It’s the little things in life, isn’t it. Those baby steps forward to realizing a dream. Friday we took one of those baby steps. I was out spending some time with my oldest daughter. We decided to take a walk-about in our favorite…Whitehouse Antiques (I’ve been watching a series called “800 Words” about an Australian writer living in New Zealand. Hence the Aussie phrase walk-about….I like it.). For those of you who are in the dark about this sweet little place, let me enlighten you. It is a conglomerate of booths inside a rather unobtrusive, green building with the simple words Whitehouse on the outside. This simple treasure filled happy place abounds with the most amazing farmhouse, antique, creative items that will leave you breathless…….that may be a bit excessively descriptive, but I do find I feel a little lightheaded with all the possibilities that are packed into every booth. Anyway, I have gotten sidetracked about the baby step we took on Friday. I strolled through the aisles, trying not to fall too deep in the pit of my “wants” when I saw them. Two perfectly matched, oversized nightstands painted the same color as my king size bed….also purchased from this glory land of repurposed treasures. My hand went to my throat,I had finally found what I have spent months, no, years really, trying to find. I quickly took a picture, held my breath as I sent it with a text to my sweet husband. I’m not gonna lie, I prayed. They were just the right price (at least I thought they were). But I knew, he would have to agree and I knew that might be my dilemma. It’s all in the timing, people. It’s all about the stars and the planets being aligned perfectly. That may seem a little dramatic, but I know the common answer I might get and I didn’t want to hear that today. I waited for his response. I start to feel a little warm as I anticipated his answer. Suddenly my phone rang. It was him. This couldn’t be good. I answered, bracing myself for his answer of “We should wait.” A little history here. We’ve been married for close to 33 years. And in those 33 years I have heard this statement so many times, that I have often found myself being rather sarcastic by telling him “we should wait” when he is talking about buying something like food or shaving cream. I know, I’m not proud of it. But this day was different. It was a monumental day. I heard him saying “Yes! Those look great, go ahead and get them before someone else does.” All I could say was “Really?” Then of course, that was quickly followed by “Okay! Bye!” And I hung up before he could change his mind. I walked quickly to the front of Whitehouse and bought those nightstands…..I was literally breathless! We were taking a long awaited baby step to my dream. My dream of decorating my room like one of those Pinterest pictures…..or as my Mom used to say “Like a magazine.” We picked up the nightstands on Saturday morning and brought them home. I was almost giddy. He was so enthusiastic. I quickly moved the small chest on my side of the bed that I bought for $40.00 about 15 years ago at a roadside junk store, then went to his side of the bed and moved, now brace yourself, the old Singer sewing machine cabinet that was turned around backwards and had been serving as his nightstand for the last 15 or so years. I won’t even go into what we used before that. We slid the new (to us) nightstands into place and stood back to admire our baby step. Then I heard my big guy say “I’ve never had a real nightstand before. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had anything like nightstand before the sewing machine cabinet” I laughed….but then realized, I don’t think I have ever had one either. We have been married for nearly 33 years and have never “decorated” our room before. We’ve bought new bedding and we bought a new bed and dresser about 24 years ago, graduating from his old dresser and my parents old bed. We had put it off year after year because we were busy raising our baby girls and there were other necessities needed. Besides, no one ever saw our room anyway. But now. Here we are with a new (to us) king size bed frame….painted off-white….a king size mattress we bought 4 years ago and now we have matching nightstands…also painted off-white. We are very excited. Why, because it’s the little things….it’s the baby steps toward our dreams that make life fun. It’s finding re-purposed treasures in places you’ve been a hundred times. It’s realizing that the wait is worth it. It’s knowing that my big guy is in there right now, sleeping soundly with his new nightstand right beside him. It’s me realizing that sometimes “we should wait” for the right time.
Finding Joy Again
It’s 11:15pm and I cannot sleep. I decided to get up and write down what is swirling around in my head.
Tonight I went to dress rehearsal for our Christmas at the Corner program at our church. Technically it is our second dress rehearsal, as last night we were joined by our children’s choirs, Surrender student choir and the Amazing Grey’s Senior adult choir. It’s been awhile since we’ve done this…..it seems like years. Last night and tonight, I felt joy swelling up in my heart as I listened and sang words celebrating Jesus and the reason for His coming to live with us, for the sacrifice He made for us on the cross, all because of God’s love for us. Joy. Everywhere I have turned in the last weeks, this word has resonated in the scriptures I have read and in the music I have listened to. But tonight I realized that the joy that was filling up that sanctuary was new. It was joy returning to our hearts and our lives. We were getting it…..we were feeling it.
A year and a half ago joy began to be sucked out of the world, and fear began filling the places in our hearts that were becoming void of joy. And we let it happen. Believers who knew what the joy of the Lord looked like, what it felt like and what it tasted like, began to allow fear to fill their minds and lives. No more smiling, no more touching, no more worshipping together. Slowly an ever present sense of fear began to fill all the places of our lives. It was being forced on us from every direction. It was mandated to us, along with masks and an endless flow of media. It divided us. And we let it happen. Churches became vacant and closed their doors. Yes, to follow the rules and to protect their people, but we also closed the doors to our homes. And we hid. Fearful. Joyless.
We unplugged from our faith families and we plugged into the world’s view of this new environment we lived it. We believed everything that was fed to us. We ended our relationship with gathering together. We stopped any kind of fellowshipping with other believers. And we waited for the new truth to tell us when we could be set free. And we continued to let it happen.
Christmas 2020 was dark. People still fearful. Masks still mandated. The world continued to yell at us. It was a joyless time that is normally a time of celebration for all believers to focus on the real reason for this season, the birth of the Messiah, our hope. We remembered the season, but we didn’t celebrate. We were still hiding. Joy seemed so far away.
But then something began to happen in 2021. We took off our masks. People began to turn off the continued rhetoric from the world, and we turned our minds to God. The almighty God, more powerful than any virus, stronger than any mask, more trustworthy than any government. We began to understand how to navigate through this time, respecting others and putting our faith and trust back where it belonged….in God.
But the effects of the last twenty-one months has taken it’s toll. People still struggle with fear. A fear they can’t shake. A fear that has now taken up residence in their hearts. People who once were faithful to church, now prefer streaming. People who once stood shoulder to shoulder with other believers lifting their voices in worship, now find themselves unable to return to their pre-pandemic way of life. For some, joy has left them.
But tonight, as I stood in the choir singing as loud as I could, I found great joy in singing about the birth of Jesus, about what He did for us on the cross, for the hope He gives us, for saving me and loving me that much! I looked at the faces around me and I saw the joy on their faces. Something warm and fuzzy was churning deep in my soul. Joy! I didn’t even know I missed it! I didn’t even realize that what the world had been trying to take away from us was the unexplainable, amazing inner joy that permeates the soul of a person when they understand who God is, what He did for them, how they can never do anything to be good enough to spend eternity with God except for asking for forgiveness and being completely forgiven. The joy of a Savior that gets us, and walks with us, and provides for us, and loves us unconditionally. Not happiness, people. But joy. Knowing He will never leave you or forsake you joy! Being made new and feeling it from the inside out kind of joy! The knowledge that God is in control kind of joy! Bigger than all the evil in this world kind of joy. Joy that can’t be adequately explained.
People. If you know Jesus as your personal Savior. If you have experienced that moment when you realized you were a sinner, and you confessed your sin and asked for forgiveness, then asked Jesus into your life forever and always. You know joy!
So I challenge all of you, break free, breathe in Jesus and experience the joy of this season! Our season. Our time to focus in on the reason for this season. Tell your children what real joy is. Tell your friends what real joy is. Tell your family what real joy is. Take yourselves to church this Sunday and surround yourself with other believers, sing as loud as you can, soak up the words the Lord gives your pastor, wear a mask if it makes you feel better, but find JOY once again.
“Weeping may spend the night (or 21 months) but there is joy in the morning.”
Psalm 30:5bContinue reading “Finding Joy Again”
Day 12 of Encouragement
You didn’t miss anything, I haven’t posted in 3 days. AND I shortened the title. I’ve been thinking. Thinking about what else I can say that hasn’t already been said. As I lay in bed last night, familiar scripture ran through my mind. Psalm 23. I thought about the meaning of these words in light of today. And I was comforted by the sense of peace that these verses bring to a trembling world. We tremble when we go out. People in our medical facilities tremble as patient after patient come in with this rampant virus. Mamas tremble as they watch their babies playing in a shut down world, and they consider the measures they will take to protect them. Fathers tremble as they think about job loss and providing for their families. The elderly tremble as the news repeatedly report that the elderly are at the highest risk. Cancer patients tremble as they know their compromised immune systems could not fight off these germs. Pastors tremble for wisdom on how to shepherd in this strange time and how to minister when we are told to social distance ourselves. Police and Fire Fighters tremble at every call they have to make as to whether they will be infected, or worse, take germs home to their families.
Psalm 23 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
Let me stop right there for a moment. We can rest in the truth of a shepherd who will provide our needs, and while we are all disconcerted over confinement to our homes, maybe it is God “making” us lie down in green pastures. A time to be still and to rest in Him and not be fearful. Allow Him to restore your soul during this time.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
This time may feel like we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. We may not have the virus ourselves, but the affects of the spread of this virus is casting a shadow over everything in our lives. But we do not have to fear, for HE is with us. His rod and staff comfort me. The rod represents His authority and the staff represents His guidance in our lives. Knowing these two things, His authority and His guidance in our lives do comfort us. As His children, His hand is active in our lives, guiding and leading us.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
God’s provision in our lives is dependable. We don’t need to panic as many people are doing. We do, however, need to be sensitive to the needs of others and help when we can. Because we have more “free time” we can spend more time seeking Him. We can focus on His will for our lives. We can get a perspective not cluttered with the busy-ness of events, entertainment, and all the go-go-go that we experience in our everyday lives. And then we can shout as loud as we can, for ourselves and those around us “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and then I will camp out in the house of the Lord….FOREVER!” (I don’t know why I added the quotes there, because I obviously paraphrased the exact wording!)
So today. Rest beside still waters. Think about the glory, the goodness and the mercy of God. Shut down the news reports. Block out the uncertainty. Eat a good old ham sandwich…or peanut butter and jelly….and sit at the table and give thanks. Allow your cup to overflow with His goodness. Speak truth into the lives of those quarantined with you. Tell Bible stories to those kiddos that are in your house. Sing worship with them. Of course do school, too, but integrate God into everything. What an opportunity you have to wrap them in God’s Word and teach them to live a life that honors Him. Ask God for wisdom, for discernment and peace (and maybe patience!). He is faithful to give it.
Day 9 of Social Distancing Encouragement
Romans 8:26-27 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
I don’t know about you, but I have been in that place. Unable to articulate the words that are in my heart. At a loss for the right words. How about you? Even now, in the midst of this situation that has captured our entire country, many of us bow our heads to pray and can’t find exactly the words that best describe our state of mind. I find myself just sitting at my dining room table, Bible open, soft instrumental worship music playing, and I am just sitting in silence while I try to focus on God, try to think of exactly what I want to say, and not wanting to repeat the same words over and over about killing the Corona virus. I don’t feel fear. I’m not even overwhelmed. But there is a feeling of weakness. I am thankful that God, knowing the limitations of our human spirit, made a way for the words we cannot even utter to be heard through the interceding of the Spirit. Relief! That is what is felt instead. Peace. Not chaos or fear.
Today, just sit in His presence. You may not even know how to express what is weighing on your heart. But allow the truth of the Spirit’s intercession on our part to wrap around you like a warm blanket.
Day 8 of Social Distancing Encouragement
Jeremiah 29:12-13 “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”
Most people know the verse that precedes these two verses declaring the Lord has plans for us, but these two verses are so much more comforting with the promise that if we seek Him we WILL find Him. We want to know that God hears us. Perhaps it is that we humans are self-centered at the core of who we are, or maybe as believers it confirms the hope we have in Him. Being heard somehow affirms the belief or faith we have in an all knowing, all powerful God.
But here is something we should consider in this seeking and finding….it often involves our wrestling with God, because while we want to seek and find God, we don’t necessarily want the necessary changes that must be made to our lives in order to walk closer with Him. Wrestling with God is life altering. Wrestling with God can leave wounds and scars so that we can be reminded of the change that God has done in us.
We have been given a unique opportunity of time to seek God. Time to open His Word and hear His voice. Time to wrestle with Him over areas in our lives that need to be examined. Time to wrap our minds around what He wants us to do in this next season of life and to strengthen our faith and determination to stand strong and do it!
I encourage you today to be still. To seek Him. To have a time of worship through music. To honestly ask Him what He wants you to do next. To pray and ask Him for discernment and wisdom. If we seek Him, we will find Him. If we pray, He will hear us. Let’s do it with all our hearts.
Day 6 of Social Distancing Encouragement
Psalm 28:7 “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him.”
Today has been a heartwarming day. The weather was gorgeous, we started the day at 9:00am doing Lifegroup on the Google Duo (we’ll use Zoom next time) with our 10-12th grade girls class, followed by online worship with FBTC praise team and Pastor Derek. It almost felt normal. While it was awesome and unique, it just doesn’t replace the face to face fellowship with our church family. But we have to keep telling ourselves this is temporary. We must keep our eyes on Him and let Him be our strength and shield. I like the shield part…..shielding us from the Corona!
A quick word knowledge right here. The word “exult” means to feel or show triumphant elation or jubilation. That word “elation” means great happiness and exhilaration. Chew on that for a moment. Re-read that verse with that definition in the place of exult. It’ll totally change the impact of this verse.
Psalm 28:7 “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts and I am helped; my heart feels triumphant exhilaration, and with my song I give thanks to Him.”
I want to insert a happy dance right here. I don’t know about you, but I needed this today.
I’ll stop right here with a little bit of transparency. I had a rough evening last night. I think the week of “self quarantine” and lack of contact with friends and regular schedule, plus the constant news updates from my big guy caused a meltdown. Sadly, my last 5 days of encouragement didn’t seem to hold a candle to the overwhelmed feeling in my soul. I allowed the chaos and confusion of this world to seep in and start a small fire of fear. I told my big guy to stop talking to me and after I cried a few tears of uncertainty, I was better. I read some more scripture. Prayed really hard. Listened to worship music. And I felt myself stepping away from the edge of the pit. However, sleep evaded me. I tossed and turned and could not get to sleep. I resorted to Melatonin and within an hour I drifted off. I woke this morning with a much better outlook. I reminded myself of the complete truth of this verse…..He is my strength. He is my shield. And I DO TRUST HIM! And I am helped. My spirit was lifted. He reminded me with His Word that whatever happens, whatever the next weeks look like, I can trust Him. I can choose to declare His faithfulness and redirect my emotions when I feel things closing in.
So let me encourage you right now. This ain’t over yet. Be strong and courageous. We may be staring down two weeks of lockdown, tighter than the last week or two we’ve experienced. We will need to sing…..a lot! We will need to declare His faithfulness….a lot! We will need to remind our hearts that we trust Him….a lot! Because we are silly humans who have the attention span of a gnat. We will need to connect via Zoom, FaceTime, Google Duo, Skype or whatever else is out there to connect over the internet with friends and family and a remind them as well. Let’s commit to having an attitude of gratitude over the next couple of weeks and to treat each other and ourselves with kindness.
Thank you for coming back and reading each day. Please “like” my posts on my blog, if you don’t mind and follow me, if you aren’t already doing so. Also feel free to share with your email list of friends….I would GREATLY appreciate it.
Keep the faith
Day 4 of Social Distancing Encouragement
Sadly I realized at about 2:30am this morning that I did not post encouragement for today…..uhhh…..yesterday! And, sadly, the verse I was going to post on was about love. Not sadly that it was on love, but sadly it was on love and I forgot to post in the midst of all the love going on in our family!!!!
John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
All that love in two verse in John, in the midst of a global pandemic, in the midst of a suggested/requested quarantine, and I forget to post! Let me state my case for forgetfulness. I actually didn’t totally forget, but I let the day get away from me. Yesterday was Molly Grace’s 21st birthday. The baby of the family. Our baby girl who loves birthdays and family and cake and is the best present opener EVER!
My two older girls braved the pandemic and hit two stores and a bakery in an effort to try and make it a normal day as possible. Life is so full of uncertainties right now, we felt the need to do our best to gather and celebrate, before we are forbidden to gather and celebrate even as families. We found Flour Girls open and willing to let me in to purchase a dozen cupcakes to deliver to her office. We pulled up to the front door of her work, crossed our fingers they would let us in, even though we weren’t there for an appointment. I waltzed right in and up to the counter where she sat smiling and surprised. I kept the required 6 foot distance (after putting the box of cupcakes on the counter) and sent all the air hugs possible to our baby girl. I dropped off the older daughters and went home to begin the preparation for the birthday party. I found party decor in a box that I had been saving and decorated the dining room. I baked a strawberry cake, with chopped up strawberries in it and topped it with cream cheese icing. We prepared her favorite Shrimp Bisque and set the table. The family all arrived at 6:00 (thankfully there is no curfew as of yet) and we celebrated her life. Somehow, in the midst of everything going on, we needed to do something normal. We have five more birthdays and a new baby coming in the next few months, and we aren’t sure how it will all play out. We are being bombarded everyday with COVID19, or “the Corona” as we like to refer to it, whether the information is fact or not. Shelves in stores are getting less stocked as time goes on. Numbers in our coastal city, Mobile, or creeping up, as they are across the nation. Weddings and baby showers and other events are being cancelled every day. School has been cancelled. Churches are becoming techno smart in order to stay connected with their people. People are becoming unemployed all around us. And this verse couldn’t be more accurate today, right now.
We need to love. We do not need to fear. We need to celebrate. We need to remind ourselves and others that God is in control. We need to be smart, but we need to still gather in small groups if we can. We need to breathe in and breathe out.
So I am sorry for getting caught up in the preparations for her birthday celebration. But the gathering of our family did us all good. It felt normal. And for a couple of hours of food, fun, laughter and celebration, we loved on each other.
Be as normal as possible. It doesn’t have to be a “big” deal, but keep on hugging, laughing, and reaching out others, even if hugging isn’t possible. Happy birthday, today, to all those who are sitting at home, working at a desk or out looking for toilet paper. (I still don’t understand or obsession with this one).
And. Just for the record. We only had 9 and 2 little people (ages 2 and 2 months) which could technically be considered as 10. So we didn’t break the rules!
As a side note…..I am not encouraging excessive touching or spreading of germs. We should all respect the fact that there is a virus out there that is contagious and we should be careful. So maybe air hugging is the best option for now. And keep your groups at 10. And no sneezing or coughing in anyone’s direction!
Day 3 of Social Distancing Encouragement
Hebrews 10:23 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for He who promised is faithful.”
There is a lot of wavering going on. Whether it is in the news, the internet, the grocery store or in a conversation with friends and family. Wavering is about “becoming weaker, faltering” and I hear the conversations of people I know ranging from the world is coming to an end to a myriad of conspiracy theories. But for now, I want us to focus on the conversations of believers. As believers, people who express faith in an all knowing, all powerful God, we need to stop the wavering. We know in our hearts that God is bigger than this situation, but our minds are soaking up every news report, every article, every Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter post. It is causing conflict in our souls. Stop! Don’t waver! Reach out and hold on as tight as you can to the confession of where your hope is, in Jesus Christ! Let’s be smart, mind you, wash our hands, social distance yourself from crowds, be aware of any change in your physical health, but goodness, move your focus to scripture and worship, and reminding yourself that you trust God above all else. Speak His truth, not the endless flow of true or fake news flowing through the media 24/7. He is trustworthy. The world is not.
I am not, in any way, making light of being informed, or of the suffering that is rippling around the world because of this virus. But we cannot succumb to the fear that satan is using to make us feel weak and vulnerable. His efforts to divide and separate us as believers will not work. We’re smarter than he thinks we are. We are finding ways to connect without breaking the rules or endangering others. We will still gather and share God’s Word, whether in tiny groups or through streaming connections. We will pray for each other. We will find out about needs and devise creative ways to meet the needs! We are His people. He has equipped us. Why? Because He is faithful. So shoulders back, chin up and no wavering.
Time Marches On
I just noticed that it has been two months since my last post. A lot has happened in the last eight weeks: Thanksgiving, surgery (for me), Christmas, a new grandbaby, a new year, and I broke a front tooth. Our lives are eventful, if nothing else! Knee replacement surgery December 5th sent me on a road to recovery that included pain meds, physical therapy (pure torture), lots of tears and frustrations, first a walker then a cane, and quite honestly a lot of rest. I have always considered myself to have a high tolerance for pain, I was wrong…at least in this aspect! I’m still in process, feeling my age, but getting a little better each day. I’m off the pain meds, a personal choice, so the Norco induced bouts of weepiness have ceased!
A beautiful princess entered our lives three weeks early. We Armstrong women cannot seem to carry a baby to full term….but we sure do have beautiful babies! Maybe they are just eager to meet us face to face! Nora Kate arrived on December 31st and let everyone know she had arrived with a fireworks celebration! Or, maybe that was just the city celebrating the new year. We’ll always tell her it was to celebrate her birth! Mom, Dad & Big brother are still getting acclimated to having a princess amongst mere peasants! Sam’s name for his new sister is “Puppy”. Which is a step up from completely ignoring her presence. We’ll let it go for now, it will make for a cute story one day. But for now we will keep Princess Nora Kate in the dark about her brother’s nickname for her for his protection.
Daughter #2 finally has a distinct baby bump as we look forward to the arrival of a second princess. She is beginning to prepare all things possible for baby girl and it’s so fun watching our middle girl researching life with baby and so interested in all that goes with this special event. Such a change for this gifted, goal oriented girl. It makes us smile.
The newlyweds are navigating their way through married and adulting life. Two months in and they are now the proud fur parents of a golden doodle called Milo. We still think of them as kids, but I’ve got to step back and let them figure out life together and not fret.
As for Lynn and I, we’re stumbling through adapting to an empty nest, but more on that in the next post.
So, about that broken tooth. As if trying to heal and basically learn to walk again isn’t enough, I broke my right front tooth last week. It was horrifying. At least in my mind it was traumatic. Of course, I had taken a Norco after PT that day, so perhaps that may have contributed to the tears and freak out moment!. I had fixed myself a healthy lunch, and was proudly limping around the kitchen, when I opened the frig for a bottled water and spotted a Lindor Truffle sitting on the top shelf screaming my name. I thought “Ohhh I want that.”. Bad decision. It was hard because of being in the cold frig. I eagerly unwrapped it and bit into it. I felt a click in my front tooth. I thought “That was weird” and when I touched my tooth it felt fine. I shrugged and sat down to my healthy lunch, but as I bit into the ham and cheese roll up, it clicked again. This time I knew. Horrors. I felt the back of my front tooth with my tongue and felt the break. I cried. I know, big surprise. I frantically called my dentist, and they took me right in. Now remember, I took that Norco after PT and by the time I got in the dentist’s chair, it was working. I was chatting away. My oldest daughter was with me and she confirms that I was talking….too much. In comes Dr Wright. I don’t remember this, but my daughter says it is true. I looked at him and asked him how old he was, and then said, without skipping a beat, “You look fifteen.” I’m mortified now, but then I was feeling no filter in place on my thoughts escaping my mouth. He was sweet and told me he was twenty-eight. (Still young for a dentist, in my head!). So now I am sporting a temporary bridge right up front. Not on the side or back where no one can see….Right. Up. Front. I’ll get the permanent one the end of February.
Well, life goes on and here we are just a few days from the end of January. I am sure this year holds many more expected and unexpected experiences, and as always, we will take them in stride and know that it’s just life. This experience will pass, and time will continue to march on.
It Takes a Village
I have never really put a lot of thought into the statement “it takes a village to raise a child” and that may be because I heard Hillary Clinton say it once and I some how associate that phrase with her. But in the Christian community, in the church family, it does take the village to raise our children to be people who understand what God did for them, then to teach them what it means to have a relationship with Jesus and to live a life that honors God. That church family of precious believers are the family that pours truth into their lives. The family that cheers them on, encourages them and often comes to their rescue.
This weekend I saw this village of believers come to rescue the wedding day of my youngest daughter. My girl had been dreaming of this day at this perfect outdoor venue for well over a year. Our area of Alabama is known for unpredictable weather. It is said, if you don’t like the weather, hang around for about fifteen minutes and it will change. Saturday morning, just as forecasted, was rainy. Not torrential, downpour rain. But steady rain. I stood inside the house of the Historic Malbis Nursery watching the puddles form outside, trying to devise a Plan B. I could not fathom how we would get over 150 guests, the food and the ceremony inside the building. We decided to wait it out and be flexible with some of the decorations. Thankfully I had brought a stack of towels “just in case”. We delayed putting linens and centerpieces on tables. And we prayed. Yes. We asked God to make the rain stop for a wedding. It seemed shameless and selfish to ask such a thing when people in other parts of the world were praying for food! But we prayed. We asked our friends to pray. We asked social media to pray. My husband and I went back to the hotel to get ready while our baby girl was in the bridal suite getting hair and make-up done. We got a phone call right before we were leaving to return to the venue. We were needed for a “first look” picture asap. As we rode back to the venue we noticed that the rain had stopped and the sun was beginning to shine. We just smiled. God in his sovereignty had chosen to answer our prayer. As soon as we arrived we were wisked away to see our baby girl for the first time. We were in awe at the young woman standing before us. No longer a little girl. No longer our baby. But a beautiful young woman ready to marry the love of her life.
When we stepped inside the venue there was a beehive of activity. Friends were everywhere blowing rain off the outside brick flooring, drying chairs, wiping down tables. Linens were being put on tables and centerpieces arranged. The caterer was busy organizing the banquet of food. The one desire of my girl was to have chiffon draped at the ceremony site with a beautiful wooden cross draped in eucalyptus. With the rain it didn’t seem an option because of the continued light dripping of rain off the greenery that covered the venue. One of our friends told me to send him the picture of what she wanted and he would make it happen. Within a short time I looked out and two wonderful men had intricately draped the chiffon exactly like the picture I had sent them. I grabbed my daughter as she was headed back to the bridal suite and showed her the ceremony area. Big tears welled up in her eyes as she smiled. She was so happy.
The events of the day progressed. People kept coming. Chairs were pulled from the reception area to accommodate the number of guests. First the pastor, groom and groomsmen. Then the bridesmaids along with my grandson wearing a sign “Uncle Zach, here comes your bride?”
Then the moment came, my sweet big guy escorting his last daughter down the aisle. My memory raced back to a year ago as he escorted our second daughter down the aisle for her November wedding. He had only been out of the hospital for a week from his last week long chemo treatment. He was weak, bloated and hairless from five months of treatment, but he was there, walking her proudly down the aisle. Here we were a year later and he looked amazing. New suit, bowtie, goatee and a huge smile. He proudly held her arm in his.
The ceremony began and then finished with our girl and her young man washing each other’s feet as their first act of love toward each other as they served each other just as our Savior did for His disciples in the last days before His return to heaven. It was sweet, it was moving, it was precious.
The reception followed with lots of dancing, hugs and laughter. They were surrounded by people who had poured into their lives. People who love them and have watched them in their walk with Jesus. People who willingly came and made this day perfect for them.
They departed in a flurry of confetti, bubbles and silly string. All appropriate for these to kids who fell in love in their church youth group, then dated for two more years before becoming engaged. Then they went to their hotel, quickly changed clothes and went off to bowl with a group of friends until almost midnight. I have to laugh at this last part. It just speaks volumes about the relationship and personalities of these two kids. Because in reality they are still kids at heart. Two twenty year olds stepping into adulthood, filled with love and excitement for what the future has for them. They have a wonderful support group around them. A village. A church family. They love Jesus and desire to live for Him. So here’s to a new life for Molly and Zach Johnson. I have a feeling God has big plans for these two!
As a postscript….I received a text from my baby girl later that night, while they were hanging with friends and bowling. It said “thank you for making my dream come true today, it was perfect.”