A Love Story Retold: My Very Own Happily Ever After {Part 4/4}

Just tuning in?  I’m sharing Dale and my love story with you this week, in honor of the Beauty from Ashes Ceremony we are having this weekend to celebrate 2nd chances, as well as our 10th Anniversary, which is TODAY! 

  An anniversary has never held more meaning for us, as it does this year.  Today is extra extra special, because I just keep thinking, had I gone with my initial thoughts back in July, we’d be sharing custody of the kids this weekend instead of celebrating as a family!!!! Woah.
What doesn’t break you, DOES make you stronger! Praise God that He is able to trade beauty for ashes, joy for mourning and peace for despair!  {Get caught up here: Surviving Infidelity }

Happy 10th Anniversary to the love of my LIFE!
We’ve been given a second chance at a once in a lifetime kind of love, and I am not letting you go

I will see you this weekend,
At the end of the aisle,
I will be walking towards you with
Tears and a smile…..

I love you, Dale!

xoxo T

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  Part 4 of our Love Story, from the archives:

  I was engaged to the man of my dreams!  Now the wedding I had in my head since my childhood could take place.  Well, a budget version of that dream, but my dream wedding, none-the-less!  I had always wanted a huge foo-foo Princess wedding dress and a fancy night-time wedding in a church packed full of the people I loved most……

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By the time the invites were done, we had invited 800 people. I had chosen 7 special people to stand up with me as bridesmaids and witness our vows and Dale had done the same, choosing 7 groomsmen.

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I wanted to involve all 7 of my nanny kids, whom I loved and adored, as well as those who I babysat for for years.

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Scan_Pic0049And Dale, coming from a large family, thought it’d be nice to involve his cousins too.  In the end, we had 12 flower girls, who would head down our churches 4 side aisles that day, while handing out flowers to start the service.  Next would be 2 bell ringers down the Center aisle, followed by the Jr. attendant walking with the 2 more flower girls.  I wanted it to be a day to remember, Dale just wanted me to get down the aisle already!

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I’d like to tell you May 24th, 2002 dawned bright and sunny, but it didn’t. Well, it was bright and sunny on the inside, but outside? Terrible storms and rain.

My best friend called me in a panic that morning, worried how I was handling the weather, but my cheery “HELLLOO!” took care of any concerns she had.

This was my big day, a few thunder claps weren’t going to ruin anything!

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I had never been more thankful that God had restored my parents marriage and that I, once again, had a great relationship with my dad.  Because I had not moved out during our “rough patch” as I family, I woke up the morning of my wedding, in the bedroom of my youth.  I smiled to myself, giddy for the day to begin, and tried to capture in my mind the regular morning noises of my mom, dad and little brother making breakfast downstairs….for this was the last time that would occur.  When I left the church that night, I’d be heading to the home I would share with Dale, the one we still live in today! I was a 20-year-old young woman, ready to spread her wings and fly for the first time!

After all the hub bub of hair and make up, Dale and I met pre-service for what is now called a “First Look.”  We wanted to get photos over with ahead of time, but still have a private special moment when we first saw each other.  I don’t have the professional photos to capture it, but this is a snapshot from a friend.  Dale meet me at the end of the aisle with tears and a smile.  Before we parted ways, he grabbed me, pulled me close and whispered a prayer in my ear.  I loved that when the big moment came for me to enter the church and walk down the aisle on my Daddy’s arm, the butterflies were gone because I had seen my man. He had prayed with me and calmed my spirit. I was ready!

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The wedding was at 7 pm, and it was everything I hoped for.  The church was dark, the stage accented only by soft lights and twinkling candles.

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Our pastor gave a beautiful wedding charge, and when it was time, Dale and I  tearfully read our written vows to each other.

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Soft piano praise music played in the background the entire time, thanks to the musical talents of Dale’s friend on the Baby Grand, inviting the Spirit of the Lord there in the church with us that night.  And He was there, I could feel Him and He was smiling at us. The angels in Heaven rejoiced as they sat back and watched another ”Happily Ever After” of a Love Story written by the Author of Love Himself.

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Lest things get too serious on our big day, we tried to end on a fun note, and lighten the mood with the recessional song:

A roarin’, piano-thumping rendition of Little Richard’s “Great Balls of Fire.” It wouldn’t be complete without the part where you zip up and down the piano keys, and Dale’s friend nailed it!

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WOO-HOO!  He’s finally MINE! 🙂

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After an appetizer reception in the church gym-turned Garden, with twinkling lit trees, shrubs, gazebos and winding lit paths, Dale and I took off for our new home as a couple.  The day was everything we’d dreamed it would be and so very much more.

To end a perfect day, we sat down on a quilt in the bedroom of our new home, opened the picnic basket my mom had packed for us, and had a carpet picnic; eating all the wedding food and cake we had missed at the reception, as we greeted and hugged our guests for hours.  During this picnic, I presented Dale with my box of letters and purity ring.  As we ate, we opened them and read them from earliest to most recent.

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We laughed at the little-girl scrawl of age 13, starting with “Wuz up?” and ending with an oh-so cool “Ciao”, smiled at the grown-up words of a 17-year-old young lady, had flashbacks of a difficult time during the broken-hearted letter of age 18, full of apologies for giving her heart away to a guy named Dale, and finally, a tearful letter addressed: “My dearest Dale”, full of love and devotion from a 19-year-old woman, engaged to be married to the man of her dreams.  It was a beautiful moment, one I will not soon forget.

We were blessed to go on a week-long Honeymoon to Maui the next morning, thanks to the generosity of the amazing family I nannied for.  It was Paradise, just like they say!

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A lot has changed in 9 years, and we are not without our trials and tribulations, fights and tears. But I can tell you one thing, there is not one time I look back over our Courtship and that particularly difficult time in my life, and not see the Lord’s Fingerprints ALL over it. He guided us when we were lost, He carried us when we were too weary to stand, He lifted us up when we were broken down, and most importantly, He lovingly took us away from each other, to prepare us to one day be together again, this time FOREVER.

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When I said “I Do” I meant it, forever and ever, till death do us part.067

I leave you with 2 thoughts:

Guys, “If she’s amazing, she won’t be easy. If she’s easy, she won’t be amazing. If she’s worth it, you won’t give up. If you give up, you aren’t worthy.”

And girls remember this, “A girl should be so lost in God, that a guy has to get lost in Him to find her.”  You must be content in who you are alone, before you’ll ever be content in who you are with someone else.

Take these quotes to heart, hold out for your very own “The One” and GO get those books by Eric and Leslie Ludy.   They are LIFE CHANGING!

Thanks for letting me share our Love Story with you! It’s been a really fun walk down memory lane for Dale & I!

~T

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A Love Story Retold: Letting God Write Your Love Story {Part 3/4}

Our Love Story, continued from yesterday….

The time line is a bit blurred in my mind, but somewhere along the way, close to the Holiday’s, the Lord asked me to let go of it all.  My dreams, my plans, my hopes, all of it.  He needed me to let go so He could take over. And when He takes over, AMAZING things occur!

He began to speak to me about Courtship instead of dating.  I finally had a name for what He had been asking me to do in High school.  He was asking me to be friends with a guy, hanging out with my family and his, until the Lord told me “Yes, this is the man I have for you, Tonya.”  Courtship is dating with the intent of marriage.  He was asking me to wait to date, UNTIL I found my spouse.  Interesting.

Then He brought me “THE BOOK”.  The book that forever changed my life and altered my course….

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“When God Writes Your Love Story” by Eric and Leslie Ludy.

By the second page in the book words were LEAPING off the page and grabbing my heart…..

“…….You have searched for true love in your own way.  But my ways are not your ways.  I want to script a beautiful tale just for you, but first you must trust Me with the pen of this precious area of your life.  Will you let Me write your love story?”

“God is longing to write your love story.  A love story far beyond the most incredible fairy tale ever written. Will you give Him the pen today?”

  What a thought!  God was longing to compose MY love story, my very own fairy tale?  WOW!   He cares about all the areas of our lives, even this one, what a thought!   He was asking me to hand Him the pen, stop worrying, stop planning….and just sit back and hang on for the ride of my life.

Book-WDCT-2I  was so excited about what I was reading, that I bought this book and the next one for 7 of my friends (including Dale). I knew it was going to change their lives!  It’s called “When Dreams Come True” and tells the true love story of the couple, Eric and Leslie, who handed over the pen and let God script them a beautiful story.

More of Eric and Leslie’s AMAAAZING books are found here at http://ellerslie.com/Books.html  I highly recommend them for pre-teens and teens, and their parents as well!

Some of their popular titles include:

Authentic Beauty

Teaching True Love to A Sex-At-13 Generation

When God Writes Your LIFE Story

God’s Gift to Women

This couple has started an incredible ministry working towards raising youth to be a light to a dark world, to be IN the world but not OF the world. Play around on their website when you get a chance!!!!

Ok, so that was a major bunny trail, but an important one.  Back to the story:

After months apart, Dale & I decided to start spending time together again, we missed each other so much!  We were determined to just “Be Friends”, but we felt so much more.  Not long after this, we decided to take a week, not see each other or talk, but fast and pray, seeking God on our knees as to whether this could be turned into a courtship or not. Once again, the Lord began speaking to me immediately about forgiveness. As in, Dale prayed with me about our week apart and left, and before he had even left the neighborhood, I opened a book and there in front of me lay a 12 Steps To Forgiveness page. No doubt, the Lord was asking me to forgive as He had forgiven me, I knew this by now. He spoke to Dale too that week, about making things right with his past relationships.  That amazing man called each girl he had been in a relationship with, and asked their forgiveness for not respecting them as he should have.  Some were tearful and thankful, some called him crazy.

But as far as our Courtship?

The Lord was silent.

{SIGH} Fine. Friends it is.

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That Christmas Eve, during the candlelight service at church, 1 year later almost to the day that my world fell apart, I forgave my dad and walked away from the ugly bitterness I had been carrying!  Praise God for the freedom that comes from forgiving, my relationship with my dad is a close one, and I had missed him!  I also forgave Dale for his past that night and let it go, to be stewed about no more.  Jesus’ blood was strong enough to cover any and every sin, why was I worried it wasn’t strong enough to cover Dale’s indescrestions of the past? 

  What a load off! I tearfully rejoiced, feeling light and free!!!  I was SO thankful my relationship with my dad was restored to better than ever, and that I could enjoy my time around Dale without always thinking of his past!

It was the next night, at a Christmas celebration with family and friends that the Lord gave us the green light to pursue a courtship, dating with the intent of marriage, and we were thrilled!  He had been waiting for my forgiveness of the 2 men in my life all along!

Family and friends had been teasing us that we basically were like a couple anyways, and it was obvious we loved each other, why didn’t we make it official already?  We were hesitant to “slap a label on it”, but mostly, scared the Lord would take us away from each other again if we acted outside His will.

We were sitting at the piano, shoulder to shoulder, dinking around and talking about our relationship.  I told him what my mom had told me just the other day that maybe God was asking us to take a step of faith before He answered us.  Hmm, what a thought!   Dale thought for a minute then turned to me and says something like, “What if I ask you to be my girl right now?”  I hesitated, made and face and was like, “Welllll…”.

“See,” he says,”it’s so scary. I can’t do this alone, tell me what you are thinking in here (points to heart) rather than here (points to head).”

“Well, in my heart I’d say yes in a second, but then all those doubts creep in my mind.”  I just couldn’t lose Dale again!

We go on for about 10 more minutes trying to decide what God was asking us.  Finally,  he turns to me and says…

“So, do you want to be together?”

Me: “More than anything!”

Dale: “Ok then, let’s do this, let’s take the next step.”

Me: “Ok.” Big smile.

Silence.

Dale: “So are we together?”

Me: “I think so.”

Dale: “Do you feel any different?”

Me: “No.”

Dale: “Me neither.”

Me: “Is that a bad thing?”

Dale: “No, I don’t think so.”

Me: “Ok.”

Dale: “Ok.”

{BIG SMILES ALL AROUND}

In that moment, we realized nothing was different, we had been a couple all along, just without the label! I am sure the Lord was happy we were finally “getting it”!  Sometimes He speaks in a whisper, other times Neon flashing lights.  We heard His whisper that Christmas night, what a beautiful gift!  🙂

Now that the “label” issue was out the way, we fully embraced our Courtship and began to spend time together once again, with me going to his family functions and he coming to mine.  My family adored him!  How could they not?  There was never a dull moment when he was around!!!!

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Soon after this, the Lord called Dale to travel with the ministry team“Souled Out” again.  This time for 6 months!  I was SO sad he was leaving, but knew the Lord needed him.  He walked away from his job knowing it may not be waiting for him when he returned.  (It wouldn’t be.) What a test this long distance relationship was for us, but through the ups and downs of it, our love just grew stronger, and Dale (who DOESN’T write) filled a journal FULL of love letters to me while he was gone. What a special gift.

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Dale came home for a visit the first week in June, around our 6 month anniversary, and we went ring shopping. HOW EXCITING! I had been waiting to do this my whole life.  Sadly, Dale told me since he left his job to travel with the ministry team, he had no money, and it’d probably be another year until he could save up for it.  I was totally ok with that, floating on my happy love bubble.  No worries, for him I could wait!

The very next morning, as we worshiped in church, my Pastor called me up on stage.  I was worried what kind of sermon analogy I was going to be!  He told me to close my eyes……and when I opened them, there was Dale, on his knee in front of me, with tears in his eyes and a ring in his hand.  My heart was pounding, my palms were sweating…..this was IT!

THE MOMENT I had been dreaming of!

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Dale looked me in the eyes and spoke, voice thick with emotions:

“Tonya, I could list a million reasons why I love you, but it boils down to this…..God let me love you.  You are the best thing that’s ever happened to me.  I’m going to ask you one question…….

WILL YOU MARRY ME?”

I wiped my tears and THREW my arms around him!  I had found my Mr. Wonderful, I was going to be his bride, THIS was my happily ever after!  All those months of heartache and doubt, all those times of questioning what God was asking me to do…..all of it built up to this life changing, dream making moment.  The moment I said YES!

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That August, as I turned 19, I sat to write my Future Husband a love letter, as I had since I was 13, but this time I got to write on top….My Dearest Dale.  What a tear-filled, joyful letter it was!  I tucked it away in my shoebox, knowing that by my next birthday, I’d be a happily married woman!

Dale and I were engaged for a whole year, something our children will NOT be allowed to do. It’s so hard to remain pure, plus it’s just waaaay too long to plan a wedding.  It gave OCD me, more than enough time to comb through the details of the big day, organizing and reorganizing each detail!

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As the year-long engagement finally came to an end, I could scarcely believe it, May 24th, 2002 was here.  I was about to marry my best friend and become Mrs. Tonya Ferguson!!!!!!!!!!!!

Conclusion tomorrow…..

~T

A Love Story Retold: Summer Love {Part 2/4}

From the Archives: Our Love Story Retold

SUMMER LOVE

  Needless to say, I fell and I fell hard that summer, despite the fact that I was not speaking to the Lord or pleased with my father or men in general at that point. 

Dale eventually did get around to asking me on a date, and although he picked me up, payed for it, HE named the time and HE named the place, and thankfully, NEVER used that awful line again! Phew!   Funny, I was no where NEAR ready to be in a relationship, yet I willingly, for the first time, jumped into a dating relationship. You know, the “pick you up at 8” and all that.  No good night kiss though, I told Dale he’d have to wait on that! lol 🙂

It was summer love!  It wasn’t long before we were together nearly every evening, going for drives, walking in the park holding hands, sitting by “our fountain” listening to the water and talking.  We talked about EVERYTHING for hours and hours.  Oh, if there is anything I miss from dating Dale, it’s the hours of uninterrupted conversation…  🙂

We talked about our goals, our plans, our dreams.  We talked about the Lord and faith a lot.  Dale admitted to falling away from the Lord and becoming  a “Sunday-Wednesday Christian” only.  I challenged him to think about his life in light of eternity, he teasingly called me his “Lightening Bolt” from God.

It was a summer to remember!

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That August, a little over 2 months after we met, Dale took me out for my 18th birthday, a surprise he said.  We arrive at his mother’s restaurant, which closes at 2 each day, to “pick something up”.  When I walked in all the tables were pushed aside except one in the center of the dining area, it was lit with candles and had flowers and gifts on it.  He had his brother back in the kitchen, making my favorite foods.  It was so sweet and romantic!  The radio he wanted to use for romantic background music was locked in a back office, but that didn’t stop us from slow dancing anyways.  It was amazing!  Dale gave me a gorgeous diamond heart necklace and promised me the world.

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He also told me he loved me for the first time that night, although I wasn’t ready to say it back until much later in our relationship, he put no pressure on me to return the sentiment.  And like the gentleman he was, Dale got teary, hugged me, raised my hand to his lips, kissed it, and told me how thankful he was to have a girl like me in his life.

God was doing amazing things in Dale’s life and he was making some positive changes, but I was starting to feel a nudge from the Lord.  Nudges I tried to ignore.  You know how that goes, it’s miserable.  I knew what He was saying, and I didn’t want to hear it.

He was asking me to break up with Dale.  He was asking me to lay him on the altar, and step back so the Lord could do a mighty work in his heart.  He was asking me this because neither of us were ready for a relationship.

I told Him, “Yeah, right! I love this guy and finally found someone that would treat me like a lady and not a piece of meat.  And helloooo?! Did you catch the part that he respects my purity pledge and is willing to wait for me and everything!?? Nope God, not gonna happen, I wanna marry this one! PLEEEEASE?!”

Still, the Lord prompted and I eventually listened.  God was asking me to let Him have Dale, maybe forever, to prepare him for being a husband one day, and whether he was to be mine or not, it needed to happen.

Bawling, I sat down and wrote the hardest letter I had ever written, one I’d have Dale read as we sat together, for what I thought was the last time, as a couple.

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I knew what needed to occur, our breaking up and going separate ways.  I was so disappointed in myself for listening to my heart and not the Lord.  After all those years of trying to save the pieces of my heart for my future husband, I’d given the whole thing away to Dale without consulting the Lord first.  I was so thankful we’d never kissed, at least my physical purity was intact.

I wrote in my journal: “I feel like I have let God down.  I feel as if I have tried so very hard in this area of my life to obey and stay focused on Him, but now I have messed that up.  Now I have to tell my future husband that I not only gave a piece of my heart away to another guy, I gave the whole thing away!  I have to tell him that I have loved another before him.  Ouch. That will be so hard. He’s out there, I know he is, my knight in shining armor.  The one who I have prayed for since I was 13. He’s out there, I know it….just waiting for me.”

I had Dale come over, read his “I have to break up with you because the Lord needs to work on both of us seperately” letter and then we talked, sobbing and hugging.  He knew it was true.  The Lord needed to make both of our hearts whole alone, before they could be whole together.  He needed me to forgive my dad and learn to trust men again.  He needed Dale to work on letting go of the past and fully embracing his future in Christ.  I placed my feelings for Dale on the shelf and determined to leave them their until the Lord let me take them down again.  Until we were both ready this time, IF that was the Lord’s will.  And then, he took Dale away from me.

God was doing mighty things in Dale’s heart and he was excited to get the opportunity to travel with a ministry team called “Souled Out” for a few weeks.  I was glad to see him go, I didn’t want to run into him anymore, it was too hard.

Dale will tell you now that God broke him over and over on that trip.  Like brought him to his knees at the altar.  He’ll tell you that each time the Lord broke him, He picked him up, dusted him off and loved on him as only a Father can.  He went through the layers of sin and disobedience in Dale’s life, stripped him down and begin a new work in him.  And when he came back? He was a new man.  The light that can only comes from Jesus was shining through his eyes.  I could scarcely believe the transformation!

While Dale was gone, I waged my own emotional war of unforgiveness in both the area of Dale’s past, as well as forgiving my father!  I had so much to learn before my heart would be ready to love fully and with 100% trust.

This story is a long and drawn out one, I have the stack of journals and emails to prove it!

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We spent months apart, God daily working on my heart in the area of grace and forgiveness.  It’s funny to me how my forgiveness of my dad was directly connected to my forgiveness of Dale’s past, and my readiness to move forward in both relationships.  I was being asked to forgive as Christ forgave me, but I was still feeling too justified in my hurts to do so.

More tomorrow……

~T

A Love Story Retold: Once Upon A Time {Part 1/4}

As you can imagine, this past month has been highly emotional for us, as we bore our souls and owned our truth.  I am so thankful and blessed for readers like you, who lovingly showed your support of us!  This week is busy for me, planning our vow renewal, which is THIS weekend!!! (as well as our 1oth Anniversary)  So, I will not be blogging anything new this week. I will be taking a break and instead, reposting our Love Story for you to read every day until Friday’s Weekend Potluck, which proceeds as usual.  I posted this Love Story series last year for our 9th Anniversary, but there are enough new readers, I think it might be fun to post it again.  I hope to be back next week, after the renewal is all said and done, and share our sacred day with you.  And, as soon as they are edited, pictures as well!

Thank you for investing in my family with your time, your encouragement, and most of all, your prayers!

 I can’t wait to see you next week and tell you ALLLL about it!  I am so excited to once again have a standing covenant with Christ and my husband.  So excited to once again wear a wedding band proudly on my finger, its symbol of a circle never broken, representing the truth.

Great big hugs,

~T

I give you Our Love Story: 

Once Upon A Time: from the Archives

Written May 24th, 2011 

Happy Anniversary, Dale!  I am so blessed that God allowed me to marry you, the man of my dreams! Just when I think I couldn’t possibly love you any more than I already do, I see you scoop up one of our children in a giant daddy bear hug or stoop down low to kiss an owie knee.  When you loving stroke the cheek of our baby as you lay him in his crib, or come up behind me and kiss my neck while I am doing supper dishes, my love for you grows a bit more.   Not just any kind of love, the forever and ever, till death do us part kind of love…… A love that lasts a lifetime.  Happy 9th Anniversary, honey!  I love you! xo ~T

  In honor of our Anniversary, and seeing as how this is my blog’s first year and we are all still getting to know each other, I’d like to tell you the story of how Dale and I met.

Let’s start waaaaaaay back at the beginning………..

Once upon a time, when I was a little girl, I loved fairy tales, LOVED them, as little girls seem to do.  I played bride and princess and dreamed of my very own Happily Ever After………..

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My little brother, Chad, made such a lovely Maid of Honor! 🙂

But more often than not, I played Mommy.

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From my kindergarten papers on, if you asked me to tell you what I wanted to be when I grew up, it’d say A Mommy.  I loved children and begged to get to help in the church nursery whenever possible.

Oh, how I wanted to get married, have babies and live happily ever after.

When I turned 13, I was starting to think about my “Mr. Wonderful”, somewhere out there in the world. My parents took me out on a date to what was to me a very “fancy” restaurant…….. Red Lobster  🙂 and presented me with a Purity Ring in honor of my birthday.  While on this special date, we discussed and wrote out curfews, standards and rules for dating for when I turned 16.  I giggled thinking about it, wondering what my grown up teenage life would be like.

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I went home and wrote my future husband a letter, something I would do from age 13 on, each and every birthday.  I got this idea from a wonderful Christian fiction series called The Christy Miller Series.  I placed that letter in a shoe box and slid it in my closet, full of little girl dreams for the future.

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Fast forward to when I turned 16, the “official” dating age at our house, and I realized I was being asked to do something by the Lord, but I couldn’t figure out what just yet.  Even though I had my parents Ok to date, I was very big into “just being friends” and not having a serious boyfriend, and although I had a major crush or two (or five) in high school and was asked out, I just couldn’t see myself dating anyone! You know, the “Pick you up Friday night at 8” thing, it just didn’t appeal to me really.  Most of my activities were done with a group of people, which I gotta say, is so much fun!

Soon after this, the Lord begin to do a work in my heart towards Emotional Purity as well, not giving pieces of my heart away to each and every heart-throb that came my way and flashed a charming grin!

I decided then and there to take dating VERY seriously.  Very.

As in, let’s-just-be-friends-even-though-I-have-a-big-crush-on-you-until-God-tells-me-differently. Like until God tells me this guy is “THE ONE”.

I had so many questions;

How would I know he was “The One” unless I dated him? 

Why was God asking me to do something so unheard of, so “WEIRD”?

My Junior year, after writing my 3rd “Dear Future Husband” birthday love letter, I sat down and wrote out a “Husband Wish List”.  I listed out all the things that I wanted in a spouse and begin to pray over that list each evening during my quiet time.  It was quite the detailed list!  I wanted him to be a virgin, I wanted him to love children, to be a hard worker, good with money, fun-loving, have nice hands, be a Mr. Fix-it, the Spiritual leader of our home….the list went on and on.  If you know me, this should not surprise you! I am a detail girl!   🙂

It seemed I would never find anyone to date if I was going to view them as a future potential spouse and check them against the “What I Want In A Husband” list.  I begin to wonder what was “wrong” with me, or if my standards were too high?  Why couldn’t I just be free and fun, date and be kissed good-night on my front porch by guys that I couldn’t picture myself marrying? Why was I thinking about marriage so much?  Something was holding me back and it would be years before the Lord would reveal to me what He was asking of me.

I graduated from high school with my heart in-tact, memories of best guy Scan_Pic0067friends that made me smile and I left for college, more determined than ever to save my heart for my future husband.  I had been kissed just once during high school, something I instantly regretted, and I knew……the next man that kissed me was going to be my future husband!

I was going to be sure of it!

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I went to a near-by Christian College at my parent’s prompting, though I would’ve happily just stayed home and worked with children.  Things started off great, my room-mate was awesome and college was going to be amazing, I just knew it!

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Half way through my first year of college, a time that is supposed to be one of the best in your life, my world fell apart. Broke in a million pieces.Scan_Pic0113

I will not go into the yucky details, but long story short is, due to devastating circumstances, my parents separated.  This may not seem like a big deal to you in this day and age, it happens all the time, right?  But to me it was as if the rug had been pulled out from under me.  I looked over my life and questioned every bit of it.

Everything I knew to be true, was no longer.

Everything I had been raised to know as truth, was a lie.

But how could it be?

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We were a happy church-going, God-serving family.  Growing up we went on evening bike rides nearly every night, we sat around the kitchen table and played games and ate popcorn on Sunday evenings, we were happy…….

Weren’t we?

I never knew what harm unforgiveness could cause, but I was angry! Ticked at my dad, ticked at the world and ticked at the Lord.  I determined to speak to neither of my Fathers, Heavenly or earthly until further notice.

And I didn’t.

For a whole year. 

It was the darkest time in my young life.  Never had I known such anger and pain.  The Lord spoke to me once, during a weekend at home, that my unforgiveness would kill me.  I told Him I didn’t care.  I wasn’t speaking to my dad and I sure didn’t want to hear from the Lord either.  I turned a cold shoulder and went on my way.  My new motto:  “Life sucks then you die.”

I had never seen my dad cry up to this point, so you can imagine how hard it was one Sunday, when he came up to me after church and with tear-filled eyes and a choked up voice, asked me if he could please take me to lunch.  He told me how much he missed me and loved me.

And I turned and walked away from him.

I went home and bawled my eyes out.  That was my Daddy.  I loved him, but I was SO full of anger I couldn’t even speak to him.  I had no words to say.  I wept bitterly for what my life had become. For the ugliness that boiled and festered inside of me.

I had been driving home from college every weekend at this point, leaving the second classes let out Friday and not heading back until the last possible moment Sunday night for my 8 am class Monday morning….my mom was alone and hurting and she needed me, you know?

One morning as I got out of bed to head back to college, I slid to the side of the bed and stood up.  Well, I tried to stand up.  I couldn’t, instead I doubled over in pain and cried out for my mom to come.  I could not stand up straight or walk.  The Lord had told me my unforgiveness would eventually kill me, and it sure felt like He was right.  Turns out I had a stressed induced issue, resulting in a giant grapefruit-sized cyst on my right ovary.  (Ew, I know, I said ovary.)  Thankfully, I didn’t have to have surgery to remove it, but I knew the Lord was telling me something and that I needed to forgive my dad, and soon.  I spent weeks trying to “get better”, eventually dropping most of my classes and just coasting through the rest of my first year, trying desperately to keep my head above the tide of anger and pain that now consumed me.

Summer break came, my mom and dad reconciled and dad moved back in.  I was PISSED!  How dare she forgive him!  She and I were a team, us against the world of the pigs called men.  I felt betrayed by her and continued to struggle with forgiving him.  We were now on speaking terms, but very cold ones.  I had little to say to him and tried to work as much as possible to stay out of the house.

Scan_Pic0069Back in the day, it was “cool” to cruise Main.  This makes me giggle now to tell you that’s what we did all weekend, but its true.  Gas was less than a buck a gallon, we didn’t go to clubs, there were tons of “hotties” out there cruising too, and I had a convertible;  it was a win-win-win.

What I didn’t know, is that I’d meet the man of my dreams on Main Street, while cruising.  What an UNROMANTIC story!

My car was in the shop, thanks to one of my darling kids I nannied for at the time, “drawing” me a picture on the side of it with a rock.  Oops.  Scan_Pic0083

So that night, I was cruising with my friends in my mom’s Jeep Cherokee, when a group of guys called us over to where they were parked at the bank.

First trip down Main, my friend and I just waved at them and giggled.  We rarely pulled over, it was too scary, much safer to just wave, giggle and keep on driving.  The next loop I noticed it was a guy from my church youth group.  Ok, well he was safe, we’ll pull over for a minute but stay in the car.  We pull in and this gorgeous guy in a white baseball hat (what is it about guy’s in white hats, anyhow?) comes sauntering over.

“Where’s your Mustang?” he asks.

My mouth threatens to drop open, but I try to maintain my “cool”.

“How do you know I drive a Mustang?” I ask.

“I know a lot about you, Tonya.” he says.

My heart leaps into my throat, Hottie in the White Hat knows my NAME?!  I hold in a squeal and I turn to my friend in the passenger seat and mouth silently:

“OH MY GOODNESS, HE IS SO HOT!” 

She agreed.

Long story short, this guy, named Dale, had been watching me for a long time and had been hoping to get to meet me.  He had grown up with the guy I went to Youth Group with.  Deeming him “safe”, I parked the car and we hung out with those guys, parked along Main street, for the rest of the evening.  I couldn’t tell if Dale liked me or my friend, but somehow we left with promises of Roses from him the next time we met on Main.

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True to his word, the next weekend he pulls up to the bank and hops out of his White jeep in his smokin’ hot white hat, all nice and tan in his white cut off sleeve shirt with 2 red roses.  I just KNEW he liked my friend, since she got hers first, but later to my delight, he says to me….

“I wanted to call you this weekend and invite you to my blah blah blah {some youth group event I can’t recall} but I didn’t have your number.”

“Well, if you’d have asked for my phone number a long time ago, it wouldn’t have been a problem, now would’ve it,” I spouted back.

“So can I have it?”  he asks, grinning.

Can you have it? I thought you’d never ask!

No, I didn’t say that, but I THOUGHT it! 🙂

I write it down on this teeny scrap of paper from my cup holder and give it to him.

Then, “El’ Suave” says, SO unromantically….

“You name the time, you name the place and I’ll pick you up and pay for it.”

WHAT?!

That is NOT how it works!

To be continued…..

~T

P.S.  Look what still lives in Dale’s wallet 11 years later. 🙂

Welcome to Tonya-land, Won’t You Let the Son Shine In?

Just tuning in? Please start at the Original post of this Series on “Surviving Infidelity”: Shattered Hearts, Broken Promises. 

Written in both April & May 2012

 We are now in month 9 of this path to healing.  And like the gestation of new life, this 9 month point, marks tremendous growth and healing in our lives.  We have joy, laughter, love and the butterflies of newlyweds.  Day by day, we overcome the attacks of satan and find Victory.  Praise Jesus! 

I have leapt once again into the arms of love.
I no longer hold back in fear of the “What If’s”. 

I choose Dale. 

I choose love. 

 I choose joy.

 I choose forgiveness. 

I choose to stand on my truth, rather than cower behind it. 

  The Lord speaks SO clearly in the midst of tragedy, doesn’t He?  He just gave us this verse the other night:

“I raised you up for this VERY purpose, that I might display my power to all the earth.” Romans 9:17

Wow.

Do you remember “Tonya-land”?

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Where the weather is mostly sunny, the birds are always singing, lemons most often come in the form of lemonade and we all throw our arms around each others shoulders and sing “Kumbaya” at that end of each day.

003   I told you back then, when I first posted this, that Tonya-land does have it’s bumpy roads, however, when you try to keep your glass half full, you usually can just keep on trucking, despite a pot-hole or two.

  Obviously, for OBVIOUS reasons if you have been reading my latest posts, you noticed that my journey through Life in Tonya-land had come to a screeching halt, as my glass Happily Ever After Cinderella Castle came crashing to the ground around me.  But, because this blog is supposed to be a peek into my world;  the good, the bad AND the ugly…….I let you in. 

No, I let the SON shine in………

Through me. 

Through the shards of my broken castle.

Through my tears. 

Through my tragedy, then my Triumph.

  My job on this earth is to shine for Jesus. To be the best wife I know to be to Dale; to uplift him, to love him with no strings attached, to be his cheerleader. To love my kids and teach them about Jesus. My job is to teach them that they need to obey me, not because I say so, but because God says so….that their obedience to me is directly connected to their obedience to God. My job is to seek to honor God in ALL I say and do, blogging and Facebook included. My job is to be His hands and feet, EVEN when I don’t understand my circumstances.  Even when I plead with Him to take this cup from me.

I have to choose this, because it is what HE chose for me……Period.

  I have a folder in my email account, jam-packed full of lovely, beautiful, uplifting things written by you who have been following this recent blog series on Surviving Infidelity. Thank you all so much for your loving support! Thank you for encouraging and not casting judgement, thank you for taking the time to comment and read the things I put out there, thank you for not faulting me for my choice to stand by my man, even when it might have seemed easier to walk away from him.

This blog is me. Tonya.

  Put out there for all to see, the good, the bad and the ugly. I chose this glass house when I said “Yes” to the Lord’s prompting to start this blog over a year ago.  I just never knew quite how ugly things were going to get, you know? 

   Do you know that the posts in this Infidelity series, were written totally out-of-order, in a jumbled mess? Did you know that just last month, like a puzzle, they all fell into place? Amazing. I never knew just how scary it would be to push “publish” that first day, yet what a rush of relief and peace came as I did. 

  We are wrapping up our Infidelity series. Phew, what an exhausting road we have traveled!  I know there are those of you reading right now, that shake your heads and scold me for “airing my dirty laundry” in the first place, deaming it innappropriate.  Do me a favor, go read II Samuel, go read about David’s dirty laundry, a man after God’s own heart. 

Let me say this……

You may not approve of my actions, but remember, I don’t answer to you.

I answer to Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.  And so do you.   The End.

  I KNOW as sure as I know my name, that I have acted in obedience to a loving Heavenly Father, who prompted me to share this story. 

  Do you think this was fun for me?  Do you think I jumped up and down and clapped my hands, “YAY, I get to share the deepest darkest hurt I have ever experienced in my whole life.”   No, I begged God to just heal me and let me move on.  But you know when God is speaking, He makes Himself known.  So, I’ve been writing this series from just a few months after the truth came out until now, bit by tragic bit, piece by victorious piece, BEGGING Him to prepare your hearts for my truth. 

Revelation 12:11 says “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony….” 

Do you know what happened these past 16 posts? 

Do you know what happened, April 30th at 7 am, when I pushed publish?

  We overcame satan by our testimony.  We WON.

 I KNOW the Lord had me start this blog for such a time as this, so that He might be glorified in the midst of difficult circumstances.  So that others out there who quietly mourning the loss of their marriage as they knew it, may be encouraged that you CAN fight, you WILL win. 

Romans 8:35 & 37 says, “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”

  Don’t you see?!  The VICTORY has already been won for us, we just have to keep walking in HIS ways, in HIS light, and in HIS strength when we are too weary to stand. But don’t be scared when you are too weak to stand, let your knees buckle and just FALL, because when we fall……… 

We fall on JESUS.

Sometimes you run towards Christ,
Sometimes you can’t run, so you walk towards Him.
If you can’t walk, you stand, facing the right direction.
If you can’t stand, lean.
Lean on Him, for He IS the right direction.
And if you fall?
Fall on Jesus.
In Him there is hope, life, and the promise of a bright future.

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Praise be to the God of restoration; TOTAL restoration. 

037Praise be to the God of new beginnings with the one whom my soul loves

Praise be to the God who makes BEAUTY from the midst of Ashes. JOY that is made from mourning, and PEACE that He traded me for my despair….

The story I share with you is no longer a tragedy, but it is a VICTORY!

It is no longer my story, IT IS HIS!

 And I’d chose REAL with Dale, rather than “Happily Ever After” with anyone else…..EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

  Next weekend, I will join my WHOLE heart; healed and brand new by the blood of Jesus, to the heart of my best friend….again, 10 years later.  Next weekend we close a book on one of the darkest, hardest times of our lives and put it on the shelf.  The past will no longer be written into the book of our future.  I will leave it there, on the shelf, because I chose Joy. Healing. Peace.  I choose to move forward, not looking over my shoulder, not running back to drag along the baggage we’ve been freed of.   

 I get to marry the love of my life all over again next weekend.  A brand new start.  Praise Jesus!

I have found the one whom my soul loves…….and I am not EVER letting him go.

  ~T

Hungry

Just tuning in? Please start at the Original post of this Series on “Surviving Infidelity”: Shattered Hearts, Broken Promises. 

Written October 2011

Our counselors told us months ago, in a word from the Lord, that when it was time for a renewal of our vows, and trading old rings for new, I would be hungry for it. At the time I sorta scoffed at it like, “Hungry for it? Whatever, it’ll be all I can do to SURVIVE this!”

Well, the Lord is taking me to that place this week: I crave the renewal of our vows, the new covenant with Christ, like a starving person. I know God is preparing us for this, and unless He says differently, we’d like to do this the weekend of our 10th anniversary, which is May 24th. He also has spoken to us that the time to share this story is coming……sooner than we thought, as I had a mom call me this week with stories of 2 more marriages torn apart in my circle of friends through infidelity. That hit really close to home for me, and I know for such a time as this.
I am so nervous about putting it out there, yet have peace that I can trust it will all be used for HIS glory.

  The Lord spoke to my fearful heart this weekend, as I tearfully sent Dale to the very Men’s Encounter that shattered my world.  He showed me, that the last encounter was to get the ugly out, to empty the broken vessel. This one? To fill the restored vessel up again! PTL!

  Dale called me from Men’s Encounter weeping, saying that I mean the world to him, and that God was making him the man who I’ve deserved from the start. That he can’t wait to come home and share with me what the Lord was doing in his heart, as he found his TRUE worth in Christ Jesus. I am so thankful for the continued changes I see in Dale, as the Lord molds and shapes him into the man He has wanted him to be all along. 

 Written January 2012

  We are starting to work more fervently on the Vow Renewal Ceremony, how exciting!  I found “The Dress”…… 

(the pockets were my favorite part!)

 My little stud muffins will be wearing these from The Baxter Boy, for both Easter and the renewal.

The girls will wear their Christmas dresses from a few years ago.  Thank the Lord they still fit, because they go perfectly!  

  I bawled the day I heard this song by Francesca Battistelli. I knew, I KNEW, it was “THE ONE”.  This is the song I will walk down the aisle to, this is the song that speaks the truth of what we have been through….”Love’s not easy, but it’s worth it.”

Dale and I have been working on our vows to each other, our hopes and desires for our special day.  It’s all so bitter-sweet. 

  I had a well-meaning friend say, “Wow, it must be nice to get to plan a wedding all over again.”  I swallowed my tears, along with the lump in my throat, and reminded her that this opportunity for a second ceremony came at a VERY high price. That, I would trade it all in a heartbeat for my husbands faithfulness many years ago, but I cannot live in The Land of If Only’s or I will drive myself mad.  Instead, I chose to live in the here and now, moving forward as best I know how, to rebuild my marriage with the man my soul loves. 

  I LONG to hear him speak those vows to me, I LONG for a standing Covenant before Christ, a new ring of faithfully forever promises on my left hand, a circle unbroken.  I have missed my wedding band on my finger all these months, and I am ready to say “I Do”, again, this time to a barn full of witnesses. 

  Yes, I said barn.

 

We are renewing our vows in a GORGEOUS horse barn, with wide open-beam rafters and 3 large sets barn doors to throw open and let the natural light shine in.

  I’d love to have my wedding dress on display, as well as our wedding photo.

  
I am hoping to use Sunflowers (my favorite!) on the food table, as well as vintage fabric banners to make the barn fun and festive. 

I am thinking Ball jars with strips of lace around the rim, old barn gates with painted signs to lead people to the location of our renewal, a big glass pitcher of fresh farm milk to go with cookies and sweets.

  Thankfully, I have everything I want to decorate with in my home already!  And the wonderful people that are allowing us to use their barn, are providing the seating as well. This has to be affordable and still accomplish what we have set out to achieve that day:

Celebrating God’s faithfulness in making Beauty from Ashes!

  My friend Whitney, of Whitney Hamilton Photography, will be our photographer.  She is the one that took the photo for our Invitations, which we emailed out.

 

  I have a feeling this ceremony will be a really big turning point in our path to healing!!!!! Praise God!

 Written Monday, January 23, 2012

  Today I completed a chapter, closed a book and put it away for good, then I wept bitter, bitter tears at what had been lost.

  Today, 1/23/12, Dale and I went to the ring store, and turned in our two wedding bands in exchange for Dale’s new band. For nearly 10 years those bands have resided on our fingers, but for the past 6 months, those same bands have caused me nothing but sadness. Sadness for what was lost that day of betrayal, anger that Dale’s ring stopped nothing it should have stopped from occurring.

  I haven’t worn my band since July, so I didn’t think I’d be sad to see it go today, but as I tried it one last time, remembering how happy I was the day Dale slid it on my finger and promised me his faithfully forever promises, tears began to well up in my eyes, blurring the ring from my sight.  Dale could hardly hold the tears in, as he too, experienced the stabbing pain of what had been lost. He told me later, with tears running down his face, that it took everything he had not to have to excuse himself from that ring store to pull it together.

  We drove home in silence, tightly holding hands, weeping bitter tears, as we both quietly processed what had just occurred.  Both of us shocked that the rings were gone I think, as it happened all in a few moments time, just as we prepared to leave the ring shop. 

The owner said:

 “Here take the new ring in exchange for the old, you have paid for it with your trade.”  

  We wanted to wait for Dale to wear his ring in May at the Renewal ceremony, but also knew him not wearing a ring for the next few months was not an option either. So this evening, as we put it on his finger, we prayed over it, asking God’s blessing on the new vows and covenant to come. We cried again, over the rings we left behind today and the lost dreams of 2 young kids in love. 

Dale’s new ring is called Tungsten, it is un-scratchable, even if you take a metal file to it. This has great significance to us, as we start anew:

  Fresh, with no scratches or blemishes.

 This one stays shiny all its days, this one has will never tarnish or get nicks….

                 New ring, new promise, new start.

Dale is a new creation in Christ, the old has passed away…..he is like this ring, unblemished in the eyes of Christ forever more.

 But we also have peace, the kind that comes from taking another step in the right direction on the road to healing, one weary step at a time.                                                                                                            

  Next Weekend, along with our 10th Anniversary, we will celebrate a new covenant with Christ.  We will re-commit our lives to each other and exchange new bands and new promises of faithfully forever.  We will re-sign our Marriage Covenant, and it will once again hang proudly in our home. 

(This is a page from our wedding book, but it shows a photo of the signed covenant, as well as gives explanation for the meaning of it all.)It hurt me to take that Covenant down last summer, but I could no longer stand to look at it and see such a bold reminder of all that was lost.  Someday soon, I plan on hanging the Covenant and our original wedding photo back up, as well as a picture of us from the ceremony this weekend. 

And I can’t forget these:

A reminder of the Cross I nailed my un-forgiveness to at Women’s Encounter this past fall, but most importantly, a reminder of the ultimate Healer, the Ultimate Giver of Forgiveness…Jesus Christ our Lord, who died on the cross for all sins.  ALL of them.

 To Him be ALL the glory, for it is HE alone who can make Beauty from a pile of ugly Ashes…….

~T

The Tale of the Water Bearer’s Pots

 Just tuning in? Please start at the Original Post of this Series on “Surviving Infidelity”: Shattered Hearts, Broken Promises.

This is Post 2 for today, be sure to head back one post to The Death of Little Girl Dreams.

I want to share an old folktale with you, which illustrates God’s view of our brokenness…….

WaterCarrier

   A water bearer had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water.

  At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his house.

  Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

  After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you. I have been able to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said.

  The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you’ve watered them. “For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.”

  Moral of the story: We’re all cracked pots, but nothing goes to waste in God’s great economy. He uses our flaws for HIS glory. So don’t be afraid of your flaws, for there is beauty to be found in your weakness.

May this broken vessel be used for His glory….

~T

The Death of Little Girl Dreams

Just tuning in? Please start at the Original post of this Series on “Surviving Infidelity”: Shattered Hearts, Broken Promises. 

Written December, 2011

Forgiving Dale took all the poison out and I am left with a soft, yet still broken heart.  But I know, A True Love Story Never Ends……..

{I got this for our bedroom so I can see it every morning when I wake up.}

But that’s just it, I feel as if our love story did end. My ideas and dreams were dashed back in July.

  When I was 17, I handed God the pen and asked Him to write me a beautiful love story, and honestly?  I feel as if I can’t trust the Lord with my pen anymore…..

He let me down.

No, actually Dale let me down, but it all feels connected somehow.

I am so so so disappointed that this happened. I am so so so sad that my love story has such an ugly part in it. I am so so so sad that THIS is my happily ever after. I am. I can’t lie. I am disappointed because I have dreamt of this my whole life. I am disappointed because my heart is still broken. I am disappointed because my very best friend, the person I am one with, is the one who broke it, who hurt me so deeply. I am disappointed that sin has such hold on our men.

As I work through these thoughts, these days where I put walls up to protect my heart, I hurt Dale. He longs for my heart, begs me with sad eyes to trust him again, love him fully again, lavish him with my love, including the old days of sparkly eyed smiles and leaping into his arms at the end of a work day.

I can achieve that some days, even weeks at a time, but like the layers of the onion, we reach the next layer and the next hard day, and I hide. Hide behind my wall again….

He can’t hurt me again, I won’t let him.

Jesus is working on this with me. Gently reminding me to love fully, gently reminding me that….

Love is patient. Love keeps no record of wrong. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

(Parts of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Yes, Jesus. I hear you.

Love is a choice and it represents a commitment. I said “I Do” and I meant it…..from now until the day I draw my last breath.

I choose Dale.

I choose us. 

I die to the dreams of little girl Tonya, and wait patiently for the Lord to breathe new life back into me. 

Deuteronomy 31:8 says:

“And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”

  One of the hardest parts of my journey of late, is the death of my little girl dreams.

  My whole life I’ve dreamed of what my life would be like, the kind of wife and mother I wanted to be, the way I’d keep my house, what I’d name my kids, how I wanted to raise them, how I’d greet my husband after a long day at work….with a kiss, hug and smile.  How safe and protected I would feel in his embrace, the comfort of knowing it would always be the two of us as one, us against the World. 

  But now, we have this…this ugly that threatens daily, to destroy us. 

  This ugly that whispers horrible words and plants seeds of doubt in my ear.  A battle I CONSTANTLY wage with my thoughts as I shout at the devil to LEAVE ME in the name of Jesus!  The fears that threaten to drown me.  The insecurities that could drive me mad with worry.

  I look around me and see this beautiful dream, lying there shattered in pieces.  I am in a pit.  I am broken.  I am so so weary of these months of working moment by moment to keep my thoughts on what is good, these months of fighting for my marriage, these months of the Refiners Fire as Jesus wants to make me whole again, this cracked vessel needing to be filled and fired, filled and fired over and over again until it is whole. 

broken-pot

  Yet, sometimes it feels as if I shall never be whole again.  How could I?  How could I ever trust again? Love with abandon again?

  Forgiving Dale was a huge HUGE step in this journey, it took the rage right out of me, the hatred leaving and the door closed forever.  And, whatever door God closes, cannot be re opened.  (From Revelation 3:8)  But what remains, is hurt.  Not the gasping, can’t breath hurt of months past, just the dull aching kind that you can forget about when things are going great, but feel it anytime it is quiet and you aren’t being distracted from it.

  I have been crying out to God to show me where I am in my journey, for I am losing hope.  I am so so weary of fighting, I feel as if I want to lie down by the side of the road and quit.   We seem to have stopped our great leaps of improvement, since huge pieces of healing have already been accomplished in counseling, huge hurdles have been overcome in our lives….now, we fight to survive the onslaught on us, some days, just barely keeping our heads above water.  Clinging to each other as life RACES by, not giving us a chance to catch our breath.

Demands of regular life as husband, provider, mommy, blogger, photographer keep marching on, threatening to trample us at times.

  I am glad we are such a threat to the devil, it means we are doing something good and right and we have him running scared.  Take that, satan! Oh how I hate you and your stupid schemes to rob and destroy. Your sneaky tactics of complacency, acceptance and denial.  You won’t win this one, the battle has already been won, VICTORY IS ALREADY OURS!!!!!!!!!!

     The Lord has been speaking to Dale and I about Joseph this week, 2 times on Christian radio during Dales work day, a whole series on Joseph and Lessons from the Pit at church and then of all things, our counselor bring it up this week during our session. 

When God repeats Himself, we tend to perk up and listen a bit more closely!!!

Here is what He is showing us:

“Being Dysfunctional does NOT disqualify you from Gods plans for your life.  Neither does a stupid decision.”

God still wants to use me, but He needs me to seek Him with my whole heart.

  Joseph made MANY mistakes, but he was still called one of the Wisest men in scripture.

“Our dumb-ness, displays HIS High-ness….”

“God can lift us up from the pit and be proud of us, because He loves us and has a plan for our lives.”

  Then the Lord showed me this and I knew it was the answer to my hearts cry of “Where are we in our journey?”  I am in a season of Mourning. 

Mourning the Death of Little Girl Dreams.

Check this out…..

“The Death of A Vision” by Bill Gothard

Three Basic Aspects of the Ways of God

1) Birth of a Vision: Each one of us has special purposes for being here. God wants to reveal them to us.  This is often the dreams of our youth or things we felt spoken to us during an altar call or prayer time.

2) Death of a Vision: When things don’t seem to be going as we had planned.  When all seems lost or hopeless, but don’t give up.  The expectations God gives are powerful motivations to continue during times of discouragement.  Sometimes we just see a mess of strings in the beautiful tapestry of our lives that He is weaving. Sometimes it is not our privilege to ever see the “big picture”.  This may be hard to understand, but that is why we have FAITH.

3) Supernatural Fulfillment of the Original Vision: He fulfills our expectations in ways that we NEVER would have thought!  And in BETTER ways than we ever thought possible!    Praise His Name!

Watch this, as it happens over and over in scripture….

Abraham had a vision of being the father of a great nation.  But how could he?  His wife, Sarah, was barren.  After years and years of trying and not succeeding, they became too old to have children. In FACT, somewhere along the journey, they decided God needed their help to make this “Father of a great nation thing” happen, and he got his servant Haggar pregnant.  What a dumb move! 

  Did this ruin what God had planned for him?  No.  God gave Abraham and Sarah a son in their old age, and YES he did become the Father of a great nation after all!

   Let’s talk about Joseph again, he had a vision that he would be a great leader and that many would bow down to him.  This kind of talk, added in with his father’s favoritism of him, lead his brothers to hate him and plot his murder.  (Dysfunctional anyone?) 

   In fact, they beat him up, took his beautiful coat (a gift from their father) and threw him in a pit while they decided what to do with him.  The sat down to lunch like nothing was wrong, and decided they should just sell him into slavery and cover his coat in blood so that father would think he had been eaten by wild animals.

  As Joseph, tired and sore, from most likely being beaten by his own brothers, was led away into captivity, sold as a slave, don’t you think he doubted his Vision from the Lord? 

   Don’t you think later, as he was thrown in prison after Potifer’s wife lied and said he attacked her, that he cried out to God wondering where he was in all this mess?!  How in the world could he be the leader of a great nation from this dark, damp prison cell?  Where was God as he rotted away in jail for years?   I bet things felt more than hopeless.  Then, God allowed Joseph to interpret the dreams of the butler and baker.  {Who promptly forgot about him as soon as they were freed.  Ugh! How frustrating that must have been!}  But wait, one day the king needs a dream interpreted and Joseph is just the man for the job.  Not only is he freed from  prison, but his dreams are fulfilled, and he goes on to RULE the land.   But WAIT, there is more! The VERY brothers who hurt him and sold him into slavery end up BOWING to him as King, when they come to beg for food during famine.

The Original vision is fulfilled, Supernaturally, by the hand of God.

  So, what am I to learn from all this?

  That my “dark place” is not a stagnant one.  I am not losing a battle by lying here in this pit.  I am lying in the arms of Jesus as He strengthens me for the journey to come, and one day…praise His name, my original visions of Happily Ever After will be returned to me, better than I ever thought possible.  My job now is to have Patience in waiting on God’s timing, to have Faith, in knowing what He will do, and Self-control in not running ahead of the Lord to “fix” this, but to just trust in His perfect plan for me.

  I am already catching glimpses of what is to come, as I have never been treated better by Dale, I have never been loved so freely by him, I have never felt more cherished.  For He who is forgiven much, loves much….{Taken from Luke 7}

  Funny, I thought we were so good before, so full of love for each other, having NO idea just how wonderful things COULD be once we were made new.  

  Satan is putting in over time right now.  He seeks to destroy God’s work and wants to deceive us, prompting us to try in our own energy and wisdom to “fix this”.  To work on our own strength to get back our “happily ever after” in a quick manner.  He sends spirits of darkness, to make us feel hopeless.  But we are never without hope, it is a gift of God and He NEVER removes His gifts from us.  We are never HOPELESS in Christ.  Never.  There is always hope and a future.  My Lord and Savior NEVER wastes a hurt.  He doesn’t.  He just loves us too much to keep us as we are.

  And like a grain of wheat must die into the ground before a Harvest can spring up the next season, I am in a constant process of dying to self.  Dying to MY plans, MY hopes, MY little girl dreams, MY thoughts on what should or should not have occurred, so that everything can be made new.

~T

“The Reedemer” by Sanctus Real

I don’t have every answer in life
But I’m trusting You one day at a time
Cuz You can make a weak heart stay alive
Forever
And this is where heaven and earth collide
I lift my hands, I give my life
This is how my weary heart stays alive
Oh, I’m still a dreamer
Still a believer
And You are the answer
The Redeemer
Cuz You can make anything new
Yeah, You can make anything new”

Listen here:

He makes everything new…..


 

Choosing to Forgive

Just tuning in? Please start at post 1 of this Series “Surviving Infidelity”: Shattered Hearts, Broken Promises.

October 16th, 2011 

The Lord has been speaking to me about Forgiveness for months now, telling me the day will come when I will have to actually say the words to Dale, not just show him by my actions that I am forgiving him.

  It all started to come to a head at Woman’s Encounter.  EVERYONE needs to go to one of these weekends, E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E!  Encounter is not your typical church retreat, it is a “tear down the walls, cry it out at the foot of the cross, build you back up before we send you home, I am free in Christ” kind of weekend with INCREDIBLE surprises at every twist and turn.  It truly changed my life!

  Over this Encounter Weekend, I traded beauty for ashes, peace for my despair, and gladness was given in exchange for my mourning. 

Praise be to my Heavenly Father, who so lavishly poured out His love on His daughter this weekend.

  Yesterday, I stood up in church to share what Christ had done in my heart and life this weekend and here is what I said:

  “I encountered Christ at the cross this weekend and cried buckets of tears.  Buckets.   The 2 ton weights I wore on each shoulder are gone, the chains of brokeness and unforgiveness no longer hold me captive. They were nailed to the cross and left there.   I have been set free!”  

BIG PAUSE here as I said battled with the Lord: 

No Lord please don’t make me say it publicly.”  Yes, Tonya, share for my glory.  “No Lord, I can’t!” YES TONYA! “Ok, here goes……”

DEEP BREATH: 

“And to my husband…….{sobbing} I want you to know that I love you, and I FORGIVE YOU. 

  You are my soul mate, and what God has put together, Satan will NEVER separate because……..

 I. choose. us.

     It was so silent in that church, you could’ve heard a pin drop!  Most sat with mouths agape, letting tears flow unchecked, some turned to see where Dale was…..

  Next thing I know, he is running up to the stage bawling and embraces me. As we kissed and cried, I looked him in the eyes and told him over and over, “I forgive you, I DO!  I feel so great! So light! So FREE!”

   It was the most beautiful moment in my life!  I am so free, I am so light, I am a NEW woman in Christ.  I am loving Dale fully with my whole, restored, new heart.  I learned this weekend that my forgiveness is so I can see Dale through God’s eyes.

That forgiveness is not a sign of weakness, or acceptance of the offence as Ok or right.

Forgiveness isn’t denying something bad happened to me, it just prevents further damage of me.

Time will not heal my broken heart, GOD WILL.

Forgiveness is not immediate trust restored, that will come with time.

Forgiveness is required of me, Christ instructs it.  It is the very foundation on which we stand, saved by grace!

Forgiveness is NON negotiable, when I forgive I am given the gift of FREEDOM!

Me not forgiving Dale is like saying what Jesus did on the cross was not enough. 

I need Christ to simply flow HIS forgiveness through me to Dale. My job is to merely be open to this, I don’t have to be healed, or “in a good place emotionally” for this to occur.

  What is visible before is now forgotten, what was scarlet before is white as snow. Forgiveness is a choice, and I choose it, but I need Christ’s help to accomplish this daily.  It is impossible without Him in me.  My forgiveness of Dale may be a lifelong journey and choice for me, but it is important to the Lord, and I choose forgiveness!  There is nothing like the tears of joy and the release we experience, when we come to that place of complete forgiveness before the Lord.  It’s life-giving because it renews our entire being.

PRAISE BE TO GOD!  The God of RESTORATION!!!! The God of BEAUTY from ASHES!

I am FREE from the chains that have held me captive since July!

I am FREE,  thank you Jesus!

~T

A Marriage With a Limp

This is all part of a series on “Surviving Infidelity”. Please start at the beginning: Shattered Hearts, Broken Promises.

leg_in_castWritten late November 2011

  Let’s say a man hurts his leg BADLY, like it will never function as it once did….

  He can sit in his hospital bed and dream of a million and one ways to get his regular, fully functioning leg back, but the truth of the matter is, he can’t. No matter what he dreams up, he can’t get it back to how it used to be.  Now, he has a choice:

~Sit there in his bed and rot, while he wishes he could turn back time.

OR

~Get up off that bed, participate in some very difficult therapy, and learn to function normally, this time with a hurt leg.

To walk, with a limp. To do stairs, with a limp. To ride bike, with a limp. He can achieve the things he used to, it’s just not quite the same.

This is my new reality.

  I am feeling a quiet acceptance today, as I realize this “limp” is here to stay. That instead of hiding my limp, or trying to find a way to get rid of it, I am accepting it. Planning life from here forward WITH it. I feel sad today, almost a sense of loss as I say goodbye to my dreams of what marriage would be, how I would be treated etc., yet at peace somehow. The kind of peace that comes from the arms of Jesus……

Instead of day dreaming all day long in “The Land of If Only”…..

IF ONLY Dale had said no, IF ONLY I could’ve called and stopped him, IF ONLY someone could’ve been there that day, IF ONLY I could’ve seen this coming……

I chose to live in today.

To lean on God TODAY, to get through moment by limping moment.

  Sometimes I fall, I do.  I am not used to my limp, but my Father in Heaven picks me up again, the Faithful Teacher, instructing me on how to walk all over again with my new limp.

Can God heal my limp? Sure.

Will He? I am not sure He needs to.

Remember Jacob in the Bible? He wrestled with God and walked with a limp the rest of his life as a reminder of that day he wrestled God and demanded a blessing.  Maybe Dale and I NEED the limp, so others can ask what happened and hear the good news of Christ in our lives.  Maybe our limp is the very reason glory will be given to God. 

Here is a devotional on this very subject a family member shared with us, that spoke volumes and came at the perfect time….

(Don’t they always?! Love it!)

jesus_shepherd

He Breaks Us to Make Us

Read: Genesis 32:22-32

“There is a good reason God calls his people sheep. Sometimes they act  bad and wander away from the paths he has mapped out for them. A good shepherd will relentlessly search for a wayward sheep.  Sometimes, if the sheep refuses to follow his master, the shepherd  takes drastic action. He breaks the sheep’s leg, places it upon his shoulders and carries the sheep until it learns total dependence. This is tough love – the shepherd breaks the sheep to make sure the sheep always follows the shepherd.

Jacob had always been a wanderer. He fled his home in Beersheba to escape his brother’s wrath and find a wife in Haran. On his journey, he encountered God at a place called Bethel and saw a stairway leading to heaven. Years later, Jacob left Haran along with his wives, children and property. One night he found himself at Jabbok, utterly  alone. At this solitary place God, in the form of “a man,” sought out  Jacob. God wanted to make Jacob into a different person, so he took drastic action. He initiated a wrestling match that lasted from dusk  till dawn. Jacob’s wilfulness would not allow him to give up. So the  man “broke” Jacob, touching his hip so that he walked with a limp for  the rest of his life.

  Many people might become bitter and turn away from God for breaking them. But Jacob had just the opposite response.  He clung to God saying, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” We may think that a God of love would never allow his children to feel any pain. But sometimes God breaks us to make us better. He may break our hearts so we will make room for him there. He may break our will so we can discover his will for us. He may break our physical strength so we discover that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). Like Jacob, the best response to God’s tough love is to cling to him and earnestly pray, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

  If you’ve been acting like a bad sheep and have wandered off the path, climb up on the shepherd’s shoulders and let him carry you home to healing.”

sheep

  The interesting thing is, which I had forgotten happened to Jacob, was the fact that God actually “broke” him physically, so that his limp would remind him for the rest of his life that he is dependent upon God!

  This “marriage limp” will always remind us that we need to depend on God to carry us through our most difficult moments. It can become a symbol of a battle fought and won! Our limp can be living proof that God can do amazing things in our lives if we are just willing to let Him!

  The glue that holds our marriage together, isn’t found in our own strength, it’s in the powerful BLOOD of Jesus!!!!  Thank God, that marriage isn’t just between a man and a woman, but that the Lord is the third-party, the third strand woven into the covenant; a strand that won’t break.  In fact, when tugged, the strands of a rope just pull tighter, closer together.  Praise Jesus!

~T 

Tomorrow is Weekend Potluck, then tune in next week for the final 4 posts of our series on: “Surviving Infidelity: Shattered Hearts, Broken Promises”.

Dear Child,
If you never felt pain, then how would you know that I am a Healer?
If you never had to pray, how would you know that I am a Deliverer?
If you never had a trial, how could you call yourself an overcomer?
If you never felt sadness, how would you know that I am a Comforter?
If you never made a mistake, how would you know that I am a forgiver?
If you knew all, how would you know that I will answer your questions?
If you never were in trouble, how would you know that I will come to your rescue?
If you never were broken, then how would you know that I can make you whole?
If you never had a problem, how would you know that I can solve them?
If you never had any suffering, Then how would you know what I went through?
If you never went through the fire, Then how would you become pure?
If I gave you all things, how would you appreciate them?
If I never corrected you, how would you know that I love you?
If you had all power, Then how would you learn to depend on me?
If your life was perfect, Then what would you need me for?

Love,
Jesus

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