Another year has gone by and here I am. Usually every year on my birthday I take a few minutes to reflect on the previous year. It is refreshing that, in comparison with last year, I do not feel any older. I actually got home shortly before midnight from Movie Night at Abby and Asher's, so I stayed up to read the Bible on the turn on the day. I found it especially interesting that what I was reading as I turned 25 was Luke 8 which tells the Parable of the Sower. "But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience."
Last year I awoke to a beautiful, rainy, cold day and I got up and went to church with my friend Elizabeth and then at LifeChurch. I also met my would-soon-become interent stalker. It was around this time last year that Abby obediently, following 2 Tim 3:16-17, told me that I needed to amend some things in my life (i.e. stop having premarital sex). I also came to terms with the fact that I had to end my relationship with Jesse, which was really hard. That end came after more disobedience down in Ft. Sill, when he returned with the warrior-hero's return from Iraq with his unit. I allowed myself to be in his room alone with him and gave in to weakness. The Lord gave me a choice and I distinctively remember choosing to disobey. That was the last time I disobeyed in that particular way. I remember thinking on the way back up to the city of what the date was: the 26th. It was seven years and six months to the day from when I first disobeyed; and six years from the day I married Joe. Full circle. I closed the period of disobedience. I knew that I could not be intimate again with a man unless the Lord willed me to be married. The following weekend he and his mom came up for the weekend and we went out to Bricktown. And I ended the relationship. It was extremely painful, even though I had been preparing and I knew that it had to be done. He was not the person in Christ who I thought he was (as evidenced by his fruit, or lack there-of and his lack of willingness to even read the Word or learn.)
Moving on from that event . . .
Abby began to teach me about purity and what purity was. She used her own life as an illustration, as well as Scripture. We began to walk together early in the cold mornings of Oklahoma autumn and our friendship grew immensly as we talked about a number of different things. I will never forget those chilly mornings. Abby also introduced to me to the concept of courtship. I remember gingerly asking her what it was and trying to wrap my mind around it. Again, she used her own life as an illustration. Abby lit a fire of passion for purity in my soul that I hope will never die. She showed me that to live a pure life, as a woman, was to live a life for the Lord. To me, to live a pure life, is to live an obedient life for Christ. Abby, thank you for all that you have taught me and showed me. There is so much that I could write . . . I am eternally grateful for your wisdom and your teaching and being bold enough to give me correction when I needed it and loving enough to take me in and show me what it means to be a truly Godly woman. You have become a dearest friend and I truly would not be the woman that I am today if it was not for you. Thank you so much for your friendship, for your prayers, for your teaching, for your wisdom, for your love.
. . . in October, I also gave up cigarettes and alcohol to the Lord. They were addictions that were rapidly starting to consume my life. On that fall night, after buying alcohol at WalMart because I was depressed and wanted to forget things in my life, I remember thinking, "It's okay, no one will know" (thinking specifically of the Bible study). And then Casting Crowns song "Set me Free" came on the radio on the way home. And I just started crying and went home and I remember that I just kind of sank down on my kitchen floor with all my WalMart bags around me and I saw in front of me very clearly two paths and I knew the Lord was showing me the choice that I had to make. I could get up, open up my drinks and I would find myself years down the road doing the same and having accompished nothing in my life and find my life gone away from me, consumed by something that would control me for the rest of my days. Or, I could give up my addiction to Jesus and He could heal me. So I called Abby and only asked if she could pray with me. She said yes, so I put all my cigaretttes and lighters and wine and liquor bottles in a bag and went over to Abby's house. I know she was suprised to see me crying on her doorstep after I knocked, but she let me in. And I just handed her my bag of addiction and said "I don't want to be addicted anymore". She went and threw them away and we sat down and she prayed for me. I have not had a cigarette since then. I wish that I could say I have also not had a drink since then, but I had a drink on New Year's Eve with Thomas, Chris, Brittney and my cousin Glenn. I have not had one since then. I still crave it, but by God's grace I will not go back to what Jesus has freed me from.
I also formulated my rules for myself about this time. No men alone in my apartment with me (and avoiding situations where I am alone with a man). No kissing until I get married (if ever again), no front hugs with men, if they can be avoided, no riding alone in a car with a man.
On October 15th, I was baptized at LifeChurch.tv. It was an amazing. Friends from the Bible study came and Sheila and Sarah took pictures for me. I can truly see how baptism is the symbolic event of being reborn in Christ. It was an amazing feeling.
It was also during the fall that Abby and I decided that we wanted to get to know the people in the Bible study better. We felt that we didn't know everyone in the Bible study like we should and so we looked for ways that we could get to know everyone and minister to everyone. I decided to do a dinner night and see what would happen. People came and they liked my cooking. I decided to do it every week. And people came, every week. Later, Abby and I also talked about the idea of doing a movie night at her house. So we tried that, and thus Movie Night was created. It is such a joy to me to open up my apartment every week and serve the people that I love. I used to worry about having a small apartment when I had my studio, but no one ever complained about having to sit on the floor. I remember I just gave that up to the Lord. And He took care of it, He took care of everything.
It was during the later part of the fall that I began to feel that everyone in the Bible Study was my family. I care for and love everyone in the Bible Study so much. We stared doing a number of different things together besides Bible study on Friday nights and dinner nights. We went to a concert together in October. The ladies started having Ladies Night Out every so often. We all helped each other out whenever someone needed something. I really felt that we had all become like the church in Acts 2:42, 44-47 "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. . . Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved."
I finished my phlebotomy course in December. Joe and Kyle came in to volunteer for my live stick that I had to complete before being allowed to go to clinicals. Joe had agreed to do it, and Kyle had tagged along. I remember that I was extremely nervous. It all went well and Joe said that I did fine and that it didn't hurt. I think he might have been worried about how shaky I was because I was so nervous. In January I had my phlebotomy clinicals at St. Anthony's hospital ~ I loved it! :)
For Christmas, many of us from the Bible study departed from our spiritual family and went to our biological families in different parts of the country. Joe and Kyle first to Illinois to see Kyle's family, then to Boston to see Joe's family and fiance, Michelle. Mike VB to South Dakota. Mike M. to Nebraska. James was TDY at the time, so Sheila stayed with Sarah for Christmas. Jake to Arizona. And I traveled to Florida to see my family. Christmas was really great, as always. I remember Michael and I talked about different things and I distinctly remember him saying that he had no desire to get married until he was out of the corps and I agreed, adding I had no desire and didn't think it the Lord's will to be married for many years, if ever again. The Lord does indeed have a sense of humor. Michael was married in March to Sarah and is expecting his first baby before Christmas, and I will be married in less than a month. Both events falling, of course, before the next Christmas. Aunt Peggy and Cousin Glenn came down for a few days after Christmas, and it was really great to see them again.
I quit my job at BHI Research and went to work for Tom, as he had started his own research company, Hillcrest Clinical Research. We spent the first months getting ready for our first trials (regulatory wise), writing SOP's, and generally building our business. I really enjoyed working with Tom and working at Hillcrest. Hillcrest definitely is going to grow in leaps and bounds in the coming years.
Also in December, I stared serving at LifeChurch in the Kids ministry. I remember I went to the "casting call" and Twyler asked the different volunteers why they had wanted to serve. The other 3 women said it was because their kids went to Toon Town, or something along those lines. I just said "I was terrified of kids, but the Lord told me to come and serve, so here I am." I don't think that was anything that Twyler had heard before and she just answered "Well, Praise Jesus!" I very quickly grew to loving serving the kids. I served in the 4 year old classroom, the Ark, for the 10:00 service, in Toon Town (grades 1 - 3) for the 11:30 service and then with the 3 year olds, the Jungle, for the 1:00 service.
During the early months of the year, during my quiet time, I saw that the Lord wanted to me to "go" somewhere. So I prayed about it and through circumstance felt directed to go to Honduras on a mission trip with LifeChurch in March.
Going to Honduras was very eye opening. I had not been to a third world country before and it was very hard. Americans have so much and really want for nothing. The people in Magote, the village, really had everything they needed and were content in the Lord. It was also a different kind of spiritual warfare down there. Looking back now, I see that my purpose down there was to be tested for teaching. Annette, the leader, asked me if I wanted to lead the nightly fellowship one night. I said yes, and immediately thought of teaching the Wheel Illustration. So instead of doing what other members had been doing for fellowship (talking about their experience, leading song and prayer), I had everyone go around and read different verses that I assigned to them. (The verses of the wheel.) After certain verses, I would explain how the verses came together to support the main ideas of the Wheel: Witnessing, Quiet Time, Prayer, Fellowship. I heard later than my lesson sparked an hours long discussion between the three men on the team. A few of the other women also came to me later for help in looking up certain things in the Bible and for light instruction I guess you could call it. The team built two houses during the week that we were down there. Each house is then dedicated to the family that it's going to. The missionaries give each family a 5 gallon bottle of water, a loaf of bread, a Bible and a fruit tree and they annoint the house. A team member is usually asked to prepare something to say to the family. I was asked to prepare something about the fruit tree. So I prepared verses from John 15:1-17 and other verses about bearing fruit and being disciples. During the dedication, the team member would say a sentence or two of their prepared words, and then it was translated for all to hear. **Okay, I just realized what I wrote. I talked about going and bearing fruit and being disciples and it was translated for all to hear. . . . Okay, I need a moment. . .. **
***Side note, I seem to have this thing were I just take things in stride, no matter how big they are. It's like I don't realize the full impact of something important until much much later. I don't know why that is.***
I think that is all I am going to write about Honduras for the current time.
After being picked up at the airport, we went to Bible Study. After Bible Study, we all went out to IHOP to get something to eat. And then Joe and Michelle took me home. I checked my mail because I was expecting a letter from UCO's School of Nursing. I did get it and I opened it with them there. And I got accepted! I cried and gave them both a hug. After they left, I got down on my knees and thanked God that I got accepted and gave up nursing school to Him.
Also early on in the year Mike and I's friendship started to grow. He wrote this blog back in early January, and he was pretty angry at this particular woman who had hurt him/used him and was also pretty angry/frustrated at women. I remember reading that thinking, man, I have to say something to this man. So I did. I wrote a comment on his blog and pretty much told him straight that he shouldn't hate women/treat them badly, especially because of this one particular woman and other things. And I told him he should come back to Bible study, that we all missed him. I honestly didn't think I would ever see him again or hear from him again. I figured he would think something along the lines of 'who does she think she is?' or 'yeah right' or something. But he came to Bible study that night. I remember I was sitting in the back of the living room in the rocking chair and he sat on the couch next to me. After the lesson, I asked me if he got my comment. He said yes. I think I was said that I was glad that he came back. I hoped that he was coming back for the right reasons.
A few weeks later I had sent my dinner invites out via email and he had replied that he would be there. And then he no showed. I usually like to follow up with such things with a myspace comment or something to make sure everything is all right. So I wrote him a really short comment. And he wrote me back a REALLY long email explaining all sorts of things going on his life at the time. At the end of his email was a prayer request. So I wrote him back and said that I would pray for him. And thus it all began. I started praying for him and he for me. And there were emails back and forth. And then phone conversations and text messages. I remember driving down I-44 going to the IRB at Integris, and I was praying, Mike's prayer requests included. And then I stopped. And out loud, I just kind of said to the Lord "Why am I praying for this man? What is going on here Lord?" Obviously I didn't a reply back, so I went back to my praying. And wondering. We went out to a movie once, in February, and that's when he kind of got introduced to my rules (because I was breaking them.) When we wrote to each other, we always included verses to lift each other up. I began to see how the Lord was bringing us together. It was when I went to Honduras that I really missed him. I didn't pine after him or wish he were there, I just missed talking to him and missed his texts and emails and realized how much he lifted me up Spiritually on a daily basis. I realized that I loved him. Thinking about him in Honduras didn't consume my thoughts, but I did think of him. And I couldn't wait to see him again. About half way through the trip, I decided to see if I could text him (I couldn't call from my phone), but I discovered, to my great joy, that I could send and receive text messages. So at night and early in the morning we would text each other. He was a great encouragement to me those last few days. He was also the only person that I texted. He was the only one I really wanted to have contact with. I missed everyone of course, but I had prepared myself for not talking with them while I was gone. When I got off the plane, I hugged everyone who was there (Sarah, Michelle and Kyle) and there was Mike. We hadn't thought that he would be able to make it, so it was a great surprise and joy to see him. And I gave him a huge hug. I wanted to hold on for so much longer, but I knew that I couldn't. We all went down to get our bags and I introduced Mike to the team. Kim, a lady on the trip, knew that we cared more then friends, but I insisted that we were just friends.
In May, I graduated from Rose State college with my degree in Liberal Studies. My Dad and Thomas came up for the graduation, and it was so great to see them again. Thomas was going to stay and had moved all of his stuff up with him. On graduation night, the whole Bible study came. Asher even agreed to move Bible study night to Saturday night so that people could come. And when the called my name and I went up on stage, everyone cheered so loudly. It was an awesome experience. Mike's parent were in town visiting him, so I got to meet Ruth and Paul that night as well. I thought it was pretty special that they came to my graduation, even though they hadn't met me before.
The following Sunday, Sarah, Michelle, Mike, Jake and I went to Brahms to get ice cream after watching a movie. Sarah had been asking me for months about Mike and I and if we were courting yet. We had grown pretty close and were already holding hands occassionally (like at movie night or dinner night). So this time when she asked, I asked her to ask him. So when Mike got to the table with his ice cream, she asked him when we were going to start courting. Mike said we were courting. To which I replied, "since when?" Mike, being very shocked at my reply, kind of said since last Monday - I asked you on IM. And I told him that he indeed had not asked me if he could court me. So he asked me, right then and there. Of course, I said yes. Sarah and Michelle were so excited that they got to be there. Sarah was just beaming with joy. I was really glad that they got to be there. The ride back to Sarah's house was really neat. We were sitting in the back seat with Jake and we were holding hands. I think we were both just so thrilled that we were finally courting.
Over the summer our relationship grew even more, as you can read in previous blogs. Mike is truly a blessing and an awesome man, and I can't wait to be his wife. He proposed on August 3rd, at Bible study. :D
Backtracking now a bit, in January, Michelle arrived from Boston. I went with Kyle and Joe to pick her up at the airport. I heard a lot about Michelle from Kyle and Joe and we had written emails to each other a few times. It was so great to meet her in person. It was also so great to get to know her over the next few months. I was able to go with her and Joe and Kyle to their wedding at the courthouse. I was very honored that I was able to be apart of that great event.
A lot of others thing have happened of course in the last year. Last fall, I think, had the biggest impact on my life, for the rest of my life. There were so many ways that I grew in the last year, especially spiritually. I hope that this year I will continue to grow in the Lord and I look forward to all the ways in which I will grow. I know that I have a great deal to learn still. I know that in my marriage to Mike, we will both have the opportunity to grow in ways that we have not had before. I really look forward to it. :D
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new Creation: the old has gone, the new has come." 2 Cor 5:17