Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Remembering...

Memorial Day was yesterday and I spent most of the day traveling home from a trip meeting with some missionaries. That left me with so little time to reflect on the true meaning of the day. However, as I did so today I thought of my grandfather, Wayne Thomas Mullins, a member of the Navy who served in World War II. And while I'm thankful for what he did for my country and my freedoms, I'm beyond grateful for what he taught me and who he helped me become.

A couple months ago I lost Papaw, as I called him. I was recently downloading pictures from my camera and ran across some that would turn out to be the last ones I ever took of him. While my heart was heavy to lose him, I knew where he was going, so there was a great deal of rejoicing as he was laid to rest. Before he passed, I had an overwhelming feeling that I was supposed to write his eulogy. I remember trying to ignore it and hoping it would go away because I was sure that would be too hard of a thing for me to do...but it never did. And when I arrived in town for the funeral, I was asked by my aunt to do what I was striving so hard not to do. However, as I began to write the words flowed from my pen like never before. With so many of my family members lost, I knew it was my duty to pick up torch he had carried for so long. So unlike most of my other posts, this one is an ode to the man who helped shape who I am.


Wayne Thomas Mullins was many things to many people. To me he was my grandfather. For the past 32 years of my life, I watched one of the physically strongest men I'd ever known become one of the most feeble. As a little girl, when I fell down he would often pick me up. Now, as he neared the end, there were times when he would fall and I was the only one there to pick him up. However, there was one thing that remained constant...his faith in Jesus Christ.

Growing up I remember watching him and Mamaw go to church every Sunday. Most of my life was spent living in close proximity to them. I count this a true blessing, because I was able to examine the genuineness of their faith. I wanted to know if it was real. After years of investigating, I found that it was and as a 13 year old girl, I gave my life to follow the CHRIST they served. 

My papaw wasn't a perfect man, but he was a godly man, who spent more hours than I've been alive, praying for his family to know the happiness he'd found in the JESUS. There was always a song rolling off his lips, a tune being hummed in his halls, a scripture spoken from his heart. No matter what the circumstance joy exuded from the very depths of his soul. The greatest lesson he taught me...how to love the SAVIOR. I'll never forget as he neared the end, he told me the one thing he wished he cold do more than anything was to go to the House of GOD. It was profound to me really and now I never take for granted the privilege I have of attending church services every time I can.

It is the faith of Wayne Thomas Mullins, my grandfather, that I am choosing to carry on. It is because of Wayne Thomas Mullins, my 2 year old son can tell you all about King Josiah, a great and righteous kind of the nation of Judah. It is because of Wayne Thomas Mullins, I was able to lead my 6 year old daughter in the way of the cross and watch her give her heart to JESUS.

So today I may say goodbye to the only grandfather I've ever known, but because of his faith in the CREATOR, I will be able to watch him live on in the lives of my own children. And one day, I'll meet him in the Gloryland, where once again he will lead me to Jesus and there, together, we will lay our crowns at the MASTER'S feet.




If you knew him, please comment with favorite memory and if you didn't, but you know me then you now you know why I am who I am. Please join me in praying for souls of my family, so many who didn't watch and learn from a truly great man of GOD.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Not Me...

Growing up, when a "crime" of some sort would occur, I can remember my mom and dad always asking, "Who did it?"  Of course it wasn't me or my brother who would ever do such a thing, so the answer was obvious, "Not me!" My parents always said they never knew they'd had a third child. Now that I have children of my own, I've found as they've gotten older that "Not me" has since moved into my house. If you look around though you'll find it's really a character that permeates our society so vividly today. Just turn the news on any given day and you will surely see that "Not me" was the culprit. As I reflected on "Not me's" ability to be so mobile, I realized something..."Not me" was actually conceived in the Garden of Eden.

You see, after Eve had taken of the forbidden fruit, she then enticed Adam to do the same and he followed suit. However, when GOD came and asked them why they had done what they were told NOT to do, they both said, "Not me!" Funny, how the only two people in the entire world at that point, could so easily find someone else to blame. Adam blamed GOD and Eve. After all GOD had given him Eve and Eve had given him the fruit. Eve, in turn blamed the serpent for duping her into it. Neither one ever thought about what role their own choice played in this shameful debacle that separated them from their CREATOR.

After his/her inception, you'll find that "Not me" turns up all throughout scripture. Take Aaron for example, when Moses was up on the mountain having a pow wow with GOD and getting the 10 Commandments, he was with the people taking their gold jewelry and making into an image they could worship as the "gods" that brought them out of Egypt. He even built an altar before it and proclaimed a feast. (See Exodus 32:1-6) Despite the fact that the scripture clearly depicts Aaron doing these tasks, when Moses comes back down from the mountain, what's his answer.... "Not me...the people wanted it!!!" (Exodus 32:22,23) Sure in all fairness they did ask, but nobody made Aaron do it. He absolutely could have refused.

Then there was King Saul. "Not me" cost him his crown. GOD gave him the commandment to go and destroy the Amalekites for the evil they had done to Israel. HE clearly told King Saul to destroy anything and everything that was associated with them, but what did Saul choose to do. He decided to spare their king, Agag, and the best of all their possessions. Perhaps some of those fantastic treasures could come in handy...maybe they could even sacrifice the absolute best to GOD for giving it to them. The problem was, that wasn't what GOD wanted or commanded. When Samuel returned and asked what was going on, Saul said, "Not me...the people wanted the stuff!" (See 1 Samuel 15)

As I pondered these characters and their lack or responsibility to their own disobedience, I began to think about another man in the Bible, a very famous man...King David. He too was acquainted with "Not me", but chose a different path. When David should have been at war with his men, "Not me" told him he was better off hanging out on a rooftop. As he paced back and forth, he saw a MARRIED woman bathing, and while he should have looked away, "Not me" pointed out her beauty. When David should have called for his own wife to come to his bed chamber, "Not me" convinced him no one would be hurt if he invited the woman instead. Upon finding she was with child and that it is obviously his, since her husband was away at war (again where David should have been) "Not me" impregnated him with a full proof plot to cover up his sin. So, David beckoned her husband home to enjoy his wife, but with his men engaged in a raging campaign against the enemy, the husband would have no part of it, so back to the battlefield he went. "Not me" then provides David with the perfect way to dispose of the woman's husband, David just has to place him on the front lines in the war. That would then allow David to take the woman as his wife and cover up to the torrid affair he'd become engulfed in. When all is finished, "Not me" persuades David that his secret is safe. After all, "Not me" did it. David was a king, the greatest there had been. He was even a man after GOD's own heart, so of course, it wasn't David who committed such vile acts. It was clearly "Not me."

That is until the prophet Nathan comes to him and tells him the story of a man, who had so much, taking from a man, who had so little. David becomes enraged at this injustice and proclaims the man with much must die. Then Nathan tells David, "Thou art the man."(2 Samuel 12 &13)


This is where David reacts completely different than those before him...while, he'd hearkened to the voice of "Not me" for so long, when he heard Nathan's words, he immediately stopped listening to "Not me" and took responsibility for the sins HE HAD COMMITTED. David repented and was no longer enslaved to "Not me". However, instead of GOD harshly judging David the way David had the man in the story, the LORD forgave him of his sin and granted him life.

What a refreshing thought!!! Taking the blame for something you, yourself did. It's not something we see often in our society today. Politicians are certainly not to blame for the mess we are in...it's the other party's fault. Murder someone and it was either self defense or you have mental illness. Get fired from your job and you did nothing to deserve such harsh treatment, so you should file a lawsuit. Become a thief and it's because your parent's didn't come to your baseball games. While some of these instances may have some truth in them, at some point you have stop blaming others and look at the choices you are making. Stop saying, "Not me" and just say "Me. I did it." It doesn't make you less of a person, it makes you more of one, because while our society may let you use this excuse time and time again, the GOD of the universe will not.

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (2 Corinthians 5:10)

What if Adam had just said, "Me, God. I did it. I did what you asked me not to. Please forgive me." Or even Eve, what if she'd offered a response of, "I knew not to do it, but I did it anyway. I'm sorry." Perhaps order would have instantly been restored, but instead they chose to say "Not me." And their sentence was death. So, next time who will you say did it?

Friday, April 27, 2012

How Great Do YOU Wanna Be?

Last weekend I was supposed to attend the Women of Joy, however Earl's work schedule didn't agree and I had to give up my ticket. Since we live so close to the Sevierville area our women chose to come home after each session. This allowed one of the ladies to bless me on Saturday by watching my kids that night and allowing me the opportunity to go to the Chris Tomlin concert. It was such an amazing worship experience and as I lifted my hands and praised my JESUS, I began to ponder something.

Chris Tomlin's voice was spot on...as was Christy Nockels, the female singer accompanying him. In that moment, I began to think of secular artists I've heard live and compare them. And well to be quite honest, in my experience none of them have ever been as good as the Christian artists I've been privileged to hear live...so many are off pitch or key and it's just not the same as the CD, but that hasn't been the case when it comes to worship music.

So I began to think, perhaps this is GOD's blessing on them since they are choosing to use their gifts to bring honor to HIS name. I mean, after all since GOD blessed them with such unbelievable talent, HE meant for them to be great and share it with the world. Then I began to think about myself...if only I had a talent like that...then I could be great too. At that moment a thought flooded my heart and soul, and I realized it wasn't those on stage that were so great...it was the GOD that made them. The only difference between them and me is that they aren't afraid of GOD's greatness.

Shakespeare knew of this battle which rages on in man as well. In his play the Twelfth Night, the character of Malvolio said, "Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them."

Honestly, I think we're all afraid of greatness...the greatness that GOD has gifted us with. I mean look at me, for eight years, I've lived in fear of what others will think or say. Is my story of faith worth telling? Will others see it as great as I do? What about my writing, will it be mocked and ridiculed?   After all, I'm essentially bearing my heart and soul to the world through these words. Am I really as "great" a writer as I've been told I am my whole life?

However, The LORD began to remind me of the comments I've read on here, the emails, texts and phone calls I received. HIS greatness was shining through me. Then once again, I began to focus on my fears. If people are thinking it's great? Then what's next? Will I have to stand on a stage in front of people and share my story? I can't do that. I'm terrified of speaking in front of crowds!! What if someone wants to turn it into a book or a movie? I don't think I want to be that great.

And then I thought about the words of JESUS. "The greatest among you shall be your servant." (Matthew 23:11 KJV) What those on stage were doing, was serving me. The greatness GOD had gifted them was allowing me an opportunity to direct my heart and mind toward my SAVIOR. They were obeying the MASTER and thousands of women were basking in a room filled with HIS presence. Those musicians weren't content to be mediocre because the GOD they serve is GREAT...

So really the question is, why are any of satisfied with being ordinary, if the GOD we serve is EXTRA-ordinary!!! In this, I have come to a conclusion, that we were never destined to be that way. GOD breathed life into each of us and everything HE created was meant to be an extension of HIS greatness. Christians should be rising above all others because our GOD created this world. Why are we limiting HIS power by our lack of faith and trust? Simply put, why are we afraid of greatness? In John 14:12 Jesus told his disciples, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and GREATER [works] than these shall he do..." (KJV--emphasis mine)

You and I have the power to do GREAT things because CHRIST lives in us. And I don't know about you, but I'm tired of being unremarkable, because a remarkable GOD lives in me and there's nothing routine or uneventful about that!!!!  I'm sick of living a life afraid of the greatness HE has instilled in me, because whether I was born great, will achieve greatness, or perhaps this is HIS way of thrusting it upon me, I know I was meant for greatness because GREATER is HE that lives in ME. (I John 4:4)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Fill My Cup

Cup...it's a simple word really with many definitions, but the first thing that come to mind is an object you pour a beverage into. Webster's defines a cup as, “a small vessel of capacity, used commonly to drink out of.” The phrase, “a small vessel of capacity” is a striking statement really because as we look at our own lives, that's exactly what we are...small vessel's of capacity. We are GOD's cups.

JESUS told told the Pharisees in Matthew 23:25,26 (KJV) “Woe unto you...for you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.”  

David, the great king of Israel, who beautifully orchestrated so many of the Psalms, knew what it meant to be the LORD's cup. Three times in the Psalms, he alludes to the portion of a cup. In Psalm 11:6 (KJV) “Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and a horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.” 

 Then in Psalm 16:5 (KJV) “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup:” 

And finally the most famous Psalm of all...Psalm 23:5 (KJV) “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies: thou anointest my head with oil: my cup runneth over.”

Each and everyone of us is a small vessel, or cup, in which GOD wants to pour HIS SPIRIT into, but that can only happen when we allow HIM to do so. All too often, we choose to fill our own cups, never realizing what GOD is wanting to fill us with.

Why not take some times today and examine what your cup is brimming with? Then think about what GOD desires to fill you with. Perhaps you'll find yourself in one of these categories.

  • You worry, while GOD wants to supply you with peace.

  • You choose resentment, but GOD wants to teach you how to love.

  • You allow yourself to be overcome with greed as you try to keep up with “The Jones” but easily forget that GOD has supplied all of your needs.

  • Sometimes you allow anger to reign when GOD is asking you to forgive...because HE first forgave you.

  • Frustration boils over and you damage important relationships, but GOD wants to instill patience in you to endure those hardships.

  • You busy yourself with work to avoid anymore heartaches, when GOD says rest and be still. It is then that you can know HE is GOD.

  • Areas of your life are continually being affected by bitterness, which is quickly spreading like a cancer within you, when if you just stopped focusing on your pain, you could see GOD's blessings as you walk with HIM.

  • There are days your cup is overrun with hopelessness, but GOD says HE will give you hope and an expected end.

  • Trials of life can bring so much sadness, but GOD is there asking you to let HIM to restore the joy of HIS salvation.

None of us can ever be a completely empty vessel. We must be filled with something. It's our nature. It's how we function. Just like a car needs gas, oil and so many other parts to run...we need something to occupy our hearts, minds and souls with. Think about it. Have you ever really been able to stop feeling or thinking or just being? Of course not!! GOD did not create us that way. HE created us to be bursting with HIS greatness.

So, how do we keep from filling our cups our self? How do we allow GOD to pour HIS majesty into us? It's simple really. Where we allow our cups to be filled depends on where we go when life overwhelms us. Are we turning to the world? Finding our answers in magazines or horoscopes. Perhaps you look to Oprah or Dr. Phil, when the first place you should turn to is the WORD. GOD breathed HIS Word into the pens of men so that you might find a way to fill your cup with something better than the world has to offer. HE's there waiting to mold you and shape you. HE is the potter and you are the clay...but what goes into your cup is up to you.

As you ponder this thought today, maybe it's time to empty your cup of whatever you've allowed to be poured in and be filled with GOD desires for you. Maybe your cup is like David's and overflowing. However, wherever you find yourself today, just take a moment...be still and know HE is GOD....if you do this, I know you'll find a cup full of something more satisfying than you ever expected.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What Will You Write About Now?

A friend sent me a text after reading the final blog about our love story. She asked, "What will you write about now?" It's a good question too. I've pondered that as well, many times as I neared the end. Then I began to think about all GOD has taught me over the years and all that HE still has to teach me, and I realized there's no way I'm going to run out of things to write about! While I may not write every day or even every week, I know there will not be a shortage of stories that GOD will give me to convey. Some will be about marriage, some about children, some about life in general, but all will be written to glorify GOD, for that is the only purpose I have in writing. Without further ado, here is the first lesson I learned as a newlywed and it's of the utmost importance to every believer.

While I'd like to end the story of our whirlwind engagement and wedding with...and they lived happily ever after....the truth is that hasn't been the case. Marriage is hard work. It takes time and energy and if you're not going to work at it just like you would your job or your exercise regimen, then you'll most assuredly fail. Love isn't enough...especially the love we as humans know. Jesus asked Peter three different times, "Peter, do you love me?" And every time Peter without hesitation said, "Of course LORD! YOU know I love you!!!" You see though, Jesus was talking about Agape love.

In the English language, all we know is love. All love is love, we may mean somewhat different things with the word, but we don't have another way to describe it so we pull out our go to word, LOVE. However, in the Greek language, there were specific types of love, Agape, Philia, Eros, and Storge (which is merely a fondness or love exhibited in a family setting that I won't discuss on this blog). Each one had a different meaning.

Let's first look at Eros. It's where we derive our word erotic from. It's a sexual love or perhaps the most fitting definition...lust. Most people know this love quite well. Unfortunately, it's foundation of most relationships when they begin; which is another reason there's no lasting power behind them. If they don't develop the other two as they journey on it's destined to fail. For example, Bob sees Sue, she's gorgeous, they date, they fall in "eros". Then they have a few arguments here and there, a very unsatisfying experience for both of them. All of the sudden Sally and Tim walk by, both as equally attractive as the first couple and and bam, just like that Bob is now "eros" with Sally and Sue is now "eros" with Tim. You get the idea. Desirability can NEVER be the basis of a relationship. Don't get me wrong, it's a vital factor in marriage, but can't be the main "attraction". 

Philia, perhaps the most common of the three loves, is that warm fuzzy feeling, a brotherly love. Those closest to you, of course they are important to you. What they do matters. You'll "philia" them to the end. But would you die for them? Would you give up all you had to fight for their freedom? Would move Heaven and Earth to see that all the world knows how special they are to you? Probably not, but it mimics Agape in many ways. It's so close that they are almost the same, but in reality they're not. It's important in marriage too, because this person has to be your best friend and know you better than anyone else if you want to make it. If you're aren't friends, then you either strangers or enemies. Neither of which I think you'd want to live with. This type of love is exactly what Peter meant when he answered JESUS. "Of course I "philia" you LORD!!" You see CHRIST knew where Peter's heart and loyalty lie. This is why he kept asking Peter the same question over and over; and well we know how that ends, JESUS is on a cross and Peter is cursing HIS HOLY name. But the good news is, afterwards, Peter gets it. He realizes there is a difference. He knows what LOVE really is now, after all the MASTER was his example.

Now, on to Agape. It's a hard love to understand and even harder to really feel. I mean think about it, dying for someone. Letting others inflict pain on you for no reason other than to keep the ones you "agape" safe and sound. We know that love mostly through our own children. I can't think of a parent one that wouldn't die for their child, but their spouse is another story. This being didn't come from you. They are their own person. They don't need you and sometimes they very well may not desire you, and that feeling is often mutual. However, it is by far the most necessary love to have in a marriage. GOD tells us when we join in matrimony, you ARE one, this person is like looking in the mirror (no matter how different your views). You have to love them as much as you love yourself, you have to ache for them the way you ache for yourself, they are you...it's true, when you walk out, you are leaving you behind. Let's be honest, you may hate your spouse sometimes, but you probably hate yourself sometimes as well, and most people aren't going to harm themselves, so why would you harm your spouse even if you don't like them at the moment? I urge you if you don't have agape love for your significant other, seek and ask GOD to teach you how, otherwise you'll never make it.

Now onto what I learned very early on in our marriage. I absolutely knew that all three of those loves existed in my marriage, but the demands of life started to make their way into our relationship. I worked overnights which almost made life seem like it hadn't changed for Earl. He worked all day, sometimes leaving before I got home. Then we'd spend time together in the evenings, which usually meant I went and watched him play softball or we'd hang out with a group friends. Afterwards, we'd grab dinner, he'd head off to bed and I'd go in to work. Life was on repeat. I couldn't really see much change, other than the fact that we wore wedding bands and he was finally affectionate.

So I began to do what we humans do best...I had a pity party. Poor me. My husband was neglecting me and our relationship. I was lonely. He never had time for me. He was always making plans without me because I had sleep when everyone else was awake. Poor pitiful me. Here I was devoting so much of myself and time to him and I felt like he didn't care what I wanted. Poor pitiful, pitiful me.

As I wallowed in my misery and cried and complained, GOD spoke to me. I remember the moment I heard HIM. I was sitting in Earl's truck having another pity party. In my cries I explained to GOD how Earl wasn't really giving me the time I deserved as his wife and that it wasn't fair, I was supposed to come before others. I shouldn't be second to softball or anything. I was his wife. Then I realized something in that moment, despite all the love and devotion I had for CHRIST. Despite what HE'd done for me and how HE'd delivered me, I'd stopped spending time with HIM. I was so busy trying to be a wife, I'd forgotten the ONE who made me that wife. HE had given me what I had spent so much time praying and yearning for and now here I was complaining about the very gift I'd begged for. I was Peter. I had"philia" for JESUS, but I'd stopped having "agape" for my SAVIOR. Paul warns in 1 Corinthians 7:34 (There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.) that marriage can do that to you, but I hadn't taken heed to that warning. I'd allowed myself to get wrapped up in the cares of the world around me and I wasn't "feeding the MASTER's sheep."

Why bother to share this story with you? Because if we don't work on our marriages they'll never be a testament of the LOVE that CHRIST had and if don't work on our relationship with the LORD ALMIGHTY, we'll never have a marriage that can outlast the cares of this world.

Monday, April 16, 2012

It's Not True...It Just Can't Be...

It's really funny when I think about it, I mean I spent at least eight years of my life telling other people's stories with ease but when has come to my own I have desperately struggled. So thank you for supporting and reading this blog. Your comments of encouragement have been something I look forward to, not for my own glory but to know that what I'm doing is exactly what GOD would have me to do. My prayer is that lives are changed and hearts are stirred by knowing the power of GOD when they read this story. I have felt twinges of guilt for keeping quiet so long now that I've started opening up. It's made me realize that when GOD does something in our lives, big or small, far too often we keep quiet...scared to share it...afraid of how others will view us; when in the grand scheme of life (and eternity) GOD's view is the only one that really matters.

After Earl's proposal we immediately drove back to his parents to share the news with them. Before we got there Earl and I had devised a plan on how we were going to tell them. He still had the "other" ring in his truck and we decided we'd get that box out and give it to his mom to take back to the store, while doing all we could to make my ring as noticeable as possible. Our scheme played out even more perfectly than we had expected it to.

We walked in, sat side by side on the fireplace hearth and just started chatting with them. By this time all the company for the evening had already left and it was just the two of them. Neither was paying very much attention to us. Jerrie was curled up on the couch watching something on television, while Big Earl was sitting across the room in his favorite leather chair, rummaging through the classifieds of a paper hoping to find his next great bargain.

Earl Jr. walked over to his mom after a few minutes and handed her the ring box asking if she could just return it since I didn't want it. She opened the box and studied the ring, taking it out and admiring it. Jerrie's a little farsighted, so to get a really good look at the ring she had to hold it out (sorry Jer, but I have to). She placed the ring on one of her toes and held her foot out, twisting it back and forth so she could see the cluster shimmer and shine. Then she said, "I don't see why you don't want this ring Rock. It's beautiful, look at it sparkle. Don't you think so Big Earl...Big Earl...Big Earl look at this."

Big Earl pulled the paper down from his face and began fumbling for his glasses (he's farsighted), "What?"

He was looking around trying to grasp what the conversation was about, which he does often because his mind is always somewhere else.

Jerrie continued flexing her foot back and forth, "Isn't it pretty Big Earl?"

All the while Earl and I sat on the fireplace with my hands placed directly on my kneecaps, intending for my ring to catch even more light than the ring on Jerrie's toe. And it must have worked because as Big Earl turned to see what Jerrie was trying to show him, he instantly jerked his head back toward us and sat up screaming, "What's that?!?!?!"

Jerrie still admiring the cluster, looked up and innocently said, "What's what?"

"That!!!!" Big Earl exclaimed and began pointing.

This time she saw it and tears cascaded down her cheeks, "Oh, it's not true! It can't be! Is that...?"

She began walking toward us. By that time we were all a weeping mess, as she wrapped her arms around us. She took my hand and asked again, "Is it...did he?" She couldn't even muster all the words out and neither could we as we just shook our heads yes.

We walked over to Big Earl so he cold look at the ring and as he held my hand, he just sobbed and began praising the LORD, "I've prayed for this for so long. I knew GOD would answer my prayers. I didn't know how, but I knew HE would."

After we all gained our composure, we called my parents and let them know and of course we shed another river of tears. Immediately, Jerrie insisted we needed to talk about picking a date. I'm not really sure how we chose it to be honest, but by the end of the night we'd decided on November 29th, which was just 6 weeks away.

I realize that it was just four weeks from the time I gave the ring back Earl to the day that we became engaged. How that happened? I don't really know and I'm trying to convince Earl to share his story and how he got to that point so that we have a complete story. Honestly, I'd expected to become his girlfriend first. Never in my wildest dreams did I think a proposal was around the corner. Most people don't go from best friends to engaged couples, but that's exactly how it happened for us.

Now, I finally had a ring, however, there was just one problem, my dress. I've kept you waiting long enough, so here is the rest of the story about the dress.

Back in May I had decidedly picked September 7th to be the date that my dress would need to be here. However, September 7th had come and gone and the dress was nowhere to be found. When I called to see when I could pick it up, the shop began profusely apologizing. Somehow, it hadn't arrived on time. They assured me it would be there any day and they would call, but that call never came. After about two weeks, I called them again requesting to know when my dress might arrive and again, they had no clue. It really wasn't a big deal since I wasn't engaged and considering the way things went on my birthday it didn't look like I would be any time soon either, so I let it go.

As we began making plans for the wedding, I realized I now had a dilemma. That dress needed to be here sometime in the next six weeks or I was going to be buying off the rack and had invested over a thousand dollars in dress that may not show up on time. On Monday, as Jerrie and I started making a guest list and talking about colors and all the things that go into planning a wedding, my phone rang. It was Wedding Wonderland. My dress arrived that morning. As I listened intently to the woman on the other end of the phone, my heart swelled into my throat and tears of joy flowed down my face.

GOD delivered my dress on the very next business day after Earl had proposed to me. It could not have been orchestrated more elegantly than that. HE knew the very date Earl would utter a proposal to me, and HE knew the very date my dress would arrive when HE told me to buy it five months earlier. GOD is so good and so patient and so loving, I wish the world to know HIS true power. Sadly, so many miss it. GOD is so much greater than we can fathom. Our lack of faith holds us back from experiencing HIS awesomeness. I have been so blessed by my HEAVENLY FATHER, in that HE has given me so great a love story to pass on to my children and grandchildren. I will tell them that GOD has a perfect plan for you when you wait and trust HIM. HE never makes a mistake. My dress being lost wasn't an accident. Wedding Wonderland or the designer did nothing different than they ever do. FedEx or UPS didn't misplace my dress either. It was GOD. HE wanted to make sure I'd never forget what HE did for me and how HE had completed a work HE had began. It was HIS finishing touch on a story with an ending far better than anything Hollywood could ever write. Oh and if you're wondering, the letter I wrote 2 years earlier (see If You're Reading This...http://myjavawithjesus.blogspot.com/2012/03/if-youre-reading-this.html), that I couldn't bring myself to throw away, I gave it to him on our wedding night.

Our engagement picture

Our wedding invitation



*******If this story has touched you in anyway please share it with others. People need to know the power of CHRIST when HE lives in them! Leave your comments, tell me your stories, and bombard Earl with emails and calls if you know him! Help me persuade my darling husband of 9 1/2 years to tell his side of the story!!!*******

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What's Next?

GOD truly works in mysterious ways, and as cliche´ as that sounds, it's true. This story is absolutely proof of that. For over three years of my life, I waited on a promise that seemed impossible. I dreamt of a reality that only happens in fairy tales or on movie screens. Yet, I lived and breathed every moment of this epic saga. And even though I was a central character in this romance, even I couldn't have predicted what was coming next.

Almost a month had passed since my birthday. Things were generally the same as they'd always been with Earl. However, I could tell something was different after I gave him the ring back. There was something more deliberate about him when we spent time together. I really couldn't understand what was going on, but I knew it had to be good. It was as if he was on the verge of moving forward, but with Earl it had been that ways so many times before I just couldn't be sure. Over and over, I'd gotten my hopes up that he was ready to commit to being a couple, only to have things come to a screeching halt, so this time I just waited...waited to see what turn we would take next.

It was Friday, October 3rd, 2003 and I had worked all night. I was looking into buying a condo instead of renting, so at this time I was still staying at his mom and dad's. I remember awakening to Earl laying on top of the covers beside me and just staring. It startled me really. He whispered, "Good morning to you," despite the fact that is was nearly 3 in the afternoon.


"Hey. What are you doing here?" I groggily answered.


"I wanted to wait on you to wake up. Get up and get ready, we're going somewhere, but don't eat anything," he informed me.


"OK," I told him as I sat up in the bed, "where are we going?"


"I just have some things to do, but we going to get something to eat while we're out," he advised as he left the room so I could began the process of crawling out of bed.


I could hear commotion coming from the kitchen, as I stumbled into the bathroom to shower and primp for the next hour. When I emerged, Earl was sitting at the table eating chili that Jerrie and another friend of ours had made for everyone to eat that night. I looked at him and said, "I thought you said not to eat?"

"Well, I was really hungry. I couldn't wait anymore. Sorry!" he explained.

If you don't know Earl, well, his stomach always comes first, no matter what is going on. So I sat and drank some coffee as he finished his chili. Everyone was planning to hang out at the house that night and they urged us to stay and enjoy a game of cards with them, but he was insistent that we had somewhere to go. They looked to me for an answer, but I could only shrug. With Earl being so aloof about the night, I didn't have the slightest clue as to what events the evening would entail.

Once we left, he began to complain about all the homework he had to do that weekend, so I suggested we just go to his house so he could work on it. He just looked at me and said, "You wanna go to Walmart? Let's go to Walmart. I'm sure there's something I need there."

I of course obliged. It didn't matter to me what we did, as long as I got to spend time with him.

We arrived, wondered around and ran into several people Earl knew (because no matter where you go, he always knows somebody) and then promptly left. I'm not sure we actually even bought anything other than a drink, but nonetheless, we got back in his truck and headed toward the interstate.

Again he launched into grumbling about all of his homework and again I suggested we just go back so he could work on it.

"No. I don't want to do that right now. Let's go by my uncle Mike's. I think he has a spotlight and we can go to dad's property and spotlight deer."

Now, while I may have grown up in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, where deer hunting is a sport that you actually getting excused absences --> for in school, I am not and never will be that kind of country girl—sorry, but the whole cameo gear and big 4x4 trucks was never a draw for me (which the latter is especially one of the reasons that made Earl and I such an unlikely match from the get go). At that point, I'm thinking, this has got to be the strangest evening of my life. Did he just say we were going to spotlight deer? Deer? Seriously! I'd really rather watch him do his homework! The bewilderment on my face must have been apparent. However, off we went to his uncle Mike's.

I'm not sure how long we stayed, about an hour or more. And to Earl's dismay, Mike did not have a spotlight. A great relief to me or so I thought. After we left, he still insisted we go to 40 acres and use his headlights to catch the deer off guard.

It took about 10 minutes to get there from Mike's house. When we reached the property, Earl got out to unlock the gate. As I watched him search out the key and open it up, I remember thinking at that point, I really wished we'd just stayed and played cards.

We began climbing the gradual incline of the dark gravel driveway, slowly making our way toward a grassy spot that he planned to park while waiting for deer to dart by. Before long his truck came to a rest and he cut the engine off. There we were...sitting and waiting for deer. Oh the excitement, well, not really, but anyway.

After a moment he turned and said, "Let's get in the back of the truck bed."

Now, while it was the beginning of October, which for the most part is generally mild in East Tennessee, this night was anything but. It was around 40 degrees,  I'd only worn a light sweater and I am very cold natured, so I responded rather quickly, "No. You're crazy! It's freezing out there!"

"Oh, come on! We'll just sit and see if any deer come out."

"Umm..no. It's cold."

"Just get out of the truck," he demanded.

I rolled my eyes, "Fine, but I'm not staying out there long." I said as I gave in.

Since we were on a hill, I climbed out on his side to keep from dealing with shutting his heavy door. He helped me into the back of his truck bed and hopped up behind me. I was standing with my arms crossed shivering uncontrollably.

"Are you cold?" he asked in a concerned manner.

"What do you think? I told you it was freezing out here!" I retorted.

"Well, listen, I really just wanted us to get out here so that we could pray. I want us to pray about us one more time. I'll start and then you can finish," he said.

"OK," I told him, but in my mind I was thinking, I don't need to pray about this anymore, but whatever.

He took my hand, stood before me and began to pray. I remember hearing him tell GOD if we were really meant to be together to make it crystal clear to him. He closed his prayer and I began with mine. All I could do was agree in prayer with him because it had been so apparent to me for so very long. I don't really remember every thing else that was said, but when I opened my eyes, Earl was on one knee. In his hands, he held an open box with a beautiful, platinum 1 carat diamond ring. I gasped and covered my mouth as tears streamed down my cold, red chapped cheeks. Sniffling and choking back tears of his own he rattled out, "Will you be my wife?"

For a moment, all I could manage to do was shake my head yes. Finally my voice broke through and I proclaimed, "YES!! YES!! YES!!"

He stood up and put the ring on my finger before taking me in his arms and gently kissing me.  In that moment, the world stood still again, but this time for all the reasons I wanted it to. Finally all the waiting and trusting I had done allowed GOD's plan to come to fruition and in HIS time, not my own.

"C'mon. Let's get you back in the truck to warm up," he tenderly urged.

As we climbed into the truck, my heart was so full of joyful elation that I'm not sure there's a word in the English language that would do justice to what I was feeling. I kept looking down to see if the ring was still there, just to know it was true. This time every sparkle radiated an exuberant euphoria that I'd never known. My faith increased a trillion fold that night. I knew I could never truly doubt GOD or HIS LOVE and MERCY and PLAN for me again. HE knew what HE was doing from the moment I'd committed to trust HIM and all HE would ever ask of me, no matter how dire the situation seems, is just that, to trust HIM.

(***The dress will without a doubt be on the next post!!****)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Don't Give Me a Ring...

Stepping into the plans GOD has for you isn't always easy. You think it would be but there is such a struggle spiritually. As much as you want to be obedient, you face fears and fleshly desires that make it hard to fully commit yourself to HIS plans. Somehow, when all came down to it, I knew letting my dreams of being a reporter go would bring me happiness in the end. Truly it did, because while I gave that dream up, GOD gave it back to me in different package much later down the road. You see that's another problem we have...wanting things to happen in certain order or in a certain way. We can't see that sometimes we get exactly what we were wanting all along, just not the way we wanted it. 

Around the first of August, I gave my two weeks notice. I'm sure my news director was quite surprised since he was aware of my ambitions to be an on-air personality and he knew exactly what I knew, going to a market the size of Knoxville left little chance you'd ever make that a reality. It was a bittersweet moment in so many ways. I remember the feelings of nervousness that were clouding my throat, as I approached his office. Thoughts raced through my mind...he had given me my first job in television, taken me under his wing and worked on developing my skills to shine on camera; how could I do this now? The disappointment he felt was obvious as I spoke, but what could he say. I'd made up my mind and I knew without a doubt it was time to plant myself somewhere and stay.

From the moment I'd gotten that phone to call up to now, everything had been such a whirlwind. It all happened just so fast. My new job was to begin on August 18th, so I packed and planned to move back in with Big Earl and Jerrie while I looked for an apartment to rent or a house to buy. I knew I couldn't stay there indefinitely this time. It was time to be on my own. Earl helped as I moved back but we were still in that silly holding pattern. I, for the life of me, could not understand why he wasn't ready to move forward one way or another. We spent time together like always and every day I hoped and prayed for it to be the day that he would want to take our friendship to the next level, but it never came. However, after a few weeks passed, something else did...my birthday.

As I settled into my new job and a new routine, everything felt perfect except that I still didn't know where I stood with Earl. I wanted to understand why GOD had allowed me to come back here only to be his "best buddy" again. I thought, maybe just maybe, my birthday would bring some sort of change. After all, I'd told the bridal shop that's when I needed my dress by, so perhaps it had some greater meaning that I couldn't see (**more on the dress next post**).

We made plans to go to UT game the day before my birthday, since I'd won tickets at work. Now, if you don't know Earl, while he may look like the star quarterback every girl dreams of dating in high school, he has absolutely no interest in football; so I had high hopes that by him agreeing to go it might mean something. But nothing. We went, I explained every thing that happened on the field and we went home. That was it. I was disappointed to say the least, but my birthday was tomorrow so maybe there was still hope all my dreams would come true.

The next day was Sunday, so off to church I went, hoping since it my birthday and the LORD's Day, that GOD would decide to shower me with blessings and I'd be in an actual relationship with Earl by night fall. When the service was over, everyone headed to Big Earl and Jerrie's for Sunday dinner. It was a tradition, I'd missed so much when I was in Bristol. It felt awesome to be...well, home. After everyone left and things had quietened down, Earl disappeared for a little while. Later he turned back up and asked me to come outside with him.

We were standing on the back porch and I thought, this was it! This was the moment he was going to tell me he'd figured everything out and he was ready to see what GOD had for us as a couple. Then he burst my bubble yet again.

I remember him standing there, his hands buried deep in his pockets, with a gaze that was locked downward. It was clear he was nervous and unsure of what to say and do. 

"Well, I got you something for your birthday." he managed to articulate to me.

"Oh, okay. What is it?" I inquisitively asked.

As he withdrew his hand from his pocket, he never looked up. "Here. It's not an engagement ring or anything, so don't think that."

I remember that sick feeling from a year ago creeping back into the pit of my stomach. Why was he handing me a small box? Why did he say that? Why couldn't he have told me he picked something nice out for me? Or Happy birthday, I hope you like this. No. Instead I got no eye contact and box shoved at me that I didn't really want to open now.

"Why would I think that? There's usually a question that follows somebody handing you a box." I rudely told him as I opened it.

Positioned in the slot inside was a beautiful, small diamond cluster ring. It did somewhat favor an engagement ring, but at the same time not really. I feigned a smile as best I could and said, "Thanks."

I'm sure he sensed my disappointment, so he finally looked up and tried to explain himself, "I just didn't want you to get the wrong idea. I mean, I care about you. We're friends and you're special to me so I wanted to get you something."

"Thanks. It's nice." I poignantly told him.

Somehow the awkward situation came to end and he left. I took the ring and put it on but couldn't help feeling disgruntled. All day long I looked at it and the more I looked at it, the more I resented it. Every sparkle it radiated, felt like a jab in my gut, reminding me of what I didn't have. I didn't want a ring...I wanted someone to love me. I didn't want to be his special friend, I wanted to be his girlfriend. By the end of the evening, I'd made my mind up...I hated this ring and what it represented. I  had every intention of giving it back and letting him know that.

Everyone had gone to a birthday party at some church members house later that night. When I got there I headed straight for him. When I walked up, I looked him straight in the eyes, I took the box out and I handed it to him, "I really appreciate you buying me this, but I can't accept it. I really don't want it. Buy me a necklace or earrings or whatever, but don't give me a ring until it means something."

Then I turned and walked away.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Job

There's only three, maybe four more posts before this journey comes to a close. At least this journey of faith in this story. I know GOD has much more to write on my heart as I live out my life with HIM and I hope that I'll continue to share it and that you'll continue to follow it. Not because I want glory brought to my own life, but because HE is WORTHY of ALL our PRAISE! Now, onto the rest of the story.

The next month or so was rather mundane. No great happenings; I just continued following the simple steps of faith I'd been taking for the last three years. I was still spending most weekends in Knoxville and then coming back to work all week. My job was allowing me more freedom to put a resume tape (for those in the non-broadcasting world...this is how you get a job on TV...video of your work in TV) together, so I began to work on that. I would take stories I'd done for anchors to voice and add my voice to them and grab a videographer and do versions that showed my face for News Directors to see. While working on this, I desperately began to feel very conflicted about not giving my all to one place or the other. As I mentioned earlier, I had one foot in Knoxville and one foot in Bristol. So what do you do when face conflict? No, not go to a club with the girls this time! You pray!

I deeply desired to understand what GOD was doing at this time. I knew HE had called me to wait and buy a wedding dress which I was making payments on monthly, but I felt as if being torn between the two place didn't allow me to give my all to HIM. I had no real church home. Sometimes I was in Bristol. Sometimes I was in Knoxville and occasionally I even went to my parent's church. Before moving to Bristol, I'd been very involved at my church in Knoxville; volunteering when I could; jumping at the chance to teach; fellow shipping with my family of believers. Now, I was closer to GOD than I'd ever been, yet doing nothing physically for HIM since I wasn't settled.

It was like any other day at work. I arrived knowing what story I was hoping to work on while waiting to see if any major catastrophe called for us to cover it. When I walked in, someone called my name out letting me know I had a phone call waiting. That was nothing out of the ordinary, since I was expecting a call about a story I was working on that night. However, when I picked it up I got the surprise of a lifetime.

"This is Raquel," I stated in my most professional tone.

"Hey Raquel! This is Missy Glassmaker from Channel 10 in Knoxville. How are you doing?"

Confused as to why the Executive Producer of the station I'd interned for the summer before was calling me I answered in a baffling manner, "I'm good. How about you?"

"I'm great," she exclaimed, "Listen we were just checking in on some former interns. Seeing what they're up to now and how things are going."

I have no idea if she could hear the bewilderment in my voice, as I tried disguise it, "Well, I'm producing the weekend newscast here and field producing during the week. That's about it right now,"

Then she said something that catapulted me into a fog for the rest of the night, and quite possibly the next few days to come, "We've got a producer leaving and a position we're going to need filled and you're name came up. We thought we'd just give you a call and see if you were interested in applying?"

It felt like it took an eternity for me to answer, but I'm sure looking back I was quick and to the point, "Sure. I'd love to."

"Great! Get me tape together of some shows you've produced and we'll go from there." Missy told me.

"Okay." I said.

She quickly ended the conversation on a cordial note, "Good talking to you! I'll be looking for your tape in the next week or so," leaving me to my thoughts about how this moment could possibly be happening.

There was little time to think about what was said as I had to hurry off to our afternoon news meeting to plan that night's show, but afterwards it was all I could think about. Who calls and asks you to apply for a job? Sure, I'd interned just a year before, and I'd left on with high regards on the job I'd done, but jobs don't just fall in your lap, do they? What about being a reporter? If I took a producer position in that market, that's all I'd ever be. How could I give up the dream I'd had since I was 15 or 16 years old? I was so certain that was all I wanted to do for so long. While all my friends were flipping and flopping in college trying to figure out their career path, I never even dared to deviate from that plan. There was no question in my mind, I knew I wanted to be a reporter, as intimately as I knew my own name.

And then I began to think, the job is in Knoxville. Earl is in in Knoxville. I've been praying to be planted in one place or the other. Is this an answer to my prayers? What if me being close all the time pushes him away again? How can I be certain this is a trick to get to me make a mess of things?

  I battled my decision to apply for the next month. After all, they had not promised me the job. They merely thought I might make a good candidate. I wasn't given a green light just because they knew me and my work ethic. They subjected me to the same process they would for any other applicant applying for the job.  I sent in my tape and paper resume. I was interviewed by the News Director and faced very tough questions. I had to take a drug test and in the end, the ball was in my court. They offered me the job and gave a couple days to think it over.

While you may think the answer to this new dilemma I was facing would be simple, it wasn't. I consulted my family and friends. I wanted to be sure I made the right decision. Was it time to give up one dream to make the other a reality? I even asked Earl if he thought me moving back would be a problem and he said no. So I closed the book on the plans I'd had for my life and followed the WORD of GOD.

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." Jeremiah 29:11 KJV




Friday, March 30, 2012

Well...What Did HE Say

This may be my favorite part of the story, which you'll learn why later. At the time it didn't seem quite as significant, but when it was all said and done, there is no way you can question the sovereignty of GOD in orchestrating my marriage.

At some point in April, my best friend from elementary school, Sharon, called to tell me that she and her husband had decided to renew their vows in the upcoming summer. They had eloped right after high school, so they never had a wedding ceremony with their family and friends and they really wanted to do that. She asked if I would be her maid of honor and I was so excited to get share in this opportunity with her! Since she lived in Texas, there was no possible way for us to go dress shopping together. With me being her only attendant I wouldn't have to worry about matching anyone so she told to find a dress, any dress I wanted, just make sure it was lilac.

Somehow, I convinced Earl to go dress shopping with me one day. We headed off to Wedding Wonderland and I tried on several dresses before settling on a simple, long A-line, satin dress with a darted waist and a minimal amount of beading around the neckline. They told me the dress would have to be ordered and that I would need to come in for a fitting sometime around May.

May would not only bring my new dress, but an end to my fast. I was excited and sad at the same time. After all it had been 40 days since a single morsel of food had touched my lips, so I could not wait to eat. However, at the same time, I was scared of losing the oneness I'd experienced with GOD. This encounter was so life changing, but not only that, I was left in holding pattern. I mean, I now had the joy that I had so longingly desired, but I wasn't free to move forward, which was something else I was hoping for. I knew GOD was still asking me to wait, just a little longer.

A couple of weeks into the month Wedding Wonderland called to let me know my dress was in and schedule me for a fitting. I picked a date and Jerrie accompanied me to shop. When we got there, the attendant brought the dress out and I tried it on. It need to be taken in slightly since I'd lost a few pounds from fasting. Once they did all their pinning and tucking, Jerrie suggested I try on wedding dresses just for fun. I figured it couldn't hurt. It would be amusing to pretend my big day was just around the corner and prance around in all these lovely gowns.

We picked a few to try on and the attendant helped me put on dress after dress. I remember thinking, they were all so beautiful, how could any bride pick one for her special day. I was almost done with the dresses we had picked when I slid my body into it.

It was perhaps one of the most simple gowns I had adorned that day. It was a long, white, princess cut dress with the most beautifully understated detailing I'd ever seen. It used a mixture of swirls and tiny flowers with rhinestones in the center sparingly up the bodice and around the waist. At the top a lace overlay came down to meet the heart shaped satin neckline. The bottom of the gown had the same detailing on the front and train. However, my favorite part was the back. It was so unbelievably exquisite and elegant. There was long line of tiny buttons extending down the back to the waist. Everything about it beckoned me to chose this dress to wear on my wedding day.

This is a picture I found in a Bridal magazine,

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lessons Learned (Part 2)

The first few days were the hardest. I love food and let's be honest, eating is a social past time in this country! However, every time a pang of hunger would strike I would open the WORD OF GOD and read a passage about fasting or the overcoming faith of the heroes of the Bible. Within the first week, I had truly conquered those pains.

I was extremely careful in the presentation of myself and around any opportunities that food was present. The Bible tells us to fast in secret. When you do this, it's important that you and GOD are the only people that are part of that inner circle. That's not to say a few people didn't know, because I did have to disclose what I was doing to a select few. One being my parents because I knew they were prayer warriors that could hold me up anytime I needed it. Earl's parents were also privy to the information as well. Mostly because since I stayed with them on my weekends, his mom began to notice I was never eating. She point blank confronted me with concern. Which in this day and age is completely understandable. Jerrie wanted to make sure that I wasn't starving myself, so I told her what I was doing and why. I remember her crying and telling me she hoped Earl would make the right choice because it was so clear that I loved him more than anyone ever could and that GOD had brought me into their life for a purpose. I also knew they would continually lift me up in prayer. As for everyone else, it was easy to pass it off as though I wasn't hungry when I was around them.

One week turned into two and three and not eating just became part of who I was, but amazing so did the HOLY SPIRIT. The indwelling that took place in that time took me to a heavenly place. I literally felt like I was in the presence of GOD with every breath I took by the fourth week. As I said, Earl was barely talking to me. Others within my circle of "friends" had begun slandering me in a way that would have left me crying and screaming, "it's not fair" just six months earlier, but I had a calm that was like nothing of this world. I remember when I heard one the hurtful remarks that had been made against me. The LORD began putting the words in my heart, "no weapon formed against thee shall prosper..." I knew it was a Bible verse, but I had no clue where it was. Everyday I would get up with those words on my heart. I began searching for the scripture so I could dig a little deeper and discover what treasure lie ahead. Then I found it:


"No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD." Isaiah 54:17 KJV


Notice the second half of that verse. It was unreal. The HOLY SPIRIT had taken me to a passage that described exactly was going on in my life. I was being judged without reason, but I knew how to handle it now and I knew this battle wasn't mine. It was HIS.

As I neared the end of the fast, I was faced with the greatest challenge I'd ever come up against. There were so many lessons to be learned from this one instance, that to this day it helps me keep my marriage intact.

I'd been going to church there in Bristol for several weeks. I didn't really get involved or make a lot of friends, but I wasn't trying either. I had one foot in Knoxville and another there in town. At the time it seemed impossible to merge the two. I had no way of choosing one or the other. My heart was with Earl, but my job was two hours north.

It was like any other Wednesday night really, I was running late to service because of work but obviously I wasn't going to miss when I was so enraptured with GOD. HE was my lifeline in this fast and I had no intention of doing anything to get off track. I scampered in and two ushers were standing in the vestibule. They smiled and nodded their heads as to say hello and welcome. They were in opening remarks and I slid in near the back of the crowd and quietly took my seat. I joyful participated as they sang songs of praise, took up offering and went through prayer requests. Then it was the time to shake hands and greet one another. I stood at my pew, like always. I never really mingled much, instead letting others come to me. I wasn't there for the fellowship with them.

Then he approached me. He was young, tall, dark hair, blue eyes and of a very muscular, athletic build. He didn't really look like Earl but in someways he reminded me of him. I'd seen him every time I had attended service, which you'd have to be blind not to notice this attractive creation of God, but we'd never spoken. So what made tonight different? The fact that he was ushering? Maybe, but I was certain I'd seen him do that before. He walked up and reached for my hand and said something that would send my mind into a tailspin and cause me to do some serious soul searching.

"Hi, I just wanted to apologize for earlier."

"Apologize?" my puzzlement was most certainly obvious.

"Yeah. When you came in, we didn't bother to open the door for you. And I'm really sorry about that. My name is Jeff by the way."

Searching for a response, I smiled. "It's no big deal," I stuttered, "I didn't even notice."

And I really had not noticed.

Honestly though, what guy in the world today says something so charming and captivating as their first words to you.

He was determined to make sure I was accepting of his apology. I wholeheartedly embraced it and he walked away. I remember watching him head to his seat and everything felt like it was in slow motion as I took mine. What just happened here? What was I supposed to learn from this? I have no idea how long it took me to refocus on the service. The funny thing is, that was just the beginning.

After service, I always took my stuff and made a beeline for my car and tonight was no different, except, Jeff was apparently much quicker than me. Because as I turned out of the pew, there he was. Apologizing again! I told him it was fine. Then he asked if he could walk me to my car. Are you kidding me? Who asks? Men just do what they want now, even if the woman doesn't want them to. But seriously, I would've been crazy to turn him down. He was extremely good looking and his demeanor was so precious. So of course I said sure.

We stood by my car for the next 45 minutes just chatting and getting to know one another. I found him so inviting to be around. The joy he exuded was unbelievable. Finally the parking lot was nearly empty and he said, "Well, I'd better let you go."

I'd completely lost track of time. I was so captivated by the whole evening I'm not sure I wanted to go. He offered to open my car door to make up for earlier, so I let him. I thanked him and began to get in and then he said, "If it wouldn't be too forward, I'd really like to take you to dinner sometime?"

I think in that moment I was trying to figure out if this was real or some Nicholas Sparks romance novel I was reading. I was at a loss for words. My heart was turning flips and my head was spinning. Never had I felt so valued and cherished by a man. The only words I could muster out were, "Can I pray about that?"

"Absolutely. I want you to do that," he told me in a kind and heartwarming tone.

"Okay, I'll give you an answer next time I'm at church."

Then I got in my car and I probably would have sat there contemplating everything that had just taken place, if he wasn't standing there watching me drive off. As I pulled out of the parking lot, a flood of tears washed away all traces of make up and drenched my clothing.

I was left to my thoughts all the way home. What did this mean? What was the answer I should give him? What about Earl? Why couldn't Earl see me this way? Was GOD telling me it was okay to let go? This guy seemed so perfect in so many ways. How could I say no to him? Was it possible to hold on to Earl and still date this guy to see what GOD wanted? Neither would known about the other. No, I can't do that. That's just wrong.

Due to some schedule shifting at work, it was a couple of weeks before I was able to make it back to church to give him my answer. I spent every moment I could in prayer. I weighed all the pros and cons and I finally came to a decision.

This is what I told Jeff, "I'd love to go out with you. Everything in me wants to say yes, but right now I'm not in a place where I'm free to do that. GOD is working on my heart and as much as I want this, the timing isn't right, but in a few months it may be."

He was so gracious in accepting my answer and always made a point to speak to me and be friendly with me every time I was there.  Perhaps he was hoping my answer would eventually change. Sometimes I wanted my answer to change, but I now knew what GOD was trying to teach me from this experiece.
1.     I didn't really know Jeff and as perfect as he seemed in that moment, who's to say he wouldn't eventually end up as fickle as Earl. 
2.     I'd promised Earl I'd wait for him to make a decision and to figure out what GOD was saying to him.
3.     I'd promised GOD to follow HIM, not my heart.
4.     When I am married, just because things are not going picture perfect, doesn't mean you walk away from the commitment you've made when some dashingly, handsome man gives you more attention than your husband. 
 So I waited and continued my fast until the very end.

Lessons Learned (Part 1)

Sometimes it's hard to learn from mistakes. You hope, when you go through something that you will always take away some great lesson, but sometimes you end up right back in the same situation time and time again. That's sort the way things seemed to be going for Earl and me at this point. One minute we were becoming close, not quite more than friends, yet at the same time we were a little more than "just" friends. I know it's a little bit of an oxymoron but I truly have no idea how to explain the dynamics of our relationship EVER (at least until much later). It was always like that with us. At certain points, we would hardly be speaking and the by the next day it would seem as if we were close to taking a step beyond friendship. If you're confused by all this, then just imagine living it! I was a constant state of discombobulation! So really, even though Earl was suddenly pushing me away on purpose, it was just history repeating itself for us.
Everything else in my life seemed to be looking up. I got a promotion at work and no longer had to do the graveyard shift. I moved to weekend producer and through the week I was a field producer. I even got to do a story that actually made it on air with my voice! I was constantly working on getting my resume tape so I could move far away from my crazy life. However, I knew running wasn't really the answer from past experience (I had learned my lesson, Earl, I guess, had not ). This time I decided to do some things differently when he began his reoccurring withdrawing act.
First, I found a good, strong church in town and started going to the Sunday morning and midweek services. Since I was now working weekends I spent Monday and Tuesday in Knoxville. I know it seems silly that I was even continuing to go, but he hadn't completely cut me out of his life. We would still hang out with a big group of people. There just wasn't any alone time or mushy talk about missing me anymore.
Next, I made a MAJOR decision in my spiritual life. It was, without a doubt, the most eye opening experience of my Christian walk, even to date. I resolved to fast from all forms of food. At first, the plan was to do it for just a few days, see what GOD was saying to me and move forward. However, it lasted 40 days. Because this part of my story is so personal and I don't want any one to misunderstand its purpose, here's my giant disclaimer about what I did.
****I DID NOT fast for Earl to marry me! That would have been not only been selfish, but completely out of the context in which Christ tells us to fast. I studied fasting extensively before undertaking this task, as well as during the fast so that I could absolutely be certain what I was doing was pleasing to the LORD.  NEVER did I intend for this spiritual journey to be about Earl. It was completely about me and my SAVIOR. I'd allowed myself to fall in a miry pit of anguish just a few months earlier and I was determined it would NOT happen again. So to be clear in my purpose for fasting, I did it because I wanted freedom; freedom from this bondage I felt to the dream I'd been holding onto and all turbulence I'd encountered from the moment I decided to believe the dream. At that point, I just wanted to move forward in my life, with or without Earl. From my knowledge of Scripture, I had learned that some things only come by prayer AND fasting. I was broken and determined that I would spend the rest of my life experiencing peace and joy no matter my circumstances.  ****
Now, as the fast began Earl suddenly started opening up to me yet once again. We'd talk for hours and he'd explain how he was still confused and searching for answers and asked me not to give up on him. I told him I wouldn't. Which is what makes everything that happened in those 40 days mind boggling. When you take on the spiritual world, there is a battle that ensues like no other. Those words GOD put in Earl's mouth were for my comfort because my world was being turned upside down. He, like so many times before, isolated himself from me. However, he was ruder and crueler than he'd ever been to me and I was tested beyond belief. Even when he was with Amy and he had cut off communication with me, there was a hint of hope and indecisiveness in his words. Because of what I was doing, I knew Earl's words were in some ways out of his control. Rather it was the workings of demonic spirits and even perhaps a testing phase from GOD HIMSELF because of the request I was making. 
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [place]." Ephesians 6:12 KJV
"I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me." Romans 7:21 KJV
What I was attempting wasn't an easy task, nor was it something that the devil ever wants us to do. I was on a journey, to the Throne Room of Christ because I was tired of being bullied by my emotions and my lukewarm faith. I was committed to having control over my heart and mind for the rest of my life; no matter what kind battles were in store for the future...I knew if I was tenacious enough in this fast that Christ in me would win every time I might have to wrestle with happenings of life.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Three Steps Forward and One Giant Step Back

As much as I wished, this would be the post that I tell you we finally got together and lived happily ever after, it's not. We still had at least another year of growing pains to go through. When Earl left that evening, obviously we were in a much better place. We were finally talking after five months of silence. It was a wonderful feeling, but I had a lot of tears to shed. Tears of happiness and still tears of grief...mostly for my attitude with GOD. HE had done nothing but try to comfort me in those months and I'd done everything to make sure HE couldn't. Even today when I look back, I wonder why HE even bothred, but now that I have children, I get it. HE bothered because no matter how horrible my attitude was, HE still loved me.

A couple of weeks passed and around Thanksgiving his dad, Adam, his brother and him decided to go visit some family they had in Virginia. They left Knoxville late that night, around 8 or 9 pm. The only reason I can come up with why they did something so silly is GOD. Because they were tired before they even started, Earl suggested they stop and stay in my apartment in Bristol while I was at work. So he called asked if that was possible and I said sure.

They got there around 10 that night. They came in settled and I finished getting ready to leave. When it was time to go Earl offered to drive me. I told him he didn't need to. It was just across the street and I could walk, but he insisted since it was dark, he should drive me. I gave in and we left.

We pulled up and instead of me getting out, he asked if we could talk before I went in. So I sat there in the car with him and listened more than I talked. He finally told me he was trying to get out of his relationship with Amy but he didn't know how. He shared how mismatched they were and how miserable he was. But of course, as I told you earlier, Earl hates hurting people and of course the thought of hurting her was his biggest obstacle. We ended up sitting there talking for the next four hours. He detailed all the fighting they had done and still did at that point. He explained that despite having severed all communication with me, I was still very much a problem in their relationship. Everything she did, he compared it to me and they way I did things. He even told me at one point during an argument she even told him, "I'm beginning to think you two are meant to be together."

Finally, the conversation came to a close and we held hands and I prayed for him. I asked GOD to help set him free from the guilt he felt for hurting her. He hugged me and told me he'd see me in the morning. That coversation left me on an emotional high for sure, but it still took him at least a month to break things off with her. I kept my distance until I knew it was really over.

It was around January 2003 and I began spending all my weekends in Knoxville again. Earl and I still weren't a couple, but we would spend all the time we could together from Friday to Sunday night. I'd leave and head to his mom and dad's as soon as I got off work at 7 am every weekend. I guess the excitement of GOD doing this great work kept me awake as I drove an hour and half with virtually no sleep. I'd get there and pass out, sleeping half the day. When Earl got off in the evenings we'd hang out with everyone, just like old times. Sometimes we'd do things alone, but most of the time it was always with a group. As much as I wanted it to be more, it just wasn't yet. I kept telling myself I had to trust GOD and that Earl was still healing from his relationship with Amy. It just wasn't time, no matter how much I wanted it to be.

In February, he went on a retreat with the youth at church. It was the first weekend in almost two months that we hadn't been together. I still came to Knoxville and spent it with his parents. I'll never forget when he came back how excited I was to see him. We'd talked on the phone while he was away and he told me he missed me and wished he'd stayed there with me, but that just wasn't an option.

The retreat had been planned for a few months and Amy's younger brother, Brandon, had signed up to go. Earl really liked her family and had kept in touch with her brother after their breakup. I was okay with that. I knew where his feelings for her stood and it just didn't bother me. Perhaps it should've because when he came back something changed. I still to this day don't know if it was something Brandon said, something else that happened or just GOD's way of putting the finishing touches on a story only HE could have written, but when Earl came back he gradually began to be distant.

At first, I was okay with that. I chalked it up to him still trying to work though what he felt for me and anything that was left over for Amy. However as time when on, it became more and more apparent he was pushing me away on purpose.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Tomorrow...

That letter sat on my dining table for the next two weeks. Every morning when I arrived home from work and walked into my one bedroom apartment, it was there. It stood out more than the over sized windows it was situated between. It beckoned my attention more than the 12 foot ceilings I stared up at when I was on the couch. With every glance I took at it, the more I wanted to throw it away. Yet, the more I also wanted to believe there was still hope. So how do you ignore the smallest thing in you life that has become the biggest elephant in your room (literally)? You go out to a club with a bunch of girls.

The director I worked with every morning, Gary, began suggesting to the other ladies at work to invite me along with them when they got together. So after a few days I got phone call from one of the reporters at the station. She invited me to hang out with her, our main anchor, and a couple others. I wasn't really a club person anymore. I'd tried that shoe on, didn't really stick, but I was lonely. It was Saturday night and I wanted to free my mind. So I jumped at the chance to make friends and get away from that CRAZY envelope that was haunting me.

It was a typical girls night out. We danced, flirted and laughed at the men making fools of themselves. The night ended and I arrived back at my apartment around 4am. Since it was so late, I knew I wasn't even going to make an effort to go to church that morning. I made a beeline for my bedroom and was able to completely ignore IT (you know, the "letter").

My phone rang around noon. I struggled to find it in the pitch black room I'd barricaded myself in. When I did, the number shocked me...the caller ID showed Earl's number ...I quickly picked it up and scratched out, "Hello."

On the other end, I heard Jerrie's voice. She was being extremely elusive, speaking in code almost. She asked if I was busy and what I was doing. Told me about them heading to a funeral in Johnson City and then she began to whisper. I could barely make out what she was saying but I did get that they were planning to stop by my apartment, Earl Jr. was with them and I had an hour to get ready. Then she said, "Bye."

I sat up in the bed thinking, what in the world is going on? After a few minutes of bewilderment, I sprang from under the covers and began getting ready.  Was Earl going to be okay with stopping? Was he going to come in or sit in the car? We hadn't spoken in five months, what should I say to him? Do I tell him congratulations? I can't even begin to scratch the surface of all that was going on in my head in that moment. I scurried to make my bed, shower and get dressed. Then I walked into the living room and there it was...the "letter". I grabbed it, for fear that he had some sort of x-ray vision or something I guess, and stuffed it in a book and put it in my closet, where I knew he'd never see it.

Then a knock. I walked over to the door and looked through the peep hole and there were Big Earl and Jerrie, alone. No Earl. Oh well, I thought. I mean, did I really expect him to be with them? After all,  he had made it crystal clear our paths were to never cross again. I guess Jerrie was just wishfully thinking that he would come in with them. They sat down and started talking, not saying a word about him. I was dying to ask though, why all the vagueness earlier?

Then another knock. Again I looked through the peep hole to see who it was, but they had covered it with their finger. So I opened it hoping with everything in me to see his handsome face behind it. And sure enough, there he was. I nonchalantly turned without speaking and left the door open for him to follow. I had no idea what to say honestly. I wanted to make sure it seemed as though I cared less that he was now standing in my living room and my presence for the first time in so long.

He trickled in behind me shutting the door and making some snide, yet nervous, comment about me being rude. It was obvious he was as unsure as I was of how to handle the situation. His mom and dad kept chatting and making small talk with us and the tension slowly eased. He and I began to joke and it felt as if nothing had ever changed. Then he asked if we could take a walk alone and I of course obliged.

My heart was without a doubt in my throat as we started out the door. What were we going to talk about? Did he want to explain why he was getting married? Was he sorry? What was I going to say? After all, I'd done nothing but wallow in misery for the past five months. I couldn't tell him about that! Or even that I was building this great life on my own, because quite frankly, I was so unhappy that even having started the climb toward the dream I'd had of being a journalist for most of my life, felt as empty as Satan's cold, cruel heart. He must have been at as much a loss for what to say as I was because, for the first few minutes we just walked in silence.

As we turned the corner heading down State Street, he began making speaking. At first his words were meaningless fluff. I was only half listening; my mind just kept wondering, why is he here?

Then he turned to me and urgently uttered, "I really need you to pray for me."

"Okay." I said, "do you want to tell me what to pray about?"

"Not right now," he murmured in a subdued tone looking down at the dirty sidewalk, "all I can say is, I'm about to make the biggest mistake of my life and I don't know what to do."

My heart was racing so fast I'm surprised it didn't explode. Was he alluding to his engagement? Did he want to break it off with Amy? Had he realized I was the girl for him now? I desperately wanted to prod for more information, but I knew he'd just taken a huge step in restoring our friendship and I didn't want push him away. I just told him I'd be honored to pray for him and left it at that.

We walked a little further and he began to tell me how much he missed being around me, that no one encouraged him the way I did and that something was missing from his life once he had shut me out. I just listened, not really saying much. I was aware that this was one of the hardest things he'd ever had to do; and as much as I wanted to dance and shout and jump for joy, I knew I didn't deserve the words that were coming from his mouth. My faith had become so feeble and my heart had grown so numb toward GOD that more than anything I felt humbled that HE'd even allowed this moment to happen.

Eventually we turned and headed back toward my apartment. The seriousness of our conversation began to turn to silliness and things felt extremely familiar and just as they should be. As we walked up the steps to my door, I knew GOD hadn't forgotten me, I'd forgotten HIM. He was holding me all this time, trying so hard to get me to listen so HE could explain things to me, but I had shut HIM out. I knew as we opened the door to the apartment, that it was time to open the gates of my heart again to HIS promise and trust HIM for whatever was ahead.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

If You're Reading This...

Over the next few months, I did more soul searching than I've ever done in my life. When a dream is shattered you begin to look at everything around you, trying to find what you really should hope for. For me, I was merely living from one day to the next now. Trying to ignore the fact that I didn't have a heart anymore. It had been ripped from me in such a gut wrenching way, that my whole perspective of walking with GOD was changed. I kept going to church. I just wanted to do what I had to do to check it off of my being a decent Christian list. I still believed in GOD, but I didn't really want a relationship with HIM anymore. I believed HE had failed me...lead me into a valley and left me with no pathway out.

Quickly, I decided I had to start dating, so I dated the first guy that showed me attention. He was younger. Not even remotely serving the LORD. He believed in GOD but that was it as far as I could see. That suited me just fine too. I didn't want anyone who would point me toward the CROSS again. He was so very sweet and completely devoted to me, but to be honest, he was only there to keep me company. I'm not proud of it, but really I used him so I wouldn't have to be alone with my thoughts or even worse, GOD.

The weeks dragged on and I kept in touch with Big Earl and Jerrie. We rarely discussed anything to do with Earl and Amy. It was always a just checking on you conversation. I was content to bury that part of my life and never resurrect it, but there was one person who wouldn't let me do that...my mom. She kept telling me over and over to have faith.

I remember yelling at her once and saying, "What don't you get!?! He's getting married! Leave me alone!"

Of course her answer in an always cheerful and jolly tone was, "Well they're not married yet."

Really, there were times when I almost hated her for trying to keep this dream alive. Why couldn't she let it go? I was.

Around the first of November, I stopped seeing the guy I'd been dating. I guess guilt overwhelmed me and I really didn't feel anything for him. I only liked that having him around numbed my pain. For the first time in two months, I was alone. Completely and utterly alone, with the exception of a mouse that had taken up residence in my kitchen. He would come out searching for food and just stop stare at me before scampering back to wherever he was hiding. I almost felt guilty for putting a trap out to capture him. He felt like the only friend I had at the moment, but I just couldn't share my residence with a mouse. I wasn't that crazy.

Then one day, I decided to busy myself with unpacking something that I hadn't gotten around to yet. Keeping my mind occupied helped fend off my thoughts. Unfortunately, this task only ended up taking me to the place I was working so hard to avoid.

As I shuffled through some papers I'd pulled out, I found a letter I'd written Earl. It was dated Thanksgiving of 2001, almost a year had passed. This is an excert of the beginning:

Lil Earl,
Hey Honey! If you're reading this then I know it's okay to call you that because we finally made it...If you're reading this then I know it's our wedding night because that's when I want you to truly know all that I am about to tell you...

The letter went on for five pages, detailing every great work GOD had done to show me why he was the man I was supposed to marry.  Tears flowed as I went back to each of those moments. It was like walking through it all over again. I wanted to rip the letter to shreds, yet I was drawn to keep reading. I wanted to crumple it up and toss it in the trash, yet I neatly folded it and placed it back in the envelope I'd kept it in. I wanted to take a match and watch it go up in flames the way my heart had two months earlier, yet I stood it up against the wall and walked away.

I lay on the floor in a pool of tears, begging GOD to take this burden away. I was supposed to be moving forward, not looking back. Why did I find it now while the pain was still so fresh? Why was my heart stirring, wanting to believe this craziness again? Then in true Scarlett O'Hara fashion, I decided, " I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow."