Thank you, Erica!
Today is special to me for another reason: when I got up this morning and read the scriptures for the day, this passage from the Gospel of Luke was included. This is the passage that the Lord placed in my heart when our relationship deepened and became more "one-to-one," and less general, less "religious."
Back in the late 1990s Gregg and I felt that we needed a larger home for our growing family. We had plans drawn up, found a lot, purchased it, and put our house up for sale. It took a while, but eventually, we sold our house and moved into a rental home (not a very nice one, but it had a big yard for the kids. My mom called it "le dungeon" with a French accent). We started to have the new house built.
Around this time, I left my old religion and began attending meetings run by a group called Bible Study Fellowship. BSF is not a church, but an international Bible study group, and was my first introduction to more "mainstream" Christianity. It's quite far to the right in the mainstream, whereas my old church was very far to the left; you could say I went from one extreme to another, and you would be correct. It wasn't a perfect fit for me, but it was a wonderful, diverse group of women; we all loved the Scriptures, and we loved our studies together.
In the course of taking BSF classes, I realized that I had never had the old "altar call" experience, and I started to wonder if I had missed an important step. Around this time, a friend told me bluntly that he thought that I didn't know Jesus, and that I should ask Him to reveal Himself to me. While I understood my friend's loving motivation, I was a bit insulted by his words, as I had been a Christian (as I understood that word, to mean a follower of Christ) since I was about four years old. But it occurred to me that it wouldn't hurt if I were to ask Jesus anyway...so I said something (in my heart) like, "Lord, I think I know you, but if I don't know you, would you reveal yourself to me?"
One night after I had prayed this prayer, I awoke with a burning sensation in my chest. It wasn't heartburn; it was warmth. I tried to ignore it and go back to sleep, but sleep was not happening. The scripture on my heart was part of this passage: Luke 24:13-35, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?" I got up, took my Bible and one of the booklets that BSF gave us that outlined the steps to clearly opening one's heart to an intentional relationship with God. I went through the steps, and it was kind of as if I had gotten married; it was beautiful, personal and sacred. I felt at peace, and it was a good beginning of a deeper relationship with God and Jesus.
Not long after this, Gregg and I discovered that we were being swindled by the general contractor we had hired to build our house. We lost a lot of our construction money, and for a time, it was unclear whether or not we were going to be able to finish (and occupy) this house. We ended up having to go to court to prove that we had paid the contractor, hiring a new builder, having large portions of the house demolished, and, because money was so tight, having to go to the job site on weekends and haul, sweep and burn what had been demolished. I mean that we had to burn the building materials that we had paid for, including two staircases and more, and watch the wood (and with it, our money and plans) literally go up in smoke. It was a very difficult time for our family.
The BSF ladies prayed faithfully with me; God helped us through the difficulties in many ways. I had to face a number of my fears, one of which was the huge fear of losing all of our money. It was a strain on our marriage, but we learned a great deal about each other throughout the experience. And just when things were looking the most bleak (financially), money came in from an unexpected source, and we were able to finish the house (with a lot of hard work, and patience). I helped perform some of the general contracting, and got to know some of the nicest, most skilled, honest and kindhearted contractors you could ever wish to meet, particularly the general contractor (David Rudesill of Crystal Springs Construction).
Before we moved in, I asked the pastor of the church that I had started attending to come over and ask a blessing on the house. He did this, and I later joined that church. The kids and I, and my mother, were all baptized there. I joined a Bible study class at the church, which encouraged my spiritual journey; BSF had been wonderful, but it was time for me to study along different lines, in my new church community.
We moved into this house nine years ago, and it has been a home of comfort and hospitality, a joy and a haven for us, our family and friends. I am thankful to live here; I am also thankful that I learned a number of important lessons before I moved in. As beautiful as it is, it's simply a house; home is where my loved ones are.
The Scripture about the disciples meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus is tied up with many memories, for me, but it always reminds me of my "burning heart" experience, which led me to believe that Jesus loves and wants me, personally. And if he wants me, I feel in my heart that he must want and love EVERYONE.