Hands Off ! Part 2

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Four Way Stops

Ever run a stop sign, dashed through a red light, or been caught speeding down your favorite street?  I have!  Most was by accident – my brain was off in La La Land, and – oops! I’m sure I’ve gotten a few ugly looks as I cut someone off and made them put on their brakes prematurely.  All I can say is, “Sorry, folks!”

Chasing our own plan for our lives is kind of like running intersection signs.  We think we have it all figured out, so we go full blast ahead without consulting all the signs that can navigate us to success.  Throughout our lives, God puts up strong instructions at the crossroads between pursuing our plan and going His way in His time.  It’s not that He wants to spoil our fun.  He’s really trying to save us from the agony of a wreck, and having to run to Him like an insurance agent to bail us out.

God’s the mastermind behind directing dream traffic.  He sees the oncoming traffic, how they’re driving, and where they’re going.  Every car is different with a specific destination.  Some may be heading the same direction as you.  Then others may be such reckless drivers that you could gladly go years without seeing their tail lights ever again!  Regardless, God knows how to navigate you around the cars.

Picture this.  You’re at the intersection of waiting for your dream to come true.  A new “car” (the cutest guy you’ve ever seen) reaches the intersection before you to your right.  He’s going straight.  Ah, the temptation to follow – to chase him down!  But just as he pulls away, you see that you’re at a four way stop – and there are other cars before you.  Ugh!  If you stop, you’ll lose him!

Some of us might be staring at a stop sign and thinking that we hate the color red.  No one really likes this sign, but God uses it anyway.  We’ve all been in a hurry to make romance happen in our lives at one time or another.  But have you noticed?  Somehow nothing really works out in our favor.  We choose track down that cool car, and end up with something that was never meant for us.  Or we run the red, only to get ourselves lost in searching.  Then it’s back to the same intersection again.

That yellow yield sign can be just as frustrating as the stop sign.  Maybe the right guy is in the car next to us.  We know he’s the one!  Everyone knows he’s the one!  But it’s not that God said a solid “no” to our plans.  He just wants us to relax and sit a while until the intersection is clear. It’s a sign that screams “patience!” No matter how aggravating it may be, it’s worth the wait.  It means that every day God is preparing you and that guy for the future He has for you.  It means you’ll both be ready, every detail will be in place, and the timing will be perfect.

Everyone is in a different place in their lives with different signs in front of them.  Regardless of whether it’s a “stop” season or a “yield” season – or both – God’s always got our best in mind.  After obeying all the annoying red and yellow signs, there’s always a time to go!  And when it’s our turn to move – go, baby, go!  Putting our feet to the gas pedal is exhilarating when we know God is the one who gave us permission to move forward.  The way is clear and the road all ours!  We just have to step out in faith without hesitation.

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Hand’s Off!

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In the past, I have tried to make things happen or tried to figure out how I think God should make something happen!  I have a detail-oriented brain that likes to organize everything under the sun, lest –gasp!—the whole world should come to a screeching halt.

One time, I returned from a trip where I had met a bunch of neat people—including a guy.  Once home, I got on the Internet and searched for his name on Facebook.  As soon as I went to click the “Add as Friend” button, God stopped me and told me not to initiate.  I was irritated at the thought, but after a few minutes of mental war, I pulled my cursor away from the button.  The next day (yes, the very next day!) I went to church and got further instructions from God through a traveling evangelist: “The favor factor is on your life.  Don’t mess it up with looking.  Don’t check. God has a plan.  When it’s right, the plan will be perfect.”  Okay, okay, I get the message!

Later there were times when I still had to control my impulses. I was so tempted to try to look up a potential candidate on Facebook, or “innocently” ask questions about so-and-so.  As God pointed out to a friend of mine, who will you thank when you initiate the relationship and get the guy?  You would only be able to pat yourself on the back for the relationship.  That doesn’t honor God, and in the long run, it doesn’t satisfy you.  Better to step back and let God hold the reins.

I’ve heard a pastor put the faith-and-wait issue like this: “Faith is the constant; time is the variable.” Your job is to keep your faith solid and unchanging.  The only thing that may seem uncertain is the timing that only God can handle.  Since God’s capable of doing everything and anything, it would seem logical that He should be the one working out the details.  If you’re anything like I was, though, you want to help God take care of His business.  You know, take some of the load off His shoulders….

Abraham tried to do just that—and paid for it.  While God had a great plan in mind to get Abe’s son, Abraham tried to step in and choose the method himself.  He had a baby through his servant woman.  From then on, nothing but chaos ruled in the house.  Abe ended up sending the woman and his new son away, never to be seen again.  After a good discussion with Abraham, God put His plan into action.  Even when it seemed naturally impossible, the promise showed up through Isaac.

Like Abraham, God wants your dreams to come true through the promise He’s given you, not through your human efforts.  God instructs you in Proverbs 3:5, 6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.  If you’re truly trusting God with all your heart—including those romantic dreams—then you’ll be willing to let Him do the work.  Your tiny mind can only reason things through so far before you come up short.  Your benefits result in letting Someone else be the mastermind behind it all.

To be continued…

Steady as You Wait – Guest Post

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The following testimony is written by someone very special in my life.  Paula Hernando was the secretary of the Christian college I attended in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada in the early 2000’s.  I volunteered in her office and enjoyed chatting with her sweet personality!  She was a blessing to me as she made me feel welcome in a foreign country, a new church, and a new school.  Like many of us, she had to wait a little longer than planned for her “Mr. Wright” to appear.  But as you’ll read, it was well worth the wait!

I remember as a child picking up a special flower and pulling the petals off one by one. “He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me…” I would take the steps down an imaginary aisle holding tightly to my grandmother’s geranium as if it were a grand bouquet.   I would imagine my future husband whisking me off my feet and carrying me away.  However, when I reached my early 20’s, the desire to be married was no longer a quiet childhood game.  By that time I felt I knew everything there was to know about life and love and marriage (insert chuckle here), there was only one thing missing:  A man!

I knew instinctively that peacefulness was so important while waiting for my future husband to arrive.  I did the best with what I had and tried to pretty myself with make-up and hair styles that were flattering. Everyone around me told me to wait for God to bring just the right person in my life.  I’d like to say that I was the picture of perfect patience, but I had difficulty with the idea of delay.  I questioned God about it continually.  I couldn’t understand why desire didn’t equal readiness. It became increasingly stressful for me as I aged. Through this process, God made me ready to handle a serious adult relationship.  It was a readiness that I couldn’t produce in myself.  Only God knew when that moment would arrive.  In a practical sense, I had to come to the place of hopeful peace in the midst of an intense desire to be married.

“This could be the year that you meet your man, because if we wait for you, we’ll wait forever.” This was an encouraging prophecy that came to me a few years before I met my husband to be.  While I waited, I kept the following scripture in my back pocket:  “… blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45). I held to these promises that brought me a hope that God would one day answer my prayer.

Then one day in 1998, I had the responsibility of arranging billets for students at my new job as secretary for a Christian college.  My new assignment had to be housed within an afternoon. I was to meet him later that day to discuss the arrangement and give him a map to his new home.  When Dario arrived, my heart did a little flutter and I’m sure I blushed.  Thus began a friendship where we seemed to be drawn to one another.

By the end of 2002 I knew I wanted this friendship to blossom into more.  I loved his walk with the Lord, his warmth, his ability to keep me fascinated in conversation, and his funny way.   Through the assistance of mutual friends, Dario asked me to dinner. This began a 5-month courtship as our love and anticipation grew.  We were going steady!

I remember the Lord giving me a directive one night as the scripture leapt off the page of my Bible: “Be still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall; for the man will not rest until he has completed the matter this day” (Ruth 3: 18). Little did I know that during this time Dario had for two weeks held a boxed engagement ring in his pocket, looking for an appropriate time.

During one of our planned picnic dates, we visited a beautifully restored nursery, complete with dazzling colors in lilies, peonies, and other tiny flowers and plants.  Dario asked me to marry him in this beautiful backdrop of God’s creation.  I said, “Yes”!  I was 39 years old.  We were married October 10th, 2003.

We had the blessing and support of our leaders, our friends, and a faithful God.  Our courtship was blessed with a prophetic word with personalized details along with a personalized scripture: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:   If either of them falls down, one can help the other up” (Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10).  We knew God was blessing our union!

To the single regardless of age:  God knows your heart’s desire just to be loved.  Remember He has loved you first and wants that heart’s ache to be fulfilled just as much as you do.  You have His attention.  God is preparing you both.  Remember He already knows who that man is!

Paula’s Advice:

Be the best you, you can be!

  1.  Prepare yourself spiritually to crawl in close to Father God. He will fill your heart with warmth and love.  For a man who is seeking, your love relationship with the Lord is really hard to resist.  Seek to be inclusive with Jesus.  Go steady with Him.  Pray for your future husband all the blessings you can think of to ensure God’s blessing is on him and you will meet just at the right time.
  2.  Prepare your mind and emotions to handle the challenges of relationships. Find the books that will help you do that.   Marriage can be a challenge.  Give yourself some tools in understanding human dynamics.
  3.  Is there anything you can do to prepare yourself physically? Don’t fall for the lie that a pretty face and trim body is the only way to attract that man.  Or a handsome physique and bulging muscular body is the only way to attract a lady.  However, strong healthy bodies are important for handling stress and giving your future spouse the best you that you can be.

All this…while you wait.

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Paula Hernando is a fellow blogger and published author.  You can read more about her and her book at http://www.emptyhandstoopenarms.com.

 

My Story

 

The following is “my story,” my marriage testimony of how God brought my husband and I together.  It took years of waiting – sometimes in faith, sometimes in doubt – but God was faithful through it all.  I hope it encourages you to apply  your faith toward God’s will and His very best.  His dream for you is bigger than your dream for yourself, and He is more than able to get the job done if you’ll trust Him! (Lyrics to the songs I mention can be found under the “I Found Him” pages above.)

For years I, like many other girls, dreamed of being married.  I set my dream in motion in several ways. In 2000, when I was nineteen-years-old, I wrote “A Dream Come True,” a song I planned on singing to my husband as I walked down the aisle.  I also sketched out wedding plans with a pencil on lined paper. That same year, I wrote the song “I’ll Find Him with You,” declaring that God was my matchmaker.  Over the years, I invested in my friends’ weddings with the anticipation that it would one day be me.  Even then, despite the strong desire and declaration of my trust in God, my saga toward marriage took longer than some.  Though I turned down several potential suitors (including some complete strangers and brash coworkers), the faith adventure behind my dream began when I was around twenty-six-years-old.

One night in 2007, I walked across a dark parking lot to my car.  As I drove to my tiny apartment, I felt the urge to pray for a husband. Though the desire in my heart was real, I hadn’t really prayed for one in the past.  That night was different.  I had just left a prayer service and I was spiritually sensitive.  Somehow, I just felt that it was time for me to send my petition—seriously—to heaven.  “God,” I prayed quietly, “I pray for a husband.”  Within moments, I received God’s response. As tears pooled in my eyes, I distinctly heard God speak to my heart, “Request granted.”

It was wonderful to have a direct word from Him, but even if He had not chosen to say something specifically to me, I had two inspiring verses to stand on:  Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. (Mark 11:24) Now this is the confidence that you have in Him, that if you ask anything according to His will, He hears you. And if you know that He hears you, whatever you ask, you know that you have the petitions that you have asked of Him. (1 John 5:14-15)

A few months later a friend and I had a chance to go to a church conference out of town.  I preceded the trip with prayer, releasing the event to God’s purpose.  At one point, He stopped me and said, “Relax.  This is My gift to you.”  I stopped and started packing!  Toward the end of the conference I was introduced to a young evangelist.  This excited me because I had always felt called into the ministry.  I went to my hotel room later, praying that God’s will would be done . . . but deep down, I knew what I wanted.  Though this young man had acted interested, and it seemed like such a God-setup, he did not pursue. I went back home with anxiety attacking my mind. Why didn’t he pursue?  Had I done something wrong?  Was this part of God’s gift to me, but had somehow gone wrong?

For months I mulled over every detail of the event.  Thoughts plagued me day and night, disrupting my peace at work, church, and home.  No matter how hard I tried, I could never find any answers to settle anything in my heart.  The dream I had so longed for had entered my life but had disappeared just as quickly.  I was left floundering in self-pity, frustration, and anxiety. I had never been under so much mental strain before.  Hope deferred had made my heart sick (Proverbs 13:12).  I didn’t realize it then, but I was not trusting God. My faith had been shaken.

In June of 2007, one of my neighbors at my apartments – a clean-cut man in his thirties – asked me out on a date.  I didn’t have peace about going out with him so I politely declined.  I knew I had made the right decision, but I was still dejected.  How many times was I going to have to say “no” to someone’s advances?  When could I give my heart away and enjoy the company of my first boyfriend?  I felt discouragement overtake me.  That’s when I heard God quietly tell me, “Christa, let Me hold your heart until your husband comes.”  Those words were the inspiration of a song I wrote called “Hold My Heart.”

In May 2008, I penned the song “Can’t You See,” stating my love for Jesus and the treasure my future husband would receive when we married.  Then in July of 2008, I began to write an outline to a book called I’ll Find Him with You, inspired by the song of the same name. The book covered allowing God to design your love story, trusting Him, and keeping your standards when it came time to choose the right man. It was all I believed and lived by.

On January 23rd, 2009, God led me to pray for my future husband – whoever and wherever he was.  So I began to pray a general prayer of protection, grace, and guidance over him as I would do over anyone else.  However, when I began to pray in the Spirit, the prayer came out of me like a gusher.  My prayer language sounded different than usual, so I knew I was interceding for something specific. Just as quickly, the prayer language stopped and went back to normal.  I had no idea what my future husband might have been facing at that moment in his life, but I wrote in my journal that night: “My husband is only successful!  He has the victory!”

A few months later, in August of 2009, I was asked to move to Dumas, Texas to be on staff at another church. Shortly after the move, I was diagnosed with something that could potentially scare some men away.  However, I knew that God’s will for me was healing, so I stood on my redemption promises.  I believed that with God all things were possible, so I didn’t give up on my desire for a husband.  While I was at it, I added a request for a house to my prayers.  I called it my “Three H’s” – healing, husband, and house.  I thanked God for them every day because as I John 5:14-15 says, I had them the moment I asked!

As an act of faith for my future husband, I started to write the manuscript for I’ll Find Him with You.  Shortly after finishing the manuscript, I bought my first house!  It was a perfect size for a small family with a beautiful yard, trees, extra drive way, garage and workshop. (Little did I know that my future husband would take pride in taking care of a yard and working in a shop.  He would also own a trailer that would fit perfectly in the double driveway.)

In May 2011, a man – mutual friends of a couple ministers I knew – asked to be friends on Facebook.  I suspected it was for romantic purposes, but I gave “John” the benefit of the doubt and added him as a friend.  Sure enough, he asked me out.  I turned him down three times because of a lack of peace, but eventually caved, giving him “a chance.”  However, I disconnected after three weeks of communication, knowing he was not the one for me.  He was rebounding badly and had other issues that showed up after we stopped communicating.  I had disobeyed the Holy Spirit by going out with him, but God was merciful to protect me from a bad choice.  It proved to be a counterfeit set up by the devil to keep me from meeting the “real man.”

Unknown to me, a man named Michael Madrid had started attending our church a couple months before I went out on a date with “John”.  Michael spent weeks attending and eventually noticed me.  While I was totally oblivious to his existence, he watched from afar as I came and went with the children I taught in children’s church.  He had started to get his hopes up when “John” and I sat together at two services in church.  Michael had thought I was single, but when he saw me with “John” and his two boys, he assumed I was married.  Once John was out of the picture, though, Michael discovered I was still single and made his move.

On June 23rd, 2011, he introduced himself.  He and other men in the church strode into my classroom carrying chairs.  The moment he walked through the door, he said, “You must be the children’s minister.  Better you than me!”  My first humorous thought was, “Hmmm.  A child-hater,” but I didn’t hold it against him.  That night he attended a meeting designed to help people get involved in the church.  Michael introduced himself and I was immediately attracted.

From then on, we talked regularly after church.  I was impressed with his character and standards.  Before long, it became clear that he wanted to date me.  Since I had no intention of dating someone I wouldn’t marry, I quizzed him on some key topics, including the doctor’s diagnosis.  He didn’t have a problem with it at all.  In fact, he stated, “The way I was raised, if you liked someone, you took the good and the bad.”

On May 27th, 2012, we got engaged!  Once I knew I would marry him, I asked him something I had simply “hidden in my heart” for the past three years: “What were you doing in January of 2009?”  He responded, “Oh, that was a bad year.  I wasn’t even talking to my family.”  That told me he was in serious trouble since he and his family are very close!  I was encouraged because I knew my prayer in 2009 moved God’s hand on his behalf!

I started to plan the wedding ceremony, pulling out of my keep-sake stash of notes I had made. The pencil-sketched plans came to life as I shopped for topiaries, a simple dress, and reception food.  I collaborated with my brother and recorded my song. On March 16th, 2013, I walked down the aisle to that tune and made my vows to the man God had reserved for me!

As I look back on all the steps that led me to my wedding, I stand in awe of God’s faithfulness.  He was faithful to honor my faith, and sent me a husband.  He was faithful to protect me from the wrong relationships so I could find His will and His best.  He was faithful to give me words of encouragement to keep me going when I was discouraged.  And I know He will be faithful to fill our marriage with His goodness so we can fulfill His purpose!  He indeed makes dreams come true!

Joy & Peace

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One of the signs that we are truly trusting in God is that we are happy while we wait.  God never wanted us to be depressed while we waited for our promise to show up for our physical eyes to see.  Really, it doesn’t even make sense for us to stand around pouting.  God already said the promise is ours.  There’s a great excuse to get excited!

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:1)

Sometimes, though, our emotions don’t want to agree with what we believe.  It’s frustrating . . . and it requires extra action!

Lara was my roommate while I went to school in Canada.  We became great friends, and I was overjoyed when I was asked to be her Maid of Honor a few years after we graduated!  She told me later how she and her husband got into a relationship.

Though they had known each other for several years, Jordan was “just a friend.”  But one night everything changed.  Lara had been especially depressed and discouraged about her single life and family issues that plagued her days.  It was church night, and she almost stayed home.   During praise and worship, though, God began to talk to her about getting past what she was feeling.  Would she praise and worship Him with all her heart, even though she didn’t feel like it?  Or would she sit on the pew and sulk in her frustrations?  The godly girl that she was (and is!), she chose to worship God with all she had.  At that point, Jordan saw her and thought, “I’ve got to get to know her better!”  The rest is history.

It’s amazing what God will do when we choose to rise above our disappointments and give Him everything.  Praising Him when we’re feeling our worst is a sign that we trust Him.  And when He sees that trust, He goes to work for us!  Sometimes it takes an action of faith on our part to press through the emotions and tap into the joy and peace that God says can be ours.  Or to encourage someone else that is feeling low.  God instructed Lara to write letters to her future husband every time she felt depressed about her love life.  By her actions she was declaring her faith in God’s promise to her – even when she couldn’t see it with her eyes.

When I was single, I would get sad when I’d watch a romantic chick flick or see one of my friends get married.  I’d watch the sweet relationship between a guy and a girl develop and mourn that it wasn’t me.  But later I changed my tune.  I found it very sweet and thought, “That’s going to be me!”  I didn’t know it because there was a potential guy at my front door.  I wasn’t confident because of the way I felt.  I knew it because my confidence is in God’s promise to me.

A good definition of hope is “confident expectation for the future.”  When we believe that we will see His promises fulfilled in our lives, we can confidently thrive in the hope that He has given us.  But to be able to be able to abound or thrive in that hope, not matter what’s going on around us, we need joy and peace to sustain us.  We can’t work up those attributes ourselves.  They’re given to us through the power of the Holy Spirit living inside of us.  That’s what keeps our hope alive and makes it so powerful and unchanging.  With this hope, we can, like Elizabeth spoke over Mary, confidently say over ourselves:  Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:45)

The Greatest Prep

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I had my wedding ceremony plans mapped out years before I was married. Those plans fell easily into place when I got married three years ago. But the greatest prep I cherish was developing my trust and relationship with Jesus before the big day. That is the most important form of planning any girl could do before even meeting the man. Colors and flowers are temporary and empty without the Foundation of a marriage firmly in place.

Marriage: Commit to the Commission

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Though Jesus did the biggest work, God’s dream isn’t complete until everyone has heard the Gospel.  For the world to hear the Gospel, people like you and me (married or unmarried) have to be willing not only to share the Good News but also to live it.

 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.  And these signs shall follow them that believe; in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:15-18).

Just like God desired that Adam and Eve duplicate themselves, God desires that you duplicate yourself spiritually.  Whether you are single or married, the ultimate purpose of your existence is to advance the Kingdom of God.  You do this by sharing your faith and living out God’s will for your life.  Some may receive the message; some may reject it.  Whatever the response, God’s greatest dream is being fulfilled through you.

How does marriage fit into the Great Commission? Marriage was designed from the very beginning to support the plan of God.  Adam was given the great responsibility of tending to the Garden, but God saw that He needed a helper to get it done.  When God sees your life in Him, He sees a willing vessel to be used for the furthering of the Gospel. This can be done as a single person, but two working together is always better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).  When you’re married, you have the opportunity to do more for the Kingdom of God than if you’re single.  You strengthen your spouse, and compliment their strengths and weaknesses.  Though you may automatically think of marriage as something to gratify your own desires, its first and main purpose is to gratify God’s desire for His Kingdom.  It’s a Kingdom you are honored to represent, and a Kingdom you are anointed to support.

Note: The photo above is of the day Michael and I committed to further the Gospel and honor God through our union.  Three years later, the honor and commitment continues!