Wonder Woman and Me-Part 3

It would be absurd for me to discuss what Diana as Wonder Woman and I have in common without sharing what differences I found. There were quite a few actually.

An obvious difference is that Wonder Woman was 5’10” tall and could defeat an entire army garrison in 4-inch platform boots!  I, on the other hand, am 5’4” tall and shrinking! Plus, I can barely walk up several flights of stairs in my arch support tennis shoes without seeking extra oxygen!

Diana figured out how to fly and torpedo herself as a weapon! The only way I can fly is to pay outrageous airline prices, stand in human-cattle lines for hours, and then sit very still in a cramped space between two strangers for 3-4 hours in a giant torpedo shaped can! My weapon of choice is a good dose of Dramamine!

Some other differences include: Diana can rock both a ball gown and a super hero wardrobe. My best look is jeans and an oversized t-shirt! She wields a sword pretty well and can lasso anything she wants. I can wield a mean skillet on a gas stove and there isn’t a jar I can’t open, with a little help from the rubber gripper I keep handy at all times!

There are, of course, many other differences because Wonder Woman is a fabrication of someone’s imagination and there isn’t a real woman anywhere who could begin to match her. That’s the whole idea of a super hero. I’m okay with that and I enjoy her story nonetheless.

There are two important differences though that I want to keep in my heart and mind. One to challenge me and the other to keep me focused on the real world full of it’s real people and our desperate need of a Savior!!

The differences between Wonder Woman and Me

  1. Train Harder!

Hippolyta: You will train her harder than any Amazon before her. Five times harder, 10 times harder — until she is better than even you.

The Queen of the Amazons, Diana’s mother, gave the order for Diana to be trained and trained and trained some more. But that order could only be carried out if Diana was willing to endure the five and ten times harder part of that training. To say that her early training was stepped up, is the bona fide understatement of DC Comic lore. And yet Diana met that training head on until she was the best and no one could beat her; not even the god of war.

Because of Diana’s willingness and even eagerness to train and train harder, she was able to tap into her deepest power and abilities and accept a seemingly impossible mission her mother reluctantly assigned. The only reason Diana could use the “god killer” sword and the lasso of truth and handle a shield for deflecting machine gun shots, is because she trained like her life and the very existence of the world depended on it.

A life of ease didn’t shape Diana, though her mother at first tried to provide that. A life of gladiator training with hand to hand combat smattered with blows to the head and topples to the ground prepared her for super hero status. Lounging around in the castle eating bonbons all day had no place in Diana’s daily experience. Active preparation and a willingness to be trained primed her for the day she pulled a man from the ocean waters. Nothing would be the same for Diana.

Elaine: I don’t have time for training. I have a family, a career, a life to pursue. I’ll fit in church when I can and read the training manual (Bible) sometimes. It’s not my fault I don’t experience the full blessing of God.

Sadly, I cannot with any honest confession, say that I train as one of Jesus’ disciples…as a daughter of the King of Kings…even two times harder let alone five or ten times harder than an average person might do. So in this comparison, I am not like Diana at all!

My spiritual muscles are weak and out of shape. Oh I can get by for a simple hike through church life and family interactions. But I am in no way, shape or form ready for the front lines of the ugly, filthy, and even hateful human messes that are the daily experience of all of us…and mostly from me, myself and I.

Some days, I cannot believe the ugly sinful thoughts that come to my mind and weave through my psyche and then express themselves in curt words or snide glances. One simple WalMart run proves my lack of training! But I shouldn’t be surprised. One church service and a few verses a week are no match for my old nature colliding with a world without Jesus!!

Unlike Diana who became better than her instructor, I will never be better than Jesus! I don’t want to be! He is God! I am Not! And it is much better that way! But, I am commanded to be like Him and the only way to do that is to train 5 times and 10 times harder in God’s Word, by God’s preachers and teachers, with God’s people in the trenches and Jesus as my instructor.

I have not “redeemed the time” or “taken the whole armor of God” with any kind of regularity. But I do want to finish my course well. I want to be a warrior princess for the God who saved me!! May God help me do so!!

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:” II Timothy 4:7

  1. Believe in>>>What?

Diana: “It’s not about what you deserve. It’s what you believe. And I believe in them (people). “Only love can truly save the world.”

This is the biggest and most important difference between Wonder Woman and me.

Her premise sounds so good, so right, so doable. It is echoed all around us: movies, TV shows, marketing, sports figures, politicians and religion. But is it true? And does it solve the human condition; namely sin and separation from Jehovah God and eternal life?

First of all, it is ALL about what I deserve.

I deserve death and damnation because ALL have sinned. 

Romans 3:10 “as it is written, There is none righteous, not even one.”

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death…”

Second, it is not just believing for believing sake. I can believe anything I want about anything I want, but without absolute truth, without the substance of reality, that belief is useless. I can believe a two-legged chair is going to hold me up, but until I actually test that belief and sit down to the truth, that belief is quite ludicrous.

In a world where truth is relative, faith is pointless!

James 2:18-19 “But someone may well say, ‘You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (emphasis mine)

Third, It is ALL about who you believe in!

Is it a little “g” god or The God, Creator, Lord of Lords and King of Kings? Or as, Diana claimed, should we believe in people?

The only acceptable “belief” in our culture is; “Believe in yourself!” Really? The “Self” that lies if it is convenient? The “Self” that is jealous of anyone who looks better in jeans than “Self” does? The “Self” that screams and yells at those who disagree with “Self”? Or the “Self” who lets the tears fall when someone dares to disagree with “Self’?

How about the “Self” who cheats on their taxes and their spouse? Same difference, right? Or let’s believe in the “Self” who imposes lots of laws but excuses themselves of basic moral law? There is the “Self” who gives up after one or two tries or won’t hold down a job or abandons their kids? I could believe in that “Self”?

There is NOTHING in any human being; not my husband, not my kids, not even my grandkids that is worthy of my belief! And there is absolutely NOTHING in me that persuades me to believe in me! We are ALL too fickle!

No way, am I going to believe in people for my hope and salvation! The human race is a mess and has been since Adam and Eve. And quite frankly, man has been trying to save himself for ten millennia and isn’t doing a very good job. The evil and chaos and self-destruction of our enlightened age is powerful evidence against believing in people.

Little “g” gods like Diana and Thor, et al, are fun to watch in clever movie plots, but they do nothing for my reality or for yours! But neither does the god of the American Dream or peace at any cost. Just a cursory investigation into the rise of crime, violence, hate and suicide tells us that belief in our modern manmade gods leads to death and destruction, not the peace and life we all long for.

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but my me.” John 14:6

And he also said, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:30

Jehovah is the God I believe, the Hope I cling to and the Life I long for!!! It is nothing of myself and everything of Him! For that truth I am eternally thankful!

Finally, there is only ONE love that CAN Actually Save the World!

John 3:16“For God so loved the world that He gave is one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Romans 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death, not life, nor angels, not principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Wonder Woman and Me-Part 2

Movies can be great! I do think a very large majority of them are horrible; either bad plots and acting or filled with unnecessary bad language and sexuality or violence. But, I have my favorites that I will watch more than once.

Most musicals I have seen enough times to have the music and the lines memorized. These are great for housework and laundry. I put the movie on and go around the house cleaning and staying completely in sync with the movie. Happy RainIt’s kind of fun to turn off the vacuum and find that I am right on que with Julie Andrews or Shirley Jones or Doris Day though maybe not quite in tune with them! (I know, I’m old!)

And I have plenty of non-musicals that are favorites that I will watch more than once. Classics like Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments and most of John Wayne’s movies. The Illusionist and The Prestige are two that I had to watch about 3 times to get all the nuances. Really too many to mention especially when I add in all the Sci-Fi/Fantasy favorites. I just like well-done movies. They are good entertainment even if it is a serious or tragic story.

But only a bushel of movies out of the hundreds I have watched in my almost 60 years have challenged my own behavior or thoughts or encouraged me that I might be doing something right. The recent movie, The War Room, was full of challenges concerning my spiritual habits or lack thereof. The Lord of the Rings Saga reminds me every time to never give up on God’s mission for my life and that this mission is important or else I wouldn’t still be on this Earth.

And Wonder Woman…Diana defiantly confronted me with things I could do better and encouraged me that I am doing some things okay. I didn’t go into the movie theater expecting either of those. But I’m glad I came out of the theater pondering them and all at once. Here are two more…

What Wonder Woman and I have in Common

  1. People are the Mission!

Trevor: “We have a mission! We can’t save everyone in this war! It’s not what we are here to do.”

Diana and Trevor 2

Diana: “You’re right. But it’s what I am here to do!”

In her very long life, Diana never lost sight of her one true mission; individual people. She was sent to save those who could not help themselves. Yes, she had all the tools of warfare to defeat the god of war. Yes, her eye was set to meet Ares face to face and kill him. But her heart was tender toward those in need; one person, one group, one village impoverished and imprisoned by the war. She could not go around that fact. She had to fight her way straight through it and save whom she could.

It was the one point of contention between Diana and her mother. Diana wanted to fight the god of war and more importantly fight for the oppressed and her mother wanted to protect her from that fight. What mother wants to see their daughter go into one hopeless battle after another? Even an Amazon has that mother bear instinct!

Her human soulmate, Trevor, could only see the war and his mission to try and end it, by any means. Diana saw the people trapped in the war and wanted to save even just one. Diana & TrevorHer compassion undergirded her mission to kill Ares and drove her to action in spite of all the odds against her.

In the end, Diana realized that people were her true mission. Ares was simply a distraction; a powerful distraction, but just a distraction. She devoted her life to save the poor and the outcast from future oppressors.

Satan: “You are just one little itty bitty person! You can’t help this world! It is beyond saving!”

Elaine: “You’re right. But it is not my job to save the world. Jesus has already done that! It is my job to obey Jesus and serve people. That is what I am here to do.”

I have a true eternal life with Jesus which started the day He became Lord of my life! I also have a mission given to me on that very same day! (Matthew 28:18-20)Gods_Hand_left But how many times in these 50+ years of walking with Jesus have I let the enormity of the battles raging around me eclipse the reality that God has already won the war!!

How many times have I created my own missions, many of them good ones, but not The Best One? How many times have I let distractions, some of them monstrous, keep me from the one true mission given to me; one compassionate action at a time for one person at a time, making one disciple at a time?

James 1:18 says…Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

2. Leaders Fight in the Battles!

Diana: “Where I come from generals don’t hide in their offices. They stand beside their soldiers. They die with their soldiers.”

Diana was never an armchair player or coach. Even as a child she wanted to be in the action, ready for anything. She learned to fight and to lead and to do this on the front lines. As a leader, she could quickly assess the battle field and plan accordingly. As a fighter, she ran straight for the hottest part of the battle and fought beside those she inspired by her courage and tenacity.Diana 2

At the same time, it was ingrained in Diana to submit to leadership. She followed with grace and submission; to her mother and to Trevor as her conscious permitted. But when those she followed tried to distract her from her one true mission, then she became the leader and with grace and fortitude carried out her mission.

She even followed Sir Patrick for a time until the truth of his real evil self was revealed. Then her mission of “Kill Ares” went into full throttle even when he tempted her to follow him as co-rulers over mankind. Diana rejected his lies for the truth of her mission to lead and to fight alongside mankind to save those who could not save themselves.

Elaine: “I do not wrestle against flesh and blood. I fight the good fight with the whole armor of God, and above all I am strong and courageous!”

 There is no place in God’s eternal plan for anyone to sit back and be an armchair quarterback or to be a spectator in the stands.

Ephesians 6:12-13 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”

II Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the lightstock_150291_medium_user_3915942faith;”

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

The Bible says I am either for Jesus or against Him. (Matthew 12:30)

I am for Him!! And because I am for Him, I have a personalized battle plan set before me each and every day which cannot be carried out from the ease of the Great American Dream. It can only be carried out in the trenches of the shattered lives disposed of by the lies of that dream.

The Great American Dream is in reality, The Great American Lie!! Thousands, if not millions of people lay waste in the aftermath of their quest for this elusive and empty hallucination. Just search the headlines and read the Tweets of those who think they have “made it”! Drugs, alcohol, broken relationships and abandoned mansions litter their lives.

As a daughter of the King of Kings, I cannot live a life of ease and comfort and expect to be used by God for His front line purposes! I must lay aside my earthly hopes and dreams and get in the only battle that matters; the battle for the human soul!!

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. II Peter 3:9

Wonder Woman and Me-Part 1

Wonder Woman and I have several things in common! Honest! I’m not being arrogant or delusional or even “I am woman hear me roar!WW Symbol

I simply want to share several of the nuances of Diana and her world view that remind me of some things crucial to who I am. It all started with a date…

Thanks to yet another 100 plus degree and smoky (from distant fires) day in my hometown, Hubby and I opted to see Wonder Woman again for our Friday date night, which was really in the late afternoon.

(So thankful we are old enough to not worry about whether it is “cool” to date in the middle of the day. Matinee prices and no wait at local restaurants on a Friday trump any attempt for “coolness”.)

Anyway, usually we wait to see a movie a second time until we can see it again for free, but weather altered our normal routine on this particular Friday for recliner seats in a cool, smoke free theater with buttered popcorn. Second and even third time viewings are a necessary practice for us because we never catch all the bits and pieces with the first viewing of these adventurous fantasy/sci-fi movies. And though we are not die-hard fans of DC or Marvel comics, we do enjoy some of their movies and heroes, Wonder Woman among them.

I didn’t go on this date with the love of my life intending to return home and write a blog post; the first in almost two years! I just wanted to hang out with this guy I’ve been married to for 37 years!! But, sitting through this second viewing of Wonder Woman, I paid closer attention to the details of this movie and this character, and I was challenged by Diana in unexpected ways.

Up front, you can be assured that I fully understand and recognize that Diana/Wonder Woman is portrayed as a feminist demi-god. A made up little “g” god from the imagination of William Moulton Marston; wrapped in Greek and Roman mythology. All of which is a total antithesis to the One True God-Jehovah, Whom I worship. But, I can still glean something from her characterization; stuff Wonder Woman and I have in common and very important distinctions between the two of us.

What Wonder Woman and I have in Common

 Ancestry is Everything!Diana with Horse

Diana: “I am Diana of Themyscira, daughter of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons…”

This was Diana’s ancestry; her heritage. All that she was came from this pivotal foundation; and nothing that ever happened to her, either from fellow Amazons or from the world ever changed her perspective of the authority she possessed based on this royal ancestry.

Everything she did, everything she said, everything she thought was filtered through this single “truth” of who she was. Her very purpose for existence was wrapped up in this declaration. She didn’t think twice about invoking the power and the authority of her royal position and she did so with extraordinary determination wrapped in noble grace.

Those around her could hardly argue their own case or their own misconceived notions when confronted with Diana’s regal presence, though they had no idea (until the end of the movie) who they were really dealing with. She was simply and matter-of-factly who she was even when they tried to tone down and dress down her royal ancestry.

But when it came time to fight the bad guys and evil itself, Diana literally ran head on into those battles fully confident of her royal authority and power to defeat the faces of evil and the god of war. She let nothing distract her, for very long, from her sworn authority to defeat Ares.

Elaine: “I am Elaine, disciple of Jesus Christ, daughter of the King of Kings, Jehovah God, Creator of the Universe.”

I, too, have a pretty amazing ancestry! In fact, it is the only ancestry that matters! My heritage is not made up by man to try and explain away our rebellion against the One True God.  The lineage offered by Jesus Christ is the only ancestry, the only identity that is Truth…that is Real…that is Eternal! Through God’s precious gift of Salvation (John 3:16) CrownI and many other “whosoevers” are adopted into God’s royal family with the full rights and authority and power that royal position affords!

Ephesians chapter one explains this beautiful eternal, legally binding act of God’s Grace! I encourage you to read the whole chapter. But, in part it reads…

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” (vs. 3-5)

So, the question for me is not if I am royal, because I am! The question is, do I act like nobility?

Do I live up to and claim the authority of my lineage the way Diana did? Or do I flounder in worry and fear and hopelessness wondering how I am ever going to get through my life?cropped-dsc02767.jpg

Do I filter my life, my actions, words and my deepest thoughts through the eternal lens of who I am in Christ Jesus? Do I claim the title that was bought with the precious blood of Christ and live within the power of that title? Or do I retreat into my personal handmade idols for comfort and ease?

In Christ, I am already victorious over evil and sin and the cares of this world! But do I act like it? And if I do understand my royal heritage, am I a royal brat!? Or do I carry my nobility with grace and humility; two of the most powerful weapons I have as a disciple of Jesus Christ?

Oswald Chambers wrote: “The great wonder of Jesus Christ’s salvation is that He changes our heredity. He does not change human nature-He changes its source, and thereby its motives as well.”

BLISS Etc…40 Days In

40 Days In by Valerie K Valentine

(Professional photos provided by richards and company art & photography)

Hands with JoeyThe countdown is complete. The wedding and honeymoon have taken place and we are 40 days into marriage and it really is BLISS! I am sure it will not always feel like bliss, but in those moments I am confident the Creator of love will be there to pick us up and move us back into bliss.

I so enjoyed writing about my wedding preparation that I thought it may be fun to share some of my experiences as a newlywed. I am certainly not a marriage expert, but I would love to share what God is doing in our life and marriage.

Zack and I are both well aware that that we cannot have a successful marriage within ourselves no matter how hard we try. The element of God and His grace is ever on the forefront of our minds. The grace He gives us allows us to give grace to each other. Our goal as a couple was for our wedding day to keep the main thing the main thing, and that main thing is God as the source of our marriage. Sometimes in the craziness of life, or a wedding day, that can be forgotten.

So allow me to back up 40 days.Chalck board sign

I was told by many that the wedding day will go by quickly and it’s true. Our wedding weekend is a bit of a blur, but there are a few things that I will never forget; the wonderful people who gave their time and resources to participate, that God was the central focus of the day, that I got to marry to the most amazing man, and we had a LOT of fun!

I cannot thank enough our bridal party and their families for stepping in and helping us so much! They helped to Flowerstransform the kid’s chapel at our church and reception hall into exactly what I had in my head. It was like everyone stepped into my mind and brought my vision to life!

We had members of our bridal party come in from across the United States, several with little ones, in order to be with us for our wedding. I so enjoyed having many people I love all in the same place! It was a little surreal to have my cousins who have been my “sisters” as long as I can remember mixed with my friends from college, mixed with friends and family I have now. It was so fun to see my entire life within the relationships of everyone represented. The sacrifices each of them made I can never repay, and I am thankful each of them is in my life!

Valerie WindowThe weather was beautiful. God provided three sunny days in the midst of weeks of rain, snow, and ice. I started the morning with some time with my ladies, and then headed off to hair and makeup with my mom and grandma. My hair turned out beautifully! The appointment did take slightly longer than anticipated, so this schedule conscious bride was a little frazzled for a moment. That only lasted for a short time until we were able to get to our destination for bride and bridesmaid pictures, and completely melted away when I remembered “the main thing.”

We did a first look prior to the ceremony, and it was in that moment when I saw my very soon to be husband that God reminded what that day was all about, the two of us coming together.

Zack Reveal Valerie Reveal  Reveal

There were small things that didn’t go “exactly according to plan,” but it no longer mattered. All nerves, anxiety, and stress vanished from my body as soon as I saw him smile. In that moment the only thing that mattered for the rest of the day is that I was marrying the godly man in front of me, and we finally get to go home together!

Allison on PlaygroundThe next few hours flew by as we took pictures all over the campus of our church, including the playground!

Our ceremony was beautiful. Everything was perfect. God and our covenant in marriage remained the focus. Walking down the aisle with my daddy will forever remain in my heart. Dad walking ValThe man on my right has loved me from before I was born. He has sacrificed for me, taught me, and been there for me in my darkest hours. Now he was giving me away to the man in front of me. In just a few moments, this man will take responsibility for me, for us. Now he will sacrifice for me, teach me, and be there for me.

It was an unforgettable moment when my dad gave me away in the most eloquent way, and my Bill and Valerie Hugalmost husband took my hand to lead us to our new life. This moment set the tone for our ceremony.

God ordained marriage and family, God was our witness, and God is the center of our covenant.

The DipAnd then the ceremony and marriage were sealed with a kiss; the most perfect kiss with an elaborate dip!

It was now time to celebrate! And celebrate we did; food, family, and fun. We had a wonderful venue that created a beautiful environment with little stress on us. They did an amazing job with the service, space and food. The DJ did a great job keeping the evening moving forward.

We started with a delicious dinner and some time for the bride and groom to mingle. My amazing husband put together a beautiful video telling the story of Val and Zack. Our Maid of Honor and Best Man gave us a lovely toast, and from that point on it was time to party!

I had the privilege of dancing with my husband for the first time to More by Frank Sinatra. My dad showed off his dance skills in our father daughter dance to My Girl, and Zack and his mom had a truly touching mother son dance to All of Me. We moved to our legacy dance where we honored all couples on the dance floor. As the years increased my Grandma and Grandpa Baldwin showed us not only how to really “cut a rug”, but also what true love and lasting covenant means; 60 years and counting!

As the night moved on we did a dollar dance to help us have some extra cash for the honeymoon, and it was so fun to get to dance with young and old alike! I tossed the bouquet to a dear friend and the garter was grabbed by my oldest brother. There may or may not have been little bit of cake smashing, and the evening ended with the night lit up with sparklers.

G & G Heritage Dancefootball helmets on cake Helmets Valerie and Maggie Andy and Allison Superhero Val and Dad Dance Val with Super Heroes

CarWell, I thought that was the end… until my brother jumped out of the back seat as we pulled away and about scared me half to death!

Well played Ben…. Well Played.

While dropping him back off at the reception hall, I was informed of an imposter on my front grill. A final wedding car Val ripping off plateprank… My beautiful Buckeye license plate was gone, and a disgusting yellow and blue one was in its place. As any bride would, I walked up to said plate, went She-Hulk, and pulled that sucker right off! It was a beautiful thing.

It truly was a…

dream come true wedding!

Val and Zack Pronounced

Countdown to BLISS-Day 0

My Baby Girl is Getting Married by Elaine H. Baldwin

Me and ValerieDear Valerie,

Today is the day! We’re both pretty busy right now and I’ve already shared this with you privately. But I want to share it here as a testament to God’s grace and mercy in both our lives.

I love you more than words can say, even for this writer mom. How a heart can be so full and ready to burst every second of every day, is mystifying to me. But I am grateful and praise God for every bit of you. You make my heart sing and sometimes cause the tears to fall. But it’s all you being a part of me and it is all priceless and more than I could have ever imagined when the doctor said, “It’s a girl!”

It is my privilege to be your mom, Sweet Valerie! And it has been my joy and honor to plan this day and now enjoy the fruits of our labor. We did good! But more importantly, God is good and His plans are perfect.

I pray you and Zack will have many many years of BLISS!

And now let’s talk about getting me some grand babies…

Countdown to BLISS-Day 5

It’s the Final Countdown by Valerie K. Baldwin

5 days to go… 5! I can hardly believe it!Engagement

In the last 24 hours I have had the 80’s song The Final Countdown d stuck in my head! It is here, the final week, the final countdown to the Baldwin/ Valentine Wedding. Even our date suggests a countdown 3-21, and the final countdown has certainly begun!

This week the countdown is certainly in its final stages. This week culminates six months of work and planning done by so many wonderful people. And this week marks the beginning of a new adventure!

I have had so many people ask me how I am doing.

Are you excited?

Are you nervous?

Are you stressed?

To be honest, I am a little of all three plus countless other emotions.

Actually, the word excited just scratches the surface of all the wonderful emotions I feel. Dressed Up 3

I am beyond excited to marry Zack! I love starting the process of organizing and decorating our home! I am thrilled that so many of my friends and family are able to come and participate. I am blessed by my parents and siblings for doing so much and providing tremendous support. And I am so thankful for Zack’s family and how they embrace me as their own.

I am excited!

Stress is a perception. It is what you make of it.

Have there been stressful moments? A few. I’ve tried to take the advice of many and let the little things go, and be willing to adapt. Have I been somewhat irrational out of frustration? There have been times where I let the glitches and roadblocks get to me, but then God gently reminds me of what is important; starting a new life with Zack! Nothing else matters.

I am not stressed.

Nerves are relative. I am not nervous, about some things; other stuff, maybe just a little.

Am I nervous about the wedding being perfect? No, what is perfect? Whatever happens; happens. At the end of the day we will be married. Mission accomplished. So if something random happens (as I am sure it will), oh well.Val and Zack 20

Am I nervous about Zack? Absolutely not! There is nothing but peace in my heart and joy in my soul when I think of marrying Zack, so no nerves there.

Am I nervous about what comes after the countdown, and being a wife?

Yes. I am an organizer who likes to have a plan, so embarking on this new journey does have some nerves to go with it. I think if you truly understand the covenant of marriage it should make you have some butterfly nerves.

Engaged 3But if I am honest, I must confess that I have struggled these past six months of engagement with unhealthy nerves. Well, let’s call them what they are; lies or “Schemes of the Devil” as the Bible puts them.

I have struggled wondering if I will be a good wife? Will I measure up? Will I fail?

I have feared failure for as long as I can remember. Fear has been a stronghold in my life several times over. But I believe God has used those past struggles to prepare me for now. He has prepared me to recognize these fears for the lies they are, and how to give Him each and every one. I will fail at some point that is a sure thing. Marvel NightBut God has given me a wonderful partner to do life with that can help me get back up. So I can rest in Whose I am, and I will not fear.

Zack and I are two broken peopleCleveland Wedding 3 doing our best to serve God and each other, so there is nothing to be nervous about.

Am I nervous? Not anymore.

Countdown to BLISS-Day 9

“Are you nervous?” by Zack Valentine

It is nine days from the wedding. It is nine days from saying “I do.” It is nine days from being married to my best friend.

Marriage License

I can’t tell you how many times I have had individuals ask me if I am getting nervous following the proposal and the closer the calendar moves toward March 21, 2015.

My general response is to simply quip “No.”

However, that may not be the full truth.

It’s not so much about being nervous from fear, but rather the joy and excitement of starting this phase of my life with my best friend! The reality is truly embedding itself on my brain and the thought makes me glow as well as brings a smile to my face.

I am so glad that Valerie is a planner. She has made the entire engagement and wedding planning an absolutely easy process. Between her and my future mother-in-law, they are a dynamic duo like that of Batman and Robin!

As much as I have wanted to be actively involved with the process, there is only so much I can do working full-time, running my Remix (youth) group, attending my college classes, and packing stuff to move into our home. As of this writing, I have taken charge of the transfer or activation of services like our internet, water, and electric (we wouldn’t want to have any of those shut off a week before the wedding).

If anything, I am not nervous about the actual wedding.

I am more nervous about what soon follows…life.

Zack and ValI see the responsibility that God is calling me into as I transition into married life with Valerie. Our pastor, Marty Sloan (Harvest Time, Fort Smith, AR) absolutely loves marriage. Pastor Marty has been so good to Valerie and I in sharing with us a glimpse of what marriage life will be with resources of counseling sessions, one-on-ones, as well as reading materials. I see the future roles of our immediate families and having to take considerations of mine and Valerie’s needs when seeing and spending quality time with them, especially during the holidays.

So am I truly nervous?

That question brings up a scene from one of my favorite comic book characters, Iron Man. In Phase II of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man 3 explores Tony Stark’s fear of whether or not does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man? In this case, I make the suit.

Once the wedding is done, my suit (tux) will be off and returned. Then it’ll just be me. I’ll go from being trapped in that suit for an entire day to being freed from it and Valerie will officially be Mrs. Valentine.

That’s when life happens.
That’s when the journey begins.
So to answer the question, “No. I am not nervous.”

Countdown to BLISS-Day 10

Lasts by Elaine H. Baldwin

One aspect of this wedding planning thing we didn’t realize would be so relentless was the amount of shipping that would take place. We’ve shipped everything from jewelry to sparklers to programs to favors to photo books to flowers.IMG_2962 And we’ve been doing so pretty much weekly since January. Amazon, Shutterfly and Oriental Trading Company are my new best friends.

Some of the massive shipping is because the long distance planning piece of this wedding, but anymore with Internet options, IMG_2961shipping is a factor that needs to be considered in any wedding scheme and budget.

And speaking of shipping, one of the first of several “lasts” happened today.

Today I shipped the last boxes of wedding stuff to Valerie. A box of homemade wedding mints, a precious photo of my deceased parents and a box of everything else I forgot are on their way to Arkansas. It was a surreal moment to realize that all the hard work was winding down and will soon culminate in the wedding vows of my precious daughter and her fiancé .

But another last snuck up on me and it took my breath away. It was in the simple task of filling out the mailing address on the third box. For the last time I wrote down my daughter’s name…her Baldwin name. After March 21st, any letter or box I send, I will be addressing my daughter with her married name AND that is awesome!

God is so very good to give her this blessing called marriage and to a man who loves Jesus and loves her so much. She’ll always be a Baldwin, but soon she’ll have her own Valentine family and that is a very precious thing.

Since sending off those boxes today, Sweet Valthis Mother of the Bride has dabbled in a little bit of precious remembrances of other lasts in her baby girl’s life.

Things like…

The last time I held a bottle to her tiny lips.

The last pink onesie sold at the garage sale.

The last time she jumped down from the high chair.

The last time I rocked her to sleep.

The last time I put her on a school bus.

The last time she used training wheels.Val and boys

The last time I listened to her AWANA verses.

The last time she let me put a perm in her hair!

The last time she put on catcher’s gear.

The last time I bandaged a knee.

Val and meThe last time I sat in the gym bleachers.

The last time she let me in the Macy’s changing room.

The last time she let me help with her homework.

The last time I inspected her “clean” bedroom.

The last time I stayed up late until she came home from hanging with friends.

The last time I grounded her and took away her car keys.

The last time I drove her to the horse barn.Val and Delta 2

The last time we talked all night about stupid boys and life dreams.

And the last time we cried together about growing up and God’s unyielding faithfulness.

Valerie 2Lasts are not to be feared. They are simply transitions to the next God has for us. And this Mama is already celebrating the next He has for my daughter in 10 short days!

Countdown to BLISS-Day 17

Party 11Details! Details! by Elaine H. Baldwin

It’s crunch time for the Baldwin Clan. But we are not in a panic and I am confident we will not be in a panic during wedding week and even on“V-Day”, as Valerie has come to call her wedding day; the day she becomes Mrs. Zack Valentine.

The reason we aren’t “sweating the details” is because we have paid attention to those very details and at the same time, held those details loosely in our hands because we can’t control 99% of the circumstances surrounding said details. It’s taken me awhile to figure that out.

As my poor kiddos and husband can attest, I have too many times let the details control me which wasn’t very pretty to watch much less experience. And it would be easy and probably politically correct to say that now, “I don’t let the details control me, I control the details.” But that wouldn’t be the best God has for me either and is really an oxymoron anyway.

It’s really quite impossible to say we control the details because we have absolutely no control over anything. Even the next breath we take is completely out of our hands. And all God has to do is send a little snow or send a little wind and all our human grandiose plans come to a grinding halt!

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan or take care of the details, though. The Bible is full of God taking care of details and expecting us to do the same. From creation to tabernacle building to manna gathering to festival planning to 12 baskets full of leftover food or washing some else’s feet, God is all about details. And He has plenty to say about the slothful, foolish, lazy person who refuses to even think about the details let alone take care of them. And none of God’s thoughts or treatment of such a person is pleasant.

So, Valerie and I, with the help of so many have thought about, listed, re-listed, and taken care of as many details as Detailspossible in getting ready for “V-Day”; well really “V-Week.” It is our hope that by attending to as many details now, the wedding week will be an enjoyable and even relaxing experience for everyone involved.

Now we are not so naïve to think there won’t be any glitches to our details during wedding week. That’s the whole reason for taking care of details now so when the glitches come, we won’t panic…we hope! That’s Plan A, anyway. Do not panic!!

After all, it’s just a glitch. And bride and groom will be husband and wife come 5:20pm (give or take a few minutes) on March 21, 2015 no matter how many of our so carefully planned details go down the wedding glitch drain.

In practical terms, every wedding has some very basic details that must be attended to. There must be a bride and a groom, a preacher or justice of the peace, two witnesses, a marriage license and a date/time/place for these folks to show up and have the ceremony and then sign off on said marriage license. That’s the basic details. Every other detail is the icing on the cake.

Party 10For this MOB and her bride daughter, though, we like lots of icing (figuratively and literally)!! But we have not been extravagant either in budget or design. We’ve worked hard to keep a healthy balance as we’ve learned a balanced life doesn’t just happen, it does take effort.

So what have we learned about wedding details?

  1. We’ve forgotten something. Don’t know what it is yet, but there will be a detail or two or three we’ve forgotten. When said detail is remembered, handle it. That’s all you can do.
  2. The more attendants you have the more details there are! Lots of fun and wouldn’t change it, but it does increase detail management. But it also increases the workforce!
  3. Planning long distance increases the amount of details and increases the chances for details missed. Can’t change it, so go with the flow.
  4. The reception carries not only the largest chunk of wedding budget, but also the largest amount of details. Be sure to work with a venue and/or person who gets this and is willing to guide you through the myriad of details involved in a wedding reception.
  5. As often as is needed, get the details down in writing. This not only applies for church and venue contracts, but also with timelines for the wedding party, photographer and others. Don’t rely on verbal instructions. Write things down and get it before the eyes of those who need to see it.
  6. If budget allows, hire out as much as you can or delegate like crazy or both. Saving $200 bucks may sound great until you’re shopping at midnight at WalMart the night before the wedding because groomsmen found the meat for the reception in the fridge and ate half.Zacks bliss blog
  7. Surround yourself with willing and able hands. Valerie and I could probably do it all ourselves, but why!? Half the fun of planning a wedding is doing the planning with people we love and they love us. It’s been a joy to share in these kinds of moments. That’s what we’ll remember, not the details.
  8. In light of #7, delegate, delegate, delegate. And then delegate some more, especially the day of the wedding. Things won’t get done just the way you want, but who cares! Things will get done and you will or should be able to relax and enjoy this special day.
  9. You must have alternate plans. It matters not what season of the year your wedding day takes place, the weather can change everything. Too hot, too cold, ice, snow, tornadoes, or crashing rain will all change your details. Even a few sniffles, or God forbid, flu bugs and the like will indeed change your details.
  10. Don’t sweat the details, but do take care of them. There is a difference between the two.

Photo Booth Fun 5Plan A-Don’t Panic Wedding is in full swing for this bride and MOB. The test will be in 10 days when I arrive for wedding week. But, with God’s help I think there will be few panic moments and trust they will be fleeting. We have too much to celebrate, too many loved ones to embrace and enjoy to let a few detail glitches spoil “V-Day”!!