Sunday, February 16, 2020

"Acres of Diamonds" - A GIVEAWAY!!

"God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy."
I Timothy 6:17

I hope you enjoyed all of the amazing Valentines Day Love Story posts!  We wanted to give another special word of thanks to each of our couple participants!  In case you missed any of the posts, you can read them by clicking on each couple's name.

IT'S HERE!!!!!
The book we've all been waiting for!

Being on the official launch team for this book, I had the privilege to start reading it early, and I am here to tell you that I could hardly put it down, and you MUST have this book!  

Each one of us are "sitting" on acres of diamonds, but far too often, we fail to realize it.  We search far and wide for what is right underneath our feet.  This book will encourage you to stay when you are tempted to search for greener pastures.  It will inspire you to explore your own backyard and to take a fresh look at the blessings God has already poured into your life.  It will motivate you to appreciate your own spouse, marriage, children, ministry, and life as being God's very best for you.  

In the words of the author, Pastor Jentezen Franklin, 
"You don't need a new garden; you just need to learn how to dig!"

The story at the beginning of the book and upon which the book is based is one of the most powerful and tragic stories I have ever read.  I don't think I will ever forget the impact it made on me.  

To purchase book, click HERE!!!

In celebration of Pastor Jentezen's new book launch, Homespun Devotions is hosting a GIVEAWAY!!  
Not just one, but TWO blessed winners will receive their very own copy of ACRES OF DIAMONDS!!

To enter, all you have to do is leave us a comment below.  Zach will draw two commenters' names one week from today on 2/23/2020.  Giveaway is only open to those who live in the US, due to shipping costs.  Anonymous commenters will not be entered into giveaway since we have no way of identifying or making contact.  If you are an anonymous commenter and would like to enter the giveaway, you will need to leave your name and contact information in your comment, please.

Opinions are my own, and I received no monetary compensation for this review or giveaway.

Don't forget ~ in case you aren't a winner, you can buy Acres of Diamonds at the following links:  

God bless you as you uncover your very own Acres of Diamonds!

To listen to Pastor Jentezen's "Acres of Diamonds" sermon from this morning (2/16/2020), click this link:
Acres of Diamonds ~ Pastor Jentezen Franklin

Friday, February 14, 2020

The Love Story of Dan & Marilyn

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."
Romans 8:28

Graphic Design by Zach Smith

"The Love Story of Dan & Marilyn"

"The door of the church swung open just as the evening worship service had begun.  The movement of the door caught my eye and I turned slightly to see who it was.  In a moment’s heartbeat, the young man walked through the door with his striking dark hair, brown eyes, and dressed in a white shirt and black pants. In the moment I turned, his eyes connected with mine. We stared at each other for a split second, both taken aback by the emotion shared in a sweet splice of time. Then I quickly looked away, embarrassed that I should have engaged in such eye-to-eye conduct while worship service was commencing.  Closing my eyes, I tried to return my heart to worship, but the damage had been done.  Now all I could see were his big brown eyes and then the questions that flooded my mind… who was he? What in the world had come over me to feel this kind of emotion for someone I’d never even met?

Falling in love at first sight? Why yes, I’d heard of it many times, but never dreamed that this would be my story.  I was sure I’d marry someone I’d known for forever, and never had I dreamed that there could be such a thing as love at first sight, but that is just what happened to us.

As fate would have it, my sister took a liking to him right away, as well as other girls in the church.  He was new in town, had just started a job locally, and was looking for a church home.  His brother had mentioned our little church to him, telling him there were quite a lovely group of people meeting here, with plenty of young ladies his age.  Just recently released from the US Navy, he had had enough of world travel, having just returned home from being stationed in Italy.  His heart was yearning for a wife, a home, and a family.  Of course, he had plenty of choices in our little congregation, with the pastor’s daughter among them.  And indeed, she had taken a liking to him as well.

After seeing all the girls surround him with interest, I decided I wanted nothing more to do with such a scene, and brushed off our eye-to-eye encounter, thinking it to have been just a silly moment.  
A couple of weeks passed, and our new visitor had been faithful to every church service, and befriended my brothers.  My parents had invited him over to our home for Sunday lunch, and while I was kind to him, I never lavished any extra attention on him; my sister had taken care of that department.  She had her sights set on him and I had no intentions of tangling with that at all.

One evening several of our family and friends had gathered at our home to play some board games and some of my family were lovingly teasing him about which girl he had set his fancy on.  My sister began naming names, and pestering him to see who it was he liked.  Up unto this point, I had left the “chasing” up to the other girls and my sister. Finally, he said he was going to name the girl he really liked, and he turned, once again, and our eyes met, this time it was with a sweet knowing, and before he even spoke my name, of course I knew he really did care for me.

As the question was answered and he called my name, as if on cue, the rest of the family disappeared, and it was just the two of us left to visit together at the table.  Playing the dating game was over for both of us, and our hearts were sealed to each other’s from that night on.

Somehow in that very first moment when he walked through the church door, and our eyes met, the connection was sparked, our love for each other began, and we will celebrate 25 years of marriage together this year.  The Lord has been so good, and so faithful to us through the years, and even still, when his eyes meet mine, there is a special connection as our hearts continue to unite in faith, love and joy.

The Lord has blessed us with two beautiful children, and as we walk this road of life together, we are grateful for the hand of the Lord that brought our lives together in such a marvelous, love-at-first-sight way."

Bio:  Marilyn from Mountaintop Spice is an avid hobby photographer living in North Idaho who shares her love for photography with inspirational writings on her blog and with the writing group she is a member of.  Her love for the Lord and ambition as a writer began at an early age growing up in Prince Edward Island, Canada, the home of Lucy Maud Montgomery, whose writings were Marilyn’s childhood inspiration. Leaving the red soil of the Island, she married a Texan, and now lives in North Idaho in with her husband, two children, 20+ chickens, two dogs and the reigning king of the home, Mister Simba, the cat.   Marilyn enjoys seeking out beauty with her camera lens in the Lord's creation around her to share with friends, family, and the blogging community. She blogs at Mountaintop Spice.  Images from her photography can be found at Mountaintop Spice Photos.

A huge thank you to Dan & Marilyn for sharing their amazing "love-at-first-sight" story with us here!  SO inspiring and encouraging to read how God brought them together, how their love has only deepened through the years, and how the Lord has blessed them!  What a blessing their lives are to so many!  May God bless both of you with many more happy, healthy years together, Dan & Marilyn!

In case you missed them, you can read previous Love Story Posts by clicking these links:
The Love Story of David & Wanda
The Love Story of Michael & Karen
The Love Story of Kevin & Cheryl
The Love Story of Tom & Mary
The Love Story of Michael & Jordan
The Love Story of Ed & Sherry
The Love Story of Ed & Janet
The Love Story of Tim & Linda
The Love Story of Calvin & Michele
The Love Story of John & Chelsea
The Love Story of Tim & Regina
The Love Story of Rich & Tonya
The Love Story of Danny & Mary Grace

Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Love Story of Danny & Mary Grace

"And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
I Corinthians 13:13

Graphic Design by Zach Smith

"The Love Story of Danny & Mary Grace"

"Danny and I met and bonded over music. The first time I met him, I was immediately taken by his dark eyes surrounded by thick eyelashes. He was beautiful and I knew I wanted to get to know him.

 When I heard him playing “New Slang” by The Shins, our fate was sealed. Not only was he handsome, but also had good taste in music! 

This story isn’t about the moment we fell in love, though. This story is about when I saw Jesus in Danny and knew I wanted to build a life with him. 

Danny is warm. He has the type of demeanor that makes people want to be around him. Strangers open up to him. When he was the sous chef in a restaurant, he would bring warm soup to the homeless in the city where we live. He gave the gloves off of his hands to a man on the street. He called an ambulance and stayed with another man who was overdosing until help arrived. He does these things without a thought. Not that he is without flaws, but he is thoughtful and puts the needs of others before himself.

In 2014, Danny and I traveled together to Île-à-Vache, one of Haiti’s satellite islands, for a servant trip. One morning we left early to walk from one end of the island to the other, to visit another school and provide a meal and activities for the children there. The journey took most of the morning. It was a long, tiring day, but beautiful. 

On our return journey home, we were passing through a small town that housed the largest market on the island. We passed a wall with barbed wire surrounding the top and a large metal gate. Our guide, Leon, paused the group and spoke to someone beyond the gate. He then turned to explain that this was an orphanage run by a Franscican nun and was the only orphanage on the island that took in children with disabilities. Leon wanted to check in on the children and give us an opportunity to visit.

When the gate opened, Danny and I were the first two to walk in. I was a few paces ahead of him. From about 100 feet away I spotted a little girl, around 2 or 3. She didn’t see me, though, she saw past me. She broke into a dead run, straight for Danny. When she was still feet away from Danny, he knelt down and she leapt into his waiting arms. He lifted her up and she started petting his long hair, smiling, and kissing his cheeks. He smiled back at her, looking her in the eyes and just loving her.

In that moment, I felt like I saw Jesus. In the sweet man who would become my husband a little over a year later. In his strong, waiting arms, ready to catch her. In her trusting leap. In their eyes as they looked at one another. I knew then that I wanted to build a family and a life with this man.

Danny and I will have been married 5 years this coming August. We have a two year old daughter named Selah and are awaiting the arrival of our son any day. 

Bio:  Mary Grace resides in Buffalo, NY with her husband, Danny, their daughter, Selah, and two fluffy tuxedo cats. She received her M.S.Ed in English Education (7-12) in August 2019 and is currently teaching sixth grade English to an amazing group of students on the East Side of Buffalo. Mary Grace and Danny are active in their church and have been blessed to serve the Lord in Haiti and in their own community.

Such a sweet, sweet story!  It had me in tears!  A HUGE thank you to you, Danny and Mary Grace, for sharing your beautiful love story with us!  May God bless your lives in a mighty way and may He grant you many more long and healthy years together!

Dear readers, Danny is facing a full hip surgery on March 4th, and he remains in a lot of pain.  Please continue to keep Danny in your prayers for a safe and smooth operation, healing, and a quick recovery.  

I received this email from Mary Grace:

"Hi Cheryl! 
I just wanted to let you know that our son was born!
Nathaniel David was born on 1/29/20 at 10:06 pm. 7 lbs 10 oz and 20 3/4 inches long. 
He is a calm and sweet baby and Selah has taken to him incredibly well. We are so blessed!"

Please join me in praising God along with Danny & Mary Grace for a safe delivery and healthy baby boy!!
What a beautiful, perfect baby boy!  Thank You, Jesus!

And, such a sweet, beautiful big sister, Selah, too!!!

Oh, how precious!
And, how great is our GOD!!

In case you missed them, you can read previous Love Story Post by clicking these links:

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Love Story of Rich & Tonya

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her."
Ephesians 5:25

Graphic Design by Zach Smith

"The Love Story of Rich & Tonya"

"It was a late spring evening in 1994.  Another night of drinking and numbing the pain of a life full of unhealed wounds, I stumbled across the street from the bar in which I was drowning my pain and passed out on the couch of a family friend.  A few hours later, I heard someone come through the front door.

Rich was just returning home from his night shift job.  He was a roommate to our family friend, and we began to strike up a conversation.  I felt drawn to his quiet, but strength-filled demeanor.  We said our good-byes and I was hopeful we would see each other again.

A week later, I decided I would call him.  I got his phone number from our family friend and reached out.  Surprisingly, he called me back.  We began to have a few phone conversations and then one night I invited him for dinner.

As we began to spend time together, Rich questioned my drinking habits and asked me if I thought I might have a drinking problem.  He had been sober for the last two years and was concerned about my possible problem.  I was adamant that I didn’t have a drinking issue, but his question planted doubt in my mind.  Did I?

My adoptive father was an alcoholic and we didn’t have the best relationship and I didn’t want to be like him.  I thought if I admitted I had a drinking problem, then I would be just like him.

As the months went on, Rich asked me to consider getting help.  To appease him, I went to the local rehab center to have an evaluation.  My mom went with me.  I was hoping they would tell me how to be a social drinker and be able to participate in some sort of out-patient treatment.

As the providence of God was upon me, the center went on to tell me that I was sicker than I thought, and they recommended a 28-day in-patient treatment.  I told them I had to think about it and I would get back to them.

I spoke with Rich and told him what they said, and he told me that if he and I were to have a future together, I needed to go to treatment and be sober.  I really liked Rich and wanted to see where this would go, so I went to treatment.

The pain and agony of going through treatment and bringing up some very old wounds that occurred when I was five years old from a sexual assault from a babysitter was almost more than I could bear.  I needed hope, and I needed it fast.

 I didn’t grow up churched, so I didn’t know about the hope of Christ.  I learned in treatment and AA about a higher power, and I remembered my great-grandmother’s prayers, so I knew there was something to all this Jesus talk.

Rich and I ended up getting married and losing our first baby to miscarriage.  Our second child, a daughter, was born 7 months after we were married.  We continued to go to AA meetings, but did not attend church.

In August 1997, my mother was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident.  That very day, Rich and I were preparing to move to Charlotte, NC to be closer to his family and for job opportunities.  I remember driving through the switchbacks of Colorado near Durango crying in total despair and telling Rich that we were going to Charlotte for something bigger than job opportunities.

Turned out that God was speaking to me even though I didn’t really know it at the time.  When we got to Charlotte, Rich told me we would start going to church.  Being in a new town, just having lost my mother, and being newly sober, I was in a total depression.  I had no desire to push on.  I was struggling.  I can remember Rich asking me one particular night why I just wouldn’t let him love me.  You see, I had been so wounded by men that I had build the “Great Wall of Tonya” and wasn’t going to let anyone hurt me again.

I wish I could say that immediately I let him in.  I didn’t.  What we did do, is found a church.  Our church family began loving on us and literally was the hands and feet of Christ.  They were amazing.

As God began to soften my heart and “sift me,” I began to let Rich in to my “protective bubble.” It has taken years and years, but that is the evidence of our love story.  Through it all, Rich has loved me like Christ loved the church.  He never gave up on me, he never left me, and he has been such a reflection of Christ in my life.

Together through it all, we have had two miscarriages, 5 children, financial loss, children with serious health issues, business loss, career changes, broken dreams, death, emotional and mental breakdowns, substance abuse recovery, childhood abuse, and an emotional affair on my part.

How on earth can one couple withstand ALL of that?  Apart from Christ we could not.  That is the beauty of our love story.  By the grace of God, forgiveness, and hard work, we are continuing to write our love story.  Everyday is a new day, fresh with mercy and grace.  We have and continue to work intentionally and sacrificially to ensure that God’s story of hope and redemption in our marriage is one that inspires others to never give up.

We are celebrating twenty-five years this year.  MIRACULOUS.  Only God can take two VERY broken people and cause us to love each other more every day.  We now teach married adults at our local church.  We speak at marriage retreats, expressing the goodness of God and to encourage others to not give up before the miracle happens.

I am so thankful that God gave me the gift of Rich.  What a blessing he is and I couldn’t imagine loving him more, but I know that God is still writing this story.  Not every day is butterflies and rainbows, because we still have the adversity of raising five children and some of them are not walking in the ways of the Lord. But today, we have the Hope of Christ guiding us and in the end we know who gets the Victory.  Our God is a good God even in pain and suffering.
“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story”-Psalm 17:2"

Bio:  Tonya Shellnutt serves as State Government Relations Director at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the largest religious liberty advocacy organization in the world. ADF exists to keep the legal doors open for the Gospel.

Since joining ADF in 2017, Shellnutt has been working to engage, empower, and protect churches, ministries, and religious institutions across the country. She is committed to safeguarding their religious liberty legal protections. Additionally, Shellnutt works with legislators, policy groups, and grass roots to ensure generational wins.

Prior to joining ADF, Shellnutt was a small business owner for 15 years and served as State Director for Concerned Women for America in both Montana and in South Carolina where she focused on faith and family public policy issues. Shellnutt and her husband have been married for 24 years and have five children. They have taught and mentored married adults for the last fifteen years and currently serve in the married adult ministry at Oakdale Baptist Church in Rock Hill, SC. Tonya is also an author and working on a second writing project. She speaks to various groups throughout the country.

Tonya, how grateful we are that you and Rich shared your story with us here!  I am continually amazed at the grace and mercy of God and how He has brought you through so much!  You are a huge blessing in my life.  May God bless you and Rich with many more happy, healthy years together, may He enlarge your ministry in new and amazing ways, and may your life together shine hope into the darkened corners of the couples you minister to.  

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Love Story of Tim & Regina

"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."
Proverbs 3:5,6

Graphic Design by Zach Smith

"The Love Story of Tim & Regina"

"The first time I saw Tim was at our mid-week week church service in Templeton, CA.  I was new to the church and didn't know many people. He had arrived a little late, and I noticed he was wearing his Reborn Riders colors. The Reborn Riders was a Christian motorcycle club that was one of the church's ministries.

I remember telling my friend DeAnn, with whom I was staying, that I thought he was really cute and he seemed really nice. DeAnn had known who he was because her daughter and son-in-law were part of Reborn Riders, too, and she told me he was a really sweet guy.

I didn't think too much about him for a couple of weeks until the church was having a baptism at a friend's house because the church didn't have a baptismal. I really needed a ride so DeAnn said she would find a way for me to get there.  

DeAnn's daughter called me the morning of the baptism and said that she found me a ride and to not wear shorts or flip flops. (This was before I became a conservative Christian.) I found it odd because it was going to be 95° that day, but I figured that was a church rule.

Well, my ride showed up on a motorcycle. It was Tim! I was so surprised because apparently he was asked to give me a ride, but he was concerned I wouldn't like being on his motorcycle. Oh, I forgot to mention that I had gotten into a conversation with one of the wives who was in Reborn Riders, and I had said motorcycles were fun.

Anyway, I guess you could say, our first "date" was to a baptism! After that, we went to Bible studies together and church-related events. We realized that we were really getting serious. We entered a courtship on July 21st 1992. We got engaged  on August 23rd, but even though we had gotten engaged, Tim wanted my mom's blessing because my dad had passed away in 1984. 

Tim borrowed his parent's van to drive to Riverside because his only mode of transportation was his motorcycle. My mom was overjoyed and gave her blessing.  We were married on February 13th, 1993.

We have had our ups and downs, and there are things about being a godly wife that I know now that I wish I knew back then. 

I'm so grateful God put us together and for the three daughters He has blessed us with."

Bio: Regina makes her home in Arizona with her husband, Tim, and is mom to three adult daughters and "grandma" to one cat and two guinea pigs. Her interests include crocheting, Bible study, coloring in adult coloring books, dabbling at sewing, drinking afternoon tea in a pretty teacup, and reading books. She is especially fond of Anabaptist church history and biographies. Regina also loves spoiling little people in the church nursery where she volunteers once a month. She attempts to keep up with her blog at  Plain Keeper at Home.

Tim and Regina, we are SO grateful you shared your beautiful love story with us!  It was such a blessing to read and to hear how God brought you together and has led you all these years.  I am always so blessed by your blog, Regina, and so thankful for the Godly example you set for all of us.  May the Lord bless both of you with many more healthy, happy years together serving Jesus side-by-side!

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Love Story of John & Chelsea

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Matthew 6:33 

Graphic Design by Zach Smith

"The Love Story of John & Chelsea"

"I had just moved from Indiana to Buffalo with my family and was not in a great place in many ways. I was functional enough after the upheaval and turmoil of a move in the middle of my college experience however, that I was able to get a job pretty quickly at the local coffee house, where I began work as an experienced barista. 

There was this girl, Chelsea, who had just been hired at the coffee house’s other branch,.  I’d only seen her fleetingly, since she mostly stopped by my location to check the register and help with shifts, but I was instantly attracted to her and thought maybe I’d ask her out.

Cue my cowardice. I waited months until they finally consolidated our two stores into one location and we started working together, but even then, it took me forever. She later told me that the weekend I called and asked her out, (for bowling, of all things), she had consciously decided if I waited any longer, she’d say no. But I didn’t, and so we started dating.

It felt very special very quickly. She had not been raised in a Christian household, and I was in the middle of figuring out my own personal faith and relationship to God.  So somehow, even though we came from wildly different backgrounds, when it came to talking about spiritual matters, we quickly found a pretty common language of curiosity and positivity.  The next thing I knew she was visiting church with me—when we weren’t taking walks in the back country or going to see midnight showings of sci-fi movies she never would have picked.

One year to the day after our first date, I proposed, with me at age 22 and her at 19. Of course we heard all the “you’re too young” stories, but we had the same reaction: there was no point in waiting when we were already so sure of it. Two years to the day after our first date, we were married. She had been baptized at this point and both our faiths were growing, but now together. No matter what theological points we may have disagreed on, we both felt that the only way this whole adventure made sense was if God had planned it.

Cut to thirteen years later. We celebrated our twelfth anniversary last year, and have three beautiful children who have her light hair and fair complexion, my crazy sense of humor, and a love for Jesus that cannot be faked. In a lot of ways, our awe and humility at God’s incredible foreknowledge and care increases with time, instead of lessening, because with all that we’ve been through together, getting us together in the first place looks more and more like the opening pitch of a baseball game. 

So much more has happened since then to confirm God’s love for us in that He knew exactly who we were both meant for, and He gently led us separately until we were ready to meet. I told her something yesterday in all seriousness—if I were to make a list of people who have influenced me the most (and for the better), she is right under God with a bullet. If I ever need proof of a loving God, I just have to remember the person He brought into my life and has allowed me to grow and learn with in love."

Bio:  John and Chelsea have been married since May 5th, 2006. They met while working together at a coffee shop in western New York State. They currently reside in Virginia with their three children, Jack (9), Julia (8), and Adeline (2). John is an elementary teacher in first grade with a second career as a voiceover and narration artist. Chelsea manages multiple personal businesses including sheep raising, wool and knitting products, and customized engraving items. They are blessed to be members of New Harvest Ministries in Willis. 

John and Chelsea, thank you SO much for sharing your amazing love story with us!  It was such a joy to get to know you through this post and to hear how God orchestrated the details for you to meet and fall in love.  Chelsea, I am glad you didn't give up on John, and John, I'm so thankful you asked Chelsea when you did!  God had His hand in the whole process, and He so faithfully guided you.  May He continue to keep His hand upon your lives and grant you many long, happy, healthy years together!

Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Love Story of Calvin & Michele

"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
Ephesians 4:32

Graphic Design by Zach Smith

"The Love Story of Calvin & Michele"

"About thirty years ago, a handsome young man in a tux stood before me and recited loving words of commitment that began like this:
“Michele, joining my life with yours in the covenant of marriage . . .”

And so our love story began with strong promises about loving and listening, respecting and revering.  By God’s grace the covenant is still in effect, and after all these years, the more I learn about myself and my all-too-obvious weaknesses and failures, the more a love based on strong promises sounds really good to me.

God’s love is like that, too – based on strong promises that have been recorded in His Word.

We had our first fight in the grocery store just a bit over a week after the wedding. I am a list-shopper, and he is a browser. Stopping for nothing, I steer the shopping cart around corners on two wheels, while he lingers over a cheese display, comparing relative merits and flavors at long leisure.

I was raised in a home with a bare refrigerator and minimal resources for kitchen creativity. He came from a fully stocked spice cupboard and a philosophy of abundance and celebration around food.  To him, our shopping cart looked like a barren waste land of deprivation, while I was becoming convinced that from now on we would be spending 75% of our net worth on food.

By some miracle of grace, we weathered that difference and after nearly thirty years of marriage, we just like each other a whole lot.

I smile when I say that my good husband and I are “middle-aged.”  I suppose if we live to be 120, we are middle-aged, but the reality is that we are past the mid-point on many levels, and this is most glaringly obvious in our life together as parents.  Parenting feels different in these days when everyone is taller than I am.  It was so much easier when I could put all the “forbidden things” (cookies, snack food, breakables) on top of the refrigerator.  Now I find myself asking my kids for help with top-shelf-reaches.

Here’s a challenging theory from Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas:  “Behind virtually every case of marital dissatisfaction lies un-repented sin.”  Sit with that one for a while and let it come to mind the next time you mutter a complaint against your spouse.

Thirty years of marriage have flown by.  In many ways, my husband and I are not the same people who walked down the aisle in that big, beautiful church with pipe organ music and the aroma of gardenias in the air.  Everything in our lives has changed — except one thing.
We are still working at our love."

Bio:  Michele Morin is a teacher, reader, writer, and gardener who does life with her family on a country hill in Maine. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, and three adorable grandchildren. Michele is active in educational ministries with her local church and delights in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. Connect by following her blog at Living Our Days, or via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Calvin and Michele, thank you SO much for blessing us with your amazing love story!  It was so wonderful to read of how God has blessed you through the years and to see your smiling faces in the photos!  May the Lord grant you both long lives and abundant health as you continue to do life together!

Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Love Story of Tim & Linda

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you."
Psalm 32:8

Graphic Design by Zach Smith

"The Love Story of Tim & Linda"

"When Your Husband Refuses To Wear His Wedding Ring" by Linda Stoll

"He didn't wear his wedding ring for maybe three decades.

He repaired computers for a living and was frequently tinkering with something or other under the car, hoping to get a few thousand more miles out of it.  Or he was creating a random widget or gift or project with one kind of power tool or another down in the workshop.

He didn't want to lose a finger.  And—maybe even more than that, it just was plain uncomfortable for him to wear.

At first I subtly hinted.  And then not so subtly pouted.  And obnoxiously wheeled and dealed, trying without even a hint of success to get that band of gold back on his finger where it belonged.  I even offered {more than once} to buy my non-jewelry wearing man a chain so he could tote my precious wedding gift around his neck.  What was I thinking?

That was so not going to happen.

Over time, I grew up.  We had bigger fish to fry, and I gradually became ok with his adamant choice. There was not a shred of doubt in my mind that he was anything but faithful and committed to our vows, and his steady servant heart demonstrated his deep love to me and the girls in ways that were practical and substantial.

I let it go, for life was presenting much more pressing scenarios than a missing symbol on his left hand.  And like most non-essentials, it slowly but surely became a non-issue and faded from view.

Fast forward to about six Christmases ago.  Cuddled close to my man and surrounded by the enthusiastically noisy gang, their parents, and mounds of gifts interspersed with discarded wrapping paper, I pulled a small black box from the worn toe of my old red felt stocking.  As soon as my fingers wrapped around its four rounded corners, I just knew.

It was his ring.

Just waiting to be placed by this aging bride's still eager hands on her groom's bare awaiting finger.  The fourth one. On his left hand.

Along the way you've gotta figure out what's non-negotiable for you.  What's absolutely worth going to the mat for.  Consider the cost of yet another unsettlingly vulnerable discussion, maybe some bruised feelings or shed tears.

If I've learned one truth, it's this right here.

Speak what's most true about where you are.  Do it with love and respect, clarity, and grace.  Without any kind of spoken / unspoken manipulation or pressure or threats.

Maybe do it twice, or even three times if you're particularly passionate about whatever it is.  And then quietly step off your soapbox.  Let it go.  Just let it go.

For good.

I still haven't arrived.  After almost 44 years, I'm still a student learning how to do this 'speaking the truth in love' thing without repetitively going on and on and on.

Honestly, no desire is worth the ceaseless grumbling, the incessant nagging, the endless hassle, the valuable energy invested as we keep proclaiming our rights and beating the drum of our inflexible, unyielding opinions.  The monotonous litany does nothing but send our spouse fleeing in the exact opposite direction, loosening the sacred ties that bind, unraveling two hearts once strongly knit together.

And then the hard part comes.  

This, the releasing of your spouse and the contentious subject matter to the Holy One who brought you two together in the first place.  The One who has the power and the wisdom to take care of whatever it is that threatens to put a disturbing wedge between you and the one you've committed to share life with.

And wonder of wonders, as we get out of our own way, we begin to lean into the delightful discovery that the same powerful God who spun the universe into existence is more than capable to carry through His wise and wonderful plans with little, if any, help from us.

What have you finally let go of?  Or what still remains, just waiting to be released?"

Bio:  Tim and Linda are currently trying to figure out the best way to celebrate 44 years of marriage in April.  They live quietly in a little town tucked between the ever-changing bay and the deep blue ocean in Massachusetts.

Besides their commitment to marriage and family, Tim's focus is on volunteering as a Crew Leader with Habitat for Humanity.  And when she's not praying that he doesn't fall off high ladders, Linda loves her work as a pastoral counselor to women ... and remains enthusiastically devoted to nurturing her online blogging community.

Their greatest claim to fame is their seven fun loving, high energy grandchildren, one who now lives in heaven.  Linda would absolutely love for you to visit her blog right here and connect with her on LinkedIn over there.

Tim and Linda, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for sharing your beautiful love story with us here!  Linda, your advice is so wise, as always, and you and your blog are such a blessing!  May the dear Lord grant you and Tim many more happy, healthy years together walking hand-in-hand!

Friday, February 7, 2020

The Love Story of Ed & Janet

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God."
I John 4:7

Graphic Design by Zach Smith

"The Love Story of Ed & Janet"

"This year marks the 46th anniversary of the day my husband and I wed, followed by a stop by the seminary, six children, and now twelve and waiting on the 13th grandchild. We’re used to being an anomaly asked, “are all of them are yours?” and “are you Catholic?”  

All I wanted was to get married, live in a pretty house, and have children.  Sensing that I would never leave their house if I didn’t get out at the “appropriate” age, my parents wanted the best for me. That meant going away to college at age 18.

The liberal home I left and the liberal college I attended shook this lovingly sheltered girl.  I groped for a place to belong. School was NOT my thing and never had been.   I could do a lot of stuff, even serious things, especially if they were fast, planned, and fun. My idea of a good time was a big day followed by a big night cheering the team on and then a day off reading and staying in my room. Hardly an employer’s “dream-come-true” girl, a future job as a career woman was more of a nightmare to me.

During my first week in a co-ed dorm, (a girl’s floor and a boy’s floor made up our dorm  “family”),  the resident advisor of each group met with the new students in a common area of the big, blocky building we called home.

The tall, dark, and handsome senior class resident advisor from the boy’s floor stood in the center of the room to address the gathering and my heart leapt.  A strong sense of responsibility and care radiated from his long curls to the end of his bellbottoms; he sported a cigarette—that was “okay” then. He looked like a college version of the Mark Spitz poster attached to my dorm room wall with putty.

Raised in a proper Southern home, I couldn’t just begin talking to this man, I needed an introduction.  I asked girls I had just met that week about him and was told “he likes poetry and dancing.”  So far, so good.  No one knew him to introduce me, though.  

With boldness that must have come from God above, I marched up to him at the next meeting and introduced myself.  He responded with what I later discovered was just as uncharacteristic a move as I had just made by saying, “I noticed you last week since you’re so pretty.”  I then said, “Do you have a girlfriend?”  His response, “Not exclusively, do you have a boyfriend?”  I responded, “Not exclusively,” then, “I’ll be right back.”

I raced to find my newest in-the-know girlfriend and asked her what “not exclusively” meant.  Her response?  “Go for it!”

I went for it.

And we lived happily ever after.

The end – AND …
…to be continued."

Bio:  Janet Fehskens has led workshops at national Lutherans for Life conventions and has published articles and poetry in Living, Gentle Spirit, and local newspapers. She has spoken at the Ft. Wayne Seminary, high schools, camps, and women’s functions.  She served as president of the local Lutherans for Life chapter in St. Paul, MN, and has led several women’s ministries in parishes throughout the country.

Both Janet and Ed are avid readers.  Ed keeps up with current events, but will watch sci-fi with Janet while she does handwork after the sun has gone down.  Her favorite medium is primitive folk-art.  She also loves taking photos during their travels.

Janet homeschooled their six children for four years, and began working part-time (away from home) when their youngest child began school.  She completed eleven years of administrative work in NYS colleges while she and Ed lived in and near Buffalo, NY.  Now adults, these children are parents of their 12+ grandchildren (#13 is due in February!).

Janet and Ed are now retired and have recently relocated to Bristol, TN, where they are members of Concordia Lutheran Church in Kingsport, TN. They enjoy traveling and being “on call” for their children and their families, who are within driving distance, while simply praising God for His amazing grace as they enjoy time spent with their favorite people – all grown up. 

Janet and Ed, thank you both SO much for sharing your amazing life and love story with us here!  You are two very special people, and we are so grateful to God that you are a part of our lives!  May He bless you with many, many more happy, healthy years together serving Him side-by-side!

In case you missed them, you can read previous Love Story Posts by clicking these links: