Category: Preparation

Engagement Q&A, Part 2

* What were the most helpful tips to building your relationship (trust, safety, friendship, communication)?

Building trust: This is a long story that I won’t get into, but I felt that the most trust was built when Stefan shared some really hard things for anyone to share.  I could tell that he didn’t want to hide anything from me – even if that meant me ending the relationship.  Because he valued the truth even above the relationship made me realize that he wanted to listen to the Holy Spirit more than anything. He had a humble, teachable heart. I felt the freedom to ask him hard questions and I gave him permission to do the same with me. It took time and experiences to build more and more trust, but it steadily grew like a thriving plant. You water it and give it sunshine and it will surely shoot up!

Building safety: We tried to be who we really were with one another. The more we were ourselves in front of each other, the more we felt truly accepted and embraced … and not for who we were trying to be, but who we were. I mention later that as our relationship matured and progressed, the more we opened our hearts to one another. We confided in each other our pasts, struggles, ugly areas that we don’t normally show anyone but God, and we were able to love one another in those places of ugliness. It’s actually super healing and beautiful to be loved in the areas you feel most unlovable. We talked through these things with our pre-engagement counselor and he helped facilitate some of these conversations and healthy responses. Knowing that we are for one another, not against each other helped us to feel safe.  As a girl, I felt safest when I didn’t feel rushed or pressured to share or move forward. I felt respected even though I also felt pursued. At times I had higher physical and emotional boundaries and I never, ever felt that Stefan pressured me to back down from my convictions. This isn’t to say that we didn’t struggle together, but he didn’t ever say or act in a way that made me feel stupid for aiming for the conviction that I had (ie not kissing till my wedding day). I felt that he was fighting for us to uphold it as much as I was (we made it! Praise God 🙂 ).

Building friendship: My mentor would tell me that every relationship needs a childhood. She is so right! Early in the relationship we simply “played” together.  We went for walks, picnics, ice-skating, movies, coffee shops, etc. After a little while, we began to mature in our interactions and started to serve in ministry together: praying for others, dental missions in Mexico, etc.  Through that progression, our friendship blossomed as we confided in one another and grew to anticipate each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Our friendship deepened as our communities began to merge and his friends became my friends and vice versa.  The more time, experiences, and joys/sorrows we shared the more our hearts grew in friendship.  I think the 2 biggest things that helped us deepen our friendship was 1. being rooting in Christ. 2. not being physically involved. The less we were able to do physically the more we felt the urge to show one another love and affection through other means: actions, service, words, activities, etc.

Building communication:  we went through the book 101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged and it was a fun way to engage in meaningful conversation.  We also stuck to the honesty policy – even when it was hard. We didn’t want to play any guessing games or be passive/aggressive so we made it a point to resolve conflicts – not avoid them.  We agreed to keep short accounts.  We agreed to share how we truly felt about something even if it didn’t seem like the other person was going to like what they heard.  When a conversation didn’t go so well we tried to remember to ask for a “do over” so that we could learn to improve our communication. I am someone who gets emotional and can’t think in the moment so I need to take a moment and calm down before trying to resolve something. Stefan had to learn that I wasn’t avoiding, I just needed about 10-20 minutes usually to gain composure otherwise, I couldn’t engage in productive, helpful conversation. Another helpful tip was that we tried not to rush anything. If we weren’t sure how to proceed, one of us would usually ask to stop and pray to ask God for wisdom on how to handle a situation. We try not to ever see the other person as an enemy, but as a teammate. This helps in communication. We also talked through the details of our days that way we had a good context for the bigger picture.  Another HUGE thing was that we talked about everything – especially in engagement. We agreed to not keep any secrets (except presents we were giving to one another).  He knows all my deep, dark secrets and I know his. We gave each other permission to ask questions and, mostly, tried to focus on being good listeners for one another. The best listening tip that helped us was to repeat back to one another what we heard the other person say. This was key to making sure we understood before we responded. That’s all of can think of for now.

* What were the most helpful tips to avoid temptation to sexual sin, or to crossing your physical/touch boundaries?

Don’t be alone in a private place.  This may sound elementary or extreme, but it was the number 1 most helpful tip that helped us through the course of our relationship. I also had this rule with previous relationships and am so grateful because I believed this was probably the most helpful boundary that keep things rated “G.”  It’s much more difficult to slip up in public than it is in private. Of course, it’s possible to fall into temptation anywhere, but this is a helpful hedge. When we got to our hotel room on our wedding night and closed the door, we were simply excited to be in an absolutely private place with each other.  We still hold on to this boundary- obviously not with one another- but with others so that we are never alone with someone of the opposite gender.  We want to live above reproach and protect ourselves from any potential temptation or even false accusations.

The second most helpful thing was to not think of sex or sexual desire as a bad, dirty thing, but to think of it as a precious gift to be guarded. You probably already hold this view, but  something that helped us a lot was to say to one another (when attraction felt almost irresistible): “This is hug (or whatever) is starting to feel too good for right now.”  This approach didn’t make the other person feel bad or condemned or like a stumbling block. It simply communicated that we needed help to stop the momentum.  It also reminded each of us what we really wanted for ourselves and one another: free expression in the context of beautiful married love.

I’m hopeful that these words will be an encouragement to you. Stay the course! Keep your eyes on Jesus. You can do it in His strength!

Beautiful Bricklayers 101 Class – 4 week Fall Series

Laura's group

Have you reserved your spot yet for the Beautiful Bricklayers 101 Class starting this Sunday night?!

If you are a unmarried woman (either totally single, dating, or engaged) this is a class for you!  We’ll be talking about the principles of becoming “hot and holy” women.  First, we’ll hit on purpose and what it means to know the “why” in your life.  We all have to grapple with this question before we can truly build a foundation for anything meaningful moving forward.

Next, we’ll dig into the concept of prayer and what it means to be a woman who has it going on in this department.  Do you want to get equipped to draw near to Jesus in an intimate relationship?  Do you want to know how you can be praying for your future marriage and that most important man in your life? Our second class will target these areas very specifically.

You can’t do any of this on your own! In the third class, we’ll be covering partnership and what it means to link arms with your community of family and friends to set you up for a successful season of preparation.

Last, you’ll love the challenge to get an action plan together in order to take strategic steps of preparation during your singleness.  In the fourth class, we’ll talk about ways you can get geared up to implement what you’ve learned to live out a “hot and holy” life both now and in the future.

So, are you coming or what?! Get your Bible, journal, and a few girlfriends together for this catalyst experience that will empower you to be even more intentional with this important season in your life!

Sign up on the Facebook event page or send an email to Laura Vencill, and be sure to invite your friends!!!

Class Dates: Sunday evenings: Oct. 19, 26, Nov. 3, 10)

Location: Woodbridge Community Church: 5000 Barranca Parkway, Irvine, CA 92604

Cost: $25 (includes materials) (partial scholarships available)

Baby Grace

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Eleven days ago my baby girl was born! My husband and I welcomed Grace Elisabeth on May 22nd at 8:05AM and we felt as though heaven rejoiced with us. This past week and a half has been the beginning of the most beautiful yet challenging thing I have ever done in my life… become a mommy.

I hope to elaborate

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more on what I am thinking and feeling about this enormous life change, but for now I wanted to share with you, sweet Beautiful Bricklayers, that we have a new, little Bricklayer girl in our community now.

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Thanks to all of you who have rejoiced with us and congratulated us and prayed for us. We would love your prayers as we continue to transition into being parents to this precious baby.

_MG_2391 Gracie and I are still working on learning to breastfeed and my husband and I are trying to get some sleep whenever possible. Thankfully, my parents have been here to make all our meals, keep the endless laundry going, and encourage us (especially when I have been particularly hormonal with all the postpartum changes).

Ladies, I have entered into yet another season of more substantial “bricklaying” or foundation-building time for my family. I will do the best I can to post content, but most of my time and attention will be focused on learning the rhythms of parenting while continuing to invest in my relationship with God and my husband.

During your own seasons of “bricklaying” I pray that you would be able to focus on one step at a time, trusting God to guide you, asking the Lord to give you wisdom, and lovingly embrace the people around you. Always remember: Psalm 127:1

Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.”

Let God be the builder of your house.

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to celebrate mommies

_MG_2146Did you know that Congress made Mother’s Day a recognized holiday in the United States in 1914? This year we celebrate 100 Mother’s Days!!! I’m happy to announce that this will be my first Mother’s Day as a mommy!

Yes, even though my baby is still growing and developing inside my womb, I’ve been a mommy since this precious little one was conceived. I remember hearing people say that there is a strange, unfathomable love between parent and child. Even though I haven’t met this baby face to face yet, it’s amazing how fierce my love is already for this child.

As my husband and I pray over this baby daily, make preparations for the birth, arrange the baby

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room, and do the best we can to read and learn as we embark on this adventure of parenthood, we know that, ultimately, we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Reflecting back to the first week of our dating days, I remember feeling a similar “ache” of dependency on the Lord as I prayed for the potential future of our relationship.

My journal entry after that first date says it best:

Thank you for leading me as my Shepherd. Papi, you are so kind and I thank you for the lovely lunch date Stefan and I had yesterday. My heart is glad… and smiling.

Just as you gave me peace to take this step, please give me peace for the next step as you will. Daddy, I ask you for loads of wisdom for Stefan and me and our families and communities. Please help us to follow you – not ourselves or what anyone else advises that doesn’t line up with you. Thank you for what you’re doing and I trust you.

That last paragraph could also specifically pinpoint what my prayer has been for us throughout this pregnancy… especially the last sentence: “Thank you for what you’re doing and I trust you.” I’d imagine that no matter what stage we enter (big move, new jobs, more kids, challenging circumstances, etc.) the themes here would be a relevant prayer: give us wisdom and peace for each step, help us to follow You not ourselves or others, thank you, and I trust you.

We all move through various season of life and are constantly growing and changing. Instead of being anxious about the upcoming season of change and unfamiliarity, let us remember that God will never leave us or forget us. WE are HIS children. I take comfort in this passage in Isaiah 49:15-16a:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…

As we approach Mother’s Day in about two weeks, take some time to think about what kind of mother you are preparing to become. Spend some time in prayer asking God to shape and mold you now to get ready for the potential role of motherhood that you will likely step into someday. Even if you never become a biological mother, you could become an adoptive mother or spiritual mother to the younger generation as you grow and mature in your relationship with God.

We were created with a nurturing, maternal instinct that needs an outlet and there are many people you could bless with your God-given feminine nature.

This Mother’s Day, I invite you to not only celebrate the current biological and adoptive moms, but would you join me in celebrating also all you “future mom-to-be’s” who will love and nurture children of God (whether they were formed in your womb or in another woman’s womb!) whom He created so intricately and purposefully.

Lastly, I wanted to provide you a few websites you might consider browsing for gifts to celebrate your mom during this special time:

31 Bits

Amazima

Hand and Cloth

International Princess Project

International Sanctuary

Krochet Kids

Gospel for Asia

Six Options for Singles Video Clip

“…those of you who are single, particularly single women, have six options: sin, surrender, settle, suffer, strive, or solace. If you’re single and struggling with your singleness, know that the Jesus that you’re talking to is a Jesus who understands.”

Pastor Mark Driscoll addresses the reality of the paths before you as a single adult. As Beautiful Bricklayers, we hope you would be proactive in your preparation for marriage without idolizing the idea of marriage.

Watch the full sermon: http://jesus.to/1fzL4zR
Find out more about the Malachi sermon series:http://marshill.com/malachi

Check in tomorrow for more prayer prompts to close out the 31 Day Husband Prayer Journey (although, we hope you continue praying beyond these 31 days!). Also, get ready for Monday’s post when

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you’ll hear an audio message Cristina Alexandroni shared recently at a Ladies Luncheon in Arkansas.

 

 

Embracing your season

As you probably know, I’m pregnant. (Woohoo! Praise God! Very exciting indeed!) Right now I feel very pregnant… I’m bigger, way bigger, than I’ve ever been in my whole life. But it’s a joy and delight to be in this season I’ve always longed to experience.

The crazy thing is that I have been fighting this season or living in denial for some time now. What I mean is that I tend to want to do more and think that I have more energy than I really do. I have the same expectations of myself during this season even though my sleep isn’t as sound, my body is changing tremendously as it participates in the beauty and mystery of the creation of a little human, and my husband and I have plunged headlong into the steep learning curve of preparing to enter parenthood._MG_9212

All my life, ever since my earliest memories, I’ve yearned to be a wife and mother. When I became a wife, I felt like I had received one of the greatest gifts in the love and joy of being one in life with my husband. I didn’t know I could choose to love another human being so much. And NOW my heart is already exploding with love for this precious one forming inside me and I haven’t even met him or her yet! Anyway, what I am getting to is the fact that this is such a beautiful, unique season and yet there are a gazillion things pulling at my heart, time, energy, attention and all I want to do is focus on what’s most important.

None of us have to be victims to all that contend for space in our lives. Today, I caved. I broke down in tears over the phone with my parents because I was overwhelmed. I didn’t realize that I was letting all the distractions win. I was giving space to all the little things that don’t really matter that much!

What season are you in? Are you embracing that season or are you fighting it? Are you celebrating the beauty that God’s knitting together in this unique time in your life?

Maybe you feel like your life is only ho-hum right now with nothing super exciting going on right now. You are in the valley that makes up the majority of life. What you do with the mundane consists of the bulk and substance of what it means to worship God in the ordinary. How are you living worshipfully today?

Maybe you are dating someone special and you’re on a journey of discovering if this will develop into engagement and marriage. You are cultivating a vulnerable plant that needs nurturing, time, and attention. Even if you don’t move forward with this person, there are important things to learn through this time of discovery. Don’t let those lessons pass you by!

Are you engaged and getting ready to enter into a marital covenant with the man you love? Engagement is one of the most intense times when details and potential distractions fly at your face from all directions. Make sure you remember what this time

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is mostly about: preparing for marriage, not just the wedding day. Enjoy the giddy delight of celebrating the commitment you are about to make! Marriage is a ridiculously delicious and amazing gift from God… especially when we treat it the way He wants us to.

Whatever your season, identify where you are and lean into it, embrace it, roll up your sleeves and do the work required to excel through it. Take your deep breath as you sit back to enjoy the ride. Life is a series of seasons. If we run the race of life the best we can in each season, we will get to the end with greater satisfaction. Being that I just truly woke up to the fact that I am in such a beautiful season that requires a new focus, I outlined some steps that led me to this revelation. Maybe it’ll help you recognize and embrace your own season.

Remember the BIG picture

Our lives are a fleeting vapor. We are like the flowers of the fields that are here one day and pretty soon are gone (Psalm 103). Who do we think we are? God is the only sovereign, almighty One! He’s the One that holds everything together (Colossians 1). We are invited into His big plan of knowing Him, making Him known, and advancing His Kingdom. We have the joy and privilege of being His kids. Let’s not freak ourselves out over all the small things. Instead, we get to do our best and bring those things to the Lord!

Humble your heart

So many times, it’s pride that tires us out! We run and run and run thinking that in our own strength we can accomplish all that we think we need to do. Granted, we all need to be diligent and disciplined, however, we need to live life with the sober understanding that apart from Jesus we can do nothing (John 15:1-8). Again, who do we think we are? My mom would often remind me: “Cristina, you aren’t the messiah, Jesus is. You are a servant.” What a difference! Let’s humble ourselves and remember that we are only ordinary by ourselves. It is Christ in us the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27)… He’s the one (not us) that makes us extraordinary!

Let God’s grace cover you

We mess up. We stumble. We learn through scraped knees and embarrassing moments. God’s grace is big enough to cover each of us. Thankfully, we can laugh at some of those memories now that we are on the other side. Sometimes, though, we still wince when we think of the foolishness we’ve committed. God’s in the business of making all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Let Him pick you up from your shame. Let Him dust you off, and affectionately slap your little rear end signaling you to get back in the game. He calls you more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37).

Stop. Rest.

Sometimes we need a breather. Sometimes we’re straight up tired. We need a time out. Take it! There’s nothing wrong with sitting the bench for a chance to refuel, regroup, and get ready to jump back in at the right time.

Listen and Prioritize

One of the best ways I improved as a soccer player was when I asked my coach during breaks “What could I be doing better?” Thankfully, my coach was good at affirming me, but I truly wanted to know what I could improve. We need to do this with our Heavenly Coach. God sees the whole game. He sees things we don’t see and knows our strengths and weaknesses. Listen to Him. Especially in those time outs, those Sabbaths, take advantage of the opportunity to listen well to the One who knows best. Let His priorities be your priorities. If you get back in the game with your own agenda, you are hindering your team, but if you humbly cooperate with the Coach’s agenda, everyone on your team wins!

Now get out there and give it your best. Be in the season you are in.

Jumping in again!

Celebrating the women who are Beautiful Bricklayers

My favorite thing about being involved with this ministry is simply getting to know some phenomenal women (who are actually featured in this short clip).

One particular friend, Laura Vencill, is one that blesses me on a regular basis.  This ministry actually started in my home when we were both single, yearning to learn what it means to love the Lord with our whole hearts and seeking to prepare on purpose for marriage.  We finished with a prayer get-together with one other girl and the three of us looked up at each other and knew God started something special through that prayer time.  Beautiful Bricklayers was conceived.

Over the past three years, Laura has been a faithful cheerleader of my writing, speaking, and development as a person. I’ve learned a lot about true friendship from this sweet sister in Christ and it’s with joy that I present to you another video you can share with your friends when you are trying to explain a little better what is at the core of this ministry.

You’re always welcome to contact us here with any prayer requests, questions, or anything else you’d like to share with us.  We’d love to hear from you.

Beautiful Bricklayers’ Winter Workshop: December 28th

logo full

Come and join us for a Beautiful Bricklayers’ Winter Workshop!

Date: Saturday, December 28, 2013

Time: 9AM-noon

Place: 2700 Amalfi, Newport Beach, Ca 92660

We’ll be discussing principles of becoming “hot and holy” women of purpose, prayer, partnership, and preparation.

You’ll be equipped to start preparing now for a godly marriage, regardless of current relationship status. If you are single, dating, or engaged, join us as we grow in our understanding of what it means to lay a foundation for a Kingdom-building future.

Already a Bricklayer?  Join us for a refresher seminar and receive a discounted rate ($10 not $25 if you have already gone through a previous class)!

Invite your friends!!

Cost: $25 for new participants (includes materials and light refreshments).$10 for Bricklayers Class alumna who already have a workbook

Partial scholarships are available.

RSVP: email Cassie: bricklayersleadership@gmail.com or use the form below.

In order to save your spot, write a check made out to “Cassie Robertson” and mail it to:

Cassie Robertson
2620 Johnson Ave.
La Habra, Ca 90631

Deadline to register is DECEMBER 13th!

See you in December!!

November Spotlight: Dani Taylor

daniAre you grateful for your dear friends? Don’t you appreciate those who stand by you to cheer you on to carry out a vision that seems daunting?  Well, I sure am grateful for this very special woman we are featuring this month!  Dani Taylor served behind the scenes for over a year and a half with the leadership team.  She hosted events in her home, spent hours at meetings, donated goods, woke up early to meet with me at a coffee shop before she headed off to work (many times!), and prayed over this ministry.  So much of what Beautiful Bricklayers is today has been directly impacted by Dani’s dedication and service.

Here’s a little glimpse into the lovely heart of this very precious sister in Christ, Dani Taylor:

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m 27 and I LOVE Bricklayers!  I’m really close with my family and I love spending time with them; they are a super funny group of people and I love laughing with them.  I’m really into healthy living – home remedies, cooking, working out, conscious living, etc.  I love the ocean and all the animals in it!

This month’s theme is “Gratitude” and you are a person with a very thankful heart.  Would you share some of the ways you have been intentional to foster thankfulness in your life?

I think one way that I try to foster thankfulness is by constantly acknowledging all that the Lord has done for me and the ways in which he has blessed my life.  If I have a hard day at work, the first thing I do when I get in the car to drive home is list things I am I am thankful for.   I never want to do it – it’s so much easier to let the bitterness fester and to claim that I had a bad day at work and get sympathy from others (which I still do, no one is perfect :-).  But, I find that as soon as I start listing what I’m thankful for, everything comes into perspective and my heart is filled with gratitude and praise and then that doesn’t leave any room for bitterness, anger, discontentment, or envy!

Dani with family
Picture perfect with her family!

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve experienced in trying to maintain contentment?

This one is very hard, I feel like this is an area where I often feel a lot of spiritual attack: staying close to the Lord and believing his Word is what keeps my head above the water.   It’s so easy to listen to the world’s lies and think, for example, that I should be married by now and have achieved a certain level at work.  I find social media really stirs up discontentment in me, so I try my best to stay away from it.  The moment I remember that I am not in control and that the Lord is in charge of my life, I can relax and give everything over to him.  It’s funny because it’s so hard to let go of control, but as soon as I do it, I can relax and know that I am fully taken care of and looked after.  He can take care of me far better than I could ever take care of myself! 

Do you have a passage in Scripture that has served as an anchor to your soul to keep you grounded during particularly difficult seasons in your life?

Yes! I memorized Psalm 42:11 (NLT) which says: “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again – my Savior and my God.” This has been such an encouraging verse for me.  It allows me to acknowledge my feelings of sadness and discouragement but to remember that my hope is in the Lord and I should praise Him through every season of life! 
Dani with Grandpa
Dani loves her Grandpa!

In your singleness, what has the Lord been teaching you that you would like to share with other women?

To wait on Him and to use this season of life when I have extra time and devote it to the Lord – to spending time with Him, reading the Word, and memorizing scriptures.  Life is only going to get more busy and hectic from here on out and I want to know that my life is (and always will be) rooted in the Lord and His truth.

How have you been able to “rejoice with those who rejoice” when you yourself would love to have that same kind of rejoicing in your own life?

This is the one area that I feel the Lord has given me His strength.  I so badly want for my friends to be in relationships and I feel such joy and happiness for them when this happens!  It also gives me hope, if it can happen for them, it can certainly happen for me!  It’s also a way that I can see the Lord answering the prayers that I’ve prayed for my friends and their future husbands.  I think it has also helped that both my sisters have been in serious relationships for the past few years; to see them so happy makes me realize I would never want to deprive anyone of that joy!

What advice or words of wisdom do you have to share with other Beautiful Bricklayers as they navigate singleness and dating relationships?

Trust in the Lord and know that He is good! Draw near to Him and let Him take care of the rest!Dani with RH girls
***Would you like to nominate a girlfriend of yours to be interviewed for the Beautiful Bricklayers monthly spotlight?  
Please email us at: beautifulbricklayers@gmail.com with the girl’s name and reason why you think she should be featured on our blog.*** 
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