Monday, June 03, 2013

My Gift

This week has been full of overwhelming comprehension of the goodness of God.  More than once this week, I've had to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming.  If I'm honest, I've been pinching myself for well over a year.  I am living out my heart's desire and it is so beautiful.  God's faithfulness is being proven to me over and over with each new day.

I am a believer, a dreamer of dreams.  I know that the Lord has promised certain things to me and I've worked hard to be obedient to His calling.  It hasn't always made sense to me.  Sometimes I've had to leap into the darkness with no idea of what might break my fall.  It's been lonely and scary at times.  And, there have been moments when I wanted to give up hope and stop believing in dreams.  But, the Lord is faithful and He loves His children.  All good and perfect gifts come down from Heaven.

In less than five weeks, I will join hands with the man of my dreams and become his wife.  He is the living, breathing fulfillment of God's promise to me, a desire planted deeply within my heart.  I have prayed and waited for this day for so long, it hardly seems possible that it will be here so soon.  And, the man I will marry is so much more than I could have ever hoped for in a husband.

He loves the Lord.  He has been a believer since he was a child, but in the last ten years, he has fought hard to know who God is and how he is called to follow.  He worships and serves the Lord with gladness and his whole heart.  It's the most beautiful thing to me.

He loves me.  I know this as much as I know my own name.  He loves me and he tells and shows me often.  He puts my needs before his own.  He protects me and fights for me.  He knows me and tenderly serves me.  It's humbling.  It's delightful.

He honors me.  I catch him talking about me sometimes and I'm astounded.  He honors me so well.  He works hard to show me honor in the way he blesses me, but he always speaks of me with high regard and love.  And, he always points to the Lord and how gracious He has been to us.  It warms my heart each and every time.

This man that I love is truly a gift from God.  He is intelligent (much smarter than me!) and he is excellent in his work.  He works hard, even when he is not valued or appreciated, because it is the right thing to do.  He is sought after for his knowledge and his work ethic.  He solves problems and finds solutions (his name can be found multiple times in the U.S. Patent rolls!).  He makes a way where others say it can't be done.

And, he loves to serve.  He is always thinking of ways we can help people.  He is good with his hands and all things mechanical, so he uses those gifts to help wherever he can.  He loves it.  He loves to teach others how to help themselves.  I pray the Lord blesses us with children some day, because he will be an amazing and kind father.

Nick, you bless me far beyond these words can describe.  I am so grateful for you and so humbled that the Lord has chosen this path for us.  Thank you for being the fulfillment of the desires the Lord has planted in my heart, and for being far more than I had hoped or dreamed.  Thank you for giving me a new dream and something new to wish.  I'm so excited to begin this new journey with you.  I can't imagine walking this road with anyone else.  I love you.

Happy Birthday!  May it be the best year yet!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Birthday Blessings

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life." - Proverbs 13:12

For so many years, I held onto a hope that seemed impossible.  I knew that the Lord had something amazing waiting for me, but I just had to stand in obedience until He brought it to fruition.  It is true that "He [makes] all things beautiful in His time" (Ecclesiastes 3:11), but it is sometimes so difficult for us.  Our bodies long and yearn for the fulfillment of our hopes and dreams.  We become heart sick when it seems like we'll never receive the promise.  We ache for what we do not know.

But, then something beautiful happens...God comes through for us.  The joy that is found on that morning is beyond compare.  This year has been a year of desires fulfilled.  I am reveling in the goodness of a Father who would see fit to give me all of these good things.  It's amazing.  It's humbling.  It's more than I dared to dream.

I began this year with a perfect day, and have been experiencing joy like I've never known.  Today was another of those days.

In order for you to understand the meaning of the gift I received today, I need to give a little bit of the back story.  In many Christian traditions, it is customary for a teenage girl to receive a purity or promise ring as a symbol of a commitment to remain pure until marriage.  When I was 16, my parents gave me a purity ring.   promised to wear it and honor its meaning until the day my future husband replaced it with another ring.  The night Nick and I were engaged, I sent this picture to my parents and told them I'd kept my promise.

My hope has long been that I would melt the gold from my ring to make my husband's wedding band.  So, a couple of weeks ago, Nick and I visited our family jeweler and designed his wedding band.  I left my ring to be transformed into a wedding band for my future husband.  I can't wait to give him that band on our wedding day!  

Although we were able to use the gold, I was left with a solitary diamond.  We talked about possible uses for it and ways that we could feature the meaning of the ring from which it came.  But, with all of the other wedding plans, the timing didn't seem wise to spend more money on jewelry.  When we returned to Chicago, the diamond was placed in the safe to be used another time.

Because of all of the focus on the upcoming wedding in July, Nick and I have decided to keep things simple for our birthdays.  Or so I thought...

This man with which the Lord has blessed me honors me so very well.  It is really so humbling.  He took me to dinner tonight for my birthday and told me he had a surprise.  He said that he was able to share our story several times in the last 24 hours and bless people with what God had done for us.  As we waited for our meal, he slid a box with familiar bronze wrapping paper over to me.  When I opened the box, I saw the most beautiful necklace!  He had worked with a jeweler at Jared's to custom design a pendant featuring my diamond.  (It is actually reminiscent of the first necklace he ever bought for me).  It is gorgeous and full of deep meaning and sentiment for us.  A perfect gift! 

He shared with me that our story had served to inspire everyone at the jeweler.  When he came into the store, people wanted to hear the details of what God has done and how Nick has worked to honor our miracle.  I absolutely love the heart of this man!  He takes such great joy in pointing towards the Lord and making sure to give Him glory when he can.  I can't believe how gracious the Lord has been to us!

The sweetest moment of the night came for me when it was time to blow out my birthday candle.  For the first time, since I don't know when, I didn't know how to wish.  For years, every time I had the opportunity to wish for something, my heart wished for this.  Even when it seemed impossible, my heart held onto hope and wished for the fulfillment of this dream.  My eyes filled with tears as I realized that I was right in the middle of seeing God fulfill my heart's desires.  "...A desire fulfilled is a tree of life".  I can definitely say that I am drinking deeply of that cup.  My soul is resonating, to its very core, with the truth that God does come through for us, in His time.  And, it's beyond what we can hope or imagine.

We share our story to share our hope.  We know that the Lord is good and He wants good things for us.  We have walked through times of longing, not knowing what God had in store.  So, as we stand on this mountain top, we want to drink it in.  This is definitely a year of blessing for us; a year of desires fulfilled.  I am so grateful to all of those who are walking with us on this journey.  We love you and can't wait to share more of God's goodness.

I can't wait to see what He has in store and the new dreams He will plant in our hearts.  

Friday, March 29, 2013

Changed for Good

One of the hardest things for me to process, in my life, is the changing nature of relationships.  I love my friends and family fiercely and it's difficult for me when life takes us separate ways.  I've rarely parted ways with someone on bad terms, but sadly, I have had to walk that road at times.  Whether amicable or antagonistic, it's always a little heart-breaking to accept when a relationship is ended or dramatically altered.

I've been thinking about this truth a great deal in the last few months.  I think I'm beginning to find a way to make peace with relationships that aren't what they once were, and those that aren't what I thought they were.

I wonder how other people embrace this inevitable ebb and flow of life.  I love to gain wisdom from the experiences of others.  If anyone has any wisdom to share, I'm happy to hear it.

Right now, this song keeps echoing in my mind:

from Wicked

I'm limited.  Just look at me.  I'm limited
And look at you, you can do all I couldn't do, Glenda.
Now it's up to you for both of us.
Now it's up to you.

I've heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason
bringing something we must learn
And we are lead to those who help us most to grow
if we let them and we help them in return.
Now, I don't know if I believe that's true
but I know I'm who I am today because I knew you.

Like a comet pulled from orbit as it passes a sun
Like stream that meets a boulder halfway through a wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.

It well may be that we may never meet again in this lifetime
So, let me say before we part
So much of me is made from what I've learned from you
You'll be with me, like a handprint on my heart
And whatever way our story ends
I know you have re-written mine by being my friend

Like a ship blown from its mooring by a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a sky-bird in a distant wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But, because I knew you I have been changed for good.

And just to clear the air I ask forgiveness for all the things you blame me for
But, then again we know there's blame to share
And none of it seems to matter anymore

Like a comet pulled from orbit as it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder halfway through a wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
I do believe I have been changed for the better.
Because I knew you
Because I knew you
Because I knew you 
I have been changed for good.

The truth is that everyone we meet helps change, shape and refine us.  So, for all of the relationships I have and have lost, I know I have been changed for good.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Our Perfect Day

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights..." James 1:17

I've heard it said that, "Once in a while, in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairytale".  On December 31st, 2012, the Lord gave me a good and perfect gift.  Nick Giardino, the love of my life, planned a perfect day and the Lord surrounded and protected it with love and beauty.

The entire day was a surprise adventure for me.  Nick planned everything with great love and attention to detail.  I met him at his house that morning and we set off for a day I'll never forget.  It was beautiful to be able to rest and trust in him to lead me through the day.

The Lord gave us beautiful little moments and gifts throughout the day.  As we started on the journey, Nick said we needed to listen to some love songs.  He had a soundtrack for the day!  As he pulled it up on shuffle (it was in order for a different part of the journey), the first song that came on was our song!  We listened through some beautiful love songs and talked as we headed towards our first destination.

As we were driving down the highway, I noticed that we were passing the Chicago Botanic Gardens.  I made a mental note to tell Nick we should go there some day.  But, just as I was thinking that, he quickly turned the car into the entrance!  He had set the GPS to make me think we still had miles to go.  He had told me we were going to a new cafe that we'd never tried, so I was completely surprised to learn that the cafe was at the Botanic Gardens!

As we arrived and began to walk around, he told me that he wanted to take me somewhere beautiful.  He told me that I was the most beautiful person he knew and the gardens were the most beautiful place he could think to bring me.  It was beautiful and peaceful, all covered in snow and ice.  We walked around and talked of God's creativity.  I love Nick's heart.  He kept marveling in the wonder of God's creation.  As humans, it takes us great effort, time and energy to create something truly beautiful.  Few people ever really do manage that.  But, yet, the Lord breathed all of this into existence!  How great is our God?  We spent several hours surrounded by the wonder of His creation.

After walking through the green houses, we found our way to a beautiful and peaceful spot by a lake.  Everything was covered in white.  Off to the right, there was a bell tower.  We took in the moment and talked a little about music.

Nick said to me, "Since we are talking about music, I have a gift to give you".  (First, however, he reached into his pocket and handed me a packet of tissues with my initial on it.  Very thoughtful).  He reached into his backpack and presented me with a lovely box.

I was surprised by the gift!  I had a suspicion that I might receive a different kind of box on that day, but this was completely unexpected.  So, with great curiosity, I opened it.

Inside the box was a Pandora bracelet!  Before I had time to ask any questions, he presented me with another box.

Inside the second box was a beautiful music note charm for the bracelet.  He told me that he wanted to bring me somewhere beautiful and give me something to mark our beginnings.  With extreme thoughtfulness, he planned our day to reflect our journey.  The charm was meant to represent something about our story as well as remind me of the day.  I can't believe how carefully he planned this!  Our journey began 18 years ago at Landmark.  We spent countless hours together in band, on band trips and celebrating our love of music.  We both have a deep love for music and it has woven a thread through our story.  Remember the soundtrack on the drive?  It was all crafted to weave these moments together perfectly.  (I must also note that he meticulously wrapped all of the boxes.  I thought they were professionally wrapped!)

After lunch and a tour through an amazing train exhibit, we headed to our next destination.  This man, who loves me so well, managed every detail of the day.  We had a long drive before our next stop, and this was intentional in his plan. 

We arrived at Navy Pier and the Lord gave us another little gift.  We tried parking in the deck and drove slowly to the top with no success.  There were several cars ahead of us and no one could find a spot.  As we started heading down, the parking security guard stopped us, told us to turn around and he would park us.  We quickly followed his order and he gave us a premium spot in a no parking zone.  We were able to continue on our perfectly timed day.

When we arrived at Navy Pier, Nick gave me another charm for my bracelet.

The clock was to represent the time in our journey.  In fact, in another fingerprint of God, our drive was suddenly detoured due to traffic about half way to Navy Pier.  As I reflected on the day, I realized that the Lord was helping Nick's plan along.  Our journey has been long, but it has also had stops, starts and detours.  And, so our day experienced a touch of the same.

Once at Navy Pier, the plan was to visit Winter Fest.  It was a beautiful explosion of Christmas wonder, complete with an enormous tree, an indoor ice skating rink and an amazing amount of fun.

And, because he knows me so well, he planned for my favorite Chicago snack...Garrett's Popcorn!

We took a moment to stop and enjoy some time together (and amazing Chicago mix popcorn) and Nick gave me another box!

The snowflake bead was intended to represent Winter Fest and Chicago winters.  We have spent several New Year's Eve Nights in the city.  And, it's very cold here!  The Heart bead is a spacer bead (so you will see more of them), but it is intended to show his love for me.  Throughout the day, he just kept telling me that I needed to know how much I was loved - how much he loved me.  So, all of the hearts represent the best thing of all!

We spent some time at Navy Pier and he told me that the next place wasn't as crowded and would be just for the two of us.  But, he was a little nervous because they didn't take reservations on New Year's Eve.  He was hopeful that it would work out.  We should have known that it would be perfect, because this day was a perfect gift from the Lord for both of us!

We drove into the city, parked the car and walked to a corner near the Chicago Water Tower.  And, to my surprise, there waited a horse drawn carriage!  Anyone who knows me knows that I love fairy tales, princesses and all of the things that come with them.  I have never been treated more like a princess than I was on this perfect day!  He made the arrangements and we got into the carriage.  The driver informed us that her name was Corrie and our horse's name was Fiona!  Yet, another little kiss from the Lord, giving us a horse with a princess' name!

If you can see, in this picture, there is a ring on my left hand.  That ring was given to me by my parents when I turned 16.  The ring represents my promise to remain pure before the Lord and for my husband until my wedding day.  As it became clear that this day was leading to something amazing, I sent a message to my Dad.  I said, "I've kept my promise and I will until we're married, but if it's OK with you, I'm hoping to trade this ring for one carrying a different promise tonight".  It was a really beautiful moment for me and my Dad.  Nick had already taken great care to ask my Dad's permission and blessing to marry me, but I wanted to honor them as well by wearing that ring on that day (and be able to hold true to its promise).

While we were on the carriage ride, Nick gave me another bead for my bracelet.

A Cinderella carriage!!!  I really did feel like Cinderella that night!  Nick knows that I have a soft spot for fairy tales and Cinderella has always been my favorite.  He absolutely gave me a magical day! 

After our carriage ride, we stopped and had hot chocolate at the Ghirardelli store.  He had planned for more time in the carriage, but they do not let the carriage on Michigan Avenue until 7pm.  So, we had a few minutes to spare.  As we were enjoying our hot chocolate and each other's company, we saw a fancy horse and carriage drive by!

His name was Socks and he just knew he was royalty!  We followed him and his driver Christine to their stop and took a ride down Michigan Avenue - the Magnificent Mile!

While we enjoyed the Christmas lights on this carriage ride, Nick gave me yet another bead for my bracelet!  I was surprised because I'd already gotten the bead to represent the carriage ride!  This man loves me so well!

He gave me a Christmas tree bead to represent the lights we saw on the carriage ride.  Also, he knows that I really love Christmas and one of my favorite things was buying our Christmas tree together.  We took great care, this year, in decorating his house for Christmas and he reflected that in our perfect day.

Once the carriage ride was over, it was time for our dinner reservation.  We drove to our hotel, the Fairmont Chicago.  He checked us into the hotel, took our bags upstairs, and then we went to dinner at Aria.  (Note: musical term!)

As our courses began to arrive, he took my hand and blessed the food.  Once he had finished praying, he gave me another box!

He told me that he wanted to give me this bead at the beginning because our story is not possible without the Lord.  He has been SO gracious to us!  He chose to give it to me later in the evening because of the placement on the bracelet, but, in truth, our story is built on a foundation of grace and mercy from our heavenly Father.

Once we had finished with dinner, it was time to go upstairs.  He told me that he needed to go into the room for a moment.  When he came back, he said, "It's not what you think right now".  I simply trusted him and walked into the room.  The sight that greeted me truly took my breath away.

It was simply amazing!  His parents had secretly helped him with his plan!  They arranged the room so perfectly while we were in the city.  There were 18 dozen roses beautifully arranged in vases set around the room (1 for each year that we have known each other).  There were princess touches everywhere!  There were candles, strands of pearls, crystals, and even glass slippers!  The walkway was peppered with rose petals and lead me to the table where another box rested upon Nick's Bible.  He asked me to open it.

As I looked at a bead representing a ring bearer's pillow holding rings, he said, "What's in that one?"  As I turned to him, tears already streaming down my face, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him!  In his hand was another box with a different treasure.

Isn't it beautiful!?!  There are so many stories that accompany this ring.  When he was shopping for it, he wanted to find the perfect ring for me.  He studied so much about diamonds and what makes them perfect.  He learned that Tolkowski (of Tolkowski diamond fame) was actually a mathematician.  He discovered new ways to cut and design diamonds so that they would reflect light perfectly.  Nick searched through thousands of diamonds and hundreds of settings.  He found a diamond that is almost mathematically perfect!  I love that my engineer has such a big piece of himself in the ring he placed on my hand!  It's perfect for us!

Of course, I answered, "YES!" to his question and we both celebrated the moment.  It was absolutely amazing!  But, I also had a surprise for him!  I asked him if it would be OK if I gave him something.  (He was on quite the roll and I wanted to make sure I wasn't interrupting his plan!).

A few weeks before Christmas, we had been talking about what we would give one another for Christmas.  He mentioned a few things and then surprised me by saying he thought he might like a promise ring.  I'm so glad he said that!  I started the search.  There's a jewelry company that I love called Remember Me Jewelry.  The designer puts great care and thought into each piece.  They are meant to tell a story.  I found a ring called "A Man After God's Own Heart".  It's perfect for our story!  Nick loves the Lord and loves me and honors us both really well.  I wanted to give him something that reflected that.

He accepted my ring as a promise to make him my husband!  At this point, it was nearing the midnight hour and he wanted us to watch the fireworks.  But, from our suite, we weren't sure we were going to be able to see them.  As we welcomed the new year, as an engaged couple, we heard the fireworks begin.  We ran to the windows and found that we were able to see the fireworks just over a building by Lake Michigan!

Nick was so excited!  It was the final piece of the puzzle and he had been afraid it wouldn't come through for us.  He rushed into the other room, grabbed the champagne and poured a toast for us.  As we welcomed 2013, he gave me one last gift.

He completed my bracelet with a firework!  He really thought of everything!  It's such a gift to know that someone loves me enough to give me such a perfect day!

It's so amazing to see my bracelet every day and remember each moment!  It was like something out of a movie!  I truly felt like Cinderella at the ball with my Prince Charming!

The next morning, as we were thinking over how well everything went and all of the little things and moments the Lord gave us, Nick said something I will never forget.  He said, "The only way we got a perfect day like that is because the Lord said, 'You are my daughter and I love you and I want you to have this perfect gift".

I can't wait to marry this man the Lord has given me!

We can't say it enough that our journey, our beautiful story, is only possible because the Lord has been gracious to us.  He loves us so much and He has good things for His children.  Truly, every good and perfect gift comes down from above, from a heavenly Father who loves us more deeply than we will ever understand.  I hope you find hope, love, and peace in the sharing of our gift.  The Lord is good and His mercy never fails.