double engagement

 

A friend asked recently how I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Chelsea.

Reflecting slowly and wanting to give a full, thorough answer, I still found myself rendered speechless. Articulating the ways in which one falls in love or has the necessary intuition to know the person to spend their life with is a lot like putting words to picturesque mountain views, laughing without restraint, or times when pure, untamed joy strikes. It’s nearly impossible.

There are some experiences that transcend words and explanation; they just are.

Chelsea is the woman I choose because of who she is. Chelsea lives life, welcoming all experiences, while opening the hearts of people around her. She laughs fully, explores freely, and loves without reservation. She is intensely intelligent and is uniquely self-aware. Though I have known Chelsea for many years, she is the kind of person that you can learn something new about with each passing day. One of my favorite parts of Chelsea, though, is that she is silly and makes me laugh. She holds space for profoundly important conversations and ridiculously silly moments. The balance between the two is the key to a keenly rich life.

I also knew I wanted to share life with Chelsea because of the kind of woman she encourages me to be: my full, real self. I can be who I am without reservation. In our life together, there’s an ease, a grace that is immensely refreshing. It has been in this ease where we have found a rhythm and the space to let love grow.

I trust her when we drive together at night. She celebrates my dreams. We share duties in the kitchen. We discuss our strengths and weaknesses. She rubs my shoulder when I’ve had a long day. Big or small – there are corners of my life that are now forever different because of her.

For these reasons – and at least a million more – I said “yes” when Chelsea asked if I would marry her.

Certainly, “double engagement” was always a part of our plan. Our initial discussions of engagement in the summer of 2017 included the core agreement that we both wanted the opportunity to ask each other in marriage (and say “yes” too). Plans came to life. I asked her to be my wife just days before our 1st year anniversary. And, as snow turned to Spring, I wondered if Chelsea would be asking the same question soon.

Turns out, she was voraciously planning. Thick in preparations for the end of my first school term and working full-time, I was not caught off guard by the few signs that the proposal was coming soon. Randomly, I noticed that a particular mid-April weekend was loaded with special occasions: a massage for me, a day at the park, and a romantic dinner for two. Chelsea shared that because she had landed a big design project that she wanted to treat me. Cool, I thought.

I had no idea of what I was getting into.

On the morning of Saturday, April 14th, Chelsea and I slept in as the sun crept into our bedroom. We smiled as the day began. It was going to be a great day.

We grabbed a casual brunch with a friend before making our way to Washington Park. We go to the park all the time, so I thought this was just another standard park Saturday. In addition to wearing my go-to Patagonia jacket, I decided to wear my very loud Colorado hat. Additionally, I had packed a football and frisbee in the car but decided I would grab them after we finished our first lap around the park.

Ironically, as the walk began, I prompted an entire conversation about wedding planning. Washington Park is one of our top choices for a wedding venue and so it seemed fitting and appropriate to start dreaming as we took a stroll around. Oblivious to Chelsea’s nervousness, I suggested we stop at a bench near the North end of the park to take a closer look at the boathouse. Quickly, and probably with some surprise, she obliged. We sat, and I drank a free sparkling water that we picked up along the way.

After a few minutes, Chelsea cleared her throat.

“So, I thought I could show you some of the prints I told you about earlier this week.”

I was confused: why would we be looking at her prints at the park?

I asked, “are they on your phone?”

“No, I brought them with me.”

Opening up her backpack (which now, seemed completely out of place given the fact we were just taking a walk) she pulled out a black book with four prints inside. I opened the book and began taking the prints out, one by one. I tried to let each one sink in slowly. By the third one, I was pretty sure that something special was happening. I could feel it. And, the third print included a short lyric from one of “our songs” that we want to use at our wedding.

Chelsea prompted me on the last one, saying that, “there’s one more,” while turning it around (it was facing backwards near the end of the book). As she flipped it over, I read the simple, but powerful, emotion-laden words, “Heather, my beloved, will you marry me?”

Indeed, it was happening.

Of all the things, I had to ask: “Do you have a ring?”

Obviously, she did. She even had it in the most perfect tree ring box. Every small detail was planned.

My stomach turned to mush, and my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest. Tears brimmed swiftly, and I said an emphatic, “YES!”

She smiled and remarked, “I’m not quite done yet…”

I breathed heavily in and out. I wanted to hold onto this moment. Everything was happening so fast. We locked eyes and I felt time freeze as she read a letter she had written for the special day. She read each word with such sincerity. She told me she loved me. She shared the kind of joy she felt in doing life together.

Getting on one knee, she opened the ring box and asked again – “Heather, will you marry me?”

This time, I said a louder “yes” while also kicking my legs back and forth and hugging her tightly. This was really happening. She put the ring on my finger and I gasped. It was stunning. The shock commenced: how had she pulled this off? When did she talk with my parents? Where did she hide the ring? How long had she been planning? Who knew what was happening?

With glee and joy, we called, texted, and messaged family and friends to share the news that we were engaged – again. Double time.

Double engagement is much more than two proposals. To me, the value of two individuals – already whole – coming together and proposing is that we both are opting in. We are both committing. We are both saying “yes.” This is not so different from the real-life reality of relationship: on the tough days, we each have to show up for each other in different ways. We make the choice to be together and we feel that a double engagement symbolizes this important aspect of relationship.

The rest of the day was a dream. Immediately after the park we went to get our favorite kind of ice cream at Sweet Cow. The ice cream shop has been iconic in our relationship; we went there at least 15 times in the first few months of dating in 2016. For the evening, Chelsea had booked a romantic dinner at Dazzle, a Denver jazz club downtown. Sharing champagne, we finally took everything in and celebrated. It was lovely, and I was simply, so happy.

So, now doubly engaged, we are beginning the formidable task of wedding planning. It’s a new step in our relationship, and we’re doing our best to adjust and figure it out.

What I know for sure is that Chelsea will be my human forever. She will be the one I marry.

Life will throw us challenges, difficulties, and hardships – I know this because it already has. And while our life won’t be perfect, I am sincerely grateful that our faith, our love, our hope, and our commitment will be what can stand anything. I am relieved to believe in this kind of love. Chelsea has changed my mind about what is possible with love.

Before, I thought love was an ideal to strive for and a way in which to live a life.

Now, I know that love is power – it can transcend anything, withstand anything, and hold up anything. Love is more than just something to hope for, it is something to be felt, to be shared, to be cultivated. I do this better with Chelsea in my life and if that isn’t a reason to marry someone, I don’t know what is.

Cheers to love and forever and for tree ring boxes.

teeth-cleaning, life-giving, kind-of conversations.

Naturally, I was late for my bi-annual dentist appointment. Wrongly assuming I was some sort of a traffic god, I gave myself three minutes for a 15-minute drive. Slightly frazzled, I walked through doors that I have walked through since I was a little girl.

Dr. Long has been my dentist – well, forever.He’s a good one but it’s kind of always like this:

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He gave me a retainer, helped me get my braces in tip-top shape, fixed a chipped tooth, and most times, cleaned my altogether decent teeth.

Escorted back by the hygienist, the tension was palpable due to my late arrival.

To mitigate this, I quickly commented, “I’m really sorry for being late.”

Nothing. Except for the whining of the ultrasonic cleaning instruments that dentists frequently use. What a pleasant background noise.

Great. Now the woman about to clean my teeth with a razor sharp tartar scraper is less than enthused because of my tardiness. Less than ideal.I really, I mean really, need to work on being on time to things.

Delicately but without much sympathy, she put the bib around my neck so that the spit, toothpaste, and general dentistry-grossness didn’t get all over my shirt.

She was still silent.

Quick! Say something! I couldn’t think of anything.

She nudged first, “So, how has your summer been?”

I paused. Answer with grace. Grace, kindness, grace, enthusiasm, and still more grace.

“Well, first of all, I can’t believe we are nearing the end. It’s kind of crazy. I’ve been working and doing some trips around the country. Trying to have as many outdoor adventures as I can. It’s been a good summer. What about you?”

She told me about her big move into a suburban community from her previous home of 16 years on a southeastern Colorado farm.

We bonded over the mutual experience of boxes and settling into a new neighborhood. She softened, and told me about her upcoming anniversary – her wedding one – honoring 15 years of marriage.

I’m always about asking the deeper, thicker, molasses-heavy kind of questions, so I posed, “Did you change a lot in those years? With your spouse, I mean?”

“Of course I did. You – we – always will. I got married late. 36. I had resigned to the idea that I had been blessed with the gift of singleness. Just when I gave it up, like a boomerang, it came back to me.”

“I guess you never know, right?”

“Exactly. That’s exactly it. I kind of think that the right thing will always happen. We just have to be willing to loosen our grip and you know. Let it go, I guess.”

With crumbs of plaque resting idly between the crevices of my teeth, I moved my tongue to ask the next question that had popped into my mind –

“Are you a Christian?”

Her eyebrows pointed downwards quickly in a bit of shock, disbelief, and uncertainty. Mostly, suspicion. What business did I – a patient – have asking in the middle of a cleaning appointment?

I asked because her spirit, sentiment, and largely, her vocabulary choice ruminated and dabbled slightly in Christianese you often hear in the church. The “gift of singleness” is an idea or phrase I’ve only heard in that context and so, frankly, I just had to ask. As usual, my curiosity got the best of me.

She laughed hesitantly and looked at me like I was no more than 10 years of age.

“Aww, you’re cute.”

Wait! No! I’m not about to whip out the bridge to Jesus or some device or tool to convert you to a particular brand of faith! Literally, she just struck me as someone who was probably deeply spiritual.

“So – let me tell you first. I don’t like that question – “

I interrupted her.

“It’s the wrong question. I don’t ask that of you because you have to fit in that label, necessarily, I ask because you seem like you know God. From the way you are talking. I should ask, something like, do you know God?

“I’m a seeker. I’ve been seeking my entire life. I go to church, I take part in bible studies, and I desperately want to know God. But, Christianity carries a lot of meaning that I’m not sure I can also carry that word with me. It’s full of hate, honestly, and that really scares me.”

Totally fair. And, she didn’t have to explain all of that, but she did. And honestly, I understood exactly what she meant. I got it.

“I struggle all the time. There’s “Christians” who live lives full of malice, judgment, and narrow-minded ideologies. There’s also “non-Christians” who are revolutionizing communities for positive movements. What I’m trying to say, I think, is that it’s essential to love what God loves. Faith is an active part of life. It’s more than what you label yourself. It’s how you are living.”

“Yes! That’s it!”

She softly, much more openly, laughed again and mumbled that I was “adorable.”

“How old are you again – 27?”

“Yes.”

“Oh for heavens sake! You are a baby. Just a baby. Are you dating anyone?”

“No, not right now.”

“Well, no rush. Like I said, it all happens for a reason. Don’t give up.”

I gargled, spit, and smiled. My front row of teeth were now sparkly clean – glowing from the removed coffee stains of the past year.

The best advice I have read is that everyone is our teacher. Thus, if everyone is our teacher, then certainly, that should (and can, and will) include dental hygienists.

My teeth are smoother, cleaner, and my love for authenticity in in the world is a little higher, too.

Own what you are. Share it. Listen to others. Even from a dentists’ chair.

I love living a life of faith because it presents an opportunity to reclaim the identities placed upon us. I’m a Christian. And I’m so, so ridiculously imperfect as a human. But, I also choose to believe God loves me exactly for who I am. He created me, after all. If you start believing this – really, fully, in your bones believing – than it becomes less scary to function in this world.

My authenticity was made good on a cross. Label or not – that cannot be taken.

Perhaps we can consider what it would look like to reclaim this word “Christianity” – so that instead of being seen for the hatred played out in the world, people would instead find a faith rooted and made right in love.

That’s what I think about when I sit in a dentist office. That’s why life is so cool.

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*

 

 

“find a way – or make one”

“My name is Nancy, and this is my granddaughter, Niki.”

“Oh! I am with my grandmother too!”

My sticky, crumby fingers (thanks, orange jam) reach for the gold-plated teacup to the right of my china plate. The taste of perfectly warm English tea is refreshing; I sigh in delight as I carefully place the cup back on the table. The gold silverware are placed in perfect position, the table linens are iron-pressed, and a stack of intricately decorated pastries lie before us.

As the etiquette guide suggests, I look into my cup as I sip, not over.

I don’t know the first thing about proper etiquette except for the quick briefing I received years ago from Michelle when I visited her home in England.

Luckily, I attended this church’s Christmas tea last year, so I certainly know what to expect. Don’t chew with your mouth open, pass the tea to the right, and for goodness sakes, don’t break anything. Easy enough, right?

My grandmother and aunt have attended this holiday tradition for six years and so I feel all womanly and grown up to be involved now too. Gathered at table 11, we are ready for prayer, scones, and a short drama about Jesus’ birth.

This story, though, isn’t just about this lovely gathering of family with light conversation. This is a story about God.

*

As the cuppas were poured, soft laughter ensued and conversation shifted from crocheting and cookies to life situations and God’s faithfulness.

Nancy, the woman who first introduced herself, reveals that she is excited to join us for Christmas tea today because she “doesn’t get out much.” I tilt my head in curiosity and she explains further, with far more detail. She’s an older woman, but a strong woman, and so I wanted to know more.

For the last 10 years, she reveals, she has been her husband’s caretaker. Determined and resolute, she explained she could never place him in a facility. Cooking, cleaning, bathing, everything: she does it. In awe, my mouth dropped. She wasn’t even finished.

A deep passion began to resonate inside of her, and with outward boldness she declared that this was marriage to her; 60 years of it taught her as much. “I want young people to know…when you sign up, you sign up forever. It’s not easy! There are good times, and there are hard times, but love is sticking through it. You just keep going…It’s through sickness and health. Through everything.”

I wanted to give a standing ovation in that moment; the best I could do was mutter a meek “wow” and say, “that’s amazing.” Luckily, God would allow much more room to speak.

I ate my cheese and couldn’t stop thinking about what she had said. It reminded me of the kind of love I had seen in Garry & Grandma as she was dying slowly and painfully years ago. That’s a really special kind of love. I wasn’t sitting there in self-pity; actually, I was sitting there in deep gratitude. To see that kind of conviction is a blessing; I can tell that God has placed Nancy in just the right place, at just the right time. And, perhaps, has done so for years and years of her life. That’s a special kind of faithfulness. That’s only God.

Five cheese cubes later, my work with the Women’s Bakery arose in the chatter. I explained further about the women that we work with and why working with them is just so special. I could feel myself glowing – like bragging on an over-achieving child or something – as I shared the commitment I saw in the classroom to learn and to believe in their own capacity in ability. I too was quickly on a soapbox about women’s empowerment and the importance of allowing women a voice in the world. As I spoke, Nancy was quick to write a sizable check and pass it to me with grace and with humility. Shocked, I left my seat to get close to her, to hug her, and to express my amazement at her generosity.

The exchange went something like this,

“Oh honey, I want to keep on contributing. I don’t have a computer, but I will keep it up. I just know this is important…”

Stuttering, I say, “Oh!….Um…I will write you a letter…”

“That would be great darling.”

“And, I want to say, it was also a blessing to hear what you said about marriage today. I’m really inspired by your commitment to your husband. It was an honor to hear about your life. Thank you.”

She smiled ever so softly.

Just wait, dear! Just wait. Wait for the right person and you will see God provide for you in ways that you could not imagine. Let me tell you something. My granddaughter here, Niki, was in a traumatic car accident when she was 11. She had to re-learn everything. To speak, write, think, walk…everything. Her father never stopped supporting her. Her mother too, always encouraged her to remember that despite her disability, she could still do anything God set her mind to. When her mother died, her father never stopped serving and loving her. That’s love, my dear. That’s love….You just have to wait. You have to be patient.”

I turn to Niki, Nancy’s granddaughter, “You are a miracle. I hope you know that.”

Nancy nods and continues, “Yes, she is. God has done amazing things. For all of us. That’s how I was raised, to know God is able, God is mighty, and God will do great works.”

“Where did you grow up?”

“Right here in Denver! But you know what, my mother was actually raised in Atlanta. And she wrote a book about her mother, my grandmother, who grew up in an orphanage. She would always tell us, ‘find a way or make one!…If you are dishwasher you will be the best darn dishwasher that you can be. If you are failing, you must ask WHY? God has given you the greatest gift you could ask for: life. So live it. You must live it’ ….But anyway, the orphanage would later become Spelman College – you know that place? – and my mother wrote a book about it. I would love to share that with you sometime, I can definitely get you a copy…”

I realize in this moment that God did far more for me in this interaction – in this day – than I could have ever imagined. He answered my prayers.

To be honest, as I drove that morning over the long, black highways of Aurora to get to this tea gathering, I doubted a lot of things. I reflected on some of the people I had met on my recent adventures in Kigali and thought, “how am I going to have that kind of fellowship with people here…? People drive everywhere! People are on the move, God, how will I find community here?” While living in Rwanda does bring it’s own set of difficulties, it is often easier for me to adjust there. It feels more natural to me, frankly. And so, coming back to the USA, prepared or not, is always a struggle, particularly in the spiritual realm. My life in the USA always brings a falsehood of control, and when I realize how much I don’t know, I get a bit unsettled and freaked out about where my life is going.

I listened to this woman speak so much truth and it was clear. Community is found in waiting and in trusting patience. I learned that from Nancy – because of her own relationship with the Lord. And while her truth was a sweet blessing for me, my ability to listen was just as important for her. To be heard – that’s a gift, that’s fellowship, and that’s the foundation of a community. I didn’t realize that my community might come in the form of 78-year old women, but God is always doing things that we don’t expect. God allowed me to be blessed in a collision of people where I could be a blessing too. Um. THAT IS SO COOL.

“Nancy, I would love to come over and hear more of your stories. I really would…”

That’s all it took. Quickly, she was writing her phone number, her address, and her name on a scrap piece of paper.

“That would be so great. Please, let’s do that.”

Her eyes looked surprised, content, and thankful. This woman of God inspired me in her faithfulness – in her life, in her relationship with her husband, and in the way that she carried herself.

For me, I was just grateful that God could use someone like this to remind me, once again, that above all of our fears, questions, and doubts, we just need to love Him, and love others. He will build our community; He will deliver His plan; we just must wait. In hope, in expectation, and yes, in love.

*

I read a beautiful, small and timely piece of scripture this morning. It pointed back to Nancy, it pointed back to God’s calling on our lives, and really the wonderful gift of freedom we have in our lives – no matter where we are, no matter what we do, and no matter our circumstances –

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for men.”

Colossians 3:23.

Yes. Find a way or make one. Trust God, because He – above all things – is faithful.

*

zahara’s song.

*

November – 2012.

Grainy, thick air flies into the tin roof of heavens far beyond us. Our tin roof is holey, old, and rusted over; once destroyed by the intensity of a late fall storm, the school failed to have the sector fill the gaps, openings, and cuts. The melodic pounding of sole-shoed feet along with the beating of the faded drum commands the cracked cemented, gray floors of my classroom. These strong feet – belonging to my students – direct the air in a circulatory motion, the dust too, and it blends together as one.

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My own hands are a mix of cheap white chalk and sandy residue from desks left unclean and untouched since the coming of heavy rains. I clap anyway, acutely aware that I can wash later when I get back home. Eventually – at some point – I’ll be clean. That has become my mantra, it seems.

I grin as Zahara sings her song. It is the one she always leads her class in; the one she is often singing underneath her breath when I visit her at home. Sometimes she is cooking over the fire and humming. Other times, it’s less noticeable, like when she sweeps away trash towards the banana plantations. I can’t make out her wording entirely, but I know she is singing that particular song. I only know some meanings of words. Much later, when I would know the translation, when I would know her, and when I would know her story, I would also realize with great depth the meaning of these precious moments.

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My students are gathered in a circle. Zahara has her eyes closed and yet is leading the spontaneous creation of a student-filled choir. Everyone knows this song, it seems. When she opens her eyes to everyone singing along with equal enthusiasm, her grin overwhelms her face and I see untainted joy written all over her heart. The girl loves to sing.

From then on, that song would carry special meaning in my heart. It was one of those songs that just take you back to somewhere else (somewhere special) no matter where you may be.

Muririmbire Uwiteka (Prayer Song for Rwanda; We Sing of the Lord)

Muririmbir’ Uwiteka indirimbo nshya kuk’aje gukora ibitangaza mu gihugu cyacu (we sing of the Lord a new song because He has come to give miracles in our country)

Ikiganza cye cy’iburyo n’ukuboko kwe kwera (at the right and holy hand)

Abizanishije agakiza k’u Rwanda (salvation has come to Rwanda)

Yibutse imbabazi ze (we remember your forgiveness & mercy)

Yibuts’umurava we (we remember your determination)

Abigirira igihugu cyacu cy’u Rwanda (these things you have for our country, Rwanda)

Abo kumpera z’isi bose (It will exist in all the world)

Babonye agakiza kacu (our salvation has been found)

Bati koko u Rwanda rufite Imana (they can say that Rwanda really has God)

Banya Rwanda mwe mwese muhaguruke turirimbe (all Rwandans will stand up to sing)

Dore Uwiteka aje atugana (Look! The Lord has gone before us)

Aje kutumara agahinda (He has taken out our sorrow & grief)

Adukuyeho ibyaha (He has removed sin)

Muze tumusange araturuhura

Muze tumusanganire n’ijwi ri’impundi (We go to meet the sounds & shouts of joy)

Yemwe misozi mwese (we join like mountains together)

Namwe bibaye ni muze (And you, you have done all of these things)

*

September – 2015.

I glided into Christian Life Assembly this Sunday in a navy blue dress and a sweaty head of hair. My house was only 20 minutes way, but a Sunday walk around Kigali isn’t like a short jaunt around the block. The sun is scorching across the sky, and the hills are unafraid to make you work for every step. I was about 5 minutes late and so worship had already started. I could hear Muririmbe Uwiteka as I was approaching the church from the parking lot, and I could hardly contain my pace. Zahara’s song!

I thought of those sweet memories in my class, when the students would sing that song and press their hands and feet in a collided motion to fill the room with praise for God.

I thought of Zahara’s voice – always recognizable, always beautiful.

As the song continued, and I realized I had actually begun to understand the full meaning of the song, I thought of the good works God has done (and is doing) in Rwanda specifically, and truly, honestly, I feel an overwhelming blessing in my heart to get to be a part of it. I think of Zahara’s changing life, the other girls, the other stories I have woven and out of, the women I am meeting now, and I can’t help but say thank you. I don’t why me or how or how my life has continually led me to stories in this place, but I’m glad it has.

As for me, I can’t recall any epic singing events. Zahara’s voice far outshines anything I have ever put to tune. I’ve had my share of karaoke glory moments (Sweet Home Alabama in Ghana; Heartbreaker at Hendrix; and It’s Raining Men in high school) and of course, who wouldn’t agree – singing is fun! Even though the Lord didn’t gift my vocal chords with a sound of harmony, we still sing.

We can sing for the things He has done – sometimes, most especially, the things we thought could never change. This morning, as this song swelled in my heart, I sang for the ways God has changed my heart most recently and most dramatically.

Marriage.

*

Last fall, a close family member probed and asked, “So, do you want to get married…ever?”

I pursed my lips and scoffed, “We’ll see, maybe, I mean…I’ve got so many other things going on…

It’s far easier to play it off, to act like you don’t care, to play “the strong card” as you will.

Yeah. That was always the excuse. Busyness, independence, strength. These things aren’t bad. Especially when the right one truly, genuinely hasn’t been presented in your life. There is truly nothing wrong with singleness or waiting to be married, or perhaps, never getting married should that be the plan for your life.

But, that’s not really what I am talking about. I had a bad attitude, y’all.

I will completely admit that I didn’t even think of marriage as a good thing. I simply used these other excuses to mask my own fears, hesitancies, and skepticisms. My hard-lined approach left me bitter, doubtful, and in preference to do things on my own. At least if I got hurt, I could handle it. I could stay “in control”.

It would be easy to blame my family history. It’s tempting, isn’t it? Let me just look at the long listing of divorce in my family and say, nah, I don’t think so. But how fair, really, is that? Can I really stay bound to the historical, problematic chronic divorce problem?

It would also be equally easy to turn to the shifting of our society’s expectations of the modern day woman. Only problem there? Well, eventually, the age will come. You will grow up. And husband or not, it’s probably important at some point to examine what you think and why. Just because marriage isn’t working on large-scale levels in the United States, for example, doesn’t mean I have to completely check out of the idea myself. Salvaging potential hurt or pain, I promise, is no way to live.

Layer by layer, piece by piece, my heart changed. God did this.

Nobody else.

It took time, it took a lot of hurt, a lot of confession, a lot of forgiveness, and whole load of grace.

In summation: not only did He free me from my family’s past – He promised me – I’m not kidding here – that one of the purposes I have in my life is to restore family brokenness. It’s hard to explain how this was revealed (my goodness it was so intimate), but as my own burdens, sins, and lies of the world were let go, I was free to understand that my life would be and could be something different. We aren’t only products of our environments, my friends. We are products of hope, too. Of Him, if you surrender. And woo, that is so sweet.

First, He had to show me the depth of my weakness. Oh, it’s far down. Independence is one thing; assuming you can do ALL things without God – that’s another. I had been operating on Heather-control for so long that it felt weird to hand over the reins. It was like when you give the keys of your car to the rightful owner. You hold onto them just long enough…and finally, you let go. Then, you get in the passenger side, and soon enough, you are just enjoying the ride, waving your hands on the side, wishing it had been this way the entire time.

He taught me about partnership, submission and the true beauty of being a woman. Submission wasn’t what I presumed it to be; it’s more about honor, respect, and genuine love. I was intimidated to let go of control – especially to a man! – and really, that was rooted in a great need to control. He called me to places as an “unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” and was challenged in acts of selflessness in doing so. I could give the control over. Over and over again, I would. I will.

I started seeking positive marital examples and asking many, many questions to women (from all over!). These discussions are my souls’ sweet spot, as I love and thrive in sharing cross-cultural relationship experiences with women. Led to conversations with Mexican, American, and Rwandan women, I learned that marriage is about God, shared life, and healthy sacrifice. It’s hard. But it’s life.

One Mexican women said it so simply, “just talk.”

Late this last summer, a wise woman spoke boldly and surprisingly into my life: “…don’t worry about that husband of yours. He’s there.” She hardly knew me, and she definitely didn’t know the way God had changed me in those months. She couldn’t have known. Yet, I remember hearing that, and the way it felt. For the first time, in my entire 26-ish years, I believed it. I believed it.

That’s the miracle of my perspective on marriage – and it’s the miracle of my faith too. It just clicked, and you begin to have a different kind of heart that is full of different kinds of things from before.

When asked about a marriage a year ago, I had resigned myself to isolation, identity confusion, and loneliness.

The issue was far beyond even the understanding of marriage – it was my understanding of God. I didn’t believe Him. I didn’t believe who He was. And I’m telling you, when you begin to believe and trust in His power, His great (and good) love, and honestly, His graciousness, your heart will be compelled to change.

He has spared me from so much. There are many, many moments – especially with men – that things could have gone so differently. He saved me then, and He is saving me now. In a fully committed relationship to Him it’s kind of amazing how a fully committed relationship to a husband now seems completely, totally, and actually possible. Dare I say, exciting?

I’m grinning as I write that. That’s kind of perfect.

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So, about that song.

Zahara still sings it. She sang it just a couple of weeks ago when I saw her.

I sing it too.

I sing it, I think about the way God has come in Rwanda and changed this country – a true bringing of freedom and hope – and I remember what He has so recently done in my heart.

We sing a new song, we sing of praises, because we have new life, new hearts, and things have changed.

This is just one way, of so many, that He keeps pressing into my heart and challenging me to think something different. It’s weird. But, it’s fun too. I’m not sure what’s next, but I’m keeping my eyes open because truthfully, you never ever know.

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