Like a Bride

“Are you all planned yet?”  

I’ve gotten that question a lot this week.  Our wedding is in three months.  If we had everything planned, the next few months would involve us simply twiddling our thumbs and waiting for the big day to arrive.  But we still have a lot to get done.  I mean, isn’t there always something to do to prepare, even minutes before the ceremony?

“It goes by fast.”

Any woman that has gotten married before has told me that.  Honestly, the months leading up to our wedding in November have felt like years.  But time to prepare is running out.  There’s a lot of prep work that goes into a wedding.  Just this week alone, I’ve had to figure out our father-daughter and mother-son songs, attempt find a florist, meet with a potential photographer, order bridesmaids dresses, search for wedding shoes, send secret messages through my fiancé about the bridal shower, and mail out invitations.  This week has been the most productive week of my wedding planning.  And there’s still so much more to complete!  The food and cake has to be finalized at the venue.  The music list has to be just right.  I can’t forget to find out who gets corsages and boutonnieres among our family members!  I still have to make phone calls, send e-mails, confirm appointments, try clothes on, answer a million questions, and somehow find time to hang out with my friends and family.

All this work, all this effort, for one day.

For one day out of my life, I will wear the title as “bride.”  I’ve waited for this moment since I was a little girl.  The women in my family told me that I would one day meet my Prince Charming, handsome and sweet, and that we would live happily ever after.  I was taught that I would be swept off my feet and made to feel like a princess.  The woman that has been happily married looks back on her wedding day and remembers feeling as beautiful as ever, standing next to the man that promised to walk alongside her for the rest of her life.  This day is described by society as the best day of one’s life.  The more we prepare, the better the day will be.

We have been preparing for this day since our three-month anniversary.

After a great day at the beach, out to dinner, and watching the sunset, we finished our date in his pool.  He had noticed that I was a bit jumpy the whole day.  I giggled and told him that I was afraid he was going to propose, but I wasn’t ready yet.  I mean, we had only been dating for three months!  We had barely had the chance to get to know each other!  I waved my hand as if brushing off the topic.  “Well, we have a long way to go before we get married anyway.  Just let me know when you want to talk about it.”  My boyfriend made a face like he was hiding something.  My heart dropped.  “What are you thinking?” I cautiously asked him.  He shifted his weight nervously.

“I was planning on asking you to marry me on our six-month anniversary.”  

Suddenly, after my boyfriend had made that statement, we began to take our relationship more seriously.  While he was preparing financially to buy me a ring, I was preparing my heart to accept it.  I sought out advice from people I know who are happily married, and I prayed long and hard about what to do.  We spent time with our families and friends in order to truly get to know each other even better.  My boyfriend and I were truly becoming a team.  Then, when I least expected it, he took me to a park we like to visit together and asked me to marry him.  Without a doubt in my mind, I accepted!  Since that day eight months ago, we have been planning, preparing and anxiously waiting for the day when we will be “Bride” and “Groom.”  All this planning, all this money, and all this work for one day.  For twenty-four hours.  And then it’s all over.  The highlight of our lives will flash before our eyes, never to be seen again.

Is that really what life is all about?

One of the ways that my fiancé and I have prepared for this wedding is to keep God in the center of it all.  We have realized that the wedding is just one day, but the marriage is for the rest of our lives.  So we have invested more time in our pre-marital counseling and our marriage Bible studies than we have in thinking about the centerpieces.  We pray before every appointment, every phone call, and every store run.  And every time, God shows up and speaks to us in ways that we didn’t even realize were possible.  Why do we do this, you ask?

Because our marriage will be a symbol of Christ’s relationship with the Church.

This is a beautiful message of hope for people who have just gotten married, are going to get married, have been married for years, or have loved ones who have just gotten married.  Throughout the Bible, the Church is described as the Bride of Christ.  We have the blessed opportunity to exemplify Christ in our marriages!  We can show the world the love and commitment of our Lord through our relationship with our bride or groom. Ever since I had learned this idea several years ago, I had thought this simply referred to Christ loving us unconditionally.  Just as a groom vows to love his bride, God declares that He loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3) and that He will never leave us (Hebrews 13:5). In November, my fiance and I will make a commitment to love each other for the rest of our lives. But while driving to work one day, I realized that there was more to this relationship that I couldn’t have learned without being a future bride myself.  As I was sitting in traffic, the song “Even So Come” by Kristian Stanfill came on the radio.  The lyrics describe the Church being ready for Jesus to return to Earth.  After meditating on the words, it all made sense.

Just as we prepare for our wedding day, God calls us to prepare for His coming!

The Second Coming of Christ is a controversial topic in Christian theology.  Christians debate about the rapture, tribulation, and the antichrist.  Some people try to predict the day that the world will end.  While this topic is difficult to understand, it is a topic that brings us closer to God.  It is a topic where we have no choice to rely on God, because there is no way we can definitely know what is going to happen until Jesus comes back.  All we know is that there will be a wedding, a perfect reconciliation of Christ to His Bride, the Church.  Until then, we are called to prepare for what is to come.  What if we put as much effort into our wedding day than we put into even understanding His coming?  What if we read the Bible just as intently as we scroll through Pinterest looking at wedding dress models?  What if we prayed just as fervently as we wrote up our invite list?  What if we gave as much money to those in need that we do to venues, vendors, and gift recipients?  I mean, after all, if the wedding only lasts one day and we spend excessive amounts of time and money preparing, how much more should we be spending to prepare for our eternal life with Christ!   As I prepare for my wedding day in the upcoming three months, I pray that my relationship with my fiance will bring glory to God and will be an inspiration to others.  But we understand that our relationship is more than just a nice day at a fancy venue.  We want to work just as hard on our relationship with Christ as we work on our relationship with each other.  In the book of Matthew, Jesus warns His disciples through several stories to be ready for Him to come back to Earth.  Just as the wedding plans go by quickly, Jesus says that He will come when we don’t expect Him (Matthew 24:44).  Since we don’t know when Jesus is coming back, there is a sense of urgency to get ready soon!

So…are you all planned yet?


Poem: Vessel

I’m an empty cup
Waiting to be filled by you
So I can feel life

I’ve tried other things
To get the comfort I need
But they are not you

Nothing is enough
Even those who promise life
Only give small drops

I have grown thirsty
I have searched for many days
For some refreshment

I’ve waited for you
Since I have a thirst for you
I’m desp’rate for you

Finally you pour
You pour until I am filled
Thanks for the blessing

It’s not over yet
This will not be the last time
I need to be filled

Your fountain flows strong
Your love will never run dry
I’ll always need you

Each day I will come
To proclaim my trust in you
And receive your love


What Waiting Means to Me

“When are you ever going to…?”

Fill in the blank.

The answer, “I’m working on it” or “I’m waiting” doesn’t work for anyone anymore. What if you are doing everything you possibly can, but you are just waiting for your goals to come to fruition?

It seems like we don’t have permission to wait anymore. We have to know exactly what we’re doing in ten years and we have to prepare for those ten years right now. And if it doesn’t work out by tomorrow, scrap the plan and make a new one. We have to compromise our desires in order to get what the world wants. It doesn’t matter if you are waiting to find a good guy (or girl); just settle and forget about your standards. It doesn’t matter if it takes several weeks to hear back from your dream job; you need money now, so take a job that makes you miserable but pays well. It doesn’t matter if it takes time to cultivate a friendship; just harden your heart and don’t make new friends.

Personally, I am very impatient while waiting. When I have to wait, my insecurities come out. What if my standards are too high? What if I’m not good enough for my dream job? What if no one likes me? What if no one shows up for me when I need someone?

When I was a child, I used to hate waiting for my mom to pick me up from school. Every day, the thought would enter my head that she wasn’t going to pick me up. I was so afraid she would forget about me. As I watched the other kids run into their mothers’ arms, I realized that the chance of my mother coming was getting smaller and smaller. However, each and every time, whether she was early, late, or on time, my mom came to get me.

To this day, whether I’m waiting for something to come in the mail or I’m waiting for my work to show fruit, that feeling still creeps up on me. How do I know what I’m waiting for will even happen? What of my hope ends in disappointment? What if I end up waiting forever?

A few months ago, for an assignment for my class, I had to spend a period of time by myself. At the end of the day, someone was going to get me. It was like being in kindergarten all over again! I waited eight hours with no cell phone, no watch, and no form of entertainment but nature. I knew someone was going to pick me up (they couldn’t just leave me there!) so I trusted that I wasn’t going to be there forever. I waited a few hours sitting on a rock.Those few hours passed by slowly and miserably. But then I realized: It’s really beautiful out here. I started to go for a walk. I examined small rocks and pine cones and truly enjoyed the nature around me. By the time my friend came to pick me up, I almost didnt want to leave. Instead of sitting angrily and impatiently, I had truly enjoyed where I had been placed.

What if waiting meant enjoying what you already have until the next thing comes?

I’m waiting for a certain job that I’ve wanted for several months. While I wait, I’m enjoying where I work now. My co-workers are so nice and encouraging, and the job itself is rewarding and interesting. I’m also researching more about the job I am waiting to get, and doing what I can to build up my chances of getting the job. I could be sitting in my room, reading a book or sleeping, but that’s not productive. Waiting doesn’t have to be sitting idly and quietly. Life is short; while it’s important to rest, there is a lot of work to do! If I didn’t have a job while I waited, I wouldn’t have money, and I wouldn’t be able to do anything!

Don’t be afraid of waiting. If you’re trusting in God, what you are waiting for will happen. Nothing placed in the hands of God is wasted. But at the same time, don’t sit idly. Be productive while you wait. Enjoy what you have. Enjoy this season of your life. Because once you’re done waiting, this season is going to be over.


What Difference Does it Make? Part 5: Education

“L’ecole?” I don’t know very much Creole, but I was able to maneuver enough French around to ask some kids if they went to school. I happened to know that they probably didn’t, since school was in session while we were interacting with the kids. But I discovered that in order to get answers, you have to ask tough questions sometimes.

Since I aspire to be an English teacher, I am passionate about children going to school. Having done much research about education around the world, I know that many countries make students pay for their education. I had to hear from the Haitian people, the Haitian children, why they were not in school.

The answers they gave me made me shake my head in amazement.

“I don’t have enough money for a notebook.” “My family cannot afford my uniform.” “I am waiting for someone to donate school supplies to me.”

In the United States, a notebook costs 50 cents. I’m sure the schools in Haiti use special notebooks, but still, they couldn’t cost that much money!

From what I gathered, the financial roadblocks to education in Haiti are: tuition, school supplies, and uniforms. I was going to put the exact amount, but all I can confidently say is that uniforms cost about $40-50, and the orphanage where we stayed had to pay $30,000 altogether for all the children’s tuition combined.

Education is costly, but it pays off.

I mentioned on Saturday that child sponsorship typically helps children get to school. I am sponsoring a girl who needs help going to school. By giving a certain amount of money a month, I am helping her pay for tuition, a meal given at school, her uniform, and school supplies. I am confident that this little girl is going to make a difference in the world someday.

Little children in Haiti are so proud of the opportunity to go to school. They would run up to me in their uniforms and show off what they learned in school that day. Their parents parade them around the village, showing that they are financially stable enough to give their kids an education. Having the chance to go to school in Haiti is a big deal.

A lot of the kids who went to school helped the members of our team who were doing construction. They counted and sorted nails and helped cut wood. These are the people who are going to make Haiti a better place. These are the people who are going to make the world a better place.

We need more people like them. And all it takes is a chance for them to go to school.


Conclusion: Choose Joy

I said all the prayers they asked me to pray. I went to counseling sessions, and my counselor told me that I had a very good understanding of myself (basically telling me that I didn’t need a counselor).  I took anti-anxiety medication, ate healthy food, and exercised daily.  But at the end of the day, I was still anxious.  I thought that I had failed God, since everyone told me that anxiety was a sin.  I thought that God had failed me, since everyone told me that God is a healer and does not let his children suffer.  After a whole journey of faith, after having God strip me of everything that I once held dear so that I could cling to him, I still woke up in a panic.  Didn’t God want to heal me?  Didn’t he see how much I was in pain?

The night before I went on a retreat, I did not get any sleep. Irrational thoughts, that I knew were irrational, raced through my head.  What if the retreat center is on a mountain and I can’t breathe because of the thinness of the air?  What if I get food poisoning?  What if someone drops me off and then forgets to pick me up?  What if the other women in my room do not like me?  What if I end up having to share living space with a difficult person?  On and on, the ridiculous thoughts came.

I gave up on my attempt to sleep.  I sat up in my bed. “God, I don’t get it.  I’m doing everything right. I know these thoughts are wrong.  I have trusted in you, I have prayed, and I have given you everything. What are YOU doing?  Why are you making me suffer like this?”  I felt like God was asking me, “Do you trust me?”  I had to think about it.  God had been faithful throughout my entire life.  Why would he be unfaithful now, when I needed him the most?  Maybe he had a greater plan than what I had planned.

The next day, a group of us left for the retreat center.  The ride was pleasant, as the people in my car were optimistic.  We appreciated every aspect of the ride there, even when we got lost.  When we arrived, our friends were there to greet us and encourage us.

At the end of the retreat, I was not healed of anxiety.  Instead, God blessed me with joy.  I was so excited to have joy that I forgot about being anxious.  I realized that anxiety was a choice.  Although it feels overwhelming, we can choose not to let anxiety win.  I was waiting for anxiety to just stop; I was waiting for God to heal me.  Instead, God wanted me to fight against anxiety.  Those irrational thoughts did not come to me for the first time that night.  I had established a thought pattern that resulted in anxiety when I was a child.  It took me to my breaking point to fight against those thoughts I believed.

I learned that when I feel overwhelmed, I can choose joy.  At a very appropriate time in my life, my friend’s mom gave me a book that reminded her of me.  It was a devotional by Tommy Newberry, called 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life.  This book has helped me put the rubber to the road and fight anxiety with joy.  Just like anxiety is a choice, joy is a choice.  Newberry writes: “The word emotion is 86% motion.”  Emotions are caused by choosing to think a certain way.  The choice is ours: do we choose to focus on thoughts that give us anxiety, or do we choose to be free in joy?

Sometimes, when I feel a panic attack coming along, I just put on an encouraging song and I start dancing.  By the end of the song, my anxiety looks so insignificant.  When I’m not in a position to dance, I will color, write, or spend time with friends.  Since I recognize that I have a choice over my emotions, I no longer allow myself to think irrational thoughts.

Emotions don’t have to just happen; you can be proactive in your thinking and in your feeling.  Choose to believe what God says about you.  Choose to believe the truth.  Choose joy, and you will overcome anxiety.


The Truth of My Victory: Losing it but Winning

When I went to college, God taught me how to be dependent on him.  After praying and seeking wise counsel, I felt God wanted me to go to a college that was away from my family, my boyfriend at the time, and my comfort zone.  Still, I put up walls and tried to maintain control of my own life.  I made friends, but I wouldn’t let them know the real me.  I clung to what my church taught me, what my hometown had taught me, and what I had learned on my own.

My perspective changed when I arrived at my first class.  My professor taught us ideas that were contrary to my beliefs as if they were fact.  I even argued with him, proving valid points, but he would defend his arguments with quotations from philosophers, theologians, and other scholars.  This was the first time that someone had succeeded at deflating my pride, and it certainly was not the last.

I tried transferring to another school.  Expecting a perfect world, I tried to run away from my problems.  My problems with my boyfriend, however, did not go away. My jealousy of other people did not go away. My anxiety and anger did not go away. God put difficult people in my life to grow my character.  He showed me that life was not going to be perfect, that I wasn’t going to be perfect…but that it was OK.  Having a boyfriend wasn’t going to fix my problems.  Simply believing a set of beliefs wasn’t going to heal me.

As I learned more about the consistency of God – of his unchanging, unfailing love and faithfulness – I learned more of the truth that God will not change, even when my circumstances change.  I learned the truth about what God thought of me, that he loves me and he believes that I am worth knowing.  Despite the opposing voices that have kept me from pursuing my dreams in the past, God has always been encouraging me.  Finally, I learned that my past is definitely in the past.  I have been set free from the darkness that once ruled my life – the anxiety, the chaotic household, and the people who told me I would not succeed in writing – by God’s love and faithfulness.  However, I would have never learned that on my own.  God was the one who taught me that. He strategically placed the right people at the right time to break down my pride and be willing to listen to him.

To conclude my personal testimony, I want to let you know that God is the one who saved me. I want to publicly thank God for teaching me the truth.  I thought that it was me against the world.  I thought that I had no hope.  But in ways that only God could show, I learned that I have a hope and a future.  I have a reason to fight.  I have a reason to be free.

God has promised to give peace to all who ask for it.  If you have asked for peace, he is faithful to give it to you. If you’ve done all the right things, keep waiting.  God will reveal more about himself, about you, and about the world around you in his timing.  He will teach you ideas that you could never learn on your own.


The Truth of My Victory: When Circumstances Change

When I came back from my trip, my circumstances changed drastically.  My mom began to follow God because she saw how much he had changed my life.  My stepfather left the house, which made the house peaceful again.  I was able to let go of the need for a boyfriend.  I was so thankful that God had saved me, both spiritually and physically.  I enjoyed the peace and the euphoria that ensued after the trip, even at home.

Although everything was better, there was a fear that my past would repeat itself.  What if my stepfather came back?  What if my mom changed her mind?  What if God changed his mind?  I had every reason to be happy, but instead, anxiety continued to live rampant in my life.  I would have dreams that my stepfather would walk back into the house.  I would question the motives of everyone around me, wondering if they were really being nice to me.  Was the past really in the past?

Because I could not believe in the good that was happening around me, I could only see and hear the negative.  That was the year that my teacher accused me of plagiarism, crushing my dream of being a writer. Although I gave up on being a writer, I was still in an AP English class with students that I was convinced did not believe that I could succeed.  The feeling of being in a dead-end road came back.  If I wasn’t a writer, who was I?

Although I never showed it, I had a bout of depression.  I still went to church and had a smile on my face, but I never told anyone how I truly felt.  Instead of pursuing my dreams, I tried to please God by pursuing a career in the church.  I played the violin, and I enjoyed playing in the church orchestra, so I considered leading worship at the church. However, as much as I love music, after being involved in every type of music program – both in school and at church – I could not imagine studying music and then playing music for the rest of my life.  I went on another trip with my youth group to Texas, and the only thing I was sure of was that I wanted to use my life to bless others and to glorify God.

It was difficult not having a definite plan for my life.  My life was in the hands of God, and as much as I loved the freedom, I did not like the unknowing.  It was impossible to know God’s will for my life, no matter how hard I tried to discover it.  Yet something kept telling me to come back.  I have heard of people giving up on God, but I felt that I could not do that.  God had showed himself to me in a mighty way, and I could not ignore that.  I held on, trusting God and continually asking for his guidance.


The Truth of My Victory: A Hope and a Future

When we finally went to West Virginia, I had a great time.  Every fear I had – being out in the heat, being away from my home state, and stepping out of my comfort zone – dissipated over time.  Our team helped a woman who had just become a widow.  Her husband had died a few months before from a heart attack, and she had felt very lonely.  She lived in a cluttered house with her two dogs and two cats.  At first, I wondered what we were doing.  We spent all this money, time, and preparation…to help a woman clean her house?

Within a few days, I realized how appreciative she was of us coming to help her.  I was assigned to paint her room, and she wanted to help.  Since this was my first time doing this, I didn’t know if she was allowed, but I told her that she could help me anyway.  She talked my ear off about her life.  As I listened, I could hear her desperation simply for a listening ear.  She needed hope; she needed someone to make her feel like she was important.  When I listened to her concerns, her needs, and her requests, I told my team members about them.  On the first day I met her, she said that she was raising money for a vacuum.  My team members and I put our money together and bought her the exact vacuum that she wanted.  She was able to use the money that she was raising for something else.  The point of my trip, it seemed, wasn’t simply to do house work for this woman.  It was to show her that she was worthy of us coming all the way down to visit her.  Despite her lack of hope, we were willing to show her that through God, she has a hope and a future.

At the end of my trip, my pastor spoke to us about purpose.  He asked us to consider our individual purpose.  As I closed my eyes, I thought I had known.  I was going to be a writer, simply to use my voice and show the world how well I could write.  But God had bigger plans.  He basically showed me how important it was that I gave hope to this woman in West Virginia.  He was telling me to do that with my life, to give hope to those who have no hope.  Since God had given me hope, I had the ability to share it with other people.

In that moment, God confirmed that I had a hope and a future.  My life is not a dead-end road.  I had no reason to be anxious anymore.  I was not a failure.  God did not destine me to fail.  Since God saved me, my life now had a purpose.


The Truth of My Victory (Part 4)

When I was about to turn 16, my youth group organized a trip to West Virginia to help people who were in need.  When I signed up to go, so many thoughts raced through my head.  As much as I loved my youth group, I would be away from my family, in another state, for a whole week, in the blazing heat.  I also had to train for a weekend in Pennsylvania in order to prepare for the trip, where we would have to climb rock walls and do team-building exercises.  Although I already signed up for the trip, I thought about giving up and telling them that I could not make it.  However, I felt deeply that God wanted me to go, so I made the decision to go no matter what the cost.

One by one, God took away my fears.  On the training weekend, we had a great time.  I knew almost everyone on my team, and they helped me to get over my fears.  Through the exercises we did together, I learned that God was calling me to let go.  I learned it from climbing the rock wall.  I was afraid of heights, and I was only planning on going up halfway. People around me were calling me, encouraging me to keep going.  I would not look down, but I listened to what my teammates said below me.  Finally, I reached the top.  I heard applause, even from members from other teams.  Unlike what I feared, no one made fun of me for being such a wimp. Instead, all I heard was encouragement.  I looked around at what I had accomplished, knowing that I could not do it without the support of my friends and the strength of God.

The staff person who was holding me called up to me: “Good job.  Now I need you to let go of the wall so that you can come down.”  I thought about her request as I stared down at the bottom.  What if she lets me fall?  My team members cheered me on again.  I held on to the rope, closed my eyes, and pushed my legs off of the wall.

For a few seconds, I suspended in the air.  The feeling of not having to be in control, to let my life in someone else’s hands, gave me a sense of peace.  For the first time, I did not have to be responsible for anyone, not even my own life.  For the first time, God gave me a picture of what it means to trust him.  It feels scary at first, but when I finally let go, my life is in the hands of God.  When I leave my burdens in God’s hands, I am free to live without fear or anxiety.  And this was only the beginning.


The Truth of my Victory (Part 3)

The journey to peace was a process that took patience, time, and learning.  Right before I had entered eighth grade, I found a book about trusting God.  I had never heard of such a crazy idea.  You can trust God, just like you can trust a friend or a family member?  Well, I began to discover that I can trust God more than I can trust a friend or family member.

I would say that the most chaotic time of my life was between the ages of twelve and sixteen, right after I made the decision to follow God.  Within that time, I did not have a moment of consistency.  My parents had gotten divorced when I was about eight years old, and my mom’s new husband and I did not get along.  He and his children always made me feel like I was not good enough, and that I could never do anything right.  At the same time, my dad was dating another woman who brought me to church.  My mom did not want me going to church, but she begrudgingly dropped me off every Sunday.

A few months after I went to youth group for the first time, my grandmother died.  This emotionally destroyed my family members, especially my grandfather and my mom.  Then, when the school year started again, I broke my elbow and had to get surgery.  I missed school for a few months.  A few years later, my aunt decided that she wanted to move to Florida.  My grandfather agreed, and while my mother was getting surgery, they got up and left.

Although this time of my life was the most chaotic, I noticed that God did not change.  While my step family was yelling at me and telling me that I do everything wrong, God was telling me how much he loved me, even with my imperfections.  When my grandmother died and my family split up as a result, God told me that he is my heavenly father, and he would never leave me.  When my mom would not let me go to church, God told that he would protect me and keep me safe.  While I moved from house to house – between my dad, my mom, and my dad’s girlfriend – God told me to trust him.

Over the years, no matter how difficult my circumstances, God had always shown me his love, protection, and mercy.  His love for me did not change, even when I could not see the love of those around me.  His protection over me did not change, even when I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel.  His mercy for me did not change, even when I sinned against him.

In the midst of all these experiences, God had truly allowed me to trust him.  It would have been easy to trust him if everything was great, but when life was difficult and confusing, that is when God began to grow my faith.