The moment I removed my ring

To say the past week has been challenging, is an understatement. Its been rough. Hell, its felt like a hurricane of emotions and struggles. But the worst has past and we’ve caught our breath.

As I mentioned in my previous post, our wedding planning has had a few potholes and despite it being a very Holy Spirit inspired and co-ordinated event, we have had to face just a little human interference… and although I sought to respect and honour and make amendments where I could, eventually it became too much and I began to realise how ‘not well’ I was coping.  Every time I drove my car on a route out of my normal routine, I began experiencing mini panic attacks.  They weren’t major and I brushed it off and carried on. On Thursday, things happened that caused me to have a somewhat more noticeable (and public) attack in the staffroom at work. I finally took notice and realised we needed to address the issues. On seeing Garth later that day, I had another attack in front of him and it opened the door for a necessary conversation… and if I ever doubted how perfectly God times things – we had our final Q&A session of marriage prep sprung upon us for that evening. I arrived raw and a little apprehensive.

We won’t lie, the evening was tough and we’re both really grateful that we’ve had these honest conversations between ourselves, before having to address the issues with Chris and Louise. I think Garth took the worst of it, and was given some pretty direct instructions of things he needed to do – for the sake of our relationship.

By Saturday, I was beginning to struggle again.  He had not appeared to have done any of the things Chris had suggested and his silence on the matter was suffocating. Saturday afternoon we addressed the issue and it was tough; he was unhappy and I was anxious. I went to lie down and have only experienced that kind of crying once or twice in my life before – when the tears come from your spirit and no longer just an emotional reaction. I broke. And he watched me. It was painful to say the least.

And then Holy Spirit began to minister: He reminded me of a passage from a book I had actually asked my friend to lend Garth (Wild at Heart by John Eldridge; phenomenal read!).  In this passage, it explains how just as every man’s underlying question is ‘does he have what it takes?’, so every woman’s question is ‘am I worth fighting for?’.  And in that moment I realised we were both facing those very questions – I desperately needed my future husband to fight for me and his hesitancy looked like reluctance.  My continued meltdowns made him question his own strength. We were facing a battle that suddenly seemed very important – for each of us. And then Holy Spirit told me to remove my ring – not break up or even pause the wedding, but make a symbolic gesture of stepping out of the situation while He did the necessary healing.  I knew I would wear it again once Garth had been obedient and stepped into everything God had instructed, but I had no idea how long that would take. If removing it hurt, watching Garth’s face as I did so, was so much worse.

But we both had something to fight for.

Sunday morning I saw the book sitting beside my bed and noticed the sleeve was being used as a bookmark. Curious to see where Gabi had apparently stopped ready, I opened it. It was the exact chapter referring to the question with which every woman struggles. I read it and Holy Spirit once again began to minister: I thought I had found healing in this area years ago… only I hadn’t; I had simply learnt to live with the pain. I asked Garth to read the chapter and he graciously did, while holding my hand.  It was a long, vulnerable (for me) experience. When he was done, there was a new understanding of my pain in his eyes – but he still struggled with being obedient.

And that in turn made me struggle. I have lived by the principle that ‘obedience is better than sacrifice’ – that if you hear God give you an instruction: do it. Don’t delay and try ‘process’ or consider the potential consequences – obey the Father. While delaying obedience, one is simply being disobedient. And it concerned me seeing that in my future husband. So I brought the issue into the light and we began to communicate.

And something incredible happened.

As we became deliberate in establishing unity between us and reaffirming the connection in our relationship, suddenly we found ourselves encouraging one another to face the challenges ahead, even finding creative strategies to tackle the issues. It would take me a series of posts to begin explaining what happened yesterday – and maybe one day when everything is truly in the past and resolved, I will – but all I can say is I love a God who values Redemption; He alone can redeem the ugliest mess and turn things around for His good and glory. We didn’t do anything special. We simply focused our attention on Him, sought His heart in the battle and positioned ourselves under His covering – He did the rest.

What I have learnt is this: when a couple is unified under Christ, the enemy (in whatever shape or form) has no foothold. And the storms pass – and we find ourselves stronger, together. I’m wearing my ring – and don’t intend on removing it again. We’ve learnt the answers to both of our questions: God has given me a man who considers me worthy of fighting for, and he has the strength to step into the battle, with Holy Spirit (and me) beside him.

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When wedding planning sucks…

I am so very tired of people telling me to enjoy my engagement and wedding planning, like its meant to be the best time of my life. It isnt. There,I said it: I have not enjoyed this season. In fact, I have reached the point of no longer trying to hold back the tears. They just pitch up at the most random and inconvenient of times and I have learnt to be okay with that.

Everybody describes one’s wedding as “your big day” but to be honest, it hasn’t felt like my day in quite a while and its not nearly as glamorous as the movies make it out to be; I haven’t drunk copious amounts of bubbly or gone for cake tastings or any of that stuff. In fact, all it has really been is one big spreadsheet with budgets and schedules and vendor details… how much fun can admin really be?? And just when I finally thought I had this planning thing nailed, I was suddenly made aware that there are Others who have opinions and “concerns” (aka requests) that feel need to be taken into account. I tried to embrace the concept of compromise and respect… but walking the painfully thin line between accommodating and revoking their invite has left me an anxious mess. I love Jesus, but am really struggling to love people… and have a whole new level of respect for girls who go full on bridezilla (way to go girl!) Wedding planning has not been fun…

So in the middle of it, Garth and I climbed Table Mountain. To the top. There’s a reason they built a cable car… what was meant to be a 3 hour hike turned into 6+ hours, with 1km being a vertical climb of steps too high for my little legs. I struggled. And yet, throughout, I had a hand extended in my direction, literally pulling me up the side of the mountain and then being a support on the way down when my balance was wobbly. He was consistently supportive, never once complaining or speaking a word of negativity. It was only when he got me safely down, that he admitted how tough the experience had been for him. It was in that moment that everything shifted for me (once again): I was once again in awe of the man God has chosen for me to do Life with… that no matter whether he walks before-beside-behind me, his hand is always there and no matter how steep the ups (or downs), I know I can make it through anything when we face them together.

One of the things I have appreciated in this season is how my relationship with my mom has shifted. She has not only opened her heart to Garth, but has begun sharing her own experiences of being a young wife and has been sharing insights and wisdom. I have learnt so much and value each lesson. The most precious is this: always keep Garth number 1; especially when there is interference and manipulation. There are so many trivial things that can be compromised (and bigger battles that require standing your ground), but at the end of the day, when you’re facing a mountainous challenge, the only thing that matters is the hand you’re holding.

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Esther Season

Shortly before we got engaged, Holy Spirit told me to approach the upcoming season as a ‘Esther Season’ – Christian talk for a season of intentional preparation. Immediately my girl mind went to the details of her beauty treatments in the lead up to her meeting the king. Boy, how wrong I was…

In reading the book, I was actually a little surprised to see how the whole year of beauty treatments and special diet is summed up in one verse. One. I began to think Holy Spirit had something else in mind. The book of Esther is probably most well known for a verse in chapter 4, “…who knows but that you have been given this royal position for such a time as this?” And yet, it is merely a question that forms a vital catalyst for everything that happens next. Being positioned royally does not seem nearly as glamorous as fairytales and instagram like to portray – you only need to spend 5 minutes on social media to see how the world has a new obsession of everything “Queen”; its as if being a Queen means deserving extra-ordinary respect and a life of luxury. Um, if Queen Esther is anything to go by, the world has gotten it just a little wrong… yes, I am sure she had a fairly comfortable life, but when she (and the jewish people) were threatened with a death sentence, she couldn’t stamp her foot and demand things be changed. She had to approach the king. And if he didn’t want to see her: she would die. Not exactly glamorous.

But as Queen, she had a responsibility to stand up for those around her. Even if it meant facing a very real danger. Reading how she faced the threats before her, made me realise that she models something worth learning for marriage: before she took on the threat of the enemy, Haman, she fasted for three days – she took her problem to God. Secure in His peace and grace, she found courage to approach the king. Here’s where she really gives us girls some great pointers: she put on her royal robes. She didn’t just dress pretty; she put on the outfit that not only spoke of her royal position as Queen, but also reminded the king that she was his wife and subtly reminded him of the responsibility he carried as her husband. Sparing her life and welcoming her into his presence, he asked her what she wanted. Again, this girl was good: she didn’t ask for anything except to spend time with him – she sought his heart and not his hand. She did this three times. Each time, drawing him closer to her, deepening their relationship through intimacy. And in the midst of this intimacy, when the enemy came in close, she simply identified the threat and her husband stepped up to protect her. She didn’t point fingers, nag or complain; she simply directed his eyes to an enemy and he did the rest.

That was the first lesson I learnt.

The next was a bit more hardcore. Being a Queen like Esther is not all beauty and banquets. After the king steps up to save her (from a death warrant he had initially signed), he again asks her what he can do for her. She doesn’t hold back and promptly starts a war against the enemy. She didn’t just defend her people or fight for justice; she opened the way for their victory. Being positioned ‘royally’ was never for her – God had a purpose to use her for the benefit of those around her. To be a Queen in God’s Kingdom means not only wearing a crown of Grace, but also carrying a sword – and not being afraid of the battles that loom.

To be honest, I still don’t know how this relates to me directly, but I know that the next 72 days will be spent focussing more on the positioning for marriage, than all the beauty and glitz of the wedding.

When Holy Spirit plans a wedding…

Shortly before we got engaged (as in the Saturday before…), I was sitting with Holy Spirit and felt challenged about the wedding details.  Yes, I am going to get very personal and real here for a moment: I am one of ‘those girls’ who has a secret wedding board on Pinterest. There. Confession made. It’s out in the open. Label me if you like, even dare to judge me, but let’s be honest – I am not alone. That morning, I felt Holy Spirit say we need to review all the images I had pinned and He began to question my choices – what was significant about each image.  Slowly but surely I started deleting pins, admitting how much significance I had placed on trendy concepts. Eventually I paused and simply asked Holy Spirit how He would style a wedding; I felt Him smile and pull in closer…

He showed me all the images I had kept of the flowers/ decor and kept using the word ‘Garden’.  I asked for a Scripture about a garden (no, my mind did not even think about the Garden of Eden) and He reminded me of a verse in Song of Solomons 4, where the Lover describes the Beloved as a ‘enclosed garden, a sealed fountain’ and then proceeds to describe several fruit and spices found in its midst.  This isn’t the first time Holy Spirit has led me to this scripture and He used the phrase ‘garden of intimacy (with Jesus)’ – that a Kingdom-marriage can only be built on the foundation of one’s First Love in Jesus; that we need to walk daily in that refreshing presence and intimacy with Him first… giving us strength and capacity to love our spouse. I knew instantly that this would form the foundation for our wedding… I just didn’t know how. Yet.

Cue Sylvia; my wedding floral decor creative genius (and amazing friend who has walked a path not only similar to mine, but has encouraged me and inspired me for a good 15+ years).  I had already felt I needed to ask her to create my bouquet prophetically, allowing Holy Spirit to guide her, so when Holy Spirit extended the idea to approach the whole wedding design from the prophetic, I was all in.  And so was she. I simply shared my heart (Pinterest Board), scripture and several key symbols Holy Spirit had said to include (totally another blog post all in itself), and left the decor aspects of the wedding in their (more than capable) hands. How very unlike me to give over creative control for a day I have spent years play-planning. I cannot begin to explain the freedom and joy it has given me – I know my wedding will be beautiful, but I don’t need to worry about a single flower colour or availability as I lift my eyes beyond the wedding to Forever with my (future) husband.  I get to become Marriage Minded, while Enjoying the Engagement.

I took Sylvia to visit the venue yesterday and we spent the afternoon/ evening sharing our Heart Journeys and allowing creative ideas to flow.  She had had a Holy Spirit revelation about a ‘Covenant Carpet’ – a literal mat upon which you pledge your vows that is custom created to tell your Love Story.  This then becomes a daily reminder of that day when we stood before God and friends and promised to give the best (and worst) of ourselves to eachother. I loved it. We spoke through various elements and symbols and colours that Holy Spirit has instructed to include in the wedding, while also including special details that tell our unique Love Story.  This morning we played.  And by that I mean, I moved furniture about and watched Sylvia do her thing: create floral magic. And then it was my turn to take the photo and play a little too…

Nope, I am not going to share the final product (yet). G gets the first preview… but I am so excited to stand upon our Love Story – in the Garden of Intimacy with Jesus – filled with Promises and Hope for our Forever Future.

And this is just the beginning of the wedding planning – I can’t wait to see what Holy Spirit has planned.

God of details: the ring

Does it really surprise anyone that there should be a testimony of God’s goodness around my engagement ring?? I love how God reveals Himself in such special, personal ways.

A few month back, around June, G and I first seriously discussed getting engaged and the details of a ring. At the time, finances just didnt seem to stretch that far and I felt lead to remind him that Daddy God had promised to cover the costs of my wedding (even asking me to set a budget – in January. Before I had even met G). And, being the faith-filled presumptious brat that I am, I told G we were going to trust Him for a ring too. I’m cheeky like that. I also know God delights in our outrageous faith.

The next day, I was on school holidays, I was enjoying a morning at Canal Walk, when my bestie Gabi sent me a text message and suggested we go for coffee. We did. After ordering, she pulled out a ring she had bought in India – a beautiful aquamarine – and gave it to me, saying she felt she needed to give me this and I could do with it as I chose. She had been so encouraged by how God had been writing my Love story, that she wanted to sow into it, trusting that she would reap her own Beautiful Story. And in the space of 12 hours, I had the centre stone of my engagement ring. Tell me God doesnt love leaving his daughters speechless?? Needless to say, when I told Gabi of the previous night’s conversation, there were tears on both sides…

And because He never does anything in half measures, He provided G with the finances that allowed me to visit the most amazing and talented jeweller, Hettie from Wainwright Jewellers. Initially I thought I knew what I wanted, but I am so grateful she didnt accept my idea and encouraged me to play with other ideas… and so we designed a very personal ring, capturing our unique love story.

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As far as the ring is concerned, G took it from there… and the next time I saw it, was when he knelt before me asking me to be his wife.

I feel like I need to extend thanks in so many directions… and I am beyond grateful for the absolute love and generosity in this little aspect of our Story. And I pray huge blessings upon both Gabi and Hettie; that Gabi will have a God-written Love Story way better than mine and that Hettie’s business will prosper beyond her greatest expectations.