A friendship that turned into forever…

I’ll never forget the morning I first laid eyes on him. It was a cool February morning and I was furiously chatting with my newly labeled ex-boyfriend, who broke up with me the previous night after a Dave Barnes concert—yes friends, you did read that right. I left my Old Testament class early that morning because it was becoming pretty obvious to everyone around me that my angry typing wasn’t note-taking. So I walked downstairs to finish our chat conversation in the unoccupied, drafty lobby of the administration building. I was still in my pajamas with my hair pulled up in a messy bun, and was really just killing time arguing with this guy about a relationship that I already knew was over—and to be completely transparent, could care less about. It’s funny thinking back now how hard I fought, despite the confirmation I had deep down that our break up was pivotal to the relationship break through the Lord was preparing me for.  I heard the doors swing open and felt the warm sun hit my face, as I heard a familiar voice call out my name. I looked up and saw a friend I met earlier that semester walking into the admin building, and right there behind him was a guy I had never seen before. He was very tall and slender, and his brown hair curled out from under his Yankees hat. He started toward the offices after holding the door for two of the older ladies who worked there, when my friend already walking toward me, yelled for him to follow. As he walked toward the bench I was sitting on, my friend spoke up, “have you met Bordeaux yet?” I answered with a simple “no” as he reached out his hand to shake mine. I watched his wide smile reach up to meet his deep brown eyes, and when he looked at me I was filled with an instant sense of comfort. He stood there that morning talking and joking with me like he had known me for years. And it was in that moment, in the middle of an average Wednesday, a friendship was born that would eventually transform into the beautiful relationship we share today.

My marriage, like so many others, is far from perfect. We get on each others nerves, we fight, we disappoint each other, and some days we just really don’t like each other. I believe the reality is, a successful marriage is not one without fights or failures, but one based on a faithful friendship. My husband and I spent almost a full year developing our friendship, before realizing we both wanted something more. That year provided a safe space for learning each other and spending time together without expectations. Our friendship laid an ideal foundation for the Lord to prepare Chip’s heart to pursue mine. We have weathered some pretty intense storms since that first year, but even when we failed in loving each other well, our friendship cushioned the fall and pushed us to fight for each other and the marriage God gave us.

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Photo Credit: Lisa Oliver

I have several single friends who have recently shared with me their desires to have a successful marriage one day, but because of society’s outlook on marriage, are unsure and often even fearful about what their marriages will look like. In our conversations, I have tried to encourage them with a few things I’ve learned and experienced in my marriage, and my hope is that I can do the same for you as you read these words today.

A successful marriage, in my opinion, is the result of two people who actively pursue Jesus and enjoy spending time together—who make a covenant with God and each other to spend the rest of their lives having fun, sharing dreams, encouraging each other, and doing life together. Mine and Chip’s marriage hasn’t  always been pretty—it’s actually gotten pretty ugly at times. But because it was rooted in Jesus and based on a friendship, our relationship has grown deeper through our hardships, instead of being destroyed by them.

One of the most important things that I have learned in the last five years is that once the newlywed dust settles and everyday life kicks in, marriage requires sacrifice. And in order to be in a place to sacrifice, you have to first be spiritually and emotionally healthy.

Unhealthy dating relationships lead to unsuccessful marriages filled with unrealistic expectations.

If you are in a serious relationship with someone and having doubts about whether it is going to lead to a successful marriage, it may be a good idea to begin asking yourself a few hard questions like the ones I’ve listed below…

  1. Is this person someone who is genuinely pursuing my heart, or is it just a comfortable relationship?
  2. Would this person still desire a relationship with me if I were to remove the physical aspects of it?
  3. If I share the most real, raw, unfiltered version of myself are they likely to extend grace, love, and forgiveness; or judgement, critique, and resentment toward me?
  4. Do I feel safe giving this person my past struggles, current stresses, and future goals to carry with me?
  5. Is this person challenging and encouraging me in my faith or am I “carrying them” or trying to “fix” them?
  6. Can I see myself growing old with this person? Does that thought excite me or does it flood my mind with insecurities about whether or not we will stand the test of time?
  7. How does this person treat other people who are important to me? Do they share the importance of time spent with my family and friends or am I having to talk them into hanging out with my people?
  8. Is this person moving forward in their spiritual, emotional, social, and physical aspects of life or does it seem they are at a standstill, or worse…moving backward?

If we are being really honest with ourselves, these questions should be pretty easy to answer. The challenge is found in the difficult decisions you may be prompted to make after answering them. The Lord wants us to enjoy marriage and ultimately established it to be a vehicle for ministry in growing closer to Him and encouraging others to do the same. He should be getting more glory out of the story we are writing together, than he ever did from us when we were apart. I can honestly say that my husband and I have been far more effective in ministry together, than we ever were when we were on our own.

I write this not to discourage you, but to help you see that Jesus really does want more for you than you could ever want or dream for yourself.

God promises that He is able to “do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

I look back on every dating relationship I was in throughout the years and I am confident that not one of those guys would have stood by me, encouraged me, challenged me, and loved me the way that Chip has. At the end of the day, we have fun together and I know that no matter what storms we may face ahead that we will walk through them hand-in-hand, and I can trust that the Lord will equip Chip to lead me out to the other side.

My husband isn’t perfect—but he leads me in a way that allows me to better see who Jesus is, instead of obstructing my view of Him.

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I am a promise.

Purpose is a word we hear so often in church language. My pastor often says we were made on purpose, with a purpose, for a purpose. If you’re anything like me you love hearing that there is some great destiny that lies ahead, and that our lives could have a lasting legacy.

But all to often we hear that on Sunday, and then Monday morning awakes us with a screaming baby, a coffee spill, or our gas light coming on when we are already running late for work.

All my life I have felt a deep burning in my heart to do something big. As a little girl, I wanted to hand out stickers to people walking into Walmart. During my teen years, I dreamed of attending law school and then working for state government. In college, I changed my major three times and ended up pursuing a field completely outside my actual degree, but that’s another story. Today, as a 28 year old wife and mom, I have aspirations so big that I’m afraid to even whisper them out loud. I wonder why it’s ok for a little girl to dream, but when she becomes a woman that dream is met with shame and dismissal?

Growing up, I remember singing songs with my mom but one in particular still stands out to me, and as you read these lyrics imagine a spunky 3 year old with blonde pigtails belting it out to the top of her lungs…

I am a promise, I am a possibility. I am a promise, with a capital “P”. I am a great big bundle of potentiality. And I am learnin’ to hear God’s voice, and I am tryin’ to make the right choice. I am a promise to be, anything God wants me to be.

What a cute little girl right?! A little girl who isn’t afraid of what people think, who will stand in the middle of the grocery store and sing this song loud and clear, a little girl who believes those truths with everything inside her. A little girl who now wakes up every morning wondering if she still has permission to sing that very song.

Earlier this year I began wrestling with why God continued testing my faith. You see after struggles with my marriage, the pain of infertility, ups and downs of an adoption journey, and now a calling that is bigger than I feel is possible, I was pretty frustrated with why I have to keep walking through these things. One night as I was driving home listening to the radio, I actually screamed out a pretty ugly prayer, “how many times do I have to prove myself to you?” And in that very moment I was met with this realization—We may fight and win battle after battle after battle, but the war isn’t won until we surrender our strategy. You see I have walked into a hopeless situation and surrendered to the Lord’s plan, with the mindset that once I got through it life could go back to normal. Normal isn’t something the Lord calls anyone to. So that night as I drove in silence I knew the one thing he was asking me to hand over was that idea of my comfortable, normal, easy life. I had held on so tightly to the security of my plan for almost thirty years and quite frankly my hand was starting to hurt.

So this next season of my life is going to be an interesting one. A time where I’m going to step out knowing that there’s no such thing as an average, comfy, routine-run life in my future. An opportunity for a 28 year old to belt out “I am a promise” at the top of her lungs with the same belief she had when she was only 3 years old. Jesus has called me to something far greater—and I am meeting Him there with anticipation. I want to challenge you to do the same.

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Mommy’s want…

A letter to my son…

4 months—that is how long I’ve known you, but I’ve known the promise of you my whole life. When I looked down at my very first baby doll I felt the want for you for the first time, though I didn’t understand it completely. With every boy I dated I secretly imagined the kind of daddy he would be for you, and sometimes that is the very thing that made me realize he wasn’t the one for you and me. The day your daddy got down on one knee and asked me to marry him I said yes because I loved him and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him—but I also said yes for you, because I knew he would be such a great daddy!

The next few years passed by and my want grew stronger. Sometimes I would catch a glimpse of what our life would be like if you were there… visiting with my aunt Jill and watching daddy rough-house with her boys, and his patience each time he had just sat down and was called to play again. The teachable moments he created with every kid he interacted with. Each time a baby was sat next to us at a restaurant, your daddy would go out of his way to make funny faces and then encourage the mommy and daddy by telling them how precious their gift of parenthood was. Those were the days I started to see his want for you.

That rainy day the doctor told us you were impossible was the day I felt my heart break into a million little pieces. I ran out of the office and your daddy was right behind me. He hugged me tight and reminded me that Jesus is faithful and that He would give us you in His timing. We both cried and that’s when I saw daddy’s want was just as big as mine.

February 17, 2014 (mommy’s 26th birthday) was the day Daddy and I announced to the world that we believed God’s promises to us were true and that He would give us you. We stepped out in faith and claimed the calling He gave us to adopt and started praying for the special woman who’s tummy you would grow in. Our want was multiplied on that day.

Those next nine months were the longest months ever for mommy and daddy as we pursued, waited, and prepared to meet you. Your whole family was so excited, but none of them could begin to imagine just how big my want for you was.

November 10, 2014 at 3:30 in the morning we got a phone call that you were on your way. So your Daddy and I jumped in the car and drove to the hospital, anticipating meeting you the whole way. We spent the next few hours dreaming about what you would be like and couldn’t believe how close we were to meeting you. At 1:23pm the nurse placed you in my arms and instantly my heart was put together again. That want for you I had known since I was a little girl was met with a peace that only Jesus can give and a full heart unlike I had ever felt. The moment my eyes met yours I knew Jesus had created you perfectly for me and daddy. All of those years of waiting were so worth it when I saw your little smile for the very first time. And watching your Daddy light up as you wrapped your tiny hand around his finger was magical… nothing can describe the love we had for you in that moment.

I share this story with you because there will be days in your life that you feel a strong want, something deep inside of you that you won’t quite understand at the time. That want will grow stronger and stronger with time, and there will be a stormy day where that want will feel impossible. When that day comes, know that mommy and daddy have both felt that hopelessness that drowns a want or shatters it into a million little pieces, and we will be there to hug you tight and remind you that Jesus is faithful. Hear me son when I tell you that Jesus IS a promise maker and a promise keeper and He will give you that want, but before He does He will grow you in ways you cannot imagine. He will write a beautiful story through that want and then use it to encourage other people’s wants. And one day, when you least expect it, after months or maybe even years of Jesus preparing you… He will provide your want. And you, too, will feel that peace we felt when God gave us you.

My prayer for you is that you will grow up never doubting Jesus loves you and how His want is immeasurably more for your life than you could ever dream or imagine. That you know the love your daddy and I have for you and that we wanted you so so much. That you will understand the impact your story has already had on so many, and that you will continue using it to glorify God in such a way that no one can deny His hand on your life. Your life is an example of how faithful our God is and that He keeps His promises.

I love you my little one and always will.

“And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.” – 1 John 5:15

Photo Credit: Abby Funderburk Photography http://abbyfunderburk.com/

Photo Credit: Abby Funderburk Photography http://abbyfunderburk.com/

 

Abundantly More…

This past Saturday was our Yard Sale Fundraiser…

I had set a personal goal of $300, and after weeks of preparation and organizing I woke up Saturday morning and asked God to show up.

First of all I want to thank ALL of the sweet people who donated their items to our yard sale! We had SOOOO much stuff and it was awesome!

Next I want to thank everyone who took time out of their Saturday to come help set up, sell, and clean up afterward… we seriously could NOT have done this without your help. Shout-outs to: My parents, grandparents, sister, brother-in-law, Walter Tollison, Karen Neal, Justin & Simone Carroll, Kirk & Jen Morris (and Bekah), Lauren Fincher, Brittany Bridwell, Josh Hellums, Andrea Addington, Tiffany Vatakis, Tami & Mackenzie Peterman.

I also want to thank each person who came out to support our yard sale! It was awesome to see so many friends and family members who wanted to help us bring home our baby!

At one point I remember looking around and fighting tears just because of how many of my dear friends showed up to shop our yard sale and how determined they were to come help us out. God taught me so much on Saturday and one of those reminders was simply… you can’t do life alone, and with Jesus it’s pretty much impossible. He continues to send us old friends and new friends to love on us and encourage us daily… these people (you know who you are) have become family… and our child is already blessed to have you in his/her life.

Throughout the day my incredible sister would come empty the cash drawer so that we didn’t have too much at any one point in the day. Around lunchtime we were blown away by how much we had already removed. At that point I decided we would stop counting… I wanted us to wait until the end to count everything out together.

All in all I was floored by the outpouring of love, support, and encouragement shown by our community on Saturday. God pressed into my heart all day that Chip and I are NOT alone in this journey and that the best is yet to come!

After the crowd died down (around 4pm) we decided to take all of the money inside and start counting… so Jessica, Lauren, Simone, and I went inside and began to count. Jessica kept track of the totals—and was the only one who knew the final number. We went back outside to make the big announcement and were surprised when we saw about 5 cars of people STILL shopping. God was not done…

Finally once everyone left we gathered everyone around to hear the totals and to take some pictures… Jessica announced the donations first… which were $325 alone! God provided my personal goal in JUST donations! Then… he opened the floodgates! Our yard sale put us at over $5000 total in our Adoption Fund! I’ll just say that God knows EXACTLY what He is doing and that He already knows how and when He will provide the remaining $10,000.

Ya’ll in just a little over a month we have raised over $5,000! That is PHENOMENAL!! Keep praying, keep sharing our story, and if God lays it on your heart… keep giving. He IS a promise maker AND a promise keeper, and we are humbled that He is giving us front row seats to watch Him work miracles in our life!

This weekend is Easter—the ultimate picture of hope. As believers we know that Jesus conquered death and with it He also conquered every single difficult season we will ever encounter in our lives. Trust Him and He will never let you down!

I’ll close with a note from my journal that I wrote the morning before the yard sale… “In His suffering He thought of me, in my suffering, if I look to Him… He’s all I need.” We love each and every one of you SO SO much and are so excited to see what’s to come!

Again, if you would like to donate you can at http://www.mycaring.com/babyb and if you would like a t-shirt please shoot us an email and we will get your size info and address.

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The News…

I’ve had a hard time composing myself enough to sit down and write this… but it’s time.

Chip and I decided about a month ago to pursue our infertility with a little more intensity, it was time for us to talk to our doctor and find out what was going on. My mother’s family has a history of PCOS and Endometriosis as well as miscarriages, so I have always expected it would be a little harder for me to get pregnant than most. I had heard all about my various options for fixing what was wrong with my body in order to conceive… I was prepared… and ready… so I made the appointment.

I will always remember that night. We had just gotten home from taking a friend of ours out for a birthday dinner. It had been a long day, so I changed into my pj’s and climbed into the bed. Chip spoke up and said, “There’s something I need to tell you…” My heart started racing and I knew something was wrong. He continued, “the doctor called today to give us the test results…” At that moment, I pictured myself in a hospital bed and the doctor handing me my baby, with tears of pain, excitement, and love I looked up at Chip and smiled. I thought about the day I had planned out telling our parents the news that we were expecting. I imagined feeling our baby kick and move inside of me. All of these experiences…in an instant became impossible. Chip interrupted my daydream, “Elizabeth did you hear me?” He began explaining in his own way that the tests were not what we had hoped… In that moment God revealed something to me… He did not intend to keep us from experiencing these magical moments, but had BETTER more meaningful moments planned for us. Jesus wants nothing more than for me to experience His best—which will fulfill me more than any dreams and plans I could ever want. The truth is God wants to give us the desires of our hearts and He ALWAYS keeps His promises. So as difficult as this next season will be for us both, I know that God is faithful and He will fulfill His promise to give us a child.

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He provides all our needs…

I love how the Lord always provides what we need, when He knows we need it most. Recently, a girl I went to college with began the adoption process. Her and her husband have struggled with infertility for years and after much prayer have decided this is where God is leading them. It has been such an incredible encouragement to read her story, and she actually is who inspired me to start this blog—if for no other reason than to put my feelings down on paper aka the screen. I hope one day my story will too encourage a girl going through the struggle of infertility. Please take a little time to check out her blog Grace While We Wait.

I try and stay in touch with my readers on a personal level through social media. Share this post to pass it on, and then click here to find me on Facebook.

Relating to the Shunamite…

Unknown to many… My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for two years now.

We decided a few months after we were married, to stop taking birth control and give full control to God on when to have a child. Now we are not anti-birth control by any means… I just had been on a roller coaster of emotions and my body continued to reject (through various health issues) every brand of birth control we tried. So, we decided in January of 2011 that we would give complete control to Jesus in determining our pregnancy.

Chip and I knew we wanted babies and were perfectly ok with having them early on in our marriage. We expected a “surprise” shortly after we stopped taking birth control, little did we know that God had other plans…

I was raised in a very large family. My grandmother, one of 8 girls and a mother of 5,  kept a daycare from the time her youngest was a toddler until she retired a few years ago. As long as I can remember I have been surrounded by children. Being the oldest of 13 grandchildren—ages 4 to 25, and 2 great-grandchildren, with 2 more on the way, it goes without saying our family comes from a long line of “fertile myrtle’s”. I have had the desire for motherhood since I was old enough to hold a baby-doll.

After meeting Chip, I knew we would be wonderful parents. He is such a kid at heart and loves to be around children of any age… I never dreamed that our prayers would not be immediately answered. But now, it has been over two years since we went off of birth control, and we still have not conceived.

It is such a struggle to trust and hold on to the fact that God is a promise maker AND a promise keeper, but that is the only thing that keeps me from losing my mind. Yesterday was Mother’s Day. Currently, I have 8 friends (off the top of my head) who are expecting, my Facebook feed is swarming with baby announcements, and I have already attended 3 baby showers in the last month. I am so excited for them all, and I don’t for one second want any of them to feel bad for sharing their excitement and updates because I want to be there for them every step of the way. They are experiencing God’s blessings and I do not want to take away from that one second. I want them to understand that they are not hurting me by sharing their news, honestly it is just a reminder when they do that one day God will fulfill His promise of motherhood to me too. I just wanted to make that clear before going any further, because it is important for my friends to hear me when I say, please do not stop sharing with me out of fear of hurting me. I love hearing all of the joys of motherhood from you!

With that being said…

Yesterday as I watched all of the mother’s at church beam with the overwhelming joy of being a mom, and all of the moms-to-be with their excitement of what’s to come, I was met with that all too familiar pang of jealousy. I almost didn’t even go to church because I knew it would be a sermon focused on motherhood, something that I had convinced myself may never happen for me. I always manage to put on a smile and tell everyone that I am ok with that, and honestly if we are never blessed with a child I will know that despite how hard it is that God is still good and wants great things for my life.

But yesterday, Jesus took the opportunity to speak to me right where I was during the sermon and I just wanted to share some things with you in hope that He will speak to you as well.

The story starts in 2 Kings 4:8. Elisha was a prophet in Israel (and prophets were very popular politically and spiritually—they represented the promises of God in Israel).

  1. God knows our hearts- This story is about a Shunamite woman who had a heart that was inclined toward the things of God and her struggle (like ours) to not doubt that God is a promise maker and a promise keeper. It is important to remember throughout the story that Elisha should represent Jesus. Starting out in the story, the woman recognized this fact and literally made room in her home for God to work (v.9-10). This is such a “Christian” idea… but I had to ask myself in the midst of my fears of not ever experiencing motherhood, had I made room for God to work or had my fears and reasoning of what was to be consumed my heart?
  1. God cares- Elisha was thrilled that she had made room for him, so he asked her if he could do anything to show his gratitude and she said no that she didn’t need anything… Isn’t this just like us women? I know it is so easy for me to think my problem (infertility) is not as big as some people’s needs and that I will be ok without… because there are tons of people who need their prayers answered so much more than I do… Elisha knew better… and again he represents Jesus. The fact is that God cares not just about us, but about what we care about. Don’t be scared to pray big prayers because God cares. Sometimes we get in circumstances that seem impossible… we call them impossible circumstances, God calls them miracles. Once Elisha heard that she had a desire to be a mother, he made her a promise that she would be a mother within a year. She then chose to take God at his word. We have to pursue the promises that God made in His word… We can’t just pray, we have to pursue… After she heard Elisha, she didn’t go pray (not that it’s a bad thing) but she went to work… Now this doesn’t just have to be physically, but something changed in her. All of the doubt that previously consumed her vanished just by hearing the promise spoken by Elisha. We have that same promise based in the Word… We must take that promise and go to work just as she did, and no longer accept that God will not fulfill His promise to us.
  1. God is able- By verses 18-20 we see that at the brightest point in the day, her promise from God died in her lap. The thing is she did not give up here… Her actions in this moment are so important. She carried the boy (which Bible scholars believe was around 10 years old at this time) up to the roof to Elisha’s room. She took her promise straight to lay him in Elisha’s bed. Remember that Elisha represents Jesus… This mother did not give up on God’s promise even when it died. She laid him in God’s bed, left the room, and shut the door behind her. Sometimes we have to get to a point where we trust God with our fears more than we trust ourselves, to the point where we lay it at His feet and close the door behind us knowing He can handle it much better than we can. We have to trust God with the promise, more than we trust ourselves.

She didn’t just stop there though… she left to go find Elisha, clung to his feet, and refused to let go until he (himself… not his staff, or a servant) came to heal her son. She was a persistent woman who refused to give up on her promise maker. Too many times we are willing to pray for God to do His part and not perspire to do our part.

I took so much from this story, and I know it could speak to women in all sorts of situations; however, for me it was a reminder to not give up on the promises of God. It’s so easy for me after two years of infertility to become ok with not receiving the promise of a child… but God desires for us to cling to his feet as the woman did in the story and refuse to give up on the promise that He has made for us.

To be honest, I will be perfectly ok if I never have a child of my own… but God is not ok with that. He wants us to continue praying and perspiring knowing that He will come through for us. In the bible, God ALWAYS keeps His promises. Even if he does not grant us a child, it is not He is not able… so I will continue believing that He is and refusing to believe anything short of that. In His perfect timing, He will answer my prayers in such a way that will fulfill His promise as well as my heart’s desire.

I hope this speaks encouragement to you, as it did me.

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