Trying to get back into the swing of things, but three children 6 and under make finding time hard : ) I have had a few request regarding the “Just water the camels” story and my courtship story so I thought I would repost the story that I have had published in a few magazines and try to piggy back from there with excerpts from my book.
My love story actually starts with a story…
January of 2002, I was sitting in our living room with my parents and brother. My dad and brother worked for the same company a few miles down the road and they came back to our house every day for lunch. Our lighthearted discussion switched to the not so cheerful topic of the upcoming tax season. In the middle of our discussion, my dad exclaimed, “Brian, have you changed your number of dependents?” In less than a second, dad’s innocent question triggered some rather astute female intuition. The resulting effect was a very excited and harmonious exclamation from mom and I “You’re having another baby!” Brian scowled and turned red, while my poor dad apologized profusely for letting the secret out. Questions flew at my brother faster than he could field them but soon, the wall clock chimed mercifully providing my brother a means of escape from the barrage of questions that rained down upon him. Mom followed Brian out to the car, pumping him for any other information he had about grand baby #4. I remained in the house, cleaning up the mess left over from lunch. As I placed the dishes inside the washer, my mind was a whirl of thoughts and emotions. Suddenly I found my excitement for Brian and his wife veer unexpectedly, changing to feelings of sadness, longing, uncertainty, and anger.
When mom returned to the house, she was practically floating on air, her excitement over grandbaby number four radiating from her face. The tears and emotions that weighed heavily upon my heart made me feel guilty and frustrated and I kept my back to my mom attempting to hide them. Her female intuition kicked in again, and sensing something was wrong. She walked to the sink and gently put her arm around me and said “What’s wrong sis?” I turned and with tears flowing freely exclaimed, “When will it be my time?” I would turn 28 in a few months, and contrary to my dreams and aspirations, I found myself the lone child still living at home. In the span of 3 years, I had watched my best friend court and marry my brother. I had been a spectator as many other friends I knew courted, all of whom were younger than myself. It was hard to sit back and watch as romances bloomed, engagements were announced, weddings showers were thrown and babies followed. My mom was married at the age of twenty, and I had always expected that by 25 I would be married and holding babies of my own. As I neared my 28th birthday, I began to realize marriage may not be in the near future and possibly not in my future at all. My single status became the source of sever trials and saddness in my life. Many times I felt as if I had fallen overboard into a vast and dark sea. I was exhausted to the point of despair from fighting the waves of dashed hopes and expectations that assailed me on a daily basis. More than anything else in life, I wanted to be a wife and mother, but it seemed this gift was being bestowed upon everyone but me.
I was almost twenty eight and as the possibility of marriage seemed to fade, a new struggle emerged. If I was not going to get married, what was my calling in life? Where I was supposed to invest my time, energy, and money? My parents suggested I find something I enjoyed doing, so I got a job at a hospital and began the process of enrolling in a local medical program so I could finish my nursing degree. The Lord was faithful and gave me grace and strength as well as an amazing family that encouraged me. The Lord did given me a peace in my heart concerning my single status, but the emotions and longings never went away completely. I experienced days of amazing contentment and joy, but there were times when the desire awoke in my heart and the longings overwhelmed me. The day Brian announced the anticipated arrival of Biddle #2 was one of those days!
I remember hearing about the concept of courtship and embracing the idea of allowing God to bring the right one along in His own time. I decided to trust Him, but I think I had the expectation that doing so would get rid of all the longings and struggles the single life posed. The decision to wait and trust is in some ways was harder because it takes great faith to relinquish the role of seeker/finder while taking on the role of one who “waits.” When I dated and moved in and out of all the church single groups, my focus was always upon finding the next “possibility.” When I committed to waiting on the Lord I was forced to shift my focus. My gaze had to turn from what I wanted and did not have, to what I did have and what I could do with it. I had placed my trust in the Lord and in exchange, he required I become a worthy steward of the blessing and gifts He chose to rain down upon me each day because I was single. The verse that became my anchor during my early to late 20’s was Psalm 84:11-12
The Lord your God is a sun and a shield,
The Lord will give grace and glory,
No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
O Lord of Host, Blessed is the Man
That trusteth thee.
My daily challenge became this-
Seek the Sun and appreciate the shield. The sun gives light and direction and it provides life and growth. Accepting God’s “not now” was accepting his plan of growth and purification in my life through the trials I faced as an older single girl. Accepting God as a shield was also accepting and trusting His protection of my heart and soul and future. As God said not now to me and my dad said no to young men, the years of waiting was preserving me for God’s amazing best, not the feeble and limited “best” I day dreamed about.
His Grace and Glory. Our lives are meant to bring Glory to God and God alone! Regardless of our state, whether single or married, as long as we accept His grace and carry our burden in faith, God will be glorified and we will be strengthened.
No good thing. Most importantly, the Lord showed me that He prepared for His goodness to be showered down upon my life so much so, that it could be said every day, “On this day, God withheld nothing that I needed for happiness or success or survival!” My challenge was to find, claim, and treasure each blessing He gave. The fullness of my basket at the end of the day depended upon the eyes I choose view life with, and whether my hands accepted with grateful obedience what chose to give. If I was distracted by the desires of the future, I would become blind to and miss the blessings of today. If I looked at life with limited, blind, and earthly vision, not only refusing but also unable to take what the Lord chose to bestow, I would find my basket empty each day. It was important for me to not loose site of the fact empty baskets weren’t because God didn’t hear my pleas, was unable to grant my petitions, or because he simply failed to give, but because I failed to accept what he lovingly chose to give. God knows what is best and “His Best” is ALWAYS what he gives to his children when they live their lives in faithful obedience to him.
– – – Now, back to the story. 🙂 Flash back about 6 years to the summer of 1996. I was sitting in a hotel room with my mom and two other ladies. We were all on our way to the North Woods where my brother was a drill sergeant for a basic training. Both mothers had a son in unit 12 and we were having a sweet time of fellowship as each woman discussed the changes they had seen in their boys over the space of the eight week basic. I remember one mom in particular. She talked about her handsome, smart, athletic son named, David. Her description sparked my curiosity but that only lasted until she disclosed his age, he was 18 years old and 5 years younger than myself. I don’t recall ever seeing him during the promotion and I spent my time visiting all the friends I had worked with in the kitchen the previous year. His mom and his existence totally slipped from my memory when we left the North Woods and returned home, but as it turned out their family started going to our church.
Ironically, the following summer I was asked by our pastor’s son to help run the game time during VBS and wouldn’t you know it, David was in charge. I remember my first impression of him was one of extreme frustration. The guy would not say a word to me. Each day I would approach him and ask what we were doing and what he wanted me to do but my efforts were rewarded with indistinguishable mumblings. While I struggled to make myself useful, I kept myself busy chasing away a handful of young flirtatious girls who kept finding their way out to the game field with some excuse or the other so they could be within eye sight of this new guy fresh back from ALERT. Although he never batted an eye at them or reciprocated their childish advances in any way, I was sort of disgusted with him and how foolishly these young girls were acting over this kid who did little more than mumble and who never said more than 5 words to me.
On the evening VBS was wrapping up, Pastor Scott called me over and completely bowled me over when he apologized for all the rumors that had been flying. I looked at him totally clueless about any rumors so he enlightened me. Apparently, because of our close proximity with each other during VBS, it had been assumed that we were an official item and a courtship was brewing, if not all ready happening. I burst out laughing over the absurd idea. How could this annoying “kid” and I being the source of such ridiculous rumors?! I assured Scott no offense had been taken and once again I ushered the existence of David from my thoughts.
– – – Flash ahead a few years to the day David’s dad announces his courtship to another young lady at our church. I remember not being surprised because it had been pretty obvious they were headed in that direction. Even thought I added their names to the growing number of younger friends who were courting or newly married, I was truly excited for them. In the swirl of emotions, I was left wondering “Would anyone ever notice me?” “Would I ever know what it was like to have a person ask for the opportunity to win my heart?” Not surprisingly, while romance was flying through the church, my struggles with being single got harder. I struggled and fought to keep peace and contentment in my heart, but it was HARD!
Over the next year or so David’s courtship and eventual engagement began to unravel. In the beginning of 2002 his engagement was called off and the relationship ended. Because of David’s friendship with my brother, I knew a little about his struggles and hurts during this time. I felt badly for him and the pain he had experienced during his relationship. I greatly respected him for how he handled the situation. I had seen a growth and sensitivity develop in his life through his own fiery trials, and a maturity which our pastor had commented exceeded some of the men he had pastord. I remember standing alongside my mother the day his mom quietly asked us to pray for him. She explained the engagement was over and he was in Arizona with a friend seeking the Lord guidance and some healing…
Her words evoked a number of emotions. One was sadness and an other concern. I had known many men who walked away from the Lord when their relationship with a lady fell through and I felt a burden for David and felt prompted to pray the Lord’s protection over him. Funny enough, as I prayed that the Lord would bring healing in his heart aI also asked that the Lord bring the right “young” lady into his life when it was time. Never for a moment did my heart awaken to the possibility of relationship with him, in my mind I think I still saw him as an 18 year old kid.
David will tell you he remembers sitting on the ledge of the Grand Canyon being overwhelmed by its beauty and grandeur. He remembers musing upon the fact that the God, who made the landscape before him, was also the God that had made him. David knew this amazing God could take care of him and the desires of his heart. He told the Lord he believed he had placed the desire to be married in his heart, but that he was not going to go looking. He exclaimed to the Lord, almost in frustration or a dare, that if God had someone for him, he would have to put her in his back yard… The Lord is amazing and does not work according to our time table, and this became evident as my future love story was written. The year David and the young lady from church started courting, the Lord had pretty much placed us in his back yard!!! We moved into his little town and were just 5-7 minutes away from his home depending upon who was driving : ) After we moved, our family had been placed into the church Shepherding group his Dad was a leader of, and our family went over quite frequently for outings, bible studies and cookouts. I had also enrolled in a gospel doing chalk art class, and happened to be in these classes with his little sister. So, the entire time David was away, courting this girl and spending time with her family, his family and ours got to know each other very well and we became close friends.
May 25th 2002, four months since asking my mom “when will it be my time?”. I had just worked the night shift at the hospital and was supposed to drive to my sister’s house so I could help her get the kids dressed and to church. After falling a sleep at a red light, I realized I was too exhausted and decided to head home to sleep. When I got home my parent’s were in their room so I down at the kitchen table and ate a bowel of cereal. My parents, completely unaware of my arrival, bantered back and forth about something as they went about their Sunday routine but I was too exhausted to notice. I never heard a word they were saying and without any thought of their extremely erratic and hyper behavior, I went to bed. When they returned from church I was all ready up. They both continued to act very oddly and almost in unison asked me to accompany them on the back porch swing. I accepted the invitation, my foggy brain still clueless anything was out of the ordinary. (those of you who have worked split shifts know how tired and out of it that kind of schedule makes one : ) The phone rang and my dad jumped like he was expecting someone and he sprinted inside to answer it. A few minutes later, he stuck his head out the door and told us he had to go on an errand and would be back soon.
He left and mom asked me to walk with her so we strolled around the yard making small talk. About fifteen minutes later my dad returned, they once again they ushered me to the back porch swing and asked me to sit. As soon as my backside hit the padding, my dad jumped up and exclaimed, “shall we tell her?” With that he disappeared into the house returning with an Eddie Bauer bag. With a smile on his face he exclaimed “Jody, someone has asked if you would “Water their Camels.” This question is a whole other story and there is no time to go into it, but it comes from the story of Isaac and Rebekah and it was a challenge my mom gave me back in 1995 concerning my single years. This simple statement was their way of letting me know someone wanted to court me.
To my surprise, dad announced that the man was David Watkins. (At this point I had forgotten the age difference) As I sat shaking, holding the camel in my lap, my dad explained how everything had taken place, including meetings I knew nothing about. He asked if I has any questions and he answered everything I asked about David. I trusted my father and wanted to be open to his wisdom or insights in my life and future marriage so I had asked my dad’s counsel regarding possible suitors. Dad’s approval of David spoke volumes to me and I if Dad thought him worthy, I was willing to give him a shot at my heart, so I agreed! My parents and I went out to eat to celebrate and afterwards dad made a phone call to poor David who had lain on his bed awaiting an answer the entire time. Our courtship began May 25th 2002, we were engaged July 9th, and on November 2nd 2002, we were married. (I was 28 David was 24 : )
– – – Fast forward to the following year, January 2003. I stood in the living room of my parents home, almost exactly a year to the exact day that I asked my mom “when will it be my time?”. I handed her a Boyd’s bear figurine of a grandma bear holding a grandbaby cub and let her know our first child was growing inside my belly and due in September!
Nothing was ever withheld, I had at times just refused to hold what my sweet Savior wanted to give. His timing was perfect, the wait without regret, the story and man I received a beautiful and amazing story and gift. Look for the treasures each day, they are there!