Thursday, May 28, 2015

Debt is Slavery

"Debt is slavery." I am not sure when this line settled into a mantra for me, but it has been in my head for a long time.

My sweet, frugal, awesome parents.
 I was raised by a very frugal parents, especially my Daddy. My entire life, I really thought that my family was "poor" by American standards because Daddy pretty much convinced me that we were. I didn't spend any time looking around at my life and realizing that I literally had everything I wanted and more. But when I would ask for more, Dad would reply, "No, we are poor." Looking back on this, it makes me laugh a little. I totally believed him and would let stuff go. 

The truth was that we were not poor, not even a little bit. True, we definitely fit the bill for an American Middle Class family, but we were not poor. Within all the incredible practices that my Daddy kept surrounding money, he taught me that I should not ever get myself into a situation where I would be in debt. He taught me from a very early age what interest was and how dangerous it is to play any games with credit cards or loans. Just because you have the money doesn't mean that you should spend the money...there are other ways to do things.

When I left for college I got my first credit card. Daddy made it absolutely clear that I would pay it off in FULL each month or I would not have one at all. He checked my statements to make sure that this was happening and I never missed a payment. I had no idea there was any other way than this. And man, am I grateful. The photo below is from Freshman year of college- haha, what a mess! That girl would have gotten into trouble without this rule.

Between Dad's insane frugality, resourceful nature and my scholarships, I managed to graduate college without any debt. It was only then, as the "real world" fast approached that my friends and I started having our first real conversations about money. I was stunned to hear so many of them reveal the enormous debt they had racked up over the last 4 years with their credit cards and was shocked by the school loans that would follow them into adulthood. Needless to admit, I was humbled by the incredible, life changing gifts that my Daddy had given me through his financial practices. 

I realize that most people have not had the option or provision and I am describing as my experience and it is very much the "norm" to leave college with debt. I am certainly not condemning that and I believe that education is worth it. I just have to be honest about where I am coming from on this subject or this post isn't going to make any sense.

When I married Joel, I was also marrying his financial situation. I think a lot of couples forget this detail when they are dreaming of white dresses and big parties. Joint income is awesome! Joint debt can be scary. Fortunately, the debt that came into our marriage were school loans only. 

Joel and I decided from the forefront that the very first thing we would do as a married couple was destroy our debt. We made a covenant that we would devote our first few years of marriage to freeing ourselves from financial slavery. The interest alone on his school loans were a bite and we just could not let the time get away from us. This debt had to be lifted off our shoulders and fast. So we came up with a plan. 

First, life presented us with a providential option. I was working full time as a Youth Director at a local church so I was set with a good job and steady income. Joel was looking for a good job since had just graduated. He had what it took to head into the corporate world or start something really impressive, but instead we made the decision that he would take a Resident Director (Coordinator) job at our university. In doing this, our living expenses would be non-existent. We would be able to pocket both our salaries and could pay off our debt faster. It wasn't glamorous and it wasn't that cool to tell our friends that we were moving back to campus to work in Residence life after we had just gotten out of college, but we did it because it was smart. 

Once we got rid of our cost of living, then we started putting all of our extra money into paying off the loans and building up our savings. We agreed that no matter what, we would put $1000 a month into the loans and $1000 a month into savings. Anything that we did not spend on general day-to-day living would also go towards the loans. 

It was interesting to experience how just making this simple plan changed our view on money so quickly. We would get really excited at the end of the month to see that we had money left over and would put it in the loans as fast as we could. When someone would give us money, if I happened to babysit, if we were sent a birthday check, all of that money went right into the loans. 

When we moved to our University, we calculated that it would take us 18 months to pay off our debt if we dedicated $1000 a month to the school loans. We were absolutely stunned that at the end of 8 months we wrote our final check towards those bad boys. 

It was really motivating when it was the two of us dedicating our time and money to making those loans go away. It was fun to look at Joel and say, "We don't need to buy that right now, let's put it towards the loans." It sort of felt like a game. In the end, that discipline, those few months of saying "no" to extras (eating out,drinking all the alcohol we wanted, travel, getting nice clothes or new cars, or basically buying anything that was not necessary), made our efforts feel like the biblical "loaves and fishes".

We might have looked classy but we were living simply

In fact, it was the Biblical community that inspired us into doing this in the first place. Joel and I were both big fans of Shane Claiborne's book called Irresistible Revolution and had devoured it before we got hitched. Claiborne started an intentional community of folks who dedicated their lives to the work of Christ. He described that anytime a new person moved into the community, they would find out if that person had any debt and then the community would pay it off to "free them". Whoever had the most debt would be the first to have it paid off. Everyone would focus their resources on that one person until the debt was gone and then move to the next person who needed it. They wanted all of their community members to be totally free from slavery to the world. We thought this was amazing and it really inspired us to pool our resources together with this level of commitment.

The day we paid off our debt, we celebrated with a big, delicious out-to-eat meal. We cheers over our wine and felt the satisfaction of that freedom. It took some sacrifices but honestly, they were minimal. Looking back on that season of our lives, I feel nothing but grateful that we took to the time to do what we did. We have been blessed for it ten times over and I don't even remember feeling deprived of anything I wanted or needed even at our most frugal moments. Actually, living simply and practicing frugality really lead to some of the freshest creativity I've ever experienced. 

I know lots of people who are in some dire situations surrounding money. I know that there are so many people out there who cannot imagine even beginning paying off the large debts that have been accumulated in their names. What I want to share with you is the experience that I have. This experience has informed me that God blesses your most feeble attempts. I believe this applies to all areas of our lives. I also believe that God is deeply involved in our financial lives, if we let Him be. Not only did our season of discipline bring us out of slavery, it also brought us closer to God's daily provision. Any extra money that came into our lives was suddenly treasured and felt like Manna from heaven, like it was hand delivered for our freedom. It seemed like the more we put towards our loans, the more that would come in. I think God wants us to be totally free. I do believe he will bless your attempts, wherever you are in the process of freeing yourself from debt. All you need to commit to is trying.

Photos from last yr of college and 1st yr of marraige

For what it is worth...and it is worth a lot to me...Debt is Slavery and I want to be free. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Commission an Original work of art?

Have I already sold a painting you would have liked to have? Have you looked through my artwork and not seen quite what you were hoping to find? Are you looking for an original piece of art that is painted with love and intentionality? If any of these situations apply to your current state of mind, then please contact me. I am available to take commissions and would enjoy creating a piece of artwork that is exactly what you are looking for. Please contact me with your ideas and interest here


Watercolor or Acrylic Paper

  • 5.5x6.5in           $25
  • 6.5x7.5              $30
  • 7.5x11in            $45
  • 5.5x11in            $45
  • 11x15in             $65
  • 12x12in             $65
Painters Board
  • 4x4                   $30
  • 6x6                   $40
  • 5x7                   $35
  • 8x10                 $50
  • 12x12               $60
  • 16x20               $95
  • 18x24               $125
Canvas (Cotton)
  • 5x7                  $35
  • 6x6                  $35
  • 8x8                  $40
  • 8x10                $50
  • 8x16                $60
  • 9x12                $60
  • 10x10              $65
  • 10x14              $75
  • 10x20              $80
  • 11x14              $95
  • 12x12              $100
  • 12x16              $125
  • 12x24              $150
  • 16x20              $165
  • 18x24              $190
  • 20x20              $185
  • 20x24              $210
  • 24x48              $265
*If you are interested in a size that is not listed here, please don't hesitate to contact me and we can discuss the size and pricing individually. 

Mediums I like to work from (but I am not limited to):
  • Acrylic paint
  • India Ink
  • Watercolor paint
  • Acrylic paint pens
  • Metallic colors
  • Collage (paper layering)
Please send me your ideas:
  • Painting I have done before that you have seen and like
  • Images you are drawn to
  • Artwork you admire with your ideas to make it original
  • Photos
  • Written concepts
Thank you so much for your interest and your support!

Sunday, May 24, 2015



Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Power of a Glance

Reflecting on my post from earlier this week called Dignity, I wanted to extend this thought a little bit further. I really believe that the first step in creating space for human dignity is with a glance. Of course the gestures that come from that glance enhance or defeat the message depending on how they are used. Looking at someone in the eye connects you to that person's very life. Not only that, I believe it is undeniable that this connection also draws you into a (usually) unconscious awareness that your lives are unified by the Energy, the Great Spirit, God that binds us all together in love. 

Omid Safi, columnist on Krista Tippets "On Being" describes the glance like this in his article, "The Power of a Glance":

"Glances are powerful, intimate. Depending on the heart connection — and lack thereof — they can be profoundly touching, saying what no word can utter. Or they can be deeply intrusive, an uncomfortable, unwelcome, and unwanted advance...This is part of the Islamic teaching in this part of the world: a reflection on what it means to purify each of our faculties. What would it mean to look upon one another, look with one another, look into one another the way God would look upon us. What would it mean to listen to each other so that we are attentive, caring, nurturing, eager to learn how to provide care, not to get the next (and last) word in. What would it mean to touch someone in a way that is not aggressive and unwanted, with a touch that clings not and possesses not. What would it mean for divine faculties to come and take over, replacing all that is egoistic with all that is nurturing."


Are the glances we share with others traces of Divinity living among us? If we could consider our glances as holy, how would our world transform? Our relationships? Our lives? 

If you would like to read the full article please check here.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Medicine in your grass

A few months ago, my mother-in-law showed me a little concoction she made. She explained that she was paying over $30 a bottle for a medicinal herb called "Plantain" (not large bananas) which helped greatly with her asthma and allergies. My father-in-law looked at the ingredients and realized that they were growing that very herb in their grass. And you know what, so are you.

Plantain is a common weed. You probably try every summer to get rid of it as it invades your lawn. When you were a little kid you would shoot it's blooms at your siblings during a picnic or lounging in the grass. This plant has been under my feet all my life and I had no idea that I was treading on a remedy for pretty much everything!

There are two types of plaintain that we have noticed in our lawn. One is Common Plantain which has shorter round leaves. 

The other type is English Plaintain which my mother-in-law says is more potent and a little better. This one has long, slender leaves. 

Getting back to the concoction... it was simple. My mother-in-law juiced the leaves of the English Plaintain that she harvested from her lawn and then added the juice to some raw honey. Honey has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties so the Plaintain juice won't spoil, rot or mold. She kept it in the fridge and gave herself a spoonful a day, just like she did with her expensive supplement that she no longer needs to buy. 

She swears by Plaintain as she says it opens up her bronchials and her lungs so she can breathe fully and well. She said she hadn't had any allergy issues either since taking it. 

According to, Plaintain has many uses:

    "Useful remedy for cough irritations and hoarseness and for gastritis and enteritis.  Good for all respiratory problems, bronchitis, asthma, especially those involving mucous congestion.  Used for diarrhea, nosebleed, kidney and bladder trouble, jaundice, headache, infections, hepatitis, spermatorrhea, loss of sexual power, promotes fertility, bedwetting, sciatica, tuberculosis, syphilis, snakebites, worms, toothache, dropsy, prevent blood poisoning, excessive menses, and inflamed eyes.  A decoction of the dried leaves promotes the coagulation of  blood.  The fresh juice, pressed from the whole plant, is helpful for chronic catarrhal problems, hay fever, allergic rhinitis, gastro-intestinal ailments, and worms.  Externally, the fresh leaves are crushed for application to erysipelas, eczema, burns, ringworms, tetters, shingles, scalds, wounds, running sores, ulcers, cuts, scratches, boils, tumors, insect bites even hemorrhoids.  Widely used as a laxative, and combats inflammation.
    If stung by insects, immediately rub some crushed English plantain leaves into the area around the sites of the stings, this will prevent swelling and itching.  English plantain grows everywhere and is easily spotted."
I have no idea if can do all that it claims, but this website also provided some helpful ways to take and use the herb so you can test it out for yourself.

Infusion: steep 1 tbsp. leaves in 1/2 cup water for 5 minutes.  Take 1 cup a day.
Decoction: boil 2 oz. dried leaves in 1/2 qt. water.  Helps coagulate blood.
Juice: take 1 tbsp. in water or milk or mixed with 1 tbsp. honey, 3 times a day.
Ointment: for hemorrhoids, boil 2 oz. of the plant in 1 pint soybean or peanut oil.

I made a medicinal herb garden this spring and went ahead and dug up the English Plaintain from my yard and started it growing in the garden. It has flourished! The photo you saw above is what it looks like after being fertilized and not mowed. Yours will probably look more like this:

Whether you are in the market for a home remedy or not, you have to admit that it is pretty miraculous that an herb like this is growing right under our toes. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Monday was the day! It was time to put the chicks outside! They had finally outgrown their box, they didn't need their light, and really, puberty has set in big time. We could hear them in there knocking each other around as their pecking order must be settling in and their baby fuzz was starting to float out of the box and into the house. They had just outgrown their indoor life and my nose had outgrown their stinky spills. It was time!

Now, the girls are enjoying their homemade, big-girl coop outside. They took to it right away. Truthfully, they seemed relieved to be outside. One immediately flapped around, even got a little air before landing on her sister. They explored the coop slowly  and didn't seem the least bit bothered by Booger (our cat) who was only curious for all of one second before he was too hot to stand up anymore (he has quite the case of shedding the winter fur now and all he wants to do is lie around). 

They are not big enough or curious enough to climb up to the nesting box yet, but when that time comes I am going to block it off. My chicken resources advise that it is much better to keep your chicks from the nesting box until they are laying so they don't get used to being able to poop in there. If they sleep in it, then they will poop in it and chicken poop=salmonella. We will make the box available when they are ready to lay and just avoid developing that bad habit at all. 

One of the girlies (I suspect the one on top of the pecking order) has been enjoying roosting on the lowest branch in the coop. Her sister isn't quite ready, but will hopefully join her soon. They so enjoyed sitting on our fingers when they were wee lasses that I can't help but think they will love roosting. 

For their comfort, I did make a little box for them on the ground so they could cuddle and keep warm if the summer temperatures drop strangely. 

So far, so good. We have two chicks that appear to be happy, healthy and growing. Can't ask for more...except maybe some eggs...but time will tell on that. Until then, check out my mad chicken skills.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Image result for bechtler museum of modern art

I am sitting outside of the Bechtler Museum of  Modern Art and it is the lunch hour rush in Uptown Charlotte. Slowly chomping on my pimiento cheese, I found myself fully engaged in some of the best people-watching I've experienced in a long time. 

From my perch on the side of a garden wall, I really can see most of the foot traffic moving along this face of the building right next to the "Shiny, Disco Chicken" sculpture (this is not it's real title). It seems inescapable for human beings of any age to avoid such a shiny object. Classes of children on field trips and lunch goers a like, stop to touch and ogle over this strange towering creature.

Not too many folks have taken notice of a phenomenon that I think is probably a very common occurrence. Just under the statue is a small group of elementary school youth. They are sitting crossed-legged and are whispering. Every few minutes, as someone walks by closely, one of them will smile and wave. I remember this game well. My sister and I used to sit on the rock wall that lined our road and waved to folks who drove past. We actually considered the ones who waved back were "good people" and the ones who didn't were "bad people". This came to us so naturally as kids. Today, these children seem to be playing the same game.

So far, in the last 25 minutes, I am on the only person who has waved back to any of them. Don't get me wrong, they are not being obnoxious. They are pretty cute, actually. They are simply waving to people as they pass. Some busy adults have glanced at the youth, some have stepped past them like they weren't there, but I can truthfully report that no one has smiled or waved back. When I was finally chosen for a wave and returned that wave promptly, the little boy so was thrilled that he nearly toppled off his seat on the edge of the garden wall to tell his friends that someone waved to him. 

This is troubling to me. I am wondering about the significance of this innocent gesture. These little children want to be seen and noticed, but I think this gesture has more of an impact that just that. I think they want to connect to someone. 

Avatar has gotten a lot of acclaim both positive and negative, but whatever you thought of the movie doesn't really matter for this post. What stood out to me in that piece was the concept of how the native people said they loved one another. They actually didn't say the word "love". When they loved someone they would simply declare, "I see you." I found this to be profound then, and I find it to be profound today.

"I see you." Think about the implication of that line. I am looking at you. I am taking notice of you. I recognize that you are a living breathing creature. I am giving you a single moment of my time to show you that I know you are living. But just like those little kids, being seen isn't the only thing we desire. We want to connect and that connection means the world to us. I believe we were made to need it.

I once heard a man speak at Urban Ministry Center in Charlotte. He was formerly homeless and was recounting that terrible period of his life. He explained the long complicated tale of how, little by little, he lost everything that made him feel human and worthy. When he was down to only the clothes on his back, he plunged into an awful depression. Unable to make any moves towards a job or a connection to his family, he was sitting on one of our benches at the center of Charlotte. He sat there for hours just watching people go by. He said he kept thinking to himself, "If one person just looks me in the eye then I will know that I am still alive and I will have the courage to hope that my life can change." He sat there for three hours and not a single person looked at him. He crawled to a back-ally and in his despair he wept the rest of the day. 

That story has stuck with me. "If one person looks me in the eye then I will know I am alive." 

I know in our world today, we believe there is a lot of turmoil and danger. Strangers can be deadly and friendly faces can be mistaken for a come-on. But what if we all moved past that a little bit? Could we generalize too much? What would the world grow into if we did not fear one another in this way? 

The joy that leaped into that little boy's face when I returned his wave cost me nothing. The despair that fell over my neighbor at Urban ministry when no one met his gaze, also cost nothing, but think of the fruit! The dignity that is returned in a glance, a nod, a wave, can literally be life changing. These are very simple acts that can transform lives and entire communities. 

We can do nice things all day for people. We can give money to non-profits and shelters, we can go into elementary schools and tutor little kids, but I think the rubber really meets the road when we are actually walking down it. When you are away from those places where you are obviously meant to serve, how do you treat people? When you are just going to lunch, who do you ignore? Who do you speak to? I wonder who I have passed without realizing it. I wonder how many little children have smiled and waved at me and then dubbed me a "bad person" for not noticing them. I don't think I am a bad person for that, but I do think the fruit of that gesture is. 

If we can't wave at a cute little kid then how will we ever be able to look a desperate man in the eyes when his very life depends on it? 

Human dignity begins with a glance, turns into a nod, and transforms with a smile and a wave. These are the simplest gestures that ultimately say the same thing, "You are worthy. You are living. You are loved."

This is powerful. 

I see you.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

In the Beginning

For those who would like a very clear breakdown of the story of Genesis, here you go. The Bible Project is an awesome non-profit that is committed to making scripture and theological ideas accessible to the common, everyday person in 2015. I love their description of the Tree of Knowledge and what this really means for us today. This series is refreshing, understandable and applicable. Give it a whirl...

Friday, May 15, 2015

Our Wedding- Small Budget, Big Joy!

5 years ago today, Joel and I were married. Our wedding day still ranks highest among the most joyful days I've ever experienced.  

From the word "go", Joel and I did not want to have an expensive, complicated wedding ceremony. However, we did want a couple of things. First,we wanted it to be a worship service and a celebration of God's good grace in our lives. Second, we wanted our wedding to be a joyful celebration open to anyone who wanted to be there with us. We both know that God brought us together and that is still a gift we celebrate and remember with much gratitude today. We wanted that celebration open to everyone. 

Photo by Jacki Harp
Having a wedding ceremony that was worship service was easy to plan, but finding a way to invite everyone who wanted to be part of this day with us without breaking the bank required a little thinking outside of the box. This is what we did. 

How to keep the Wedding Cost Low:

We did not want any presents but we did need some gifts. We asked our friends and family if they would consider giving us their gifts, as in, their talents and skills. These people gave us the gift of piecing together the details of our wedding by doing what they already love to do and making that their present to us. Our friends with good cameras took wonderful photos during the service, the church secretary made and printed our bulletins, the florist we knew made my bouquet, the gardeners in our church provided roses from their rose bushes for the tables, friends helped to set up tables and chairs, ladies made extra batches of chicken salad and rolls to make sure that our guests would have plenty to eat, a decorator in the church decorated everything, Joel's friends and family played all our wedding music, our friends read scripture, told the bible story, and DJ-ed our after-party. Each detail came together in a beautiful collage of sharing personalized, precious gifts with us and we did not have to pay for any of these services.

My BFF taking photos for us- Thank you, Kim!
We also decided that we did not want attendants. That adds costs and drama that we didn't want to put on the people that we loved. Joel asked some of his buddies to usher for us and help to park folks on the wedding day. We both asked our families to walk down the aisle with us and everyone could wear whatever they wanted to wear. On that note, Joel and I really did not care what we wore either. I bought a dress off Etsy that was simple and Joel's mom altered (a lot) for me. Joel didn't even think about what he was going to wear until the night before the wedding when his Dad asked and ended up taking him (and all the guys) shopping for khaki's and white shirts. Thanks, Rick! Did I mention that we also didn't wear shoes? This was a bigger deal to some of our family and some friends than we anticipated. Joel always took his shoes off to lead worship or play with the band. We both love that passage in Exodus where God tells Moses to remove his shoes because he is standing on holy ground. It seemed right that we should enter God's church on our wedding day with the same awe and respect. This also meant, we didn't have to buy shoes. 

Photo by Crosby Ignasher
In order to create a space for our ceremony where anyone who wanted to celebrate with us could, we had to figure out the food situation. We decided that since we were not asking for gifts then we could ask our guests to bring a cover-dish (as we say in south) and have a pot-luck lunch in the fellowship hall of our reception after the service. We did not send out invitations except to some family and friends who we knew would want/need such a thing to believe we were really having a wedding, hehe. What we did to get the word out there was to put a magnet save-the-date in the hands of all our loved ones, in baskets at our churches and in our offices to give to folks as they passed through. We also created a facebook event that was open to all our friends. There were no RSVP's to keep up with and no worries about who would sit where. We just knew that the people who wanted to be there with us would be. The ladies of the church also made extra food in case folks did not all bring a dish to share at the luncheon, so we were set. 

Our reception pot-luck
The night before the wedding we had a "rehearsal" which was really just Joel and me explaining that this is not going to be a wedding like folks are used to. We had our musicians and family present just to give them a heads up that the service was about worshiping God and we just want everyone to share that with us. Then we went to a friend's cabin on the lake (also a gift) and had a big meal that my in-laws cooked themselves. It was simple and delicious and ended with a chilly swim. 

Me with my Mother-in-law, Lin. Thanks fro the good eats!
We got married in the morning so our service was at 11am. It would be an hour long worship service. Following it would be the cover-dish luncheon complete with Joel's friend's playing music live. Then later that evening we would have a more intimate party on a friend's farm where there would be dancing, drinking, a whole pig and tent camping. What else could you want? For us, we just wanted people there who wanted to be there to party with us.

In the end, this is all that was paid for:
Joel and I paid for the BBQ Pig and sides for the after-party for 100 people. This was cooked by a friend who charged us $1,000 for all the food and fixin's and his time and equipment. We paid for our marriage licence. I paid $200 for my dress and $70 for Joel's ring. My ring was inherited from my grandmother so Joel lucked out. Then we paid $200 for the cake to be made by a lady in the church who makes REALLY GOOD cake. Joel's parents paid for 3 kegs of beer and whatever food they did not grow for our rehearsal dinner. My mom paid for the tent and the dance floor for our after-party and gave key helpers in the wedding some very nice pottery as a "Thank you". When it was all said and done, between the three of us (Joel's folks, My mom, and us) we only spent $5,000 for what turned out to be 3 big parties. 

Big Joy
With this formula, we found that on our wedding day, it was not about us. It became something so much bigger than that. Everyone we loved had given their time and gifts (which essentially is like giving a piece of your heart) so they were all invested in this day. We took away any of the details that make a couple think this day is all about them. The stress of clothes, makeup, attendants, etc. We both woke up with our families and got ready. My cousin did my hair and makeup, my friends brought over some Bojangles. We just laughed and danced and prepared for a really fun May 15th. It was about a community of people coming together.

When we arrived at Hopewell Presbyterian Church, all the ladies and Luke (my brother-in-law) got ready in the bridal room which mostly meant that we talked and prayed together. When I walked around to head into the church I was stunned. There were so many people in the congregation that folks were still spilling out of the vestibule. I saw my college roommate, church friends, cousins, family, all still pressing their way inside. I hugged people and greeted them and felt so much love even before I entered the Sanctuary. 

Photo by Thuy Butler
There are two aisles at Hopewell, so Joel and his family walked down one while me and my family walked down the other. When we all made it to the front of the Sanctuary, I was so overwhelmed with the turn out that I started crying. The whole placed was packed full. The Hopewell Deacons had added seats anywhere they could squeeze one. All the youth and children of our lives were seated on the floor in the front around our feet. I had asked that the Easter Cross be placed in the front of the church so that the children could flower it like they do on Easter Sunday and it was covered with flowers. 

Photo by Jacki Harp
Hopewell has a wrap-around balcony so the feeling we had standing in front of the church was one of a total envelopment in love. Everyone in the room seemed to be smiling and the joy that was present in the room was pulsating off each heart pounding around us. The joy was tangible, contagious and so holy that most of that hour I was smiling and crying and so thankful. I was also thankful for my mom giving me a hanky before I even left the bridal room.

Photo by Jacki Harp
Since my Dad had passed away during his pastorate at Hopewell and he had given so much of his life and love in these people, I wanted Hopewell to give me away. They are family to me. When that time came, Pastor Alan asked Hopewell people to stand up and and do me that honor. It was the most wonderful and touching gift. Everyone cried and we all seemed united by something inside and outside of us in that moment. It was only a couple years earlier that each of us crammed in that same room for Daddy's funeral and now we had come full circle in celebration. 

My friend Rachel read our scripture verse in her beautiful accent which brought the service back to worship.

Matthew 14:22-33

Walking on the Water

22-23 As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.
24-26 Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.
27 But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”
28 Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”
29-30 He said, “Come ahead.”
Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”
31 Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”
32-33 The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!”
Tracey telling us the Bible Story
After she read it then our friend Tracey came up and told the story as if he were Thomas on the boat watching the whole scene. I felt like we were being transported to that moment. We were in the boat, we have the chance to step out in trust, in joy and in love. Our wedding day felt like that moment both beautiful, awful and full of mystery. We are all in the boat being beckoned into choppy seas of trust and abundance. 
Photo by Thuy Butler
My childhood friend Cameron Moore, now accomplished professional worship leader, led us in the song "Jesus paid it all". The church was just lit up in worship. People were fully engaged in the song. Joel picked all the music aside from two songs that I insisted on. I wanted to walk down the aisle to "Come thou Font" and I really wanted Sufjan Stevens version of "Holy, Holy, Holy" played during the service. This was the first time I had heard "Jesus paid it all" and I will never forget it. 

Then Pastor Alan gave us a message about stepping out of the boat and invited everyone to trust the the one who beckons us onto the sea. It was the perfect message for us, for everyone. We asked Alan to preach as the Spirit led him and he did. 

He invited our friends and family forward to lay hands on us and pray for us. People came forward, children came forward, and all I felt were warm hands pressed against me. I saw smiles, tears, and sincere intention to bless our lives and marriage. Voices prayed for us out-loud from all over, some right over us, some coming from the balcony unseen. It was like the Communion of the Saints, prayers for us coming from heaven. Once the prayer was finished, Joel's brother and friend Angela sang "Holy, Holy, Holy" and was it holy. Joel grabbed my face and started to pray for me. I just cried and smiled and we looked all around the Sanctuary at the room that was filled floor to ceiling with people who chose to be there in celebration with us, in worship, and in love. It was incredible!

Now it was time for our vows. Alan had already asked the congregation to make a covenant to stand by us in our marriage and now it was our turn. When Joel proposed to me it was unplanned. The words that came out of him truly in that moment were totally guided by the Spirit and became the words that we would use as our wedding vows. I promise to love you, honor you, challenge you, cherish you, encourage you, and follow the Lord all the days of our lives. 

Photo by Angela Lauton
Joel kissed me all through the service and we held each other in prayer, in laughter, and in comfort as we cried and sang and celebrated. It was precious and it was the most holy time I have ever felt. When Pastor Alan presented us as husband and wife, music shot over the loud speaker, a little tribute to my Daddy. Bob Dylan sang "I want you" at the top of his lungs as we made our way to the fellowship hall for a traditional Hopewell cover-dish feast and some dancing to the sweet tunes of Fruit Smoothie Trio. 

Photo by Thuy Butler
A Deacon told me later that there were almost 500 people in attendance at our wedding. Due to running out of seats and the kids sitting on the floor, we will never really know how many folks came. 

Photo by Thuy Butler

After all the photos, hugging, eating and dancing, Joel and I took a nap. Then we put on our comfy clothes and headed to the farm for the after-party. We ate BBQ pork and danced the night away. Everyone was in great spirits and we partied hard! This night ended with the most epic of toasts. It didn't really matter what anyone said because they were met with the loudest, most unified, pirate "Arrrrgggh!" Hilarious! In the end, all our friends set up tents on the property and we all camped out which is something I always enjoyed doing as kid on this farm.

Each moment was absolute joy. The whole day was saturated in love and delight. It did not feel for a moment like it was "my day" or "Joel's day". The entire time it felt like we had stepped into God's day, a day exactly the way God would have it. It was a Kingdom day. People coming together to share deep, abiding joy and gratitude for all that He has done. Thank you for choosing to be part of that day with us. Thank you for loving and supporting us. Thank you God for this marriage and all the beauty that has come from a simple, "Yes".