Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Two Weeks Down

This is incredible! I've been engaged two weeks:

Groom, check
Groomsmen, check
Bridesmaids, check
Dress, check
Shoes, check
Jewelry, check
Choose bridesmaids dress, check
Choose tuxes, check
Choose flowers/colors, check
Venue reserved, check
Violinist & singer, check 
Pastor, check
Guest list, check
Registry started, check
Sanity still intact, check

A huge thanks to my wonderful husband to-be without which none of this would be possible! I love being creative and churning out ideas, but having someone to help organize and execute details has been a sanity-saver! God knew I needed a man who can plan! It has been such a fun bonding experience to do this together and I have seen that we make a great team! I never thought I'd be excited about planning a wedding because I knew I would be paying for it myself, but this has actually been fun so far! Keeping it simple helps.

I am excited for the next 4 1/2 months and for that day when I get to walk towards my man to be his bride!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I'm Engaged!

Just an ordinary Wednesday evening, after a casual dinner of chicken tortilla-less soup that I cooked, we went to the dock at White Rock lake where we've spent many nights talking. I suggested earlier in the day that we take a walk to the lake. Little did I know I was in cooperation with his little plan. We discussed Christmas traditions and laughed with the fisherman at the end of the dock who, frustrated with his tiny catch, called it a night. We moved to the end of the dock sitting to face one another, he rolled over onto one knee and reached in his pocket, "I was going to propose on Saturday night, but found out there was going to be a huge concert by the dock and I didn’t really want to do it in front of a thousand people...so I decided to do it tonight. My hesitation is that you told your family I was going to call but you haven’t given me their numbers yet. " I replied in a panicky tone, shaking my head, "It’s okay...I talked to them earlier today about it and they said it’s okay. We can call them again after it's official!" 

 With a giant smile, he proceeded, “Since we first met, you seemed like the perfect girl for me, but I didn’t want to believe it because it just seemed too good to be true...then one day I realized I was in love with you. My mom even said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but Stephen, you aren’t like other guys. You’re a little different, but she is perfect for you.” Then he said, “She’s right.  Your are perfect for me. I love you and I want you to be my wife. Will you marry me?”  
My reaction was priceless: In complete shock, I was not expecting a proposal for another week or two at least. I sat staring with a “perma-grin” as he anxiously awaited my reply. Finally I declared, “YES!!! I WILL marry you!!” He put the ring on my finger and embraced me before I almost fell backward into the water. I’d say He did a good job surprising me!

After we got our wits about us, we called my family (mom, grandmother and brother) to share the exciting news and he officially asked permission to marry me.  Gotta love the chronology! We marked the spot where we got engaged then went back to the place we spent hours talking on our first date and shared a fried peach pie a la mode to celebrate.

 The timing of this news was an incredible blessing on a typically hard day for my family, esp my grandmother.  November 7th is my grandfather’s birthday. Losing him last Christmas was really tough because we were really close and he always dreamed of walking me down the isle to give me away. No less special, my brother will stand in his stead and I’ll always remember the day I got engaged was on his first birthday in heaven! 

We asked the Asian fisherman, who witnessed the whole shebang, to take our picture on the doc.

At Good Friends, one of the places where we spent our first date.
Recent picture at a friend's wedding

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wondrous Attraction

 I whispered the words softly to hear his deep, crackly voice through the vocal cloud. His stiff sleeve rubbed my arm and leathery, sausage-like fingers squeezed tightly around mine to seize my attention. Smiling eyes shifted to meet mine and then closed. I let my gaze linger upon his saline-moistened face nodding up and down, as if he were envisioning the emblem on that hill far away.

Over a fierce game of Canasta, homemade mashed potatoes and fried chicken lingered on our senses as Tennessee Ernie Ford serenaded, “Jesus suffered and died, to pardon and sanctify me.”

Though far from grasping the essence of meaning for myself, when the tune of the Old Rugged Cross swayed in the air, I felt him cling to every word. The Old Rugged Cross held a wondrous attraction for him. Child-like curiosity forced me to wonder why he cherished like a lost treasure what the world despised.

From the backseat of the Grand Marquis, I heard the tape rewind for the umteenth time, etching the cost of Calvary on my mind. A world of lost sinners could not wash away the inscription. One day, I would understand why the dear Lamb of God left his glory above to save a lost sinner like me.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Why am I glowing?

“You are just glowing all over.”

Next they ask, “Is there something you forgot to tell us? Wink. Wink. What my friends are really asking is, “Is there a new special someone in your life?”

My response paints a picture of disappointment on their faces…until I tell them why I am glowing.

It happened again today and it got me thinking. Funny how people associate “the glow” with a new found romance. In fact, “the glow” does radiate from a fulfilling romance, but it’s not the kind you're thinking.  I am single with no prospects looming even in on the distance horizon. So why am I radiating?  It’s because I am involved in a romance that is more fulfilling than any earthly romance.

No matter how right he is for me, how godly, or how compatible we are together, man cannot fill the ache in my heart. I’ve observed a plethora of relationships from “just friends” to sixty-plus years married and it’s an obvious fact that only the God of the universe is going to fill the void in my heart (and yours) because he planned it that way. Even the happiest of human relationships still leave me wanting. The God who created us made us to find satisfaction in him alone.

He sacrificed his perfect Son to have me.
His commitment to me will not end.
His covenant will not be broken.
His promises will never fail.
He loves me unconditionally.
He considers me beautiful.
He looks out for my best interest.
He provides for my simplest and most complex needs.
He doesn’t tire of listening to me.
He never rejects me.
He accepts me even when I reject Him.
He is faithful in His love toward me.
His forgiveness never runs out.
He won’t leave me or forsake me.
He picks me up when I fall.
He finds me when I hide.
He is what’s best for me.
His love for me is unmatchable.
He romances me beyond my wildest dreams.
He surprises me with what I would have wanted if I had His imagination.
His love is addicting and can’t help but give my life to him and want to tell others about Him so they can experience how wonderful He is.

How am I so confident in His love, you ask. The reason is Jesus Christ. Let me tell you about how this man has completely changed my life and how He can change yours as well.

Jesus was God’s only son who displayed God’s perfection as a man living on earth, but without sin. He came because all the rest of mankind rebelled against God by disobeying His commands. The penalty for their disobedience was death, which created a chasm in the relationship between God and man that could only be restored under certain conditions: Either man had to die, or a perfect sacrifice had to be made on their behalf. God loved the world so much that He chose to give His only Son as a sacrifice for the rebellion of His people.

Jesus Christ was born of a sinful human and lived a perfect life among imperfect people to teach them God’s love. Then, as the ultimate example and necessary sacrifice, he poured out his life through death on a cross. This was God’s plan for reconciling the world to Himself. He died the most horrific and gruesome death ever known in order to pay for the disobedience of God's people. You see God loves us so much that he provided a way for our relationship with Him to be restored completely, forever.

Every person now has a chance to experience the most fulfilling relationship known to man. Trusting in Christ’s payment for your own rebellion will enable you to spend eternity getting to know Him, instead of experiencing separation and wrath for eternity. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by committing to a relationship with Him. God paid for your wrongdoings and mine with the sacrifice of His Son.

The decision to trust and follow Him will lead you to a relationship of complete and lasting fulfillment like you can never experience with any other human being. Does this sound like something you want, but haven’t been able to attain? Will you turn from your rebellion and trust Christ’s payment for your offense toward God so you can have this fulfillment and start glowing with giddiness?

I haven’t always had this glow of contentment, but I’m thankful that God has wooed me in such a way that my heart is now falling more in love with him...who loved and pursued me first. The glow you see is the overflow of that love and affection. I’m experiencing the romance of a God who loves me more than any man is capable of here on earth. I am fulfilling my purpose in displaying his complete sufficiency.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Who's Got Your Back?

Class ended and our minds could not contain our thoughts so Caitlyn and I sat on a bench for two hours discussing the implications of the gospel of grace, wondering what it would look like if we were to place our hope completely in Christ.

We talked about the inner conflict that we experience between hoping in our own efforts verses hoping in Christ alone for results and merit. It is so easy to find ourselves back in an "it all depends on me" mentality that forgets the God of the Universe is backing you.

The discourse continued for the moon and stars to hear every word. We hardly noticed all the passersby during our bench discussion, but one turned our attention toward something profound.

Dr. Hannah walked out of a classroom building with another professor beaming like the moon.  I wondered to myself why he might be smiling. Then he spoke of how brave we were to be out so late.

I asked him if he had a good class and he said, "Oh, I don't know what's good or bad anymore. When I was younger I used to think I knew what was a good class. I am learning as I get older, what I think is good, is really bad and what I think is bad is really good. So, I just let it go. And...I think our minds have a way of forgetting the bad and remembering the good."

I considered what he meant by "just letting it go" to mean that he surrendered the results. And that over the years he realized that the results have little to do with how well class went, but ultimately God using his efforts in spite of him. He walks into class expectant for God to work no matter what and he leaves confident that whether class seemed to go well or not, God is not limited by either.

I understood exactly what he was saying. After a two hour discussion about grace and hope in Christ, his comment couldn't have come at a better time. So I replied in awe, "Wow, Sounds like you trust the Holy Spirit to work with you or in spite of you."

Then I turned to Caitlyn and said, "Wow, that's a professor who models an understanding of grace in his own life."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

One Couple's Story: 61 years

"I'm gonna marry that girl!" he thought to himself when she walked out on the front porch, seeing her for the first time. My grandparents were set up on a blind date over 61 years ago by their friend Helen.

Memaw tell always her side of the story by saying, "I thought he was rich because he gave me a box of Whitman's samplers on our first date...I soon found out he was poor as dirt." And then she always adds, "I had to slap him three times on our first date....to see if he was awake." To this day I'm not sure that is true. Besides, you don't have to be around my grandfather long to have a hard time imagining him falling asleep on a first date.

Funny thing...as smitten as he was, he stood her up for the second date! She got a letter saying, "I'm in the army now! Please wait for me..." He enlisted, ready to set sail for Germany.

The entire 18 months she sent letters and homemade chocolate candy hoping for him to return. His comrades used to joke with him saying, "If you don't write her back man, we will! We've got to keep those chocolates coming!!"

They were married at a friend's house on October 20th, 1950. Twenty-one years young and sweetly naive they were finally ready to begin their journey together. My grandfather, a farm boy all his life, watched his father toil tirelessly over his crops year by year. It was far from the life he wanted for himself or his future family.

He spent a year farming tobacco for his pa in order to pay off his debt, then he landed a job working in the produce department in a local grocery store called the A & P. Little did he know that his first job selling produce would set a premise for his life as a salesman...he went on to sell groceries, vacuum cleaners, Pepsi, Lance snack foods, fresh caught fish, and now pecans and homemade pickles from his backyard business.

My grandfather 'retired' from Lance in 1983 and took up commercial fishing. If you know my grandfather, he doesn't do anything halfway. Every morning before sun-up he went to the river to work his nets then he would take his fresh catch to all his regular customers. He was my babysitter as little squirt, so I got to tag along when school was out. People would come out to greet him as soon as he drove up and in turn he treated them as if he'd known them forever; No one is a stranger to my grandfather.

A fishing accident during a northeaster found him clinging to a buoy amidst white caps in the Neuse River. He hugged the buoy and prayed for God to deliver him. The next thing he saw was angels hovering above the water and then a fishing boat coming his way. It was a sure sign to him that God answered his cry for help. Before long, he was back on safe ground giving God all the credit for saving him that day. Later they found his boat capsized along with his coolers of fish. This is a perfect picture of how faith and determination fuels this man's life.

He sold his boat once fishing became too much for his health, but it wasn't long before the "sales itch" returned.  Two commercial pecan-cracking machines arrived and he launched a very small venture called "Marion's Pecan Cracking".

The plan was only to crack local pecans for his customers, but a drought of local pecans that year helped carved a new course for his business. This challenge provoked his innovative genius and led him to the pecan groves of Georgia returning to eastern North Carolina with a trailer load of pecans ready to be cracked, shelled and sold.   Fourteen years later, he is still supplying pecans for people all over the United States from his backyard business.

To this day, he looks forward to the beginning of the busy season in November because he gets to enjoy two of his greatest pleasures: making sales and talking to the wide variety of folks coming to buy his pecans. Many days you'll even find him working after sundown to fill orders for the following day.

Memaw is always right there assisting and supporting him no matter what. Her prize-deserved pickles even wound up being sold right along-side the pecans. As she is to him, her pickles are a wonderful compliment to his pecans.

Over the course of 60 years my grandfather went from being "the produce man" to "the Lance man" to "the fish man" to "the pecan man." I joke with him that he really could sell anything if he tried and he should have gone into business for himself from the beginning. There is no telling where he'd be by now.

My grandfather instilled this work ethic and creativity into me from a young age. He used every teachable moment with me by his side to share these nuggets from his own life:

-Whatever you do, work hard and seek to rise above the challenges. Go above and beyond what is expected. Be dependable and strive for excellence in the mundane even when you think no one is looking...people will notice and more importantly the Lord sees your efforts.

-It is important to dress well and keep your appearance presentable because how you dress speaks of your character. First impression are lasting impressions.
People can be difficult so you can't let them get to you.

-Smile and reach out with enthusiasm and  embrace people for who they are. Ask how their day going.

My grandfather still refers my Memaw as his “best friend” and “sidekick.” They each serve each other in complimentary ways. He praises her endlessly for all her hard work in the kitchen and around the house. She in turn serves him by cooking delicious food , listening, and supporting him in all his adventures. They do not make any major decisions without consulting each other first.  As I've observed their marriage over the years, I notice that and have a committed love that is not emotions-driven. It's based on a covenant they made 61 years ago and it is a healthy reflection of God's love for us in Christ Jesus. The tide of emotions or circumstances does not change the course. Sacrifice is the basis of that kind of commitment and it comes with a  lot of give and take. It is not defined by pulling things your way to benefit self but rather extending yourself to give to the other what they lack. Sadly this is a missing link in my generation.

It is commitment to Christ and each other that "fuels" and "keeps the wheels turning" in their marriage. They are far from just an old married couple doing life together. They still love each other deeply and it shows in the way they interact daily by serving each other and talking about everything....they still flirt with each other (my grandfather mostly)...go on dates together to their favorite 3 restaurants in town (Moore's BBQ, Chic-Fila, and Pizza Hut)...play Canasta together (our family card game) and even though my Memaw is hard to beat, my grandfather won't quit! There is a lot of jesting and laughter that goes on around their table; It's one of my favorite ways to spend time with them.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

NYC 2011

I spent Labor Day weekend in New York City visiting one of my best friends and college roommate, Bethany Griffith (www.bethanygriffithnews.blogspot.com). We did everything imaginable in the city, but the best part was getting to spend quality time with her. It's hard to believe that we've been friends for over 10 years now!
Central Park
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Cafe Lalo
Cafe Lalo could be named one of my favorite spots in the Upper West Side. This quaint little cafe stars in the hit movie,You've Got Mail starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.

Times Square

 Alice's Tea Cup is an adorable tea room decorated in an Alice in Wonderland theme where they serve tea and scones. Let's just say that 99% occupancy were women!

Bethany, being the amazing friend that she is, also treated me to Sister Act on Broadway for my birthday. Though we were a little late because I was telling time on Central Standard Time!
We had many more wonderful experiences, but that's for another time...