Episode 11: Mary Ethel Eckard on Hearing God's Voice

you Apr 13, 2021
Mary Ethel Eckard on Hearing God's Voice

Mary Ethel Eckard has learned to listen to God's voice. Listen as she shares her story of how hearing God's voice has led her from making a kidney donation to starting retreats and Dragonfly Ministries.

Connect with Mary onher website or Facebook.

Learn more about retreats at Dragonfly Ministries, or her books The Making of a Dragonfly and Lessons of a Dragonfly.

Mary's favorite gadgets are...her veggie spiralizer and her automatic corkscrew! (I'm not sure the exact one she has, but here is one to get you started)

Hear it:

Watch it:

Read it:

This is a transcript of the This Mom Knows Podcast - Episode - 11

Jennifer Uren
Hello! Mary Ethel Eckard is our guest today, and she is a mom to four and has eight grandchildren. She's the co-founder of Dragonfly Ministries, where through her captivating testimony of relying on God's strength and guidance through the heights and depths of life, Mary helps others find freedom from the shame and pain of their past. Originally from South Carolina with a detour to Chicagoland where we met, Mary now calls Texas home. So welcome, Mary.

Mary Ethel Eckard
Thank you. I'm so excited to be here, Jenn.

Jennifer Uren
Oh, I'm so glad that you're here. So tell us just a little bit more about who you are, where you're from, your family. We touched on it in the intro, but give us a little bigger picture of "Who is Mary?"

Mary Ethel Eckard
Right. So I am northern born and southern bred. I was born in Flint, Michigan, and was there for a couple years. And then the family took us home to the Carolinas where I grew up and live for 30 years. And I've lived in North Carolina, Texas, Baltimore, Chicago, and now I'm back in Texas, because my two daughters and my eight grandkids are in Texas. So I consider that my home.

Jennifer Uren
That's great. I did not know the Michigan connection that's I learned something. So and So today, we're going to talk about something that you know a lot about, which is hearing God's voice and learning to listen. I've known you for a few years now. And one thing that has always impressed me is how you consistently listen for God's voice. And back when your kids were little, you felt God telling you to do something pretty powerful for a neighbor, can you tell us that story?

Mary Ethel Eckard
I can. It was a it's a great story.There was when I hit about 38 years old, it was just this struggle of having grown up in a Christian home, but not knowing who God was. So the god I worshipped was the God of my mother and father, but he wasn't personal to me. And so I started asking him to let me know if he was real. And if he was real, then I wanted to hear his voice. And I wanted to know that he saw me not me as the big world, me but me as an individual. And so I started trying to learn to lean into the Lord's voice and about that time I met this little kid that lived down the street, four years old, his name is Johnston. And I just fell in love with this little kid. So I had my son's at that time were six and eight. And so Johnston was just a great addition to our home, but I started wondering why I saw more of Johnston than I did his family and leaned into that question and found out that his mother had absolutely no kidney function at all. And she was on a waiting list for a kidney, a cadaver kidney, which means somebody had to die that was a perfect batch before she could get a kidney. So she was doing dialysis three times a week and as I thought about the struggles that dialysis does on a body, I did some research and I found out that dialysis really is hard on the internal organs and the bones, just every part of the body is just just really struggled through dialysis. So I started asking the Lord, you know, "What is there? Is there something that I can do?" And I remember I was painting our living room, I was up on a ladder painting, and I just dipped my brush into the paint can and I heard the Lord say, "You're a match for her." And I'm like, "What?!" I didn't fall off the ladder. But I was just like, "Lord, was that you? I don't, I don't...is that you?" And he said, "Yes, I brought you from South Carolina to Texas" and Johnston's family was from Louisiana. He said, "I brought her from Louisiana to Texas, you live two doors apart so that you can give her a kidney." And so we we went through testing, it took about nine months. She didn't want my kidney she she just didn't want it. But I eventually convinced her because I wouldn't back off. I just knew what God had spoken to me. And we were tested and through the testing, we found out that we could only be a closer match if we were identical twins. The doctor said that our we were such a close match just like we were sisters. And so that was kind of the opening for me. I mean, I don't think God's gonna ask everybody to cough up a kidney. But for me, he gave me a really big test. And when I leaned into that, that voice, I learned that Yeah, that was the Lord and and that was kind of our starting point. So

Jennifer Uren
That's amazing and that - it actually makes me tear up every time I hear it. And I think it's so funny because in your book you say, "Donating a kid- kidney was one thing because it didn't require me to step outside my comfort zone" and I laughed when I read that because I'm thinking you know, laying there on a hospital bed having someone cut into me. I think that's out of a lot of people's comfort zone.

Mary Ethel Eckard
Yeah, yeah, I just thought I didn't have to do anything. All I had to do was somebody let me have a really good sleep. And when I woke up, it was like, "Oh, that's it. Okay, that's good." Yeah. I will say on the hospital bed right before, right after they gave me the anesthesia. And before I went to sleep, the thought came into my mind, what if you don't wake up from this surgery? You know what, what will happen with my family if I don't wake up, and I just knew that God had called me to this, and he was responsible for the outcome of it. So if I didn't wake up, he was going to take care of my family. And so it was like, hey, let's go to sleep. Now. Let's do this. And she, she woke up feeling great. You know, she'll said she felt better than she had in years. And the doctor said, her kidneys started working before they even had it sewn and they just placed it on her organ, and it started working immediately.

Jennifer Uren
So that was amazing.

Mary Ethel Eckard
I know. It's awesome.

Jennifer Uren
So you're on a ladder, you clearly hear this, you convince her but what did your family think? Did they? Were they quick to jump on board? Or did they think you were crazy?

Mary Ethel Eckard
You know, it was just an interesting deal. Because this was like 20 years ago, before being a living donor was a thing and so I tried to research being a live kidney donor, and I couldn't find a lot of information about it. But I did find one person's testimony on a website. And he was just kind of giving his story about what he had learned through the kidney donation in. I just asked the Lord that He would give me all the answers that I needed in order to present it to my family. So when I presented it to the family, they were like, if God's called you to do this, who are we to argue with it? So that was kind of my green light to move forward with it.

Jennifer Uren
Wow. And what, what an example for your kids!

Mary Ethel Eckard
Yeah, yeah.

Jennifer Uren
Wow, that's amazing. Well, that was kind of the beginning of your journey of learning to hear God's voice. But a big part of your journey has also involved the dragon fly. Yeah, tell us how God has used that.

Mary Ethel Eckard
Okay. So right after the kidney donation is like God went silent. I couldn't hear him anymore. I had, I had heard him all the way for the whole year that we were testing, I was leaning into the Lord and I knew that he was talking to me. And then after the kidney donation, he went silent and it was like, "Lord, why would you flirt with me? And let me hear you so clearly, and then take your voice away?" And so I would go for walks in the morning and just ask, "God, would you just please let me hear your voice is this the only purpose of plan you had for my life was to donate a kidney and now you're done with me?" And I remember, I got the book my utmost for his highest by Oswald Chambers. And one of the days in the devotional, it said, "Sometimes God will trust you with his quietness, so that you will lean in further to hear his voice." And that's exactly what he did for me. So my boys were collecting dead bugs at the time. So I would go out walking in the morning and pick up dead bugs. And we did that for a few weeks, and I had a space left on our little poster board for something that would be a butterfly or dragon fly. So living in Texas, you see dragonflies all the time all year round. So I just asked the Lord, if you're real if you have a purpose and plan for me, would you give me a dragonfly in three days of walking and praying and crying and begging, he finally gave me this dead dragon fly, which I was thrilled. And I started asking him "Lord, why, why would you lay on my heart to ask for a dragonfly instead of a butterfly." And so I started doing a little research and I found out that the dragonfly is her strongest when she stays closest to her source of strength, the s-u-n light. And when she's flying around, she's pulling in the warmth from the sunlight into her body. And she absorbs it. And then when you see a dragon flies, wings, glistening, that is the sunlight that she is absorbed coming out through her wings, and I thought, Oh, that's okay. So I want to be Gods dragonfly, I want to pull in, I want to stay close to my source of strength the s-o-n light, and I want to pull in his love and absorb it into my body. And then as I began to walk with him, I want to represent and reflect Christ through through my life. And so he started teaching me to be his dragonfly and to become gods dragonfly, he has to teach us things so that he can reteach us and he has to pull out some really ugly things so that he can replace them with his thing. So I started a journey that was amazing for the first few years and then it hit some low points and then it's now it started going back up again. So but I feel like through all of those, all of those days and all of his lessons, he's kind of, you know, he's getting me closer to being his dragonfly.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, that's amazing. So there might be a mom listening who, who may be experiencing a similar gentle object lesson and wondering if God is speaking her to her through it? Or if it's just the strange coincidence? Yeah. How would you encourage her or help her discern that?

Mary Ethel Eckard
That's a great question. I was talking to someone a couple weeks ago, they were telling me they what they didn't know if God was real. I said, "Then ask him some questions asked him, Why do you have me here? Why am I the mom? Why am I Why am I in this situation where I'm a part of this family? Why did you have me grow up where I grew up?" I said, "Ask God, the Wise. And then let's watch for the coincidences. Because before we can train our spirits. To hear God's voice. A lot of times we see him in the coincidences. I personally don't believe there's such a thing as a coincidence. I believe God speaks to us through those coincidences, so journal, those coincidences and then go back to God and say, was this you? And what were you tryng to tell me? And how can I learn from this?" So watch for the coincidences. And object lessons, I think are wonderful, because God says that when we seek Him, we're going to find and he's not going to let us he's not gonna let us stay on he truly wants us to come after him, you know, because he's right there. And when we start seeking Him, even in object lessons, he will make himself known to us. It's pretty sweet.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, yeah. Well, I've alluded to, but I've had the privilege of knowing you for a while. And I've got, I was able to attend two Dragonfly Ministries retreats that you did. And both of them had these components of silence, like hours of silence. And the first retreat, I almost didn't show up and come because because of that, it was so daunting to think about hours of nothing. I don't know if you remember this or not. But the first one we were at was on the lake, and I was out, and I kept hearing God, tell me to "iron my husband's shirts." I thought this is the dumbest thing ever. And there were a whole bunch of reasons why it made a lot of sense. And I went home that weekend, and my husband was like, "what did you learn?" And I'm like, "God told me I have to iron your shirts." He's like, "yes!" He couldn't wait for me to go to another retreat.

Mary Ethel Eckard
That's hilarious. I do remember you sharing that it was so funny. Yeah.

Jennifer Uren
And I have thankfully since been released from that duty.

Mary Ethel Eckard
Oh, good, good, good.

Jennifer Uren
But do you still do retreats? Does Dragonfly Ministries still do retreats?

Mary Ethel Eckard
We do. We were doing on five and six a year. And I hit a bit of burnout in some hard times in life. So we started back two years ago, or last year, we've had two and right now we're doing one a year in Texas, and we still do the four to five hours, quiet time. And we do have women at the last minute who decided they can't come because they just don't know what to do with that space of time. But I'll tell you, there have been retreats that I've been on, where I've just been exhausted, and the Lord will say "Go lay down." So I'll nap for three hours and then get up and just kind of sit quietly, you know, he never lets us down. I mean, we always hear something from him. One time, I think, just what I heard from him was "I'm your shepherd, and you're my sheep." And that was enough, you know, because if you think of the picture of a shepherd tending their sheep, they always the shepherd always puts his sheep in in just the most gentle of care and takes good care of them. So that was I think one retreat weekend. That was what I heard from him. And that was good. That was good. I still lean into that, huh?

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, I've told women just do it. Once you've gotten through the first unknown what this four hours of silence look like. It's not nearly as scary and I was very much looking forward to the second one because I anticipated and begged God, "don't tell me to do more laundry", but I don't remember what I learned that one but but sweet, sweet thing. And so are you doing once a year in Texas, do people come from across the country. Are they local people?

Mary Ethel Eckard
Yeah, we've had this past year, October we had. We had women from Chicago, Pennsylvania, Maryland and South Carolina that came in addition to our Texas people, so they come from all over.

Jennifer Uren
That's wonderful. Yeah.

Mary Ethel Eckard
And we've got we've got limited capacity. So we'll hold about 40 women at one retreat weekend, the retreat site can hold a lot, but we just we didn't want we don't want to lose the intimacy of the of the retreat by booking it too full, you know.

Jennifer Uren
Right. Yeah, it's a hard balance. And so I suppose that's why you were doing more in the past because you did serve more women without losing that.

Mary Ethel Eckard
Right, right. And so this year, what I've decided is to take the retreats to other places. So last month, I was In South Carolina and Pennsylvania, leading women's retreats, so it's easier for me to travel than it is to have 30 people travel in. So

Jennifer Uren
Yes, yes. Yeah. And then I suppose the host has the logistics and you don't.

Mary Ethel Eckard
Right? That's exactly right. Yeah. I just show up.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah. Well, good. Do you have on your website? Is there information or a way to find out about these retreats?

Mary Ethel Eckard
Yeah, we have Dragonfly ministries website and we post the retreats on there. Okay. And we also have a Facebook page.

Jennifer Uren
Yep. I will make sure all of that is in the show notes. Okay, so people can click on that and find it. So in addition to co-founding Dragonfly Ministries, which I loved how you explained in the book that it was ministries, even though at the beginning, you didn't know what the plural was going to mean?

Mary Ethel Eckard
Right, right.

Jennifer Uren
But now you're an author, you've written the making of a dragon fly, which I really encourage, if you're listening, get the book and read it. It's it's a lot of Mary's story. But it's more than that. It's it's God working through her life. And it's, it's a story of learning to listen to God's voice. And the circumstances can be very different. But you can learn a lot through her experience in how to hear God's voice in your own life. And you have a companion a 40 day study that goes along with that.

Mary Ethel Eckard
Right, right. Right. So when I set out to write the first book, I was gonna write the 40 day devotional, and the Lord hijacked my book and had me tell my story first. So a year later, he was like, now you can tell the stories. And the second book are the lessons that I learned during my transformation of being selfish, Mary, to be in more of a reflection of God's light in his love. And so it's just, you know, as a season of stories of how God turns us upside down, and he teaches us, it's better to bless someone than to curse them. And there's an example in there of how you know, I asked someone to pray a prayer cursing someone, and they prayed a prayer blessing someone, and it was like, oh, hmm. Probably I asked for the wrong kind of prayer. But at least I asked somebody mature enough to pray that knew the exact right way to do to pray. Right. Yeah. And so it's just lessons like that how God kind of took out some of the ugliness and bad teachings in me and replaced it with his ways. And it's I think it's a good it's a good read for people that are looking for, for true transformation, not the outside in, but the inside out transformation.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah. Is that designed for individual or for group study? Or either?

Mary Ethel Eckard
Yeah, it can go either way. I've got groups that are doing it. Small groups in the home. Yeah.

Jennifer Uren
Okay. Well, that's great. And so out of that process, you've now become a publisher.

Mary Ethel Eckard
I have Yes, yes.

Jennifer Uren
So tell me about how you heard God's voice in that journey.

Mary Ethel Eckard
Oh, my stars. So my first book I published on page 51, of The Making of a Dragonfly, I had the word "public", but I left the "L" out of the word public. And I was so embarrassed that I asked the publisher if they could republish the book, and they said, "No, all books have errors in them." And I'm like, not like that! All I could think was Psalm 51, it says, created me a pure heart. And here I was on page 51 of my book with that word. So I set out to figure out how to self publish. And so as I did a second edition of that book with the "L" in the word "public", and, and it was quite a, quite a nerve wracking process, because I didn't really know anybody that I can talk to, to learn the process. But God walked me through it. And then I published my second book. And I think God's voice in that was it. I just had this sense that I had told all the stories that I have to tell up to this point. But God wanted me to tell other people's stories. And the way he brought that to me was by a friend saying, I've written a book and I'd like you to help me publish it. And so I realized then that that was what God was saying was, let's get other people's stories out. Let's put some positive words and some God teachings into the environment in the library. So last year, I started my first book, I think I finished in April, and I've helped seven other people publish their books last year, so it's fun. It's great. Imlove it. It's very life giving for me. Yeah,

Jennifer Uren
That's amazing. Because a lot of people have a story to tell. And that can be a chasm to get over. Yeah, I have a story to how would I even get it into somebody's hands? So that's great.

Mary Ethel Eckard
Right, right, right.

Jennifer Uren
And so do you. Do people come to you with stories? Do you look for stories or if somebody listening is like, this is what I wanted to do, how would they move forward if that was a thing, right?

Mary Ethel Eckard
So I have not gone in search of stories. I have just word of mouth. People find me but I guess a month ago, I put a publishing tab on my website, MaryEthelEckard.com, and so they can go to the publishing tab and just kind of get a little more information and my email address. And what we'll do is if if they've got their manuscript somewhat done, I'm glad to look at it and give some suggestions. If they've not even started writing their story. I've got a worksheet I can send them that'll kind of give them some clues into how to get started in that process.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, excellent. Oh, that's exciting. It'll be fun to see how that grows and where that goes.

Mary Ethel Eckard
Yeah, yeah.

Jennifer Uren
You're you're getting some speakers for future retreats, I think.

Mary Ethel Eckard
Yes, yes, yes, absolutely. Yes.

Jennifer Uren
Well, for mom, listening today is just struggling to hear God's voice and wants to what would you tell her? Where should she start? What is one thing she could do today?

Mary Ethel Eckard
Wow, that is a great question. Jenn, you have great questions. I remember thinking that in order to hear God's voice, I had to dig into a Bible study and just spend a whole lot of time in there and when you've got young kids, you're doing good to just survive the day, right. And so what, what what I have learned and what I tell young moms is, pick up, pick up your Bible, because we know God speaks to us through Scripture, and open it to Psalm 139, and read Psalm 139, until something resonates with you. And usually something's going to hit you by the fifth verse, because it's such a powerful Psalm in the Bible. And when something resonates with you just stop in, you can journal it or you can just read it again, it might be one sentence, it might be three words, but you don't have to read the whole chapter. You don't have to read 16 verses God's gonna speak to you through those verses. And the way you know when the Holy Spirit is dealing with you is when you're reading scripture, and something resonates with you. And you're like, "Oh, wait, let me go back and read that again." And then you can just lean into that. I mean, you could take a whole week. And there was a, there was an instance where a woman told me one time I cannot, I can't read the Bible is too hard to understand. So I had her go to one, Psalm 139. This was at a retreat during her quiet time. And after the quiet time, I said, so how did your quiet time go? And she said, I didn't get past Psalm 139, verse one, she said, it says in there, Lord, you have searched me and you know me. And she said, I just couldn't get over that. Because I grew up in a family with nine kids. And she said, I was dead in the middle of those nine kids. And she said, I never felt like anyone saw me or knew me, or was even interested in me. So she said, I spent my whole quiet time, like four hours journaling about what it meant that God knew me. And, you know, that was that was life changing for her. So I would say that, do that and then when you are talking to the Lord, when you're praying and talk to him out loud, so that you can hear your voice speaking to him. And what that does is it opens you up to expecting God to answer and so when those coincidences come, you are more inclined to believe that was God, then it was just a coincidence.

Jennifer Uren
Mm hmm. That is great. And that's encouraging. Because, yes, with kids, and I feel like I will never not have small children in my home at the rate we're going. But it's very challenging, especially when you feel like you should be sitting down and, you know, with the colored pencils, and with the notebook, and you know, so that's very encouraging.

Mary Ethel Eckard
We do, we put so much stress on ourselves to do things, to do things the "church way" when what the Lord says is just be don't strive, just come to me, talk to me, and then give me space to answer or to speak to you. Because he speaks to us spirit to spirit. And once we realize where what am I trying to say, once we realize that he speaks to us spirit to spirit and his spirit resides in as we just need to kind of tune in with a little bit of quiet as to what that voice sounds like. And, you know, it took me 40 years to figure that out. When my kids were getting a little older it you know, was when I was interested in figuring it out. So don't put so much stress on yourself and don't strive so hard, just kind of just kind of just be in God's presence and let him let him speak to you through the the ease of life instead of making it so difficult.

Jennifer Uren
That's good. So don't try to do relationship try to be in relation, right.

Mary Ethel Eckard
Oh, that's good. Yeah. Good summary, girl. Wow.

Jennifer Uren
And for a task oriented person, that can be a challenge. So but that was, that's freeing to not have to have it be a certain way. Yeah. So that is great. Well, we have a couple final questions as we wrap up, our time is going fast, which is great. I enjoy these conversations so much, but one thing I ask every guest, it's a little bit more lighthearted. What is your favorite gadget?

Mary Ethel Eckard
I was hoping you would ask me that. Oh my gosh, so I have two of them. Okay, my first is a I think it's called a veggie, you put your squash in here and you hold on, you've put your squash in and you turn it and it spirals so that you have vegetables of spaghetti. like okay, zucchini or squash is great. Cucumber is not so good. But my really favorite one is it's an automatic automatic wine opener. So let me Ah, yes, ma'am. It takes the cork right out for you. So no more that trying to trying to figure that mess out. My girlfriend gave me that.

Jennifer Uren
Perfect. Yeah, that's, that's wonderful. Yeah,

Mary Ethel Eckard
It gets a lot of use.

Jennifer Uren
That's great. Those are great. Oh, so Mary, how if people want to, to be in touch with you further, I know you have a podcast and you've got a website and you're on social media. How can they get? How can they connect with you?

Mary Ethel Eckard
Yeah, so I have a podcast. It's called Drawing Near, Drawing Near Yeah, with Mary Ethel Eckard. And it's on Spotify and anchor and all the big ones I think so. I just posted a really good one for young moms today is called "Blessed is the Mom." It's a teaching i did to mother of preschoolers event a few years back, but it's just such a word of encouragement of clinging to Jesus and watching how your kids model your behavior. So that's a good one for young moms. And let me see I'm on Facebook, Mary, Ethel Eckard is my business page and then my website MaryEthelEckard.com or they can go to dragonflyministries.com.

Jennifer Uren
Okay, and.com not.org Okay. Okay, great. And your books are available for order

Mary Ethel Eckard
On Amazon. Yep. Okay.

Jennifer Uren
And they could link through your website over to Amazon. Yes. Okay. Okay, great. Well, Mary, I'm so glad that you took the time to join us today and we could have this conversation. And I'm just grateful for you and for the fact that you listen to God and for all the ways that you have influenced me to listen for his voice.

Mary Ethel Eckard
Thank you. Good luck with your podcast. I'm so excited that you're doing this and I'm going to send a couple of friends to you to see to see if we can pick their brains as well.

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