Category Archives: Married Life

Pray for Your Pastor

Lord, Thank You For My Pastor, Bill Carroll And His Wife Sue within Encouraging Quotes For Pastors

Today, would you pray for your pastor(s)?

Oftentimes, people ask me how they might best encourage their pastors. Although I can’t speak for every pastor (or pastor’s spouse), I can share what would most encourage me (and my pastor-husband agrees).

What is the one thing that would most encourage a pastor? PRAYER. Truly, as pastors, we need prayer (and so do our families).

Ministry isn’t a 9-5 job. It’s all-consuming, no matter how intentional one might be in establishing boundaries and practicing the spiritual disciplines. The weight of the responsibilities: spiritual, administrative, relational, etc.; the desire to shepherd, lead, and care for others; and the sincere love of the church is always on a pastor’s heart and mind.

As pastors, my husband and I are committed not to act as if we have it all together, because we don’t. We hold our marriage, family, ministries and pastoral callings close to our hearts. And we don’t take those relationships or responsibilities lightly.

We also realize that our battle isn’t merely against ‘flesh and blood’. There are battles for which we fight, but are unable to see with human eyes. For some, this may sound absolutely absurd, and I understand. But for those of you who know about that of which I speak, I am not hesitant to ask for prayer.

How can you encourage your pastors? I truly believe it’s through prayer. Might I suggest a few ways for you to pray for your pastor(s) and their family?

• Pray for their spiritual health that it might be authentic and ever-deepening. Not routine, formulaic, or mundane.

•Pray for an unwavering ability to distinguish and hear God’s still, small voice amongst the competing noise of life, in order to lead effectively, shepherd diligently, and love unconditionally.

•Pray for them to identify and regularly connect with someone who can be a “pastor to the pastor” in order to purposefully and intentionally care for their soul and spiritual needs. This may be a soul friend, a spiritual director, or even another pastor.

•Pray against discouragement and attacks. Pastoral ministry can be brutal, discouraging work. Daily, pastors walk alongside of the hurting in their congregation and community, doing their best to navigate horrific and hurtful situations – divorce, death, spiritual doubt and disillusionment, and so much more. In addition to congregational concerns, pastors also have to navigate difficult, real-life, personal situations in their own families.

•Pray for their health and for rest that is refreshing and restorative. Pray for times of recreation that will allow their ministry mind to be turned ‘off,’ so they can simply ‘be’ and not feel as if they always have to be ‘on’.

•Pray for them to develop authentic friendships with safe, trusted ones who will simply allow them to be a person, not always on-call as a pastor. To intentionally connect with others with whom they can be completely real and vulnerable—sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly without judgment or criticism.

•If married, pray for their marriage to be protected, nurtured, and strengthened. To have consistent date nights and meaningful conversations, void of discussing church, work, or the like.

•If they are parents, pray for their kids. To know and love Jesus. To have a true connection with Him as their personal Savior. To find their identity in Christ alone, not in their pastor-parents’ job(s) and, especially, not in other people’s (unrealistic) expectations. Pray for the children of pastors to be resilient and understanding, specifically when pastor-parents are unable to attend their activities due to the demands of ministry or when last-minute meetings and/or emergencies arise.

As a pastor, this is what would greatly encourage me. And I believe it might encourage your pastor, too.

How else might you pray for and/or encourage your pastor(s) and their family?

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Leadership Lessons: Quacking, It Ain’t Just for Ducks!

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Edited to note: To be certain, this post was not directed to or related to one specific instance or conversation. It was borne out of a question someone posed to me about how I, personally, and our family, collectively, have purposefully persevered in ministry over the last 20 years. Serving in ministry, specifically, and leadership, in general, one receives constant feedback, both positive and negative. Aside from a deep and abiding faith in Christ, what has sustained us is making sure to have truth-tellers in our lives and tools that help us discern the many voices and messages that we are surrounded by daily.  The following tools have been greatly beneficial in helping us not only to survive, but to thrive in ministry and leadership.
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In the beginning, Jon was my boss, not my boyfriend or husband. Right out of college, I was hired by a para-church ministry and began working with him as part of his leadership team. And today, he’s both my supervisor and my husband! Pretty sweet, if I do say so myself!

Over the last twenty years, I’ve learned a lot about leadership from Jon. And I have grown significantly as a leader because of his belief in me and his insistence, er, I mean, encouragement to develop all the skills and abilities that God gave me, even if that meant living outside of the box of peoples’ expectations or personal opinions. Although he has shared many leadership lessons, there are two that stand out and have stuck with me over the years and in various vocational endeavors.

First, Jon insisted that our leadership team identify the truth-tellers in our lives. People we could trust and count on to provide honest, constructive feedback, which is essential to grow and develop as a leader. He assured us these voices were the ones we needed to zero in on and clearly hear because there would be countless others trying to drown them out and pull us down.

To this very day, I have a cherished and respected group of truth-tellers in my life. People who come alongside me and share personal insight and biblical wisdom, so that I may grow as a Christian, a wife, a mom, and a pastor. This is a network of individuals with whom I am completely vulnerable and authentic. No topic is off-limits, and I openly request and receive their feedback, insights and truth.

Along with identifying our truth-tellers, Jon also shared an important tool with our leadership team in dealing with the criticism and constant negative feedback from naysayers. Nearly two decades later, this tool continues to be one that I draw upon in those moments when a random person belittles me, criticizes me, or tells me how I should be doing my job, how I should parent, or even their opinion about my role in my marriage.

What is this amazing leadership tool?

QUACKING!

Pure and simple: I quack. Not out loud for others to hear because then, I’d be labeled a quack. Instead, with a big smile on my face, I go to my happy  place in my head, and I quack. Trust me, it works! Quacking is a metaphor for letting things roll off your back like ‘water off of a duck’s back’. Not taking the criticism to heart. Remembering to listen to the voice of Truth (God) and your truth-tellers.

In the Bible, we are told words can build up or tear down (Ephesians 4:29*). People have strong opinions about a pleothra of topics that directly relate to my life, my job, my educational choices for my kids, my marriage, and the list goes on and on and on. And, wouldn’t ya know, they freely and frequently share those opinions as if it was God’s word to me from them. And ya know, sometimes, they’re valuable. Other times, not so much.

Along with the Holy Spirit, I do believe God uses godly people to encourage and instruct us. People who have been there and done that. A trusted circle who will purposefully share from a place of wisdom, instead of personal preference. For me, the voices that I readily listen to and hold close to my heart are those of my truth-tellers, not the masses.

Have you developed a network of truth-tellers in your life? If not, I’d encourage you to pray about that and to begin to identify who those people are in your life. As we learn to listen beyond the clutter of noise that infiltrates our lives, and to sift through the negativity, varied opinions and personal preferences, our truth-tellers become those voices for which we can depend upon to speak truth and life, even if it’s hard to hear in the moment. These are the voices we need to hear and to heed.

Are you dealing with a special personality in your place of employment or a challenging individual in your network of aquaintances? Oftentimes, these people haven’t earned a place of trust in your life or a right to speak so directly to you that you would even take them seriously. Even still, they believe they know what you should be doing, how you should be doing it, and when you should be doing it. Sometimes, it can be hard not to retaliate to what they are saying to you, especially if it’s hurtful or condemning.

As Pastor Jon shared yesterday, “At times, we need to speak the truth. But, sometimes, we simply need to keep our mouths shut.”

Trust me, this isn’t always easy, especially when it feels like a personal attack. It requires self-control. Or, perhaps, duck tape! I mean, it does come in many cute colors and designs now. We could make a fashion statement while keeping our mouths shut. Seriously, though, if this is the case for you, consider quacking! For many years, it’s worked for me. If you try it, let me know!

I have to believe that people don’t intend to be hurtful, or to put their foot in their mouth, or to act like they know-it-all. Or maybe they do. Even still, I choose to give them the benefit of the doubt. So, I keep my truth-tellers close and my quacking even closer. And maybe, just maybe, I will invest in some leopard print duck tape, too! I need all the help I can get!

* When you talk, don’t say anything bad. But say the good things that people need—whatever will help them grow stronger. Then what you say will be a blessing to those who hear you. (Ephesians 4:29 )

 

The Day I Saw Life In Color Again

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The Day I Saw Life In Color Again
by Jada A. Swanson

Some folks, even some “good” Christian folks, have shared some rather stupid and callous thoughts and remarks regarding Robin Williams’ death, the illness of depression, in general, and how it relates to the Christian life, specifically. Suggesting it’s predominantly a spiritual issue, and the person who is depressed merely needs to “get right with God” to be healed. As a pastor, and one who has walked the dark road of depression, specifically post-partum depression (PPD), I can assure you this isn’t the case.I wasn’t depressed because I lacked faith or didn’t believe enough.

In 2003, ten days after becoming a mom for the very first time, we made a cross-country move, were in the middle of selling two homes, and purchasing another one. Plus, my husband was joining a new pastoral staff; thus, our family was joining a new church. In addition to all of this, I was relocating my job to another state and continuing to tele-commute. Having no family near, living in a new state, attending a new church, being a mom for the first time–well, all of this was just a tad-bit overwhelming for me.

The summer my baby boy turned one, I was slowly beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And I could tell little by little, the ‘dark days’ were lifting. Just as I was beginning to feel normal again, I discovered that I was pregnant with our second child, my daughter. This pregnancy was a complete and utter surprise to us, considering we didn’t think we would be able to have anymore children. Thanks to the “happy pregnancy hormones,” the nine months that I carried her in my womb were clear and beautiful and bright.

But shortly after my daughter’s birth, my “ole friend” came to visit once again, this time with a vengeance. Everything seemed to be exacerbated by a hormonal imbalance and an inability to produce milk, which resulted in feeding difficulties. All of which required me to feed/pump/supplement my baby girl every two hours around the clock, sun up to sundown. Can anyone say insomnia? Regardless, I still had a 21-month old son to take care of, along with needing to return to work one month after my daughter’s birth because I didn’t have a job that offered paid maternity leave. All of this made me feel even more lost and alone, even though my husband was amazing, supportive and a complete hands-on dad.

After Jamison was born, I literally don’t know how I got through my days. I would get in the car, put on my seatbelt, start the ignition, and that was it. What happened from Point A to Point B is beyond me. I have absolutely no memories of driving to work or how I got there. Somehow, I managed to make it to work on the days I had to go into the office without having a wreck.

Although I never tried to commit suicide, there were many times I would think and tell myself that my family would be better off without me. I could hardly function. While at home, I was a shell of myself. Crying because I couldn’t find an article of clothing, only to discover I was holding it in my hands the entire time.

Unfortunately, during this time, healthy communication wasn’t my forte and more tears were shed and voices raised than I care to admit. My brain was just too foggy. I was utterly exhausted. And I felt nothing. I knew I loved my family, but I felt no feelings of love or happiness or anything. I was completely numb. Still, my husband stood by my side, unwaveringly. Yet, I am sure, this time was anything but easy for him. After the fact, he has shared with me how difficult it was for him, personally.

At church, I put on the smile that I was supposed to have. I played the part, or tried to play the part. While I was at work at the university, all I wanted to do was crawl under the piano in my office and take a nap, but I couldn’t. To this day, I think my job was God’s gift to me. Because of it, I had to get out of bed three days a week, shower and get dressed in something other than yoga pants or pajamas. But most importantly, my job allowed me to be around people, lots of people.

For whatever reason–pride, all types of fear, even lack of knowledge–I never went to the doctor to seek out help or medication. Looking back, I wish I would have. It would have saved my family and myself from so much turmoil and strife. But I will never forget the day that I saw life in color again. It was the first Sunday of July 2007.

Earlier that summer, my pastor-husband asked me to begin leading worship again. At this point, I honestly couldn’t bare to look at music or sit at the piano for more than five minutes. (Ironic that I was a music professor, eh?) A few times, I had been asked to sing on the worship team at church, but honestly couldn’t remember the words to songs I had sung my entire life.

Even still, I agreed to begin leading worship on one condition: only if it was a small team (me, a drummer and a bass guitarist). If I was sitting at the piano, surely I could read the music. Not to mention, I didn’t have to memorize the words. Plus, with a smaller team, there were fewer pieces of the puzzle to try to figure out. This was all good. Still, I was terrified.

That Sunday morning, I had willed myself out of bed because I had committed to do something. Even in the midst of the darkness, I wanted to keep my word. I walked into the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and did a double-take. Seriously, that’s how it went. That’s how quickly it all happened. It was just like the scene from “The Wizard of Oz” when it goes from black and white to Technicolor. It was as if a screen had been lifted from in front of me or as if scales had been removed from my eyes.  (A few years later, I did go for counseling, and my counselor told me that many people shared with her a similar experience when their PPD lifted.)

In that moment, I knew something had changed. Tears flowed from my eyes, but it wasn’t the tears that I had been crying for months on end. These seemed different. Cleansing, even healing. My brain felt significantly different, clearer and more responsive. I called out to my husband to get out of bed, so I could tell him what was happening. He could see a difference on my face.

When I sat down at the piano at church, I could clearly see the music on the page. Before this moment, the music was just a blob of black and white that didn’t make much sense. Or, at times, would appear to be moving, even thought I knew it couldn’t be or wasn’t. That’s how off my mental capacities were. But this day, everything was different. And I sang. And I felt whole. I FELT! I felt so much, internally and externally. I hadn’t felt anything in so many months!

After church, I walked outside and fully experienced the beauty of the Colorado sunshine, and felt it’s intense warmth enveloping me. As I went to bed that evening, I was scared that I would wake up the next morning only to realize it had all been a dream. That I wouldn’t experience the clearness or clarity again. But I didn’t. When I woke up the next morning, I knew I had finally said goodbye to my companion, Post-Partum Depression. It was finally over.

At this point my daughter was nearly 2 1/2 years old. Ironically, a few weeks later, I had an appointment to see my OB/GYN. Finally, I was able to  share all about the dark days, as well as the day I was, once again, able to see life in FULL COLOR. She confirmed that, yes, what I had experienced was PPD. And, most likely, this change was due to hormones being back to normal, consistently getting enough rest, and beginning to feel as if I had found a support system, apart from my husband. Before I left, she asked me why I had never come in for help, either for medication or counseling. I just shrugged my shoulders because honestly, I didn’t know why. Stubbornness? Pride? Fear? All of the above.

Throughout that season, I was hardly able to read my Bible, much less joyfully sing songs. But I prayed. Sometimes, all I could muster forth was, “Jesus, help me!” I cried out to Him. Although my brain was significantly foggy, I knew it had nothing to do with sin or because God was upset with me. And I was convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, he hadn’t left me or given up on me. Still, there were dark days. Many dark days.

In fact, those were the darkest days of my life. And I thank God that I was able to get to the other side. To be honest, there were days I wondered if I ever would. So when I come across folks who make callous, casual remarks about depression, especially those who equate it with lack of faith or disbelief, I get a bit angry. You see, it’s personal for me. I have lived it and experienced it. I am not an expert, just someone who’s walked that road, and can now reach out to others who are walking it themselves.

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression in any form or way, please don’t be like me and not seek out medical assistance. Reach out to others. Go see your doctor or a trained counselor. Know that there are resources to help you. And to others, please remember these words, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”** It may not be depression, but I can assure, it’s something. Be kind. Be available. Be compassionate.

**Edited to note: This quote above has been attributed to Plato, Philio and Rev. John Watson (aka Ian MacLaren). Regardless, it speaks a powerful truth.

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A Letter to My Husband

Today, I am excited to be contributing to the “Equally Yoked” series over at Jenny Rae Armstrong’s blog. 

 
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To my husband, my love, my partner and friend,

In just a few days, we will be celebrating 14 years of marriage, partnership, and teamwork. Where have the years gone? Sometimes, it feels as if we’ve been together all of our lives and at other times, merely a few days.

We took to heart the advice we were given on our wedding day: LAUGH. Laugh a lot.

And we have laughed…A LOT!  

We’ve laughed at ourselves, and we’ve laughed at each other. When things were funny and when things were not funny at all. Finding the comic relief of the situation seemed to help. And after all these years, it just takes one look —you know THAT look— and we start laughing all over again.

But we’ve cried, too. 

To read more, CLICK HERE to head over to jennyraearmstrong.com

Date Nights: Fun & Frugal Ideas

 

Although I am not a relationship expert and don’t play one on TV, I have been dating the same man since 1996 (married since 1999).  And I intend to date this man until we are old and grey, over-the-hill and can hardly manage to get up from our easy chairs. To this day, he’s still the one that makes my heart flutter and my emotions soar from one extreme to the other. Just keeping it real, people!  After all, we are human!

Although our relationship has endured numerous changes, various seasons and major transitions, one thing remains constant: the importance of spending real time with one another (quality and quantity) in order to nurture and grow this sacred relationship.  To this very day, it remains a priority for both of us. (Seriously, we are going on a date this very evening!)

When we were dating, we determined work-related functions were not, and never will be, considered a date. If it’s a work-event, one of us will be performing a job not investing in or focusing on the other person. Then, after getting married and having kids, we realized how much babysitting costs. Therefore, we decided if we were going to spend the money on childcare, it was gonna be for a bona fide date.

From the start of our marriage, we made a point to continue pursuing one another,  going on dates, etc.  Over the years, our definition of what constitues a date changed. We realized that a date was any time spent together, which drew us closer to one another. No longer was date night relegated to dinner and a movie or, for that matter, even leaving the house. Instead, it was about finding any and all creative ways and means to invest in and nurture this significant relationship without breaking the bank.

Folks, marriage takes work! And we signed up for a long-term investment and return. To have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part. He’s stuck with me! Poor thing! So, we’ve determined to make it fun and fabulous! Over the years, my husband and I have come up with some creative ideas for fun and frugal dates. Check ’em out!

1. Coffee Talk

Our very first date was at a coffee shop, and we continue to enjoy coffee dates.    Now, whenever our kids have a class or activity that involves both of them, we do our best to arrange our work schedules to be off at the same time. Even if it’s just for an hour, it’s nice to have some uninterrupted adult conversation.

Several years ago, we saved up and purchased a swanky espresso maker. Hands-down, it was one of the best investments. Yep, it was significant moola on the frontend, but in six months it paid for itself.  (We used it so much it died, and were surprised to receive another one for Christmas.)  In the comfort of our own home, we can create all sorts of coffee creations, and have a date without leaving our humble abode.

2. Dinner and a movie

This used to be the typical date night for us, especially pre-kids when both of us worked full-time and funds were flowing freely. Now, we enjoy eating a nice candlelit dinner at home. Since I love to cook,  we splurge on fabulous ingredients for our dinner and rent a movie from Red Box (Seriously, a dollar for a movie! Come on folks, little investment for serious returns!)  

Sometimes, we wait until the kids have gone to bed. Other times, we plop the kids in front of a kid-friendly movie downstairs, while we enjoy a movie upstairs.  Of course, the dishes still have to be washed, but our kids have  inherited that responsibility! See, being an adult isn’t all bad! 🙂

2. Let’s Get Physical

Get your mind out of the gutter! Although that is a free and frugal date option, if you are married, it’s not what I am talking about at all. Head outdoors. Take a hike. Go for a walk or jog. Now that our kids are older, we leave them for a few minutes and take a walk up our cul-de-sac. When they were younger, we’d pile them into the wagon, bundle them in layers in the wintertime, and walk around the block. A few years ago, we joined the YMCA.  The membership provides two hours of child-watching. Folks, let me tell ya, that’s a serious commodity. Workout for an hour, then enjoy a cup of tea/coffee and adult conversation. Score!

3. The S’more the Better

When we lived in Denver, we purchased a fire pit, which was another great investment. During that season, our kids went to bed super-early (6:30/7PM). You can better believe we took advantage of those glorious evening hours. We kept a box filled with S’mores supplies. After the kids were down and out, we’d light the fire, snuggle on the porch swing, and enjoy a few moments together. This tradition continues to this day, minus the porch swing that got left in Denver! 🙂

4. Fun in the Sun

Especially since we live in the Pacific Northwest, if it’s a sunny day, you’ll find us outside. Sometimes, we might work in the yard, relax on our deck, go on a bike ride, or take a nap on the trampoline.  Remember the YMCA membership? It includes the option of checking the kids in while we enjoy a walk/ride around the lake. Huge membership perk! On other gorgeous days in this area of the country, we love driving into Seattle, walking around the Market and taking a ferry ride.

5. Road Trips

From the beginning of our relationship, we have enjoyed road trips. One of mine and Jon’s first (parent-approved) road trips was a non-stop drive from Louisiana to Southern California. Yes, non-stop. Well, other than the necessary pitstops.  I accepted a new job in Southern California, so Jon flew from Seattle to Louisiana and drove me and all my earthly possessions to my new home. He earned significant brownie points with my dad!

Although gas is no longer cheap, we still love taking day trips. To make the trip cost-effective, we pack a thermos of coffee, snacks and a picnic lunch. Most often, our kids come with us, so we make sure to have audio books. They are entertained by the story, and we get to have an actual conversation while we drive along the back roads or through the city.

On your road trips, pretend you are tourists: take pictures, read the historical markers and make many memories. Don’t forget the tunes. Road trips need good music. There’s nothing like rolling down the windows and cranking up the music.

6. Park-ing

Again, NOT what you think. Although that’s fun, even for old married couples! Since many of our dates involve our kids, we have discovered several area parks from Bellingham to Tacoma and many towns in between that have great playgrounds.  Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a few hours. While the kids play, we enjoy catching up.  You just might find us reliving our childhoods. I mean, come on, don’t you still like to slide or swing? No! Well, you should try it. You’re never too old or too cool.

7. Study Dates

Now some would say this isn’t a date, but remember dates are anything that brings husband and wife closer together. For us, this does. It all started a few years ago, when we were both enrolled in doctoral programs and working. Date nights were cherished. So, we made the most of a busy season, and realized it was quite enjoyable to engage with one another in this way.

Currently, we are both taking classes with books  to read and papers to write.  Bouncing ideas off of one another is mutually beneficial. Not to mention, we find it gets the creative juices flowing. Plus, it makes the mundane tasks more enjoyable. And I quite enjoy gazing across the table at such a handsome man, especially when he’s deep in thought! 🙂

8. Power Shower:

This one will make my Southern grandmother blush, but sometimes you gotta get creative! Plus, my husband insisted I include this one! You may laugh, but we have some serious discussions in the shower.  Our kids enjoy screen time, which is a big deal in our home, and the parents get 15 -20 minutes of uninterrupted talk time. Plus, I mean, come on, we enjoy a few smooches, too! You gotta shower. You gotta pay for the water. And when you have kids, you gotta be creative!

So, get creative and invest in your marriage! A date doesn’t have to break the bank to reap big returns! Now, please excuse me while I go and get ready for my date! 🙂

So what about you? Do you make date nights a priority?
Have some fun and frugal ideas you can share?

Still the one…


Officially, we had only been dating about six weeks. So, I didn’t expect anything big in the way of Valentine’s Day celebrations. Not to mention, since I was living and working in Southern California and he was living and working in Seattle, distance was a factor.

A mutual friend of mine and Jon’s had invited me to spend the weekend with her family in Santa Maria, CA, near Pismo Beach (LOVE this place). I thought this was a good idea, especially since my beau would not be around Valentine’s Day weekend.

Or would he? 

That morning was like any other morning, I got up and got ready to head to the office. For some reason, I decided to dress up that day, even though Fridays were always casual where I worked. I remember walking through the door only to hear, “Well, well! Aren’t we looking fancy-schmancy today! Why are you all dressed up?”

I responded, “Oh, I don’t know.”

My satchel was heavy, so I wanted to drop it off at my desk before heading to the Break Room for coffee. As I rounded the corner, I noticed everyone was on their phones. In a split second, I remember thinking, “Has the receptionist even turned the phones on yet? Maybe they are checking voicemail. But why are they all talking?” (Later, I found out they were all talking to one another. It was part of “The Plan”.)

Then, for a moment, time stood still. 

Ten feet away from where I was, I saw my cubicle. My desk. My chair. Slowly the chair swiveled around to face me. And to my utter disbelief and shock, there he was.

It was him, only different. He’d shaved off his beard. Now, he looked much younger. Yet, it was still him.

In the flesh.

In my office.

Sitting at my desk.

Apparently, I didn’t welcome him with open arms. Actually, I remember screeching and walking rather quickly (he says running) to the Break Room. Then, turning back to see if I had dreamt it all. I nearly walked right into him on the way back to my desk. He grabbed me and gave me the biggest hug ever. And I just melted into his arms. Still wondering if this was real, or not.

Was he really here? Was I really looking at him?

You see, I had just spoken to him the night before, and he said he had to work over the weekend. He even told me to be expecting a delivery at home, not work, and that he hoped I liked it. Yet, in reality, he was in Southern California spending the evening with a friend. He had been planning this for several weeks.

One minute it was on, the next it wasn’t. His boss gave him the time off, then said he couldn’t have it. Finally, he went to her and said, “This is the woman I am going to marry, so even if I don’t have a job when I come back, I’m going to go see her.” Guess what? His boss said, “Well, if you will put your job on the line for a woman, she must be pretty special. We’ll see you when you get back.”

HOLY COW! Who does that? He did. (I know, I can’t believe it either!)

After I regained my composure and pinched him a time or two to make sure that he was indeed real, I sat down at my desk. I asked him a million and one questions in about one minute. Poor guy. He answered as best he could. By this time, the office was filling up and everyone was coming around grinning from ear to ear. You see, just about everyone that I worked with was in on this little surprise. Everyone that is, but me!

After morning prayer (I worked for a non-profit music ministry), the day began in a flurry. I had a lot to do. Many calls to make. Auditions tapes and packets to listen to and go over. And 5 o’clock wouldn’t get here fast enough.

I asked him what he was going to do for the day. He said, “Well, first, I am going to get your keys and take your car to have serviced. Then, I’ll come back and we can have lunch together.”

And that’s exactly what he did.

He took my car for an oil change, tire rotation and full-scale detail. Then, arrived with a coffee in hand and waited until it was time for me to go to lunch.

Really? I mean, REALLY!? Who does that? 

After work, we made a quick trip to my house, where I packed a bag. We drove up the 101 to Santa Maria, where we spent the weekend with my friend’s family. We ate clam chowder out of bread bowls and walked along Pismo Beach. Enjoyed a great meal at a dinner theater. And attended  church with my friend and her fiance’ before driving back down the 101 to Ventura.

At the close of the weekend, it was hard to say goodbye. Yet, I knew this one was a keeper. My heart was safe with him. And I never looked back or let go. And neither did he.

And here we are 15 years later.  
Still celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Jon & Jada

Jon & Jada

Over the years, we have begun new traditions, such as Family Valentine’s Celebration. This year, we are taking the kids to a guest house for pastors and their families at Miracle Ranch. We were told there are many activities planned, including horseback riding. Mostly, though, we’re just looking forward to spending time with the ones that we love. We just like being together. All of us. Hanging out. Doing something or nothing at all.

But I still think about our very first Valentine’s Day. Such sweet memories. Most specifically, it was the day a boy professed his love to a girl. A girl, who up until that moment, was keeping him at arm’s length. To her, Valentine’s 1997 is when her heart became his forever. She realized this man would do whatever it took to provide for her, care for her, and protect her.

She discovered that he, most definitely, was (and still is) the ONE.


A Christmas To Remember

Is there one special Christmas that you remember? Or maybe special traditions that you will never forget?

During this time of year, I always remember a very special Christmas that I will never forget….the Christmas of 1996.

A recent college graduate, I was spending my last Christmas living at home. Many changes were taking place in my life. Some of my own doing, and others that caught me completely off guard.

A new job.

A new love.

Can you guess which one caught me off guard?

On Christmas Day in 1996, all of the packages had been unwrapped, and I sat down to enjoy another cup of coffee before I got to work. I had much to do, many lists to make and a lot of packing to complete. You see, I was moving cross-country from North Louisiana to Southern California to begin a position with a music ministry organization.

As I sat down to begin making my lists, my mom walked down the steps and handed me an enormous box.

I thought, “All the gifts have been opened. What could this be?”

Since I had just arrived home from a three month music tour and because stuff was always forgotten, I thought, perhaps, it was something that I had left on the tour bus. But why had my my mom waited to give it to me on Christmas Day?

My mind was racing with a million questions, especially when I noticed the return address: Issaquah, WA.  Was it from him? 

As soon as the question entered my mind, the logical, practical Jada took over saying,”Don’t get excited. Don’t get your hopes up!”

You see, the ‘him’ to which I was referring was not only the tour’s director, but also my supervisor and someone I deeply respected. He had become a very dear friend. And  maybe, just maybe I had developed a little crush on him! Okay, there was nothing little about it! No, it was an enormous one! Actually, it was more than a crush! Can’t even deny it! (But no one on tour knew because that wasn’t allowed, especially if you were in leadership! It was a LONG three months!)

As I opened the box, I found many  thoughtful items:

Frango chocolates.
A Kim Anderson book.
And a card, picturing this sweet boy, filled with sentiments written in the handwriting of this very close friend.



There were other surprises, too. But the most special, most thoughtful surprise was printed on antiqued paper, rolled up and tied with a red satin ribbon.

You see, this friend knew that nearly everyday I prayed for God to make his desires for my life, my heart’s desires, and to make them obvious, and plain before me. And that I would learn to trust him with all of my life and relinquish the control, which I found next to impossible to release.

This friend also knew my life’s verses:

Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
(Psalm 37:4-5)

So, what was rolled up in the scroll, tied with a red bow? Well, it was a musical composition for solo piano. For the last three months of tour, this friend spent his free time composing a song for ME, and it was based upon my life’s verses. Never before had I received such a personal, thoughtful, and creative gift.

As my eyes scanned the music notes on each page, I discovered this was a complex composition. One that even I wouldn’t merely be able to sit down and play myself. I wondered how I would know what it sounded like. But he had thought of everything. There in the very bottom of the box was a case that held a cassette tape (Yes, these were the days of cassette tapes). On this tape was a recording of this special musical composition–

Jada: Psalm 37:4-5

Quickly, I found a tape player, so I could listen to the composition. And I listened to it over and over and over again.

And then, he called me!

One week later on New Year’s Eve, he flew from Seattle to Louisiana (via Dallas TX) to profess his love to me and to drive me cross-country, so I could begin my new job. All of this greatly impressed my parents, especially since they didn’t want their daughter driving 20+ hours all by herself.

Prior to us heading out on our journey, my dad told this man he had permission to MARRY ME! At that very moment, I wanted to instantly be swallowed up by the spot on the floor where I was standing.

I thought, “Well, that was good while it lasted!”

And it was good. In fact, it is still good. Great, actually. Adventure-filled, faith-building, risk-taking and life-changing.

But what about that Christmas song? Well, on May 22, 1999 that very song was played as I walked down the aisle to marry the composer.

And to this day, the music continues…