Some people are just more attractive than others. And I don’t mean looks. Have you ever come into contact with someone and just been drawn in – wanting to know more about their heart and mind?
In July we were guests at the wedding of Trey Rallis, Ron’s cousin. The venue was in St. Helena in Napa Valley, and Nicole, the most beautiful bride I have ever seen took center stage as she walked down the aisle to take the Rallis name. But outside of the fruitful vineyards and the nostalgia of it all, the wedding tradition of the best man’s speech demanded my attention. Mostly because it wasn’t one speech, it was multiple. Groomsman after groomsman rose to the occasion of speaking on behalf of the newlyweds. And there was a common theme – their faith.
It was a beautiful picture to see our cousins represented in the light of spiritual leaders within their group of friends. One of the microphone holders was named Brent. When Brent speaks, you can’t help but listen. He’s a storyteller. One of those people that leans in hard when he talks and harder when you do. We had the pleasure of speaking with him and his wife Alex during the reception, and when we were in New York a few weeks later, met with them for dinner.
While We Were Young is a tiny restaurant that screams for an Instagram post. Blush velvet benches meet marble eating spaces, navy walls and brass lighting. Seating is beyond limited, but it’s where we found ourselves on that summer night in July, back with Brent and Alex. We had no idea that over the course of our meals, our life path would change. All in the West Village of New York City.
Brent and Alex are the kind of couple that dive right in. That’s what I think I love most about them. I learned more about them, myself, and my husband over burgers than I have in any other scenario. We talked about where we were relationally, personally, spiritually, and career-wise. The things that matter. The things we should know about those we want to lift up in thought and in prayer.
They mentioned that they had worked through a 40-day prayer challenge called Draw the Circle. They recommended that we do the same.
So on that trip, we started our 40-day journey. The conversations and the clarity that was to follow was unexpected. Soul moving. And needed.
We took a hard look at how we prayed, what we prayed for, and the every day conversations we were having with God. We circled issues that we had been struggling with for weeks. Months. Even years. And then circled them again.
The first was our home. We have owned land in Greenville for over two years. It’s sat there staring back at us we have contemplated offers that have come in, discussed temporary stints in Costa Rica or California, permanent residence in Charleston, and conversed about which direction to turn. We parked our car in the to-be driveway like we have dozens of times and walked the grassy patches, talking about where our bedroom would end up, where meals would be blessed and the reasoning for having a home base. Following, two days of our prayer challenge stated messages that stopped us – “Don’t ask what has already been revealed to you,” and “get out of the boat.” It was true. We had been sitting in the boat paralyzed to make a decision. All of the houses we have bought, sold, renovated, or looked back at wishing that maybe we had held on to that one or this one, left us scared to move forward. These feelings on top of not knowing what to build in the midst of unknown family plans felt like an impossible feat. Not making a decision was easier to us than making the wrong decision. We have moved five times in the past two years and are now in a one bedroom apartment. But we couldn’t keep floating. We couldn’t stay in the boat, no matter how safe it felt. So we moved forward with plans for our home knowing that God was going to bless the ground in which it stood. We knew that family holidays, church get-togethers and friends around a fire would follow. We remembered that we weren’t just building somewhere to lay our heads, but building it to have community. Onward and upward we moved.
The second was financial. We had been struggling for six months to a year on many different fronts. We’ve been holding on to savings, and pushing the way forward. One morning Ron woke up with a number and notion on his heart – to let it all go and sow back into those areas of struggle. We chose to wait on Him, knowing when He wants things to happen they will be done with far less and much more ease. Rather than trying to control what we can control, we chose to let go and overextend ourselves in the amount of $20,000. We needed to push ourselves in this season beyond tithing – truly letting God take the reigns.
Ron and I prayed separately about where to allocate our donations. We sat in bed in silence, and it didn’t take long before tears reached my face. I shared a story with him about my friend Emily Yelton. Emily, along with six others, had passed in a beach house fire and this year would be the tenth anniversary. At her funeral, they told a story about her at Young Life camp. During one of the nightly gospel talks, a child in the Capernaum group (Young Life’s special needs program) started crying out. Emily went down and sat with the student until a calm came over. She had an incredible gentleness about her. In that moment, $5000 went to Young Life’s Capernaum fund in honor of Emily Yelton.
Ron then spoke out on behalf of Grace Church, but in a specific area. I had recently gone through youth ministry training, and he felt a pull in that direction. One day, hopefully, we would have children go through this ministry. We wanted to help further the foundation now and sow into not only the church’s future but if God is willing, the spiritual faith of our child.
One that was decided together was Jesus Loves Sushi – amazing missionaries spreading the word about Jesus Christ in Osaka, Japan. Those amazing people just happen to be family. Ron’s sister Jessica, and her husband Matt are transforming the lives of those that have never heard the gospel. As we grow spiritually, we wanted to recognize the profound faith and dedication we have in the form of family members.
The last we sat on for a while. We knew that we wanted it to be related to our business, but we weren’t quite sure in what direction. Around lunch that day, we received an email from our attorney. We are at our attorney’s office almost every day for a closing, working out title issues, you name it. This was the first time the office had asked us for anything. They had done mission trips to Brazil in the past, and they were trying to raise money to bring their host families to the states. And there it was. Our last donation to Baptist International Missions.
We don’t know what will come of these checks, but we feel confident in the number that the Lord put on Ron’s heart, and the directions that we prayed over. We felt such a relief to put our finances in His hands. We also put my vehicle in His hands as we said good bye to Ricky the Rover this week. On to less. And we are overjoyed by that thought.
Our last prayer circling was the one we have prayed for the longest – our child. Out of pure divine timing, I texted a friend for lunch that I haven’t seen all summer. When we sat down, she said that it was crazy that today was the day I chose. “Why?” I asked. She had her second IVF transfer the morning before. We had been close through the whole process as we both shared stories of bruises, hormones and disappointment. I couldn’t believe it either. What a wonderful way to pick back up and have the opportunity to pray over the possibility of her child.
We talked about our journeys, and where that had put us with our spiritual health. She then made a statement that I had felt all along, but perhaps not put into blunt words. “I wasn’t ready to be a mother.”
She was right. If I looked back at where I was when I started this journey two years ago, I absolutely wasn’t ready. Ron and I have had precious time – with the Lord, with each other, and yes, with our movers! We look at each other now happier than ever and with far less than where we started. I feel like God and I are just now hitting our stride, and I’m not sure if that would have happened if what I desired two years ago just fell into my lap.
Ron and I tend to do what we want to do, when we want to do it. We’re not planners. There are no spreadsheets, no thought out calendars. God took what we desired most, and made it a journey with each other and with Him. He allowed us to take the time to step back and put more trust in Him than we have ever imagined possible. Now I can look at that as a gift, and not an obstacle. I can listen when my husband tells me how hard this process has been on him too, without breaking down into tears. I can understand and together we can turn towards the Lord. Nothing will ever be able to take that time away from us. Not a miscarriage, not a disappointing phone call, not even more time waiting.
And in that waiting, God has given me so much purpose. Part of that purpose, came in the form of twelve high school freshman. The Lord put it on my heart to lead a small group of girls for their four years to graduation. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know if I could make that type of commitment. But I wrote an email to six mothers and without question, hit send. Those six mothers quickly doubled to twelve, and one Thursday afternoon I was sitting in front of bright-eyed, soon to be high school faces that I was meeting for the first time. The joy that I experienced in that moment at Panera was incredible. Those faces were beautiful. Those names were twelve new additions to the double circling in my prayer notebook. Those hearts were blessed to me to protect, and lead closer to the Lord. That was a kind of happy that I can’t describe – a fulfillment that I will hold close for the next four years as we dive in to scripture and prom date options.
I’m not sure that when we sat down in that tiny restaurant in New York if we knew the divine dinner that was ahead. This will be the first time that we have shared with Brent and Alex the extraordinary impact that they made on us, and that God used them to move us into a place of contentment with Him. My child-like wonderment and awe is at a true high as He continues to reveal more and more to us each day. And that’s what wedding speeches, a tiny restaurant in New York, 40 days, and four checks have in common.
**Our hearts and prayers are with those affected by Hurricane Harvey. We have chosen to give to the SPCA of Texas. Click here to join us.**