Monday, October 17, 2011

The "One"

I recently took part in a wedding, a very beautiful and godly wedding. It was beyond apparent that GOD had written their love story. Obviously, it took me back to my own story and the search for the proverbial "one". We all look for that "one"...the "one"...the "one" our hearts desire, the "one" who's our so called soulmate...the "one" we were meant for. In my search for the "one" I found more than I'd ever bargained for and I don't mean Earl.

It was January 2001 and I'd known for about a year that Earl was the man that I was supposed to marry, or the "one" if you will. At that point of my faith walk, I began focusing on when this was all going to come to pass. When would GOD give me my hearts desire? When would HE show Earl what HE'd already shown me? Why was it taking so long? I just couldn't understand GOD's plan and to be honest, I really didn't like it. At that point I'd been waiting so long (or so I thought). I'd spent the last year not dating and not looking for the "one" because I'd was sure I'd found him.

To say I was tired was an understatement. I just wanted to marry the "one" and move in the blissful life that I knew GOD had for us. After all, that's what every little girl dreams of, "Happily Ever After". However, what happened over the next couple of months was anything but that. My friendship with Earl at the time was deteriorating, which made it seem even more impossible to believe that GOD had given me such clear direction on the "one". I remember thinking, if we're barely speaking, how are we going to end up together? With my faith waning, I began to search for answers and I knew the only way to find them was to hit my knees.

That night as I began to pray, tears flowed from the depths of my soul. With every teardrop, I felt more and more confounded within my soul. Every sob carried a question...Why? Why did I have to wait? Why couldn't he see I was the "one"? Was he really the "one" I was made for?

And then it happened...it was as real as anything I've ever experienced in my life...right then, I knew GOD was hurting as much as I was. I felt HIS presence so strongly that I could see myself lying in HIS comforting hands in a pool of tears. And while I know GOD doesn't speak audibly, HE did that night. HE spoke these words into my heart.

"No Raquel, he isn't the "one". I AM."

For the first time in my life, it was so clear. GOD was the "ONE"...HE IS THE "ONE". We were all made for HIM and no one else. This idea that we all have a soulmate is true, but we're all looking in the wrong place because our soulmate isn't of this world...HE's of a spiritual world.

I found the "ONE". I found HIM on my knees, during a cold winter night, in a tiny mobile home nestled in a holler deep within the mountains of Southwest Virginia and I was only 13 years old, and I know I've found my "Happily Ever After" no matter what.

Have you found the "ONE"?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What about LOVE?

When I first learned I was going to marry Earl, there was a key ingredient missing...LOVE. I remember telling GOD, "How am I supposed to marry him, when I don't even love him?" It was a valid question too, I thought.

In today's society, we don't arrange marriages, we choose our mates. However, all to often we choose them because they give us "butterflies" and those are really nothing more than lust. Why do you think so many marriages fail? When the "butterflies" are gone we move on. We say, "I'm not in love with you anymore." But that's just it, they were never really in love to start with.

Love isn't a giddy school girl crush. It takes time and commitment. Both, of which, I promised to give GOD when He showed me my life's mate. I was committed to waiting as long as it took for GOD to show Earl. It wasn't easy. There were days I wanted to give up, but I in that time I learned what LOVE really was. It had nothing to do with what I felt, but everything to do with what I would give.

I still remember the day I realized I loved Earl. It was September 2000. At that point, I'd known for nine months that I was supposed to marry him. As I sat pondering everything I believed GOD had shown me, it just clicked in me that I loved Earl and I'd do anything for him because of that love.

It's funny because, even though I knew I loved Earl, it still took three more years for me to understand how to explain what LOVE really was. I was sitting at a red light in front of the Wachovia Bank on State Street in Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia and for the first time in my life I got it.

LOVE died on cross. LOVE said, "Father, I'll go down." LOVE took the beating that I deserved. LOVE forgives me when I'm the most unforgivable. LOVE makes me a joint heir to a Kingdom I most certainly DO NOT deserve. LOVE acts and does whatever it takes to protect.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13 (KJV)

Why am I telling you this? Because LOVE isn't a feeling...LOVE acted, and still does so on my behalf. LOVE thought past the pain, past the humiliation, past the failures. LOVE doesn't hurt or harm or go away. LOVE protects and shelters and stays no matter the cost. It's that LOVE that paid the ultimate price so that I might learn to love the man that was to become my husband.

If you missed the beginning of the story you can find out how it all started by going here.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Preparing the way...

It absolutely amazes me the way GOD guides and directs us and HE does it so that we can accomplish HIS will. Proverbs 16:9 says, "A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps." Every day that we get up we make choices, and while we may feel in control, there's only some truth to that. If you're a believer, every decision you make should be weighted by GOD's WORD, and sometimes hearing that WORD can be beyond difficult. We'll pray about this or that and still wonder, "Is that my answer?" That's why this verse is so important to know, because even when we feel we've made a wrong decision, the LORD is there to make sure everything turns out just right. And sometimes those choices are just preparing the way for what HIS final goal is.

Summer was upon us and as classes were winding down, my roommate Shawnta was preparing to leave for camp. She'd signed up to be a counselor for the next three months, which meant I was going to be left alone in our small rental house.

Neither of us are from Knoxville so it never occurred to us why the rent was so cheap when we first found the house. We were just excited to be in a cute 2 bedroom house 10 minutes from campus. Our first sign should have been the bars on the windows of other homes around us, but being small town girls, we were a bit oblivious to say the least. We'd lived there (on Woodbine Ave. for those of you from Knoxville...and for those of you who don't, it's ghetto type area) for almost a year when she was packing up to leave and never had a single problem.

So when Earl's parents invited me to live with them for the summer while Shawnta was gone, I at first declined. However, they were quite adament that I didn't need to live alone in that area of town. For me, I didn't see any danger in it. I did see that me moving in with them could create problems and look as though I was just trying to get closer to Earl because I had feelings for him. So when they asked again, I just told them that I'd pray about it. And I did, but I felt confused on what to do. I already knew I was supposed to marry Earl but I didn't want to jeopardize what GOD was trying to do and it worried me that I would if I took them up on their offer. I began discussing it with my parents and asking for advice. They were as adamant as Earl's parents that this was much better than me living alone in that part of town. After a great deatl of coercion, I finally agreed and prepared to move for the summer.

The night before Shwanta was to leave, Earl and few other boys came to the house, loaded my stuff into a moving van and took it to his parents home. I was supposed to take Shawnta to catch a bus early the next morning so I was staying in the house with her for one final night. I was laying in the floor of my room, trying to sleep while she was packing some last minute things. All of the sudden there was a knock at the door. Shawnta came to my room and whispered, "Someone's knocking." I told her to go see who it was and as she turned around the knock became frantic pounding. She crouched in my floor and I ran for the phone. As I dialed 911, the pounding suddenly became kicks. The door broke in half, but not all the way through. I was screaming, "What do you want?" Gunshots rang out and as quickly as it all began, it stopped. The person at the door disappeared and everything was quiet.

Within minutes the police arrived. They had to cut our door in half to get in because the deadbolt had caused it to become lodged in a way that it wouldn't open. They never caught anyone and to this day we really have no idea why it all happened (or at least beyond the spiritual insight I later gained).

You may be wondering what does this have to to do with the rest of the story...why tell you all this...but you see, without this incident, I would have had a place to go when Shawnta come home from camp. We would've just moved back into our house and never thought twice about it. Instead, I began to form an incredible bond with Earl's parents that summer and when Shawnta did return, Earl's mom Jerrie, asked me not to go. Her and Big Earl had opened their home to me, but GOD began to open their hearts. That summer stay turned into two years and they became just like parents to me. And while I thought me being at Earl's parents home would have caused me to be in GOD's way, it was actually the opposite. It put me exactly where GOD wanted me to be...in HIS WILL.

Monday, August 8, 2011

GOD Wants Me to Do WHAT????

It's amazing how fast life passes by. The past few months have been some of the busiest in my life and the devil is trying everything to keep me from sharing this story. I know that GOD will be glorified in it, so I'm taking every measure possible to make sure I blog regularly until this story is told and then we'll see where HE takes me from there. So I do apologize for those of you who have been waiting so very long. Now onto the rest of the story...


GOD had already shown me without at doubt that Earl was the man I was going to marry but what HE asked me to do next was pretty much unfathomable. HE asked me to tell Earl I had feelings for him. Social suicide for a girl who is quite sure the guy doesn't reciprocate her feelings.

I remember thinking, "This is nuts! Why do you want me to do this?" But when you feel that way, just know that GOD has a purpose. It took several years for me to understand why HE was asking this of me, but you see, if I hadn't done this, people would no doubt try to explain away a miracle of GOD, however, they can't now. It's really and truly impossible to doubt that GOD wrote my love story. Here's how it happened.

We were all hanging out at Earl's house, as usual, and he asked me to run him down the street to buy a Coke. When we got in the car, I remember feeling a sense of urgency that this was the moment that I was supposed to answer that nudging from the Holy Spirit to express my feelings. When we pulled back into the driveway, I turned the car off and said, "I have something I need to talk to you about." Earl looked at me and said, "Okay, go for it."

I know he was beyond unprepared for what came out of my mouth. Now I did not tell him that I knew I was going to marry him. GOD didn't ask me for that. He asked me to express my feelings. So I began to explain to him that over the past few months I had developed feelings for him and I didn't know how to deal with it or what to do with them.

Here's another disclaimer *** before I tell you what his response was, don't label him as a jerk or bad guy. He was completely and utterly honest with me from the very beginning and I never expected anything more than what he said to me. As I said earlier, it took a few years to know GOD's purpose, which by the end of this entry you'll have insight that I, nor Earl had.***

Earl looked at me with compassion in his eyes and, said, "Rock, I'm flattered, really I am, but I don't feel that way about you. I only have Christian sisterly love toward you and you need to pray and ask GOD to take your feelings away because I don't and can't see you in that way. I'm just not attracted to you."

Sure I expected that type of response and despite knowing GOD wanted me to do that, it still hurt. I looked at him and said, "Okay. Please don't let what I've said change our friendship." He said, "It won't." We got of the car and went in and it was as if it had never happened, not just that night, but for the duration of our friendship.

You see, attraction is a funny thing. It's mostly physical at first and it's either there or it's not there. And I'd argue it's much easier for someone to become unattractive than it is for them to become attractive, especially from a man's perspective. They really are much more sight driven than women and while telling Earl I had feelings for him, may have seemed like a stupid thing to do, it was GOD showing HE is always in control. I've asked Earl many times what changed and how he became attracted to me and he says it was like scales fell off his eyes and he saw me for the first time and there's just no other way to explain it. GOD joys in doing just that, the unexplainable. HIS ways are NOT our ways, but really would you have it any other way? Look at what a mess we make of the simplest of tasks. So when you feel GOD asking you to do something stupid (or so you think) remember HE is in control and HE has a plan.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Sign & Waiting Times

The next few months were filled with questions and doubts and moments of belief and then confusion. So many times I was sure GOD had spoken to me and at other times I felt...well, crazy, for lack of a better way to explain it. Discerning God's voice can be difficult at times, to say the least; we have a very real oppressor...his whole purpose is to destroy whatever purpose GOD had given you. However, GOD always makes HIS voice clear (if you're listening and even when you're not sometimes). The confusion comes when you allow the devil to distract you or to make you doubt GOD's plans, and during that time satan gave me plenty of reasons to doubt. Earl never once gave me a clear sign that made me think he looked at me any other way than as a friend. So the sign GOD gave me next, led me to hold on to a dream for the next three and half years of my life.

It was an odd conversation really, not because of the subject matter, because between three 20-somethings it's most certainly a common topic, but where it went after was what was so intriguing.  Earl, Rebecca and I were taking kids home on the church bus after service. After dropping the last one off, we began discussing how to know you've found the "one". Of course we all had our opinions, and for the past three months I had become quite certain he was the man sitting in the driver's seat. As we each opened up, I said, "Don't you think GOD could show one person and ask them to wait until it was clear to the other?" Earl was convinced that was impossible really. Why would God do that? He was confident that GOD would show both of them around the same time and my idea was preposterous...that's just not how it will happen he told me.

Obviously, at the end of that ride, needless to say, I felt a bit defeated. I mean Earl knew the Bible much better than me and maybe I had created a reality that I wanted to be true. After all, I was really just learning how to know GOD in an intimate way. Then Earl suggested we call Brother Ed, our Bible teacher on Wednesday nights. Brother Ed was much more well versed in Biblical knowledge than either of us and he could give us an example in the Bible that would solve our debate.

I remember a faint joy leaping back into my heart as Brother Ed told us that it could absolutely happen that way and used the story of Isaac and Rebecca. He explained that the person GOD showed could find rest in the LORD (Psalm 37:7) until it was revealed to the other. Quietly I was thanking GOD for this...that is until Earl looked me squarely in the eyes and said, "I know what situation you are talking about and it's never going to happen. I know for a fact." Talk about climbing a mountain only to be kicked right back to the bottom. I was more than devastated, I was sure he knew I was alluding to us.

As we went home that night, I remember Becca doing all she could to encourage me and help me hold on to the faith that GOD had given me a clear sign of HIS plans for my future. Thankful for it, sure, but really taking it in, I wasn't. It was quite obvious to me that I'd allowed myself to be deceived...deceived into believing something that was merely a mirage. I was flooded with more doubt in that moment than ever. Had I thought this up? Had I just developed a crush and decided to make it GOD's will? What do I know? How do I let go?

When I arrived home, I went to my room and immediately hit my knees. I cried and wept before GOD and begged HIM to show me why. Why had this conversation taken place? Why did I have this dream and these signs that overwhelmingly pointed to Earl as the person GOD had chosen for me to spend my life with? Why? Why? Why?

A sense of peace overwhelmed in that time of  prayer. GOD comforted me and told me to trust HIM. How I was supposed to do that I didn't really know, but I knew I had to. I took the phone and called Becca and began sharing the peace I'd had while praying and I thanked her for her encouragement. She said, "Maybe all this happened so GOD could show Earl it might happen differently than he thinks."

Almost immediately after hanging up, the phone rang. I was sure it was Becca calling back for one last encouraging thought...but it wasn't. Who it was shocked me really, but even more so than who, was the words that proceeded out of his mouth in that moment. Earl had had my number for a while, but he'd never actually called me. As he began to speak, tears streamed down my face..."You know," he said, "I've been thinking about what you said. I guess GOD could work that way. I mean if there was a girl out there and GOD showed her I was the one and she was willing to wait, then yeah, I guess it could happen."

I really cannot even begin to give a description of the feelings within my heart and soul at the moment. It was more overwhelming than I could explain.  A few months later Earl told the situation he was talking about was Becca and his brother Adam. I laughed and said, "No. I was talking in general. Becca doesn't think she's supposed to marry your brother!"

As the conversation came to a close that night, I knew GOD had shown HIMSELF to me in a monumental way and it was something I'd never forget. To know HE had heard my prayer fifteen minutes earlier and even before I had asked for help to understand and keep believing, HE was working on Earl to deliver my answer. Earl didn't say it could work for anyone. He said it COULD work for him.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Intricacies

A close friend of mine got engaged a few days ago, and as I sat here thinking and smiling about the time and detail that GOD took in weaving the in and outs of their love story, well, it's just beautiful. Then I began pondering the intricacies of my own story. It truly is exquisite when GOD writes your story. From the moment HE showed me who I was going to marry until the moment I said I do, no writer in the entire world could have orchestrated a more artistically alluring love story for me to share. (Really, eat your heart out Hollywood, because you've got nothing on my LORD! You'll see I promise.)

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Desires of MY heart...

Honestly, I've really struggled with the next part of the story. I wish the rest of the story were just a bed of roses, but this is the turning point...the time when I really began to learn who GOD was. HE was there every moment I'd been away. HE was walking with me. HE knew how empty I'd be, but HE let me learn on my own how lonely life apart from HIM really could be. HE knew why I'd allowed the world to sway me from sitting at HIS feet. And now, I needed more than just to know HIM—I needed to understand and genuinely grasp who HE was, so that I'd never be tempted to stop looking to HIM again. Throughout the next four years of my life, GOD became more than a being I'd heard about all of my life. HE became LORD of my life, and this is how.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Feels Like Home...

It's amazing how when you really began to search for meaning in life, God just shows up. He makes HIS presence known. Whether it's in a book you're reading or a TV show you might be watching. Somehow HE just shows up. For me, it was in a song. Obviously, since I'd lost sight of who I was, my music choices weren't the godliest, to say the least, but as I listened to the soundtrack of one of my favorite shows at the time, HE spoke. I knew without a doubt it was HIM letting me know I was going in the right direction. I'll share the words from that song at the end of this blog and while it was written as a secular love song—those words were exactly what I felt as I traveled back home—home to the arms of JESUS.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Beginning...

As I've been pondering what is happening in our world lately, I started to feel defeated. If only I had more money, more time, more resources to help those hurting in Japan and then I remembered, I have the best gift of all...prayer. My prayers can change their reality. My prayers can heal their broken hearts. My prayers can protect them from any more devastation. My prayers can provide them with food, water, and shelter. My prayers really can do all of that—but not because they are MY prayers, but because of WHO hears them.

The story I'm about to share on this blog is just that; a story of prayer and it did all of the above for me.  Although the characters and their actions may not always seem to make sense, one thing was always constant. HE heard my prayers. HE did what I asked, not in my time or in the way I thought HE should have, but in HIS time and in HIS way. I hope if you are reading this, you will consider what HE wants to do for you as well.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Peanut Butter M&M's

Over the last few years, I've considered writing here and there, but I kept saying to myself, "Who really cares what I have to say?" And then it happened. God said, "Let there be writing!" All joking aside, I really felt a calling to begin writing again. Whether anyone cares what I have to say is irrelevant... because God cares. Every thought I have, every idea that crosses my mind, every part of me He completely loves and embraces.  My whole life I've been told I should write...all through school, in various jobs, but I never really believed it. After hearing God speak it, I decided I should BELIEVE it...after all, He designed me, He knows better who I am than I do. I guess that means, I have finally come to terms with what He has laid on my heart. I have a story to tell that others need to hear. Without further ado, here is my first attempt at conveying how God has worked and still is working within me.