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Angry Sea Gentle Savior
I felt so hopeless that I couldn’t see
Beyond the things that troubled me
I didn’t know where my God could be
While I was drowning in this angry sea
I didn’t realize that tucked away deep down
My Savior was sleeping, peaceful and sound
I sent him there then the winds began to blow
I brought about this storm is what I didn’t know
I was grasping at straws trying to keep afloat
As the winds and waves grabbed at the boat
Oh Father, I cried, where are you now
As another wave crashed over the bow
I lost all hope knowing I had no power
To calm the storm so I began to cower
I called out to God hoping He’d hear me
When I noticed He was standing right there with me
The One I had sent to the bottom of the boat
Stood by my side and filled me with hope
As I looked to Him I forgot the storm surrounding
And only saw grace and love abounding
Then ever so gently He whispered to my sea of despair
“Peace be still”, and to the air
He lifted His hand and with a single wave
The winds that blew suddenly gave
Oh yes in a moment the storm that was violently raging
Became still waters and sunshine upon which I was gazing
On November 7, 2011, as a 2nd anniversary present to my husband, I wrote up a testimonial and sent it in to Christian Cafe, the Christian internet singles site where we met. Here is our story:
In 2001, I unexpectedly became a divorced parent of two. My son was ten and my daughter was almost eight when this happened. As of 2009, we had been living with my best friend for nine years. (Because I was struggling so hard trying to provide, God moved in her heart to take us in shortly after the divorce.)
Being a single mother was probably one of the greatest challenges of my life and most certainly the most rewarding. In the 9 years I was single again, my main focus was on raising my children and trusting God for a husband in His time. For fun, I tried some online dating services and eventually signed up at Christian Café. I paid for a membership for a brief time, but did not seriously desire to connect with anyone so I let my membership expire. However, since I had signed up, I would often get email notifications when there was a free trial period. Since I had to be frugal, I decided that I’d just play around whenever I got a free membership. Eventually I even stopped taking advantage of the free memberships and for about a year I did nothing with it. I got busy going to college and working full-time. I was quite content at being single so I stopped going to the Café altogether.
Then, on March 23, 2009, I got another notification for a free trial. So, I half-heatedly decided to take advantage of the free offer. I was really too busy to get involved in a relationship but I really had nothing more interesting to do at that moment. So, for entertainment, I decided to go in and check my inbox to see if there were any funny emails to read (I got them from time to time). I had no idea that God was about to use the Christian Café to bring about a complete overhaul of my life. My Heavenly Father was also about to provide for a huge transition into a totally new phase in my walk with Him.
As I sifted through emails, I responded to a few potentials. My original plan was just to check the emails and be done. But, since I had nothing better to do at the time, I decided to go ahead and just browse the café and see any new faces I was matched up with. It was at this time that I came across a profile picture of a man from Alabama who was very handsome, but in a wheelchair. My first instinct was to just move on to the next profile because I just did not think I was selfless enough to date a person who was handicapped. But, I was curious as to how he ended up in the chair. I wanted to read his story. I wanted to find out more. So, I read his profile and was blown away. I thought, “If could place an order for a husband, this would be his profile”. I really asked myself if I could overcome the handicap and take a chance on this wonderful man. After praying, it didn’t take long to realize I’d be crazy to pass by this potential opportunity. He had mentioned in his profile that it was important that the wheelchair wasn’t a problem.
It also said on his profile that his membership had ended. But, I still had to at least make an attempt and see what God would do. I knew that He is a God of making the impossible possible according to His plan.
So, on March 23, 2009, at 10:23 pm I sent my first email titled, “Pick Me!” (I wanted to make sure my email stood out among others…and it worked because it was the first one he opened…and the last…
Here is what I wrote:
“Hi, I am not usually this forward on here…but I can’t wait until you get a free trial so we can (hopefully) chat. I LOVED your profile and don’t worry about the wheelchair issue…if I am so blessed that we might engage in a conversation…I won’t be concerned with you being
in a wheelchair.
You seem like a really good person who loves our Lord as much as I do… and I’d love to have the opportunity to correspond with you. So, if you have even the slightest bit of interest while you are thinking about which of your many emails to respond to…I hope that it might be possible that you would pick me!!!!🙂
My trial here will end tomorrow…I don’t know how our paths will cross at the same time…but with God all things are possible…right?
Who knows..maybe you have already found that special someone.
Blessings to you”
Out of all the emails I responded to that day (prior to finding Michael), I only anticipated one reply. However, since I could not afford a membership, I had to wait until the next free trial. Normally, the free trials came months apart, but for some reason, only two weekends later, I received another free trial. I didn’t realize it until a couple days later because I was at a sleepover with some friends and unable to check my email. On the morning after the sleepover (April 5), I was talking to an acquaintance who informed me that in her prayer time earlier that week, she felt that God had given her a “word” for me (oblivious to what was going on with Christian Café). It was Isaiah 62: 2-4.
“2 The nations will see your vindication,
and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will bestow.
3 You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
4 No longer will they call you Deserted,
or name your land Desolate
But you will be called Hephzibah,
and your land Beulah;
for the LORD will take delight in you,
and your land will be married..”
It was received as such a message of hope. I had been through so much and had struggled so long and when God’s word was spoken in that moment, I believed. I knew God had given this person a word of prophecy and I could not let it go. I didn’t know who or what it was speaking of…I just believed. Then, I told her about the email I sent to Michael and how I was anticipating hearing back. I also told her that his membership ended but that I believed that all things were possible with God. So, when I went home that evening and realized I had another free weekend, I couldn’t sign in quick enough! As soon as the page popped up, I began looking for his reply and there it was!
On April 9, 2009, this is the response Michael typed to me:
“Well, I kept getting notifications that I had mail here on Christian Cafe, so I thought I’d come back for one more month and I have to say that I’m glad I did because I LOVED your message and your profile! You sound like such an engaging, interesting woman with a true love for the Lord!! But, unfortunately you’re not active right now here on CC!! But, you are 100% absolutely correct when you say that with God, all things are possible!!
So, with that being said but without rambling on too much for lack of not knowing when (or if) you’ll get this message, I’ll just leave it at this for now. I do have a paid membership for 1 month, so maybe you’ll pop back on within the next month … but if not, since I’m paying for this membership this month, I am permitted to send my contact information…
Hopefully we’ll be able to hook up and communicate with each other … provided you haven’t already been spoken for.
I was so excited! This began a plethora of email exchanges that quickly led to phone conversations and video chats. Although things were going great, I was very apprehensive and guarded my heart not to get carried away too quickly. As the relationship began taking a more serious note, I wanted to slow things down. I was going through some difficult personal circumstances and began to be very insecure about a romantic relationship. But with every doubt came affirmation from God that I needed to hold on and not run. Every time I doubted, something would happen that would tell me that this relationship was part of God’s plan.
One example of this would be the fact that my best friend and I were doing a Bible study by Beth Moore on Esther. The reoccurring themes just happened to be, “Who knows…” and “…for such a time as this”. One night, just after watching a video on these themes, I was talking to Michael. I believe we were discussing the difficult circumstances I was going through and how I didn’t want him to get caught up in it. He responded, “Who knows? God may have brought me into your life for such a time as this”. Well, you can imagine how the conversation turned at that point. I do not believe in coincidence. I believe in a God that is always aware and in control of all circumstances…I especially believed in that moment!
I have to go back in time for a minute in order to prepare for another example. A couple years after my divorce I heard a song on the radio that made me cry. I said out loud, as the tears rolled down my cheek, “That will be the song played at my wedding if I ever marry again!” One morning, not long after Michael and I started communicating, I got this email from Michael in which he explained that he usually leaves the radio on when he gets ready for work in the mornings. Usually, he can’t hear it from the back room but the song really grabbed his attention. He said it described exactly how he felt about me and wrote down the words. Before I even read them, something inside me said, “It can’t be…” Here are the words to the song:
It’s always been a mystery to me,
How two hearts can come together,
And love can last forever.
But now that I have found you I believe,
That a miracle has come when God sends the perfect one.
So gone are all my questions about why,
And I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life
Oh I wonder what God was thinking, when he created you.
I wonder if He knew everything I would need,
Because he made all my dreams come true.
When God made you, He must have been thinking about me.
I promise that wherever you may go, wherever life may lead you,
With all my heart I’ll be there too.
And from this moment on I want you to know,
I’ll let nothing come between us, and I will love the ones you love.
(guy):So gone are all my questions about why (girl echoes):about why
Oh I wonder what God was thinking when he created you,
I wonder if He knew everything I would need,
Because He made all my dreams come true.
When God made you He must’ve been thinking about me.
He made the sun He made the moon,
To harmonize a perfect tune,
One can’t do without the other they just have to be together.
And that is how I know it’s true,
Your for me and I’m for you and my world
Just can’t be right without you in my life
He must have heard every prayer I’ve been praying (girl echo)
I’ve been praying (both) He must’ve known everything I would need
When God made you, He must’ve been thinking about me.
Under any other circumstances I would have thought it too soon for a person to feel this way about me. But, even though I was apprehensive and careful of getting carried away too quickly, I couldn’t deny the “coincidence” of this song. I knew even before I read the words that it would be this song…This old song that I had not heard in eight years and only heard the one time…This old song that he had heard for the first time that morning.
It had only been a few weeks. We had never met in person. But so many things like this just kept happening. So on May 09, 2009, Michael and I had plans to meet in person for the first time. I was so nervous I could hardly eat. I felt sick. When we met, he treated me so sweet, but, for some reason, I began to feel uneasy about the whole situation. We had a wonderful dinner. Then, I went home to change for our symphony date. I was suddenly so uncomfortable with everything and knew I would never meet a nicer man but at the same time… I think I knew inside that this really could be it and it scared me to death. I cried out to God in tears, on my knees and prayed for wisdom and guidance. I asked Him to remove my fear.
When we were at the symphony I was afraid that he would want to hold hands or put his arm around me. I didn’t know what I would say or do. It was so terribly awkward for me, but not for Michael. He knew from the beginning. He had settled it in his heart and he waited patiently for me to get it settled in my heart (which took much longer!).
The moment arrived when he had an opportunity to put his arm around me. I was freezing. He gave me his jacket and as I had anticipated, he took advantage of the opportunity to “hold the jacket up” on the other side…and it felt WONDERFUL! The next morning we went to church together before he returned home. Later he told me that it was the best first date he had ever been on and even admitted being a little misty eyed as he left. These words brought tears to my eyes. I was overwhelmed.
The second weekend we got together (two or three weeks later), we sat out in the church parking lot after a date, watching lightening off in the distance. We held hands in the car that night for the first time. I have butterflies as I write this…just like I did that night.
In early July, I made my first trip from West Tennessee to Central Alabama. He took me to a very romantic restaurant for dinner that overlooked a beautiful river. Then we spent some time together before he took me to check into the Fairfield Inn, where he had reserved a room for me. The next morning was when I would be introduced to his church family and friends. Here is another one of those “examples” of how God was showing us that He had brought us together for marriage. One of his friends took me aside and asked if she could sing at our wedding! I responded, “Ummmmmm we haven’t even known each other for two months!” But, before I knew it she had drawn me into making plans (and she DID sing at our wedding…you’ll never guess what song it was)! Neither of us knew that her husband was talking to Michael about the same thing!
During the last week of May, Michael attended my college graduation (I never anticipated my future husband being at my graduation). My son had joined the navy a few months earlier and I had decided it was time for a change. Previously, my daughter and I were presented with an offer to move to Atlanta and start a new life with friends there. It was a hard decision that took several months to make and accept. I had lived in West TN for most of my adult life and (prior to meeting Michael) I couldn’t imagine ever leaving. But, the invitation from our friends seemed like an opportunity to move forward and I thought maybe God had opened this door for us to walk through. So, we were planning to move to Atlanta in July. God was about to throw a wrench into my plans.
What I was unaware of was that God was about to take me through a very difficult pruning season…one which would not involve a move to Atlanta but to Alabama. God would use this time to bond Michael and I even closer to Him and one another. The Atlanta plans fell through at the last possible moment when my daughter chose to move in with her estranged father (who ironically just happened to live only two hours away from Michael). I had already turned in my notice at work and there were no open doors in Tennessee. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me…but God did. Marriage and a move to Alabama was not something I had planned for, especially not this early in the relationship with Michael. I had come to a place in my personal life where I had put my friends, church, career, and children in first place…the place reserved for God alone. I needed to have God in that place before I could have a successful relationship with anyone…God knew I needed pruning. Michael knew God had put him in my life for “such a time as this” and He was my lifeline to Jesus through an excruciating season of heartbreak and transition. God used Michael to be a beacon in what would have otherwise been a very dark time in my life.
As time went on, our friends, coworkers, family, and both of our church families were all pushing the marriage buttons! We kept telling them that they were moving too fast! However, it got us talking about it, just a couple months after the first incident at his church, we were shopping for wedding rings. We wanted to be prepared but had no intentions on being married within a year from meeting. (I think God may have actually been laughing out loud at our plans.)
On the weekend of August 9, (Just three months after meeting in person for the first time and a little over a month after the Atlanta plans fell through), Michael had come to celebrate our three month anniversary of the day we met in person for the first time. Due to circumstances at the time, and conversations we had been having, I knew that a proposal was in the air at some point, but Michael wanted to do it when I least expected it. I expected it at least by August 9, the day Michael was scheduled to return home after our anniversary date. We went to the restaurant where we met in person for the first time. I thought maybe he might propose then. Dinner came and went. No proposal. So, I had resolved that it was too obvious and he wasn’t going to do it. As fate would have it, his car broke down and had to be put in the shop for repair. It wasn’t going to be ready for several days. So, because he had to work early the next morning, I ended up having to drive him back to Alabama that evening where he had another vehicle available. We got there just in time to catch the most beautiful sunset from what is now our front porch. It was such a romantic gift from God that set the stage for what was about to take place.
With the long day coming to a close, and a much unexpected ending, I had given up on a proposal. We were about to say goodnight with the little game that we began playing after we picked out wedding rings. It was a conversation that would go something like this….
Katrina: “I want to marry you.”
Michael: “You do? You want to marry me?”
Katrina: “Uh huh”
Michael: “So, you want to marry me huh?”
Now, at this point he would normally say something like, “Well, you never know.”
But this time he said something different…
Michael: “So, will you….marry me?”
Not believing he was serious, I responded jokingly.
Katrina: “Yes! Now I just need a ring on my finger!” Then I held out my hand.
Michael: “You mean like this one?” Much to my surprise, he reached around and pulled out the ring.
Needless to say, the moments following involved lots of squealing, crying and shaking as he placed this beautiful ring on my finger. He accomplished his goal. I was definitely caught off guard! At 10:00 pm I began waking all of my closest loved ones to tell them the news before announcing it to the world on Facebook the next morning. They all affirmed and celebrated with us.
Originally, we had set the date to be the weekend of the anniversary of our first email connection, April 9, 2010. The move to Atlanta turned into a move to Alabama. But, the wedding date turned out to be much sooner than expected. Unable to secure a job, I would not be able to afford an apartment and I was not going to move in with a man I was not married to. This would not glorify the One who brought us together. More and more, Michael and I were encouraged to move up the wedding date. I was filled with fear. It was all happening so fast. But while sharing my dilemma with a co-worker and mentor one day, she asked me, “Are you going to let a spirit of fear keep you from doing sooner what you know is destined to be anyway? Why not marry him now?”
After much prayer and so many circumstances moving us to marrying sooner, we moved the date up from April 9, 2010 to November 7, 2009. We chose November 7 because November is the season of Thanksgiving and the number 7 is God’s number for completion and perfection.
And so it was, Michael Dunkin and Katrina Blakely became Mr. and Mrs. Dunkin on November 7, 2009. We are a three cord strand with God at the center, growing ever happier in our marriage with each passing day. This testimony is completed on the day of our 2nd anniversary and presented as a gift to my “Hubby” from his “Wifey” with so much love. I give all the praise and honor and glory to the only One who deserves it. Thank, you Father for blessing us both with this gift of marriage. It is our desire to have a relationship that will be a testimony to others of Your great love. “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”
A couple years ago, after reading the first chapter in Read the Bible for Life by George Guthrie. I must admit I was quite surprised at how personal this chapter was for me since it revolved around the February 5, 2008 tornado that struck Union University. I didn’t realize that Dr. Guthrie had begun his book with this particular discussion with David Dockery. The entire chapter was so personal and so relative to my walk with God that I was almost moved to tears. Let me explain.
During the time spoken of, like many who will be reading this book, I was not only a student, but I was also on staff at Union. I had just left the office 2 hours prior to when the tornado struck. It brought me back to that night when I received the phone call saying that volunteers were needed to help get the students to safety…and what a miracle that not a single life was lost.
I remember the weeks following and how the normal routine at work had completely changed and we all had to pull together to salvage what was left. We had to regroup, reorganize, counsel, and rethink how things would need to be done. I remember attending my classes at one of the local private schools while campus was being “reconstructed”. It took everyone putting aside personal tasks and personal issues to focus on working together to help the victims and clean up the rubble. The whole community came together. It was such an amazing experience to see so many reaching out to others in a time of crisis.
Amidst the nostalgia while reading, I found myself deeply touched by a couple of particular statements in Dr. Dockery’s testimony. The first thing he said which had a very personal impact was when he commented on his perspective of what it meant to live with a biblical view of the world. He states, “First, we must be committed to the Great Commandment, loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, as well as loving one another as ourselves”.
It was not the words of Dr. Dockery which struck a chord so much as the Word of God which he quoted. If I had my personal journals in front of me, there would be many references to Mark 12:30 and Deuteronomy 6:4 because these verses were the start of a lifetime of change for me and have been the focal point of that change for the last decade.
Loving God first goes totally against the grain of humanity. In fact loving God and others is quite the opposite of human tendency. Loving self first is what comes natural to our carnal being. What I have learned about putting me first is that it is…
2. Counter productive
The harder we work to elevate ourselves in our own eyes and the eyes of others, the more selfish we become. We fight so hard to protect what is ours and to be something other than who God created us to be. Consequently, we are not much fun to be around.
People feed off of one another’s selfishness. They try to make friends with those in the limelight for their own personal gain. They step on others to climb to the top. They even do nice things for others for personal recognition. Relationships become superficial. Feelings get hurt. Anger gets stirred. Fights happen. Friends are alienated. This is the same kind of selfishness that is at the root of divorces, gang fights, riots, and wars.
Being self focused is the equivalent of shooting oneself in the foot or beating your head against a brick wall. Yet, it is a constant battle and a conscious choice, moment by moment that I strive to not be self-centered. Being unselfish does not come naturally for most of humanity yet, selfishness is almost like self abuse. Even so, we cling to the carnal teachings that say we are our own God, we don’t need God, and/or we must be true to our “self”…”me first”. This gives a whole new perspective to, “The last shall be first and the first shall be last”. Putting myself first almost always will put me in last place in the long run.
Truthfully, I have learned from personal experience that selfishness leads to loss…not gain. God commands us to love Him first because unless we do…we can’t love others. If we love others and consider them more important than ourselves, we live in peace with others and with God.
God doesn’t command us to do this because he is an egocentric. He doesn’t put boundaries in our lives to imprison us. He does it to free us. The cure for all the misery in the world is found in the First and Greatest Commandment…love.
So, where is the problem? Why is loving God and placing others as more important than ourselves so contrary to popular belief? Why is it so hard to love? It shouldn’t be.
In closing, I leave you with another impactful quote by Dr. Dockery, “It is because of sin that our relationship with God has been distorted. It is because of sin that our relationship with others has been frayed.”
It is because of sin that we find it hard to love.
On April 27, 2011, our neighborhood in Concord, Alabama was struck by an EF-5 tornado that was reported to have been on the ground for approximately 350 miles…leaving complete devastation in its wake. The tornado touched down just one street from our house. This is not the first time I witnessed the devastation of a tornado but it is truly the greatest devastation I have witnessed and this time it was closer to home than any other.
My husband and I took refuge 2 miles away in his mother’s storm shelter. As we attempted to get back to our house, it was like we were in a bad dream. The devastation was everywhere – trees and power lines were down, buildings were devastated (some of them just gone), and people were trying to get the injured out as first responders had not yet arrived on the scene. I wanted so desperately to get out and help but I feared Michael and I might lose one another. My mother called me as we were still trying to get home and said that more storms were coming our way.
We were stuck…bumper to bumper with others who were weaving in and out around downed trees and power lines…trying to find our way home. After about an hour and a half, we finally made it into our neighborhood which was only 2 miles from where we took refuge. We passed a few homes that were okay and I began to feel more hopeful that our home was still standing. Then we celebrated in joy and tears when we saw our home untouched by even a broken tree limb.
I remember lying awake in the darkness that night. The sound of sirens never seemed to stop. I thought about how just one street away, people were buried, waiting under the rain soaked rubble to be found. My heart ached for families who had loved ones missing, not knowing if they were dead or alive. I grieved with those who would mourn the loss of their home but even more, those who had lost loved ones.
Lying there in the comfort of my home, with such a mixed bag of emotions, I began to thank God for the little things and realized how they weren’t so little. I thanked him that I could hear my husband breathing and see my puppy sleeping. I thanked Him for my bed, blankets, and the roof over my head. I prayed for my neighbors and the first responders. I experienced a wave of emotions from gratitude to guilt. I felt guilty because I got to sleep in my bed while my neighbors had lost everything, including loved ones.
There were 21 deaths in our county that night. It is such a small number in comparison to the total deaths in the state which exceeded 200.
Today, our community has come a long way in the rebuilding process, but we still have a long way to go. The oddly bent and twisted remains of trees are covered in new growth. They stand as a reminder of what happened a year ago today. Like the trees, our communities are also experiencing new growth from the wreckage. They will never look the way they did before, but, they will live on. One day, in time, we will hardly recognize the landscape as having been touched by such devastation. However, our hearts will always remember the loved ones lost on that terrible day. Here is a list of their names.