Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Day I Went On A Date With My Pastor (Part 4)

Just tuning in? Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of our story before reading the end.


The carriage ride was over and we headed to the car. We crossed back over the river toward home and stopped for gas. As Chris was inside the gas station, I gave myself a little pep talk about what was going to come next. I had to be bold and do what I felt was right.

Chris was still carrying on casual conversation as we headed back home. I was becoming more irritated with each passing moment and trying to work up the nerve to say what was on my mind. Finally, as we got about 15 miles from my house, he finally spoke up.

"So, what did you think when I asked you to go out with me tonight?"

Gulp! Here it goes! He's opened the door and I'm charging in!

"Well," I said as I looked out the window away from him, "I want to know what your intentions are."

Now, that's about as bold as I get right there! I thought about being meek and innocent, but I couldn't afford it. I'm pretty sure I caught Chris off guard with this, as he replied with a little chuckle and asked me to clarify. My way of clarifying was to simply ask the question again.

"I want to know what your intentions are."

Then, it all came out.

Chris, very sweetly, told me that he had been watching me for quite some time. He watched me grow, interact at church, make decisions in my life, and handle difficult situations. Throughout that time, he became interested in me and saw a lot of qualities in me that he would like his future wife to have. As he shared with me the feelings of his heart, mine was being captivated. The tears were building in my eyes as I tried to soak in his words. I couldn't believe that after 4 years of battling inward feelings, praying for the feelings to be taken from me, and distancing myself from him, I was hearing these words. It was surreal.

After Chris shared with me his feelings and intentions, he wanted to know my thoughts. I openly shared with him that I had obviously been interested in him for quite some time - like, an embarrassingly long time - and had dealt with many struggles. I shared with him the thoughts I was having and the feelings of my heart. I wanted him to know that I don't see dating as something that is done carelessly. I fully believe in dating with the intent of marriage. Having that view, I wanted to honor my future husband. I strongly felt that Chris was the man I was to marry and felt the Lord leading us in this step. I wasn't quite so bold in telling him those feelings that night, but made it pretty clear. He also made it clear to me by telling me that he wanted to begin this relationship with the intent to marry, but obviously seeking the Lord's guidance every step of the way.

Once the heavy discussion was over and I felt like I was soaring, Chris shared with me the details behind planning our date. My parents knew that we were going out tonight. In fact, he had talked with my parents several months before, getting their permission to court me. Remember my discussion with my mom at the supper table a few nights before? Well, she called Chris after that, concerned that I didn't know it was a date. She thought that I wasn't interested in him and was worried about how it would all play out. Oh, and remember Brittney's phone call that Wednesday night? Yeah, she was also privy to the plan! In fact, Chris had been talking with her, getting her permission, and bouncing ideas off her. Chris had called her after he got off the phone with me that Wednesday to let her know that he had asked me. She later told me that she was dying to let me know she knew what was going on and that I was a horrible actress!

Not only did my parents and my best friend know, but most of the church knew! Many members had been trying to play matchmaker behind the scenes. Chris had been fielding interrogations from different members and had let a few know of his interest. In fact, a few weeks before, one sister came to me as I was cleaning the bathroom at church and wanted to know how I felt about Chris. In attempts to hide my feelings, I simply replied, "he's too high maintenance for me!"

We drove around the little town I lived in for quite a while enjoying the time talking and laughing together. Our perfect evening had to come to an end, but I was ecstatic to know that it was just the beginning of something wonderful. My heart was completely captivated that night. I went to bed, thanking my merciful Father for blessing my life. I was, and am, completely amazed at the perfect peace He filled me with that Wednesday. His timing is nothing but perfect and His plan is amazing.

3 months and 4 days later, Chris asked me to marry him. 4 months and 26 days later, we were married. Now, 4 years after that wonderful date, I am blessed to be spend every day with my pastor, my brother in Christ, my friend, my companion, my encourager, my husband.

As William Cowper wrote, "God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the seas, He rides upon the storm."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Menu Plan - Nov. 14

This will probably be the last week of actual cooking before I pack up the kitchen. I've been putting it off, but considering the move is in 2 weeks, I think I should get a move on things!

Monday: Chick-fil-A copycat Chicken Sandwiches
Tuesday: Broccoli Cheese Soup, grilled ham and cheeseWednesday: Church fellowship - taco salad
Thursday: Steak fingers & fries
Friday: Sloppy joesLink

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Day I Went On A Date With My Pastor (Part 3)

Need to read Part 1 and Part 2?


The next 2 days were the longest days ever! I'm pretty sure I didn't even get a total of 10 hours of sleep in 3 nights. I attempted to focus on my school work and carry on about my normal life, but it was extremely difficult. Still not sure if Chris and I were going out on a date or just hanging out as friends, I played the scenarios over in my mind. I knew that whatever happened, my life was going to change that night.

If we were just hanging out as friends, I was going to have to be bold and have a discussion with him that I couldn't keep going on like that. The struggle to guard my heart was becoming too difficult. In order to honor my future husband, I knew that I couldn't keep getting closer to Chris as "friends." Our relationship was becoming more than that to me, and if it wasn't more than that to him, then I needed to draw some extreme boundaries. It would be very difficult to have that discussion with him, but I was convinced it needed to happen.

If, on the other hand, Chris was intending for it to be a date to begin a relationship, my life would also be changing in a big way. I prayed for guidance in this situation. My heart was being pulled toward Chris, but I did not want to begin a relationship with him if it was not of the Lord. I begged God to make His will clear to me, but also to Chris. If this was of the Lord, then I knew that He had to work in both of our hearts and lead us together.

While I was sorting through the mixture of emotions, scenarios, concerns, and excitement, I tried to put on my poker face in front of my family and friends. The only person I had told about my interest in Chris was my best friend, Brittney. I sat in her basement one night shortly after Chris moved to Illinois, crying because I was a 16-year-old falling for my pastor. How ridiculous was that?!?! I was embarrassed, confused, lost, and frustrated. But that was the last I had said anything about it in 4 years. So, it was kind of ironic when Brittney called me that Wednesday evening after my phone call with Chris. She was away at college and wasn't one to call me out of the blue very often. Brittney was very curious about how things were going in my life and if I had anything exciting coming up. I wasn't quite ready to open up about the plans to go out with Chris, so I just played it cool and acted like nothing exciting was happening.

My parents also showed increased interest in my life. That Thursday evening at supper, my mom asked what I had planned for the weekend.

"Oh, I think Chris and I are going to do something together on Saturday night," I nonchalantly mentioned.

"Really? Like a date or something?" mom replied in a more excited tone.

"No, just hanging out." Phew, got through that one by the skin of my teeth!

Saturday morning eventually rolled around. Chris had emailed me, letting me know that the show at the Fox looked like it had inappropriate content, so he was going to figure out something else to do that would be a surprise. This was starting to sound more and more serious! As I was preparing for the evening out (C'mon ladies, you know I started getting ready at 7 that morning!), I talked myself through the game plan. If he shows up with flowers, then it is most definitely a date. In such case, I would do my best to enjoy the evening and wait for him to make his move indicating this was the beginning of something more than just a friendship. If he doesn't have flowers, then it was just hanging out as friends and my wall of emotional defense was going up higher. I wasn't going to let the night go on very long before I put an end to the torment.

Around 6:00 (it was 6:04, but I wasn't watching the clock or anything), I heard Chris talking with my parents in the kitchen. In attempts to not seem too anxious, I took an extra few minutes in my room before making my appearance. As I came down the stairs into the kitchen, my heart sank. There, in his hands, was the most beautiful bouquet of purple flowers. "Lord, guard my heart, lead our hearts, and be with us tonight," was my petition as I stumbled to find the words to say to Chris. I gracious accepted the flowers and turned about 450 shades of red as we prepared to get on our way.

We enjoyed casual conversation as we drove to downtown St. Louis. Still not knowing the plan for the evening, I filled the quiet moments in between conversation with thousands of silent ideas of where we could be going. I was shocked as we pulled up to Union Station and Chris told me we were going to have supper at Landry's Seafood. The conversation over supper was casual and enjoyable. My mind was racing at this point, wondering when he was going to get to the point of the evening.

After supper, we headed back to the car. I was anxious to know what was next, but was too nervous and excited to ask. Chris started driving toward the part of St. Louis know as "The Landing," which is where the Arch is located. He was taking an indirect route to get there, almost seeming as if he was lost. I was thoroughly confused about where we were going. When he pulled into a rocky parking lot on the edge of the Mississippi River, I couldn't figure out what he had up his sleeve. He asked if I knew what we were going to do, but I had no clue. Then he told me that we were going to go on a carriage ride through downtown! I nearly jumped out of my seat as I shouted, "Are you serious?!?" You see, ever since I was a young girl, we would go to St. Louis and see the cute little couples going on a carriage ride. It always looked so romantic! I dreamed of having that perfect date one day.

"Lord, I don't know where this is going or how you're working in this, but guard my heart. I am falling and doing so quickly. Make your will known," was my prayer as we gathered the blankets Chris had brought and got up into the carriage. The ride through downtown was absolutely beautiful. I felt like a princess, except I didn't dare get within arm's reach from Chris! For all I knew, we were just going on a nice ride. He was talking to the carriage driver more than he was talking to me, for Pete's sake!

As I was trying to enjoy the moment, I was becoming concerned and filled with doubts. If he didn't step up and make his move quickly, I was going to put a stop to this. Doesn't he know that I'm not strong enough for this? How dare he think that we can just have this casual night out together without me thinking it's something more? Does he not have any idea of the hurt this is causing me?

To be continued...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Day I Went On A Date With My Pastor (Part 2)

Missed Part 1 of our story? Read it here.


I spent that Wednesday morning in prayer and fasting for the Lord to lead our church, lead me in His perfect way, and to free my mind and heart of the distracting feelings I was having about Chris. It was a busy day at school for me, but I tried to spend every free moment in prayer.

By mid-morning, I could feel the Lord working in miraculous ways. God, in His abundant mercy and grace, was filling me with the most incredible peace I have ever experienced. A great feeling of relief came over me as I felt my Lord speaking to my heart to trust Him. I don't ever recall a time when I felt the Lord speaking to me in a clear voice, but I could just feel it on my heart. As I prayed that morning, "trust me" kept coming to mind. Trust me, trust my perfect timing, trust my leading.

I continued to spend the day praying, but my prayers were focused on the church. I no longer felt the need to beg God to take away the thoughts and feelings about Chris, my desires to be married, or my inward struggles. I wasn't distracted by those thoughts the remainder of the day. My heart felt full and at peace.

We met together for a prayer service that evening at church. I remember the feeling continued throughout the evening. It was a great blessing to meet together with my church family, many of whom had also spent the day in prayer and fasting. It was a sweet prayer service and discussion. I spent a few minutes after services visiting with other members about how the week was going. I don't remember specifically talking with any one about my experience that day. I remember feeling like I wanted to share, but also wanting to keep those intimate moments with the Lord close to my heart. Not only did I want to keep that special experience to myself, but I had not talked to anyone about my feelings for Chris. I didn't exactly want to open up and spill the beans, especially not since I had been feeling such great peace and relief from the thoughts.

As I was visiting, Chris nonchalantly told me he needed to talk to me before I went home. Normally, this would have freaked me out! I would have been torn with feeling total girly excitement, but also anxiety about how this would tear up my heart. But, on this night I didn't think much of it. I continued to enjoy visiting a while longer. For some reason that I don't recall, I had to leave quickly and Chris was busy talking with someone else when I was ready to leave. I caught him on my way to the car and he said he would give me a call later. Again, something that would have normally thrown me into a pure panic attack, but not that night.

Chris and I had gotten to be fairly close friends by this point. We would often ride bikes together with my friend, Shelly. We would also go with a group from church to Sacred Harp singings together. Chris didn't call me very often and when he did it was usually about making plans to ride bikes or go to Sacred Harp. I figured that's what this was about.

My phone rang as I was driving home. After the boring formalities of beginning a conversation, we had a good discussion about the prayer service. Chris then asked me about my experience of the day. I do remember feeling a slight panic at this point. I had a strong desire to be open with him about what I experienced throughout the day, but I didn't want to be too open. I can't remember exactly how our conversation went, but I do remember being fairly open about my experience. I remember sharing with him that I started the day with a burden to pray for the church and also the things I was dealing with in my life. I had talked with him some previously about my struggles with school and with feeling confused about my focuses in life. So during our phone call that evening, I did share with him about the peace I felt in those areas. Our discussion was enjoyable and encouraging to me. It lasted until I got home and for a while longer as I sat in my truck outside my house. We were getting to the end of talking about our experiences of the day and I thought we were wrapping up.

As I was preparing to hang up and head inside to visit with my parents, I heard him ask me something. He asked me what I was doing that weekend. My mind started to go fuzzy, but then I tried to get a grip on reality. My brother was going to Indiana for the weekend to visit a friend (who is now his wife) and had asked me a few weeks back to go along. I had mentioned it to Chris in a conversation, saying that I hadn't decided if I was going to go or not. So, I figured he was asking me in reference to whether I was going with Isaac to Indiana. I told him that I decided not to go with him. I was an expecting him to say, "Good, well I'll see you at church on Sunday then," but that's not what came next.

"Well, I was wondering if you would like to do something with me on Saturday?" (*Note: This is not an exact quote. I'm sure he was much more polished and suave in his questioning, but my memory is a little fuzzy about the details.)

Now, my heart started going crazy at this point and my mind was spinning. I wasn't sure if he was asking me to hang out as friends or asking me on a date. Surely he wasn't asking me on a date, because I had been feeling such great peace throughout the day. Maybe it was just Satan trying to have one up on the Lord working on my heart? That had to be it.

I stumbled around to find an answer that sounded good...you know, interested in doing something but not desperate. Chris that he was thinking of going to see a show at the Fox Theater. He was going to check into the show times and give me an email about the time on Saturday. Somehow, I managed to blubber my way through the end of the phone call and headed in the house. I remember walking into the house and being in a state of shock. I couldn't figure out what had just happened. I visited with my parents a few minutes about the day, then headed up to bed.

As I laid in bed, I closed out my day of prayer. I thanked God for feeling His presence throughout the day and for the sweet peace He gave to me. I also begged God to continue leading me. I wanted so desperately to guard my heart. How could God have so boldly spoken His peace to me just a few hours earlier, yet now I had to deal with the feelings more than ever? Once again I cried out to the Lord, and once again He answered me with "trust me." Trust me, trust my perfect timing, trust my leading.

To be continued....

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Day I Went On A Date With My Pastor (Part 1)

On November 10, 2007, Chris took me out on a date that would begin our courtship. I can remember the day so clearly. I can feel the emotions just as if it was yesterday.

Our story actually begins several years before this date...

For several years, I had been dealing with a multitude of struggles. I was enrolled in college, yet struggled with seeing a purpose. I wanted grow to be a Godly and virtuous woman, yet struggled to fit in with my peers. I desired to be a wife and mother, yet struggled to trust in the Lord's perfect timing. Inward battles were fought daily, often ending in emotional defeat.

In the midst of searching, learning, and praying about who and what the Lord was calling me to be, I was dealing with having an interest in a young man. To add to my torment and confusion, this young man also happened to be my pastor. From the time Chris moved to Illinois to pastor the church in which I grew up, we had a brother-sister relationship. Our relationship changed over the years to brothers and sisters in Christ and friends. Having a brother and friend in Christ is a wonderful blessing. But like most blessings in our life, Satan viewed it as an open door.

I had an interest in Chris from early on in our relationship as brothers and sisters in Christ and friends. Knowing I was too young and not nearly close to being ready for marriage, I fought to overcome my feelings. It was incredibly tough, but the Lord was merciful. My daily (and usually hourly) prayer was for the Lord to remove these feelings from my heart and mind. I just knew they weren't honoring or justified. Not only was I young, but Chris wasn't showing any interest in me, so it was pointless!

Dealing with the struggles of my heart brought me to a very low point in the fall of 2007. At the same time, the church was also going through some difficult times. Chris encouraged the members to spend a day fasting and praying for guidance. I spent a better portion of Wednesday, November 7, 2007 fasting and praying. I prayed for the Lord to lead Chris as our pastor and the church to do His will. I prayed for the Lord to guide me in making decisions about school and in my walk with Him. Finally, I begged God to give me a peace of mind and contentment with being single. I cried out to Him to take away my thoughts and interests in Chris and fill me with honoring thoughts. I was cast down, weak, and barely hanging on.

To be continued...

Monday, November 07, 2011

Menu Plan - Nov. 7

Supper Plans for November 7-11

Monday: Cheeseburger Macaroni
Tuesday: Chicken fajitas, guacamole, chips
Wednesday: Chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, green beans
Thursday: Chicken Parmesan, sauteed veggies
Friday: Patty melts, seasoned fries, carrots

Recipe Recommendation:

Last week I tried this Crunchy Chicken with Pasta recipe.

Like usual, I didn't follow the recipe exactly. I didn't have Philadelphia Cooking Cream, but I did have cream cheese and a package of sun-dried tomato and herb seasoning. I coated my chicken pieces in a flour, Ritz crackers, spices, and butter mixture. Then I used the drippings from the pan and made a roux with flour and chicken broth. I added cream cheese, the seasoning packet, cream of mushroom soup, and more chicken broth to make the sauce creamy and the right consistency. I served it with rotini noodles covered with the cream sauce, topped with the crispy chicken, and sauteed veggies. It was quite scrumptious, if I do say so myself! Definitely a recipe I recommend!

One night this past week, I got up to take Grandma to the bathroom around 2:00 AM. Once I got her taken care of and settled back into bed, I had a little trouble falling back asleep. You know why? I couldn't shut my brain off. I was thinking of recipe ideas. I was planning out meals that we could have with using up ingredients we already on hand. I was also craving some kind of cream cheese/chili dip and wondering when I could make that.

Then my mind turned to our move to Florida. I got panicked wondering if there was going to be a Hobby Lobby and JoAnn Fabric close to our new house. I had to finally force myself to settle my brain and get some sleep! But, I did make a mental note to look up the nearest Hobby Lobby and Joann's in the morning. No worries...there are stores within 15 miles! Yippee!