lessons-hurricane-irma

Five Lessons I Learned From Hurricane Irma

Last month Hurricane Irma came through Florida and temporarily disrupted our lives (sadly, many are still recovering from Irma and now, those in Puerto Rico and other Caribbean Islands, from Maria).

Although, Irma is now a distant memory for our family, she taught me a few valuable lessons.  Lessons I will never forget.

Always Be Prepared (MAtthew 25:1-13)

In our Life Group (some churches call it a Sunday school class), our leader had recently given us a scenario which required a “What would you do in this situation?” answer. After sitting through the lesson and joining in the banter and debate, I went home and thought about our home and the provisions I have in case a situation like what was mentioned came up. I realized I would not be prepared.

I immediately began adding items to my regular shopping list that would keep us prepared for any type of disaster. One case of water bottles, a bag of rice, and two cans of beans became a weekly purchase for me. When we heard that Irma was heading in our direction and everyone began rushing the stores for water, I didn’t have to panic. I had several cases of water already purchased, along with plenty of non perishable foods. Instead, I made a bee line to the bottled coffee in case the power went out keeping me from making coffee with my coffee pot… because priorities… really.

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Be Willing to Share What You Have (1 Timothy 6:18)

As soon as Irma became a threat to our area, we immediately called family members who could possibly be in danger and opened our home to them. The beauty of it was that they brought over a generator and precooked foods along with other non perishables and more practical items such as buckets of water for use in the bathrooms (our water comes from a well which needs electricity to run… no electricity means no water in the bathroom), extension cords, and a radio.

By being willing to share what we had to offer, we gained so much more. We now have a memory with family members that we didn’t have before. The long evening talks around the dining room table will forever be a part of my heart. The breakfasts of donuts and Puerto Rican bread with butter will be remembered by my children and talked about for a long time.

Jesus Changes Your Perspective (Matthew 8:27)

A few hours before the eye wall hit us, I sat on the floor of my bedroom with the shades pulled up slightly and stared in awe at the trees blowing in the wind. Because we were on the west side of the eye, we were in a much safer position than those who found themselves on the eastern side of it. Although the threat of a tree falling was still a reality (one which did happen), I was okay for the time being.

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I sat in awe of the power of God. The storm had reached a Category 5 and had hit places like St. Maarten and Barbuda with such force that many people lost their homes and few even their lives. Yet, when I saw the power the storm had hit with, it reminded me that God is even more powerful than the storm. For me, the hurricane was a brief reminder of the power of God.

This is how I approached the hurricane with my children. We saw the destruction and devastation the hurricane left in its wake by way of the news, but we were reminded that the same God who caused a world wide flood during the time of Noah was also the same God who calmed the storm and told the wind and the waves to stop. This storm was powerful, but only shadowed a portion of the power held by the Almighty God.

God truly does have a purpose (Jeremiah 29:11)

On the night Irma hit, we lost power, yet I can see God’s hand directly involved in every aspect of our lives over the next few days.

Because of the generator, we didn’t hear the wind howling above us, and everyone slept through the most intense part of the storm.

The tree in our backyard that I had been worried about (and never even wanted in the first place) fell into the still unfinished part of our yard and did not affect our home, well, or our neighbor’s property.

Although we lost power, many of our family members did not. My sister, Purposeful Mom Faye, didn’t lose power. With a 3 year old who wouldn’t fully understand why the power was gone, it was a blessing that she never lost power. Our father didn’t lose his electricity, but, because he had evacuated, his home was available for us to take showers and even to stay in overnight if we chose to.

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I gained a deeper appreciation for all first responders (Romans 13:4a)

I have always loved, appreciated, and supported our military, police officers, firemen, and EMT workers and have taught my children to do the same, but one of our other first responders during the hurricane was the linemen. Although the first group keeps us safe on a daily basis, the linemen spent hours trying to restore power to the many sections of the power grid for days on end. These men worked 12 hour shifts 24 hours a day until power was restored to our county and  state, in order to restore us back to the level of comfort we have grown accustomed to. Many times, after working a long shift restoring power to our community, these men and women went home for the evening to a home that had no electricity.

One evening as we were driving to my dad’s home to shower and freshen up, we saw a group of linemen at the end of the main road we live off of. We lowered our windows, slowed our vehicle, and all began cheering for them and yelling “thank you” out the window. These men looked exhausted, barely smiled, but one forced his hand up to wave back in response.

Hurricane Irma was one of those storms that blows into your life, disrupts it for a little while, and then goes away leaving us with the aftermath to clean up and work through- like so many other storms that come into our lives.

These principles can even apply to those storms as well.

When you live your life knowing that God has a purpose in your storm, and you allow Jesus to change your perspective, you will learn valuable lessons, which can only be learned through a storm.

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God Moved Our Mountain

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“For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.” (Mark 11:23 KJV) 

Life can be filled with mountains- challenges or obstacles that stand in the way of our dreams or success. While some seem more like hills and a bit easier to conquer, there are others that just don’t seem as simple to plow through. 

Whatever the size of our mountains, though, I find that it’s often much easier for many of us to talk “about” the mountains in our lives as opposed to talking “to” them as the verse above states.

“It’s so hard to lose weight”, we tell ourselves. 

“I don’t know if I’ll get the job. So many people have applied, and I’m sure there are plenty more qualified than me.” 

“I don’t know if I’ll ever get out of debt. I’m having a struggle just paying my bills, and these days we’re living paycheck to paycheck.”

Yes, my friends, you know the mountains. You’ve perhaps climbed a few yourself… And some just don’t seem like they’ll ever go away… 

But what if the words in the above Bible verse were actually true? Could it be possible to see those mountains move by God’s power working through our faith and the words we speak? 

Well, one did for me…

When my husband and I first got married, we decided to start our lives together in an apartment complex beside a beautiful master community. While living in the apartments, together we’d enjoy bike rides into the neighboring community, where we not only had access to a beautiful nature trail but also were able to use the community’s clubhouse amenities for a small yearly fee. Nature-purposeful-moms-image

Over time, my husband and I began to look at buying a home and found a beautiful one right in there. At the time it was on the market as a short sale. When visiting this home for the first time, I felt a strong sense of peace that I hadn’t felt before during our house hunting experience. And it was amazing to see that both my husband and I actually had a unified agreement on this home. 

However, shortly after fixing our eyes on this home, it was taken off the market… as it began to go through the foreclosure process.

I still had my heart set on it and remember one day returning with a good friend and asking her to pray with me over it. Together we touched the door and agreed in prayer that it would come back on the market and be priced. 

After a few months of waiting, it did come back on the market, and we were thrilled. (Hey, and it even came with a jacuzzi! Can’t beat that, right?) So, very soon after, we put in our first offer. 

Yeah….And the bank rejected it.

Hm… Not enough? So, we gave another offer…

And…. Another rejection by the bank.

Not willing to give up, we put a third offer on the home…

And… (Cue the crickets!)

We heard nothing back.

So, we assumed our third offer was also rejected and finally gave up on it, having our first two offers rejected by the bank and our third offer never getting a response.

Still in the market for a home, we ended up house hunting some more.  And, finally, after not being able to find anymore homes in our ideal community within our price range, we made an offer on a home in a different community. It was a nice home and nice community but just not the home we originally wanted… Honestly, even though it was a beautiful place, we felt like we were getting our second pick (of community) and not our first. 

It’s so amazing, though, how although at times it seems as if a dream has died, God has the power to resurrect it…

Hope-restored-purposeful-momsIn fact, it’s funny as I remembered (after the fact) that God had given me a special personal word regarding our house hunting experience, and it was this… “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” (Hebrews 10:36)

Little did I realize how very relevant this word would be to our situation…

…Because on the morning our offer/paperwork was to be submitted to the owners and as I got ready for work, I began to be reminded of the first home that we loved and that I had felt such a solid peace about. (It was basically out of the picture, though, from our past experiences with the bank and now with us in the current process of putting an offer on another home.)

But as I was getting ready in my bathroom… Something I’d never really done much of before happened. I began speaking directly to my mountain! 

REALLY. 

(Okay, it may sound crazy to you. And if you were a fly on the wall you might have thought it was a bit strange. But it was as if God allowed faith to rise up in me in that moment, and I started confessing out loud in my bathroom {of all places} that the house we really wanted at first would open up and the bank would accept our offer…TODAY!)

Whoa, girl… That’s a big step of faith. How do you know it’s all going to happen? Believe me, that boldness in faith and that word had to come from God because I don’t know if I really realized at the time what was actually going to transpire that very same DAY… 

So, I headed out to work to decorate and prepare my classroom before the beginning of the school year, and a little later I got a call…

It was my husband who told me that a line in the paperwork from our current offer was missing one of our signatures, so it couldn’t be submitted yet. (The fact is… Once an offer is submitted, you can’t put an offer on another home. So this was crucial to what would happen next.) 

Then, a little while later Jim called me again. This time, he told me that our realtor (who was not the main listing agent for the foreclosure house) just learned that the bank had dropped the price on the house we really wanted. They had never seen our third offer (possibly due to the main listing agent wanting the full commission on the house), and now our third offer (which the bank had never seen) was $1,000 less than our third offer.

So… Yeah…..!!!!! Needless to say, we got our dream house!

GOD HAD MOVED OUR MOUNTAIN!!!

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Yes, banks have power to say “Yes” or “No”. People have choices to agree or not agree, but something I’ve learned is that when God is in the middle of something, and He wants something good to happen…Nothing can stand in His way.

I will always remember the day God prompted me to speak to my mountain, and the amazing events that happened that day. For me, this story will always remain a encouraging testimony to share with others regarding the mountains they face… Because it’s not just me sharing a positive “reminder”, it’s actually an event that took place in my own life where I saw God at work. 

If you have any mountains in your life, no matter what they are, just know that God is much bigger than them. Take them to God in prayer… and then get ready to start speaking to them about how BIG GOD is….because even though mountains are big, they can still be moved by God’s power.

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To the Expectant Mother Soon to Give Birth

Jeremiah 29:11- For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Psalm 30:5b- Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

Dear Mom Ready to Give Birth,

Motherhood is hard. There are so many challenges in a single ordinary day. But there is also beauty with each challenge we face. So many will be ready to remind you of each new challenge you will face- “war stories” of births and raising children. But many will fail to remind you of the beauty hidden deep within each challenge, and the treasure that you will find if you look hard enough.

I want to remind you that within each challenge hides a beautiful treasure.

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Two weeks before I gave birth to our daughter, my mother went home to be with the Lord. I thought I was going to have to walk through motherhood alone. I hadn’t read any books or listened to the “experts” because I had assumed my mother would be there to guide me down this road called motherhood. And yet as hard as facing motherhood without my own mother was, God brought beauty in a way I had not expected it.

God brought women along side of me to help walk me through the early stages of motherhood. Some of those women were there for a season and some have continued to walk beside me. God has used my aunts, mother-in-law, and other godly women to come along side me and encourage me with God’s Word. I also had the chance to see how awesome my husband really is. From changing diapers- I’m talking the really dirty ones– to quieting a colic-y baby, I was able to see the true man that he really was but had never really noticed or given him credit for before.

The beauty of discipleship from seasoned, Christian women and the hands on love from my husband were a treasure I discovered during those difficult first few months.

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Five days before I went into labor, a senior saint decided to tell me every painful and gory detail about her birth and delivery story. I listened wide-eyed and I began to dread this fast approaching event that according to her would take 3 days with no medication.

Yes, the contractions came, and I experienced more discomfort than I have ever felt, but there was something beautiful about that period of discomfort. My room was filled with those who I loved and loved me. My husband, sister, in-laws, 2 aunts, an uncle, my cousin and her family, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law surrounded me. They breathed in with every contraction that showed up on the monitor and exhaled as each one dissipated.

That was the beauty in that moment of challenge. The community that God knew I so desperately needed at that very moment. He knew that I needed to know I wasn’t alone. I was watching and hearing my family and extended family feel my pain with me. The send offs and joyful laughter as I was wheeled away to deliver my daughter followed me down the corridor. The rejoicing that went on in that room when my daughter entered the world was God’s reminder that when His people “Rejoice with those that rejoice and weep with those that weep (Romans 12:15)” His love is visibly evident in the real world.

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I had to have an emergency C-section, and I was faced with having an extra set of bills I wasn’t anticipating, not having the type of birth I had hoped for, and now I would have a life-long scar.

Yet, the beauty came when I realized that my husband and I would have this moment to share all to ourselves. No one else would be able to impose on this moment that was going to turn us from a couple into a family. God allowed our insurance company to not only cover the c-section, but to also reimburse us for the entire pregnancy, reminding me that “my God will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory.” (Phil. 4:19) And my scar is a constant visual reminder that I would do anything for the sake of my children.

As we moved our new family home from the hospital, I began to experience the sleepless nights and midnight feedings that everyone “warns” you about with dread and gloom. As I would get up for each feeding, I would plead to God to let my baby sleep through the night. I was tired.

But the beauty came as I began to use those middle of the night times to have my quiet time. I had no room for distraction- nothing could be cleaned without waking anyone up. No one needed me once the baby had been put back to bed. Those middle of the night feedings turned into a nightly “meet-up” with God, and I began to look forward to it. When our son came along, his middle of the night feedings allowed me to continue having my time with God since I would be waking up to an energized preschooler and my day would get away from me.

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As your life changes in the next few weeks and you add this new little person into your home and family, with each challenge, look for the beauty. It will be there. Sometimes you won’t recognize it right away. But as you look back at the early days with little one, the moments filled with the most challenge are the moments you will remember most and miss once they have passed. And it is then that the beauty will start to become evident.

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faith

Faith the Size of a Tie

I was 26. And single.

All of the people in my circle were in a relationship, engaged, or married with children on the way.

And then there was me.

The oldest in our Sunday school class.

Single.

I would go home from church, saddened because, as wonderful as my family was, I felt that empty feeling that comes when you know you are missing your other half, but you don’t even know who that other half is. I didn’t have that special someone that was made just for me.

Then one day as I was shopping at Bealls (a Florida only franchise), I happened to walk past the men’s ties.

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And that is when God put a thought in my heart.

Buy one.

I questioned the thought.

“For who?”

And I felt God tell my heart, Buy one, have it gift wrapped at the back counter, and put it in your closet until the right time.

As far as I knew, there was no one that I currently knew who the tie could possibly be for (I did know this guy named Brian… my friend… the one I practiced talking to guys with since I knew nothing about talking to guys… but I never imagined the tie would be for him…).

But I obeyed.

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I had faith the size of a tie that one day there would be a man made just for me who would wear that tie.

I had faith the size of a tie that God had not forgotten about me. Faith that He was ready with pen in hand to write my love story.

I had faith the size of a tie that my turn would come, and I would have my very own love story to tell.

When we feel that we have been forgotten…

When we are saddened that we are the only ones in our circle who have not reached a particular milestone…

When we see those around us enjoying the gifts we are so fervently praying for…

We need to have faith.

We only have to have faith the size of a mustard seed.

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It doesn’t have to be big faith. A mustard seed is small. A mustard seed is 2-3 millimeters in diameter, but Jesus tells us that faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain (Matthew 17:20).

The contrast in size is so great. A tiny seed. A giant mountain. Yet God does not require the size of our faith to match the challenge. Sometimes our faith is only the size of a mustard seed. But as we see God move each mountain we encounter, the size of our faith grows.

What are you needing faith for?

Faith that one day God will bring the right man into your life.

Faith that one day your arms will hold the baby your heart has dreamed of.

Faith that one day your entire family will worship together- at home and in God’s house.

Faith that one day you will turn the key and open the front door to a home you can call your own.

Your faith may be the size of onesie, a hymnal, or a set of brand new kitchen towels.

In my case, faith was the size of a tie.

A maroon and gold colored tie that I pulled down from the top shelf in my closet one beautiful day in October of 2003- the day after Brian asked my parents for my hand.

What size is your faith?

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value-life

A Letter From My Mother: The Value of Life

This past Friday, the annual March for Life was held in Washington, D. C. As I thought about those people  marching for the life of the unborn, I thought of a letter my mother had written to me years ago, before her passing.

This letter is a constant reminder to me of the value life has. On days when I feel that I am not making a difference, when I am folding laundry for the twelve millionth time, cooking another meal, picking up another toy, stepping on another Lego piece or perler bead, this letter reminds me of the value my life has.

This letter is completely in her words- it has obviously come to mean a lot to me.

Our mother had a way with words that I miss so much. The grammar may not be perfect, but the words are powerful. I have interjected some things in parenthesis.

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My Dearest Suzette:

Your Dad and I were married on May 19, 1973. He had said that he wanted to wait five years before we had children. After two years, I remember very clearly that I brought it to the Lord in prayer the fact that I wanted a baby. That is when I began to see God at work. He certainly does change things.

I remember that it was while your Dad and I were staying over Little Grandma’s house (our dad’s mother) that Dad said to me, “You know, Ana, I would like to have a baby.” Was I excited! This was an answer to prayer.

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In February of 1975, I found out that I was expecting. It was great news! During that time, there was about ten of us who were pregnant who were attending a church in Brooklyn called “Summit”. One night, I went to church and a preacher had a word of knowledge from God. He said that there were ten women in church that were expecting and that each would be going through something during her pregnancy. He wanted the ten expectant mothers to pass forward so that prayer could be made for them. So I went to the front of the church, but I was scared. I didn’t want anything to happen to my baby. Was I glad, though, that I was there in church that night because I surely needed a Word from the Lord.

Boy, was I going to be experiencing some trials! I later found out that I had toxemia. So I was put on a very strict diet, and even with this I was considered to be high risk. (Mother’s that experience toxemia sometimes experience convulsions or in more extreme cases lose their lives or their babies.) I had been admitted to the hospital altogether about five times during my pregnancy, but the Lord faithfully delivered me from all harm.

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One time, I broke out is a red rash on my legs so badly that I could not walk because of a terrible burning sensation in my legs. I was thus admitted to the hospital. While there, I overheard an employee saying that I might need to have an abortion. I did not and still do not believe in abortion. Also, I am sure this hospital employee did not know the God I served. I turned around and cried. I opened the Word of God and the Lord spoke to me and said, “There is no spot in thee.” It was then that I knew the spots I had did not affect you, my daughter, Suzette. I came out with a very healthy baby. I had a hard time during your delivery, but the Lord was with me.

The hospital staff sent me home, and we stayed with Little Grandma for a month. I am thankful to God for this because all of the family was such a blessing to us. Titi Alice, Grandpa, and Grandma were excited to have you there since you were the only grandchild around at that time (my cousins lived in Florida).

As soon as I arrived home, I had to return to the hospital. Part of my placenta had been left inside of me. So they put me in the maternity ward with other expecting mothers. I used to cry seeing other mothers attending to their newborns.

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Dad was a great sport, and your grandparents and aunt took care of you. Meanwhile, Dad was busy going to the store to get his little baby girl formula. Well, guess what he returned home with on one occasion? Your first raggedy doll.

Days passed, and I came back home, yet another problem arose. I began hemorrhaging. There were no doctors or anything else {that} seemed to help. Grandma Adelaida (Little Grandma) said that we needed to pray to God to help us in this trying situation. Praise God for the prayers of the righteous and the agreement of three people according to God’s Word! The bleeding stopped.

I again realized that there is nothing too hard for the God who knows all things and can bring us out of hard situations. We can truly know He is in control. He is the all-knowing God. Before we call, He answers. God knew whom He needed to send to pray for us. He knew that I needed a Word to see me through since I would be experiencing these problems during my pregnancy. The man of God who prayed that night was known truly to be a man of prayer.

As I look back on the experiences in my life, I realize that had I not gone through all of this, I would not have a testimony of the God who knows and can foresee all things. He can see us through when we face difficult times. So have faith in God. He is a very present help in time of need. He knows all things, and He has everything under control.

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So my dearest Suzette, I give you to God as my token of my thanks. If it hadn’t been for God, we wouldn’t have been blessed with YOU. Remember YOU were born to live. So continue to live the abundant life for Christ!

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words hard say

When the Words Are Hard to Say

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There are moments in our lives that create opportunities for us to grow. Sometimes those opportunities are beautiful and bring a rush of joy and excitement… but most of the time, those moments are hard.

It’s the hard moments that either grow our faith or uproot us. We either choose to dig in and stay strong, or we give up and let our circumstances blow us around leaving us battered, bruised, and lifeless at the end of our storm.

We can either learn the lesson of the storm, or we experience another storm similar the previous one in order to finally learn the lesson God is trying to teach us.

These storms come in many forms- a broken or strained marriage, a financial crisis, the sudden loss of a loved one, a physical illness, children who have strayed from the faith, or an unexpected diagnosis.

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But remember, dear friends, we are not alone.

God has included the account of Job in His Word for our benefit, as our reminder that we are not the only ones to experience storms. It is a reminder that we are not the only ones who have walked this path. Job is God’s gentle reminder that someone else has had it worse.

Job experienced the great losses of his riches, family, and health. Everything he owned was taken away from him stripping him of his wealth. His children were all killed when the home they were in fell on top of them, crushing them. Job himself was struck with a disease which caused his body to break out in boils. He was in such pain he wished he had never been born. Yet, in his storm, instead of cursing God, he chose to say, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

And those are not easy words to say…

My storm

I began thinking about Job soon after Mom went home to be with the Lord. She was no longer here, but, as I thought of my loss, I felt the ever-present movement of a little person who would be making an appearance exactly two weeks after her passing.

My storm was struggling with the whys of my mother’s passing. Mom was still in her 50’s. She was going to be a grandmother for the first time. My mom was one of the most faithful followers of Christ that I knew. She was the kind of woman who would change her plans if we needed her. I couldn’t understand why God would allow her die at the time when I needed her the most.

This was my time to either stand firm in my faith in God and His sovereignty or let the storm beat me down and shred my faith.

After our daughter, Addie, was born, the thought that “He gives and takes away” kept going through my mind. My mother was gone, yet I had been given the beautiful gift of a baby girl.

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My cousin, Lisa, had given us a DVD from the Praise Baby Collection (highly recommend!). One of the songs on the DVD was the praise chorus “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord”. I would sit with my baby, move her hands to the music, and sing along… until it came to the lines “He gives and takes away, He gives and takes away, My heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be your name.”

Then I would stop.

Until one day as I was washing out bottles at the kitchen sink and the DVD was playing. I stopped washing, and I forced myself to sing those lines.

Yes, it was a struggle, and, yes, I cried the whole time I sang. But after that first time of forcing myself to verbally acknowledge God’s sovereignty in my situation, I was able to sing those lines without crying. Now when I hear that song, those lines remind me of my response to the storm. It has become “our song”- a song with a special meaning between my Heavenly Father and me.

God does give, and He does take away, but we have to choose in our hearts to bless His name in the storm, regardless of our agreement with His decisions. God is sovereign and all-knowing. He understands the “whys” so much better than we do. Eventually, He allows us to see glimpses of His purposes and reasons, but He is not required to.

He is God, and I am not.

And my heart does choose to say, Lord, blessed be your name.

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intentional-celebrations

Building Monuments

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God loves a good celebration. So much so that He instituted times when His people came together to rejoice with food and symbols to represent what the celebration was for.

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But the celebrations were not meant to be frivolous. They were not meant to be commercialized. These celebrations were meant to be spiritual monuments for the people to look back and remember God’s goodness to them as they made the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. These celebrations were to mark specific moments in time when God showed His provision, protection, love, and mercy to His stubborn, stiff-necked people (Deuteronomy 9:13). These celebrations were to contain lessons that would be passed down from generation to generation so there would never be a generation who did not know the Lord or the things He had done (Judges 2:10).

As I think of my own life, I can remember distinct moments where God showed His hand of provision, protection, love, and mercy on my journey from childhood into adulthood.

He provided a piano for me when my parents could not afford to buy one. (In fact, my family nor I have ever had to buy a piano, but we have almost always had one in our home or access to one since I was 11 years old.)

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He provided the money needed for me to attend college through scholarships, generous gifts from others, and some savings my father had intentionally put aside without the need for college loans.

He protected us from an oncoming tornado when I was 7 years old and caused that tornado to completely turn around and head in a different direction.

His love and mercy allowed my mother to know she would have a granddaughter before she passed away.

His goodness provided for our children so much that we can look at their rooms and count on one hand what we have had to actually purchase for them.

I want these memories to be monuments for my children to see, for them to reflect back on when times get rough in their lives, when they are unsure how the end of the story will turn out. I want to retell these stories to my children so they will not forget them, and so they will have stories to pass down to future generations of God’s goodness, grace, and mercy.

intentional-celebrations

As I thought of our personal monuments, I realized that underneath the debris of our calendar holidays, there are beautiful monuments for us to refer back to when the going gets rough.

When you pull away the tinsel, the lights, the wrapping paper, the wish lists, and the empty boxes, there is a stable with a sleeping Baby who was given as the greatest Gift humanity has ever received. During those times when we feel that we have nothing, that hope is lost, that life is for those in high position and not for us, that Baby stands as a monument saying, “I was given to you.”

Hidden under the very last strand of shredded, plastic, green grass, eggs, and bunnies is a cross of raw wood that is stained with blood. When we visit that monument we are reminded of how very loved we are- so much that someone was willing to die in our place to carry our burden, and reap the punishment for what we sowed.

Some monuments are built as reminders to us of principles in God’s Word.

Buried under the flowers, chocolate, cards, and paper hearts is a man who, as tradition tells us, defied an emperor in order to keep those in his flock from breaking God’s law.

intentional-celebrations

Journey past the rainbows, the leprechauns, the pots of gold, and shamrocks and you will find a young English boy, kidnapped by pirates, and taken to Ireland to be a slave. Despite his circumstances he prayed to God one hundred times a day, escaped his captors, and eventually went back to Ireland as a missionary to reach the people he had grown to love for Christ.

Travel through the fields of cornucopias, feathers, black and white garb, and gaze upon the monuments of a small band of pilgrims who are celebrating what only the hand of God could have brought about and done.

I want the “holidays” to be more than just a stressful time filled with rushed trips to the stores, receipts, and commercialism.

I want these days to be “holy days”- days that turn our focus to God and His goodness towards humanity.

I want my children to visit these monuments yearly, not with the expectation of temporary trinkets they may receive, but with the expectation of receiving the long-lasting gift of hope these monuments stand for.

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One of my favorite books is Jerusalem Jackson Greer’s book, A Homemade Year. In it, she lists dates that are significant to the history of the Christian Church at large- spiritual monuments. Days that I usually breeze by as I go about my year have a spiritual significance and lesson to teach me and my children. Days that I would have scheduled a doctor’s appointment or a library trip were monuments meant to turn our hearts towards the Lord.

Many of these dates are not on our calendars.

They are probably not even on the radars of marketers.

But these dates are there, and they are a gift. Not just to me, but to my family as well. They are days that I have an opportunity to use as monuments for my family. Monuments with a beautiful history that my family can look back to and remember God’s goodness in the past and His promised faithfulness in the future.

Worth the Wait: Our Love Story

“When will he ever come? Will I ever get married? What will he look like?” I’m sure every single girl has had these thoughts.

And although I don’t think I ever had a mental picture of what I wanted my future husband to look like, I did know the kind of man I wanted him to be.

I wanted him to have a heart for the Lord, have character and integrity, a man who honored his parents, and would love me and treat me with kindness and respect. Someone who worked hard and was financially stable and mature.

The years dragged on, though, and it seemed as if meeting my spouse was something that would happen “sometime” in the ever-looming future… a future that always seemed so out of reach.

It wouldn’t be until I turned 29 that I would finally meet my husband, who had also been waiting a while himself. At the right time, though, we did finally meet… through a new (and now more popular) platform for meeting one’s future spouse… via an online dating site that you all may have heard of…. called Christian Mingle!

Worth-the-Wait-Our-Love-Story

My dad was actually the one who suggested the idea to me, so I knew that in my case it would be okay. In his words, “They’ll never know you exist unless you put yourself out there”. And with the pickings being slim in the area where I lived at the time… I decided to go ahead and check it out for myself.

(One thing I will say to my single adult readers, though is this… While there are many “fish in the sea” on dating sites, not all of them are the perfect catch. So if you are considering online dating, be careful and very selective. If you’re too desperate, you can certainly end up with a guy…but not the one God has for you. And that could be devastating. Waiting for the right one is always best, and surrounding yourself with wise counselors and friends that can help you avoid many Mr. Wrongs is also highly advised.)

After a while of looking through a few online sites and seeing a lot of “Mr. Wrongs” myself, the day after my birthday in 2009, I happened to notice that one particular handsome guy had looked at my profile on Christian Mingle. And what he had to say really proved to me right away that he was the real deal- not simply a Christian in “name” only but in life as well.

How did I know this?

He had written in his profile that “Christ has to be at the center of the relationship.” (Hmmm…not many other guys seemed to be that serious enough on a Christian site to post a comment like that. I could just tell this guy was legit.)

Worth-the-Wait-my-husband

So, “brave” little me (who was usually pretty shy around guys) decided to initiate the talk by sending a pre-made comment. He then replied and asked if I was interested in us getting to know each other better. We weren’t actual subscribers at the time to the site, but both of us decided to join to move along further in conversation. Later I learned that (just before meeting me), he was considering getting off the site completely. So, YES!!! I got him just in time!

We then began chatting by instant message and by phone, and he was just so kind and respectful. He amazed me by always wanting to know details about my day. (Wow, a guy who could actually be interested in the details of my life?! I was impressed.) And after meeting my dad and getting the “green light” to date me, we began the process of getting to know each other in person.

Throughout our dating relationship, Jim was always so respectful and kind, and from the start he proved that he was really investing in me personally as a potential mate. He would drive a distance of an hour and fifteen minutes for each date just to pick me up and take me out for the day. After the date, he would then return me to my sister’s home where I lived at the time, and then make the drive all the way back to his home. He was a true gentleman and still proves to this day that chivalry is still very much alive.

Together we chose to save our first kiss for our wedding day and also chose to remain abstinent until marriage, out of our respect for God and each other. It is a decision we will always be thankful that we made. No regrets.

A year after our intial meeting we were married, and it just so happened that my 30th birthday fell on a Saturday that summer. So, I was thankful that he actually allowed me to choose the day, because he is definitely the best birthday gift I have received or ever will receive for my birthday. Hey, and I waited 30 years for him! What an awesome present to celebrate a milestone birthday, right?!

weddingday

While as a single the time may have seemed to drag on in wondering how or if I’d ever find my husband, at almost 36 years old now looking back, I can see how God’s timing in my life was just perfect. I honestly don’t think I could have been the woman my husband needed before that point.

You see, when you feel like you need a husband in your life in order to give you the affirmation and confidence you need, it’s probably not the right timing. I know I needed to learn how to find my contentment in the Lord without having another person in my life to provide that affirmation first.

Yes, I had to learn to be content apart from any other person and also learn to be the kind of woman my husband would need as a blessing in his life… Because true love is really about giving of yourself for the benefit of another… not “mainly” looking for all that you can get out of it for yourself and simply your own “happiness”.

But you know what the awesome thing is… When Jesus is at the center of your relationship and both hearts (of the husband and wife) are yielded to his leading, both individuals become equal beneficiaries in the marriage relationship. It isn’t as if one is sacrificing so only the other is happy in the marriage. With both people having a heart to freely give their love away and looking out for the other’s interests (as opposed to simply looking out for their own), the two end up being a blessing and meeting the needs of the other while also reaping the blessings themselves.

That’s the kind of marriage we have, and that’s the kind of marriage I want to see other singles have when they find their future spouse… And it happens when Jesus is at the center of your life and marriage… and when you choose to wait on His perfect timing for the one He is preparing for you.

first-kiss-worth-the-wait