Going Wild

changed my surname and relationship status yesterday.

IMG_8023

According to the South African government and Home Affairs, I am legally Mrs Wild. It was a simple process: we met in the church office with our two witnesses, answered two simple questions and were pronounced husband and wife.  And yet, we do not consider 20 December to be our Wedding Day – that’s happening next week Friday, the 28th.  Why? Because as Christians, we believe that marriage is not a legal piece of paper declaring my name change, but rather a covenant between ourselves and God – it is a holy commitment to love each other, be faithful to one another and keep God at the centre of our relationship.  And until that covenant has been made and celebrated with friends, we are spending the week ‘un-married’.

But that didn’t stop us from enjoying yesterday…

Before the meeting (we use this word deliberately, because it was not a ceremony or special event), we went for a walk on the beach – yip, the same beach where it all began.  We had to marvel at how much has changed in 8 months; how many tough challenges we have had to face, how much we have grown – both relationally and spiritually… its been a season of huge acceleration for both of us.  We then got married, enjoyed coffee with friends and went home – to wash dishes and pack away my laundry.  You know, married people things… and then I was blessed abundantly by Kristin Swan, a super lovely make up artist in the city: she did my hair and make up as a ‘blessing from Jesus because He wants you to celebrate’. I cannot adequately express how special that was or how much I needed it – that in the midst of our unconventional and difficult engagement, I would be given such an amazing gift.  And obviously, G loved the transformation… which we embraced with a photoshoot on the beach (photos to hopefully come soon once they’ve been edited etc). And then we got to celebrate with a couple who God has blessed us with – we love our new friendship with them and have been able to share the highs and lows and lessons learnt through our season of marriage prep; it made sense to get to share our celebrations with them last night.  God is so good.

Instead of focusing on the change of relationship status, Holy Spirit reminded me of something else – the significance of a name change. I’ve always loved my name and God has used it time and time again to remind me of my Identity in Him – that no matter how much credit my parents may take, He named me. And the meaning of my name has had such significance for me.

Lauren Joy Vercoe.

Lauren means ‘crowned with laurels; victorious’ and well, Joy is pretty obvious.  My surname, apparently coming from French heritage can be split into two french words: Verite (truth) and Coeur (heart).  I’ve always loved that – ‘being true to one’s heart’.  And for me, it meant being true to my heart after God.  On the way home from my SOZA session last month, Holy Spirit explained how I was stepping into a new season and how significant my name change would be.  Although my ‘foundation’ will always be ‘true to my heart’, a new season of Freedom and Reckless Abandonment (in God) was on its way – that I have been granted permission to be Wildly, Joyfully Victorious – living in the Fullness of Jesus’ Victory, Freedom and Healing – His Grace.

I don’t know the details of this New Season, but I am expectant of God doing great things – to His glory.

Advertisements

Choosing Celebration

I never release a blog post until I feel the timing is right – that I feel a ‘permission’ has been granted and I can bear witness from a place of authority and ‘overcoming’.  Consequently, I have been a little quiet lately while we have had to deal with (yet more) ‘stuff’…

Firstly, let me share several key factors:

Before we were even engaged (but definitely dating ‘with intention of marriage’), we received a prophetic word regarding our relationship – that God had a purpose for our marriage beyond ourselves; that He would use it as a platform to minister to others.  This was nothing new to us, and in fact, it merely confirmed what we already had felt Holy Spirit say. Fast forward a few months and an engagement ring later, I felt Holy Spirit say we needed to prepare spiritually for our marriage, and go for a SOZA session. SOZA is an amazing healing ministry where a facilitator leads one in a prayer session – in a nutshell: its a personal and very intimate conversation with Jesus, Holy Spirit and Daddy God. My session was incredible. Through the course of this session, I received several prophetic words regarding my relationship with Garth – that (again), our relationship has a higher calling and will be used to minister to and encourage others; that there is a Redemptive Grace upon us and God will use our story to bring healing. (Again) this was not news to me, but merely confirmation of what I had already felt Holy Spirit say weeks earlier.

I shared a photo on the Facebook group the other day of the accessories Holy Spirit had lead me to choose for the ceremony, as well as the unusual choice of gold for my nail polish.  The colour gold has begun featuring strongly in my current walk with Holy Spirit (He uses colour to minister to me on a regular basis).  Obviously it is known for its Biblical connotations of faith being refined like pure gold, as well as the associations of Victory and God’s Righteousness. When looking to create my veil, I asked Holy Spirit to help me pick out hair pins and he did: two beautiful golden leaves.  It was only a little later when I made the connection: my name literally means ‘crowned with laurel’ – laurel being the leaves worn by victors.  And now my veil too, will be a golden crown of laurels. Once again, Holy Spirit has reminded me of the Victory we walk in, in Jesus’ Grace and Glory.

IMG_7892

So what’s been the problem?

Through the course of our (fairly short) engagement, neither Garth nor myself have been particularly focused on the wedding planning.  Instead, we have approached this season as preparation for our marriage; seeking to grow as a couple and work though as much spiritual preparation as we can.  As we have grown stronger spiritually (and relationally) together, we have faced the predictable spiritual opposition. I have been accused of being pregnant, Garth has been asked whether he was being forced into the wedding (if I had THAT measure of influence I would have used it on a man years ago?!) and we were both recently challenged on whether we were even ready for marriage.

Ready for marriage? You bet we are!

Having struggled through a fog of anxiety and stress caused by this negativity and many, many tears later – Garth and I are stronger than ever.  When faced with such opposition, we chose to draw closer together in Unity and grow together in Strength.  Today, Holy Spirit gave me this revelation: the Bride of Christ does not need to distract herself with inconsequential irritants – she simply locks her eyes on her Groom, Jesus, and stands glorious in His Victory. The enemy has already been defeated, and as Christians, we’re called to walk in that Freedom and Victory established at the cross. Its an incredible honour.  The Bride does not give way to Fear.  I do not need to give way to Fear – and I have been doing that for too long; its time to end it.

Two things I am fully convinced of: one, this relationship and marriage is a God-thing covered in His Grace and Redemption and two, Garth and I love eachother unconditionally, having made a commitment to do so for the rest of our lives, hoping that God may be glorified through us. We have withstood the storms, chosen to honour and extend grace and compassion, remained firm on the convictions placed in our hearts and been obedient in everything Holy Spirit has said we need do – we have been faithful through the Season of Fire; our faith and relationship has survived the Refining.

And now… for the next two weeks, we intend to Celebrate: we plan on embracing the Victory Christ has bestowed upon us, walk in His Redemption and Celebrate the Love Story He is busy writing. Every other ‘distraction’ or ‘opposition’ will now be laid aside as we focus on Jesus. This is no longer a time for Fear, but a Time for adjusting my crown, realising whose daughter I am and walking in that Identity – crowned not only with (golden) laurels, but with His Righteousness and Deliverance.

 

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…)

 

A Significant Moment {before Forever}

Something significant happened today.  I wasn’t there and I have no idea what went down… but I am at the centre of it: G asked my dad for his blessing, for us to get married.  I say blessing, because honestly, we don’t need permission – living in today’s world, in our thirties and planning on covering the costs of the wedding ourselves… well, permission isn’t really the issue.  But blessing is – especially for G.  From the start, he was adamant that we ‘do things properly’ and he insisted we meet parents and ask for their blessing before taking the next step.

My impatient heart struggled with this – even up until a moment ago, when I instinctively knew ‘it had happened’; something shifted in the spirit for me and initially I didn’t quite get it. Praise the Lord for the Holy Spirit who speaks so clearly and helps a fairly dim girl out (even while making tea in the staff kitchen!).

When G had arranged the meeting with my dad, yes I knew about it, but was not involved or invited.  In a sneaky behind the scenes type phone call home, it was agreed that even my mom would not be involved: this was a matter to be dealt with between men.  How misogynistic right? Wrong. And this is what Holy Spirit revealed to me.  While I have been unmarried, I have lived under my father’s authority – as a child in his home, as a student financially dependant and even once working, I have always looked to my father for advice in decisions big or small.  He has always been my go to for advice, wisdom and insight.  And this is not just a natural familial concept – its spiritual in nature. He has been my covering.   As an unmarried woman, I remained under my father’s spiritual covering (as per Biblical teachings) and I did my best to honour that state of submission because 1) the Bible promises blessing for doing so and 2) I understand and respect the protection of being submitted to spiritual authority.

The significance of today’s meeting was spiritual in nature; G was not simply asking if Daddy minded if I exchange his surname for G’s… he was asking to take on the responsibility of becoming my spiritual covering, as my (future) husband. He was asking for my father’s blessing to allow G to take the lead in my life: not only caring for me, but guiding me in future decisions, leading me further into the plans God has for both of us – covering me spiritually by becoming the Head of our (future) family.  Yeah, the depth and weight of that revelation hit me as I was pouring the milk… and I could tangibly feel the shift in the spiritual atmosphere around me. There is an incredible significance to asking for a father’s blessing before proposing marriage to a woman – both for ‘him’ and ‘her’.

Don’t get me wrong: I do not believe I am inferior or a second-class citizen because I am a woman (good job to all those women in the past who fought for our equality – I appreciate it and relish my independence).  But I love the idea of submitting (first to my father and now) to my (future) husband.  Why wouldn’t I?  I have been blessed with not only the most patient man alive, but with a man who continually has laid down his own comforts and ‘died to self’ in order to show his love and take care of me.  How can I not want to do the same and allow him to lead our relationship when he has shown time and again that he has my best interests at the centre of each of his decisions and actions? Whether its getting off the couch to make me tea (because he knows I’ve been eying the kettle but am just too lazy or cold to get out from under the blanket); or facing a freezing trip home at midnight on a motorbike in the rain; or taking giant steps of faith to start a new business so he can provide for me financially; or submitting himself to leaders at church asking them to speak into his life to help him grow spiritually to then lead me… when someone has your back like that and proves themselves unconditionally trustworthy, there comes an incredible peace and safety in knowing that he carries the responsibility of our relationship before God.  And I can relax and enjoy the security of not having to control anything.

It brings an amazing, inexplicable freedom.

(I now just pray for the patience to actually wait for the proposal… he better not bend to tie shoe laces around me this week…)

 

The Heart of the matter

I’ve been a little quiet lately. Its been an odd place of trusting in God’s promises for the future, but also guarding against the frustrations of reality seeming so very, vastly far from where we want to be… a strange tension builds into a sort of vacuum. This week has probably been the worst, resulting in lots of comfort eating yesterday and much vulnerability.

My struggle has been a heart issue and having to face that truth has been tough.  Its never comfortable facing the ugliness inside of oneself or realising just how imperfect you really are, beyond the social facades of pleasantries I’ve become so good at.  To be very vulnerable: I felt like a fraud – that I had had the audacity to begin a blog that testified of pursuing a godly relationship… and yet, in the depths of my heart was an icky mess.  What do I know of godliness or living up to the standards I speak so casually about?  More days than not, I do not get it right.  There.  I said it. I am a selfish, pride-filled mess of a person and left to my own devices, would destroy the absolute gift of a relationship that God has given me with G.  I have no righteousness, no sense of holiness or purity in my own being.

It sometimes feels like we live in a society that tolerates everything with reckless abandon, terrified we offend anyone.  And sometimes in the church, it feels the opposite; judgement comes quickly and easily.  I realise both statements are far extremes and equally unhealthy and incorrect.  But that’s the two extremes that have fought it out in my head over the past few days: the extreme liberal tolerance of all things waging war against the pharisee-like religious spirit of condemnation. Its exhausting.

Having said all of that, Today is a New Day.

I live by God’s Grace alone. At my weakest and my worst, His Grace and Redemption is most apparent. Does this mean I continue in my bad attitudes, mindsets and behaviours? Not at all… the revelation of His Grace only draws me closer to His Heart; wanting more than ever to change my ickiness for His goodness. If I really do want a relationship that not only testifies of God’s Goodness, but also extends His Kingdom, I need to be prepared to do things differently.  Having acknowledged my failings and brokenness, I choose to leave those past habits (even the ones only a few hours old) behind me – dead in the past – and step into a New Day.  I love that as I write this, the rain is pounding on the roof above my head, reminding me that God’s Grace washes away everything I release into His Redemption. My faith says I get a fresh start; I get to try again. This time, I choose to do it with God’s help. Beyond all the external behaviours and attitudes, God looks at our hearts – He examines the core of our being and draws out the broken pieces, healing those areas and replacing them with His Love.

Relationships are hard.  They have the potential to bring out the best in you, but also an incredible ability to draw out the worst, with the purpose of removing the filth for the benefit of healing… much like a drawing ointment pulls out a splinter in your finger.  Its both sore and liberating at the same time.  I guess that’s where I am at the moment: having thorns (there seem like so many of them this week) pulled out and its a little eina… but I am trusting that its a good thing. That as G and I prepare for pre-marital courses and me moving across to his church to begin growing together under the same spiritual teachings and authority, I know God is busy refining us – testing our foundations and the way we have begun to build this relationship.  We both desperately desire a relationship that has Him as our foundation, but we’re also human – and so, as the foundations are shaken, we can only hope that what remains will be strengthened in the next few weeks as big changes loom.

Speak about it…

So I have been a little quiet lately… don’t worry, nothing has happened without you all hearing about it – I’ve just been kept busy with end of term exam craziness and some good ol’ Time Out courtesy of school vacations (one of the few perks of being a teacher!). G and I are doing just fine… 😉

In the midst of us ‘finding our stride’ and just kinda settling as a couple, I’ve realised how different life as part of an ‘Us’ is, in comparison to just being ‘Me’.  Nobody prepares you for this kind of change?? I have honestly been humbled at realizing how selfish I have been – not in a bad, self-centred way, but just… well, I’ve never really had to take someone else’s needs or opinion into account before: I could do as I pleased and go wherever I wanted without having to explain myself. Now, there’s this other person who doesn’t necessarily ‘expect’ it, but definitely appreciates getting those little explanations – I have someone who actually cares about the way I spend my time. Apparently it all comes down to a very simple concept: Communication.

And apparently I am really bad at it.

Obviously I will never use this blog to expose G’s faults or use it as a platform to air our petty issues (no, we’ll just go straight to the heavy personal stuff??), so please forgive me for sometimes being a little vague on details… but anyway. We were facing an issue a few days back and it was really playing with my head – no matter what I did or how I tried reasoning my thoughts, I couldn’t rationalise it away and began fretting about it. I knew it was something that needed to be faced, but something (a little like fear) kept me trying to push it away and pretend it wasn’t a problem.  Denial is nobody’s friend.

I spent the whole of Monday in silence. G has the morning off work and with me being on holiday, we were together – and it was a tough morning. I process problems inwardly, meaning I need to wrestle with my thoughts, allow them to simmer, climb into my metaphorical Nothing Box and have plenty of Time Out until I have either exhausted myself mentally or worked through all the possible outcomes, dealt with my insecurities and have ‘overcome’ enough to move on… this strategy has always worked wonders for me. When I was single and able to sit on the couch alone, without someone looking anxiously at me from the other side… Praise the Lord for giving me the most patient man on the planet!  I don’t think he realised how close he came to being snapped at several times that day, when in hindsight, all he was doing was showing he cared (copious cups of tea quietly made, chocolate bought…), expressing his concern and trying desperately to draw me out of my head.  In essence: he was communicating. I was not.

The brave man came back after work to check in on me. Having had the entire day to mull things over, I was ready – bring on the tears. And a vague but humble and heartfelt apology… and then an explanation of how I had been trying desperately to make sense of the ‘issue’ and that by keeping quiet I was trying to protect him from the irrational and potentially dangerous unfiltered thoughts flying about my head – thoughts that if spoken would have hurt him terribly, especially as they weren’t true. As much as that effort to protect him was appreciated, we learnt something even more valuable: we have different communication styles and well, that needs to be um, communicated to the other person. Who knew?? As a couple we have to talk about how we talk..?? What an eye-opener???

But you know what was amazing? The moment that ‘monstrous issue’ was spoken and brought out from Thought into Word: it seemed so trivial. And instead of it pushing us apart, by speaking about it, we drew closer together as we shared our hearts and thoughts – we found a way through as a couple. Communication is such a necessary aspect of sharing life with someone else: having the courage to be vulnerable about the things that scare you, and extending the grace to another when they do the same. Isn’t effective prayer meant to be like that? Pouring your heart out to the Lover of your soul, no matter how icky or silly it may seem, to know He listens attentively and lovingly – and then in turn, to wait for His response, which is always filled with Mercy and Kindness. And the result is always the same: its draws you closer in relationship.

So lesson learnt. And our new strategy: being that we are both self proclaimed ‘over-thinkers’, we have made a deal… when one of us is struggling with an issue and needs Time to Over-think it, they’re allowed that freedom and space to do so. However, they also have the responsibility to Reach Out to the other person at various moments throughout the Over-thinking, simply to re-establish Contact; whether its a hug, kiss on the cheek, holding their hand… its just a silent signal of appreciation and love.

I’ll let you know how it goes…

blog pics-6