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11/25/2010

a divine conspiracy (the story of us: part 6)

I had been at my first grown-up job for a week when he suggested that we take a day trip to Fort Worth, TX. Knowing it was approximately two hours worth of a drive, I said I would have to think about it. I loved Fort Worth for the Whole Foods, for the water gardens, for the memories he shared of his summer spent working with inner-city youth there, but I didn't feel up to the trip. While the hard part of my job had not yet started (responsibility for kids and case work), I was already exhausted.

He did not relent, and having a suspicion that something was up, I agreed to go.

In the days leading up to the day trip, I could tell he was up to something. I did something no girl should ever do and stole his cell phone while he was in mid-text. He was sending a message to a friend of his in a band (who we both love), and he got angry with me for looking. The anger tipped me off some, and I went to work the next day with a smile and comments to my co-workers that I thought I would be getting engaged over the weekend.

When we left for Fort Worth on Saturday, my now husband mentioned to me that his friend in a band would be attending a funeral that day. His fiance's grandfather had died. To be honest, I had forgotten about the text message by this point but was now back on high alert.

Our first stop in Fort Worth was The Fort Worth Botanical Garden. He had borrowed his parents camera and asked me to take pictures of the flowers as we walked around. I snapped shots of roses and other flowers I don't know the names of. The garden was empty of people for the most part, and I enjoyed strolling in such a beautiful place, holding his hand.

We came to a bridge. With no one in sight, he stopped and turned around to look at me. "I want to spend the rest of my life with you," he said.

A puzzle expression crossed my face. My heart stopped beating. I had talked about this moment happening, but still, it didn't quite seem real.

"I want to spend the rest of my life with you too," I said.

"But I don't want to wait any longer." He dropped to one knee and pulled out a purple ring box. The box opened. "Will you marry me?"

I said yes. He placed the ring on my finger. We hugged and kissed. After saying yes, a couple walked up and offered to take our picture. Our smiles were big and tears were in our eyes. I sent text messages out and phoned the important people. None of it seemed quite real. We continued our walk through the gardens, and I looked down at my hand every so often to see the sunlight catch the diamonds and to make sure it didn't fall off my left hand.

I remember thinking and talking about how it was perfect, this engagement of his. And he smiled. It wasn't over yet.

What I later learned was that he had not planned to propose at the botanical gardens. Rather that was a side trip meant to throw me off the scent of the rest of his plans.

He had enlisted the help of several friends. Over the course of the day, we would be serenaded at the Fort Worth Water Gardens by his friends in the band and enjoy a romantic dinner at an Italian eatery in downtown Fort Worth. Even though I snooped and did not allow the engagement to be a complete surprise, he did better than I expected. To me, it doesn't get much more romantic than a private concert of a few of my favorite songs.

Almost immediately, we began talking about the wedding. I was living in a shabby apartment, and he was graduating in three months. We knew we didn't want a long engagement or an extravagant wedding. Truthfully, I didn't really want a wedding at all - just a ceremony on the beach.

We didn't have the ceremony on the beach, but we did have a beautiful wedding in an outdoor garden.

(title from "god gave me you" by dave barnes)

This post is part of a series. It is a snapshot of how I met (and married) my husband. To read the entire series, click here.

11/24/2010

light a fire in the cold

picture found here.
Every morning, on my way to work, I pass several billboards proclaiming the millions of dollars one can win by buying a $1 lottery ticket. I struggle with whether or not it is okay for me to want to play to lottery and to want to win just a fraction of the millions available.

I wouldn't spend the money on frivolous things like DVDs or clothes or shoes. I wouldn't even spend all the money on myself. But still, I'm not sure if it's okay for me to want things like money. Money won't fix all the problems of the world. But I know it would help.

If I had the money, I would fix our house and then sell our house. We'd purchase a much bigger house - one that could house children in foster care and children we'd adopt from Ethiopia and China. The house could house people who needed a little help getting back on their feet. We could even purchase a second house meant just for individuals needing assistance to get them out of a desparate situation or off the streets.

I would send money to Africa and help build orphanages for the 53 million orphaned children. I would go to Africa as well and experience life there so I would know what help the country really needed - not just the ideas I hear on the radio. I'd give money away to those who needed it. I'd start as many non-profits as I could to reach as many people as I could. I'd fulfill some of my lifelong dreams which include opening a group home for girls and helping others recover from things like anorexia and bullimia. I'd take the money and spend it on hope amd love.

I would hold onto just enough to meet our own needs and then the rest would be given to others. That's what I long to do, what my heart is striving for. But I do wonder if my heart would be able to remain that pure if $200,000 or $20,000,000 were to be deposited into my bank accounty.

Money won't fix everything, and sometimes, money causes more problems than it fixes. But I like to dream about the things we could do, the people we could help, the lives we could change with extra dollars floating in our checking account.

If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money? Months ago (and especially years ago), I would have bought a new wardrobe and a new car and lots of gadgets. I do still struggle with wanting some of those things. I think I always will. But I wouldn't be able to spend it all on those sorts of things - not with the knowledge of just how far thousands and millions could go.

I don't think it's wrong to own things. We own more than we need to. I also don't think it's wrong to spend money on things for yourself. I am just at a point where all of those things, which were once so important to me, hold no value.

I am especially struck with this now that Christmas is near and Black Friday is looming. I looked through the ad for Target and saw nothing that excited me. I've seen the sales many stores are offering, and while I wanted as much as I could get last year, I want nothing now - at least not anything that the stores are selling.

I guess you could say my priorities have changed. It's funny how that happens, how God knocks sense into you about what is important even when you spend years ignoring His words about the things of this world are nothing compared to the things of Him.

(title from "hope" by alli rogers)

11/23/2010

the end of fear is where we begin

picture found here
The past weekend was exhausting. It was full of discussions, small arguments, more discussions, and the list goes on. I think I communicated more with my husband than I have in some time. We talk daily (multiple times a day), but sometimes, we don't fully communicate. It's not necessarily for lack of trying (though sometimes it is) but more from not knowing how to form words and sentences that express how we truly feel or think.

I'm a person who likes to have everything planned out, and I do not do well when things do not go according to plan. I am also a person who works, works, works, and then collapses from the exhaustion and stress I have put on myself. I also overthink every little thing. And I overworry.

My husband is a hard worker. He will follow a plan, but his plans are more fluid while mine are more rigid. He doesn't worry the way I do or overthink things.

In many ways, it's good that we are opposites. A house of two of me or two of him would likely not function as efficiently as it should. A house of one of me and one of him is more efficient but also makes communicating more difficult. It's hard for me to understand where he is coming from and also hard for him to understand where he is coming from. Which is how we got to this weekend.

We talk a lot. But we don't always listen. We talk a lot. But we don't always communicate. And after a busy week, after feeling overloaded in every department of my life, after holding on too tightly to how I think things should go, I lost it. A few times. And he was there - to break through every wall I built up (even though I did my best to get him to just let me be).

That's how real communication should be. While it's good to give each other time to rest, sometimes we need someone ot force the issue at hand until we are forced to let go of all the things we've held back. It's not pretty, but it's necessary. And our communication wasn't pretty, but it was necessary.

I don't really know how it all started or why I held so much in. But I know this much: it was my fault. I put on the mask that everything was going well. I talked about how much faith and trust I had in God, in the fact that everything would work out. I talked and talked and talked, but there was very little truth behind the talking. I wanted it to be true, but I was holding onto my plans, my desires, my fears, my everything - instead of letting go and opening up to the possibilities God had in store.

Now that it is all out in the open, I feel exposed - in a way I never have before. And it's scary. It's terrifying to know that God knows, that my husband knows the truth - the truth I thought I could keep to myself. And when I wake up every morning, there is a little panic that goes along with having people know how you really think and how you really feel. Every morning, I ask God to help me continue to trust Him. Every morning, I remind myself that I do trust Him. I repeat those words often so that they will become solid truth in my life.

When things started to happen on Saturday morning, I read a post on incourage.me about trusting God through the trials. My husband was at work that morning, and I commented to our roommate about how the post resonated with me. And it did. Though now it resonates even more.

Like I discussed earlier, I am reading Deutoronomy, and I am learning how much it speaks to my life. The lessons are hard but relevant. And reading about someone else's struggles to trust God through difficult times is relevant. Even more relevant now than I thought it was when I first read it. Right or wrong, I want God to lead me into easier times. I am ready for His blessings and His peace and His promises, but just as the Israelites traveled the desert in wait, I also have to wait.

I talked about some of this with a friend last night, and she asked me if I truly felt like God were leading me somewhere currently. I thought about the question for a moment before I answered. I'm not sure. It almost feels like we are right where He wants us to be. But I do not want to be here. I am trying to learn to accept where we are, but it's a struggle.

This friend of mine is currently living overseas. We spent a summer teaching in China together, and our friendship bloomed from that time. Now that she is halfway across the world, instead of a two-hour drive away, our friendship is deepening. Her words and stories about her travels speak to me because they remind me of how many different ways God can teach us all the same things. He just tailors the lessons to our specific needs.

So now I am trying. I am trying to not leap but to sit. I am trying to not run but to wait. I am trying to not close my eyes but to trust.

(title from "let love in" by the goo goo dolls)

11/21/2010

we're asking why this happens

picture found here

For years, many things moved me to tears. Things like movies, like books, like songs.  I found something beautiful or sad or poetic in just about everything including movies like Monsters, Inc. And then something happened (or rather a series of somethings), and I stopped. Tears no longer formed. While there were still poetic moments, they were fewer and farther in between.

I've remained in this state for some time now. I've hoped to move forward from it, and I've similarly held onto the emotional distance I've created. The reasons for this are many. But the reasons for this are not true to who I am, to who I am created to be.

So much has been brewing for the past few weeks. So much has happened, and yet, so much has remained the same. I've grown discontent (again). I've struggled with understanding where God is leading. I've been filled with anger and with jealousy. I've tricked myself into thinking I was leaning into Him, that I was being honest and open with my struggles, but I realized last night that I haven't trusted God the way I need to.

I try. I do. But I try with distance. Because I am afraid - afraid to follow when I do not know where He is leading, afraid to follow and then enter the desert rather than the Promised Land, afraid to follow and then to have to wait.

God put it on my heart a week ago to read Deuteronomy. I listened. I am still working through the book. I'm not normally one to read the Old Testament. I struggle to understand the words, the traditions, and how it applies to my life. But this time it is all too clear.

Since beginning my journey into the life of Moses and the Israelites, the parallels have become clear. The truth has resonated in my heart. And my prayer has been the same: please let me not be like the Israelites. It has been a heartfelt prayer, but it has not been honest enough. I've missed the point (until last night).

The point is, at least from what I can gather right now, that I am like the Israelites. I am quick to trust in a time when His glory is shining, when He is slaying my enemies and providing me with a clear way of travel. But in times of uncertainty and times of not seeing His glory, I am slow to trust. I agonize and worry and grow angry and weary. It's not a pretty sight.

I've prayed that it won't take 40 years to get to where He is leading. I've begged that I will not have to wander the dessert. But I haven't allowed Him to lead me through the desert. It could very well be that in my prayers and frustrations that I have kept myself in the desert due to my need to pray against things and fight against where He might be leading me.

I just don't know how to open my hands, open my heart, and truly trust in Him. I struggle with how to lean into the struggle and remember that this life of following Jesus does not promise ease but promises difficulty. But it also promises that He is there through all difficulty and that He will carry you through. I'm so ready to open my hands and believe this, but there is this fear that sits in the pit of my stomach.

So I am learning. Slowly. I'm calling out in the darkness and searching for the light. I am reading the words of Deuteronomy (sometimes twice and thrice) and allowing the words to pierce my heart, to remind me that God uses the times in the desert to turn our hearts to Him. And God, in His goodness, is keeping His promise and answering my calls (even if the answers do not come in the way I want - which is an audible voice). He's giving me songs that speak of where I am, songs that chronicle my thoughts and emotions. He's giving me blogs to read, words that remind me and show me that He has led others through the desert and then into their own promises land. He's reminding me that I am not alone, that He is there and so are others.

(title from "held" by natalie grant)

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