Saturday, November 29, 2014

Single Women Series: Girl, You're Not Married YET?

Anything that's ever been said about single women like me and why we're not married, I've heard it. I've heard it ALL! I can't tell you how many times people have said...

"Your standards are too high, girl. Dang!"

"He gon' have to be a SUPER Christian to get witchu'!"

"But you don't even give nobody a chance before you cut 'em."

"Iantha, sometimes you have to just work with people. He might not be where you are spiritually, but you can help him get there."

"He can't smoke OR drink? Girl, good luck with that."

"There aren't very many men who will wait until marriage for sex."

"You intimidate men. You're too confident. That makes them feel weak."

And most recently... "And then you went and bought a house? He's really gon' be intimidated now. You've done everything for yourself. What's left for him to do for you?"

Call me crazy (you won't be the first or the last), but I'm just CRAZY enough to believe that if I'm joyfully living a life that pleases God, there are men out there who are doing the same. In fact, I'm sure of it! Women aren't the only species on the face of the earth who love and obey and trust God with their whole hearts. I'm CRAZY enough to believe that if I'm living a life that's concerned ONLY with what HE tells me to do, that there are men out there with the same concern. I'm CRAZY enough to believe that if I'm living a life that's governed by the standards HE set, that there are men out there living by those same standards.

And I'm CRAZY enough to believe that I should wait for someone like me who's looking to find someone like me. Because they're out there. The Godly men are out there looking CRAZY too.

They, too, have high standards. They know what GOD wants for them, and they don't settle. A Godly man can see, early on in getting to know a woman, if she will be worth his time. Her words and actions tell him exactly who she is, and the discernment he gets from the Holy Spirit tells him if he should stick around or call it quits, even if he's only had one day in her presence. Not just any woman will do. God cares about him and requires His best for him, and since God has a relationship with that man, he can speak to his heart and give him the "inside track" so he won't waste time. When a woman sees (and men too) that "I don't have to try you to know you,"  or "I don't even have to give you a real chance for you to show me who you are," it can make the man appear overly confident, and in some women's eyes, it can even seem arrogant. But this Godly man is neither of those things. He's just sure. He's sure he's heard from God and he knows that God won't lead Him wrong. He cuts ties before they're even formed. He doesn't need unnecessary, unhealthy emotional attachments and drama. He guards his heart from that type of foolishness, which at the same time, guards her heart. And for that, she should be grateful. He cares about her well being because he respects her spirit, even though he sees no future with her. And that assuredness...that confidence...that boldness to trust God over what's before him is what some women see as overly confident and arrogant and CRAZY.

Will this woman have to be a SUPER Christian to get next to this Godly man? Probably not, because what is a SUPER Christian anyway? What she will have to be is genuine, though. She won't SAY she loves God and that she lives for Him but DO something different. She won't SAY that she's a Christian who lives a life that reflects Christ's nature but DO things contrary to what He commands. Her life will bear fruit, or be a palpable example of her commitment to Christ and her love for God's people. There will be no guessing "who" she is or who she represents. She won't be one way at church and with one group of friends, but totally different with her co-workers and a different set of friends. She will know her purpose. She will be sure of what God's called her to do in the earth. He won't have to help her or wait on her to get where he is spiritually because they'll both be so enveloped in their "already" relationships with God. They'll understand that God is who causes growth to take place and that as long as they both submit to Him, they'll be exactly who each other needs as they grow together.

This Godly man doesn't smoke or drink and he doesn't involve himself in any other activity that is harmful to his body or his spirit. Why would he want to connect in marriage--LIFE partnership--with someone who does? Wouldn't that be foolish? And yes, he gets bashed and called CRAZY for not engaging in sex outside of the sacred marriage relationship, but he honors his body AND hers enough to not give of himself to anyone but his wife. He refuses to create soul ties with anyone but her since having committed himself wholeheartedly to the Lord. He knows his strength lies in his ability to honor God, regardless of what others say, so he controls his flesh. His flesh doesn't control him. He's not driven by every emotional whim and understands that just because his flesh cries out and screams for what it wants, doesn't mean it should have it.

And yes. He has established himself financially and planned for his future. If God has blessed him to be able to own a home or whatever else his heart desires, he owns it. If he's been blessed to travel the world, he travels. He doesn't set limits on what he can do or where he can go or what he can have. He doesn't sit around waiting to have a wife so he can start his life. In fact, he's so busy honoring God with his time and so busy doing what God has called him to do in the earth that finding her isn't AS important. He wants her. He's actually in pursuit of her, but his pursuit doesn't consume him. He'll know when he sees her.

He'll know her.

He'll know because she'll be the one who has standards as high as his. And he won't be intimidated because her confidence in Christ will be refreshing. She'll be the one who knows what God has called her to do in the earth, and he'll know it because she'll be busy doing it when he "sees" her. She'll be so focused that she won't even know he's "watching".

She'll be the one who doesn't smoke or drink or do anything else that's harmful to her body or her spirit because she understands that her body isn't her own. She knows her body belongs to God so He can use it for His purposes. She'll be that CRAZY one who understands that sex is designed for marriage and will refuse to even deal with him unless that's perfectly clear between them from the start.

She'll be the one who isn't afraid to live life because God has blessed her to be able to do so. She will not have put her life on hold to wait on anyone because she knows to him it'll look like he has to be her savior, and he doesn't want to be that. He doesn't want her to look to him to be the answer to her loneliness or emptiness or... In fact, he'll be most attracted to her love for life and her desire to build God's kingdom with complete devotion to the Lord alone. He'll be grateful just to have her help, as his wife, as he fulfills the purpose that God has placed on his life.

When he sees THAT woman, he'll know he's found his wife. And when he sees her, she'll be right there. She'll know him when she sees him too, and she'll answer his call.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Nothing "Just Happens"

God called me to Augusta, GA in 2003, and I lived in the same apartment for almost 10 years. Somewhere around year 6 in the apartment, I got the itch to buy a home. By that time, I'd learned a lot about apartment living vs. home ownership, and I'd been making financial strides to prepare for the home-buying process. I was growing out of the apartment (literally), and EVERYTHING about living there--the parking (or no parking), hearing my neighbors' every move (LAWD), knowing that my rent was going into a black hole--was working on my nerves. Every inch of my being knew it was time to go!

I walked through the home-buying process 2 times (2009 & 2011) before I purchased my now home in 2012. Both times, something went wrong or things weren't quite right, and I was never able to seal the deal. The third time was the charm, though. I felt like I'd looked at every home in the city before I fell in love with mine, but I knew when I walked in that it definitely belonged to me. It fit me. My house was the ONLY one throughout the entire process that I had complete peace about, and I knew it was God's peace. It had the exact charm and character I was looking for. I was adamant about not buying a home in a newer subdivision where every house looked the same. (I call them cookie cutter homes.) I wanted an older home in an established neighborhood with a dogwood tree in the front yard. (Fell MADLY in love with dogwoods when I moved to GA) And I got it! The process went smoothly and everything fell right into place. There was no hassle, no mishaps, and no horror stories. I simply bought the home, moved in, and started a new chapter.

When I bought the house, I was introduced to the grit and grind of home ownership. Many things I was prepared for, but of course, there were those things I couldn't have prepared for because they "just happened". One of the things that "just happened" was the Augusta Ice Storm of 2014 (Tuesday, Feb. 11 - Thursday, Feb. 13 officially, but the aftermath was alive MUCH longer than that).

Tuesday, February 11th
Schools shut down on Monday afternoon with anticipation of the storm's arrival, so that meant no work for me. I was at home on Tuesday, with plans to finish writing a few chapters in my book. I wanted to write all day! Around 9:30 that morning, though, after I'd been writing for only about 30 minutes, the electricity went out. I used the battery on my laptop until it died, and little did I know, I'd be done with writing anything in my book for the next 2 weeks. The power was restored in an hour, but by that time I'd already washed my hair and was in the middle of deep conditioning and twisting and setting and... The whole nine! A 4-hour process!

When I was done with my hair, the storm had picked up a bit. If I would've even been thinking about writing, that wouldn't have lasted very long. My attention was on the storm. I stepped outside to get a video of the kazillion-year-old pine trees that SURROUND my house (and my neighborhood) because they were literally swaying in the wind. I couldn't believe it! Those trees were one of the many things that helped me fall in love with the house. They're beautiful! But I saw another side of the Georgia pine later that night--a not so beautiful side.

As the night crept on, more ice and sleet began to fall and caused more and more weight to rest on those weak pine branches. All throughout the neighborhood, the snap, crackle and pop of the branches could be heard with thunderous echoes. Limb after limb, branch after branch was falling onto my roof and rolling off onto the ground. It was constant. It was loud. It was scary. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't even sit still long enough to rest. I had to leave the house with its warmth and electricity to spend the night at one of my church families' home that had no electricity, but it was THAT serious. I just wasn't sure that one of those limbs wouldn't plow INTO my roof, and I didn't want to stick around to see.

Wednesday, February 12th
The storm had passed. There was no more ice or sleet projected to fall. I woke early that morning so I could get back home and see what my yard looked like. From the sound of it the night before, I knew it was bad, but I would've never imagined it would be even close to what I saw when I pulled up to my house. The front and sides of the house were quite a sight, with mounds of tree limbs covering the ground, but the back of the house was Armageddon!




My mind was racing. I knew it had to be cleaned up, and I knew it would be cleaned up, but I just kept looking at it in disbelief. Then I surveyed the neighborhood and saw that everyone else's yards--the whole neighborhood--had taken a pretty big hit from the storm.

Then, I went inside and saw this in the computer room, right outside of my kitchen...

A limb lodged in my roof!!!!! And from the looks of things outside, I wasn't surprised. I was shocked, though, and I wished it weren't so, but I knew I couldn't just stand there and keep looking at it. (I did that for, I know, at least 15 minutes) I had to spring into gear.

I didn't call my parents immediately (they live miles away) because I knew they'd worry. I called my realtor. She was SO amazing throughout the home-buying process AND after I purchased my home that I knew I could still bring questions and concerns to her if I needed to. I'd never had to file a home insurance claim before, and although I was pretty sure it wouldn't be much different from the car insurance claims I'd filed with car accidents, I still just wanted the comfort of knowing how to go about it. I wanted to hear from her, step by step, what I needed to do.

But I couldn't reach her. Because of the storm, the cell phone service was a little sketchy for a time. I'd left her a message, and she'd called me back a couple times, but I didn't see that I had missed calls from her until the next day. I later learned that she wasn't even able to leave a message. It was cool though because when I couldn't get her after a couple of calls, I did what I should've done from the very beginning. I went to God. I didn't make any immediate moves. I knew the insurance companies were already, no doubt, pretty busy with claims, so I took a minute to gather myself and get quiet before the Lord so He could tell me what to do and give me the gusto I needed for what I anticipated to be a long process.

While I cleaned up what I could in my house, and while I studied my insurance policy, I prayed. I knew that this wasn't as big a deal as it could have been because my roof was only punctured. It could have been a million times worse based on the evidence that lay in my back yard, so I was definitely grateful. I still had electricity, and after about a half day of silence with the Lord, I had peace. That whole day, I just cleaned, prepared, and prayed.

Thursday, February 13th
I woke up bright and early. I knew the first thing I needed to do was call my insurance company.

I called.

My claim was filed within 10 minutes. The representative closed the call by giving me 3 restoration companies to contact about removing the limb from the roof and having the storm debris cleaned from my yard, and things immediately became overwhelming because Iantha hates making huge, life-altering decisions (and big purchases)! Oh, the stress!

When it comes down to having to get quotes and seeing who will give the better deal and seeing who's trustworthy based on their credibility from others they've served, I wanna crawl under a rock! I want to snap my fingers, get someone for the job and have that person just be the right one EVERY TIME. If I had my way, I'd never have to run quotes for anything. I'd never have to search around to see who'd be best for any job. Whoever I choose would just always be the right one. I look forward to my one day husband either completely taking things like that over, or us handling those kinds of decisions together. When I don't have to do it alone anymore (or at all)... HALLELUJAH!

It was at that point that the Holy Spirit told me to get on the phone with my biological father. His wisdom with natural disasters is a lot more vast than that of my parents (my mother and step-father). My biological father has had a few homes damaged from hurricanes and tropical storms. He's had houses built. He's been around the block with insurance and contracts and anything else that comes along with home ownership. The Holy Spirit told me to glean from his wisdom, and immediately, I got on the phone.

My father told me to check each company by first seeing if they were approved by the Better Business Bureau. If they weren't, I had to scratch them off the list. If they were, I could take it from there. He talked to me about the process, step by step. He told me what to do and what to expect from the beginning to the very end when the roof was repaired and the house was restored back to its pre-storm state. I was so grateful to God for calming my inner storm with that phone call. I felt like I could conquer it all after that!

After many calls and scratches from the list, and internet searches and more phone calls, I found the restoration company that would remove the limb from the roof and cover it with the temporary tarp, but they wouldn't get to me until Friday or Saturday because, of course, they were inundated with work all over the city.

That day, I cleaned what I could in the front yard, and even had some church family over. They were still without electricity, so they wanted to charge their phones and other devices and enjoy some heat.

Friday, February 14th
One of my friends came over that morning, and we tackled quite a bit of the front yard. He's always looking out for me and refused to let me even think of working in my yard alone. I waited to hear from the restoration company with hopes that I'd make it on their list for the day, but I didn't. I spent the day helping others where and how I could and sharing my heat and electricity with church family.

Saturday, February 15th
I got an early morning knock at the door. I already knew who it was, so I emphatically jumped from what I was doing to answer it. The guys were ready to remove the limb! The repair process was beginning! After I directed them to the back yard and signed on the dotted line giving them the "OK" to get started, they went out to do what they needed to do, and I went back to whatever I was doing.

I didn't hear much happening on the roof, but I didn't fret. I trusted that the professionals knew what they were doing and that they were probably just scoping everything out. After having been out there only about 10 minutes, the guys rang my doorbell. When I answered the door, the concern in one of the man's eyes scared me a bit.  He asked, "Is your electricity still on?"

I said, "Yes."

He said, "How in the world are you even still in this house?  Have you seen those wires on your roof? We can't remove anything until the electricity is off."

My concern grew by the second as he stood before me. A childlike innocence and ignorance must've been all over my face because he went on to explain further...

"Those are live wires. It's no wonder you haven't blown up in this house the way those wires are mangled around that branch. We can't touch them, and that's for your safety and ours. You need to get your electricity cut off and get your insurance company to get you a hotel room. I wouldn't stay another minute in this house. I'm tellin' you. This house shoulda already caught fire by now."

He couldn't see what was happening in my head. I was jumping and screaming and thanking God for His protection! I couldn't wait to close the door and shout! Yes, I'd seen the power lines. I'd taken pictures of everything. But did I notice how badly mangled they were? Sadly, no. I didn't. I honestly wasn't even thinking about wires. My focus the entire time was on the fact that the limb was inside my house. I hadn't given much attention to the outside yet, other than the limbs that needed to be removed from the yard. I would shift those gears once the tarp was on and the adjuster had come to make his report. I couldn't believe that I'd been so oblivious, but with everything going on, it just seriously got past me. I just wasn't paying it any mind, and in my my my inability to see EVERYTHING that was happening...the Lord protected me.

The guy went on to explain that after the electricity was cut off, I'd need an electrician to come out and take care of the wires. Once the wires were taken care of, they could come back to remove the limb, and I could have the power restored to the house.

I didn't waste a minute. I'd heard the warning. At that very moment, I was washing and drying clothes, the television was going, I'd just finished preparing breakfast on my electric stove, and of course the heat was house was in full electric operation with MAJOR appliances. I can cry tears of joy right now simply thinking about that divine protection! Umph, umph, umph...

I packed for a couple days and headed back to the same house where I'd stayed on Tuesday night. I had the electricity cut off and began searching out electricians immediately. When I found who I'd go with (after calling around and quoting-UGH!), I was placed on the list for the next day, Sunday. The company that took care of my wiring was one of the many in the city that was working on Sunday because of the number of homes that needed attention. It really was a beautiful time of working together. I enjoyed seeing how everyone worked to get Augusta back up on its feet.

Sunday, February 16th

I got up early that morning to go to church. I expected to hear from the electrician in the 9-11 am window. I was at church for all of 20 minutes when my phone rang. The electricians were headed to my house. I met them there and they worked diligently for about the next hour and a half to restore the wiring on the outside of my house. They also had to remove the limb because they couldn't properly tend to the wires without doing so. It was finally removed! When I saw them removing the limb, I got on the phone with the restoration company. I told the guys that they would be able to come and tarp the roof whenever they were next available. After that call, I called Georgia Power to get on the list of homes to have electricity restored THAT day. And it all worked out BEAUTIFULLY! After the electricians finished with the wires, there were already a couple Georgia Power trucks working in the neighborhood. My phone call was in cue, so not even an hour after the wires were done, one of those trucks stopped by my house and restored power! Within the next hour or so, the tarps were on the roof. Those guys had made it their business to get back to me THAT day! I was so grateful!

February - June   (Yup...June...late June)
For the next few months, I would make call after call after exasperating call. There were some contractors who wouldn't even allow any other work to be added to their load because they had just that much. They gently (except 1) and apologetically (except 1...the same 1) turned me away. At the same time, though, there were a number of contractors who came out to the house to see the damage and provide quotes for the service they could provide. What I found, early on, was that many contractors did only exterior roofing and made it a practice in their companies to sub-contract the interior work out, so they put me in touch with the people they sub-contracted with. Getting the exterior repaired was a breeze. That happened quickly. It was the interior that took FOR-EVER!

Contractor after contractor came to the house to assess the damage. They took notes and made sketches and did all the same things every other contractor did, but none of them followed through. I had people just straight up not call  me back after saying they would. I even set a dollar amount with one guy who said he was drawing up the paper work to present to me so we can get the job started, and I'd still be waiting on him to call me back. It was ludicrous! Then, one guy came to my house and was there for literally 6 minutes. After taking one look at the ceiling he said, "You don't need restoration contracting or general contracting. You need a paint contractor. No wonder no one's been able to help you."

That was the FIRST time I'd heard that.

I'd explained to him in that short time that a few had come by, but no one followed through on anything. He said, "Because they just want to make a buck, but when they get here and see it and know that insurance is involved, they cave."


All the while, those people were just trying to make a deal so they could get the job and get paid. Knowing that that wasn't their area of expertise, the repairs probably would have been botched, but God's divine protection didn't allow it! When each of those contractors saw my adjuster's proposal, a legal document of detailed expected repairs, it kept them away. They couldn't complete the repairs as required by my insurance company and they knew it, and if they'd tried and didn't do them like the proposal suggested, lawsuits would've ensued. They weren't the people for the job, and God knew it. He kept them from  me.

After that last contractor, I called my home insurance agent because the Holy Spirit told me to let them do the searching. My agent connected me to a representative at the company that would eventually complete the repairs in my home. I connected the rep directly with my adjuster and let them talk about what needed to happen next. I simply stayed back and covered it all in prayer.

We all set up a date to start the work, and that was that. My home is repaired and even better than before because the new paint job added a freshness to the room. It feels like a new place, and I love it!



None of It "Just Happened"
I knew my house was my house. I wasn't supposed to buy any other house as my first home. I knew I was supposed to be living there. I also know that God is in control of natural disasters. If a natural disaster, that He controls, hit my house and didn't take me out, it's because He didn't let it! It didn't destroy me or the house!

I saw pictures like this one as people were beginning to share what had happened to them in the storm.

That could've been my house. My back yard was full of monstrous limbs, but none of them destroyed me or the house! The house could've caught fire, but it didn't!

And I was completely protected until it was time for the work to begin. There were only 2 houses on our street that had electricity the entire time, and 1 of them was mine. I had comfort in the storm. I had a place to go that's just like home. I didn't go without any of my needs at any time.


All of those "happenings" were a reminder for me. I believe God was very intentional in speaking to me during the storm "happenings". It was as if He was telling me again, just as He did when He commissioned me to Augusta in 2003, "I have you in that that region...on a mission. I sent you there on Kingdom assignment. Do you think I'm gon' let anything take you out? As long as I've called you and you still have work to do that I've clearly shown you has to be done, you'll be alright. Sure some things may come, but they can't take you out. I've got you covered. No harm shall befall you."
I snapped this picture of one of the trees in my front yard with it's beautiful winter blooms while the electricians worked on the wires. I allowed the beauty of those blossoms to remind me of the beauty in the storm.
With everything that happened (and DIDN'T happen), that thought is what sustained me. Every time I prayed, I was comforted in knowing His promises cover me. I'm His.

"Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation."
- Psalm 91:14-16