I’ve had occasion, lately, to be reminded of some times in my life where my plan didn’t pan out the way I had hoped. As an adult, who can now look back on those times and cherish them for the … Continue reading
A few weeks ago, I attended a women’s retreat at Camp Harvest and had a wonderfully refreshing weekend with some beautiful women. The main speaker, Beth Freeman shared a series on our identity in Christ. And, while much of what … Continue reading
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, … Continue reading
Have you ever just wanted to say to someone, “Wow! You’re a terrible person!”? Maybe it’s someone you work with who is always being a jerk to the people around them. Or, maybe it’s someone closer, like a family member … Continue reading
Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity! – Ecclesiastes 1:2 Sometimes the Lord has a funny, and subtle, way of reminding me of His truths. Today, after a chat with Nick, I sat down to … Continue reading
Nick and I often stop to marvel at how we got here. Our journey was long and the road was winding, but we’ve finally arrived home. It’s beyond our comprehension that the Lord was gracious enough to work this out for us. We balance each other so well and yet, we are headed in the same direction. It’s not uncommon to hear one or the other of us say, “I was born to be with you”. It’s a beautiful thing.
Having met at 15, it took 19 years for our timing to finally be right. We learned so much in those years. There are times we are tempted to regret our journey, but the truth is, we walked those roads for a purpose. We are better people, better spouses, and better followers of Jesus for the hardships and loneliness we endured. We are grateful and deeply appreciate this gift we’ve been given. I imagine we would have struggled much as young newlyweds without the wisdom that comes with time and maturity. Maybe it would have been better. Who can say? All I know is the looks on our face in the moment God’s promise was realized for us tells our story. We want to tell of His goodness always.
Photo Credit: Innamorata Photography
This post in response to the Daily Prompt
At Small Group last night, we had a great conversation about the labels we wear. In reviewing some old writing, I came across a blog I wrote about the same topic. This is an area in which I’ve needed significant growth and have seem tremendous progress. So, here’s a throw back to the moment I really began breaking free of others’ expectations of me. What a journey it has been, and continues to be, as I seek to live only for The Lord’s approval and glory!
I Just Don’t Care Anymore
As I was walking the other night, I spent some time thinking. (This is a common past time for me). But, that particular night, I was thinking about the labels that others have given me to wear over the years. I’m not going to go into them specifically here, that’s a blog for another time. But, I have been carrying around labels that people have placed on me as if they were true reflections of who I am.
Some of these labels have been good, if hard to live up to. Some have been negative, and I’ve struggled under their weight. Others have been untrue, but somehow I’ve come to believe them.
Some of the label makers have been family or friends while others have been acquaintances or even strangers. Each used their favorite type of stitch or glue to affix their brand to me, to my psyche. Each had their own purpose or claim to ignorance in doing so.
I’ve carried these labels and hurtful words with me for years. Some stitches have left unsightly scars, even if I have been able to tear the brand away from my skin. Some are still sore to the touch. Others suffocate me and make it hard to breathe.
But, this is no way for a child of God to live. No way at all. In the last few weeks, I’ve let go of my anger and resentment towards these people. I’m not sure I even realized it is what I was doing at the time. And, as I was walking the other night, I thought to myself, I just don’t care what they think anymore.
And, for the first time in my life, I realized that was actually a true statement. I don’t care. They don’t define me. My situation doesn’t define me. What defines me is the fact that I am a child of God (John 1:12). Nothing else should matter and I’ve let it matter for far too long. I’ve allowed those labels to leech life out of me. But, by the grace of God and with the accountability of my friends, no more!
We, as humans, judge by such limited perspectives sometimes. Only the Lord can judge the heart of a person or understand the picture as a whole. So, His judgment is the only thing that should matter. And, thank God for His grace that makes us complete in Him (Colossians 2:10)
In response to the Weekly Challenge
It’s hard for me to believe it’s only been a year since I started the greatest adventure of my life. This time last year, I was in the middle of a fairytale day created by my boyfriend. In the 365 days since, he became my fiance, my husband, my roommate, and my partner in life. We waited so long for this phase of the journey and it has been more beautiful than we could have dreamed.
This year, we are remembering and cherishing the blessings of 2013 and looking forward to new chapters in 2014. May God bless you all as you explore what HE has in store for you in the coming year.
In honor of the tremendous creativity of my amazing husband, I am reposting our engagement day story from New Year’s Eve 2013.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights…” James 1:17
I’ve heard it said that, “Once in a while, in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairytale”. On December 31st, 2012, the Lord gave me a good and perfect gift. Nick Giardino, the love of my life, planned a perfect day and the Lord surrounded and protected it with love and beauty.
The entire day was a surprise adventure for me. Nick planned everything with great love and attention to detail. I met him at his house that morning and we set off for a day I’ll never forget. It was beautiful to be able to rest and trust in him to lead me through the day.
The Lord gave us beautiful little moments and gifts throughout the day. As we started on the journey, Nick said we needed to listen to some love songs. He had a soundtrack for the day! As he pulled it up on shuffle (it was in order for a different part of the journey), the first song that came on was our song! We listened through some beautiful love songs and talked as we headed towards our first destination.
As we were driving down the highway, I noticed that we were passing the Chicago Botanic Gardens. I made a mental note to tell Nick we should go there some day. But, just as I was thinking that, he quickly turned the car into the entrance! He had set the GPS to make me think we still had miles to go. He had told me we were going to a new cafe that we’d never tried, so I was completely surprised to learn that the cafe was at the Botanic Gardens!
As we arrived and began to walk around, he told me that he wanted to take me somewhere beautiful. He told me that I was the most beautiful person he knew and the gardens were the most beautiful place he could think to bring me. It was beautiful and peaceful, all covered in snow and ice. We walked around and talked of God’s creativity. I love Nick’s heart. He kept marveling in the wonder of God’s creation. As humans, it takes us great effort, time and energy to create something truly beautiful. Few people ever really do manage that. But, yet, the Lord breathed all of this into existence! How great is our God? We spent several hours surrounded by the wonder of His creation.
After walking through the green houses, we found our way to a beautiful and peaceful spot by a lake. Everything was covered in white. Off to the right, there was a bell tower. We took in the moment and talked a little about music.
Inside the box was a Pandora bracelet! Before I had time to ask any questions, he presented me with another box.
Inside the second box was a beautiful music note charm for the bracelet. He told me that he wanted to bring me somewhere beautiful and give me something to mark our beginnings. With extreme thoughtfulness, he planned our day to reflect our journey. The charm was meant to represent something about our story as well as remind me of the day. I can’t believe how carefully he planned this! Our journey began 18 years ago at Landmark. We spent countless hours together in band, on band trips and celebrating our love of music. We both have a deep love for music and it has woven a thread through our story. Remember the soundtrack on the drive? It was all crafted to weave these moments together perfectly. (I must also note that he meticulously wrapped all of the boxes. I thought they were professionally wrapped!)
If you can see, in this picture, there is a ring on my left hand. That ring was given to me by my parents when I turned 16. The ring represents my promise to remain pure before the Lord and for my husband until my wedding day. As it became clear that this day was leading to something amazing, I sent a message to my Dad. I said, “I’ve kept my promise and I will until we’re married, but if it’s OK with you, I’m hoping to trade this ring for one carrying a different promise tonight”. It was a really beautiful moment for me and my Dad. Nick had already taken great care to ask my Dad’s permission and blessing to marry me, but I wanted to honor them as well by wearing that ring on that day (and be able to hold true to its promise).
While we were on the carriage ride, Nick gave me another bead for my bracelet.
A Cinderella carriage!!! I really did feel like Cinderella that night! Nick knows that I have a soft spot for fairy tales and Cinderella has always been my favorite. He absolutely gave me a magical day!
After our carriage ride, we stopped and had hot chocolate at the Ghirardelli store. He had planned for more time in the carriage, but they do not let the carriage on Michigan Avenue until 7pm. So, we had a few minutes to spare. As we were enjoying our hot chocolate and each other’s company, we saw a fancy horse and carriage drive by!
His name was Socks and he just knew he was royalty! We followed him and his driver Christine to their stop and took a ride down Michigan Avenue – the Magnificent Mile!
He gave me a Christmas tree bead to represent the lights we saw on the carriage ride. Also, he knows that I really love Christmas and one of my favorite things was buying our Christmas tree together. We took great care, this year, in decorating his house for Christmas and he reflected that in our perfect day.
Once the carriage ride was over, it was time for our dinner reservation. We drove to our hotel, the Fairmont Chicago. He checked us into the hotel, took our bags upstairs, and then we went to dinner at Aria. (Note: musical term!)
As our courses began to arrive, he took my hand and blessed the food. Once he had finished praying, he gave me another box!
He told me that he wanted to give me this bead at the beginning because our story is not possible without the Lord. He has been SO gracious to us! He chose to give it to me later in the evening because of the placement on the bracelet, but, in truth, our story is built on a foundation of grace and mercy from our heavenly Father.
Once we had finished with dinner, it was time to go upstairs. He told me that he needed to go into the room for a moment. When he came back, he said, “It’s not what you think right now”. I simply trusted him and walked into the room. The sight that greeted me truly took my breath away.
It was simply amazing! His parents had secretly helped him with his plan! They arranged the room so perfectly while we were in the city. There were 18 dozen roses beautifully arranged in vases set around the room (1 for each year that we have known each other). There were princess touches everywhere! There were candles, strands of pearls, crystals, and even glass slippers! The walkway was peppered with rose petals and lead me to the table where another box rested upon Nick’s Bible. He asked me to open it.
He accepted my ring as a promise to make him my husband! At this point, it was nearing the midnight hour and he wanted us to watch the fireworks. But, from our suite, we weren’t sure we were going to be able to see them. As we welcomed the new year, as an engaged couple, we heard the fireworks begin. We ran to the windows and found that we were able to see the fireworks just over a building by Lake Michigan!
Nick was so excited! It was the final piece of the puzzle and he had been afraid it wouldn’t come through for us. He rushed into the other room, grabbed the champagne and poured a toast for us. As we welcomed 2013, he gave me one last gift.
He completed my bracelet with a firework! He really thought of everything! It’s such a gift to know that someone loves me enough to give me such a perfect day!
It’s so amazing to see my bracelet every day and remember each moment! It was like something out of a movie! I truly felt like Cinderella at the ball with my Prince Charming!
The next morning, as we were thinking over how well everything went and all of the little things and moments the Lord gave us, Nick said something I will never forget. He said, “The only way we got a perfect day like that is because the Lord said, ‘You are my daughter and I love you and I want you to have this perfect gift”.
I can’t wait to marry this man the Lord has given me!
“The unthankful heart… discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessing.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher
After months of waiting for all of the pieces to come together, this week I was finally able to sit and write the “Thank You” cards for our wedding. It was a beautiful journey through the many people who blessed us as we joined our lives. The best thing about it is that it wasn’t gifts or monetary blessings that I found myself treasuring. With each card, I could recall the many ways someone supported or prayed for us as we walked this journey. Each stroke of my pen brought another reminder of someone who helped carry the burden of our heart ache when we were apart from one another. Each addressed envelope represented someone who rejoiced when God brought our paths back together. And, my heart was flooded with gratefulness.
There are so many more people to whom we owe this debt that we will never be able to repay. We owe a great debt of gratitude to our families, our church families, and the friends who held our hands, dried our tears, and laughed with us. The emotion is too great for words. So many people spoke God’s Truth to us and over us. His mercies are never failing, and even when we couldn’t see His path, He gave us wonderful angels to hold our hearts. The list is endless and we could never thank everyone enough.
As our wedding verse, Nick and I chose a passage that we have come to cherish:
“This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes! This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” – Psalm 118:23-24
Nick and I hold this to be true with every day we are given together. Every morning, we open our eyes to another day gifted to us by the Lord. Each day brings its own opportunity to love each other well and pay forward the love and mercy that has been given to us. As a couple, we are doing all we can to honor the sacrifices made in order for us to be here today. So, for the many loved ones who have prayed for us, walked with us, cried with us and rejoiced with us, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You have loved us like Jesus. May the Lord return blessing upon blessing to you.
With Overwhelming Gratitude,
Mr. and Mrs. Nick Giardino