen or so women. I also began to make connections with names that had been passed on to me through Margaret. Being a relatively shy person, I was beginning to feel God pushing me way out of my comfort zone (believe me, introverts don’t like this!).  In March, we met Ken and Carolee. We spent many hours with them, getting to know them better, and also hearing about the ministry they were involved in. It was at this time, that I heard Ken ask my husband Alvin how he felt about the Vision. This was so good for me to hear. You see, I knew that Alvin and the kids were behind me on this, but it was quite different to hear someone ask Alvin and then hear him talk about how he felt, what he believed, and what place he felt he played in the whole Vision. For me, this was great affirmation.
It was very good to talk to Ken and Carolee, as over the past few years they had also had a similar vision for ministry, except their clientele would be pastors and missionaries. 
Unfortunately April caught me off guard, sidelining me with a bronchial infection that seemed to last forever, and so I laid low for a few months. However, June came along and I felt a “nudging” to contact David Unruh from Rischuk Park Realty. We met for breakfast at Perkins. I shared the Vision with David. We were not in the place to begin to look for anything, however, I felt I needed to share God’s vision with him, to get him on board so that he could keep his ears and eyes open. Before we left Perkins, David asked if he could pray for me and the Vision God had entrusted to me. There we sat in Perkins, in prayer. Up until this point, most of our sharing had been with women and very few men, so it was very encouraging to hear David’s feedback. I came away truly blessed.