Our Miracle Wedding…
OUR MIRACLE WEDDING…
This is one of the most unusual and Special update letters I have had the privilege of sending to you all!
Some of you know this, and others may not. In a crazy turn of events and answer to many years of general prayer and 5 1/2 years of specific prayer, I married a wonderful South African man named Daniel Edward Nell on September 8th, 2018!
Our Love Story…(as Originally Printed in our Wedding Program)
Though we initially met at a board meeting in Kenya of
Afmin (now Emit), a ministry we both were involved with, our story together began 6 1/2 years ago. After being counseled by a friend and ministry leader Chris DeWet, to invite Daniel to go on the first En Gedi Experience to Israel (which he declined), Laurie was making a trip for En Gedi to South Africa in September 2012. To follow up with the En Gedi invitation, Laurie met with Daniel for an afternoon coffee, which turned into a late and delightful dinner.
Laurie and Daniel enjoyed each other, conversation and time together from the start. After 3 months of talking by Skype and a month of officially dating, Daniel came to visit Laurie in the US to meet her family in March 2013. Though it was a wonderful visit in every way, Daniel was not ready to enter into a relationship and shortly after the visit, he broke off the relationship.
In the aftermath of that breakup, Laurie was heartbroken with a lot of questions, especially for God, and she went through one of the darkest seasons of her life. In prayer and counsel in community, Laurie believed she was led to continue to pray that the Lord would restore and bring resurrection to the relationship with Daniel. This continued to be her place of faith for the next 5 1/2 years.
In a series of events not connected at all to Daniel, Laurie was called to engage in a ministry called Generosity Path in expanding “Journeys of Generosity” in South Africa, eventually including a move to South Africa in January 2016.
Laurie and Daniel did not see each other at all between April 2016 and January 2018. Toward the end of that time, the Lord had been speaking to Daniel separately about Laurie and after a series of “divine appointments” where they “ran into” each other several times, Daniel contacted Laurie on May 1st, 2018 for coffee. That coffee turned into lunch, which turned into dinner, which turned into today, September 8, 2018, our wedding day.
There are many incredible details that make up our story, and we are unable to share all of those in this short note, but our Love Story is a series of miracles and a living testament to the glory of our God and Father the King!!
Our wedding and marriage is proof that NOTHING is impossible with our God!
Here is a link to our relationship photo album online for any of you who might want to see pictures.
Stories of faith breed faith, and my prayer is that our story of God’s work in the “impossible” brings fuel to your own faith journey.
With great joy, celebration and increasing faith,
These last 6 years have been a school of faith in a deeper way than I have ever known before. In my journey with Daniel, the Lord spoke to me repeatedly so many different ways, asking me to continue to pray, believing that He had Daniel for kingdom work and for me even though there was absolutely NO INDICATION that this would ever happen. In fact, there was every indication that it would NEVER happen!
In 2013 (right after Daniel walked away and broke my heart) the Lord prompted me to keep a picture “journal” of God’s revelations to me, affirming my stand of faith every step of the way. Little did I know that it would be a collection over 6 years. If I would have known, it would have led to despair, I think. SO many times, I thought I was out of my mind to continue on with this journal, but every time I would pray, I just knew that I didn’t have the freedom to walk away.
The week before our wedding, I finished our book of faith–a collection of @ 475 photos in my picture faith journal–each one with an explanation of God’s speaking to me during the 6 years of my faith journey. What an amazing “Divine Review” with Jesus I had leading up to our wedding as I finished this book.
Here is a sample of the faith book pages…
He is SO faithful. He keeps His promises. His word to me never changed. He is the “promise maker and the promise keeper and He finishes what He began.”
What a joy to present this book to Daniel on our wedding day. It will forever be a “stone of remembrance”–of our God, His word, His faithfulness, and my/our school of faith.
There is great value in keeping record of our God, His word to us, and His journey to fulfillment of that word. Journals (of all sorts) have generational power to testify of the greatness of our God and inspire faith in others!! If you have never kept a faith journal individually or as a family before, it’s always a great time to start!
“How great is our God…sing with me how great is our God. How great, how great is our God!!!”
“Out of Africa”–Friends, Gifts and Joy
On January 23, 2016, I showed up in Johannesburg, South Africa with a vision from the Lord (at least I sure hoped it was!), two suitcases, a place to stay for two months, and not a single friend in a city of 10 million. Wow!! Am I crazy or what??
I had no idea what kind of ride this would be, but looking back now, two years later, the Lord has surprised and amazed me…
He brought me here with a picture–a picture of light emanating from South Africa into the rest of Africa, changing the foundations.
As I have walked with Him in the midst of this picture, I have watched Him change hearts here in South Africa through the Journeys of Generosity (JOG)–an experiential encounter with God’s generosity toward us over a weekend of stories, small group discussion, Biblical readings and times alone with the Spirit of God. People have encountered the Father’s love and generosity in a way that is transformational. It’s amazing to watch. JOGs are being done in other parts of Africa now, with South Africans leading the charge! Light–His light emanating from South Africa into the rest of Africa.
Part of the “light” picture that I felt like He gave me was that there was going to be a strong movement of business people (and even specifically men) who are FULLY surrendered to the Lord and will take His kingdom through business into Africa in transformational ways. I have seen some of this start to happen as well, and I continue to pray for this “band of brothers” that the Lord will raise them up in POWER to change foundations of culture through business.
In the midst of the joy of watching Jesus at work in the big picture of this country and continent, there have also been gifts–incredible gifts from my Father. I have a community of friends that I love, pray with, laugh with, and even invite myself over to dinner at their home(s). I have a beautiful place to live that faces a garden and feeds my soul every single day. I found a wonderful hairdresser (Girls, you know what a miracle that is!! :-). I have opportunities to go on safari and WORSHIP (Honestly, I don’t know that there is a greater worship experience for me than watching the majesty and intricacy of His creation as seen on a safari drive. He’s magnificent, our Creator God). I have experienced the body of Christ in different cultures and expressions every Sunday. I had a visit from my family to share my world here with them. Joy…gifts…friends…Jesus….
All in all, in my two year “review” this month, I am celebrating…GREAT is Your faithfulness, O God, my Father….
It was a grand story how it all came about and there is quite a history around the particular street I moved to—one that the Lord spoke to me on when I was jogging almost two years ago now.
Two years ago in April, I was staying at a place called “Mustard Seed Guesthouse.” I had been looking for a place to stay, and I found this place on line and loved the name, especially as I was standing in faith for some things the Lord had spoken to me about in South Africa.
One morning I decided to go for a jog. As I ran, I turned onto a street called “Boundary Lane.” Almost immediately as I turned onto that street, the verse “Your boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places, surely you have a delightful inheritance” starting going through my mind on repeat (Psalm 16:6). It was the strangest thing. I was also listening to a playlist on random with 300 songs on it and right at that moment Chris Tomlin’s song “Boundary Lines” started playing on my iPod.
As all this was happening, I was saying to the Lord, “there must be something special about this street.” I even stopped at a house where some people were outside their house to ask about a certain property on the street which was beautiful but rundown. It turned out that the man I talked to was a real estate agent and he knew all about the street and the property.
When I came back last year (a year an a half later), I contacted this same real estate agent to ask if there were any garden cottages for rent on Boundary Lane. He didn’t know of any. After that conversation, I didn’t pursue Boundary Lane any further but ended up going to Pin Oaks, the place I stayed during my first year in South Africa.
I started looking for a new place toward the end of last year, as I wanted something a bit bigger where I could have people over and practice hospitality. I looked at so many rental properties, but most of them looked very stark, and I didn’t have peace about any of them.
So, I was back to square one. As a last resort, I decided to go on Airbnb and see if there might be a listing that would be willing to take a longer term renter.
I found two houses that might be a possibility that I approached. I knew the general area the houses were located in, but there is no way to see a specific address on Airbnb unless you actually book. Out of the two houses, one owner responded and told me I could come over right way to look. I asked for her address and she said BOUNDARY LANE. I almost fell off my chair…a garden cottage on Boundary Lane!!
So, I’m now living on Boundary Lane in an absolutely charming little place where “my boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places and where my inheritance is delightful!”
I walk this street on a regular basis, praying and claiming the inheritance that the Lord has given me in this country!
My Secret Garden
The Secret Garden–a beautiful story. I also love the song “I come to the Garden alone while the dew is still on the roses…He walks with me and He talks with me. He tells me I am His own….” It was one of my Grandpa Doden’s favorites.
Every morning as I sit in my chair with tea and chocolate with Jesus, I sit looking out into my “secret garden.” Jesus gave me my own “secret garden” here in Joburg…right outside my door–literally.
Though it might seem insignificant to some, to me it is love. My Father knows what ministers to and refreshes my soul, and He gave me a unexpected, lavish gift in this new world where He has put me, knowing that it would bring life to my soul.
“I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, you may be also.” There’s something so amazing about the character of God in that phrase. He’s intentional and personal in preparing a home for us, knowing us intimately…caring about the details of where He will bring us to live with Him forever.
Though Jesus was talking about heavenly homes with those words, I think He was also expressing the nature of our Father God. Our Father prepares intimately and provides abundantly in the places where He puts us–South Africa included.
Pictures of His provision in my new world:
From a beautiful, gifted hairstylist…to my favorite and only perfume (which I have never seen in any other country)…to some wonderful new friends…to a car…to an incredible host family…to a secret garden–all gifts from my Father’s hand. Sometimes the small gifts mean even more than the big ones because it shows that He really KNOWS me…intimately.
“My God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” He provides according to His “riches” and not His “discount coupon book”–how I love that!!” Each and every need of my heart is met lavishly–those spoken, those unspoken, and even those unknown to me…but known fully by Him.
My Secret Garden–“the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”
Sometimes I just need a reminder…a reminder that He is present…a reminder that He never leaves me or forsakes me…a reminder that He is good and that His love endures forever.
Last week was one of those weeks, and He sent me several reminders–some with more “drama” than others.
After getting texts from friends one morning with pictures of a rainbow, this scene greeted me as I walked out of our ladies’ Bible study that night. I actually gasped when I saw it. The picture doesn’t begin to capture the full beauty of that sky. I called back to the Bible study girls to “come out here fast” as He was showing off and I didn’t want them to miss it!
We all stood there in awe for 5 or 10 minutes as we watched Him paint…paint His love, His faithfulness and His goodness across the sky!
That may sound cheesy or romantic to some, but I take these gifts personally because I think He gives them to me personally…if/when I have eyes to see.
He loves me, and He tells me to “proclaim His love in the morning, and His faithfulness at night.”
The bookends of that day–a rainbow in the morning and the glorious sunset at night–reminded me of His love for me in the “dark”…and of my own need to proclaim what I know to be true in my head though sometimes need a reminder of for my heart.
“You are good and your love endures forever!”
There’s nothing that moves our God like the faith of His people–believing God for who He says He is and all that He says He can do. He esteems it. He requires it. It moves Him.
Hebrews 11 is legendary in celebrating some of the “heroes of faith” in the pages of God’s story.
As the Lord has sent me to different corners of the world, I have had the honor and privilege of meeting Hebrews 11 “extension” heroes–people that would definitely be included if the chapter kept going. By faith, Svonko…
In November, I was in Slovenia, a former communist country in which the Spirit of God is moving in some powerful ways today. However, there was a time, not so long ago, when Slovenia was very dark, very foggy, and almost devoid of any overt sign of spiritual life. In the midst of the overwhelming hopelessness of communism and post-communism, there was at least one man, among others, who stood in FAITH–believing God can and would change the atmosphere–do the impossible. Svonko….
I’ve known Svonko for about 14 years now, and every time I enter the church where He serves in Ljubljana, Slovenia, I breathe life–faith, hope and love. Though he and I have had very few personal conversations, I’m so grateful for his life…for the way his bold faith challenges my own. God has honored his faith. He has seen Jesus move in power and is still believing Him to do more.
I needed fresh wind for my own faith journey that day in November, and Jesus gave me “manna” through this hero of faith as he spoke words of life from Ezekiel 37, “Prophecy to these dry bones….”
As I have the privilege of meeting, hearing about and reading many stories about heroes of faith, I choose to claim my spot in that lineage–the lineage of Abraham, my Grandpa and Svonko.
By faith, Laurie…for the glory and honor of my King.
She can laugh…
Proverbs 31 uses “she can laugh at the days to come…” to describe this “famous” (or infamous some tired women might say!) wife of noble character.” My aunt also wrote a book by that title when I was in college, so it has been a significant phrase to me!
As I was standing in my kitchen a couple mornings ago, getting ready to have tea and chocolate with Jesus, I looked up and saw this:
I had bought the sunflowers as a gift for some women in a summer discipleship group as a visual reminder that our beauty comes as we turn our faces and strain toward the Son, just as sunflowers do. “Those who look to Him are radiant and their faces are never covered with shame.”
The plaque behind that was a gift from a friend and is one of my favorite names of God…The God of Angel Armies. “I know who goes before me. I know who stands behind. The God of Angel Armies is always by my side. The One who reigns forever, He is a friend of mine. The God of Angel Armies is always by my side….”
It struck me that morning that, if the first picture is happening in my life–I am turning my face toward the Son and gaining His beauty–and then by faith I’m believing that He is The God of Angel Armies who is always by my side…
I really CAN laugh at the days to come!!!
My desire is to live as a Proverbs 31 woman–a radiant face, a BIG God and lots of laughter at the days to come.
Have you ever had one of those gifts that only you knew you really wanted or were looking for, but then all the sudden it showed up, as a gift straight from Jesus? Well, that was my recent experience in South Africa.
Journals have always been important to me–special. I am not one who journals every day, but some things just need to be recorded–life journeys, journeys with God, stones of remembrance. Those are the sorts of things that make their way into my journals. Each journal marks a season of life somehow. I can look at a journal and am reminded about so many things in that particular season. Some of my journals are just a “purchase” but others are really a stone of remembrance.
Last August, I had just finished a journal recording some very dark and hard places, and I felt like the Lord had a special journal for me for the next leg of the journey. He had put a particular store on my mind for a journal, but when I got there, the store was actually out of business and there was a second hand store there instead. I thought it was strange that He put that store on my heart and then it didn’t exist, so I just decided to go into the second hand store and look anyway. Would you believe that there was ONE journal. I didn’t even know that these stores would sell a journal, but they did AND it was new and not written in. I just knew it had been specially picked for me–for this season. Here it is:
Funny thing, but when I saw it, I wasn’t that excited. It was monochrome. It wasn’t very pretty, and “growing things in silence” didn’t sound very fun to me. Truth be told, it hasn’t been fun–at all–but in coming to the end of this journal I wrote in ink in a circle around that tree, “…They will be called OAKS of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” Isaiah 61:3. That’s my prayer…that this season and the roots that grow in deep places in sorrow and suffering will produce strength and fruit from Jesus like none other and that I will display His splendor somehow.
As I closed out this journal during my trip to Africa, I felt like the Lord had a new journal for me specifically from South Africa for this next season for some reason. When I was there in early March, I had asked one of the women at the conference if she knew where I could buy a South African journal in Johannesburg. She gave me a couple of great ideas, and I was heading to the city that next Saturday and was going to look.
Right before I left Camp Eden, I had breakfast with John and Lorna Abrahmse, two dear friends that run a ministry called J-life where I was staying and participating in their annual summit. As breakfast was being prepared I was talking with Lorna and saw a bar of chocolate on the table–a kind I had never seen before. I asked about that flavor, and she said, “Oh, that’s actually for you, and this is too,” and she handed me a journal–a South African journal.
I was actually somewhat speechless, because, as many of you know, I always have tea and chocolate every morning with Jesus–even in Africa, though it’s a little melty there sometimes :-), and I had just run out that very morning. And…the journal. Lorna had no idea that I was planning to go to Johannesburg to buy a South African journal, but the Giver of all good gifts did. He amazes me. In addition to the gift of a South African journal, He even gave me one that is fun and colorful for this next season! I’m so excited about that, let me just tell you!
His gifts–He knows us and provides for us in intimate ways if we have eyes to see–sometimes before we even ask. Thank you, Lorna, for your sweet generosity and for being the conduit of His good gifts to me! I’m so grateful…
Faith, Miracles and Babies
What a joy and privilege it has been this year to be an eye witness to two miracles of our God in the form of babies–my sister and my dear friend Alair.
Caleb and Alair Mitchell have been married for 16 years and, though God has given them two amazing and beautiful boys through adoption–Nico and Nate, they have not been able to conceive biologically. Caleb and the boys started praying for a baby sometime last winter, and I joined them in that prayer in April, around Alair’s birthday.
I was at a mutual friend’s house on a Sunday last June, and we got an unexpected knock at the door. Caleb and Alair and the boys stood outside, and Alair was weeping holding a positive pregnancy test in her hand. The JOY!!
As the Lord would have it, I got to be present, along with our friend Kim, for the birth of precious little Nora Jean in a bush hospital in Uganda, where Caleb and Alair serve as missionaries. I had a front row seat to a miracle of grace! Here are some pictures of this beautiful and miraculous experience:
A day after Alair found out she was pregnant, I had previously arranged a meeting between Alair and my sister Kara, who also struggled with infertility and was given a 3% chance to conceive naturally. Kara was in the process of starting a ministry to other families walking through that same pain and struggle, which is what the reason for meeting with Alair. Our family had started praying with Kara and Duce on our weekly family prayer call in April for the miracle of a baby, and we even had all the kids in our family lay hands on and pray for Kara and Duce’s miracle baby during our annual July 4th celebration!
Two weeks later, as I got back from a trip, there was a knock on my door at 10:30 at night. I opened the door and saw no one, but there was a stork in my yard. I was so confused until…Kara and Duce jumped out of my bushes and shared THEIR news! Another miracle and MORE joy!!!
Just last week I got to witness the precious birth of this little boy born in faith and prayer. Our little Race Sterling Bishop. Words cannot describe my awe or my celebration in seeing our God’s design in the miracle of life or in tasting of this sweet answer to the faith-filled prayers of our entire family–from the 3 year old up to the almost 80 year old–in the person of this little boy. Here are some pictures of God’s beautiful answer to our requests:
Miracles…some have already come and thankfulness is overflowing, and some are still on their way and are waited for in faith and hope.