Sunday, January 01, 2006
The Joel and Michawn Story
This is the story of us...the story of how we met and came to be husband and wife. This account was written in November of 2007.
This first part is just a history of both of our lives basically. Although that might seem tedious and trivial, it is, in fact, important to get the background behind it all. So, here goes...
Joel was born and raised in Brasil as you all know. Brasil is VERY...well, let's just say that there are couples EVERYWHERE. It is just THE thing. Everyone has a boyfriend or girlfriend. And usually they are making out...no matter where they are. :) Seriously. They're a pretty affectionate culture.
His dad was a pastor and they are from a pretty conservative background. His mom and dad are both from Pennsylvania and have roots in the Mennonite church, which is very conservative. Growing up, Joel doesn't remember much conversation about what was expected as far as dating, although he says that surely they did talk about it since he knew what was expected. He does recall asking them about dating on one occasion. He remembers being told that maybe when he was 18 he could date (that is his memory anyway). He says that he's sure they also got teaching about it in their youth group, but it must not be very memorable...they weren't allowed to date in his youth group though is what he says. He said that and then I asked him "did you date in your youth group?" He nodded yes.
Anyhoo, without going into great detail...he wasn't exactly following the expectations of others. But, he was always an innocent and protected-by-God guy. Dated, did other things that weren't what we, as parents, want our children to do...but, he remained what the world considers very pure. He never got his heart very involved in any of his dating relationships...his longest dating relationship being "probably 6 months." :) Obviously nothing serious...until me that is.
I also grew up in a Christian home. I dated some during high school. We talked about it in youth group and I also don't remember it really being discussed too much at home...but, we knew what was expected. The focus in the teaching we got in youth group wasn't the heart though...and not the spiritual aspects of dating...just the physical stuff that wasn't supposed to happen. The whole "sex is for after marriage" thing...that was it basically. It's a good rule of course, but it's just not very thorough. I seriously don't remember much else than that being said.
I went out with a few guys during high school, but nothing serious. The longest relationship for me was 3 months...twice (with 2 different guys). One guy I had known all my life. We used to get in trouble singing and laughing during naptime in Kindergarten. Funny. The other guy was when I was a senior. I think since I thought I was going to be married by the time I was 19 (like my Mama), I figured he was the one I was going to marry. It was really Godly and spiritual the way I was coming up with that (ha)...thank God he didn't actually ask me to marry him or anything. But, this was the first relationship that I even remotely got my heart involved in. And...I do mean remotely. He broke it off and it took me all of a week to get over it. :)
Sidenote: When I mention something about the heart being involved, I mean that I (or Joel) was not fully in the relationship. The heart is still being affected and I truly believe that...but, what I mean is that we weren't crushed at the end of these relationships you see.
Anyway, after I graduated, there was a guy that I had been friends with for a while. He was a great guy and we started going out. We ended up going out for a record-breaking 3 1/2 years (way more than the old record of 3 months, right?). With this relationship I was seriously crushed when it was over...my heart was in a million little pieces and I had no idea what my next step was. My heart had been all the way in since we'd started. I was completely and head over heels in love with this guy. I mean, what wasn't to like...he was just great all the way around...loved God, lived for Him, was smart, funny, fun, good at all he did...was my best friend. Funny thing though...he was a great guy...one of the best. BUT...he wasn't the best one for me. That is key.
We had crossed some lines at the very first of our relationship, but had gotten back on track with God and with our relationship...another thing to be proud of and another reason to think that he was definitely the one for me. We had talked at length about everything, including our lives after marriage...in 3 1/2 years you can make all the plans you ever need to make all the way through retirement (and we had). :) My whole life was set I thought. I had it all completely planned out and it was a good life...even a life that "lived for God." Problem was that God didn't want that life for me. It was the spring semester of my junior year of college when we broke up.
Wow, only a year of school left and then what? All the plans that I had made were no longer to be. I RAN to God and of course He met me. Long story short, it basically took me 4 full years to be completely healed of that relationship...for God to fully restore and heal my heart.
That was a very difficult time for me. It was a hard time, but also SO AMAZING as far as spiritual growth. After I graduated from college (May '97), instead of returning to Louisiana to live and work, I went to Longview, TX. I had done clinicals in school there at one of the hospitals there and really liked it. I knew nobody in Longview and other than going straight to the hospital and back, I had only been to Longview once or twice (with other people...never driving there myself). I also interviewed at a hospital in Texarkana, TX where I had many friends and was also a little involved with a church there during college. But, I went to that interview knowing that I wouldn't be taking the job...there was absolutely no peace there. Longview...total peace. Didn't make sense, but God knew exactly the right way of course.
I got involved in a church there in Longview called Church on the Rock. AMAZING. Such a wonderful church. The teaching there is phenomenal. In fact, if you ever want to check it out for yourself, just go here for their podcasts. Anyway, I had never heard teaching like this before. It was just SO relevant to everyday living. I mean, I had heard somewhat relevant teaching before, but never so powerful. It just seemed to catapult me. I loved it...and of course needed it so badly. There were great relationships teachings (all kinds of relationships) in "big church." And then in the fall of that year, there was a college and career group started...later to be called Life Challenge. Life Challenge did just that...challenged my life to the core. The teaching...again...phenomenal. The relationships formed with the leadership, friendships made, etc...just incredible. It was life-changing.
I became a part of the leadership team. Did I mention that it was just such an amazing time? :) Anyway, things like accountability groups formed after John Graves, the main leader of Life Challenge, did a teaching on it. He had been really involved in an accountability group and saw the importance of accountability. I was approached by John's wife (Nicole), who I LOVED, but didn't know all that well. We had had lunch together once was all, but I think we just seemed to click. She felt like she should ask me and two other girls that we didn't even really know to join in an accountability group...then also one other girl that she knew pretty well. So, I had a solid group of girls that held me accountability at all costs after that.
Meanwhile, Joel had gone to the states when he was 17 ('94) to finish out high school and then go to college. He went to Longview to go to LeTourneau University (a great Christian university known mainly for engineering, but also aviation) in the fall of '96, which would have been the fall before I moved to Longview. He was very involved in all the great university activities there as well as another Longview church.
Sometime in the spring of '99 is when I first saw him. I walked into Life Challenge and there was a guest band doing praise and worship that day. It was the praise and worship band from LeTourneau. I saw the guy playing keyboards (that would be Joel by the way). I immediately went over to Nicole and said, "Who is that? He is beautiful." Her reply to me was, "Whoa. Settle down girl." So funny.
During this time between my junior year of college and 1999, I had undergone a total transformation basically. Like I said, I was never a big dater or anything. I was never one who "needed" a boyfriend...almost the opposite even. My heart's desire, though, was to be married and have children. That's what I wanted to do with my life. During this time, thankfully, I just began to see that there was such a better way to go about doing that whole "hooking up" thing. John and Nicole and others that I had come to know and admire had such awesome stories of how they got together...how GOD brought them together supernaturally. No dating the world's way, not even courting to see if you mesh with someone Josh Harris' way (I Kissed Dating Goodbye was a popular book at the time)...just purely, simply, explicitly GOD. I expected no less for how it was to happen for me.
Me and Alisha (Ali in the comments). She is my best friend from college and was at the time going through training to be on staff with Campus Crusade. I flew to Florida to visit her for a few days during her training. How fun is that!
I lived in an apartment by myself for 2 years after college. Then, I moved in a house with these incredibles chics. It was so great!
Friends from Life Challenge.
Friends from college. Some of them I had gone to high school with too. SO FUN.
Out to eat with friends from college/high school again. SO FUN. "Everybody say sex" (inside joke...that's what the lady taking the picture told us as she took this picture...in a REALLY country accent).
A Life Challenge party and baptism at John and Nicole Graves' place.
The church youth group Joel was involved in (at Fellowship Bible in Longview) in his early days of college.
With some friends from LeTourneau. He is still in touch with these guys. In fact, the 4 in the middle and Joel went on a camping trip together right before we left to come to Brasil.
Such a fun guy.
A couple of summers during college, Joel went to work at a Christian camp in West Virginia. He was a guide for white-water rafting, hiking, rock climbing, and caving. He LOVED it of course. Here he is with a couple of friends at the summit of a hike.
Taking a break...West Virginia.
White water rafting the New River in West Virginia.
A Wal-Mart trip gone bad with friends in West Virginia.
So, I saw Joel for the first time. I thought he was beautiful. But, I had undergone that transformation, so that was it...that was the end of my thought processes concerning Joel at that time. Guys are very visual and can, at times, be tempted by what they see visually, even after just a glance. If they dwell on that, well...not good. Girls can be but aren't necessarily tempted visually, but when a thought comes into their heads, they have to really guard themselves. "Beautiful guy playing keyboards -> bet he's a great Godly guy since he's on stage playing in a praise and worship band -> he looks like he'd be so sweet too -> he must be smart and really on his way to do something for God too since he goes to LeTourneau -> bet we'd make some really gorgeous kids -> I wonder what his last name is...bet it'd go good with my name -> I hope he starts going to this church so we can get to know each other better." Blah blah blah. If a girl isn't careful, she's already married in her mind before she even meets the guy.
Thankfully by that point (it had been 3 years after all), I had learned how to guard my mind. My key verse during those years was 2 Corinthians 10:5 "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." At first I was taking thoughts captive left and right. It was hard work. :) Accountability was key in that too. And, of course it wasn't just in the area of guys/relationships. If I had a bad or scary thought, for instance, something horrible happening to someone close to me...quoted this verse. There are all kinds of things that can enter your mind that are NOT obedient to Christ. We have to take those thoughts captive.
So, being as my mind was trained in that way at that point (thank God...wasn't easy), my thoughts about Joel when I first saw him ended at the "he's beautiful" part. I didn't meet Joel that day. I did meet him the Sunday before he left Longview for the summer (picture taken the day I met him). I met him...that was the extent of it though.
During that summer I became really close friends with the guy who would actually become Joel's roommate that following fall. Ahh Fuller...fun times. Fuller was also really good friends with my roommates at the time. So, that fall when everybody came back for school, me and my roommates started doing lots of stuff with Fuller and his roommates (as I said, Joel being one of them). We, in this big group of friends we had from Life Challenge, were SO not interested in hooking it up with each other. Sure, there were possibilities there we thought at times, but nothing that we even acted on or let our minds go with. We were all guarded and of one mind concerning the guy/girl relationship. Truly, it was a rare group and a rare time...very special. I know that not all college/career groups are like that, even if it's the goal. But, we had just received such great teachings that spurred us on so hard for God...we were all so hungry for Him...we just weren't distracted by such things. I think, in a small way, it reminds me now thinking back on it of the early church in Acts. I mean there weren't any flames of fire in our house, but we were just all really close with genuine brother/sister relationships, really seeking God...no time for distractions.
Anyway, me and my roommates and Joel and his roommates spent alot of time together. They spent a lot of time at our house hanging out with us (picture of them at our house...Brian Boyle, Joel, and Alan Fuller). I truly had no interest in Joel other than a friend. He wasn't even a possibility. Why? His desire was to be a missionary. :) Not the life for me I thought. Not even close. So funny.
In the spring of 2000 things began to change.
Practically a part of our accountability group. :) John and Nicole's daughter, Hannah, who would later be my little flower girl.
Seriously probably my favorite vacation ever (other than Joel vacations of course). It was terribly impromptu...I think we decided to go the day before. Fuller flew me, Sanja, and Carrie to Pensacola. It was perfect.
Me and Sanja.
Fullerama and Carrie May.
If you have to rent a car at the beach, you might as well get a convertible, right?
Celebrating my 25th birthday at Red Lobster (one of the celebrations we had).
Tracy, Teresa, Amy, me, Brock and Amanda...Olive Garden (this is making me hungry). :)
Fun times at the casa. Amanda, Sanja, Leeana, Johan, me, and Joel.
Amy, Alisha, O.L., and me at the Dennis Jernigan concert. We drove to Oklahoma for the day.
Happy Birthday Marcus! at Superior.
A crew of us at Applebee's.
Skydiving with Danny.
Paintballing with friends.
O.L., Joel, and Chucky.
Dan, Joel, and Daniel.
At the beginning of the school year that fall ('99) we had a 70s party at our house. SO! FUN! Also, this was really the first night that Joel had hung out with us.
A little 70s groovin'.
Fuller showing some (fake) 70s chest hair.
Our friends Eriik, Justin, and O.L.
Me and the guys.
I did NOT want to be a full-time missionary, but I always loved going on the short-term trips once a year with Life Challenge. When I say I didn't want to be a full-time missionary, the truth is that I didn't want to be one because I really just never felt like I had that calling. I was open to God using me in whatever way...I just never felt He wanted me in that way. And, personally, I was glad.
I'm from a very small town in Louisiana. Paradise is the name of it...oh, I'm sorry...Saline is actually the name. My friends heard me go on and on about it so much though, they started calling it "Paradise." :) I grew up with all my extended family around in that same town. We didn't just live in the same town...we were part of each others' lives daily. I always just assumed that I would live there with my high school sweetheart husband, preferably on the lake. I didn't live there after college...I was about 2 1/2 hours away in Longview, TX. But, that was plenty far enough away for me. I usually went home to Saline at least once a month. I had a GREAT job. I worked as a nurse and worked 12-hour shifts. I had a SUPER schedule also. It was very hard work and I worked 4 in a row (most people didn't want to do more than 2 in a row), but every other week, because of 12-hour shifts and how my schedule was arranged, I had 6 days off in a row. How perfect was that, right? Ahh, good times.
Anyway, that spring (of 2000) Life Challenge was taking their mission trip to the jungles of Panama. Of course I was going. There were many well-established leaders in Life Challenge. But, nobody had been set on as the accurate leader of this particular trip to Panama. By that point, we were running around 200 (sometimes more) in the weekly class. It was in February that John, at the end of class one Sunday, asked all the people who felt like they were called to missions to stand to be prayed for. Joel was one of the ones who stood (kind of strange that I was taking pictures that day...this is a picture of it). Joel wasn't very well-known among the leadership of the church at that point. One of the leaders of the church was in the back of the room. As John was praying for all who were standing, that leader (Dave Lucas) was observing. Afterward, Dave told John that Joel was his man to lead the Panama trip. He was right.
Joel was asked to lead, along with another friend of ours, Katie. As he prepared for this task, he confided in me several times that he felt a bit intimidated. Like I said, there were already many well-established Life Challenge leaders among us...and several would be going on this trip. Seemed logical that they would be the ones leading the trip. But, logic doesn't fit in with God's plans sometimes. Joel knew that God had it for him to do this. He remained faithful and clinging to God, no matter his lack of understanding in it all.
I had been on several missions trips before. I had spent a little over a month in China one summer when in college and had been involved in missions trips at least once a year since that trip. I did truly love it. But, this trip was different. I began to sense God really working something new in me. My prayer before I went was that if God had it in mind for me to be involved in missions full-time, that He would let me know, that it would be made clear...and that it would be a joy...that I would do it joyfully and not out of a feeling of obligation.
We went on the trip in March 2000. It was an amazing time. We traveled deep into the jungles of Panama to one tribe for a few days, traveled to a coastal village for a couple more days, and then back to Panama City to wrap up the trip. We slept in platforms on stilts, bathed in the river, got henna tattoos, walked with the topless women, and danced for hours in their praise and worship services. We also had medical clinics as part of our time there. We saw lots of wounds, disease, and even pulled a tooth with a pair of pliers (one tooth of the remaining 2 teeth the guy had). Obviously, there's no OSHA or JCAHO present there. ;)
Watching Joel was incredible. As someone who was his close friend, I was in awe. He seemed to come alive and really be in his element. I had never really thought of him as a leader before. But, it was proven there. He was so led by God and he just seemed to shine like Jesus in those woods of the jungle...such a servant-leadership he had, just like Jesus. It was SO incredible.
We had such a great trip and experienced some amazing things. By the end of the trip, I was totally changed. I knew 2 things:
1. I was meant for full-time missions
2. I would either marry Joel or someone just like him
The only girl cousins amongst a bunch of ole boys (a couple more have since been born).
Me and my brothers (do you love this picture, Tucker?...truly, I know you don't care)
The traditional Jello egg picture at Easter.
We had a great Christmas party at our house. This is a picture of when we decided to leave the house to go downtown and play there for a while.
Rachel Warnock, me, Brian Boyle, and Joel.
Having a little Christmas get-together with the guys.
The guys showing off their presents...new shirts.
Christmas with my roommates...such a great night.
Christmas with my wonderful accountability group.
Taken that January by my friend and roommate Stephanie. She was supposed to leave that day, moving out to go plan a wedding and get married in March (to my good friend from high school...in fact, he'd been my "boyfriend" in 5th grade...so funny). :) Anyway, it started snowing and she was stuck for the night. The guys (Joel and his roommates) came over and we all stayed up all night playing games, talking by the fire, and going outside at 2 in the morning to play in the snow. That morning the guys made us pancakes for breakfast. Good times.
Saying goodbye to Steph...sending her off to get hitched.
And...PANAMA! We got to Panama City and took a bus through the night to a "port" where we boarded this boat. We then traveled on this boat for a few hours into the Darien Jungle.
We got there and practically the whole village was at the riverbank to greet us. We all hung out there for a while before the hike into the village. I personally never was one to pass up a chance to swim (esp. when hot), so when the little naked kiddos got in, so did I.
We hiked a mile or two into where their village was and...
...our living quarters, complete with a nice "welcome" banner. So sweet. You walked up a ladder (a tree with steps carved in it) to get in.
Our "house" inside. It was SUCH a great place to sleep...so breezy.
A typical house for a family.
One of the medical clinics. Iliana (the girl in white) was a doctor from Panama City that went with us.
Joel tending to a wound.
The missionary chicas...Carrie May, Jen, and me.
Getting the henna tattoo.
Bathing in the river.
The 2nd place we went...the coastal fishermen's village.
We were SO glad to have some soda again. In fact, in the jungle we had run out of water and had to treat the river water so that we would have water to drink. Yeah...not so good tasting after the treatment. We had tried to mix it with koolaid just to be able to stomach it and get fluids down. It wasn't so easy. Again, SO GLAD to have something else to drink once we got to this village. We found out they had a little store and we were just wide-eyed. :) I always thought this picture would make such a great ad for Pepsi.
Carrie, Jen, and kids.
Me giving this guy about the 40,001st shot of Lidocaine...he never did get numb. He was so funny...he kept saying, "Just pull it out, just pull it out."
Jen doing the honors of yanking it out. She had once worked in a dental office, so she was obviously highly qualified. ;) She really did know her stuff, but it was all a little funny and crazy.
We gave Joel a paddle as a gift of appreciation for being such a great leader. It was pretty cool...and we still have it.
This little girl was really special and just won my heart. We had a fast connection. Funny how that happens sometimes with people, even when you don't speak the same language. She even walked really far one day just to give me something (and cut her foot in the process)...it was really sweet. Notice the boy behind me. He's cute huh? :)
Again, with my girl.
Our room at the fishing village. At one point in the middle of the night, a chicken flew in our window. Fun times. :)
Back in Panama City. We were SO GLAD to have just taken a real shower, have on clean clothes, and be on our way to a nice supper in a restaurant...to eat something besides tuna(!!...long story).
Our last day, one of our contacts there took us to the beach. SO FUN! What a great lollipop from God. And, sugar cane to boot! Yes, I was sitting all alone with the guys...but, they had the sugar cane (I am a huge fan!).
The whole group on our last day, at the beach.
So, the 2 things I knew after the Panama trip:
1. God wanted me for full-time missions
2. I would marry Joel or someone just like him
The first thing I did was talk to my accountability partners when I got home. I told them all about the Joel thing. It wasn't such a big deal really...I mean, who knew if it was Joel that I would marry. Maybe it was the second option...it would be someone like him, but not him. I was excited though. I knew the call that a wife has to fully submit...to, in the end, basically give her life and all final decision-making over to her husband. Now, if that sounds doormat-ish...of course God calls a husband to love his wife as He loves the church. If a husband loves his wife in that way, that husband will lay down his life for her and obviously "work as a team" to accomplish all that is to be done in their lives. But, still...the man is the head and responsible for all decisions/directions his family takes in the end. Well, I had never actually come into contact with anyone that was the type of leader that I trusted with that call to submit. Until Joel. Seriously, just like Jesus. If I could trust Jesus, I could trust Joel. That seems extreme...obviously he's not perfect...he's not Jesus. But, that servant leadership is what I'm talking about. The kind of leadership that just makes you want to submit and please.
So, I took it to my accountability girls and we all just began to pray. We were not of the "flirting" type. We despised flirting. It was, as we had been taught, "the lowest form of communication." :) We just didn't do it. We were all very good friends. And, at times, there would be some interest or someone would think, "well maybe" about someone. But, that was always just prayed about. Most of the time if you take someone to the altar and leave them there, they never re-surface. It's amazing how that happens. Anyway, I was determined to not get in the way. As I said before, my expectations were that God would bring me my husband and get us together...it would be supernatural and nothing less. I was not going to do anything to disrupt this. So, I laid low and prayed. I didn't act different with Joel...I didn't spend more time with him or less time with him. Everything was normal and I was at total peace just relaxing in God.
Meanwhile, Joel's side of the story at this point is that he "took notice" of me in Panama too. He said that he noticed that I "held my own" there in the jungle. He had always thought of me as a "city girl." I liked to eat out (which I still do) and I slept all the time (um, I worked nights...I did tend to sleep during some of the days when he was around). :) Believe me, to a girl from Saline, "city girl" is the furthest from a compliment you can get. But, in Panama he says he saw how hard I worked and was just really impressed with my jungle abilities. ;)
He came back and in April sometime he was at the altar during worship one morning at church. He very clearly heard, "Take Michawn and go." He was startled...well, more like really freaked out. He hadn't even been thinking about me...there had been no wrestling about me, etc. He had noticed me more in Panama, but that had been the extent of it in his mind...we were still only friends. Another factor was that he was not even done with college...marriage was not on his radar quite yet. Right after Joel heard that distinct phrase, John Graves came up to him and asked him point blank, "What's going on with you and Michawn?"
Something to point out here: Nicole was part of my accountability. John was her husband. But, Nicole never told John anything that was discussed in the accountability setting. That is key in accountability. So, Nicole didn't know that John was going to ask Joel that. John probably didn't even know until right before he went up to Joel to ask him...why would he? John didn't know anything about anything that I was thinking/feeling and he didn't know anything about what was going on with Joel. It was all total prompting of the Holy Spirit alone.
As if Joel wasn't weirded out enough ("Take Michawn and go"), after John's question...yeah...he needed to pray. :)
Joel and his family, taken at their house in Boston maybe the Christmas before Panama.
Me and Mama...right before I left to go to Panama, after Jeffery's graduation I believe.
The roommates...Brian Boyle, Alan Fuller, John Kachtik, and Joel.
Country Tavern. That's all that needs to be said, but I'll elaborate for those of you who don't know. They have the best ribs and my friends loved to go there. Here we are...our stomachs full of BBQ ribs, potato salad, baked beans, Texas toast...mmm.
Oh, good times on Harmon Drive. Joel with Brian Boyle and Daniel Ryan.
My friend Anna and I took a road trip one weekend to Baton Rouge. We stayed with my cousin, Rebecca, and her husband. Rebecca and I are only 11 days apart and are pretty close even though we've never lived close in proximity...love her!
Ahh, our big fun teddy bear...Brian Boyle.
Me with the most popular girl in Life Challenge...Hannah Banana.
Found this and even though it's not pertinent to the story and I don't even know where or when this was taken, I still felt it needed to be shared. :)
Taken just after we got back from Panama. My little brother came out to spend the weekend with me and there just happened to be a carnival in the mall parking lot. Joel, me, Tucker, and some of our friends went to check it out.
Things went on as normal. Every time Joel had questioned the possibility of a girl in his life, he would just lay her at the altar...and there she would stay. He said with me I never stayed at the altar like I was supposed to. God was probably smiling lovingly at Joel...repeatedly bringing me to the altar, placing me there, saying to me "now stay put" just like you would a toddler on a chair. Such a funny picture of it all. Anyway, I just kept getting off the altar. ;)
As for me, I just continued to pray. But, I also was making major life-changing decisions. I was praying about what God would have me do in the area of missions. And, He was making it very clear step-by-step.
Joel and I were continuing to hang out, just like before...mostly in groups of friends. I met his parents that May at his college graduation. I was especially glad to meet his mom, just because at that time I felt like I would be doing somewhat of the same thing as she had done. She had moved away and worked as a missionary, leaving her home, parents, and all her brothers and sisters, moving away from the small town where she had grown up. She did that to a certain extent even before she married Joel's dad...but, even moreso after she married him and moved to Brasil. I felt like God was leading me in the same way...minus the husband of course. ;) I was glad to hear her experiences.
Also in May, Joel and I both found ourselves in the Dallas area. I was visiting a friend from college who was about to leave for the summer and he was attending a helicopter training of some sort. We met up a few times to hang out there. Things seemed to start to change in some aspects in the month of May.
It was an interesting time. Not only were things seeming to change in that area (nothing I could put my finger on...just sensed more and more that Joel might indeed be the one for me), but I began to really feel like I knew more specifically what God would have me do in the missions area. I made work arrangements to be off during January-March 2001. I booked flights, bought airfare, and made deposits to attend a language immersion course in Costa Rica during that time. I didn't know what was going to happen at the end of those 3 months in Costa Rica, but I just knew that was my next step. God had called me to some pretty life-changing things...I needed to follow through with some irrevocable plans, so I did. It was done. I was well on my way to full-time missions.
June brought something a little different along. I worked nights and people would often come up and eat with me or pop in for a visit on my floor at the hospital. Joel had never done that and decided to come up and have supper with me one night. We were sitting there and we were done eating...I was about to go back to my patients. All of a sudden, he said, "So am I doing a good job of not letting you know I like you?"
Pictures...(and something to point out: some are a little dark; sorry about that; just the way our scanner is). Also, the pictures above in the text: #1 - It was such a great day for a graduation held outside. The weather was PERFECT (a nice breeze as you can see by my hair), so sunny, and so pretty on the LeTourneau campus. Also, Franklin Graham spoke at Joel's graduation. It was pretty cool. #2 - in Dallas with Alisha and her family. It was her mom's birthday (or maybe for Mother's Day...or maybe both...either way, hence the crown on her head). Alisha later married this great guy Piper and that is her sister and her husband Lonnie. They have 2 other sisters who weren't able to make it at the time.
Some good slinky art with Anna, Melissa, and Joel. This one and the next 2 were actually taken right before Panama, but deserve some good blogtime too.
Me and Eeee-na! ;) Such a great friend!!
This picture CRACKS me up. Ahh, so much fun...love the creativity of Brian Boyle.
Me and Joel.
After graduation, Joel took his parents to Gladewater to show him the airport where he worked. Our friend Anna and I went along too. Along the way we stopped and took pictures in the flowers.
After we went to Gladewater to hang out for a bit, we went to the Graves' house. While there, Joel asked me to go with him and his family and Fuller and his family to Dudley's for supper. Of course I said yes...1) I wanted to hang out with them all more, 2) Dudley's is GOOD. :) I usually don't like cajun food unless it's from a cajun's own personal kitchen, but Dudley's...they do it right.
Alisha about to head off to Branson for the summer (wasn't that where you were going Alisha?).
Me and my brothers after Jared's graduation.
Me and my little cousin, Gillian, at the lake.
The weekend before the fateful night at work and the question from Joel, he and O.L. went home with me. That was Joel's first time in Saline. Ahh, the lake. Of course he loved it. That's probably why he wanted to marry me. :)
I was on my way to work for the night. That day John and Nicole's 2nd child, Joseph, was born. This was just a couple of days before the fateful night at work when Joel came to unload that question on me. :)
Joel: "Am I doing a good job of not letting you know I like you?"
I was floored. At that point I thought that if anything was to happen, and I had no idea that it would, but if it did, God would allow it all to come out (for instance, this sort of question that Joel had just asked me) in December. I would then leave in January. I would come back at the end of March, plan a wedding, and get married in the summer. :) Although I didn't let me mind really go there, I had planned that out as a possibility just to keep my bearings...it was good...I thought the earliest possible discussion would be in December. Hence...yeah...I was floored.
I just put my head in my hands. I was in disbelief. Poor Joel. He told me that at that point he was freaking. He was like, "Crap, why did I say that?" :)
Well, I did finally lift my head, we discussed it a bit, and just decided to continue to pray. We would be in touch. :) That was a Friday night. I didn't see him again until that next Wednesday.
We grabbed some Bodacious and talked about everything before heading to church. Basically he said that he had prayed and prayed and just did not have the certainty that I was indeed his wife. But, he just kept trying to leave me at the altar and I wouldn't stay there. So, he decided to tell me.
I, personally, was a little irritated. :) I mean, I wasn't mad, just upset. The thing was that I didn't want even a syllable of such talk to enter my ears unless the guy knew that he was going to marry me. I knew it could happen that way...I had seen it happen like that in other people's lives and that's what I wanted for me. So, this was not exactly what I had expected and held as my standard. I'm the kind of person that if someone doesn't tell me they like me, I don't let myself think it. I told Joel this and he was like, "I wish I'd known that." :) I think he was just worried that since he was having these feelings, even though nothing had changed as far as our relationship and the time we spent together and such...he just wanted to be extra cautious that he wasn't leading me on. So, he wanted everything out in the open. Although it wasn't what I had planned for how it was "supposed to happen," it was totally understandable. I completely respected and appreciated his reasoning. And, in the end, I know that it was God who orchestrated that all...there was much to learn in the way it all played out (you'll see more what I mean as the story goes on).
So...again...we just continued in prayer about the matter.
We continued to just do the normal things...no calling each other just to talk, no dating, etc. We hung out in groups and had a great time.. About a month later, at the first part of July, he left. He traveled alot that summer, even trekking all the way to Brasil with his brother to visit friends. We talked right before he left and felt like we would have a final decision concerning us when he got back...whether we were to be married or not.
While Joel was gone, I continued on as normal. I had felt like, back in May, I was supposed to have a big garage sale and sell all my stuff in preparation to go to Costa Rica. Right before Joel got back I realized why I hadn't done that yet. I was thinking that if he got back and said that I was his wife, we would need all my stuff. Well, God totally busted me on that one. One day He said very clearly to me, "Your life is not pending on Joel, it's pending on what I tell you to do." Yeah...so I had the garage sale. But, that's just an example of how I had to continue on, not thinking of the possibilities and what seemed "logical" to me...but, just doing what God had me to do step-by-step.
Also while Joel was gone, I moved in with John and Nicole Graves and lived in their little prayer room which was part of the deck on the lake. It was AMAZING. It was such a great time of just soaking up some good family life and seeking God intensely there.
Joel was gone for about 8 weeks. He got back the end of August.
This is a long story huh? (Warning: You're not even halfway through it) :)
Pictures above in the text: #1 - The last day before Joel left we all went and played around in Longview. Here we were playing on a playground. We had gone swimming at a public pool that day and here at the playground we were running through puddles and playing on the equipment. #2 - Although you can't see it that well, the prayer room where I lived at the Graves' is in the left hand side. You had to walk over a walkway, over the water, to get to it. Man, such an awesome experience living there. Can you see why with this view?
Me and my great roommates at the time...Sanja, Lidia, and Leeana. When Stephanie moved out and got married, Leeana moved in. I had shared a room with Stephanie and then shared a room with Leeana...so much fun.
The guys on a canoeing trip on the Sabine...this was the day after Joel visited me at the hospital and "broke the news" to me about his feelings.
Me hanging out with Johan and Joel (and Tweety?) at our house.
Canoeing with Joel...and Daniel, Dana, Kari, and Stoner on the VERY HIGH Sabine River.
While Joel was gone on his travels, I was busy playing too. During July Saline has a Watermelon Festival every year. Here is a crew of friends that came that year for the festival...that's my little brother along with Stoner (Mark), Amy Terry, Justin Sprayberry, Josh Ransom, Daniel Ryan, and O.L. Kelly. We're all hanging out at "my house" in Saline. More came the next day for the festival.
The crew at the Saline sign...about to enjoy more of the Saline Watermelon Festival. We had just watched the HUGE (kidding...not huge, but fun) Saline Watermelon Festival parade.
Our friends Danny, Ben, and Josh competing in the Watermelon Toss. What a cultural experience for everyone! :)
Danny enjoying the lake.
Joel and his brother Andre in Brasil.
Joel and his friends, Thais and Tania.
Joel visiting with his friend Marcelo in Brasil. We actually hang out with him some now...fun.
Old Saline Baptist Church youth group reunion. Not really, but we were all at Donnie Brown's wedding that summer. Great to be all together in one place with them all. Of course, 4 of those people in the picture are actually my brother and cousins, so I got to see them alot.
My last night at 606 Berkshire before I moved in with the Graves'. SUCH GREAT TIMES there...I lived there for about 16 months.
Joel and his family while he was visiting them in the Boston area that summer.
Combining 2 of my favorite pastimes at the time...swimming of course and hanging out with little Hannah Graves.
Before Joel got back, while living there at John and Nicole's...let me just shout "AWESOME" at the top of my lungs. Wow. It was just such a great time of peace. And that's weird with everything that was going on in my life. But, that is the feeling that still comes over me when I think about my time there in that house.
Anyway, at one point while living there, I was talking to John about when Joel did come back. I was a bit confused really. I wasn't confused about whether or not he was my husband...that wasn't at the forefront of my confusion. But, I just kept wondering if I was really supposed to know. I had heard women talk about how they "knew from the start" or "knew he was the one for me, even before he did." That wasn't what I knew. John cleared it up for me. He just very simply asked me what I did know. I replied, "I've always just known that I could follow him." And, there it was...that profound but simple question that John asked me provided such foundation and peace for me. There was my answer. My answer was not a yes or no. It was just that I knew I could follow him. And, in John's very wisdom-filled ways, he said, "Well, you need to be ready to follow him with a 'no' then."
Wow. That was good. John went on to say that it would be really easy if Joel came back and said "let's get married" and wanted to wisk me away. It's easy to follow when someone is trying to lead you where you want to go anyway. But, when it's not the way you want to go, that's not as easy.
I truly didn't know if Joel was God's man for me or not. And...this took all the pressure off. I was loving being a girl...just trusting, just following, just looking to Jesus alone. I didn't have to figure anything out. Of course Joel didn't either...he just had to follow Jesus and do what He said. But, I didn't even have to have a yes or no. I just had to do what I had always known...follow Joel.
I had that garage sale that I was talking about one Saturday in late August. Joel got back that same Saturday really late at night (August 26, 2000 to be exact). I didn't even know when he was coming back. We had corresponded a couple of times while he was gone, but only early on in the trip. And I made it a point to never initiate the correspondence. I hadn't heard from him in a while. Didn't know when he was coming back. Had no idea if he was even still thinking about "us." But, didn't matter...I was just trusting, loving Jesus, and following. I seriously was at perfect peace.
At church the next morning he was there. He walked into Life Challenge. We said hi and gave each other a side hug (side hugs only in Life Challenge...it was never a stated rule, but looking back, that's just the way it was...a good thing of course). :) Anyway, later we talked a bit and he asked me what I was doing that night. I almost always worked on Sunday nights, but for some strange reason (blatantly God perhaps), I was off. We made arrangements for him to come over to the Graves' that night to catch up.
Every year on the Saturday of the 4th of July weekend, our family (the Hough/Day side) has a reunion. It involves all day at the lake with some great, great food (including homemade ice cream of all sorts of flavors and "snuff" and watermelons of course), some great times with family, and some great watersports. Here are me, Ariel, and Amanda eating some good watermelon.
Jared and Tucker (my brothers).
Swimming makes everybody hungry, right? Of course we have tons of food at the lake too, but there's nothing like a shower and then some Cookshack after a long day of swimming. :)
After the day at the lake, it's tradition for all us cousins to do something together (same on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day). It used to always be a movie, but as we've gotten older, sometimes we just opt for a game night together instead of traveling to a movie theater (remember, the nearest one to Saline is at least 45 minutes away). Here we are having such a great time together playing games (I think this may have been the very first game night).
Models in the hay. :) Me and my 3rd cousins (they are sisters...there is another sister who wasn't there)...Elizabeth, Rebecca, and Alicia.
Hannah and Joseph Graves.
This and the following pictures are more images from Joel's trip to Brasil. Lots of good times with people from the "old gang." Sadly, they don't all live in Goiania now, although we are still able to see and keep in touch with some of them.
Joel with some friends at the church where his dad used to be one of the pastors. They weren't in this building at the time, but it's the same church.
John, Nicole, and the kids were gone to a meeting that night. But, there was another great girl living with them at the time (she had been there alot longer than me). So, Melissa was there. Joel and I hung out in the living room catching up on each other's summer. We showed each other pictures, even exchanged a couple of gifts (he brought me a couple of things back from Brasil...I had a Watermelon Festival T-shirt for him). We talked alot, but finally it was time for THE talk.
Joel first went over just the previous few months...how it came to be that he was even interested in me in the first place...all the things that had happened...the things God had done. He told me how he had been praying that God would be preparing my heart these 8 weeks he'd been gone for just whatever he was to say in this moment. He told me that he'd been praying that God would show me the same thing he'd shown him. Then he said, "So...?" :) I just briefly told him about the discussion John and I had had. I told him, "I'm prepared."
I listened intently. Joel explained that since the very start of this whole thing, he had been praying that he would get three confirmations that I was his wife. He then explained that he had gotten, instead, three confirmations that I wasn't his wife.
It was the strangest thing...only possible with God as the focus and nothing else. But, I truly was at perfect peace...still. God had my heart...He had guarded it. He was my husband. And until He Himself gave my heart over to someone else (my earthly husband), it was staying with Him. He still had it...it wasn't given over to Joel. It wasn't time for my heart to belong to someone else.
Of course I was disappointed. I went from possibly marrying the most awesome guy on earth to...not. But, there is a huge difference in a broken heart and disappointment. God was so faithful. He truly did prepare me and guard me. I was not broken-hearted. It was so great and amazing.
Joel said it was a no, I said, "O.K." and we talked about how it was nice to have an answer, we prayed, and he left. That was it. We had our answer.
John and Nicole were so great. They came home as I was eating a bowl of cereal, processing my thoughts, and seriously thanking God for His faithfulness. I filled them in on everything. Nicole especially was upset for me, but both were very glad about how it had been handled. We had our answer. It was a no. God was in control. Perfect peace was there.
I have 2 pictures from that night...one of me and Joel taking a picture of ourselves (you know how those pictures usually turn out when you are trying to do it yourselves), but I have no idea where it got to. I can't find it anywhere.
Then, this picture...I don't remember if this was taken before or after the 'no' was given, but we were just goofing off (obviously). Still friends, still having fun...still peace...thank you God!
This one and the rest are just some pictures of us that I thought I'd throw in there since there are no other pictures to share this time.
Because everyone needs at least one engagement picture in a deer stand, right?
And just for kicks...remember the 70s party we had? This is a picture Joel and his roommates took that I found recently. SUCH a great shot. Love those guys.
So we went back to being just friends. We were always just friends, but for a while there I guess we were technically friends with possibilities. No longer.
Again, we didn't hang out any less or any more. That is one thing that I actually wrote in my journal. I made a list of 5 things that we could be thankful for after the "no" discussion. One of those things was that it had never once been "weird" between me and Joel. Never once was it awkward or different. We had always been close friends. We were still close friends. That's only, though, because even through the "interest" and "possibility" stage, we had never given our hearts over in the least bit...we had never flirted an ounce...we had never gushed with feelings...never "dated" or talked about future plans (that included each other). We had been guarded and remained friends...keeping Jesus our focus, never turning our focus to each other.
A couple of weeks after the "no" discussion, I was at church talking to a friend and mentor of mine, Tammy Lucas. I had not had a chance to really fill her in on anything related to Joel (it was a busy summer for both of us)...she knew nothing of the whole thing actually. So, we were actually setting up a time for me to go over to her house that week and catch up...I still wasn't mentioning anything to her about the whole Joel topic...just told her I had lots to tell her. Her husband, who is gifted prophetically, looked very intently at me the whole time we were talking. In fact, he was standing behind her looking like he was about to bust. I looked back at him and said hi to him. He was very serious and never said hi. Tammy looked at him and said, "Oh, he's got a word for you." :) Don't you just love those married people that can read each other like a book? :)
Dave said, "You need to express your inner thoughts." Tammy asked, "To who?" Dave said, "I don't know, but whoever it is...if you don't reveal your ponderings about your future, your feelings, your thoughts...it will prolong whatever is supposed to happen."
I got home that afternoon and John immediately said, "What's wrong?" OH, the discerning people that were around me! :) I told him "nothing", but he prodded some more. I told him what Dave had said. He asked me, "Is he talking about Joel?" I told him I had thought of that, but I really didn't have anything to say to Joel. We had our answer. That was it. It was a done deal. I really didn't think it was Joel.
As sure as I was that it wasn't Joel that Dave's word was about on Sunday...that's how sure I was of the opposite being true by that Thursday. I really felt strongly that I was supposed to talk to Joel. A few things had happened to lead me to feel that way.
Census (our patient load...the number of patients we had on my floor at the hospital that is) was low at work that week and I also came down with some sort of sore throat issues, so I really didn't work that much (part of one night only). Therefore, I spent more time with John and Nicole, Dave and Tammy, and Joel (and other friends). It was an activity-filled week. That word that God had given through Dave had really been stirring in me during those few days. I met with Tammy and she really, really encouraged me in just everything that was going on, saying that I was handling everything very well, that I had learned things that she didn't learn until she was married with 5 kids, that I was going through a lot of tests and I was passing them all with A's. She was just very encouraging and of course I just sat there with tears streaming down my face as she encouraged.
That night Joel and I met up at the college there (Kilgore College) to see a friend of ours sing in a big band...so fun. That same friend went to college a couple of hours away and told us about a new local band that was playing at her school the next night and asked us if we wanted to go to the concert (MercyMe was the name of the new, unknown band by the way). So, the next night me, Joel, and Brian Boyle headed to meet up with Bethany again.
On the way back from that concert, Joel asked me how my meeting with Tammy went. I had already journaled about it and just got out my journal for him to read that entry. I dropped Brian off at his car on campus and drove Joel home a few blocks away. He remarked that it sounded from my journal entry like I was doing really good with everything. He said that it sounded like to him I was doing even better than him...that he still had these "feelings" that tended to want to pop up sometimes. I told him that I was not a step ahead of him like he said. We talked a bit more and the bottom line was that we were looking at a no. We had to treat it as a no, focus, and move on.
After that brief discussion though, I knew the word was about him. I needed to tell him my feelings and ponderings about the future.
I only have a couple of pictures from that 2-week time span. It was a very busy 2 weeks...maybe just too busy to take pictures. I think it strange esp. that I didn't take pictures of the MercyMe concert. For those of you who knew me, esp. then, I took LOTS of pictures (I still do of course, but believe it or not, I take alot less now). The photo center people at Wal-Mart knew me by name. I would walk in (at least weekly) and they would look at me and say "Michawn Madden, just one minute" and go to get my pictures. :) Nevertheless, these are the only 2 pics from then. Several of us went over to Justin and Joel's place one afternoon...swam, ate, hung out (mostly LeTourneau people). It was a good time.
I love how Dana is looking at Daniel (the guy in red that got cut out of the picture a bit) in this picture. We were all just friends at the time, but they later got married as well. Awwwweeee.
So, I knew the word I got from Dave was for Joel. I went home that night and wrote it all out. I wrote Joel a letter. I wasn't going to give it to him though until I ran it by John and Nicole.
I was at LeTourneau University again (a really good speaker that I knew was doing chapel there) the next day. Joel was there and I gave him a ride to his car on campus after chapel. He boiled our whole talk the previous night down into one sentence basically and this is how he felt: There might still be feelings that come up, but if he focuses on God, what He is doing in our lives, the places He is taking us...the feelings go away...disappear. I told him how I had been careful to tell him only what I felt like God was leading me to tell him the whole time (important to note: I didn't feel like I wanted to share more than I did...I wasn't stifling...I didn't know any answers, but in the natural we tend to just gush sometimes about everything we are thinking and wondering about, even when it's not fact or what God would have us say; I could've gone on and on about how "what if this and what if that," but that would've done MUCH damage...not Godly at all), and how I hadn't felt peace at all about telling him the whole scoop, but that now I did feel peace and even a MAJOR prompting. I told him about the letter I wrote. And I did tell him some of what was in the letter (this was the main idea of the whole letter...the letter just had scriptures and so forth, some of what God was doing, etc.). I said, "Joel I think you are SO awesome. I, honestly, would love to marry you. I'd love to be your wife. I'd love to be your best friend forever and help you with whatever you are supposed to do in your life. BUT,...more than I want all of those things, I want what God wants for me. If those things aren't what God wants..." We were both happy and relieved; we were both on the same page.
That day I went back to the Graves' and went swimming. Our friend Danny was spending alot of time out there at the Graves' doing some yard work, so we hung out some. We decided to go wakeboarding that following Saturday.
That night after Life Challenge Joel told me that he thought that the word Dave gave me was meant for him - that I was supposed to tell him how I felt. He said that it really helped him. I asked him, "In what way?" He said, "That's a good question." He asked me what the last part of the word was. I told him again what Dave had said: "You need to express your thoughts and feelings, your ponderings about your future. If you don't it will prolong whatever is supposed to happen." Joel said, "Hmm, wonder what that last part means."
I went to the Ladies' Retreat with our church that weekend. After we got home on Saturday afternoon, I met up with Danny for wakeboarding. Joel and another guy named Joel went too. Danny and Joel stayed after we were done...slept on the boat that night.
I had given John the letter I had written Joel that Thursday. On Sunday morning I asked him about it. He said, "Just hold." Wow...another test. Nicole was standing there and said, "Can you at least give her an explanation why?" (Wives SO soften things sometimes, don't they?) John said, "Just hold." I asked him if he had read the letter. He said he hadn't. I asked him if he would just read it, that I wouldn't give it to Joel, I just wanted to know what he thought about the letter and what it said (man, I had come a long way in my submission...if you only knew...but, that's for another blog at another time). He sat down and read it. He said, "It's good. Talk to Dave about it." :) What a series of hoops to jump through...Joel would say that he jumped through way more than me though...and he did.
I gave Dave and Tammy the letter before church. They invited me to lunch to discuss it. Dave compared mine and Joel's situation to Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. HELLO! Her books and just their relationship had come alive to me over that summer. I had had those books forever, but had always shied away from them. I just didn't want to even think about relationships and get stirred up and all and such before the proper time (I had even stopped watching romantic comedies and all). But, that summer I was "in it" (the proper time had arrived), so I pulled them out...specifically the book "Passion and Purity." I think it was truly God for Dave to use them (the Elliot's) as our comparison. Dave went on to explain that nothing had swayed them from God's purpose for their lives, from what God wanted, even though they had all of these passionate feelings for each other. He said that he's sure that Elisabeth got frustrated at times (they waited for 5 years for God to give the go-ahead for marriage), but she submitted and trusted God. Dave went on to say that as a result she was totally honored and rewarded by God...she was able to ultimately fulfill Jim's dream of reaching the Auca Indians, and she deserved it. Dave talked about how I handled things then, my submission, was directly related to how I would handle things and respond to things in my marriage. He said that he didn't think it was a "no," but it was just a matter of God's perfect timing. That part floored me...freaked me out a bit, but excited me at the same time. He said that it was a season of testing for me. He said that me and Joel had all these feelings that were natural, it was O.K. He said to keep open communication, don't cut it off. That was huge to me...I was even comtemplating not talking to him as much...limiting our communication. Even though it had never been weird and even though I was guarded, I just thought it might be a good idea to just kind of step away from even close friendship for a while. The conversation with Dave was awesome to say the least.
I left their house and went to Joel's house (he was living with our friend Justin by that point). They were having a get-together that afternoon, so it was lots of fun just hanging out with everybody. At one point everyone went in the house. Joel and I stayed out on the deck to kind of talk and catch up a bit.
At first Joel indicated to me that there were things he wanted to tell me, but then he said, "Give me a week. I learned my lesson last time about opening my mouth too soon. Give me a week. Can you do that? Can you just trust me on this one?" I told him, "I've trusted you for a long time now, Joel. What's another week?" :)
Joel had asked me to "give him a week." I told him that was fine. I gave him the letter (that had been approved by Dave and Tammy). He was moved. He ended up telling me some of what he thought he'd wait for.
He had talked to John that Saturday morning (while I was at the retreat and he and Danny were over at John's house working...before we went wakeboarding). John had said (in reference to his 3 confirmations that I wasn't his wife), "What if I told Hannah to go to her room and she waited for 3 confirmations before going to her room?" I have to say that I was loving John's analogy. :) They then evaluated the "no's" that he got. The last 2 may not have even been serious...they were just close friends who didn't even say anything to the effect of "this is not God." They just mentioned little doubts that they had and Joel counted them. The 1st one that he got, though, was major. When he told me about that one on the night of the "no" discussion, that sealed it for me. I knew it was a no. It was his mom. He said that he got back from traveling to Brasil that summer. He had asked his parents to be praying about it all while he was gone. When he got back, his mom said that she really liked me, that I was super nice and I was going to really be used by God, but she just didn't have peace about us. Yep, that sealed it for me.
John pointed out that as his mom maybe she was just sensing his confusion over it all and therefore didn't have peace. Bottom line is that Joel wasn't sure then, he didn't have peace, he was confused - it was a no. I asked him how he felt now. He said he had total peace. He and Danny (the night before) had prayed on the boat. One thing they prayed was that if this was supposed to go forward, if I was his wife, he would have total peace about it the next morning. That night there had been a terrible storm...but, God woke him up at 3 or 4 that morning. He looked up and the sky was clear and full of stars and he felt peace like he never felt before.
But, he still needed a week. For one thing, he had to talk to his parents. If his mom still felt no peace, it was still a no-go. I had to stay guarded. God still had my heart and I had to just trust...in God, not Joel. But, now we were back to a maybe. And, back to waiting...
From my journal that night, after that talk with Joel:
Came home and talked to John and Nicole. Nicole said, "Aren't you glad you are in control of your flesh and didn't blow up or become this bitter person when he told you the answer was no?" Yes I am. Thank You, God, for preparing me every step of the way, through every up and down, around every turn. You are my anchor, my shield, my 1st and most important Love.
A week came and went. The week was up on that following Sunday, but we were both busy that day and weren't able to talk. I then worked Sunday night - Tuesday night. If you've worked 12-hour night shift, you know that pretty much all you do when you are on is sleep and work. Besides that, when Joel got off work is when I was headed to work and vice versa. So, the earliest possible talk time was that Wednesday night, at church.
From my journal:
Joel came up to me after church and said, "What are you doing Saturday? Do you have to work?" I said, "No." He said, "Boy, do I have plans for you. With your consent, your permission, I'd like to take you out on a date. Will you go out with me?" I, of course, said, "Yeah." He said, "You're clueless, aren't you?" (Sidenote here: I thought surely that this guy wouldn't ask me out just to tell me that it had been confirmed that it was indeed a no, but you know...I really didn't know. I was still staying guarded and not letting my mind go.) I said, "Yeah totally. We haven't talked." He said that he really was impressed by my patience. I told him (another sidenote: I said this with a smile on my face in a very calm voice...truly, God had paved the way for me and I was still at perfect peace, but I said...), "I'm about to go bonkers." He said, "You can wait just a couple more days." I said, "So I have to wait 'til Saturday?" He said, "Hmm, yeah, we'll wait 'til Saturday." I said, "O.K."
A pastor from Brasil was there visiting Church on the Rock and Life Challenge. So, guess who was serving as interpreter? Yep, Joel. So, after church he came over to John and Nicole's house for dessert with the pastor. From my journal: When Joel and the pastor were about to leave, I was in the nursery talking to Nicole about "the date" on Saturday and how I was going to have to wait until then to find out what was going on. Joel called my name from the kitchen. I went in there to tell him bye. I told him that I was planning on going home (to Saline) the next night (Thurs. night) after Life Challenge, but that I would be back in time for our date on Saturday. He said, "Have you found anything out?" I said, "No, why?" He asked me again, "Are you sure you don't know anything?" I was truly bewildered and told him I didn't know what he was talking about. He said, "I have a meeting with your Dad on Friday."
He had a meeting scheduled with Daddy? O.K., I was keeping focused, I was staying guarded, BUT HELLO!! I sort of knew what that implied.
Joel left out of the house and I RAN to Nicole, jumping the whole way. She met me halfway down the hall...she had heard most of what was said (she said she'd been straining her ears...so funny) and was already jumping herself (she had actually been in on the whole thing...had to do some major undercover work trying to find my parents' phone number for Joel to call my dad). We jumped to her room and jumped on the bed. :) It was quite a sight I'm sure. I just kept saying, "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh!" It was so much fun. I had stayed so guarded and so on track...it felt good to just be giddy for a few minutes now that we were seemingly in the home stretch of it all.
I did go to Saline the next night. Then Joel came that next day. It was really kind of weird. I went and picked up my little brother from school and we just hung out at my Granny's since I knew that Joel was coming and meeting Daddy after school. Daddy joked around with Joel about being there to sell him some Amway or something...then they chased a mouse around the house together (nice...talk about an icebreaker). Joel didn't ask about marriage...he simply asked permission "to pursue my heart."
I went home after a while and then me and Joel went to get a sno-cone. We went to the dam at the lake and discussed things. Joel always talks about how that is such a special place...where it all began basically. We didn't say we were getting married, we didn't talk about getting married, we didn't make plans for marriage...but, we both knew that would be the end result. That all happened Sept. 22, 2000.
By the way, when Joel had talked to his parents that night about the "no," he asked them to pray about it again. They told him they didn't need to pray about it anymore, that they felt perfect peace. They were just waiting for him to feel peace about it.
So, it all began.
As I said before, the day we talked in Saline was Sept. 22nd. We had our first date on Sept. 30th. We went to the Longview Symphony. It was really nice. We went to Shogun to eat before the symphony. It was such a great time. Nicole (and kids) had gone shopping with me the day before. It was really fun.
Let me tell you...it was a bit of a challenge to find a dress that was even remotely classy and pretty and not stuffy, but also modest. But, as noted in my journal: So glad I didn't get one of those hoochie mama dresses. Joel told me that night that he was glad I didn't dress like some of the other girls there.
I went to hang out with my friend Alisha the week of Oct. 4th. She was living in Fort Worth and Joel was actually there in Dallas for another helicopter thing of some sort. We had a great time there with Alisha and Piper.
We weren't engaged and we weren't making plans up until that point. The week in Dallas we actually started talking about things like that...plans as far as the 'when' of everything. There were so many factors, one of the biggest ones being my trip to Costa Rica. Remember, I was slated to be gone January - March (3 whole months).
The COTR premarital counseling was 6 months long. We didn't want to start that until we were engaged. The timing of everything was not falling into place, esp. with the Costa Rica trip factored in.
We went to the Angola Rodeo (near Baton Rouge LA) with my family the weekend of Oct. 21st. When we got back that Sunday night, Joel secretly asked my parents' permission for my hand in marriage.
Saturday, October 28th, Joel and I went to a wedding in the morning. Funny...I caught the bouquet and guess who caught the garter? Yep, Joel. It was perfect. More perfect than I even knew. Why? Well, we hung out all day and in the afternoon went back to Joel's house. We went out in the canoe (with the plan to "scout out a camping area" on the lake as Joel told me...that big liar) and watched the sunset. And...Joel proposed. His exact words were, "Will you marry me and go wherever God takes us?" That had been what his dad said when proposing to his mom (they then spent about 20 years in Brasil).
It was very surreal. I kept thinking, "Oh my gosh. Is this it? Is this the proposal? Is this when I say 'yes' and we get married and stuff?" Joel had thought of everything and it was so perfect. I was so excited about going back to the house and making some calls of course. Well, everybody (that lived locally) that I was going to call was back at the house. There were about 50 of our friends there waiting to surprise me. Joel had tried to think of everything that I love and put them all together...the lake, the sun, a party with all my friends, surprises, and even pictures and video (he had John and Brian Boyle out in the woods near the lake taking pictures and video of the whole proposal). It was so great and I was super impressed with him. So, we had a big party...friends, food, and cake included. And, I was getting married!!
Eating at Shogun on our first date.
Self-portrait taken while putt-putt golfing with everyone that went to the Angola Rodeo.
The group of us (at the putt-putt place) that went to the Angola Rodeo (Angola is the Louisiana State Penitentiary for those of you who don't know...it's a very interesting thing to attend).
This was taken at that wedding we went to the same day we got engaged. The wedding photographer took this of us...and the bride (a co-worker of mine...she was actually my charge nurse) and groom included this in their wedding present to us.
On the lake in the canoe...getting proposed to. :-)
I was so surprised to see everybody there when we got back to the house. It was so fun. The next few pictures are of the party.
Giving all of the girls the scoop on the canoe ride.
The cake. Yes, my name is spelled wrong, but in her defense, the girl who got it done has a family member whose name (one of her names...not her first name) is the same as me, but spelled Mishon (or something like that)...she always got confused about whether mine was with an 's' like her family member or not. And yes...the tags say Brazil...there was a possibility we would be headed straight to Brasil at the time...you'll read more about that later.
Reading the sweet card they got for me.
Ben and Brian Boyle wrote an impromptu song for us after we got back from the canoe ride. It was so cute. The ring that Joel got me for the engagement was from James Avery and came in a little cloth pouch, about the size (length and diameter) of a finger. So, after Joel asked me to marry him, he asked me if I also wanted a "pinky warmer." The song even incorporated that. It was a great song...they are some talented guys.
Everyone looking on as the song was sung. After the song, everyone gathered around us and we had a great time of being prayed over...it was SO powerful and so special.
We were now engaged. Next we needed a date.
Costa Rica...what was to be done about that? I think I still had enough of the healthy independence left in me. I wasn't going to cancel my plans just because marriage was in the works...just because some boy had asked me to marry him. Also, God told me to do this. How was I supposed to explain that away?
Then, the week of Nov. 15th, I was doing my vacuuming chore at the Graves'. I was in little Joseph's room (the nursery). I had been praying about the whole Costa Rica thing alot...for weeks. But, I wasn't thinking about it then. All of a sudden, God slammed me with this like a ton of bricks...he wrote a billboard across my mind. The billboard read "Abraham and Isaac." I knew it was from God...totally out of nowhere and it just kind of jolted me a bit. I turned off the vacuum cleaner and sat down in the rocking chair. What did this mean?
Then God showed me...as quickly as He'd put that billboard in my mind, he gave me the meaning: God had clearly told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham took all the steps to do so. He traveled to the mountain, he took with him his only son that he loved so much along with the wood and knife and fire. He built an altar, put the wood on it, tied Isaac to it. He obeyed fully. At the last minute, God stopped Abraham...provided another way.
Now, I'm not comparing myself to Abraham. Going to Costa Rica wasn't the equivalent of killing one's own son...a precious, precious son that had been long waited for...on top of a mountaintop. But, that's the analogy God used to explain things to me. I knew that God had told me to go to Costa Rica. I had taken all the steps to do so. I had sold all my stuff, moved in with John and Nicole to save up money, made arrangements at work to be gone for 3 months, bought airfare to Costa Rica and back, put my deposit in at the school in Costa Rica. I had passed the test. I, like Abraham, had obeyed fully. At the last minute, God showed me the different way He wanted for me to go (He provide my "ram").
The decision for me not to go to Costa Rica brought much freedom. We were now free to plan the wedding even. We set our wedding date on November 19th...finally...and we were in full swing with planning. February 17, 2001 we were to be married. We were SO EXCITED!!
Today you have a TON of pictures to look at though. Pictures of this time period, leading all the way up to the wedding day. Some of the things that you are going to see pictures of are more fully explained in the next section of the story.
We blew this picture up and zoomed in and used it as our main engagement picture.
My little adopted kiddos, Hannah and Joseph...I borrowed them from John and Nicole from time to time. :-)
My roommate from 606 Berkshire (where I lived before I moved in with the Graves') got married that December. We had actually gone to college together too. She is from Croatia, so her parents and brother came over a little before to be with her. This is a week before the wedding. A big group of us went to Marshall (the town where we went to college) and saw the lights and watched people ice-skate (maybe even did it ourselves...don't remember). It was a fun time. Joel was actually in Brasil at the time.
Sanja's (and Tony's) wedding day. With the other bridesmaids...Tony's sister, Amanda Bradford (our college friend), and Lidia Calderon (our roommate).
Me with Hannah, Anna, and Carrie.
Me and my Hannah Banana.
Me and the bride.
Me and Brian Boyle. This was the last time I saw him for about 5 years. He went home to Mexico (his dad was from Ireland, hence the non-Mexican last name) and wasn't able to come back for a while. So, we've only gotten to see him once since 2000...sad.
Me and my fiance' at the wedding.
Anna went to Saline with me one Sunday right around Christmas. We took a picture with a couple of my friends from high school...Tanya (far left) and Jennifer (far right).
Christmas at Granny's. The girl cousins (there's always gotta be a picture of the girl cousins). :-)
The Hough cousins. Joel got to be in on the picture for the first time.
Joel and Tucker playing with Legos on Christmas day. Tucker was a whopping 9 years old then. Today is actually his birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TUCKER!! WE LOVE YOU!! Happy 16th Birthday!
Us and my lone cousin on the Madden side of the family, Brian (who is a year older than me).
Then we traveled to Boston and Pennsylvania to visit Joel's family. This was my first time to meet everyone (except his parents whom I'd met before at his graduation). Joel's dad always gets his accordion out at family gatherings and we sing. That's not quite that common...I have to admit, I was a bit taken aback and found myself wanting to snicker this first time...nobody warned me about the accordion. I was like, "Seriously?" It was funny, although only to myself. ;-) But, it was also very endearing...and we love it. I have also since learned that he is not the only one who can play in his family...and this skill was passed down from family members before them. Will Grady be busting out his accordion for his future daughter-in-law? You just never know.
My first family picture with the Ebersole family.
At Joel's parents' church for the New Year's Eve service.
Some of Joel's family and friends.
Snowflake on my face. :-)
Busy doing some of our premarital counseling reading (we got to do a speedier version than the aforementioned 6 months couseling by the way).
My little cousin Eli was born that Jan. 7th. Joel and I went to visit them in the hospital.
This was our last night to visit Life Challenge as unmarried folk. It was a good time. Me and Danny Robinson.
Joel with Anna and Justin.
At the shower my home church (Old Saline Baptist Church) in Saline gave us.
Us and our friends, Tracy and Teresa Thomas.
The girl cousins.
Us with Joel.
Christmas celebration at the Graves'. John was taking the picture, Joseph was probably already in bed, and pictured are Melissa (the other girl living with the Graves' at the time), Nicole, Hannah, and me. I was no longer really living with them at this point...had moved home around Christmas time to do Christmas, travel, and finish up wedding plans. I would pop in from time to time though...soaking up my last bit of time with the fam.
The last night before Joel flew to Phoenix to start his job. We went on a date in Tyler, Texas...some nice "Mansion" restaurant.
On my trip to Arizona...you'll read more about it tomorrow.
Arizona scenery...desert/cactus. We were actually looking out onto a huge man-made lake where we were taking these pictures.
My dress. The Wednesday after we got engaged (my first day off after that), Nicole insisted that we go looking at dresses. Of course I was fine with that idea. I literally bought the 4th dress I tried on. I don't know if Nicole realized it would be that quick for me and I didn't know for sure in the wedding dress realm, but that's the way I tend to shop for things. I had known exactly what I wanted, so it was easy. This picture is taken the week before the wedding...my last fitting.
Anna helping me try the veil. Anna, Carrie, and the whole Graves' family were there to preview the dress.
After the fitting, me and Carrie May headed over to the hospital for my shower thrown by my co-workers. The cake at the hospital. So funny. I have a whole history with the whole feminism/submission thing, but that's for another blog post.
Ahhh, nurses...they are so crazy. My shower was complete with a peri-light shining on me the whole time and a nice condom corsage (and other un-mentionables). It was funny.
They had gotten a white hospital sheet, decorated it for me, and put it up on the wall.
My co-workers at the shower. Such great people to work with. That was a great 3 1/2 years there at GSMC. What a great first job!!
The next day we had a little shower with our friends hosted by the Graves' at their house. Look at that cake!! Good job Nicole. :-)
Joel with the guys.
2 days before the wedding. My friend Tanya and I in Shreveport in the Sam's Club parking lot. Tanya is super talented in artsy kind of stuff (she's actually an art teacher) and she and her mom did my flowers for me. We bought the flowers at Sam's.
Joel had graduated that May and been basically volunteering with Life Challenge for a few months there in Longview. But, the time was coming that his school loans were to start collecting and he needed a job...not to mention that he was about to have a wife to provide for too. :-)
We had so many possibilities of where to live and what job Joel would take. But, the two main ones were to work at Honeywell in Phoenix, AZ or to go to Brasil to help start a Life Challenge there. Well, as time marched on, the Brasil thing fell through. Also, as time went on, the Phoenix thing, as odd as it seemed, was the best option.
I was done at my job at Good Shepherd on Dec. 13th. We spent Christmas in Saline with my family and then traveled to Boston and drove to Pennsylvania to spend Christmas with Joel's extended family, also traveling back to Boston to spend alot of time with Joel's immediate family. That was my first time to meet them all.
Joel moved to Phoenix Jan. 21st to start work. I went out to help find an apt. the weekend of Feb. 2nd. Then Joel came back to Texas/Louisiana Feb. 9th to help wrap things up for the wedding and to also greet the people traveling in.
February 17th, our wedding day, was a perfect day. It had been really cold and rainy and yucky that week. But, on Saturday the sun came out and it warmed up very nicely. As someone who had always really dreamed about a summer wedding, this was a sweet gift from God.
We had prayed that it wouldn't just be a wedding, a ceremony. We had prayed (esp. Joel...I was in charge of wedding planning while he was mostly in charge of wedding praying) that it would be like a true service full of worship where 2 people just happened to be getting married too.
God heard our prayers and it was such an awesome time. God showed up in a mighty way. We had prayed for His presence to pour out and it did.
One of the things that we had committed to was complete purity. For us that meant nothing allowed physically but holding hands. We didn't cuddle, we didn't do any full-body hugging, we didn't "hold each other," and no kissing (not even pecking, although we did peck on the cheek). We wanted to be as close to Jesus on the purity line as possible. So, that was one of the many fun parts of our wedding...the first kiss.
It was so special to have all of our friends and family there. But, even moreso, to have God's presence there filling that day.
We had such a great, God-filled journey to that point on Feb. 17th, 2001. We were so grateful and just so in awe of everything that God had done. It was truly amazing.
We love our story. I hope you've enjoyed it too. It was long to type out and read step-by-step, but I wanted to do it justice. Crazy thing is that I still left out so many details...dreams we had from God, etc. But, hopefully you have been blessed by our story, as I have again just in revisiting it. It, I think, is a different way of doing things...not the world's way for sure...and not the norm of the way Christians do it either. I hope that in the next few years that trend changes and there will be more and more supernatural hook-ups, supernatural wedding days, and supernatural marriages.
We are and have been blessed, that's for sure. Crazy the miles we've traveled in the past 7 years...literally and metaphorically. That day on the dam, the day it all began, one thing we said was that it was going to be fun...that we were sure of. And...fun it is!
These are two very special women...Ms. Rose Johnson and Mrs. Earline. Mrs. Earline has since passed away, but she was the owner of the Cookshack at the time. She helped out with the rehearsal supper. Mama had the great idea to, since I wasn't going to be having the summer wedding that I always thought I would and wouldn't be having the lake party reception, we'd just incorporate it into the rehearsal supper. It was perfect. The salad bar...a blow-up boat. How cute!!
The very first time Joel had gone home with me back the first weekend of June (O.L. had come too), there was a big work day at my grandparents' house that Saturday. We had gone by there, eaten lunch, and Joel and O.L. had helped out...laying down a water line I believe it was. Anyway, my grandparents had cooked a ton of food, as usual. That day we had chicken spaghetti with all the fixins. So, that's what we decided to do for the rehearsal supper...just see if we could have a re-enactment of that meal. So, my grandparents obliged and we were very happy...so were our stomachs.
Little cousins digging in. Notice the centerpieces. Mama had basically put together the whole rehearsal dinner and the reception for the wedding...including making a ton of food and freezing it in advance. Well, it was her brilliant idea to use these centerpieces...and all the decorations at the rehearsal supper basically. The centerpieces were sand pails and shovels...the pails being filled with other lake/beach stuff like goggles, etc. So cute!
My cousin Rebecca and her husband Eric, the models of the family. Not really, but they could be. :-)
The big day!! Me and Mama in the church nursery. All of my bridesmaids were in there too getting ready.
Me and my matron of honor, Nicole.
Me and my flower girl, Hannah Banana.
My little ring-bearer, my 3 1/2 year old little cousin, Parker.
Me and my girls.
Joel and his guys.
The candles were lit to Delirious' "There Is a Light." Parents and grandparents were seated to a trio of some of my favorite ladies from my childhood singing "Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us." My bridesmaids had walked in to "How Beautiful" played instrumentally (piano and trumpet duet...gorgeous). And I was about to walk out to a song from "The Mission" soundtrack. But, first Tucker walked in ringing a bell. I had heard about that idea from my friend, Weiser Duvall (THE Weiser...as in where the name in "Steel Magnolia's" came from, but that's for another post). Anyway, loved that idea! There was dead silence and then the bell struck a few times as Tucker walked in...then me. After Tucker did that, he took the pillow from the little ring bearer so he coud sit down with his parents...and Tucker also got to give us our rings at the proper time. Special.
Family and friends.
Daddy giving me away.
I walked in without my veil covering my face. Daddy put it over my face and when it was removed again, it was done by Joel.
My brother reading some scripture.
Worshipping. We had our good friends, Gary and Kelly Ritchey, do worship for us. And, my former roommate played the piano with them too. It was a great time of worship...nothing cheesy, just real. God's presence was truly there.
View from the back of the church during worship.
We lit our unity candle. Thanks Sissa (Melissa, the other girl that lived with John and Nicole when I did). She gave it to me for Christmas and I told her it'd be perfect for our unity candle. She thought I was joking, but I was totally serious and it's what I used. It has a pretty yellow flower and greenery painted on it...and yes, we still have it. It is adorning the piano in this house as I type this. With all the moves we've made and the multiple times it's been in storage, that's pretty impressive.
We had communion together and prayed.
After we had communion, our parents and 2 special couples (Tammy Lucas...Dave was on a mission trip to Mexico at the time, and John and Nicole) came and stood with us. Our dads prayed over us.
The first kiss. Fun.
Walking out as Mr. and Mrs. Joel Stanley Ebersole.
We had a customary receiving line, except that everyone had to exit out the back door where we were standing. That way we got to see everyone that was there. It was so great to see them all. This lady pictured and her husband are actually parents of a great friend of mine who is now serving in East Asia with her husband (and kiddos) as missionaries.
I love these guys. They seemed to hit it off really well too. They had alot of fun. This is John and my pastor from high school, Bro. Roger Gill. These are the guys that most influenced me in pastor roles. Pretty incredible men that I was so blessed to have marry us.
Hannah getting a reward for doing a good job as a flower girl, sitting with Carrie. Actually, to get her to go down the aisle at all, Nicole had given her Hershey's kisses. So, in the pictures of her going down the aisle...so cute...you can tell she's chomping on something in her mouth.
I love this picture of the Graves family. Jojos was cracking up. He was about 8 months old here and Hannah about 2 1/2. They are now 9 and 7 years old...and there are 5 Graves kids now.
Getting fixed for pictures. The lady behind me in the picture (in black) is Mrs. Linda Fair. She so graciously served as my wedding coordinator basically. She was a major influence in my life too...a youth/choir teacher at church and also my high school math teacher...not to mention, the mom to one of my best friends (whose picture you actually saw in the last post...Jennifer Fair). She is super talented at everything she does...wedding coordinator included.
The wedding party...goofy picture.
Us with John and Nicole. If anyone should write a book, it's John and Nicole. We wouldn't have a story at all if it weren't for these two. They have an incredible story. Sitting in Barron's eating lunch with Nicole and baby Hannah in the early part of '98, listening to Nicole tell me their story...that changed me. I knew then that I wanted the same kind of story. So, what you need to do is go to her blog and beg her to write out her story for you all...it's pretty incredible.
The Hough family picture...we always have to do a goofy one after we are done with the serious picture-taking.
My family on the Madden side.
Joel's immediate and extended family that were able to make the trek down to the south.
Us with our parents.
Me with my brothers. My little brother, Tucker, was done taking pictures if you can't tell. :-)
Joel with his siblings.
My cake. Some have said that it wasn't that pretty, but I for one didn't care if it was pretty or not (I thought it was fine looking). I am all about taste, thank you. My favorite cake in the world is fudge marble with chocolate icing. So, why would I want one of those white wedding cakes that I don't even like? Yes, fudge marble it was. And it was, as usual, so yummy!!
Milk mustaches. With a chocolate cake, I couldn't not have milk. This was so funny though...Joel of course had a super clean shave. Well, he couldn't, for the life of him, get any milk to stick to his lip. So, really I have one, but Joel doesn't. :-)
Me with my friends from high school, Brock and Brian, and their wives who were also friends from college (we all went to ETBU), Auny and Stephanie. Stephanie, you might remember, had also been my roommate when this whole thing started...we shared a room, so we were pretty tight. :-) She was pretty pregnant with their first child, Mattie, in this picture.
Some fun black and white pictures taken by our friend Matt Thompson. I had practically made him (had to coax him very persistently) take some black and white pictures at our wedding for us. I had seen some amazing pictures he had taken on several mission trips he's been on. To my knowledge, at that point he wasn't planning on doing anything with his photography...he really didn't want to do our wedding, insisting that he had never done a wedding and he only took those pictures for his own personal pleasure. Well, ours was his first wedding and we loved the shots he got. But, he now has his own business...doing wedding (and other events) photography.
I had always thought I'd be getting married in the summer. And I'd always figured I'd go barefooted, mainly just to save me from having to buy any kind of fancy shoes. But, since it was February and pretty chilly, I just opted for wearing socks...pretty white knee-hi socks. When walking outside, I just slipped on some slip-on Keds.
A sweet cheek kiss from Daddy.
About to head out the front of the church.
Tossing the bouquet. I don't even remember who caught it...Cherie Shelton maybe? If you are reading this and you remember who caught it, let me know. I'm curious...we didn't get a picture. Joel didn't do the garter toss. He was not into that whole going-up-my-dress scene. He just didn't want to do it. I was glad. So, I just did the bouquet.
Headed to the car. We had bubbles and bells for our exit.
In an almost throw-down with my Aunt Cheryl. :-) So funny. It is tradition for her to douse the nephew/neice/family member getting married with bird seed...as in pour a big cup of it all over them, getting it all in their clothes and everything. We didn't even use bird seed, but she was prepared. Well, I'm proud to say that I won. No bird seed for me, thank you very much. :-)...so funny.
We went to an island off the coast of Honduras for our honeymoon...for 10 whole days too...a great amount of time for a honeymoon. Joel planned the whole thing. I didn't even know where we were going until we got to the ticket counter in Dallas to board the plane. SO FUN!! Such a great place too...I highly recommend Roatan!
Our complimentary drinks. If you are wondering...we had the virgin variety.
The water was so great and so pretty.
We went snorkeling a couple of times...that's always fun. Also fun...underwater cameras.
In a canoe once again. Enjoying a great sunset.
We got to play with the dolphins. It was so great...I'd always wanted to do that.
In the airport in Tegucigalpa...about to head back to Dallas, East TX, Louisiana. We would spend the weekend there and then head out on a plane to Phoenix...to go "play house." :-) To start our wonderful, fun lives together.
Now that I’m done with the story of how Joel and I got together, I just felt like I needed to elaborate. I talked a lot about the incredible teaching that I got after college and how it was so different than anything I had ever heard before. So, I don’t feel like I should just move on to something else in this blog until that is cleared up a bit. If it’s so awesome, I need to put feet to it. Lots of times people have basic concepts or get the jist of things from testimonies even, but aren’t equipped with the tools to actually walk something out. I don’t want to be irresponsible, so I wanted to just kind of write out some of the basic teaching that we got that rocked my little world.
There are two main parts of scripture that can be drawn from. Obviously there are in reality big chunks of scripture throughout the Bible and then also just common sense, almost psychology/communication skills 101 kind of stuff that can be learned from a great deal too. But, for the purpose of this blog, I felt like I would just focus on these two areas of the Word. One is Genesis 24 and the other is the whole book of Song of Solomon.
Today we’ll look at Gen. 24. I definitely recommend that you read it yourself, but here are the "cliff notes" of the story…
This is the story of Isaac being brought together with his wife. Funny thing is that Isaac was basically unaware of what was going on. Abraham tells his oldest and most trusted servant to go to his homeland and find a wife for his son Isaac. The servant, Eliezer, goes. Long story short (you can read it yourself), he does. He brings her back and they hook it up. :-)
But, I want to go through it and give you some of the main points. There are lots, but man, it’s good.
1. Do not settle for less than God’s best for you; do not compromise – v. 1-8
--Abraham told his servant to go to the land of his family. He did not want Isaac marrying outside the family. Of course that was common in those days, but the real motivation was so they wouldn’t marry some pagan neighbor. It’s symbolic for us in that we should obviously not marry outside our "family" either (non-Christians…do not be unequally yoked). But also that goes further than just making sure you marry a Christian. There are definitely different “degrees” of Christians…you want to marry someone that is on the same page, is headed the same direction…if you are in full pursuit of God (which hopefully you are), you better marry someone who is also in full pursuit of God. If not, you will be unequally yoked. Do not compromise.
2. Do not worry; be confident in God; He will prepare the way – v.7
--Eliezer was like, “what if I can’t find one, what if I do find one, but she won’t come with me…what if, what if…” (obvious paraphrase). Lots of times those “what if’s” get us in trouble, right? It’s good to be prepared and think ahead, but it’s also good to know that we can’t answer the what if’s of life…but, God is in control and will take care of us and will provide where He leads us. We do not need to worry or try to manipulate circumstances ourselves. All we have to do is rest in Him. Rest and relax.
3. Go to God; let Him be in charge - v. 12-14
--Eliezer totally went to God. He trusted Him fully. He knew he had a job to do and put it in God's hands. He didn't try to manipulate his circumstances. He didn't try to rush things. Timing is so huge. God knows, in the realm of relationships, what you are going to be doing 10, 15, 20 years from now. He is the only one who can know who you are going to need as your partner so that you can help each other accomplish the things that He has called each of you to. Wait...don't rush. HE will do it...not you.
4. Have a servant's heart - v. 15-20
--Rebekah came to draw water. She saw the man in need. She offered to water his camels...and not only to give them a sip, but to water them until they had had enough. Camels drink alot of water if you don't know. In fact, 20 gallons at a time is nothing for a camel. There were 10 camels with Eliezer. Yep, that's 200 gallons of water that chic hauled. I'd say she had a servant's heart. She wasn't thinking about what she could get out of it. It's not like Eliezer was some fine, good-looking prince or anything. She had no idea what his agenda was. He was an old servant. A servant's heart...she was just serving.
5. Watch and wait - v. 21
--Eliezer had asked God to show him who he was supposed to take as Isaac's wife by this very act...watering his camels. But, did Eliezer pick her up, put her across his camel, and head back to Abraham's house? No...he watched, he waited. He wanted to make sure that this was God. There were other requirements that she needed to fill...other things that God needed to make clear. There was no rash-ness in Eliezer. He was a man that waited on God. Lots of times there are things that seem right at first, but are in reality not the right way to go. Prov. 14:12 - "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death."
6. Praise and worship; have a mind that is set on Him - v. 26-27
--Once Rebekah's situation had fit the standard (she had watered his camels, she was a part of Abraham's family after all, etc.), what did Eliezer do? He praised God. Now, he didn't know for sure that Rebekah was going to return with him, but he was just praising God for His favor so far. His mind, his eyes were set on Him, not straying, not being tempted to look to Rebekah or her family or his own strength. He was totally relying on God and praising Him for what He'd done.
7. Spiritual covering and authority are very important - v. 29-33
--You saw in our story how covered we were. Boy, were we covered. And man, how wonderful it was. Me and Joel didn't have to worry about trying to figure it out on our own. We had so many people speaking into our lives and truly caring about us and wanting for us what God had for us. It was so incredibly amazing. When you have people like that in your lives, it is easy and relaxing to trust them and submit to that authority.
I realize that it is quite rare. Even if you are willing and wanting to submit to that kind of authority in your life, not many people are willing and wanting to be that authority. I think, personally, that the reason for that is a combo of authority being misused in some people in some places and also maybe even just a lack of responsibility. Nobody wants to "interfere." Nobody wants to stick their necks out. It is quite rare.
But, it is also quite biblical. Here in this story, Solomon guiding his sons all throughout Proverbs, Jesus with his disciples, Paul with Timothy and his other "followers,"...not to mention all the instuctions in the Word to teach others...as a girl, I always think of the Titus 2 mandate. We are supposed to help one another, speak into each others' lives. It is super important that we "interfere." :-) In order for that to work, there must be a teachable spirit in all of us. If we are teachable, whether we are the teacher or one being taught, it will work.
Here in Gen. 24, Rebekah had a wealth of covering in her own family. Her brother, Laban, was her main authority/covering. In these verses, who is talking? Laban. He is definitely watching his sister's back. He is sticking his neck out. This isn't to say that a girl can never speak. There is a time and a place for everything. This isn't about a girl/guy thing anyway...it's not like Isaac is saying much...he's not even there...he's oblivious to the whole thing. But, Laban is the covering...her protection.
Accountability can also fall into a similar category. But, it is touched on and highlighted more in-depth in Song of Solomon, so I'll wait for that to go into accountability.
8. Agreement the Lord was directing - v. 50-51
--After hearing the testimony of Eliezer, both Laban (Rebekah's brother) and Bethuel (her dad) agreed that surely this was the Lord's leading. They both agreed and gave their blessing. When it's God's timing, you won't be the only one to think so. If you are...if your covering, your authority, your accountability don't agree...probably not God. Now, you can't have people that aren't really hearing God as your covering. If you just say that your parents are you covering (because they are your God-given covering up to a certain degree), but they aren't even Christians or they aren't really walking that kind of Christianity out where they are hearing specific things from God, they don't work as the kind of covering you need. That might seem harsh and it's not that you aren't supposed to still listen to them and honor them. But, I'm just saying that they can't be your crutch for being in a relationship you shouldn't be in...the whole "my parents say they agree with it" thing. If they agree with it, but aren't really tuned into God and what He would have for you...that "agreement" is just not valid. I'm sure you know what I mean in this point. But, bottom line is that you have to have the right covering and it will be a huge red flag if there is not total and full agreement within all of your covering/authority/accountability.
9. Worship, praise, and thanksgiving - v. 52
--Eliezer, always giving praise and credit to the only One who deserves it. Always with his eyes and heart focused where they need to be...on Who they need to be focused on.
10. Obedient heart - v. 55-58
--Teachable heart. I dare say that people would probably avoid about 95% of their problems if they just had a teachable heart. It's something to constantly keep in check. Joel is the best example of this that I've ever seen. He's amazing. The normal, flesh reaction to correction is to get defensive. Even in cases where Joel is getting correction from people that is totally incorrect, he receives it, prays about it...doesn't react in the flesh, but truly displays the character of Christ, taking it in and making sure he learns what he needs to from others. He's a GREAT example for me. In these verses, everyone displays teachability. The family wants Rebekah to stay longer, but Eliezer doesn't want to delay his return any longer. The family then says they will ask Rebekah...they don't "buck up" to Eliezer's requests. They don't demand their own way. They truly want to act in God's timing and are teachable in hearing Eliezer and what he thinks they should do. Rebekah humbly says she will go with Eliezer. So, the family sends her off with a blessing. God's purpose made whole...through obedient, teachable hearts.
Now these final two points show the "posture" of Isaac and Rebekah. It shows their character. It's so fun and interesting to me to see.
11. Be about your Father's business - v. 63
--What in the world was Isaac doing this whole time? Well, what he was doing the evening Eliezer and Rebekah returned is probably a good indication of what he did regularly. v. 63 says that he was taking a walk out in the fields, meditating. The Amplified Bible says that "Isaac went out to meditate and bow down [in prayer]." He was not out trying to hussle up some huzzy. :-) He wasn't wringing his hands, impatient for a wife. He was just walking peacefully in prayer. He was resting in his Father. Did he even know what was going on...where Eliezer was? I don't know. I don't think so personally. But, he was focused on God, that we can tell.
One of the pictures John Graves used to give us in Life Challenge was this one: You are running full on for God, looking to Him. You look over and lo and behold, there's someone running right about the same place you are to your right. But, you glance quickly and put your eyes back on God, running hard for Him. After a while more, you glance over again and for heaven's sake, they are still there. You just keep running. After a while, you realize that this person is just still there, with his/her eyes set on God, but running at the same pace as you, running the same way as you, having goals and life callings that line up with yours. Isn't that a great picture? After all those things line up, is that your spouse? Well, you have to keep your eyes on God for that one. You have to wait like Eliezer did. You have to see if God gives you the go-ahead or not. But, the point is this...KEEP YOUR EYES ON GOD. Don't get distracted by what is to your left or right. If you'll notice, you will always go where your eyes are looking. Don't try that in the car next time you are driving along...it is dangerous. But, as hard as you try not to (in your own strength I might add), where your eyes are focused, that is where you will eventually go. So, if you are running with your eyes fixed on God and then you glance over and see that person to your right, but you don't just glance, you start to stare, you start to focus on that person...you will start to veer...veer away from the straight path you are on to God...you will end up merging into that person's lane, even if you are trying not to...even if you are trying to still go the other way but with your eyes looking that person's way. Isn't it amazing how God's principles all have practical examples in the "laws of nature" like this one? Again I say, KEEP YOUR EYES ON GOD.
12. Modesty, respect, humble spirit - v. 65
--This is just a good picture of a quiet and gentle spirit to me. Rebekah asks who that was in the field. Eliezer told her and she quickly got off her camel and covered her face with her veil. She wasn't forward and obnoxious. And I don't mean that if you talk you are forward and obnoxious. But, she was just very respectful and humble...and modest. I'm sure Isaac thought it was really sweet and I'm sure he felt honored and respected.
Anyway, these are just some of the main points. You could pick this very long chapter to death. And I totally challenge you to actually do that. Read it, meditate on it...see what God would have you learn from it. It's filled with great nuggets. But, this is one of the main teachings that really impacted me and changed me and my perspective. I pray that God would really bring it alive to whoever else needs this too, like I did so desperately.O.K., so I totally changed my mind. I'm not going to go into Song of Solomon...there's just too much there. Read it for yourself and ask God to show you things. It's not nearly as straightforward as Gen. 24...there is SO much symbolism and things can get quite confusing. But, I highly recommend doing a study on it or listening to a teaching on it. John Graves' teaching is my favorite of course, but I don't think it's available any longer. So, another GREAT teaching on it is done by Tommy Nelson. You can google him. It's an awesome teaching...and he's really funny.
But, I did want to just wrap things up by going into a few things that we did specifically and why we did them that way...some things that were involved in our story.
1. accountability - HUGE I tell you. Without accountability in any area of your life, you are bound to fail. That's a strong statement, but it's just true. That's our flesh for you. If I don't have someone watching my back...if I don't know that I'm going to have to answer to someone for the things that I'm doing, I will undoubtedly fall. Not every time, but it will happen.
My accountability group met weekly. We tried to do a Bible study together at one point, but it just never happened. Our focus was to meet and really delve into each other...the issues we were struggling with, the questions we were having, the things that we were tempted with, etc. It was so good and so encouraging and uplifting. It doesn't work if you aren't COM-PLETE-LY open and transparent. I got MUCH healing out of that group. We all loved each other so much, even though we barely knew each other at all when we first started. We SO cared what was happening and so wanted the best for each other, we were available day and night to each other. There is much to say about accountability as far as a teaching on it, but that is just a glimpse into my personal testimony of it. One thing about Song of Solomon and accountability...there are 3 times where the woman in the story asks her "daughters of Jerusalem" to basically keep watch over her. She wants them to help her to not be "aroused or awakened" by love. "Do not arouse or awaken love before the proper time." It's powerful, that accountability relationship. As all of the things with Joel started happening, I had many "daughters of Jerusalem" around me. It was basically like having a wall up around me until the proper time. They weren't shielding me from Joel, but shielding me from myself and the mistakes that can take place in the natural. They were gathered all around me, supporting me, literally lifting me up in prayer...so wonderful.
Also, even if you don't officially call yourself an accountability group or meet weekly, sometimes you can have an accountability relationship with someone in those regards. For instance, my roommates at the time I definitely considered myself accountable to. They knew most of my business and would ask me about things. Again, I say that they knew most of my business...not all. In accountable you have to have trust, confidentiality, and you have to allow yourself to be open to that person. Now, not that I didn't have those kinds of relationships with my roommates, but without that weekly time of meeting together for the specific purpose of accountability, we just didn't really delve deep into things all the time.
2. purity - As mentioned before, we set our standard to no kissing. I have known people who have set theirs to only pecking, and some to no french kissing (prolonged pecking allowed). Others may have no kissing, but cuddling is not prohibited. There are a billion options on this obviously, but we wanted nothing, nada, zilch. Here was the reason...we wanted to be as close to Jesus on the purity line as possible. Dave Hasz (Teen Mania) did a teaching at Life Challenge once on purity. He gave that illustration. He talked about how people say that they didn't do anything wrong...and technically they haven't. He drew an imaginary line and at one end was Jesus and at the other end was the world. Kissing on the lips might be halfway on the line...halfway between Jesus and the world. He just really challenged us..."why not be as close to Jesus as possible?" was his question. Funny...we sing things like "Draw Me Close to You" and yet we do things that are deliberately not that close to Him.
Anyway, we wanted to be radically close to Jesus on that line. And truthfully, we didn't know anyone who had been very successful in the purity area if they'd allowed themselves to kiss...so we just stayed away from it.
Another point...you will ALWAYS go right up to the water, even if you don't jump in. Here's what I mean: We set the standard (as far as kissing goes) at no kissing...only pecks on the cheek. It's a pretty high standard, but of course we knew that's what we wanted...I don't remember really praying about it...I mean, that's one of those things that God probably wasn't going to be like, "Um, no, I think I want you to kiss and possibly get stirred up and fail physically." :-) Yeah, so that was our decision. Well, as time went on, we did peck on the cheek. But, we also pecked on the nose and on the chin. Interesting...whatever line you set and decide not to cross...you will walk right up to it. So, just remember that when you are setting that line. Do you want your line to be premarital sex only...WOW...there's lots that can be done up until you get to that line, right? See what I mean?
Purity in our thoughts was huge, but that's a personal discipline...helped with accountability of course.
Purity in our speech though was not personal. God had taught us so much up to that point. It was amazing. I think back to the things I used to say to guys in high school and college...nothing horrible or even bad, but there was just no filter. If I thought it, I said it (if I wanted to say it). By this point, I was basically a completely different person. If you'll remember, I never told Joel how I felt in the natural. Well, that's possible when you don't walk in the natural. When you've disciplined yourself and have the power from the Spirit to not walk in the natural (study Romans 8), then that's not your first impulse anymore anyway. But, we just never talked about the possibilities. When Joel first said that he liked me...that was all that was said. He left that night not really knowing how I felt at all...and he hadn't expounded anymore either. We prayed about us after that, but we never talked about us and what might be or when it might happen if it was going to happen or what it would be like to be married or yada yada yada...we just didn't go there. That day at the dam even (after his meeting with my dad), the only thing that was said was that we were going to have a fun life. That was it.
Please understand too...this was not hard. It wasn't like we were biting our lips trying not to say anything. I think that God was just so guarding us...we were so walking in His Spirit that we were totally led by Him as to when to say what. Sometimes we even had to be prodded along (remember Dave's word to me). Anyway, that's a huge thing too...not only physical purity, but purity in speech.
3. mentoring - I talked about this a good bit in the story itself and even in the Gen. 24 points, but I just want to reiterate how important it is. This and accountability really go hand in hand sometimes...and you can even have someone in your accountability that you also consider a mentor in many ways. Nicole is a good example of that for me. Tammy Lucas was another definite mentor for me in that time, along with Dave, her husband, and of course John. It wasn't like I went to them and asked them to mentor me. They didn't come to me and say that they wanted to be my mentor. It just kind of happened, even without the titles being used. But, sometimes it will happen that you will ask, or you will be asked. However it happens, it must be Spirit-led, or it will be a flop honestly...same with accountability (same with everything of course really, but you know...).
Teachability is the big key factor with mentoring and accountability. There were tons of times where, if I was still walking in an unteachable spirit, I would NOT have listened to John esp. (he was the one who gave instruction most). I would've thought he could go stick his advice somewhere else if you know what I mean. But, early on (before I even met Joel maybe) I had a dream, totally from God. I won't go into detail, but after the dream I KNEW that I was ready to listen. I was sticking to John (and mentors in general) like glue. Total surrender and teachability. It was awesome...and proved to obviously be the best thing that could've happened to me.
If you don't know anyone that you would even want as a mentor (I know that it was a rare place and a rare situation I was in there during those times), pray for God to send you one...or for God to send you where there is one for you. It will happen. He will meet you where you are and meet your needs for even a mentor if that is what He has for you.
4. your heart - GUARD IT!! Prov. 4:23 - "Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do." (NLT) I also like the way the Amplified puts it..."Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life." I don't know...it just seems to me like guarding your heart might be really important given this scripture.
I had no idea what guarding my heart even meant. I had never heard the term, much less a teaching on it. But, here's the bottom line...hearts are always affected by relationships that aren't supposed to be. The whole "dating around" thing that has been condoned and even encouraged for years by Christians...and in youth groups...man, horribly horrible for your heart. John used to say, "We're practicing for divorce...get together, break up, get together, break up."
Until that one relationship that I was in for 3 1/2 years, I never thought I was affected. My heart never seemed affected...and it certainly wasn't broken. But, I now realize that even that is a lie from the enemy. Your heart is always affected...and as far as being broken...your heart may not be broken, but chances are that if yours isn't, the other one's is. Let me tell you something that I had never heard before...I am responsible for that. That guy that I broke up with when I was a senior in high school and he was crushed...of course he got over it and his heart recovered in time, but I am responsible for how I treat my brother in Christ. We have to guard our own hearts, but we also have to guard each others' hearts. This isn't a game. If you think that it's o.k. and that you aren't affected and this is just a bunch of malarky (too sentimental and mushy and overdramatic for your taste)...maybe the problem is actually that your heart has been hardened. I challenge you...study your Bible on the heart. Are we supposed to play around with each other's hearts? No.
Think of it physically...when you give your heart away, even just a tiny bit of it, when you break up, that part is left with that person...or, it's given back but still is torn off. It has to be healed...stitched back to your heart. What usually happens when something has to be stitched? There is a permanent scar there. Prov. 4:23...the heart affects everything you do. Can God heal you completely and remove even the scar? Of course He can. But, here's the point...it's possible to just avoid that injury, that need for stitching, altogether. That is the simpler way. And, yes, He can heal you and totally restore, but He Himself put it in his letter to us what He really wants us to do...Proverbs 4:23.
Guard your heart.
Then of course there are the very obvious things like not going places alone or being in a house by yourselves. No flirting, because basically if you are supposed to be living like the opposite sex is your brother or sister, that's totally gross...to flirt with your brother or sister. Anyway, I say this is all obvious, but those things weren't obvious to me until after I heard this teaching. But, if you start to walk and live this way though, it will become obvious in time. Even if this teaching is not common or even remotely known where you are, God can meet you and show you things that only He can reveal...even if you are the only one. He loves you and wants to protect you. He wants to give you His best in His timing...just trust Him for that and let Him be your husband until that happens (Is. 54).
As with any testimony or teaching, that is always the question we ask ourselves at the end, right? We say, "This is complete garbage...let's just walk away." Or we say, "Hmm, that was interesting...there are some good points that I can learn from...I'll take those." Or we say, "Wow, that was incredible insight. My life is completely changed." Wherever you are on this spectrum of reactions, still, there is always a reaction.
This sort of testimony and teaching literally changed my life as I've said before. I had never heard anything like it, so of course it would. Plus, I knew that I wanted something different than what I had already experienced and what I saw around me...in churches and in the world.
Some of you this will change or challenge. Some of you will listen and apply accordingly. At this point in our lives, what our focus is with it is just to share. We feel like God did something incredible in us using others...they shared their testimony with us and what they'd learned and in turn we want to do the same when it is appropriate and when people are receptive and actually want to hear it. Some people just aren't receptive.
But, another thing that we think of ALOT of course is our children. We didn't hear that sort of thing growing up. Would it have made a difference in the way we walked out our lives? Would we have made some of the same mistakes anyway?
Who can say? Only God knows, literally. I am sure that it would've made a difference. But, still some of the same mistakes? Maybe. I do know that we wouldn't have had any excuse as to not having ever heard it. With our children, we can pray for them and over them (fervently), we can be real with them, we can hopefully have the kind of relationship with them where they want to please us. We are their models for who God is and the relationship that they will have with God is much like the relationship they have with us in their early years. If we succeed in having the kind of relationship where they love us and want to please us (and that's their motivation for obeying and following "our will"), then it is more likely to carry over into their relationship with God. We pray that we have the kind of relationship where we are close friends (even though we are parents first) and they want to share things with us...where they come to us with questions and the issues of life that spring up, even at the age of 2. :-) Will they learn this kind of teaching (the relationship teaching) through our testimony, our example, our daily talks, etc. and still falter and fail in the area of relationships? I pray that they won't. I know many people who have been very successful in raising children who really were able to walk out this kind of teaching, remaining completely pure, never "dating," but only being joined with their husband or wife at the proper time (yes, that's right...never dating anyone until they met the person that was to be their spouse). And, guess what...they weren't weird. They were super cool.
In college I met for the first time people who had never kissed. Really drop-dead gorgeous people who could've had anyone they wanted. I was appalled. I'm dead serious. I COULD NOT believe it. So funny to think of my mindset and reaction to that now. Those were mostly girls though. After college I met some guys who had never kissed or dated. Again, surprised...but it was so cool...I was surprised in a good way...an admiration kind of way. And again...these guys were dang good-looking and absolutely cool (and might I add, even sexy, just so you get the point that they weren't dweebs)...nothing at all questionable about them (as in sexual orientation or whatever, because you know that that is some people's first question).
Anyway, so the point is that it can be done...it is done all the time, even if it's not nearly as popular as the other way of doing things. We pray that our children can follow in that way. We pray that we will do our part correctly in that...that we will teach and instruct and lovingly show (not preach it at them) this way and we pray that our relationship with them and presentation of it will be done in such a manner that they want to choose it. Even if we are able to do our part correctly, there is no guarantee. The bottom line is that we all have choices to make. Even when given all the tools and opportunities for making the right ones, sometimes we all fail and make the wrong ones no matter what. Sad, but true. I believe that dates back to...oh, like the Garden of Eden or something. :-)
Some people use the phrase that "some people have to learn from their own mistakes." I think I'd rather be wise and learn from the Bible, from others' testimonies, from God's direct voice and leading in my life. Let's not use that crutch that it's best to learn from our own mistakes. It's best to be wise. If you make them, yes...please do learn from your mistakes. But, if you don't have to make them (and you don't), then don't.
So, that's the end of this testimony and this teaching. I pray, again, that God used some of this to impact some of you, just like it did me back in the day...and still inspires and challenges me even today. It is an amazing thing to walk out. Do that...walk it out...change your mindset and habits if need be. And then, just stand back and watch God do His thing. You will be amazed.