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 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 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 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'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 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'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..., 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."

" 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 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 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