When I dated girls in college, I confused every single one of them. I was not sure how to express my feelings. Heck, I wasn’t even sure what my feelings were! Though the women I knew were all amazing, the relationships all ended up in a complete dumpster fire of pain and confusion. I finally had to take a break from romantic relationships all together. I had to get “me” sorted out a bit more before I could try to get a “we” off the ground! But when I met my wife-to-be, Donna, things had changed. I felt more confident in the Lord’s leadership of my life, and more comfortable with myself. With that sense of comfort and confidence I was able to give her the gift that is lacking in much of the dating world today: clarity.
Proverbs 29:18 declares, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” The word “perish” there can also be translated, “unrestrained” or “disturbed” or “out of control.” This is modern dating. When there is no clear direction, both men and women feel out of control, disturbed and anxious. Much of the anguish in modern dating could be alleviated if we mustered the courage to graciously tell one another what we think, how we feel, and what we would like to do. It is a lack of leadership that is killing the joy in dating. Ephesians 4 states that the people of Jesus “speak the truth in love.” Proverbs 24:26 declares that an honest answer is a kiss on the lips. It is a sign of both kindness and respect to graciously tell someone the truth. In the world of dating and relationships, ambiguity is the seedbed of anxiety. What the world needs now is some clarity.
We need clarity in initiation. This continues to be a challenge and responsibility borne in large part by men. In 2012 a national survey of all women indicated that only 12% of American women asked anyone out the previous year. So whatever you believe about male-female roles in relationships, the data continues to suggest that women want men to initiate. Now does this mean that women cannot tell men that they are interested? No! Read the Old Testament book of Ruth. Boaz was a good man who was not going to make a move. So Ruth, a righteous woman, asked him “What’s the deal here, Boaz? Are we doing this?” (Rough translation). It’s not wrong! Yet Proverbs states that a man who finds a wife finds a good thing. I do believe that it is good for men to initiate and hope more will do so and do it with clarity!
I met Donna at a ministry function where we were both serving, and ran into her a few times after that in large group settings. I watched the way she treated people. She was gracious. She was kind. She was fun. I thought to myself, “I think I am attracted to this girl.” A large group of our mutual friends were going out to a movie, so I approached her and asked if she would like to join us. She agreed. So we went and I made sure I sat by her. It was not a date, but it provided a great opportunity for us to spend a little more time together.
After that I called her and said, “Hey, my brother is in town. He’s got this New Year’s Eve thing he’s going to. He invited me to join him and I need a date. Would you like to come with me?” I felt like this was a way to get some more time with just her and I, away from our social spheres, but also provide her the comfort of knowing there would be other people there. She said yes. We had a great time. At the end of the night, before she got out of the car, I told her, “Tonight was fun. Can I call you again?” I said this to her because I did not want her to get out of the car and then have a few days of wondering whether or not I had a good time, whether or not I would ever talk to her again, asking herself if should she reach out, or if should she wait to hear from me. I had been around enough women by this time in my life to know how uncomfortable that ambiguity is. I wanted to leave her with some clarity. He had fun. He will call. There is less to analyze and nothing to plan. He has given me clarity on what comes next.
We also need clarity in the process. As our dating life continued, I tried to always end every evening with something along the lines of these two sentences: “This was fun. I will call you.” That way she was never left guessing on what would happen next. Then, every few weeks, before she got out of the car after an evening together, I would initiate a longer conversation. It usually consisted of me saying something like, “I just want you to know, I am really enjoying getting to know you and would like to continue spending time with you. I am not in a place where I am trying to get married in the next six months, but I am also not simply wasting your time either. I could see this relationship going further. So I would like to keep calling you if you are interested.” She told me later how much she appreciated this. “I always knew where I stood.” We can give one another the gift of freedom from anxiety through the simple act of providing clarity.
Ladies, this applies to you as well. As often as I talked with young women who were confused about the lack of clarity in the process of dating, I spoke to just as many men who described the anxiety of not knowing if a girl liked them or not. Don’t just freeze a guy out and never respond to his text. Give him the courtesy of a response, even if it feels potentially awkward. If you aren’t interested, say something like, “You know, you seem like a great guy, but I just can’t see this going anywhere. But thank you for the invitation.”
I talked with a young man who told me that a girl he had asked out said those exact words to him. As he told the story to a group of men and women, we were all dying to know how that kind of honesty felt! He said, “It was such a relief. Sure, I was disappointed, but I did not have to waste time guessing what she thought.” She honored him with by providing him a gracious, honest response.
In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul declares, “God is not a god of confusion, but a God of peace.” We are meant to be like this as well. When we give people clarity, we give them peace. How do we give them clarity? When John tried to succinctly describe Jesus, he kept coming back to the refrain that He was “full of grace and truth.” We should all strive for this: graciously speaking the truth to one another. Why? In the passage from Ephesians I quoted earlier, it goes on to say, “speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow…” When we decide to be gracious and honest, we do our part to create an environment where people can grow. As we work up the courage to be clear in the world of dating and relationships, we can know that it is the most loving way to help each other be all that we are meant to be under God. Truly, one of the greatest gifts we can give one another is clarity!
Ben Stuart is the pastor of Passion City Church, Washington D.C, and author of Single, Dating, Engaged, Married. Prior to joining Passion City Church, Ben served for eleven years as the executive director of Breakaway Ministries, a weekly Bible study attended by thousands of college students on the campus of Texas A&M. Ben earned a master’s degree in historical theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. Ben and his wife, Donna, live to inspire and equip people to walk with God for a lifetime.
If you haven’t read Laney’s side of our engagement story and the start of our life together, I encourage you to. She carries herself with such wisdom and awareness, so much so that she was very close to calling out my many, small bluffs about her birth-day turned engagement-day. She reads my every word and facial expression, and understands my heart better than anyone else. Similarly to my Father, Laney knows me fully and loves me fully – something that has changed my life and brought peace to my heart.
Let me take that idea of knowing someone a step further, and bring all you Enneagram people into the mix. I’m a 3 – an Achiever: the success-driven, image conscious, never let a chink in the armor show-type. Throughout my life, my pursuit of what I believe is best has actually led to success, albeit short-sighted and often times lesser than what I know the Father delights to give me as his son. But let me get back to the topic at hand, and hopefully I can give more insight into why I had such peace about asking Laney to marry me.
I woke up on June 28th having slept a little, and planned a lot. It was 5:45 AM on Friday morning, I was in my truck on the way to work, Chris Lane’s “Big, Big Plans” playing over bluetooth with Toby Mac’s “Lose My Soul” queued for the next jam.
Yes, my taste in music is unmatched, Laney tells me that often.
Anyway, I pressed pause and a prayer full of thanksgiving and for continued peace came over the now quiet ride into downtown Nashville. I started to think back on the previous weeks of conversations with my dad, Big Daddy (aka Laney’s father Terry), best friends and a few trusted mentors. Until this morning, my mind and heart had been relatively calm and unnerved considering the typical whirlwind of emotions that comes with life-altering decisions and choices. I attribute this peace fully to Jesus’ touch on my heart.
The process of proposing was different than I imagined. Why? The main reason is that for many months I have been confident that Laney Redmon is who God has molded for me, an adopted prayer from my earthly father to his Heavenly Father that I have tried to consistently pray for years. Talk about a “peace that surpasses all understanding,” I’ve felt it continue to carry it in my spirit. So, the big build up of: “Is this the one?” definitely came, but it came many months before actually going through the formalities of asking her that four-word question. In my mind, I told her I wanted to marry her when I told her that I loved her…
We had been dating for three months, and I was making a fifty mile roundtrip to Franklin, TN every day to see this girl that was unlike any other. One afternoon we were driving through country roads outside Nashville, and I pulled over to tell her how much she meant to me. Of course that was my plan until I got really nervous, and she said “Do I need to say it first?” The first of many mind-readings that she’s so gifted at. After which I gained enough courage to say “I love you” (before she did) and many others in a desperate attempt to relay what my heart was feeling in that moment.
Back to the story, I was back in that place again, ready to relay just how committed I am to her, and how excited I am to begin our “official” life together. My timeline is not His timeline, this was an all-too-familiar and recurring realization over the past year. Marriage was not an unspoken subject for Laney and me, but each time it came into conversation, I met it head-on with a determined “No, not for years.” LOL. Do boyfriends/fiances/husbands ever get what they expect? Thankfully, I didn’t. My timeline was set for a Christmas season proposal, and I was sticking to it. Until, I got really weary of waiting, so I began praying for a moment to ask Big Daddy for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
Of course, calling him “Big Daddy” seemed a little risky in that moment, so I went for another nickname…
“TR, I have a question for you…” His reply as we sat around the breakfast table: “Really? I’m in my pajamas.” He was definitely impressed by my impeccable timing. I continued the convo with confidence. Hear me out, we were in Dallas (Lane’s hometown) for a short weekend trip, and one-on-one time with her dad was cut to a half-hour before going to church on Sunday, June 2nd. Thankfully, it was enough. And after a few (hundred) tears from me, I had what I came for – mission accomplished, Big Daddy was on board for an early August proposal. A conversation that I truly will never forget. I was humbled and honored. Later that afternoon I told Mama Redmon (aka Laney’s mother Rhonda), and she slipped me a ring that had been on her hand for years. I want to stop here and note how much I love the idea of Laney wearing a stone that has heard many wise words spoken by its owner, and been worn by an incredibly faithful woman. That in itself gave me double peace. I took it back to Nashville that next day, praying over the commitment it would represent and began taking that next step of planning to get it re-sized and re-set.
Again, back to the real story-the day of- yes, all these thoughts and more were running through my mind while driving to work. Fast forward to leaving work around 3:30 that afternoon. (trying to avoid a novel here) Laney’s parents had flown from Dallas to Nashville that afternoon, and we met downtown for coffee. I was excited, and very nervous now. We talked strategy, how to lie to Laney for a few more hours about our whereabouts and what we were doing to, how to set the scene and make it (buzz word) “cute”. Lane’s roommates, special people to say the least, were taking her to the spa for her birthday. Following that, Lane and I were going to dinner at a nice restaurant in Nashville for gifts and to celebrate the big two-five. Yes, I fell in love with an older woman. Apparently I’m an old soul. The plan was for our parents and my sister to setup Laney’s back porch with candles, lights, flowers, etc. while we went to dinner. After dinner and a few birthday gifts to distract her, we would go back to the house, I would ask her THAT question, and hope for a “yes” or “sure”. Plan in place, Mama Redmon prayed over me, totally putting my heart at peace once more, and I left the two of them to collect my thoughts and get ready for dinner.
One more flashback to get the full picture of the engagement month…
Lane was able to go look at a few jewelry stores with her Mom and just happened to try on a few rings (thinking an engagement was still six months away). My man Derrick at the store hooked me up, and my father and I stopped by to pick up the center stone, now set in a gold band with eight small diamonds on either side of the stone. (This complicated scheme of getting the ring was a back-and-forth email chain with myself and Mama Redmon called “Project Platinum”, giving you all the details.) Laney doesn’t miss much, for all her joking and being silly, she’s incredibly intelligent and can always read the crowd and often times, me. In the weeks before the proposal, she knew I was hiding my phone, which is abnormal for me. She also knew I had asked for time to be alone one Sunday (so I could call her parents to get them to Nashville, once again my timeline was moving up – December, August, now June 28th), so all these things and a few others were making her question something, but I don’t think she knew what to make of it all.
I picked her up at the spa, and yes, I was playing that country tune again, talking proposal and marriage. We drove to dinner and kept the conversation about our day and the weekend ahead. For the most part, dinner was normal as well. Lane has a way of bringing joy into any scenario and situation, so much so that it makes otherwise stressful thoughts disappear. Until of course she mentions that her mom’s location is off, and precedes to ask me why. When I say “ask” I really mean interrogate, “20 Questions” style. Lane is persistent, and I normally would dive into her questions with responses. At this moment though, I tried to redirect to opening her birthday gifts instead. And for a while, she played along – probably because she loves gifts and knew she could get an answer out of me whenever she wanted. With special occasions, we often write each other letters. It has always been a great way for us to communicate. Laney Rene is a gifted writer; she can paint a picture of her heart and the heart of Jesus, and from the first time she gave me one of those well-written letters to this day, I look forward to receiving “Laney letters”. For me, it’s much easier to transcribe what I feel rather than perfectly say everything my mind is occupied with; however, this one time, to throw her off, I wrote a shorter, kind of “sweet” card. She didn’t mention it, but I’m positive she was slightly disappointed – this being her 25th birthday and all. Let’s speed up the story…
We left dinner and headed back to her house, having got the “go ahead” text from my parents that all was ready on the back porch. Before we got out of the truck at her house, I asked her to remove her shoes for one last surprise and gave her a letter to read. Like I mentioned earlier, words sometimes fail me, so to try and give Lane another look into the depth of my love for her and commitment to her, I planned to wash her feet before asking her to spend the rest of her life with me.
She probably wished I would simply wash my own…we all have our flaws.
Why wash her feet? I find Jesus’ final meal with his best friends quite revealing. From the first day with them until the last, he served. He sacrificed. And, simply put, he loved. The first two don’t happen without the foundation of the last. A friend of mine advised me to not worry so much about the details of the day or the exact time of the proposal. Though the time is important, the moment is the real treasure. After walking through that evening and the weeks prior to it, I believe and have seen that to be true. In that moment, after washing her feet, my wife-to-be began to laugh. She laughed with such freedom and with such joy. Joyful freedom is the constant state of her spirit, and she laughed through the entire conversation and question of “Will you marry me?”
Laney Redmon’s smile is real, and it flows from the heart that Jesus has made new. I mean COMPLETELY new. Mama Redmon recently reminded me that when He restores and heals, it is never incomplete or partially done. As you can imagine, the next moments are a mixture of emotions – relief, joy, thankfulness, etc. We finished the evening like so many others, with three big scoops of ice cream and around our best friends and families. The family members that weren’t able to be there, we quickly called or texted. And as we sat on the couch later that evening, I have to be honest, I fell asleep as Lane was talking about everything – best fiancé award hands down.
*A letter to the Gentlemen:
Whether you find yourself newly single, walking in relationship with someone, or having never been entitled “boyfriend”, know that the Father leads perfectly. Yes, we are called to lead, but that leading flows out of following another wholeheartedly – the perfect example of love: Jesus. Too often, the Enemy wants us to forget who truly owns our lives and holds our hearts and directs our steps. The enemy sends messages through culture that suggest the best ways to be in relationship or live independently, but those promises don’t prove true. Look no further than the promise of grace in the midst of failure, peace in the midst of pressures, and love unending. These truths, these promises I forget, too. At times, I look to earthly accomplishments or Laney or my friends to fulfill and bring joy, but these fail. They are human, not divine. Do they deliver insight and point to Jesus? Without a doubt, yes, but they must not be placed before Him.
Delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
This verse has taken over my mind and spirit. He laid it on my heart when I met Laney. I imperfectly pursued the Father and continue to, and he has gifted my imperfections in my walk with more goodness than I can imagine, and much more than I tell myself I deserve. He continues to give what I need, before I realize I need it, and more perfectly than I could ever strive to obtain “it.”
Our family members each received a word for this year: 2019. My spirit heard HEALING, and while I have witnessed this in many facets of life, one is ever-present. Realizing that I can’t earn anything has healed my heart. Knowing, being convinced by faith, that I can’t give anything that I haven’t first received has healed my heart. I cannot give grace if I refuse to receive it. I cannot honestly love if I don’t trust and receive that honest, unending, reckless love from Him. I cannot…He can and has for me and through me.
Hear this open, honest reflection of my own walk over the past year. I pray you receive it for yourself…
You are a Son of the King. You have a perfect Father, even and especially when your earthly one is imperfect. Lead with love in every relationship. He will take care of the rest, BUT first receive the love that He freely gives you each morning. You are forgiven for every failure. Any shame, impurity, guilt, fear, resentment is paid for and erased by Jesus, your best friend and brother. Walk confidently in the truth that death has no grip on you, you are free to walk in his provision for your life.
Thanks for taking the time to read…
Clayton is a follower of Jesus. A native of Nashville, Clayton will graduate from Lipscomb University in December of 2019 and begin working in January 2020. He is passionate about building relationships with young men through sports and in church communities, loves family travel of any kind, and enjoys spending time outside in the woods or on the beach. On June 28, Clayton proposed to Laney Redmon. They plan to marry in the Spring of 2020.
Ever since Clayton and I started dating, I had always imagined this moment of “sharing the story”. The story of how we met, the story of how we fell in love, and all the little healing, redeeming, freeing, eye opening, peaceful, joy-filled moments in between. There are so many things about Clayton and our relationship that I can’t wait to write about. Our relationship has become the easiest thing for me to talk about, because it is one of the greatest ways I’ve seen God’s faithfulness in my life. I’m SO excited to write about all the things in the last ten months, but today I’m going to narrow it down to the story of our engagement day!
On June 28th (my birthday) and also the day I was getting engaged, (but didn’t know it) I woke up to a house decorated with streamers, cake, my favorite coffee mug on the counter, balloons everywhere, and flowers on the back porch that Clayton had dropped off on his way to work. That morning I sat with my friends in our living room while we talked and dreamed about the future. We talked about what we thought our weddings would be like, where they would be, how many kids we hope to have one day and what it will be like to push strollers and be “mom friends” one day. As we talked and dreamed I thought that would be a good time to just go ahead and ask the question… “Will y’all be my bridesmaids??!” Without any ring on my finger and honestly no idea when that would be, I was confident and fully at peace that I had met my husband. In fact, I was positive I had met my husband about 3 weeks after Clayton and I started dating.
*God detail* On January 25, 2017, in my heart I heard God say that He was bringing me my bridesmaids. At the time, this did not makes sense. I didn’t have a boyfriend, nor anyone I could see on the horizon, but these words and His promise brought such peace. Nothing on the outside looked like I needed bridesmaids anytime soon, considering I was single as a Pringle! But God was preparing ahead of time what He had for me, just like He does for ALL of us. I had absolutely NO IDEA Clayton was going to propose on my birthday when I asked the girls to stand by me! What a sweet gift to be reminded of what He said over two years ago, before there was any evidence of the promise. God brought the best friends and bridesmaids I could have ever prayed for and I’m so thankful and honored to have them stand by me on our special day.
So, after I asked the girls to be my bridesmaids (and they said YES, praises!) I asked them if they knew when Clayton was thinking about proposing. My friend Sarah said, “well I asked him about a week ago and he said for sure by Christmas”…. All the while, they KNEW he was planning to propose that night! The rest of the day I was in a dream world and couldn’t get over the fact that he was going to propose before Christmas!!!! I couldn’t stop talking about it… I kept saying, “YALL, I can’t believe before Christmas!”
I was in shock and so excited!
That night Clayton had asked if he could take me to dinner for “my birthday”. When he picked me up he was playing the song “Big Big Plans” by Chris Lane. Right when I sat down the song said, “I’m gonna ask her to marry me”. I’m pretty sure in the span of one second I thought, “he planned it, he definitely didn’t plan it”, and I told myself not to get my hopes up that he was going to propose.
Clayton had me convinced that it was going to be awhile before he was able to do that. And although I’m excited to marry him as soon as possible, I would wait for forever if I needed to.
So, we go to dinner, and he honestly seemed perfectly normal… until I asked him why my mom stopped sharing her location with me!
He immediately tried to get me to open gifts and then again in a matter of one second I thought… “What if she’s here because he’s going to propose… Yeah right, he doesn’t have the money for that right now, remember?… Laney, it’s going to be a while… chill.”
After dinner we got in the car and he asked if he could give me one more gift.
Then I remembered what request I had made months ago when I knew Clayton was the person I wanted to spend my life with. *God detail*
I asked God for my birthday to have Clayton propose. This may sound funny, but there was nothing I wanted more, and I knew there was no one else who could make that happen.
My heart started to race a bit with excitement, but I tried to calm it down again with a big “don’t even let yourself go there Laney”…
We got back to the house and before I got out of the car, Clayton asked me to take my shoes off. When he said that, I immediately remembered what God had spoken to me June 4, 2018… “Take your shoes off and feel the new ground. You have no shoes to fill.”
1 John 4:18 says, “Perfect love casts out fear.”
From the first day that I met Clayton, he has loved me with a love that has taken away all my fear. He has made me feel safe and completely secure. Daily he has reminded me of who I am, and never made me feel like I need to be anything that I am not.
I used to think that the love I felt from God would be a different love than what I could receive from another person, but Clayton has shown me that God IS love and there is no love outside of Him.
*God detail* A couple of weeks before I met Clayton, I was driving down the road and I remember saying to God that I basically didn’t feel like we had room in our relationship for anyone else. I was so thankful and so content with where I was at in life. I had found such peace and joy in my relationship with Jesus. As I was driving, I remember hearing God so sweetly say that I didn’t need to worry about being divided, because the love that my husband would love me with one day, would be the SAME love that He loved me with.
This is why I believe I had SO much peace with Clayton. The love that I receive from Clayton every day, is the same love that I have known from the time I was a little girl. Love is love through and through, never changing, always the same. Love is consistent with Who love has always been. This is why Clayton has always felt like home. I have never felt divided, but just LOVED even more.
Ok, so once we got out of the car, I noticed the whole back porch was lit up with beautiful lights… flowers… LOTS of flowers… and a pitcher of water. Clayton asked me to sit down, and then he handed me a letter.
By this point you’d really think I would’ve gotten the hint that he was about to pop that little question, but the only thing that was popping in my mind was the “possibility” of that. I honestly was telling myself, “what a sweet birthday gift this is for him to wash my feet”.
*God detail* I had actually forgotten this detail. Then a couple of friends reminded me that I had said I wanted my guy to wash my feet whenever he proposed… not even knowing who it would be at the time.
As Clayton began to wash my feet, I began to read the letter that he had written. The letter started with how excited and anxious he had been for that night. Then I read, “I hope as you sit here, this washing of your feet represents accurately, the stance and position I try to take in our life together.” I think this is where I looked up, and for the first time began to really notice how many flowers there were! Although Clayton hasn’t stopped spoiling me from the beginning, I did have the thought, “Clayton wouldn’t buy this many flowers and do all of this twice… I actually think he’s about to propose!” As I continued reading, he continued to wash my feet. Oddly enough, when most people would probably cry, this realization of what was (possibly) about to happen made me laugh!!! And I’m not talking about a little giggle…. I BURST into laughter!!! I felt like joy was bubbling from the very bottom of my stomach. The realization of a dream fulfilled and lifelong prayer was becoming something tangible and I couldn’t contain what I was feeling.
He then handed me another letter that read, “Lane, the ways of Jesus are not always the first instincts of my mind. My thought was to commit to a field of work, not a person… And He brought me to you. He carried me in all my flaws and failures. Even this is a clearer picture of His love… on September 10, 2018 I met my wife.”
And this my friends is where I got the big C-L-U-E. *Clayton, on my back porch, with the engagement ring* (okay if you’ve never played the game “clue” you might not get that).
But short and simple, I finally realized and let myself think that he was about to propose.
When I looked up from reading the second letter, Clayton got on one knee and said those 4 little words “Will you marry me?” To which I of course said a big absolute “YES!”… as I continued to laugh!
Like I think most young girls or women do, I had dreamed of this day all my life… who it would be, when it would be, and how it would be.
To be honest, I even imagined it being a little scary! But from one girl to another, or maybe one girl to another boy, let me tell you… this day was MORE and better than I could have ever dreamed or imagined and the furthest thing from scary. Saying “yes” to Clayton was one of the easiest decisions I had ever made, because I was confident I had let go of control of my life 3 years ago and fully put my trust in what Jesus has for me.
I could have never imagined a man as amazing as Clayton or the peace that far surpassed my understanding when I said “yes”. I’ve never been more at peace and excited for the future in my entire life. Although there are still many things that are unknown of the future, my soul is at rest in the arms of my savior. I’ve put my life fully in His hands and He continues to blow me away.
There was a time when this story seemed too good to be true. I wanted to believe that THIS was what God had for me, but nothing in my life looked like this was possible. My heart had been broken, and I couldn’t even recognize who I was anymore. BUT God. But, His goodness. But, His faithfulness. It is beyond what you can imagine and it’s often beyond what you pray.
Ephesians 3:20 (tpt) says, “Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you.”
Friend, let me tell you and please believe me… God knows what you want and what you need better than you do. He has your very very best in mind. His heart is ALWAYS for you.
Trust Him. Let go… and trust Him.
He is faithful to bring your heart’s desire in His perfect timing. You will not be disappointed.
Your friend, and sis,
Ps: Clayton is sharing His heart and His side of the story on the blog on Monday and I promise you, YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS IT! Xoxo
Laney Redmon is a lover of Jesus who loves sharing about what He has done in her life. Whether it’s through writing blogs, music, or designing clothes, Laney’s prayer is that it would always remind people of how loved they are by HIM.
Your life is shaped by big decisions. Our choices set up our future – for better or worse!
There’s a massive difference between letting life happen to you and taking ownership of your future through your choices – one creates a life of cowardice and the other creates a life of courage.
In order to experience the future of beauty + awesomeness that God wants for you, you have to be willing to risk. You have to decide to own the big decisions in your life.
When you decide to own it, when you decide you’ll make the hard choices and face the tough decisions of life head on, that’s when you get tripped up on one question – how?
How do I know what the best decision is? I’m willing to risk big to live out a life of faith – but how do I know which risk is right and which is wrong?
I’ve asked myself this question so many times in my life. Should I marry my boyfriend? Should I move to a different city? Should I go to this college. Should I take this job or move in with these roommates or buy this car… the list goes on and on!
Here’s what I’ve learned in 29 years of making big, life-altering, tough, and wonderful decisions:
First things first, pray and seek wise counsel. Prayer and reading scripture shows you what God considers the best path for you (not a life focused on money, not a boyfriend who doesn’t love Jesus, a life where you desperately need Him). A lot of foolish choices can be avoided simply by comparing them to scripture. Wise counsel is one or two people in your life whose lives you admire and whose opinion you trust. (If you ask more than two people what to do, be careful that you’re not just looking for someone to give you an easy out!)
What we’re dealing with are the vague questions – the ‘God doesn’t say its wrong, but I don’t know if it’s right!’ questions. So that brings us to the second most important thing:
Let go of trying to make the ‘right’ decision.
God’s plan for your life isn’t a treasure map – it’s more of a choose your own adventure book! He just wants the best and most spiritually healthy life for you – you get to decide what that is! Don’t be afraid you’re living one decision away from ruining your future – that’s not how our loving God works.
If it doesn’t go against His will – and that’s anything He clearly states against in the scriptures – then it’s up to you. HOW SCARY AND AWESOME!
Here are three questions I ask myself when I make a big decision that I believe can also help you:
1. Be honest with yourself: is this my comfort or my calling?
Sometimes we try to extend something in our life that was meant for a season. When I was about to finish college at UNC Chapel Hill, I knew I’d always planned to move and work in Los Angeles. But Los Angeles is massive and expensive and scary and I didn’t know a soul there. I had a job in Chapel Hill and I loved the little town around my school. I was very tempted just to…stay. Stay in my comfortable job. Stay in my pretty town. But I knew I loved Chapel Hill because I loved being a student and I loved my memories there. If I stayed to avoid something hard, I would have been extending a season in my life that was only meant for four years. Four amazing years, let me tell you, but only four years. To stay wouldn’t have been bad, but it wouldn’t have been best, either. I had to go where God was calling and leave where I was comfortable.
2. Where will I have the most impact and where will I be the most impacted?
What will challenge you the most? Where can you do the most good or bring the most life?
The common misconception with this one is that you would choose a path that promises you suffering in hopes you’ll be refined. Don’t do that! God never wants us to suffer for the sake of suffering.
I chose to marry my husband because he makes me incredibly happy – and he is also incredibly challenging! He doesn’t let me settle. He knows my capacity and constantly helps me live up to and exceed what I think I can accomplish. And I know that I do the same for him.
Choosing who you’re going to marry is legitimately terrifying – it’s forever! – but when you’ve chosen well leading up to that big decision – who to date, how to date, and everything in between – it’s still scary, but it’s not difficult. I couldn’t love another man like I love my husband, and no other man could love me like he does!
3. Am I motivated by fear?
Fear is the killer of all good intentions. Fear ruins plans and eats away at your life with regret, bitterness, and anxiety.
Pray to God for peace that surpasses all understanding – let nothing you decide be ruled by fear.
Here are some common fears to look out for that can lead you away from the best decision for your future:
‘I’m afraid if I move I won’t have any friends.’
‘I’m afraid if I break up with him no one else will like me.’
‘I’m afraid if I take this job I won’t be good at it and I’ll fail.’
‘I’m afraid if I get married I’ll lose my independence.’
‘I’m afraid if I choose the wrong college I’ll regret not going to another school.’
‘I’m afraid that if I don’t go to college people will think I’m strange or not intelligent.’
The ‘I’m afraid’s’ could go on forever! Examine your heart, your attitude, and your spirit – what choice feels like it would require God to show up and do great miracles in your life? What choice feels dangerously dependent on Him? Head in that direction! God calls us to be secure in Him, not safe!
Brooke Figueroa is a pastor at Mosaic, a church in Los Angeles, CA. She loves drinking espresso with her husband, leading worship with Mosaic MSC, and reading an absurd amount of books. She’d love to meet you on Instagram at @brookeofigueroa
We had SUCH a blast with our very first LO Vlog! And getting to share it all with you is the icing on the cake 🙂
Don’t we all have questions about our purpose in life? And even if we find our purpose, how do we chase it? With all the voices telling us why it won’t succeed, or why we just shouldn’t do it, we wanted to bring some truth today through these dream-chasing sisters.
We sat down with Liz and Olivia, owners of a home goods/lifestyle brand shop in the heart of Franklin, TN. Their homey decor and warm store vibes (and believe us, the vibes are on point) are only the half of it. Let us tell you, these sister have heart. Their desire to bring warmth to peoples homes as well as impacting their customers lives is what gives Living Franklin its magic. The best part of it is, they’re just like us! They’ve seen highs, lows, and everything in between (watch the video below for full details on their journey!) Yet in the end, they hold fast to this gift that God has given them. Even on their hardest days, they recall all that God did to get them to today and it provides hope for the present and future.
Friend, whatever is in your heart to do, we hope this inspires you to take that first, second, third, or final step today in pursuit of the dreams you have been given!
Watch our interview here!
Want the highlights of the story? You know we’ve got you!
After a while of living in the wonderful city of Franklin, Liz and Olivia both starting to grow a mutual love for the city and all of its charming features. Sitting at Frothy Monkey one day (a Franklin staple), they had an idea for creating an Instagram page to feature all the different shops and restaurants in Franklin.
For one of their first round of features, Liz and Olivia decided to interview the owner of a deli right in the heart of downtown. During the conversation, the sisters happen to mention that they would be interested in if the connecting space to the restaurant ever came available. A short two days later, the owner said that the space had indeed become vacant and that they are in the running for it.
Shocked but excited over the idea, they gave their dream of being store owners over to God in that moment.
Low and behold, they got the space. The time in between was a short month and a half but they trusted that anything could be possible with God behind it. Picking out their lovely home decor merchandise, their very own candle scent along with their store name, Living Franklin (named after their Instagram Page), they were on track for opening day, trusting every step of the way that God would allow it to all come together.
Opening day was a success! From a photo booth, to a flower cart, to clear weather (despite the forecast for the day being rain), the store was filled with local friends, family, and new customers! Their hearts were full as their dreams were being turned into reality right before their eyes.
Liz and Olivia admit that owning a store has its highs and lows. For example, they go through seasons when the business slows down or they deal with people making comments regarding the size of the space (it is the smallest store in Franklin– by size, not impact), but in those moments they always go back to the beginning and God’s faithfulness to bring them to a city they love, open up a space for them, and allow them to live out their dreams together. This is what keeps them going when the doubts creep in.
What else keeps them going is getting to witness the impact that this space makes on its customers. One customer in particular, Melinda, has been greatly impacted by the warm spirit of the store and the sisters.
Olivia recalls when Melinda starting coming in the store. Through each visit, they would share more of their hearts and over time got to know each other of a personal level. During the holiday season, Melinda brought the sisters an ornament that she had made out of twigs symbolizing how “God really uses brokenness and turns it into something beautiful”. Through continuing the conversation, Melinda opened up through tears about her season of loneliness and how God has used them as a reminder that she is never alone. “THIS is really what is it all about”, says Olivia.
All in all, Olivia and Liz’s hopes for the future would be that they continue to just take one step at a time in hopes that God would use the store in ways they can never imagine. “God gave us this store, and we pray he can use it in ways that go past our wildest dreams”, says Liz.
Friends, be encouraged by this! Just like these sisters, God has called YOU to a dream and will equip you with every possible thing you need to chase it. Even if your dream seems small, take this encouragement to know that even the smallest of spaces/dreams/ideas/prayers can turn into a huge kingdom impact, one Melinda at a time.
If you are ever in Franklin, be sure to visit Living Franklin and tell these sisters how this has impacted you! And check them out on Instagram to follow along with their dream!
We hope you love this vlog and will take your first step to chase your dream today. What is your dream? We would love to hear it below 🙂
There’s a thing I like to call the “bounce back.” You’re probably thinking the biggest-loser-life- change-kind of bounce back. This one is small. This one happens in the everyday.
Bouncing back is choosing to lean into conflict through communicating your heart and mind.
Some of you might be those who love to address conflict or enjoy a good argument. Others might be sitting there with a pit in their stomach at the thought of conflict.
I believe this post is important for every one of you. Why? Because the people that matter most to us, the people we desire deep connection with, are worth leaning in for.
Let me explain with a story.
A few weeks ago, my fiancé and I were out to dinner before a friend’s birthday party. With the engagement season, there’s some stretching financially. Raise your hand if you know the feeling!
Anyway, we got into a pretty heated disagreement at a communal dinner table. Pure entertainment for the people sitting around us, I’m sure. Our argument was over finances. Naturally, we grew up with different backgrounds and family situations, so there are times when we are not on the same page. Comments were exchanged about money… and then cut deeper into knocks on one another’s character. If anyone knows me, I tend to get a little defensive when I feel challenged or questioned! So we fought it out… right in front of everyone. Tensions were so high that the waitress approached us, and immediately walked away looking busy (HA!). As dinner came to an end, we had another choice to make besides who was paying the bill.
I could choose to walk away, go home, and pass on the party for some alone time (basically, run away) OR I could choose to stay, to be with Taylor, and go to the party (bounce back).
What would you do? Would you run or would you lean in?
There was a moment in the car that changed everything. Somehow these words came out of my mouth, “Let’s be a team. I hear you. I know we have different views, but we are in this together. We are a team. We are not against each other.”
Bounce back. I chose to lean into conflict by communicating my heart and mind. The opposite of that would have been to walk away, leave the scene, and not talk with the person I love.
What I am learning these days is how important it is to “bounce back” with the ones you love.
Start the tough conversations, talk through different perspectives, maybe argue in public places. In the past, I’ve always wanted alone time. Isolation. Distance. Time to process (calling all introverts!). But that’s not always what is best for my relationships and the people I love.
So here’s what I’ve learned in the bounce back process. May you be encouraged in your relationships.
Bouncing back means you’re on the same team.
It is easy to forget that the people who are closest to us are on our team. When conflict happens, we can feel like the other person is on a different team. Though they might have a different perspective or feeling, that doesn’t mean they are not FOR YOU. The moment we realize that our closest people are on our team, is the moment we can say “yes” to bouncing back from disagreements or conflicts! Remind your people that you are with them and for them.
Bouncing back usually happens within 24 hours.
That’s right. The key part of leaning into conversations and conflict in your relationships is it needs to happen quickly. I have this thing with my close friends called the 24 hour rule. That means that if something happens, comments are made, feelings are hurt, etc. You must talk about it with the other person within 24 hours. There’s less time for hurt, less room for misunderstanding, and more time for connection. Try it. Paul talks about this kind of quick forgiveness and encourages us to forgive, comfort and reaffirm your love for him. That means YOU. My friends action should take sooner rather than later.
(Side note: Hear me friends, this is not about throwing heavy emotions or life situations quickly on the run. This is about choosing to lean in, process those things, and communicate with your people. There will always be situations and experiences that are so big that they are hard to move past in 24 hours. We’re only talking about the everyday things here.)
Bouncing back creates deeper connection.
What a necessary and beautiful thing for our relationships. The beauty of leaning into conflict with those you love can often unlock a closeness and a connection in your relationships, friendship, or with your family. Connection leads to understanding to empathy to closeness to grace to love (and sometimes even laughter). When we choose to lean for connection remember to be considerate and constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:23 encourages us to seek not our own good but the good of others. That means we choose to bounce back for the good of others, for the good of our relationships.
Bouncing back takes courage.
You better believe that courage is necessary to make the bounce back happen in your relationships. It can be scary. Brene Brown says it best…
“Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow – that’s vulnerability.”
And guess what… she’s right. Choosing to love others, to lean into conflict and hard times, knowing they might not respond in the best way, takes incredible courage and boldness, but I believe it’s worth it.
Choose to bounce back.
I want to take a moment to encourage you.
You choose to bounce back because that person matters.
You choose to bounce back because of grace.
You choose to bounce back because you humble yourself.
Friends, don’t waste time. Don’t let your pride or insecurity get the best of you. Consider the people you love most and how you can lean into deeper connection.
So how can you bounce back today?
Who do you need to call?
What conversations do you need to have?
How can you come close to the ones you love?
God promises us a refreshing of our souls… especially when we repent and forgive (Acts 3:19). And friends, I believe that for you. I desire that for you. Let’s step into that today. See how our boldness and courage to bounce back with the ones we love can transform relationships.
Court Kruger is a dreamer and a creative. She’s a member of Team LO. Fueled by community, creativity and coffee, she spends her days moving the mission of Team LO through social media and graphic design. Court is passionate about encouraging other women in truth and love, and she loves celebrating small and big moments of life with handwritten cards.
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Sadie Robertson Huff is well known for her engaging smile and energetic personality, but there is a lot more to the 25-year-old star of A&E’s Duck Dynasty and runner up on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars season 19