In the spring of 2014, our family was in the midst of some change. It was good change, but change that revealed fear, doubt and insecurity that was alive and growing on the inside of me. I was desperate for more of God. Some big questions and big dreams were rattling around in my head and heart. I had a longing to connect to women - older sisters and mothers - who were further along the race than me. Women that would speak truth, believe God, risk in boldness and obedience, champion the cause of Christ, and call others to do the same. I began talking to God about those desires and longings. I made my request known.
God answered me...through the internet. It was not the vehicle that I expected, but, His ways are not my ways, so I decided to trust the process.
One evening in April God showed up. I stumbled upon to the IF:Gathering webpage. I started reading and didn't stop. I devoured every word. As I read each story, my heart began to beat a little faster. I knew that night, that I would be in Austin in February 2015.
I want to share the fullness of all that God did and spoke to me on the evening of Saturday, February 7th, in Austin, Texas. In my attempt to portray it all clearly, I have to go back a bit. So here is the back story.
I've known God since I was young, but it was not until 12 years ago that I experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in my life. It changed the game. I was filled with a fervor and a faith that kept me awake at night. One of the things that I prayed for in boldness, was for resurrected life. I wasn't speaking figuratively. I wanted to the dead to rise and proclaim the name of Jesus. I read the book of Acts and prayed to see that type of power in my life and in the stories of those around me. Shortly after this experience, In late November 2004, a friend of mine from college was tragically killed in a car accident. My husband and I were newly married and had little to no wiggle room in our finances. The funeral was in Wisconsin and the possibility of going looked bleak. The day after receiving the news of Andrew's death, some dear friends provided us the money for two plane tickets. They sensed that God wanted us to be there for the funeral. We immediately booked our flights. And I immediately began praying for my friend Andrew to be raised from the dead. I didn't have a clue as to how to pray this way, but I prayed with all the faith I had in me. We attended the funeral and I was on pins and needles the whole time. I had faith that something was going to happen. My heart leapt as the pastor laid his hand on the pine casket. I believed that God could do it, that He would do it. After the service was completed the casket was brought into the church foyer. Friends and family were given the opportunity to write on the pine casket if they chose to. I don't remember what I wrote on the casket, but I put both of my hands on it and prayed again. God was able to move in this way but, He chose not to. As the casket was lowered into the ground, the grief set in. I had risked and believed and frankly, now I felt a fool.
Right then, God came near and rushed in. He confronted me with my inaccurate view of heaven. I was believing that it would be better for Andrew to be here. In my mind, and limited understanding, here was better. The promise of eternity is not choir robes, with our hands folded in boredom singing forever. I pictured Andrew, my wonderfully creative friend, playing his guitar, dancing and laughing with His Creator. God wanted to show me the truth, even if at the time it was just a glimpse, about eternity, His character, and the promise of heaven. I still felt a bit sheepish for believing for such a big thing- for the dead to be raised- but what He spoke to me about heaven that day spoke of His goodness. Andrew was worshipping God in eternity and that was a promise of God fulfilled. I would chose to have faith and risk again.
I did not expect to be presented with the opportunity to pray for resurrected life again so soon - especially not on behalf of the life inside my womb. A year and a half after Andrew died I was given the news that the baby that had been growing inside of me was now lifeless, no beat to its heart. This baby had been prayed for, longed for and celebrated from the moment of its conception. The heart had stopped, but my body was not beginning the process of miscarriage. The baby was staying put, lifeless inside of me. I was ready to go again with God. I know it didn't happen with Andrew, but I was praying once again for resurrected life. I was banking on the promise that with God, all things are possible. His word says He did it then, so He could do it now.
I prayed for weeks. My doctor recommended a D&C if my body did not miscarry on its own. I desperately did not want that to happen. I still had a hope and I needed to get to Jesus. I drove to see a dear friend of mine who has been a spiritual mother to me. I needed someone to sit with me, to pray with me as I fell apart. I was desperate. What happened that day changed me forever. My friend Linda looked at me and said, “Let's ask Jesus some questions”. Prayer was not a new practice to me, but learning to listen and ask specific questions definitely was. I complied. I was wanting divine intervention in this struggle of faith and hope. I closed my eyes. I sat and waited until in my mind's eye I could see Jesus.
I asked him the simple question...“Is the baby with you, or is the baby with me?” What He told me next I will never forget. He said, "The baby is with me". That was not the answer I was wanting to hear, but I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and love in that moment.
Linda prompted me to continue to ask Jesus questions if I had them. I continued on,
"What sex was the baby?”
"I gave you a first born son”
“What is his name?”
[For all of you women out there who have children or have ever dreamed of having children, I know you have a list of names. I had a very long list of names that I had been compiling, long before ever being pregnant. The name that Jesus spoke to me next was a name that had never been on my list.]
“His name is Zachary”
My friend Tiffany, who had traveled with me to Linda's house that day quickly ran into the other room to pull out the name meaning book. She flipped to the back section until she came to the Z's and found the name. What she said next I could have never anticipated. “Zachary means Jehovah remembers.”
I asked Jesus one final question.
“Can I see him?”
At that moment I experienced what I can best describe as an open vision. My eyes were closed, but suddenly I was seeing things so clearly they felt real. I was on a beach standing a few feet away from the crashing waves. I looked to my left and saw a beautiful blonde-haired blue eyed boy running towards me. He looked to be about 18 months old to my estimation. He was wearing a white shirt with thin red and blue pin stripes. He ran into my arms and I held him tightly. I buried my head in his neck. And, I wept. He was happy and whole and rubbing his chubby little hands all over my tear stained face. He was perfect.
I stayed in that moment for what felt like an hour. I was unaware of time and space. Linda's voice broke through and beckoned me saying “When you are ready, give him to Jesus”.
I saw Jesus standing next to me on that beach and I knew it was time. With fresh tears I kissed Zachary and handed him to Jesus. What struck me, was that Jesus was crying with me. He knew how this felt, He knew what it cost and He was with me. His presence provided me a peace and strength that was supernatural.
It was finished, and I was a puddle of tears on the ground. I had received news that I never wanted to hear- that my baby boy inside my womb, would never be held in my arms on this side of heaven. The weight of that landed on me. Yet, I was covered with a peace I had never known and a love that had never felt so true. I had contended for resurrected life and had come up holding different promises from God than the one I was asking for.
He is with me / He speaks to me / He comforts me / He remembers me.
Those moments happened many years ago, but are still very close to my heart. Since those stone marker moments, my faith has wained. In more seasons than I would ever like to admit, I have doubted the promises of God.
This past year these stories have once again been fresh in my heart and mind. I have begun to ask God about them. He is calling me to live by faith- to once more believe for big things. To believe that He can resurrect life again (figuratively and literally), heal the sick and pour out His power on the earth. I do not want to fall prey to the lie of the enemy that I am foolish and naive to think that my God could move like that in the world, in America, in my generation, and in my life. I serve on the women's ministry team at my church. We just started a study on the life a Jesus and the things He calls us to. I have been asked to teach one of the weeks and this message of faith, to believe and contend for big things, is stirring in my heart. I am nervous and fighting against thoughts of sounding like the crazy lady who prays for the dead. It was such a gift to hear countless stories spoken from women around the country about faith from the IF team. Going into the IF:Gathering, my prayer was that as I declare His goodness in the midst of disappointing outcomes, that renewed faith would be the outcome. I needed a fresh encounter with Him as I call other women to live by faith. The above stories I shared are powerful and true in my life, but they happened a long time ago. I was asking God to meet me personally and speak to my heart in such a distinct way that it would be a stone marker I would refer to for decades to come.
He is a God who answers prayer!
I am so thankful for the obedience of others and what it opens up for the rest of us. For what it opens up for me. To all the women who gave endlessly to make IF:gathering a reality, thank you. Thank you for praying. Thank you for laying down your lives. Thank you for speaking the hard words, even if they felt crazy to say. Jennie Allen's first message on Friday morning, February 6th, caused my bones to tremble. I felt the Holy Spirit so powerfully it scared me. And then, it just continued. I wanted to jump out of my seat as Rebekah Lyons talked about revival and when Esther Havens ended with the story of the Guatemalan blind and lame woman having her sight restored and being given the ability to walk, I could not sit still in my seat. My faith was being revived. When I thought I was at capacity and couldn't be filled any more, God wrecked me in the best way. Jen Hatmaker and Jennie Allen got up to talk about Feed the Children, an organization that feeds hungry children in the US and around the globe. I'm not proud to admit this about myself, but this is the time that I tend to tune out or take a bathroom break. But, I didn't. I listened and was excited about the vision, but concluded that it wasn't something that my family could commit to. We are faithful to give, we already sponsor a child, my husband just left corporate America to serve on staff at our church......the excuses went on. Until, I reached below my chair and opened my packet. I pulled out a card and saw a name at the top... ZACHARY
He is an 8 year old boy who lives with his Dad and doesn't have a mom. He walks long miles to school and to the nearest store. His favorite food is boiled hot dogs. And he is hungry.
Time froze. My son Zachary would have been 8 years old on January 29th, 2015. God cut through to the deepest part of me and said...
“Jehovah remembers. I remember your faith. Go again. Believe me for the big things. I see you, I know you, and I will use you. Trust me.”
I filled out my packet that at this point was drenched with tears. I turned in my form and went to the back of the floor level of the auditorium and fell on my face. It was a holy moment. I am scared and unsure of what will come, but I know that my God is able and that my Redeemer lives! I will trust Him and have faith that He is who He says He is. On my stone marker I wrote 4 declarations of faith.
The blind will see / The lame will walk / Sickness will flee / The dead will be raised
These things are happening on the earth, right now. He is pouring out HIs Spirit in power to bring glory to His name. I will pray in faith for these things. I hope I get to see them. But, even if don't, He is good. He is always good.
Radiant Church Women's Gathering - March 4th, 2015
Audio Message - Jesus Call Me to a Life of Faith | Connie Armerding