Conservative vs Liberal

I have been driving myself crazy trying to figure out what to think or do because of a war within the Christian community. It is the war between liberals (progressives) and conservatives. It divides families. It divides churches. It divides the body of believers. This is not what God wants. This is what Paul preached against. This is not biblical…at all.
I have been trying to understand wars, sexuality, human rights, you name it. I want to stand on what is right but in my search I have come up only with more questions and more things to be unsure of. I only get so bogged down and confused about things that I personally have no power over and I am distracted from what is important.

Conservatives and progressives are constantly attacking one another, throwing insults and accusations that they themselves are just as guilty of but unwilling to admit to. Each party does what it can to prove it is right. Both parties use the Holy Scriptures as weapons of war against one another, instead of a means for peace. The enemy who causes all of this confusion and division is laughing at how foolish we are behaving and is sitting back watching us destroy one another. That is his game and we are the pawns. How much longer will this go on?Just exactly how is it making a difference?

I honestly believe that anytime there is progress in areas such as human rights or any other agenda, it is not because of people protesting and writing letters to politicians so much as the silent warriors fighting on their knees, standing in the gap, repenting for the sins of those who are unwilling to repent and praying for the salvation of the lost souls who are in desperate need of the Savior.

It’s winning the lost to Christ that changes the world, not protests, not politics, not voting. Are we really so arrogant as to believe that we have power over those things? God is the One who has the power and He is ultimately the One in authority over all these things. I’m not saying anything against taking a stand as God leads, but when it is a poor reflection of Christ, then Christians need not be involved in the public arena. We are to pray in private. Prayer and fasting is our greatest method of power to change the world. It is where Heaven and Earth meet and God is leading the battle which He has already won.

More and more as time passes, Christians are looking like the world. Our faith is nothing more than a religious political arena for the most part. We seek recognition and personal gain from our own agendas (not much unlike politicians). We have right wing and left wing parties just like secular society has the republicans and democrats. We call them conservatives and progressives (as if conservatives were uninterested in progress…or progressives want to leave behind Christian values given by God through our forefathers). This is bunk!

What needs to happen is that we need to come together on common ground and leave the rest for God to guide each of us according to His purpose and will. We need to focus on one another’s strengths and speak words that edify. We need to encourage, not tear down. This is the will of God. This is biblical Truth we can agree on. We need to have a relationship that will make the Atheist hungry and the Agnostic thirsty instead of being the butt of their jokes. We need to stop turning the stomach of the people who need the Bread of Life and Living Water.

Christians are responsible for the condition of the world but it’s not because we haven’t taken a stand as some would want to accuse. It’s because we are standing more than we are kneeling. The power is in prayer! We have become so involved in the affairs of this world and things that are out of our control that we have missed the most important aspect of our faith…prayer and loving one another. We are too busy to pray when we should be too busy not to!

For the sake of the lost, stop it! Start living in such a way that we just don’t even have to speak. The world will know we are Christians by our love. Where is it? What do they see? They see division. They see greed. They see divorce. They see fatherless children. They see scandal, deception, backbiting and false teaching. This is what the world notices. They are looking for an excuse to not believe and we are giving it to them.

We are called to preach good news to the poor but if we don’t live like we have the good news, then what good is the preaching? We need to be done with religious politics and get back to the basics. There is a gospel. It needs to be lived out and offered to those who have ears to hear. Souls are at stake.

The Great Commission says nothing about ending wars and stopping violence. It’s actually so much less complicated than this. It is simply to go out into the world and share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is done not only with words, but with our actions and with our very lives. We are all accountable. It’s time to get things back on track. God is about unity and the church is divided. We must come together. It’s not an option. The eternity of countless souls is at stake. This is serious stuff. The only hope we have is unity in Christ. He can help solve our differences. Truth is, there is brokenness and repentance that needs to take place with both conservative and “liberals”, and the “parties” need to be raided by the gospel of peace.

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Amazing Blogger

I came across this page through Pinterest.  This man is running and praying in loving memory of his wife who died last year.  He is running for Lent..and praying as he goes.  It’s a beautiful blog to follow.  http://www.prayingrunner.com/

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The Blanket Commandment

Read Galatians 5:14

While participating in a pilgrimage in Eufaula, Alabama, I had an interesting discussion about legalism with an Episcopal priest.  We were discussing how the greatest commandment, to love, is the new commandment from Jesus.  It is the “blanket” commandment covering all.  God has been teaching me this for several years through one of my “growth themes for life”; Mark 12:29-31.  Those who know me well know that I reference these verses often.  It is not uncommon to fall into debate on whether the Ten Commandments should be the standard we are supposed to live by as New Testament believers.  Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17).  Through Bible study and sitting under the teaching of some amazing theologians that God has put in my life, I have learned that the Ten Commandments were given to us as a means to show us a need for a savior.  Sadly, many believers are still in bondage  to laws they cannot possibly ever even begin to keep. Each commandment leads to a plethora of other commandments that can stem from the original.  It is impossible to please God apart from the Savior.  Jesus kept the commandments perfectly.  He is the only one because He is God.  He is sinless. He is not even capable of toying with the idea of falling into temptation because He is the only One who is perfect and holy, the sacrificial Lamb of God, Yeshua.  Oh, there is something about that name that fills my heart to overflowing!

When I cross referenced Jesus’ command to love in Matthew 5:44, I immediately found a minimum of 20 references that reiterated this command.  The most compelling verse, however, is Galatians 5:14, which states, “The entire law is summed up in a single command, love your neighbor as yourself”.  There it is, in the Word of God. This verse is the end of the debate between Old and New Testament law. This is what is meant by fulfillment and not abolishment of the old.  God is all about loving others.  He displayed that perfect love so adequately through the sacrificial Lamb.  To accurately paint a picture to a lost and dying world, all we need to do is love others as well as we love ourselves…or even more, to think more highly of them than we do ourselves.  This is how we love God which is the First and Greatest Commandment.  To love others is to love God.  Let’s see how this plays out with the Ten Commandments and use a few for example.

One commandment is that we should not covet.  We should not envy.  Well, that already hits home with me!  If we love others and esteem them as more important than us, we see them as more deserving.  God gives to each of us as He sees fit for His purpose and our best.  We do not love God if we are not satisfied with our portion and want what another has.  Coveting leads to envy.  Envy leads to jealousy.  Jealousy will eventually produce hatred which can lead to theft, murder, and all kinds of other commandment breakers (and relationship destroyers).

Another command is that we should not steal. This one is obvious.  If we love others then we will not steal from them.  We will desire to add good gifts to what they already have. We will not covet their things and loved ones and try to take them for our own.  This applies to more than just things or spouses, but friendships and status as well.

This is a great segway for yet another of the Old Testament laws.  Do not commit adultery.  Hmmm, this is also coveting and stealing.  Funny how they all tie in together isn’t it?  To love God is to be thankful for what He has given us and not think we are more deserving to have what another has,.  It means we rejoice in the blessing He has given another.

What about lying, gossip or as it is written in the Bible, “bearing false witness”?   Why do we say bad things about people we are commanded to love?  This is considered murder by tongue!  From this we can conclude that when we spread rumors, we murder the name and character of another. We are putting self above others and above God.  This is also considered murdering of another’s character which brings to mind another commandment.

Do not murder.  When we love others (including our enemies) why would we ever murder anyone?  Here, I am speaking of the physical form. But if we are loving others more than ourselves, murdering their name would be such a tragedy that one could never even fathom physical harm!  If we love God first, above all, then we would love others too much to do this sort of thing.  So, if we are doing it, what does this say about our love for God?

Wow, writing these things has really been an eye opener and I must confess, I do not do very well when it comes to loving. God help me. One thing I have seen through it all is that envy and jealousy are at the root of most commandment breakers and I have a terrible problem in this area. Sadly I am not alone.  I think this is something that every believer struggles with at some point.  When it all boils down, we are only capable of love because He loved us first.  This is why He sent His Son to die that we might receive pardon.

We need to realize and understand that as we have been given so much that we should desire to pass it on. Consequently, when we are tempted to fall into legalism and/or judge another because they have broken a command, when we use a person’s “sin” to condemn them and treat them with hatred, we need to reflect on the new commandment (which really isn’t new at all).  Love one another. We are all equally guilty of falling short and quite capable of breaking every commandment God has ever given us.  We are no more exception to the rule than any other. We need to remember this when we are tempted to elevate ourselves above another in any form.  Also, we must be very careful to not look for reasons to justify our wrong treatment of another or to find a way to say, “I do this with love” when you know deep down that is not the truth.  I most certainly am not writing this from a clear conscience, but from my own personal convictions.

With this said, I conclude that the new commandment does not eradicate the old.  It is quite the opposite.  It is the blanket that wraps around it.  Love covers a multitude of sin.  Love God and love others to the best of your ability. Live by the new command given to us by Yeshua Himself. But, remember, apart from the Son, it is impossible to please God in any way.  The only way to love is through Jesus Christ who, when we believe, gives us the Holy Spirit of God to dwell in us as the holy temple of God.

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The Sacrifice of Praise

Read Philippians 4:4-7

It’s three o’clock in the morning. You are lying awake in bed, crying out to God for sleep, but for some reason, sleep just doesn’t come. After paying for gas and childcare for two children, you draw the conclusion that you are actually losing money by going to work. The wear and tear from the emotional and physical exhaustion has you stretched beyond anything you thought you could ever be capable of handling. You doubt that you have made any right decisions at all. Migraine, digestive problems and chronic fatigue due to stress and lack of rest make it difficult to perform even the simplest tasks.

The “Sabbath” day consists of getting the children up and ready for church, attending the morning service, coming home, fixing lunch, and then back to the evening service. What kind of rest is this? Then, the pastor has the nerve to tell you that no matter what you are going through, you can find something to praise God for. He tells you to rejoice and be glad. It’s enough to make you want to head for the door and never return. (Or perhaps you may even have to repent for the things you are thinking you would like to do to a man of the cloth!)

You have requested so much help from so many and are too ashamed to ask anymore. You want to give back for all those who have sacrificed time and money to help you, but you are not able. You feel such a sense of total defeat and it doesn’t help that your heart is still in shreds from open wounds that have not had time to heal. This is when praise is a sacrifice and this kind of praise is of the greatest value to God. It’s easy to praise Him when everything is going good. It’s when you are at the lowest point that it becomes the most difficult, yet the most necessary. The thing you need to do the most is the thing you desire to do the least. Yet, it is the very thing that will give you strength, peace and rest. But, how is this even possible? It is possible through the power of the Holy Spirit of the living God and can be found in just taking a moment in prayer. (To describe what I do in this situation, however, it would be more accurate to say, “fall down on your bed, ball your eyes out and cry out to God”.)

When you place your trust in your boss, your income, your friends, even your church, you risk disappointment. God never fails. He may provide in ways you don’t understand. You may not see instant gratification. But, in every situation, when you sincerely put your hope in God, and pray with a spirit of thankfulness, you will not be able to keep from praising.

Don’t think for a moment that He is unaware or that He doesn’t care. Do not allow the deceiver to gain a stronghold by buying into his lies. God is especially close when our hearts are broken and our bodies are weak. His strength is made perfect through our weakness. Therefore, He is glorified as we draw upon that strength. It is through hardship that we learn how helpless we are apart from Him and how much we need Him. This in itself is a reason to rejoice. When we trust Him, really trust Him, we can truly find peace in the midst of the worst circumstances. We are able to let go and let Him carry what only He is strong enough to carry. Then, and only then, will we find peace and rest.

How can we experience the strength of God without realizing how hopeless we are without Him?

Shot of Flavor

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit .” (Psalm 34:18)

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Beauty 4 Ashes

Read:  Isaiah 61:1-4

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away…for some this phrase is said so often that it becomes cliché. But for me, it is anything but that. The way I have come to understand it is that there is nothing in the Bible that sums up life on earth better.

Job, a righteous man, had just lost everything God had given him…except for his own life…and this was only the beginning of his suffering. We learn later in the story, that Job ends up getting back even more than he had lost. This doesn’t mean he got back the lives lost, but a new beginning of a new life even more blessed than the first time around.

Life on earth is all about gains and losses. It’s about rejoicing and grieving. There are no exceptions. If you are human, you will experience joy beyond measure and heartbreak beyond words.

This pretty much sums up my autobiography. I have been given beauty for ashes multiple times. Ironically, the grief and pain I have experienced…the ashes…are what I now treasure most because it was from the ashes where beauty has been brought forth.

God created all things from nothing…except man. Adam was created from the ash of the earth. From the man he created woman. He created beauty from ashes. The Lord breathed life into the man and the woman…The Lord gave. He gave them a garden with all their needs met…beauty beyond description. But, one fatal mistake changed everything and the Lord took away. He did not take away to punish. He took away to protect. Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden into a world where life promised to be difficult at best.

At this point mankind is hopeless to reconcile with God until the Second Adam enters the scene…the spotless lamb, the Son of God. The Redeemer brings us hope. His death and resurrection bring forth beauty once again. We are reconciled through Christ. We have hope.

Life has always been about the Lord giving and the Lord taking away…from the very beginning with the very first man. It is God’s story of the greatest gift of all…the gift of redemption through Jesus Christ.

God always brings beauty from ashes…to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. The Lord provides and protects. He gives and he takes away, and no matter how bad it seems…it all has a purpose. When all the broken pieces come together…they form a beautiful picture that brings glory to God and ultimate good to those who are His. This is how we can praise Him and how we can be thankful no matter what comes our way. God is sovereign. He is in control. He brings beauty from ashes. He is the only One who can always be trusted.

How can we experience joy if we have never understood sorrow?

Extra Shot of Flavor

Job 1:21

“…Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”


Take Out  (for further understanding)

Every promise from God is met with a condition.  When you do your part, He will do His. Research the referenced passages and seek out the conditions of each promise.

God never promised life to be easy (John 16:33); but He promised to never leave nor forsake His children. (Hebrews 13:5)  He is with you, child of God. (Matthew 28:20)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight. (Prov. 3:5-6)

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Wisdom on Wisdom

As I have mentioned in many blogs before, God speaks to me about my life through retreats. Each retreat has a theme that He reveals. Sometimes the revelation comes in preparation for the retreat and is affirmed while there. Sometimes the revelation comes during. My most recent experience, however, was different. I didn’t get the theme until after it was over. God spoke to me through His creation. I saw and recorded the experience but didn’t get the message until after I returned home and reflected…and the theme…reflections.

Earlier this year during my spring retreat, I received the message to pray for wisdom. This came prior to the retreat and has been continually affirmed in so many ways. I have mentioned many times before that God’s thoughts and ways are not like ours. As I reflect over the years and all the messages and themes He has revealed to me, I see more and more that what He leads me to pray for almost always turns out quite different than I would expect.

Skipping over all the previous themes, I want to jump right into the one He revealed to me at the beginning of the year…wisdom.

The twist of faith here is that when I think about wisdom…I think about how it is the proper application to knowledge. Wisdom also makes a connection between the head and heart. It’s taking what I know and what’s in my heart… and knowing what to do with it. I guess for me, that’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is how much we know. Wisdom is what we do with what we know. One is about intellect. The other is how we apply our heart to what we know…and consequently…how we live it out. Also, a person does not necessarily have to possess great knowledge to have great wisdom. I have known young children overflowing with wisdom beyond their years…yet still lacking much in knowledge.

As with all gifts from God, wisdom has its drawbacks. One of the biggest “surprises” I received with the wisdom God gave to me…is that it was easier to be a Christian when I wasn’t wise to some of the things God has opened my heart and mind up to. I was surprised that when He opened my heart to His in this area, some things that were revealed were difficult to accept. Instead of opening my eyes to things that are wrong in the world, He opened my eyes to the condition of His people and how far we have fallen from grace…and are totally unaware. While at the same time, He opened my eyes to so much in my personal life. He put all the pieces of the puzzle together and things I have never understood began to make sense! (This will be another blog because it’s way too much information to put here.) So many things fall into place when God’s wisdom comes to light. I read the Bible differently. Things that never made sense before are becoming so clear. I notice things that I never would have noticed before. I have discovered that I have had some wrong thinking in some areas. I have learned how to forgive and experienced the freedom of forgiveness. I have learned that some I thought wise were not as wise as I thought…and others are wiser. In the same breath, I tell you that the twist of faith applies in this area as well. It’s amazing what God can teach us through those who don’t even know Him. In fact, I think I have gained more wisdom in the most unlikely places…and even from those who are ignorant of Truth…than I have from many great theologians.

Now, I am not saying I did not gain from teachings of theologians. I did! I have so much more knowledge than ever before and God has revealed Himself to me in many ways as I have sought to gain knowledge. Seeking knowledge about the things of God is wisdom! But, man does not grant us wisdom about the things of God. True wisdom comes from God alone through the Holy Spirit whom the Father (God) sent to reveal all Truth. Apart from the power of the Spirit…knowledge is just fruitless knowledge. Applying wisdom to that knowledge is the only way to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit.

In conclusion….

Each year, at my retreats (if not before), God leads me to pray for (or focus on) a particular area in my life where He is about to grow me. He leads me to pray in preparation for what is to come. But, it is never what I think. God opened my eyes so much this year. He took all the crazy messed up puzzle pieces of my life and put them all together before my very eyes and for the first time, I got to see the whole picture. For the first time, I completely understand why things have gone the way they have gone and the marvelous good He has worked out through the circumstances. But the most important wisdom came through learning how to relate to my adult children. He taught me how to respond to an unexpected pregnancy…and changed my world and healed a broken relationship through the birth of that precious child…my grandson. He taught me how I needed to let go. My adult children are adults now. God is their Father and I have let them go to His care. It is not my job to tell them what to do…but to offer them words of wisdom and be an example. It is my job to pray for them and to trust that the God I pray to will tell them what to do…and discipline as needed when they don’t. It is my job to teach by example and to love unconditionally. That is just one example of what He has opened my eyes to this year since I began praying for wisdom. There is so much more… I could write a book…wait..I am!

James 1:5
Now, if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and without criticizing , and it will be given to him.

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Blazing Hooks

Today, I was invited to share a crochet story through a Facebook group called Blazing Hooks that I am a part of. I was so moved by the nostalgia I felt when writing that I thought I’d post it here. It really has nothing to do with Firmly Grounded (well, except that I like to crochet with a cup of coffee nearby lol), but it may be a pleasurable read for somebody so here it is:

When I was 7 years old, My grandmother taught me how to crochet. I used to love to go to her house when she, my mom, and my aunts would get together for crochet bees. They would do this frequently. I especially loved it in the winter when they would have a warm fire crackling in the wood stove (I was raised in Massachusetts as a child where most homes had some source of wood heat). Often they would have coffee and treats while they visited. I was so happy when I learned to crochet and I remember so vividly the very first time my grandmother taught me. One thing that always stuck with me was that she warned me to take care not to split the yarn and not to crochet to tight (which I still have a tendency to do).

Since I was so young, I only had the patience to do small projects like coasters and hot pads. However, when I was 16 years old, I decided to crochet a baby blanket for when I married and had my first baby. I used a “v” stitch pattern. It turned out perfect! But, my friend’s aunt ended up having a baby, so thinking I could just whip up another, I gave the first blanket to her. However, after putting much labor into a new shell stitch blanket (I still had very little patience for big projects), about half way through I noticed that with each row, the blanket had gotten wider. I put it up and never finished the project.

Next Tuesday, my youngest child will deliver my first grandchild. After not picking up the crochet hooks for 18 years, 3 years ago, I began crocheting newborn caps to donate to a ministry that reaches out to save babies in foreign countries. Then again, I didn’t crochet for at least 2 more years. I picked up my hooks again in the fall of 2010 as I began crocheting scarves for the homeless. I completed 3 scarves when I found out about my daughter’s pregnancy.

I decided that I would make not only a blanket (that I never made for either of my children), but an entire layette for the first time. I started it about 2 months ago and just finished the last touches on the sweater two days ago. I have arthritis in my hands and in the process developed “crochet” elbow. But I love crocheting so much now that I just couldn’t and can’t stop. I just take some pain meds and rub on some Aspercreme and continue to do this wonderful craft that brings me so much joy and relaxation.

I remember when I was little, my grandmother was a perfectionist. My grandfather would always tease her because she was constantly undoing her work and redoing it. He told her he didn’t know how she ever completed a project for all the “ripping out” she does. Often, he would catch her in the act and say, “There goes the ripper outer…ripping it out again!”.

I treasure this memory and think about it often…especially since I have followed in her footsteps and often find myself “ripping out” enough to complete at least 3 projects for every one.

I guess the nostalgia that comes with crochet is a big part of why I love it so much.

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Wellspring of Life

I am so overwhelmed…I just can’t even vocalize what is going on in my heart and life.  I feel God making such a huge change…but I just can’t explain it…heck, I can’t even comprehend it…it’s overwhelming…as if a very long and extremely difficult season has finally passed and God is starting a brand new thing…I am so taken aback…the retreat that seemed empty…is now making sense…just like all the others before…there was a purpose in the dryness of it all…it was symbolic of the desert I have had to go through over the last few years…and now, I have reached the wellspring and he is just welling up and overflowing like never before in my life.  I don’t know why now…but God’s timing is perfect. A few weeks ago, I struggled to have a positive though (a good part of it was due to medicine that I am no longer taking)…and now…I can’t find a negative one to save my life.  I broke down and surrendered.  No great change took place in an instant…but it started in that moment and so much is happening so fast that my head is spinning…and IT’S ALL GOOD!!!!  My grandson is coming next week!  Oh man, I am so excited!  I am excited about this wonderful new church Michael and I are visiting…I am thankful for the pastor who prayed with me..that was it!  That was the official moment…Sunday, during worship, in church…that was the turning point…I remember it now!  Then, the pastor took time to speak to us and gave me an opportunity to be transparent..then he prayed…and God blessed!!!!  Oh man!  I don’t know why I am so blessed right now but I am enjoying every second of it!  Haha!!!!!  This is the biggest mountain top I have ever climbed…and the most difficult one to climb as well!  So worth it!  God will use it through ministry to others!  He already is!!!!  Oh, I pray I get to linger here for a while before I start climbing the next one (it will take me even higher and at this point…I just can’t handle that much!  LOL.  God won’t give us more than we can handle right? Ha!) The view is gorgeous!!!!!  I am a sponge!!!!!

Oh, Father, thank you for never leaving me and for getting me through this difficult climb.  Thank you for the clarity, the fresh air, the newness, the refreshment…the joy unspeakable and peace that surpasses understanding….and it just seems to have come out of nowhere.  So many pieces of the puzzle…and the completed picture (of one in a series of this life).  It all makes sense!  Everything…all the way back to my childhood.  I kept asking why????  Now I KNOW WHY!!!!  SO THAT YOU COULD BE GLORIFIED!!!!

A member of the church came to visit us Sunday.  He said something that will stay with me forever.  I probably won’t word it just right but I’ll try my best…He asked me what Jesus did to prove to the disciples who He was.  The answer is that he showed them his scars.  Then he proceeded to tell me that our scars are not something to be ashamed of as satan would have us to believe, but they are the scars that bring glory to God and where He has brought us from…they are the testimony of our salvation!   I praise God for these scars…these beautiful scars that glorify Him and testify to His almighty greatness!  I can truly say, this is a fresh new awakening for me!  Oh, Father, God…praise be to Your Holy Name!  All the glory and honor goes to You alone forever and ever!  Amen.

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A Love Story

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.

Blessings!

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

~chorus~

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.

Bridge

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

Chorus

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?”

Katrina: “Yeah”

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.”

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Waterfalls and Broom Trees

Today, I was reading from a morning prayer book. I read about how important it is to find a place of retreat, to get alone with God and talk with Him. I don’t know about you, but, I don’t even know what a broom tree looks like…nor do I expect to find one. For some, a broom tree may look more like a broom closet! Doesn’t matter! Whatever it takes..finding time alone with God is a MUST or else the stresses of life will take it’s toll on our bodies.

For me,  “broom trees” are waterfalls. I love waterfalls! When I go on retreat these days, I hunt them! I love to hike and find a beautiful waterfall to sit beside and journal, listen to nature, look at nature and hear God in the midst of it all and the thundering falls…or trickling water (we have dry seasons when the falls are more like trickles).

I love to listen to a babbling brook or stream if the falls are not available. But, I can’t just get up every morning and go hunt a waterfall. So, when I need that place of rest and retreat…right in my own home…I plug in my little rock fountain and put in a cd that has ocean waves and soft classical music. I light a few candles and I journal right there. We all have an environment that helps us to find quiet and retreat. Depending on the urgency and what is available, this can go from a broom tree to a broom closet to a thundering cascading waterfall…or a simple table top fountain. Create the environment you need to take a personal retreat..whether at home or away. As water gives life…don’t forget the Well that never runs dry. You can drink from the Water of Life and never thirst for more. His name is Jesus Christ.

Flavor Shot:

John 4:14

“…but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.”

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