Category Archives: Faith
You know how sometimes you just break?
You’re sitting there in life, minding your own business, and then out of nowhere everything is suddenly crashing down all around you. It’s crazy!
If you had asked me thirty minutes ago how I was, I would have said, “I’m okay.” I’m not great right now if I’m being honest; I have a ton of stuff going on, but I’m still okay. Nothing is wrong. I am not overwhelmed. I am simply okay and content where I am.
Or at least I was…
Literally not even ten minutes ago I broke…
Today hasn’t been an overly stressful day or anything, it’s just that so many different things have been brought up throughout the day that the combination of thinking of all of it at the same time overwhelmed me to the point of a breakdown. Yes. A sobbing, uncontrollable breakdown. Complete will mascara streams and snot bubbles.
Why the heck did I decide to go from “okay” to “broken”? Well, my friend, it wasn’t my decision. It just happened.
Throughout the day, many things have been brought to my immediate attention. Not in a way that lends itself to expressing a thought or idea and then dismissing it and moving on. It’s one of those things where as soon as you say it, you realize how real that thing is and you start to think on it even more. Here are some of the things that have been brought to my immediate attention just within the past 14 hours:
- My fiancé still lives four hours away and we still have a 5 week break between our trips in March.
- My wedding is only 94 days away. (So far, right? Wrong! IT’S SO CLOSE!! AAAAHHHHH!!!!)
- I still have a lot to pay for in different areas for my wedding (and I’m trusting the Lord to work all of that out for me, because otherwise I don’t got this…)
- I graduate in 72 days. (Hallelujah!)
- I still have a lot of stuff to do just to be ready to graduate (such as paperwork, a potential teaching certificate, documentation in order, reviews and surveys completed, and so many other things my mind just doesn’t even want to consider right now).
- I still don’t have a job…. (some of you may think, “That’s completely normal, you won’t graduate until May and everything will change by then. There’s plenty of time.” ………… May I just say to you, that I completely agreed with you until 15 minutes ago…. And now all of a sudden I’m freaking out over something that is still months away… Lord, help me!)
- Because I’m getting married, that also means that I am moving. Four hours away.
- There are no openings for jobs in the area I am looking. As in none. Not a single pediatric setting. At all….
- That means that everywhere I am applying to is foreign to me since I don’t have any connections in that area. (I know people do this all the time, but this is new to me)
- This also means that my fiancé and I are looking at apartments/homes. (if that isn’t enough to stress someone out to the max on it’s own, I don’t know what is)
And do you know what just tops it all off? Finances. It’s always the finances! If I don’t have a job secured before I graduate and get married, then we won’t have any way of knowing where we need to live or how much we can/need to spend on a home. If I don’t have a job, what in the world am I going to do with my days? If we don’t have my income, how are we going to pay all of the bills? I mean, I have a full-time job right now and all, but that is going to end the week before my wedding because I am moving four hours away and I won’t be able to make that kind of commute every day….
All of these things, and many others as well, have been brought to the forefront today. Yes, they have been living in the back of my mind for a long time now and it’s not like any of this stuff is new, but it was like it all decided to jump me at the exact same time and I just couldn’t handle it! So I broke.
Thirty minutes ago, all of these things were still there. Nothing about my circumstances changed. What changed was my perspective of them.
You see, thirty minutes ago the Lord was holding everything in His Almighty, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Capable, Sovereign Hands and I was contentedly trusting Him to handle each of my issues. Ten minutes ago, I decided to try to hold all of that in my minuscule, incapable, weak hands. My perspective changed from “I have a lot that needs to happen and I have too much for me to worry about, so I am going to continually give it to the Lord and allow Him to direct my steps and lead me where I need to be, when I need to be there” to “Holy crap I can’t do all of this stuff! There’s no time! I don’t make enough money! I’ll never get a job! How in the world am I going to do all of this stuff with life still happening all around me?”
Like I said, nothing about my circumstances changed. What changed was my perspective.
That shift in how I perceived my circumstances took me from being peacefully content and relying on the Lord to take care of each of those things, to me worrying about stuff I could never change or impact at all by letting it overwhelm me.
My sanity and peace were gone for 10 whole minutes. My worry shot through the roof and my anxiety skyrocketed. My peace disappeared and my assurance melted away in an instant. My contentedness flew out the window and waved goodbye as my faith alone sat rooted to the foundation of my being.
That’s when I found it.
In the middle of the chaos and turmoil within my spirit, I cried out to the Lord for help. “I believe! Help me with my unbelief! Please! Help me! Help me with my unbelief! Help me believe again! Give me a home. Give me a job. Please! Help my unbelief.”
In the middle of that storm of emotions that shook my very being, faith remained rooted to the firm foundation of God’s Spirit within me and the Lord used that faith to draw me back to Him. Even with everything raging out of control, that prayer was heard: “Help me with my unbelief.” Because even in that turmoil, I believed. Even though I couldn’t quite find that peace that surpassed all understanding, I knew it would be there on the other side. Even in the midst of every anxious thought and fearful dread, I had that faith. I knew that the Lord was still there and all I had to do was surrender the insanity to the Lord and He would turn it into a journey with Him that would teach me wisdom, build my character, help me persevere/endure, and strengthen my faith.
I let my shield of faith fall for a moment, but the Lord helped me tighten my armor and pull my shield back up. He helped me surrender my cares and worries and dreams and desires into His hands so that He can orchestrate them in a way that glorifies Him and grows me. He took my scattered, broken pieces and put me back together again in a matter of minutes.
If you asked me thirty minutes ago how I was, I would have said “I’m okay.”
If you would have asked me ten minutes ago how I was, I would have said, “I’m broken.”
If you were to ask me now how I am, I would say, “I am blessed and content.” Still broken. But blessed and content just the same.
So tell me, friend, how are you?
Something happened to me the other day as I was washing my hands.
I looked up into the mirror and I realized something. The face I saw staring back at me was no longer a child.
Who I beheld in the mirror was a wise, discerning woman. Gone were the soft edges of childhood and the wild eyes of adolescence.
The eyes that stared back at me held knowledge and wisdom gained by a short lifetime of experiences. The angles of the face were crafted by countless struggles and unending perseverance. The expression on the woman’s face was one that conveyed strength, joy, and a determination to overcome the mountains placed before her.
As I regarded the woman in the mirror, she began to smile as I did. The laugh lines etched deep into her young skin told stories of laughter through the pain, and joy in the midst of sorrow. Our smile grew as the realization dawned on me: I am that woman.
I am strong. I am wise. I am joyous and determined. I have overcome trials and persevered through hardships. I have grown immensely and lived boldly. I have made it my mission to love God’s people and prayerfully follow His leading in my life. I have failed and I have been victorious. But above all, I have lived and I have loved and I have learned from it all.
I smiled at the woman in the mirror one last time as I dried my hands, curiously wondering who I would see there in the coming years and expectantly awaiting the experiences and growth that would further shape who that woman becomes.
Who I become.
I look at my watch. Again. Five minutes. I only have five more minutes until he has to leave. Again…
This happens every single time. He comes to visit for a weekend and it’s absolutely wonderful. But at some point the weekend ends. At some point our time runs out. At some point he has to leave. Again…
I wrap my arms around his waist and lean close into his chest. I’ve learned that if I grit my teeth and look away, I’m less likely to cry… He wraps his arms around my back and leans his cheek against the top of my head. I grit my teeth harder and will the tears farther back.
This is how it always ends.
This is how every goodbye begins.
Standing beside his car, still trying not to cry, I decide that talking might help me change my pattern of thinking. If I can get my mind off of the inevitable goodbye, off of the negative time between, and onto the next visit, the next time I’ll see him, maybe I can get through this with a little more grace than I typically do.
“It’s only three weeks this time until I get to see you again!” I say in what I hope is a light, happy tone. Of course, in my head I’m thinking, Three weeks. Three weeks of long distance. Three weeks of feeling like half of me is missing. Three weeks… “That’s only 21 days and that’s shorter than our normal four weeks apart.” Sigh. 21 days is so short until it’s the 21 days he’s not here…
“I know,” he responds as he hugs me tighter.
He’s always so much more positive than I am. It’s like I have this root of negativity in my mind that pops up whenever it pleases, which is often. I’ve been praying about it…
“I’m gonna miss you, Brandon. A whole heck of a lot.” There they are. I feel the tears stinging the backs of my eyes, begging to be loosed. Deep breath.
“I’m gonna miss you too. A whole, whole heck of a lot.” He pulls away and looks at me. He’s so serious, but a smile is playing at the corners of his mouth.
I smile up at him as a tear finally falls down my cheek. How swiftly he wipes it away and another follows. Dang it. I was going to be good this time. I wasn’t going to cry! I think to myself. Granted, I think those things to myself every time. It only rarely works.
“I love you,” I say, trying to smile and keep the wobble out of my voice.
The answering gleam in his eyes is enough to pull me over the edge. I tuck my head back into his shoulder and squeeze tight. “I’ll see you in three weeks. Not long at all. You’ll be back before we know it.” Even I’m not convinced… The wobble in my voice gives me away even when my face is hidden.
I look at my watch. Again. Two minutes…
“You need to go,” I say against his chest.
“I don’t want to leave.” He squeezes tighter again.
“I know. I don’t want you to leave either but we’ll be together again soon. And one day I’m not gonna have to miss you so much. One day you won’t have to leave me and I won’t have to leave you.” Please let that day come soon, I silently pray.
He pulls my chin up and forces me to look at him as he says, “236 days.”
“236 days,” I echo. “Then I’ll be your wife. Then I’ll be able to see you everyday. Then when we say ‘goodbye’ it’ll just mean that I’ll see you later that day. I can’t wait to marry you. 236 days.” So. Far. Away…
“I can’t wait to marry you either,” he says as he puts a hand on my cheek and wipes away the tears that are quickly replaced by new ones. “I have to go.” His words are so at odds with what I can see so plainly in his eyes: I want to stay. He kisses me one last time and pulls away. “I love you.”
It’s strange. The moment he pulls away it truly feels as if a piece of me is left there, with him. “I love you too,” I whisper as he turns away for the millionth time to get into his car to drive away for the millionth time. I wipe at my tears.
I’ve endured five years of this. Five years of waiting a month to see him for a weekend. Five years of making the most of the time we have together and trying not to fall to pieces when we’re apart. Five years filled with so many goodbyes…
I hate goodbyes. Hate them. Especially when they happen so often. Especially when they are filled with so much emotion that you can’t even think straight. Especially when they mean so much.
He turns his car on, rolls his window down, and tells me again that he loves me and will see me soon. I return the sentiment and give him one last kiss before he pulls out of the driveway.
I stand on the porch, tears streaming down my face, as I watch him back away. Just before he leaves, he holds up the “I love you” sign and smiles through his window. I sign and smile back through my tears as he drives forward… Away from me… Again…
Every single time he leaves, I watch until I can’t see him anymore. Until he rounds a corner or gets too far for me to see. Sometimes I wait there for a while. Sometimes minutes, sometimes longer. Most times there are tears. Most times the tears come more quickly and forcefully after he is out of sight… But there’s something about watching him leave me. Again. And again. And again…
Sometimes I catch myself thinking, This isn’t fair! What did I do wrong? Why does everyone around me get to enjoy their relationship all the time and I only get monthly visits? Why do we have to suffer this over and over again? For years! Why didn’t my friends have to wait this long? Why do they get to love each other so easily while we suffer again and again?
No! I would NEVER wish this on anyone. It sucks. A lot. Knowing that someone is your husband and knowing that you have to keep waiting and keep being apart is awful. I wouldn’t want anyone else to have to go through this. I’m thrilled my friends didn’t have to wait 6 years like I will. I’m so happy that they are able to love their people as often as they can. And I know that I also have friends who haven’t yet found their person and I know that is extremely difficult: to watch everyone else experience what you are dreaming or praying or hoping for while you still can’t or aren’t. And I know that there are so many other people out there waiting longer and traveling farther. No, it isn’t fair, but as a wise woman once told me, “Life isn’t fair. Fair only comes once a year.”
No one’s life is easy. No one’s life is perfect. If you think that it is, you’re either wrong or blind to the imperfections in your own life. Sometimes it’s just harder than others…
I have to remind myself each time Brandon leaves that God has a plan for us. And not only does God have a plan for us, but that this is His plan for US, not other people. That God wants us to be in this exact situation at this exact moment for this exact amount of time. I have to remind myself that the Lord is the only one who can help me get through the negativity, and the depression that comes with it if I don’t surrender my negativity to the Lord, when we are apart. That may sound dramatic, but it’s the honest truth. When we are apart, Satan uses any bit of negativity and turns it into something I fixate on if I am not careful to keep my eyes on God. It is in those moments that I have to remember that regardless of what I want or think I need, God knows best and He has it all under control.
So, here’s to 230 days until our monthly goodbyes become a thing of the past and something we thank the Lord for teaching and guiding us through. Here’s to 230 more days of learning through the distance and loving across the miles.
Remember that post I just did on surrender? If you don’t, you can read it here. Basically, it was about me struggle bussing to surrender my plans and desires and life to the Lord even though I know that He is definitely the one who should be directing my life. Not me.
Well, yesterday the Lord blew me away.
Not only did He heal my shoulder miraculously, he also provided something I have been praying a very long time for.
Let’s start with the shoulder.
I have had pain in my right arm/shoulder for eleven weeks now. Yes. Eleven. That’s almost three months. I can’t tell you what in the world happened to injure it, especially to injure it for a full eleven weeks and counting; I just woke up one morning with sharp pain in my neck (which is nothing new to me considering that neck pain is a chronic, daily reminder of my life with VEDS) as well as my shoulder, which was very new. The strangest part was the decreased range of motion in my right arm/shoulder. I couldn’t lift my arm to the side past a 45 degree angle and I really couldn’t shrug my right shoulder either.
This pain and reduced range of motion, as well as some surging/traveling pain down the entirety of my right arm, have been consistent for eleven weeks now. The surging comes and goes, but the limitation of movement and pain has been a consistent companion. Many people had mentioned that it sounded like a rotator cuff injury, so after putting it off for so long, I made an appointment with my doctor. He did some x-rays and decided that he thinks it is a problem with the vertebrae in my neck, not my shoulder. So, an MRI of my neck was ordered and I am still waiting for them to contact me to schedule it.
That night, I went to the Monday night prayer meeting at my church, like I always do. I told the ladies about the persistent pain and what the doctor had said. This isn’t the first time that I’ve brought physical pain to prayer. In fact, I bring that with me almost every week. Those ladies are always faithful to pray for whatever new pain exists or the lingering pains that cling to my muscles or joints and refuse to be released. They prayed for me, as they had done many times before, and we all went home.
That night I couldn’t sleep. My whole body ached all night and when I woke up yesterday morning, my neck was so tight that my right shoulder was one to two inches higher than my left shoulder at rest.
I tested out my arm to see how badly the neck pain and tension was affecting it.
It went passed the 45 degree mark all the way above my head. I tried it again. And again. I just did it again now. It still pops and my neck hurts some, but my range of motion is back!
I shrugged my shoulders to test the movement there. It went passed the typical stopping point. Although my neck still hurts and I don’t have full range of motion back, it is definitely a God thing!
You can’t look me in the face and tell me that going to the doctor and getting proof of an injury and then waking up the next day with the evidence almost completely gone is just a coincidence. That, my friends, is some divine healing! A touch from the Lord’s hand! Can I get a hallelujah!?
So, needless to say, yesterday was already shaping up to be a phenomenal day. However, that was just the beginning.
Yesterday I also received a letter containing a check that pretty much covers the rest of my graduate school tuition. Read that again. And again. Now, that may not be impressive to some people, but that is a direct answer to my prayers followed by an overflow of blessing on top.
I have been praying fiercely that the Lord would provide the money that I need for my tuition each semester, which is no small sum. I asked Him to surprise me and I have have no doubt in my mind that He would provide in one way or another. The past three semesters, God has provided my tuition in a myriad of ways and on a timeline that I could never understand, but He has never delayed and He has never let me down. He has been more than just faithful. He has been… Wow. There aren’t words. There is no way that I could contain how good and perfect and absolutely, miraculously, indescribably incredible the Lord has been to me. There just aren’t words. He cannot be contained in a paragraph or a phrase. He cannot be described with the meager words of my unremarkable language. He has certainly surprised me more than once just in how He has provided for this one particular area of need and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will continue to surprise me and He will continue to be the Almighty, Sovereign God that I know Him to be. I know that He will continue to defy the odds and do the impossible. He is good. All the time. And all the time. God IS good.
So. Yesterday was an absolutely phenomenal day. I saw the Lord answer not one, but two major prayers in my life right now. I had been praying for another $4,000 just to get through the coming Fall semester. The Lord did one better and provided enough for this semester and the next! Thank You, Lord! Thank You, Lord! Thank You, Lord!
And thank YOU! Thank you to everyone who has prayed for me and with me. Thank you for believing and trusting that the Lord would answer. Thank you for encouraging me in prayer and in person. Y’all are awesome and I pray the Lord blesses your socks off and reveals Himself to you in new and awe-inspiring ways.
God is good! Can I get an Amen!?
Surrender: (sur·ren·der / səˈrendər). verb. 1) Cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority. 2) Give up or hand over (a person, right, or possession), typically on compulsion or demand. 3) Abandon oneself entirely to (a powerful emotion or influence); give in to.
Definition credit: Google search engine.
If you ask 20 different people what surrender means to them specifically, you will probably get 20 different answers. For instance, if I were to ask you to define a moment in your life in which you felt as though you had surrendered or were surrendering something or someone, your answer would differ from mine.
That, my friends, is called perspective.
I have a totally different perspective on the verb “surrender” than you probably do. And in all honesty, I’m sure that my viewpoint on that ever so complex word will likely change within the next year. Why? Because I am going to face a magnificent moment of surrender sooner rather than later.
Allow me to explain.
This word, surrender, has been coming up frequently in my life. It was the topic of a weekend camp that I attended and since then it has refused to leave. In fact, it has decided to swirl amongst the inner workings of my mind and drive me mad. Or, more likely, the madness I am currently experiencing secondary to the swirling surrender will draw me out of the bondage within me that holds me prisoner and will free me to be a much better me. I’m hoping for the latter of the two.
You see, the word “surrender” isn’t really a pleasant one. It entails leaving something behind or giving something up, usually for good. As in, when you surrender it, you don’t get it back. Ever.
Well, sometimes we do get surrendered things back. And sometimes when we get them back, they are better than before; or maybe we are just better than before. Maybe we had to go through the time of surrender to better understand what we had so that we could appreciate it all the more once it was given back to us again. Or maybe, just maybe, we have to surrender something that we perceive as being the best for us so that we have open hands to receive what truly is the best for us.
The problem is: when you surrender something, you can’t just expect to get it back. That’s not the point. The point of surrendering something, especially when you are surrendering something to the Lord, is to humble yourself enough to say, “I don’t have control over this anymore; it’s all Yours.”
Easier said than done, right?
My Sunday school teacher has a lovely saying: “The problem with living sacrifices is they keep crawling off the altar.”
Can I get an Amen??
I mean, seriously. We sit there and say, “Oh, Lord, You are so good! You created all things and You know all things. You are working everything out for good and I know that You are sovereign and You are in control. I am relinquishing control of (*insert whatever you are surrendering here*) to You. Thank You for taking my burdens and giving me Your peace that surpasses all understanding.” Then what do we do? We pick up the thing we just laid down in surrender and we walk away carrying it as if we know better than God! I know I do it. I lay down my worries and anxieties and then I come back later that day and pick them up again! It’s a never ending cycle. I’m just thankful that the Lord puts up with me and loves me and gives me more grace than I could ever deserve!
How do I surrender? How do I take my life and every single thing in it and give it up? How do I take my worries about the future and lay them on the altar of sacrifice? How do I take my plans and desires and relinquish control of them? How do I surrender all that I am and all that I have?
It should be easy, right? My mind should be able to grasp the concept that God is more than able to handle my life and all of its relatively minuscule facets. I should be able to accept the fact (not theory or assumption, but fact) that God is far more qualified to run my life than I am.
Let me try to use an example: Me trying to control my own life and refusing to surrender it is like me trying to fly an airplane or spaceship with no prior knowledge on the subject. I look at the innumerable controls that I know nothing about and think that I’m qualified to not only operate but control it all. In the meantime, I am refusing the help of the wise and knowing pilot who is sitting back, just waiting for me to ask him for help (the Lord is our pilot, He is the one who directs our paths and teaches us where to go). I am also refusing to even attempt to read the manual that tells me how to fly the aircraft (the Bible, which is like our manual for life) because I can totally do it on my own. Oh yeah, and I have no clue where in the world I am supposed to be flying the plane or spaceship, so I’m basically just wandering around and acting like I have it all under control and I know what’s best for me… All the while, I am gracelessly flying myself into oblivion; ignoring every warning sign that passes me by; ignoring every flashing light warning me of my imminent demise… And the worst part is, I think I’m better off like that. I think I’m better off with me in control, rather than removing myself from the driver’s seat and surrendering control to the pilot, who knows where we are going and knows the best route to get us there with the least amount of turbulence…
One day I hope I learn how to keep myself on that altar. I pray that the Lord helps me to be a living sacrifice, completely surrender. I pray that I obediently go where He leads me and surrender the things that I need to relinquish control of. I pray that God teaches me how to walk away from the altar without picking everything back up. I pray that I humble myself enough to walk in obedience and servitude all the days of my life.
He’s getting me there. One day at a time. Very slowly, but surely, He is getting me there.
So here’s to tomorrow: a fresh start and a new day. A new opportunity to surrender what needs to be released and leave it there. I’m willing to try. Are you?
It is a beautiful spring evening. The sun is slowly setting along the horizon, located on your right. A small river runs soundlessly on your left, hidden by some trees with faces carved in them. The sky is still a brilliant blue and the clouds are starting to shift from white and gray to warmer shades of pink and orange with the coming sunset. There is the sound of children’s laughter from the nearby playground. A very slight breeze sets the leaves of the surrounding trees into just enough motion to draw your eye.
You are sitting on a playground swing. The black stretch of seating beneath you feels smaller than you remember, but it still holds your weight. The chains in your hands are dark and weathered and in your mind you hear your mother’s voice saying, “be careful not to pinch your fingers in the chains!” You take a deep breath of evening air and push off, setting yourself into motion. The air whisks past you as you begin to pump your legs. The wind in your face is familiar and a smile begins to form as you slowly push yourself higher and higher.
Your hair shrouds your face and then is driven back as you swing back and forth. Joy bubbles up within you and you realize that your smile has broken into laughter, music to your ears. You remember a time when you never thought you could reach this height and relish the rush of wind in your ears. Your legs ache from the too small seat beneath you being pulled tighter in by the chains at your sides, but it is not enough to drown out the feeling of absolute exhilaration.
You cease striving to swing higher, and instead rest in the movement until it becomes a gentle sway to and fro. The pounding of your heart and rapid breathing slow as the swing does, until everything is once more at peace.
This is where my joy is found.
This is where I find Jesus. This is where I talk to the Lord and praise Him through my laughter. This is where I listen to His voice in the rushing wind and the peace that follows. This is where the chaos of the world around me turns into the rushing of the wind in my hair. This is where the anxieties and stresses of my life are released and I find peace in the movement and in the stillness. This is where I am free and the only chains that hold me are the ones I cling to, keeping me in my seat.
This is where my joy is found.
Where is yours?
At the beginning of my time as a graduate student, one of my professors had us write a letter to ourselves and seal it in an envelope. This was done so that we could read our letters one day. When things were tough and we couldn’t remember the joy we had at the beginning of it all. When the insanity that surrounded us never ceased and rest was no where to be found.
Today was that day.
Life is tough as is. Throw in graduate level classes, clinic schedules, enough homework to drown the most studious of individuals, financial struggles, and work responsibilities… Well, you get the picture. Basically life is crazy and we’re swamped. I mean, I’m sure there are some phenomenal women in my cohort who are thriving and pushing through this insanity with grace and ease. Sadly, I am not one of them. Not even close.
Today my professor brought our letters into class and I opened mine.
I pulled out the envelope to see that I had written quotes on the outside of my letter:
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” -Philippians 4:13
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified or discouraged for the Lord Your God will be with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9
“Who by worrying can add a single day to his life” -Matthew 6:27
“Cast your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” -1 Peter 5:7
“________ is a big problem, BUT GOD IS BIGGER!”
The one that caught my eye was the last one. It is something I came up with for a lesson on David and Goliath and one day I want a plaque with those words to hang in my home at the height of Goliath. I made each child a laminated bookmark so they could write and rewrite their problems on the line and then realize that although it was a big problem, our God is bigger. God is even bigger than the insanity of the Speech Pathology graduate school program!
Once I opened the first part of the letter, I realized I had written even more things on the next flap of paper before I was able to read my letter. These grabbed my attention even more than the first verses and quotes because they are all things that God has said to me. Whether through a time of prayer, a song, or a Bible study, each of the following has been the voice of the Lord in my life speaking directly to me. (If you need the Lord to speak to you, maybe He can use these!)
“It’s gonna be worth it all.”
“Seek Me and be still.”
“Quit worrying. I’ve got this. Now, let Me got this.”
“I will provide.”
“Don’t give up. I AM here and I always will be.”
“Be [I AM] still.”
“I will give you rest.” (PRAISE JESUS FOR THIS PROMISE!!)
“Circle, then shout, Gentry. Then I’m going to bring the walls down. This battle will not be won with muscle, mighty warrior. This battle will be won by faith.” (this refers to the battle of Jericho when the Israelites circled the city in prayer and then shouted in victory)
And the real kicker:
“I’ve gotten you this far. Do you really think I’m going to give up on you now?”
I don’t know about you, but that one just slapped me in the face. Duh! Of course God won’t give up on me. He’s been faithful and gotten me through every hardship up until this point and I firmly believe that He will get me through this insanity.
If you would like to know what my full letter of encouragement said, please feel free to continue reading. I hope these words can help even one person remember that God truly is in control and He has a purpose and a plan for everything that is happening in your life. Don’t give up. He’s got you.
Take a deep breath. You’re fine. The Lord’s got you in the palm of His hand, remember? Everything that you are going through has a purpose and He will reveal that purpose to you when you are ready for it. Don’t forget about all of the other times that He’s been there for you and literally walked you through.
Remember when you sat in a quiet room with your family and two doctors seated around a big table. Remember how it felt when you heard the doctor say, “you tested positive for Vascular Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.” Remember the days and weeks after that appointment when you realized that your mom and brother had VEDS too, that you would probably never have your own children, that life with Brandon would forever change, and that your life would forever be marked by a bracelet with a label on it. Remember that feeling of being completely overwhelmed?
Now, do you remember how the Lord got you through all of that? How He walked with you through every question and every valley of darkness. How He sent people to pray for you and help you through it. Remember that? If He got you through every part of that valley, don’t you think He will get you through these two years of grad school?
“You will get through this. It won’t be painless. It won’t be quick. But God can use this mess for good. In the meantime, don’t be foolish or naive, but don’t despair either. With God’s help, you will get through this.” –You’ll Get Through This, Max Lucado
Calm down, be still, and seek the Lord. All you have to do is ask Him and He will give you what you are lacking. So ask. But make sure that you aren’t too far away to hear Yhwh speak. This graduate program is only two years of your life, but your relationship with God is eternal, so make sure you are putting Him and keeping Him first. “Seek first His kingdom and all of His righteousness and all of these things will be aded unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
You’ve got this because He’s got you. Don’t worry. It won’t help anything. Instead, pray like the overcoming warrior that you are.
-Your Wiser Self
In case you were wondering why I spelled Yahweh without the vowels, it was purposeful. Try to pronounce it without the vowels. It’s a whisper! Yhwh is a holy name of God that is literally only a breath. The thing is, you can’t hear Yhwh if you’re not close enough to hear His whisper. So get close and listen up!
Just a little food for thought. It’s one of my favorites.
If you would like to read the rest of our story, you can find the highlights of our four year journey up to this point here.
Allow me to set the scene for you: I was sitting on the couch and Brandon walked into the room. It was such a typical, mundane act and yet it filled me with a shock of joy that I couldn’t contain. Before I was able to suppress it, a brilliant smile broke the stillness of my face. As he walked toward me, Brandon cocked his head and a slow smile spread across his face as well. “What?” he asked. “Nothing” I responded. But then I really allowed myself to think about it. As he sat beside me, I leaned my head onto his shoulder and quietly said, “I’m gonna marry you one day.”
Now, this happened about a year ago, and whereas it was most assuredly the first time I had spoken it aloud with such confidence, it had been a topic of quick conversation and much thought over the years prior to that moment. However, even though Brandon and I had discussed it, the idea of actually marrying him and spending the rest of my life with him didn’t fully sink into my consciousness until that moment. Until I saw him walk into the room and realized that he was indeed the man I would one day marry.
‘Maybe I’ll marry him one day‘ was nothing more than a fleeting thought in my subconsciousness that continued to make itself known time and time again, with more frequency the longer we were together. But, me being me, I always tried to push it away and I never truly let it become a solid reality. Instead, I would quickly follow thoughts of my future with things like, ‘but anything could happen! Who knows what God’s will is for us. Maybe it’s too good to be true and He’s just using this time we have together to prepare us for our separate futures…’ All completely valid thoughts!
If you’re thinking that I’m insane, especially after three years with the guy, then you would agree with pretty much everyone else I talked to. Needless to say, that way of thinking didn’t last forever. However, when I came to the realization that Brandon was indeed my future husband, things got rough.
I knew he was “the one.” I knew I would marry him one day. The problem was, we weren’t at all ready at that time for the next step in our journey: engagement. So, the days went by as if in slow motion and my heart ached for the day we could finally move forward in our relationship because I was so tired of everything seeming so stagnant.
It was during this time that the Lord confronted me and tested my faith in His timing by helping me to overcome the quick, bitter pang I felt each moment I scrolled through social media and found another of my friends engaged or married, or even just moving forward in their relationship at all. It took some time, but God is good and, thankfully, He is also patient. I turned my bitter spirit, covered by a facade of happiness, into a true joy for those around me who had finally found the person they would love forever. Then, He helped me to see that their joy in that moment and my prayers for them could fuel my joy in the waiting. Don’t ask me how it makes sense, because it doesn’t in my mind; but God is greater and He helped me to see that in this particular season, just as I had numerous times before.
Almost a year later, I am happy to say that the Lord heard my prayer and has answered with more blessings and joy than I could have imagined!
Brandon and my friend Katie literally had to drag me to look at engagement rings. And when I say drag, I mean that they lured me to the mall and then casually shoved me into a jewelry store against my will… They’re the best… (note the sarcastic undertone) But, I eventually warmed up to the idea and found a general style that I liked. The thing is, I absolutely refused to pick a ring myself or even narrow it down too much, even though I had one in mind. I wanted Brandon to pick my ring, and boy did he pick it! Literally. The exact one that I couldn’t get out of my mind.
On October 22nd, Brandon surprised me with a visit and also picked up my ring (which was the cause of the surprise visit). Yes, I knew he was getting my ring, I just didn’t know which one it was at the time. I was actually the one who carried the bag with the box with my ring in it from the car into the house. Where it sat. In my room. Taunting me. All weekend… He’s nice like that…
So anyway, I knew he had the ring. I knew I would say yes. Now all I had to do was wait. But praise the good Lord in Heaven above because I only had to wait a little while!
And so do you! Next time I’ll tell you all about the proposal, but for now you’ll just have to wait!
Haha just kidding!!! I’ll go ahead and tell you now.
On November 5th, my friend, Kayla, got married and she ever so lovingly allowed me to be one of her bridesmaids. (Congratulations Kayla and Chad! You’ve officially been married a week now!!) Brandon came up for the wedding and we were able to dress up and have a fun night celebrating with everyone at their wedding (for future reference, some of those in attendance included: my best friend Katie, her boyfriend and my good friend Coryghan, my sister Lauren, and her boyfriend Josh). Brandon even asked me to dance for the first time! It was perfect, I was shocked, and the song was A Thousand Years by Christina Perri.
Katie, Coryghan, Lauren, Josh, Brandon, and I had all planned to go to dinner together the following day. One thing you need to realize is that we aren’t the kind of people that typically dress up and go do things. We’re more of a ‘let’s just be comfortable’ kind of group. So, later that evening, when Coryghan told me to make sure that I dressed nicely for our triple date, I began to get suspicious…
My next moment of suspicion came when Brandon decided that we would ride to dinner with Coryghan and Katie, but we were going to make a pit stop (which just so happens to be WAY out of the way) at camp to see Lauren and Josh beforehand because Coryghan wanted to hand out there for a little while. (Brandon did really well. He made sure every piece of the plan came from someone other than him, but because I knew it was coming, I was suspicious.)
First off, remember, we aren’t really people who dress up just because. Second off, no one ever dresses up at camp unless they’re trying to impress a boy they have a crush on or they’re at a wedding or other event. In this case, neither was the cause. Or, at least, that’s what I was supposed to believe. I didn’t. I knew then that Brandon was probably going to propose that day at some point. Besides, where better to start the next part of our lives?
Brandon and I met at Camp Chula Vista in June of 2012.
Brandon asked me to marry him at Camp Chula Vista on November 6, 2016.
From the moment we stepped out of the car, I saw a picture that begged to be taken. So I grabbed my phone, walked down the hill, and almost laid down completely in the grass just to get the perfect picture of the swing. Then we moved closer to the lake and I started taking pictures of Katie and Coryghan as well as Josh and Lauren as we meandered around the lake.
There were many fantastic pictures taken that day, but my favorite one wasn’t taken by me. It was taken at four different angles, with four different cameras, by four different friends. It involves the man of my dreams on a knee, offering me a ring as a symbol of his love and devotion; as a symbol of the long life we will have together. It involves a proposal, not only of marriage, but of trials and difficulty and a promise to stand together no matter what we face. It involves a boy and a girl, ready to face whatever this life gives them with Christ leading the way. This is that picture.
He took me back to where our story began. And so, the next chapter in our story begins much the same way as the first: a guy and a girl at camp, led by the grace of God, surrounded by friends, destined to love each other more tomorrow than they thought possible today.
As you can imagine, I said yes.
Your prayers would be very appreciated. A long distance relationship is rough, but a long distance engagement is sure to test us beyond what we have previously known. Planning a wedding while in school and working will be difficult as well, but we believe that this timing is of the Lord and we are confident that He will provide all of our needs and supply us with abundant joy and strength to face each mountain in our path.
Thank you so much to everyone who has helped us and encouraged us over the years. It means the world to us and we pray the Lord blesses you beyond all measure! Y’all are awesome and you have blessed my socks off with the level of support you have offered us. So thank you. A million times. Thank you.