Friday, May 4, 2012

Goodbye Locusts, Hello Prince

“And I will restore to you the years that the locusts hath eaten…” (Joel 2:25a KJV)

I’ve clung to this promise from the book of Joel in God’s Word for years and years and years. I clung to it when I was a young girl, and my world came crashing down around me. I clung to it in my early thirties when another tragedy struck our family. And…I’ve been clinging to it since May 4, 2011…the day my husband was found in the woods after taking his own life the day before.

“And I will restore to you the years that the locusts hath eaten…”

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His Word never changes. His promises are true. But, if I’m being totally honest, I doubted that restoration would ever take place for me again. I felt that in losing my Chris, I also lost a huge piece of myself. How could I ever be restored when a piece of me was missing?

“And I will restore to you the years that the locusts hath eaten…”

And yet…the promise continued to mimic me. Over and over, I would see those words in my mind, on paper, in devotions, and in conversations with friends. When asking God for a word that would be my “theme” for 2012 – a word that would dictate the work that He would be doing in my life – He gave me…RESTORATION.

“And I will restore to you the years that the locusts hath eaten…”

Back in late January, I began to see and feel glimpses of His restorative work taking place within me. Grief no longer seemed to overtake me. Yes, I still missed Chris. Yes, I still cried sometimes. But, it was no longer an all-consuming grief. This continued into February too. It was “sticking”. The miracle I had been praying for had arrived. I never asked God to take away my grief. I only asked Him to allow me to grieve so fully that when I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel that it would be so luminous, that there would be no doubting it was Him working in me.

“And I will restore to you the years that the locusts hath eaten…”

As God continued to restore me, He also continued to create new relationships for me. He allowed me to meet so many amazing new girlfriends through this tragic story that He’s asked me to share with the world, so to speak. Each of you has touched my heart in an precious way and has contributed to His restoration work within me.

“And I will restore to you the years that the locusts hath eaten…”

But a day came a couple months ago that I never expected to see again and honestly never thought I wanted. God introduced me to Joel. No…I’m not referring to the minor prophet of long ago from which the verse I’ve been quoting throughout this blog came from. I’m talking about a real man…named Joel. Yes – my own real Joel! Only God could orchestrate that.

“And I will restore to you the years that the locusts hath eaten…”

In short, I’m dating a man named Joel. God crossed our paths in only a way that He could do. I was looking for companionship, but God created something so much deeper. We tackled the “deal-breaker” questions almost from the very beginning when we realized this was heading into something more than just a friendship. At our ages, we didn’t want to risk more heartache and pain again in a relationship that would never work from the get-go. We intentionally went straight to the heart of those things most near and dear to us, and we both passed each other’s “test”. We continued to chat and get to know each other, and we found God doing something in each of us that simply couldn’t be explained in the realm of “normal”.

“And I will restore to you the years that the locusts hath eaten…”

When God restores…He restores fully and completely and usually differently than what we have planned. I expected to live life as a widow for a long, long time (if not forever), and I was content with that. I certainly didn’t mind having male friends, but I couldn’t fathom another broken heart. Not to mention, Chris hadn’t even been gone a year before I laid eyes on Joel for the first time.

This can’t be right Lord. What will people think? What will Chris’ family think? Will people still believe I’m called to women’s ministry – especially widows and single moms – if the day comes when my status changes to married?

Daughter, trust Me, and remember what I’ve told you…

“And I will restore to you the years that the locusts hath eaten…”

I knew I had to trust Him. He’s carried me through so much pain and heartache in my 40 years, especially this last year. And so I did. As a result, a miracle ensued.

Joel and I fell in love rather quickly! Yes, I used the “L” word. Neither of us could believe how quickly it happened, but it did, and who were we to stop what God had obviously birthed?

“And I will restore to you the years that the locusts hath eaten…”

From the very beginning, we’ve bathed our relationship in prayer. We’ve centered it on Christ Jesus and on God’s Word. We’ve allowed God to direct our steps no matter how “crazy” it may seem to the world. Some would think it not normal for a widow to fall in love with another man so quickly after losing one she loved so dearly, but God doesn’t work in what we call “normal”. God’s ways are not our ways. And, if you’ve learned anything about me by reading my blog posts – I pray you’ve learned that my goal is to be in the center of God’s will and to allow His plans to be my plans. It’s too painful any other way. As I submitted to this blossoming new love relationship between Joel and me, I knew God was bringing me to a new level of restoration.

“And I will restore to you the years that the locusts hath eaten…”

I haven’t shared about him on this website or any other social media format before now, because I wanted to be considerate of Chris’ family and talk with them first. They have given us their blessing and are so happy for us! I also wanted to share it with a couple other groups of people first – including my adoption agency consultant/friend. And to answer that question – YES, Joel is FULLY on board with adopting Holly! I’ll share more on that in a future post, but we’re full steam ahead in that area. And now I’m ready to share with the rest of you. I can’t help but introduce you to the man that has captured my heart, that loves me so fully, that is walking through this one-year anniversary of Chris’ death with me with such a sweet grace that it makes me love him all the more.

And now for some facts…

Joel is a divorced father of four: a daughter (22 – married with an 8-month-old daughter), a son in the Air Force (20), a son that’s 16, and another son (11). The youngest two live with their mom out of state. All four children have been homeschooled (and youngest two still are). He graduated from Liberty University. He works with cancer patients all day as a Radiation Therapist and has a heart for the Lord and a passion to serve Him that makes my heart burst with joy. He loves Anna, as if she were one of his own, and she is adjusting to this change in her life with simple grace and beauty. She never fully grieved Chris’ passing until Joel entered our lives. So, God has also done a restoration work in Anna too that has helped to heal her broken heart.

A few funny/interesting tidbits…we share the same wedding anniversary. YES – we were both married to our previous spouses on August 9th! How wild is that? And…he had surgery to repair a torn meniscus on his right knee the week before I had surgery to repair my left knee meniscus tear. No – we weren’t together when the accidents happened. Ha! So, he knows my pain all too well in that department. We’ve been teased a lot when going out in public, both being on crutches. Most think we’ve been in a car accident, and you should see my funny guy play on the sympathy we get from strangers. He makes me laugh! A lot.

“And I will restore to you the years that the locusts hath eaten…”

Friends…there is so much more to share, but I’ve already written so much already. I’ll let this BIG news sink in before flooding you with more information.

I just ask for your prayers, as we continue walking this new path laid before us, especially for protection from the snares of the enemy.

And now…introducing my prince, Joel…

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  1. I am so extremely happy for you! As I was reading I kept thinking…oh this is good, she’s doing so good. Did you even mention how handsome he was and his name!? Oh my, I just love how God works things out…how he restores! I’m glad Chris’ family is supporting you and that it has been good for Anna.

    Now…because I’ve lived through this, I also know that people won’t understand. My mother-in-law remarried a year after my father-in-law died and my husband is still angry over that, 6 years later. And my dad started seeing someone before the year anniversary of my mom’s death. She’s a wonderful lady and I think the world of her. But some people, family mostly, aren’t as accepting. So I know that you are going to probably get some comments from people that disapprove.

    But God is good and has sent you a gift, a restoration, laughter, and love….accept it and let others deal with their issues on their own. I know that sounds cruel, but it really will be about their issues, not yours.

    You have made my day, I can’t stop smiling!!!!

    • leahgillen says:

      Deborah – thank you so much for your wise, sweet, and encouraging words! I’m also thrilled to hear this news about your dad, especially that you think so much of her! Joel is my prince’s name, and YES…he IS handsome indeed!!!

  2. Wow. Leah I have loved following you , reading your blog, your fb posts. you have encouraged my soul so much.. and this encouraged my soul even more. I love how our God suprises us, does things that absolutly make NO sense in the natural but are more then we could ever ask or imagine. I love how God always takes the Restoration path– He is the ultimate restorer. How fun. I squealed as I read your story even though i do not know you personally. I am praying praying for you and your prince.
    Jenn Hand

    • leahgillen says:

      Jenn – your words bless me so much! God is so amazingly great!!! Thank you for your continued prayers. I know that will mean the world to Joel also! 🙂

  3. Leah, I woke this morning and went down for breakfast. Said a prayer for you today. . . .wanted you to feel God’s arms around you. I came to our computer and wanted to see what you were blogging about today. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it sure wasn’t to find the mention of my brother! Sometimes God leads us down paths we don’t understand and maybe never will, but one thing I know is that he will never leave us and we can always count on him. I have prayed for Joel to find the right girl….the one the Lord would have be his new wife…..for some time now. He is a good man and deserves to be happy. And now………well he has found a good woman who deserves happiness also. My heart is so full of joy for the two of you. I love you both.

    • leahgillen says:

      Donna – Your love and encouragement means the world to us! My heart is so full right now, I feel it just might explode. 🙂 It is so fun to see that your prayers for your brother have also been used to lead us to each other. That blesses me more than I can express. I love you and can’t wait to hug your neck! 🙂

  4. Connie Johnson says:

    Leah, I am soooo happy for you!!! I was amazed at the strength you showed when sharing about Chris last year at She Speaks and you’ve continued to be an inspiration as you have clung to God throughout the grieving process. I’m so happy for you in this year of restoration! Congratulations!! Joel is a very lucky man!

    • leahgillen says:

      Oh Connie…thank you sweet lady! I was just remembering last year’s She Speaks just the other day and know without a doubt God completely held me up that weekend. He’s been doing so ever since, until He knew He could safely put me down to stand again on my own two feet. Now we walk together hand-in-hand. He’s blessed me far more than I deserve, but His grace is abundant and never-ending!

  5. Robin Berthelot says:

    WOW…this just made my day! I’m grinning from ear to ear and teary-eyed at the same time because I’m SO happy for you!!! Praying for continued blessings on your life and can’t wait to see what God has in store for you and Joel!! :))))) Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.

    • leahgillen says:

      Thank you Robin! I can’t wipe the smile off my face either and yet still get choked up each time I think of how redemptive God’s work has been in my life (especially) this past year. Wow! Thank you for your continued prayers!!!

  6. Hi, Leah!

    It has been forever and a day since I’ve read any blogs. 🙁 I came across your “in a relationship” status on FB and was like “what?!?!” Then of course I had to look for the story behind that! 😀 All I can say is WOW, WOW, WOW!!!! Look at our God!!! I cannot tell you how much this story blesses and encourages me! Just this past Sunday, I received a Word from the Lord from a man who told me that God was going to bring 100% restoration into my own life…it was a word that bore witness with my spirit because God has been telling me that. However, the circumstances have been telling a completely different story so of course my faith is being challenged and tested. Seeing this story today was just the boost I needed. Bless you on your journey!!!

    One of my dear friends (who is also named Leah, by the way!) began to date a man just a few months after the death of his first wife of 20 years from a long term illness. They married less than a year after her funeral. It turns out, my friend was friends with them both, and the wife had been praying for the Lord to give my friend to her soon-to-be-widowed hubby after she was gone. She had even told a couple of others that she wanted my friend to marry her hubby. So God really does work in amazing ways…and QUICK…ways! When He does a work, it is thorough, even if it seems quick (or slow) in our own minds and experiences. I believe you are 100% in His will and I look forward to seeing how else He amazes you with His process in your life!

    • leahgillen says:

      WOW Kimberly! Thanks for such a beautiful comment! I’m still so thankful for that prayer time we shared together (with Natalie) at She Speaks last summer. You have such a beautiful spirit! I have no doubt that God can AND will be your Restorer this year! I wait expectantly with you to see that victory and witness that miracle! Love you!

  7. Michelle Harris says:

    Wow Wow Wow! This blog has just made my day Leah! I just want to tell you what an inspiration you have been to me. To see your continuing obedience to God and to see God’s blessings to you in return. It gives me hope. Though I have not faced the grief you have this past year, I have faced some ongoing struggles that have beaten me down. God has continued to tell me He is there and that this is all part of His plan. To see you reach this point, it gives me unending hope that my life will reach some sense of “normal” again. I think this will become my new life verse. xoxo

    • leahgillen says:

      Michelle – I’m so thankful that God has allowed you to find hope through this story that He’s given me. I truly believe that’s why He asked me to be obedient in sharing it! He IS our Restorer, and I trust that you will see evidence of that in your own areas of struggle. Thank you so much for following along and for your sweet words!

  8. Yay! I am so excited for you Leah! This is super, duper wonderful! May you have a blast dating again and enjoy the gift God has given you. Don’t you know, your Father is smiling ear to ear to see your heart beat and you smile “really big” again! Oh, I just think this is terrific!

    • leahgillen says:

      Thank you Tammy! I’m still so thankful I was able to hug your neck in person at She Speaks last year. You are such a gem!

  9. Leah, you know how I feel about this and am very thankful about Joel. A few things concern me though. Does he have any idea of the amount of dry puns that he is going to hear now? Is he ready to hear about all the turmoil that you put me through as your brother. I spent years protecting and cherishing my sisters and in return I got finger nails. Truth be told, my Sisters were very good to a brother that was pushy and rowdy. In the end we all turned out good and God blessed us with Salvation. With that being said, Leah you are an inspiration to this Pastor and this brother. Thank you for being so transparent. Joel, thank you for filling that empty void. Derek, that you for being so awesome!

    • leahgillen says:

      Oh silly brother of mine…I think you might have met your match of dry puns with Joel! Ha! He’ll be ready for you. 🙂 Thanks for the sweet words. I’m blessed to be your “slightly” older sister and am very proud of you!

  10. Leah, I’m so happy for you! “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ever asked or imagine….” 🙂

    • leahgillen says:

      Eileen – thanks sweet friend! You are right on…this has definitely been “immeasurably more” than I could have ever imagined!

  11. WOW!! What more is there to say! God has certainly blessed you greatly! I am so happy for all three of you! Or, shall I say 4!!! I can’t wait to see that first ‘family’ photo!

  12. Shannon Kemp says:

    My Precious Friend,
    As I have told you so many times, you are such an inspiration to me! As I have grown to know and love you, God has used you in my life! I have thought of little else since learning of this wonderful news! GOD IS SO GOOD! To think HE knew from the beginning of the world, Leah, at this very moment in time, after the devastating events in the past, that he would bring this amazing man into your life, is hardly fathomable in our flesh! How blessed we are to have a Father that knows exactly what we need at exactly the right moment! HIS TIMING IS ALWAYS PERFECT! Isn’t he WONDERFUL???? I am just absolutely elated for you and we cannot wait to meet your PRINCE!
    Love you so much!

    • leahgillen says:

      Awww Shannon! Your words made me cry happy tears! I know that you certainly understand how redeeming and good IS! Seeing Him do that for you and Ryan has blessed me so much! You’re right on sister – His timing is always perfect!!! He never ceases to amaze me! Love you dearly!

  13. Hi Leah, I know I was just here a couple days ago, but I just needed to come on back over and look at the cute picture of the two of you again! Just makes me smile!!! Love Ya!


  1. 82 Days says:

    […] Joel asked me to marry him, seaside, the evening of May 19. (If you haven’t read about Joel yet, please click HERE.) It was an absolutely perfect proposal that still takes my breath away when I re-live those precious moments. The words he spoke, the prayer he prayed, and the way he looked into my eyes…I’ll simply never forget that day. […]

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