Ever since Dan and I started dating back in 2011, we've been longing to spend a Rock Harbor Easter service together. 2011 we were still long-distance, and 2012 + 2013 Easter's were spent back in Pennsylvania with my family. Since this year my parents are in Beijing, Dan and I got to have our first RH Easter together. But I'll be open and honest (as I always am on my blog) and share that I was nervous for this one. I'm not sure if you know or not, but I moved out of living with Dan for a bit a couple of weeks ago. I don't want to go too far into that right now as I want to keep this post mainly about Easter, but the time has been good for both of us - is allowing us to just focus on ourselves after completely losing who we both were over the past two years that have been jam packed with trials and fire. We've been meeting weekly with an awesome Christian marriage counselor and God is revealing so much about ourselves to ourselves and... He is just doing an amazing work. We are still in the midst of this, of course, and I wasn't even totally convinced where our marriage was heading,
but yesterday the good Lord made it quite clear.
If you haven't seen my Instagram post (here), then I'll give you some details as to what first started our day together: it all began with baptism. As far as our respective history with baptism goes, Dan was baptized into the Lutheran church in 1986 when he was two months old, and I was baptized in September of 2005 (I was 15). At least a year or so ago, Dan and I had a conversation about adult baptism for him, and I sort of mentioned that if he felt led to obedience in baptism, that I would be honored to do it with him - sort of as an act as One that we are, now bound by marriage. That was that and we never really brought it up again. Fast forward to this Easter season, the idea of Dan getting baptized at Rock Harbor's Easter service (held at the massive Verizon Wireless Ampitheatre in Irvine) kept coming into my mind, but again - we never discussed it. I woke up Sunday (Easter) morning with Dan's baptism on my heart. I felt compelled and drawn and so completely led that if the Spirit made it clear throughout the service, that I would get baptized with Dan - not having known that baptism had also been on Dan's heart. So I texted him. I told him that if the Spirit led, that I was 100% on board with getting baptized together - that I thought it would be such a beautiful, redemptive, and restoring first step toward healing in our marriage; allowing us a clean, risen-from-the-dead, fresh start. He was baffled. (That's God's work for ya!)
He said he had been wanting to talk to me about it but that He trusted if the Lord
wanted it to happen, He would speak to me.
Don't want to get too wordy with this post, but I want to share the other beautiful and life-changing details God threw into the 5ish hour period between when we left for church and when we finally headed home. As I'm sure you know (and you may even be one of them!), a lot of incredible people have been praying, encouraging, and just simply lifting Dan and I up in this dark and painful trial of our marriage. I've received emails of prayer, truth, encouragement, love, and acceptance; one of those people who emailed me being the absolutely beautiful Andrea (of Aidie's Hideaway). This girl gets it, and she gets me. She emailed me a few months ago and long story short, I had been wanting to meet up with her to sort of be mentored by her, but for some reason it just never worked out. I guess God graciously got a little bit tired of us trying to make it happen, so after running a bit late to the service, and even staying in the car when we parked to have one last moment of cool air before walking into the hot sun, as Dan and I were walking in, someone stopped me: it was Andrea. We had never met in person before, and she has such a passion for marriage restoration - so, bam.
Detail #1 that showed me God's passion is for healing in our marriage.
That alone had me freaking out over seeing Jesus so clearly, but then fast forward to us sitting down in our seats, and this sweet couple asks to sit beside us - lo and behold, they live in our hometown and one of our favorite couples (hi Matt & Jenn!) have been being mentored by them in their marriage - and highly recommended we pursue the same - so we exchanged numbers. Detail #2 that God's passion is for healing and restoration. By this point, I'm feeling in my soul that God has confirmed that He was asking Dan and I to get baptized together, but then our pastor - the one who has been meeting with us since the beginning of all of the pain in our marriage - walked up to where we were sitting - in a sea of at least 3,000 people - and I asked what he thought about baptizing us. He lit up. He would be honored and would absolutely love to not only support us in such a holy decision, but take us through it. Wow. (Detail #3)
The service then began with some awesome worship, an incredible message, and a guest speaker from Liverpool where he mentioned how God healed his broken marriage. (Detail #4) After some more worship, the call for prayer and baptism was made. Dan and I took our shoes off, got all our stuff together, and headed over to the baptism tent where we were asked why we were doing this - Dan for a couple more reasons than me, but still some of the same - and then prayed over, and claimed God's truth and promises for our marriage. It was beautiful and incredible and so so so much of what I needed. And then we waited!
Something I've sort of struggled with at Rock Harbor is feeling like I'm lost in the sea of people; it being a big church has made it difficult for me to feel like I'm taking part in a holy community, but throughout the past year especially, God has shown me that this is exactly where he wants me. The biggest way He's done this is by the relationships that He has forged between three of the pastors and myself (and Dan), and yesterday He solidified those even more.
As soon as Dan and I walked out onto the stage together, we met the first of those three pastors and he, with tears in his eyes, hugged Dan, and then hugged me so tightly for so long because Dan has been sharing with him what's been going on between us. He was so excited for this step we were taking together and showed that to us so beautifully. (Detail #5) Next, we came to the pastor who had previously said he would baptize us, and he hugged us both tightly. Dan and I then got into the water together, side by side, our pastor holding my hand and another man holding Dan's, us holding hands in the water. My pastor spoke to me exactly what I needed; words of truth that confirmed exactly why I wasn't doing this - as I had already been baptized - and words of encouragement and prayer that confirmed exactly why I was doing this - as an act of putting the old ways of mine and Dan's marriage to death, and being resurrected as a brand new couple forged tightly with the ways of the Lord. We were then dunked together, brought up together, and we hugged and were both so giddy - not just out of feeling, but because we knew what we had just done and symbolized. (Detail #6) As we were walking off of the stage, the lead pastor of RH (Dan has had a pretty good relationship with him since Dan joined the church four years ago, and he's known what's been going on in our marriage) ran over to us with tears in his eyes and wrapped us both up into such a huge and tight hug - rejoicing with us, and then praying over us and for us and with us. It was beautiful and incredible! (Detail #7) God is so good and loving.
After that, we stayed and worshipped some more, hugging others who had just gotten baptized, and kept hugging each other. Then we were told that they were beginning to clear people out of the ampitheater and we had to leave, so we began to head back to our car. On the way there, oh goodness, on the way to our car, I spotted someone I had been longing to meet basically since I moved to California in 2011: Danni from Oh, Hello Friend. I walked right up to her and hugged her and told her who I was, and she recognized me! And then God led the conversation after that and we exchanged numbers and the four of us (her, her husband, Dan, and myself) are going to get together soon because God has plans for this friendship! I can hardly believe it and it's just so awesome; it's so awesome how well and perfectly and graciously He loves His flawed-but-trying children.
Both images from @rockharborchurch on Instagram.
To all of you who have been praying, encouraging, and sending positive vibes: thank you. And please keep them coming, as we aren't out of the fire by any means; this is just the beginning. Praise Him!