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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Introducing G…

When we first began dating (and soon after, this blog), several people questioned me on all the secrecy.  Some even went as far as telling me we would be building our relationship on a foundation of deception… I did what I know to do best: take it to Jesus.  I asked him what he thought and Holy Spirit gave me the response; ‘Moses’. Um, okay… and it was with a bit more prayer and pondering that he explained how Moses began his life hidden in the bulrushes, kept a secret – for a season. At the right time, he was revealed and used for God’s purposes.  I felt Holy Spirit say, that that would be a significant image for our relationship, initially. That although God had called me to speak openly about our Love Story, some of the details of ‘Us’ would need to remain hidden – not because there was anything to be ashamed of or ungodly, but simply to obey God’s word and instruction over our lives.

I always felt we would ‘step out’ more publicly when we got engaged, but its only been in the past week where I have had a sense that the season of hiding in the bulrushes is over. The initial reason for our ‘secrecy’ was to honour G’s dance studio – its frowned upon (but not legally restricted) for instructors to have relationships with students.  We didn’t want the studio to be brought into disrepute and chose to remain as professional as possible at the studio – something I believe we achieved when even our closest friends who we dance with twice a week were amazed to find out we were engaged… and to further honour the studio, I no longer dance with G; I have a new instructor.

But as we begin planning our future together and seeking God’s calling upon our relationship, I have felt prompted to step fully into the witness that God has entrusted me with… and felt its time to introduce you to my fiance, Garth.

We are complete opposites – in almost every way – and yet, together, we bring out the best in eachother.  It never ceases to amaze me at just how different we are; from choice of movies and food and music and pretty much anything… we will choose the opposite. But we complement eachother. Well. Where I am an introvert who needs to overthink every detail before communicating my thoughts, Garth is the extrovert who processes ideas verbally… and eventually comes to a conclusion. We’re both ‘creatives’, but I have a more disciplined approach to strategies and developing systems – which he is better at actually implementing.  Although we’re both dreamers, I am usually the little fire-cracker initiating the plans, but once he gets started, Garth usually sees them through (because I’ve moved on to the next visionary plan). I tend to be more impulsive – when I hear God’s voice, I often jump into obedience a little too quickly, where Garth has the wisdom to take a moment, process the details and then walk fully in the plan.  I live for finding a greater purpose in everything; while Garth lives to love and take care of those he loves – I tell him constantly that his ability to love is a superpower that I cannot begin to fathom…

The complementary nature of ‘Us’ means we make a really effective team, allowing the other to lead in areas where they’re naturally stronger. We’ve both begun businesses –  that although they’re technically each of our own – will only succeed if we work as a team on both of them. I’m extending the Hello Love ‘ministry’ to events; creating Date Night opportunities for couples to have a fun evening out, learning to dance and having dinner together, as well as (something very close to my heart), an evening for Singles to meet other singles in the city – I know how hard it was being in my late twenties and early thirties, watching my friends get married and have kids… and somehow be unable to meet anyone because my usual church social circle was well, limited and it seemed impossible to step out of my weekly social cycle. There are so many lonely Christian single people desperately desiring marriage, and if I can provide an opportunity for them to meet people with the same values… well, the idea makes me very happy. [Please like and follow my FB page – and invite people to do the same!?] And being that the events are mostly centred around dance… well, it helps that Garth has some expertise in that area…

Garth is stepping out in faith with his massage and natural products company, SELAH. The name means ‘stop, pause and reflect’ and is often found in the Psalms. In so many ways, this concept has begun to define how we approach our lives – the TV has been turned off and disconnected; we pause often to reflect and connect. And he has made me a borderline-hippie fan of essential oils! I love them.  I love the combination of aromas and the natural benefits they provide. As part of SELAH, we have launched natural bath products (lotions and scrubs… and are in the process of learning to make soap).  You can follow his progress on Facebook too…

Getting to create, together, has brought us so much joy in sharing the Adventures God is leading us on.

And because you’re probably tired of seeing his face in part or knowing his shadow more than is normal… here we are…

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.

Breaking Ground

‘Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love; and break up your unplowed ground, for it is time to seek the Lord.’ – Hosea 10:12

We started our marriage preparation course on Saturday. I had anticipated it being quite hectic (G was as usual, totally calm), but I honestly was not prepared for the revelation of its significance. Yes, we were given anologies of ‘when you want to drive a car, you first go for lessons… and when you want to operate in surgery, you get trained… why should marriage be different?’ I agree completely: being the nerd that I am, (if I can help it), I only step into things after I have prepared for them (being called to live by faith doesnt always allow for that, but in this case, thankfully God has given us a season to prepare).

This morning I sat with Holy Spirit (yay for school holidays) and ‘randomly’ found this scripture in Hosea. Wow. It really spoke so clearly to me regarding this Season of Preparation. Like a farmer prepares the land in the season before wanting to sow seed and hope for a subsequent harvest, so too do we need to prepare ourselves for marriage – and seed can only be sown into ground ready to receive. This morning I realised how much ‘land’ in my heart, mind and life has been allowed to grow wild – untendered and well, possibly just a little feral. Without having anyone to really consider (or keep me in check), I have allowed unhelpful habits and ways of thinking and doing things to creep in like weeds. That ground is definitely not suitable for sowing any kind of seed, let alone hoping to reap a good harvest! And so, the season of breaking ground has begun.

And it is uncomfortable.

Saturday’s session was Communication. An important foundation, but not totally ‘sensitive issue’ stuff, right? Oh, so wrong… my little field was filled with roots and rocks that need removing. The revelation that life is no longer about me or simply doing things as I have always (unquestioningly) done hit home; if I am going to be the best wife for G – the one he needs me to be in order to help him lead us well, and to encourage the best out of him… well, I have some work to do. Yes, the significance of this season lies in the Forever Future ahead of us, but more so, the next 87 days will require me to be more vulnerable, open and humble than I have ever been. And it requires an incredible depth of trust; revealing both the good and bad parts of myself to G, (hoping and praying) and trusting that he will not only accept them and extend grace towards me, but will cover those areas in love (Colossians 3). I am continually in awe and so very grateful that God would give me someone who is not only the most patient man I have ever known, but so kind and gentle in how he draws me out from my fears, insecurities and overthinking head. He leads me well.

So excuse me while I go hunt for some wellies and dungarees and a garden fork… or maybe a tractor and plow may be more useful… there is work to be done – and it doesnt involve colour schemes, flower choices or picking dresses…

( significance of photo: its the view from our venue – and symbolic of looking into the future…)

 

God of the details: The Venue

I had my heart set on a venue I had never actually been to… I had seen photos, heard about it, seen their menu (foodtrucks included) and just loved its unconventional quirkiness. Apparently, God had a better plan.

I was chatting to a friend at school a few weeks ago about the idea of the wedding and we were discussing venues and costs etc. She suggested I visit a venue just up the road from my house. I smiled and said I would make a plan; having a Plan B seemed like a good idea.

The Sunday before we got engaged, G and I had some spare time in the afternoon, so we decided to go visit Plan B. What harm could it do? We could enjoy a hot chocolate (and I would have something to compare my venue to when I finally visited it on Thursday). From the moment we arrived, there was something different about Plan B… initially I couldn’t quite define it. We had hot chocolate in the deli and casually asked if we could go look at the venue. Immediately the owner grinned, pulled up a chair and asked if a wedding was being planned. And so we spent the next half hour chatting to him and another couple about weddings and ideas etc. He wouldn’t hear of us paying and gave us directions to the venue, warned us about the cranky donkey and said he would see us in December.

We took the shortcut through the back garden, warily kept an eye out for cranky donkey and found our way to the venue. We peered through the windows and stood in the parking lot, so aware of the silence and sense of space… and the earthy farm smells of chicken poop. In that moment, saying absolutely nothing, but knowing beyond a doubt that God had brought us here to see His choice… I turned to look at G, who simply looked down at me, took my hand and said what I was already thinking: “this is it. This feels like home.”

 

And like that, Plan B became Best.

 

Oh, and the farm has llamas. And a sheep that thinks he is a dog. God knows how to make my heart flutter with happiness.

(When we returned the next week to speak to the event manager, we walked in to hear Christian worship music playing and realised it was Holy Spirit’s presence we had felt on our first visit. “Beulah” is Hebrew for “married; or to claim as a wife.” It seems doubly appropriate that G asked me to be his wife there, and we will get married in the same place.)

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.

I said Yeah, Why Not…

We have news… and the details aren’t too bad either…

On Wednesday evening I was taking a bit of strain with a whole bunch of things needing my attention, and simply not being able to make any difference in my own strength anyway – and G was lucky enough to face the frustrations. I was quite direct and he patiently took my shots fired in a loving silence that only bugged me further.

I have been working through Esther and knew Holy Spirit was going to ask me to fast at some point; I just didnt realise he meant today until Friday lunch. I generally use teaching as an excuse to soften fasting to a Daniel fast, but no, all food was out – only liquids allowed. I approached the day with the attitude of laying down food as a symbolic gesture of my laying down my fears and frustrations regarding the future, especially the financial provision for the wedding… my practical brain was clashing with my more idealistic faith-filled heart. I needed Daddy God to draw me back into alignment with His Story.

For the most part, school was fine. I had way too many grade 8 classes to face, then break duty, then matric invigilation… I literally did not have 5 mins to go pee. Then I get this message from G saying he was at school. Say what?? At break time?? The poor man must have been terrified as I marched him into my classroom (in silence) shocked that he would think visiting me at school was a good idea. I may have been a little harsh. And then he hands me a flask of hot chocolate, a rose and chocolates. Just a little bewildering.

I got home to find more chocolate, another rose, card and the kettle boiling. At that point I started to wonder if something was going on, but when he simply made me tea and didnt say (or ask) anything… well, I was slightly uncertain. We were meeting with the function manager of a venue (story for another blog post!), so went to meet her… chatted, met the pet sheep (who thinks he is a dog) and then strolled around the farm with Jonah, the bull mastiff farm dog. Looking at the donkey shed, I suddenly realised G wasn’t beside me… turning around, I found him with another rose and card. I saw words like Wife and Smile and looked up to find him kneeling in front of me, simply asking me to be his wife.

I really do think I said, “yeah, why not?”