Love & Engagement

It is hard to find a starting point in all of this, which, I guess, sums up the last eight months of our lives. Since that fall day in September, some not-so-many moons ago, a lot has changed and a lot has been learned. If there is one thing I can take away from this, it is that God has a sense of humor. We made plans, talked about ideas and how it was all going to happen. I should have recognized God’s chuckle in the background.

We have been learning a lot lately—learning how to say “we” instead of “I”, that prayer is a must and we really do need to listen to those around us. We are learning that the transition of going from one family to two is a balance and that the transition of leaving and cleaving is not as easy as it sounds. We are learning to pray with a loose grip on our ideas because things have changed twenty times and they will probably change twenty more. But we’re also recognizing that when we pray for wisdom, about 90% of the solution is common sense. The saying is true: blessed are the flexible for they are not easily broken.

We knew change was coming early on because Jonathan was open about his desire to go back to school and, with Tallahassee not offering the program he was interested in, we knew a new zipcode was going to be part of our future. With his sister living in Richmond, Viriginia we figured now would be as good a time as any to embrace the unknown, take a chance and, in the words of Famous Jameis, “if we gon’ do it then, we gon’ do it big then.” (Yes, I just did that)

Plans and ideas began forming, family members and close friends started becoming informed of where we felt like the Lord was taking us. All the doors seemed to be opening and everything seemed to fit perfectly—square pegs were going in square holes—and we were excited.

We had decided that, in order to avoid being that couple—the ones who get married, move and were both unemployed—it would be best for Jonathan to move to Richmond before the wedding, live with his sister and find a job quickly while beginning the process of getting our life settled. I would stay home, continue working and planning for the wedding that is taking place here in Tallahassee. Monday morning, February 17th I watched him drive away with a packed car fueled by high hopes for our future.

I assume you are able to see where this is going, but, just in case you haven’t guessed, let me fill you in. The short version:

When you make plans, God laughs.

Weeks passed, numerous job applications were filled out and the phone did not ring. I admit that after a month of silence I started to doubt. Did we jump the gun on this one? Was our discernment off when we prayed about this? I was basically in full panic mode because we were 45 days from the wedding and we were slowly becoming the fools that get married without jobs or a plan, the very thing we were trying to avoid. I found myself slipping into “lets just fix it” mode. I wanted to take control.

But you know what? Jesus doesn’t need me to make a safety net.

It was one night (of many, sad to admit) that I was trying to see where Jonathan was in all of this silence when he said something that put me back where I needed to be. “Lets not cut God short.”

We decided to take that week and genuinely seek direction on our original decision. We felt so confident in our plan, in our move, that to hit a wall was very frustrating.

It was in that week I realized what God means when he says we have faith smaller than a mustard seed. It was also in that week that I realized I was praying for direction when we had already that—what we were desiring was confirmation. It was in that week I saw the power of prayer, fasting and truly being open minded. It was in that week that every sermon hit home, every conversation was encouraging and God kept whispering in my ear, “Relax and let Me do My job.”

Jonathan starts his new job next week and we could not be more blessed.

As our story continues to play out, we realize all that the Lord is showing us is part of what makes up where He is taking us. Some of what we have talked through and worked through over the last 9 months is more common then we realized, yet not always discussed on a platform. The seriousness and Biblical responsibility that come with marriage is a topic that cannot be ignored yet seems to be pushed under the rug by too many. As Jonathan and I have grown together as a unit we have already seen the Lord work in us, showing us another aspect of the Gospel and the responsibility that lays hold of a bride and the groom. Tim Keller said it perfectly when he noted that sometimes it is not the sermon or the preaching, but the stories of others that lead us in a closer relationship with Christ.

The continuation of Our {Simple} Story in love and engagement has been one I don’t think anyone could have prepared me for because this is our story and no one else’s. When the emotions pop up that I was not expecting, when serious conversations are held that are not always fun, when I find myself in a long distance engagement and marrying someone who has been married before—I enter into uncharted waters.

Today we are 34 days away from our Big Day  but beyond the dress, people, planning and just throwing a big party, beyond having a wedding, we get to embrace a marriage. Once again we will be finding another way to put into practice what we have been learning: we are doing this together.

Our goal in our lives is simply to share our story as it unfolds so that, ultimately, glory can be bounced back to Him. I’d prefer you not think of us or me or him, but that you read and be encouraged. That through our triumphs and failures, in the midst of chaos, uncertainty and changes, we remain hopeful and trusting. That our hands cannot stay clinched in a fist, holding on to what we think should happen but, rather, with palms up and hands open to allow Him to put the pieces together. For we desire presence over promises.

Now if only I can get used to the snow…

“My Presence will go with you,and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

 

Our {Simple} Story

From the beginning I wanted to write our story. If you know me that does not surprise you. The day I met him I started writing notes and reminders so I could go back and put them all together. I never wanted to risk forgetting the simple things. I have a box of letters, ticket stubs, pictures and random trinkets that take me back to moments over the last nine months. I wanted to write our story, but the problem that I kept running into is our story is boring. There are no break-ups, drama, crazy fights and get-back-togethers. From the very beginning it has been simple.

We met when neither one of us were looking. I had rolled out of bed with no make up, dirty hair and mis-matched running clothes to go take photos at The Backyard, a local ministry in our city.  He was down from Thomasville, Ga. and somehow found my lack of effort attractive and wanted to get to know me. Fast forward nine months, endless amounts of coffee, cooking gluten- and dairy-free meals and countless trips over the state line and here we are. Nine months from our wedding day.

He knew he was going to marry me right away. He tells people he left our first date knowing he didn’t want anyone else to have me and, in that moment, was going to fight and pursue. The first time he met my parents he told them he was going to marry their daughter (unbeknownst to me) and was just waiting for me to catch up. I was only behind him by a few weeks. I remember coming home after our first date and telling my roommate that if nothing happened with this man I would be pissed. (I do believe those were my exact words.) I had not been on too many dates before, but there was a peace that overwhelmed me that had always been missing and it was something I had always desired.

Our story is simple.

I have sat down many times trying to write it all out, even if it’s just for me, and kept coming back to that wall. “It’s just so simple.” Yet, maybe that is what people need to hear. It’s perfectly acceptable to be simple. It’s okay to meet at some random community outreach, go on one date and know you want to marry each other, never question it, get engaged nine months later and it be easy. It was a “duh.” Of course, I was going to marry Jonathan Ray Fischer, who else would I spend my life with? I have thought maybe that is what people need to hear, that our real love story is a boring one. It’s one with no crazy epiphanies, but there was clarifying moments of reassurance. One came the night he drove himself to the ER because of his kidney stones and I had to go pick him up and get him to his house because he was drugged up on pain medication. I knew in that moment that I didn’t know what I would do if anything happened to him. But that is life, people get kidney stones. It wasn’t unique or written in my cereal bowl. He didn’t come in riding a white horse, rescuing me from my depravity. Jesus did that. Jonathan came in, was proof the man I had been praying for existed, wanted me only, and was going to hold on just as tight to me as I was to him. It’s easy, fun and simple. And it works.

1238905_10151659188862075_102355139_nThe day he proposed we were on a run, something that is not out of the ordinary for us. I had been anticipating the big moment and all week was reading into every word, every move and every text. Yet, on that run around the lake, I had no make up, dirty hair and mismatched clothes and, staying true to our form, it all came about simply and quickly. We were two miles in when he proposed, so I literally was a hot mess, yet again. Just like he found me. I love hearing him describe his thought process of that moment. He had the ring in his left had, waiting until no one else was around. But in that moment he got a picture of what our life was going to be like, running together. Running this race we call life shoulder to shoulder, side by side, even if I was the one to set the (slow) pace.

That is a love story. We met, we knew, we ran.

Matt & Lacey

Matt & Lacey will be tying the knot come December, but decided to endure the heat of this Florida summer for thier E shoot. So thankful the rain held off and the breeze came in!

Congratulations you two! :)
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Flirt

It’s in the moment of surprise I feel my voice reaching and crying loudly  to You. Yet in the whisper You remind me that, once again You are not surprised by anything as I am able to take comfort in the Presence of the stillness.  In the season of prosperity, I pray I will press in just as hard as if in drought. That I don’t begin to lean on the material gains that have become my comfort zone, my steady paycheck, working car and faithful community. I pray I don’t survive off the material– but that even in the harvest I feel myself lean into You. I get side tracked, confused and the white noise of the world, whether it be spiritual or not, gradually gets heavier as it weighs down. When the One voice that rises above the sound is the still small whisper that drowns out the thunder and earthquakes.

In a day when the news is difficult to read, and it seems the evil beats out the good, I know that, in the end, the Light will win. For everything is under Your reign, as even the demons shudder and flee and the waves obey Your command.

So in this moment I will not flirt with the line of compromise or use grace as an excuse to wallow in my fight against the flesh. I have become aware of them, but it’s when I become numb to the pangs of conviction and guilt that I go beyond hurting just myself. I will rise with the dawn knowing that before my feet hit the floor the victory is already won. That I will continue to push against the world, not for victory, but from it. I simply have to allow my spirit to succumb to the power of my Help. In this day I will not fear the war that is raging inside, knowing that whoever wins is the one I feed. I will feed my spirit as my flesh starves for vitality; it will not gain a morsel.

Douse me in your Word, soak me in your Spirit, for I desire to be rejuvenated. 

Speak

We had walked into the old building that sunday morning. It was an odd day in May as the spring breeze still had a chill- very unusual for south Florida but no one was complaining. We walked in and instantly I found myself chuckling as the vivid thoughts of my childhood church in the Food Lion storefront were now in abundance. This building was not a church building by southern standards- no steeple, pews or baptismal. It was simple- as the praise band had almost just as many people as there were sitting in the rows. We sat in our chairs and – obvious we were not regulars- every person walked over to shake our hands and find out who we were.

Introducing myself as “Laura, Karen and Bill’s granddaughter”, and one awkward “are you soon to be Mrs.?” question later we just stuck to our names and left out the associations.

The clock struck 10:00, only there wasn’t a welcome song, flickering of lights or fog to signify the service was beginning. The lady behind the baby grand piano, welcomed everyone with a delicate good morning as we all took our seats. The songs were not the newest Passion release, and there were no special harmonies or videos. A lot of them I had not heard in close to 10 years- we even did a “women take the chorus and men sing the verse” duo. Yet, as I stood next to my MawMaw I couldn’t help but listen and observe as majority of the folks the room were well into their elder years. I listened to all the voices drowning out the microphones, raising hands in pure abandonment, allowing it to refresh my thirsty soul.

As the music portion came to a close, and the service continued, I started to wonder what stories filled these chairs. The man at the end of our row with the cast in one arm, yet the other was raised in worship. The white haired women who sat in the second row with thinning hair and tired eyes- I had to wonder what her body was fighting. The couple in the row in front of us holding hands with their matching hearing aids. The wisdom, the time, the stories that come with walking with the Lord that long- what fools we must be to ignore them. These lives have seen numbers of days I have yet to encounter and with that the wisdom far beyond my 25 years. The legacies that are being left in their wake as they leave the path behind them. The trail that is walked upon and observed by others around them even if they don’t notice.  Oh what I would do to be able to sit and ask them to tell me of times past. We can all learn from history as nothing new is under the sun, yet our young arrogance gets in the way of thinking we know how it all works. I laugh at my own foolishness to ignore the history that sits in the chairs around me. To not acknowledge tho elder is to be a fool. Yet in that I have to wonder if they realize the power their stories can contain.

We get scared to open up the vulnerability of our own past, we get apprehensive and it paralyzes us. We begin to compare and start to believe the lies that we haven’t done anything worth telling. Its when you start to believe those lies, that they become just as powerful as if they were true. In reality- our lives are stories worth being told cause in those tales of hope, despair, failure and praise one can edify and encourage. For theses things happened as an example to us so that many would be saved.  

To know that our days are worth telling.

 

Morning Rises

There is something innocent about the morning. Before the world awakens, before the hustle and bustle of the day, as others rise to their routine. I can relish and enjoy the stillness that the dawn brings. If I could, I would lay in bed for hours, allowing myself to enjoy that moment between waking up and my feet hitting the floor. The problems of the day have not yet come in full force and I allow myself to enjoy the solitude of the morning sun as it burns off the night haze. The morning welcomes, as the day begins, and I realize that I must give up the fight that has begun in the whispering of the dawn. In this world, this day, I am just a blind man fighting the world, not able to see the punches swinging against me. I am a soul pushing the darkness away. So before I rise to the battle of good versus evil, before I walk to the lines drawn in the depths of my soul as it fights for the eternal, I will rest in the dawn. I will take refuge in the twilight that I find in His Words as they capture my heart, transform my mind and allow me to let go. For He is God, one who is not surprised by the day ahead. I might be taken back be the twist and turns, yet my faith is strengthened in the bewilderment as it unfolds.

Today is all I can see, so in my present I will be faithful.

“But earnestly desire the greater gifts and I will show you a still more excellent way.” 1 Corinthians12:31

Show me the more excellent way.

Wilderness to Bloom

I don’t know where this came from, or what cavity of my heart, mind or soul this started brewing. But I have learned that even when you can’t explain where it originates- you write anyway. I hope you enjoy the depths of something that came from somewhere. 

It’s consuming. She can feel the history of assumption, tension and stereotype starting to break down. The life she thought she was going to have, the days she assumed would come, are different than those being played out.  The pride of necessity, vanity and acceptance is defensive as she can feel Him etch His way to the marrow, the point of breaking what she thought was strong. But in her false esteem, He sees the fragile, timid, little girl that once was. That lays dormant in the Sodom of the present. The world has conformed her to its patterns of destruction and self-reliance. Over time the carnal strength has weakened, weakened under stress, disappointment and hurt. Yet that is what He desires—broken bones. He whispers to her, desiring to be the Truth overcoming her innermost being. For the wisdom of His heart to enrapture and ravish her weak skeleton of faith. To break the ties of tradition. To be set apart for healing, healing to be made new.

He follows her to the wilderness, knowing her cries are distracted by the weight of the flesh that is striving to keep fighting inside her. She must be reminded of the life that is made to be separate and wholly devoted. She bases her timeline as the earth spins and seems to forget that He is not a God of seconds, minutes or days. But one of promises, seasons and eternity. The One who wrote time and directs its steps yet she tries to manipulate it with her antsy schemes, setting the hands of the clock to what she deems to be right. But in the pushing, she feels the gentle, graceful hands take over and she allows time to slow down. To breathe. As the breath powers out the tension, the graceful hands become stronger. The exhaustion of fighting meets its final end as she lays down the calloused weapons of her self.

She could feel the warmth of the sun hit her face, knowing the light was peering in. Her eyes remained closed, not remembering where she was, but knowing the pleasure of that ignorance would not last for long. As the seconds passed, so did the memories of her crossing. Closing her eyes once more, afraid to face the reality she knew was there, the reality of being in the desert of loneliness, of having to pick up and keep surviving. She was tired. The sting of the bruises remained as an unnecessary reminder. Her arms crossed over her body, holding her for no one else would. She felt the scars, forcing her to be reminded that she was here. She used to wonder how people got to the point of desolation, what decisions did they make or lack of vigor did their perception lack? She would wonder how they got there and here she was knowing, now, exactly how it sneaks up on you. You make a small compromise here, a minor cognitive decision there and before you know it…. you’re here, wandering in the wilderness.

Eyes still closed, the darkness makes it so she can avoid the inevitable. Yet, in the stillness, in the quiet, she hears His voice.

“Little girl, arise.”

The confident assurance that came with a whisper was all too familiar, yet unable to locate its origin. The intimacy of the past and the beckoning of the present brought a comfort she had only desired in the deepest part of her bones.  The comfort that was unknown captures parts of her soul she had forgotten. Part of her humanity was laid to rest, yet His voice swept away the cobwebs, allowing the dust to be brushed away.

Her eyes peer open, just enough to realize the sun is out. It’s bright, but as the brilliance adjusts in her wakening, she finds it easier to breathe. It has been a fight, this sleep. She thought she was dead, she was sure of it. Yet, as His voice continued to whisper, her soul was awakened to the new life that lay ahead. A new wilderness. One of life, creation, and the brilliance that was all around.

Salvation restored to joy, let the bones which You have broken, rejoice.

Crystal

It amazes me, really. Maybe it shouldn’t; we are warned, after all. I think I am getting a glimpse into how the disciples might have felt when Jesus showed back up on the third day- shocked and acting as if we were not told this is exactly what was going to happen. I read, watch, listen and I am astonished and amazed. Not at where the world is heading, necessarily, its always been in a (somewhat) slow demise to hell. Yet, as social media venues grow and become more abundant, we are seeing more and more Christians backing down from core beliefs. Yes, they might have convictions, but heaven forbid we push our convictions on to someone else and make them feel bad, even if the convictions are the foundation we find in the Word of God. Even if showing them that Truth constitutes as tough love.

Over the last month, I have been given the huge privilege to teach a Bible study at my home church. When the opportunity arose, I knew right away that I didn’t want to give these women a fish; I wanted to show them how to fish. We easily get caught up in the words of the man behind the pulpit or the woman who wrote the book and forget the power and immensity that stems out of a solitary time in the Word of God. It is easy to put the Bible aside, have it on your bed stand and look at it every once in awhile. Yet we must know that when there is an ignorance of scripture there are beliefs about God that are only found in man. You end up with a genie confirming your own emotions and not God revealing you the truth. The vibrancy of our relationship with God is suffering when we don’t spend time with Him, getting to know the truths that our lives must be founded on. Those truths that do not return void, will not return empty- not without accomplishing what He desires.

Not everything in those 66 books is black and white. There are grey areas—sprinkle or dunk? Pre, mid, post? Once saved always saved? Tithing? Free will? We like talking and discussing the grey areas because we can put on our cop hat: “Let’s agree to disagree, we can move on without hurting feelings or bruising friendships.” Yet, what we often do is pool that over to the blatantly obvious areas. When Jesus said “love your neighbor, feed the poor, pray for your enemies, make disciples and walk the narrow path,” that is exactly what He meant. There is no deeper, hidden meaning or loophole to grasp a buried understanding. The simplicity of the calling makes us uncomfortable so we over spiritualize it, looking for a way we can get away with doing it our way. It causes us to become flippant in the truth so we don’t feel as if we are going against the grain of the world. But the truth is, loving your neighbor is not always fun, praying for your enemies hurts our pride and giving away our materialistic gains to those less fortunate causes us to sacrifice. Yet- isnt that what we are called to do?

Galatians five has been given the name badge of the Fruits of the Spirit. Any kid in the south can all recite them with our eyes closed, hands tied and, if you know Veggietales, most likely to a jingle. Yet what we forget is the other part—the Fruits of the Flesh.

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Eww.

Why do we not know those by heart? Why do we not have a catchy jingle? Cause its uncomfortable. It makes us squirm and die a little inside as we have quick mental flashbacks of all those things in our lives. Its called conviction and that (should) prompt us to change. Instead, we ignore it, focus on the pretty things and don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.I suspect we will all be surprised to discover first-hand, just how dark the sins we justified in this world really are.

There is a path that is wide, the gate is far too big as it tolerates all ways of thinking. It leads to destruction.

The path to truth is narrow, the gate is small- but it leads to everlasting life.

What we should stand for, what we know as truth, is now the minority. I must stop being surprised by the tolerance and start knowing the truth for myself for I will “not be tossed about by every wind of doctrine, tossed here and there, deceived by the trickery of men, by craftiness and deceit.” But I will speak the truth in love.

We must continue to fight against the darkness because we have the Light. And Light always wins.

Honestly

It wasn’t that big of a deal. At least that is what I told myself. I was doing better. Better in the standards of comparison. Yet that was my downfall. Comparing who I was now to who I was a few years ago. Comparing what I was doing tonight to the people that I was surrounded with. The power of influence was strong and sneaky. I didn’t realize it then, but my treacherous fall back into my chains was slowly creeping in. It comes in slowly, usually disguised. It looks pretty, painless, innocent and fun. Yet the consequences are anything but. The worst part is, it didn’t just chain me down, but shackled those whom I love.

The demise came. People blamed our enemy. The one that we are told is here to steal, kill and destroy. The enemy that we too often use to cast blame. The enemy that was rebuked by Him and then ignored. Yet we shoo him away in our own power just to give him attention as we point our finger.

I sat there that night, outside my car as the tears fell down my face. I was left to survey the chasm in my own heart, and I realized something that broke down my pride: I had no one else to blame. These chains, this fall, had been here all along waiting for us to trip. It had caught up with us. We told ourselves we were living above reproach, that we were doing good. We recited all the right expressions and said all the right things. Yet here we were.

The sadness, the grief lasted for a moment. Then it hit me: redemption. That is what He desires. He desires redemption over innocence. Our sin was here all along only now we were forced to deal with it. The chains, the pit falls, the stumbling had been brought into the light so that redemption could take place. As I wiped the tears from my face, the excitement of knowing something was coming began to take over. He doesn’t use people of compromise to do big things, His name cannot be associated with the imperfection it brings. He is purging, cleaning house and restoring. He is breaking the chains and setting us free. Free to move forward.

This won’t be the end. It won’t be the last time we deal with this. In times of desperation, loneliness, hunger and exhaustion we will find temporary comfort in our chains. That short satisfaction that will only take us further away from the Truth that we know. Its in those moments, when we don’t realize it, that God is preparing us. Preparing us for redemption, revival and to be taken out of the way. To purge what was there and brought to the reality of our selfishness.

There is this middle ground that we find ourselves wandering in. The time after you are washed clean, and before the work begins. The middle ground is painful, laden with decisions and abundant in power. Emotions are heightened, reality is skewed and feelings are dramatized. In this wilderness you are tempted, tried and given a choice. Yet in this assumed chaos we find what peace is beyond our own understanding. We find the hope that rests in the knowledge that it is not about us. We find power in spoken Word, and the unlimited strength that comes in the all consuming Spirit. We realize that the enemy is limited, defeated and the victory is won. That in the loneliness, hunger and isolation, we will experience betrayal, surprise and conviction. It will amaze you the truth that comes out as you seek to rise above. And you will rise. For we must remember that we do not fall into sin,we are led into it by the choices we make. Yet in that moment, we can learn to stop pushing and rest. Rest in the knowledge that He is fighting for us and the victory is already won. We know then, that we can rise above the middle ground and go towards the glorification of His grace.

We must not stop pushing against the darkness, for we have been given the Light and Light always wins.