So the summer of 1998 began a brand new chapter in my life. I was a college graduate and my bags were packed to spend the summer in Ft. Worth, TX living with my brother and his wife in their very tiny trailer house. Jeremy was finishing up seminary classes as he and Pam were preparing to head overseas the following January.
There were a couple of rough days early that summer before my job began. May 23rd…the day I was supposed to be getting married. Tough day. Then there were the following two weeks as I was anticipating another day that would be tough. The wedding of one of my dearest friends. I had planned my wedding date precisely so that I would be married and then two weeks later turn around and be a bridesmaid in one of my best friend’s wedding…it was going to be the perfect way to start off the summer! Though deep inside I was filled with joy for my friend, I definitely battled mixed emotions about her wedding day. It is very similar to the mixed feelings I battled several years later when I went through three miscarriages while all my other friends were getting pregnant and having their babies. My brain was having a tough time reconciling the fairness of life (hmmmmm….I know life is not fair, but that is sometimes very difficult to get your heart to understand what your mind knows to be true!)
There is not time here to tell you much about my amazing friend Becky. Though we grew up together, we did not become close friends until my senior year of high school. She had already graduated and stayed in our hometown to finish up prerequisite courses before she applied to dental hygiene school. Becky walked with me through the difficult days of rehabbing my knee from the high school basketball injury and once again God had orchestrated my life so that I had a great friend to walk with me through a very difficult time.
At the time of Becky’s wedding I was in the final week of my fast. Becky was one of the few people in my life that knew about my fast and she was very encouraging to me. I have sweet memories of helping Becky put the finishing touches on her wedding preparations. God had truly blessed Becky with an amazing man, and I was desperate to be filled with joy for her. The rehearsal dinner, the sleepover, the morning of pictures, hair updos and last minute details….through all of this I was sensing something happening in my heart. As I stood on the stage and watched my dear friend vow her life to the man of her dreams, I could hear that same voice I heard in the science lab a few years back and at the athletic banquet that spring. My focus drifted away from the ceremony and I listened to a voice that had become very familiar to me in that fast… ‘it is finished. Holly, you are healed. There is no need to fast any longer. You are ready for the blessed life that lies ahead of you.’ When I regained my focus, I realized the importance of that moment. I was experiencing the pure joy that I had hoped to feel on my friend’s wedding day. Though I was standing as a bridesmaid in her wedding as a single woman instead of a married woman, I began for the first time to feel excitement about my future. I was ready to move on. All the books warn you about the importance of breaking an extended fast with a couple of days of liquid soups…I couldn’t resist though. In my new found freedom, I could not resist a small piece of delicious wedding cake and a cup of the coffee punch at the reception…my bowels would just have to understand!
My life that summer became very routine, which is what I desperately needed. I would get out of bed every morning (or off my brother’s couch which was my bed that summer!) very early, and catch a commuter bus at 6 am to head to downtown Dallas. Each morning I would read my Bible on the 45 minute commute and then would walk from the bus stop to the high rise where my nine hour a day cubicle based EPA job was. Most days lunch time would be spent out under a tree outside and the bus ride home would be spent in conversation with a dear old man that I sat next to every day.
The summer went by rather quickly. I grew to love living in Ft. Worth. At that time I had absolutely no idea that I would be returning to that seminary campus the following January and would call Ft. Worth home for many years. My boss at the EPA tried to convince me to stay as a full time employee instead of an intern, but I had already determined that God wanted me to return to Arkansas to student teach. Along with my biology degree classes I had taken teaching courses as electives. God directed me that summer that the next thing I was to do was to get my teaching certification. So, I was obedient and headed back to OBU.
I had the privilege of sharing an apartment with a sweetheart of a girl. Another Kim who was a God-send in my life. Her sweet smile was exactly what I needed. That fall was filled with reports, grading papers, long jogs in the beautiful hills of Arkansas, leading a small group of friends through my dad’s bible study on the tabernacle, and a lot of flag football…side note…I always dreamed of being on a championship sports team and that fall that dream came true. My intramural flag football team was crowned state champions that fall, and I brought home an ‘all state corner back’ award. I often joke with Joe that he better watch out because he is married to a gal who once led the state of Arkansas in quarterback sacks!
The semester was quickly drawing to a close and I still was not sure what I was going to do once I had that teaching certificate in hand. There were several options. Amazingly I had three teaching job offers. However, there was not a peace in my heart about any of them. I had begun applying to teach overseas, and I had narrowed it down to two places, Indonesia and Egypt. The door quickly closed on Indonesia. Of all my options, the one I was most comfortable with was the teaching job in Egypt through a partnership with my college.
That Thanksgiving I travelled home and what seemed to be a simple trip to the grocery store for my mom, turned into a conversation with my dad that forever changed the direction my life. I shared with Dad about my lack of peace about all the job possibilities available for January. Many of you reading this blog have sat under the teaching of my dad and will understand my next statements. There truly are very few Bible teachers like my dad. He teaches with true passion, and when he speaks God pours out of his voice and into the ears of his listeners. That night it was almost as if I were sitting in the car listening to the voice of God and not my daddy. I was used to that…afterall God had spoken to me hundreds (if not thousands of times) through my dad’s preaching.
Just this past week as I was editing my dad’s latest book he has written, I was so excited to see in print almost the exact words that he had shared with me as we sat talking in my parked car that cold November night. Let me just quote his book (based on the heroes of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11),
Like Abraham, we sometimes may not know where we will end up, but we must follow God’s directions one step at a time. As someone has said, “The way to see far ahead in the will of God is to go as far ahead as you can see.” Abraham obeyed God without knowing where he would end up. Many people ask God, “What do You want me to do?” God usually responds, “Get moving first, and then I will direct you.” We can’t steer a car unless it is moving, and God can’t guide us if we aren’t moving. We must be taking little steps of what we know is God’s will for us, as revealed in His Word. . .
Yep that is pretty much what Daddy said in the car that night. By the time the conversation was finished, I had decided I would turn down all of the job offers and head a totally new and different direction. God was calling me to seminary. I honestly had no idea how God was going to make that happen. It was the end of November and I wanted to start in January. There were applications to fill out. Housing to find. Degree plans to decide on. My to-do list for the next few weeks suddenly grew a mile long.
That year I had heard God speak to me in many different ways. This time it was God speaking through my dad that put me on the path that would lead me to seminary. It was just six weeks from that November night until I would meet Joe for the first time in the library at seminary orientation (yep…he denies it but it was DEFINITELY his girlfriend that introduced us!)
1998 was drawing to a close and I was looking forward to where God was leading me in 1999. Never in a million years could I have imagined that 1999 would be the year I would forever celebrate as the year that I met and married the love of my life.