A Trio of New Year’s Eves

New Year’s Eve 2008.

It wasn’t the first time I had ever had a fore-telling conversation with God, but it certainly was one of the most memorable.

 

I’ll never forget it. I was alone. My three kids gone to be with their father. I had been to visit friends in VA and had returned home earlier that day to a quiet, still house. Only the cat was there to greet me … and he seemed mostly perturbed that I interrupted his nap.

I felt bone-cold in the chilly house as I waited for the heater to make my house warm. But mostly, I just felt lonely.

It was my second New Year’s Eve as a single mother. The year before I was still shell-shocked from the events that had rocked my world. I barely noticed an old year passed away and a new one started.

Now, as I scrummaged through the cabinets looking for something quick and easy to fix for my dinner, I thought about how I was ending the year in a better place than I started it. Initially, 2008 found me a broken woman, but now after months of personal counseling and learning to live life again as a single mom, I felt more confident … not in myself so much, but in the Lord and in His promises to use all things for my good.

As I ate my supper, and counted down the hours left in 2008, I sensed that 2009 would be the beginning of something new. I realized I had new goals for the coming year. New hopes and dreams for my life.

And in those quiet hours, I came to a realization. I didn’t want to be single forever.

In the days after my first husband left me, I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to love another man. But now, in these quiet moments, I realized what I really wanted was a person to share my life with … and I wondered if that would ever happen.

As it happens so often in situations like this, I started to talk internally to God about my thoughts and ideas and wishes. Not so much a typical prayer as much a chatter in my head. Jumbled thoughts poured out in a rapid, random fashion, some sort of strange cross between monologue and unwritten journal entry.

As I rambled to God about my future, whether or not it would include another marriage, I felt a strange peace wash over me. And then it came … as a small whisper, so soft I wasn’t even sure if I heard what I thought I heard.

You will marry again, Paige … and it will be a New Year’s Eve wedding.

I shook my head in a sort of disbelief. To begin with, New Year’s Eve was not really a holiday I had ever enjoyed. Fear of the future had been a personal, life-long struggle for me, and though since my divorce I had been focused on learning to overcome that fear, I still couldn’t imagine wanting to celebrate a wedding on a holiday all about celebrating the unknown year ahead.

Yet the more I thought about it, the more I saw how New Year’s Eve was the perfect day to marry. After all, it’s a day focused on endings and beginnings. A marriage is the end of a period of singleness and the beginning of a new life together as husband and wife.

It was then I knew I wouldn’t be single forever.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

New Year’s Eve, 2009

 

I had met Jon in April. We started dating in October. Here we were at the holiday season, and we still hadn’t even held hands or shared our first kiss.  Despite the slow pace at which our relationship progressed, I already knew this was the man God had chosen.

When Jon learned  I didn’t have any plans for New Year’s Eve, he was appalled. “No one should be alone on New Year’s Eve!

Well, my kids are off visiting their dad. I haven’t been invited to anyone else’s home. My church isn’t doing an activity that night. I’ll probably just watch a few movies or maybe work on a sewing project.

The next morning, Jon called me back.  “I’ve been talking to my girls, and we’d like to invite you to join us today. We aren’t going to do anything special. We’ll just hang around the house. But the girls would love to have you come visit … well, that is, as long as we promise to keep them included. Megan is very concerned about that.

How about if I bring a few activities for us to do with them … some crafts, perhaps?

And so, it was agreed. I made the long two hour drive to Jon’s house to spend, bringing along with me a big box of craft supplies. The girls and I crafted the afternoon away, while Jon dozed on his sofa and watched a little football. I made a couple of snacks for us to enjoy. Quiet, laid-back and completely natural.

Later that evening, we ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant. As Jon paid for our meal, the waitress made a comment about his beautiful family. Not quite knowing how to respond, both of us smiled and wished her a happy new year.

But I already knew. This was the man I was going to marry.

Driving along the dark roads back to my house, I watched the flickering of fireworks light the sky … and wondered how many more New Year’s Eves there would be until Jon and I were married.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

New Year’s Eve, 2010

Jon asked me to marry him in October. I said yes.

But Jon was deathly ill. Even as we planned for our wedding ceremony, honeymoon and marriage, I watched the man I love slowly grow sicker and sicker. As a dear friend told me, “Paige, I’m afraid you’ll either have a New Year’s Eve wedding or funeral.

The diagnosis came on December 22nd. A severe heart infection nearly took his life. But thankfully, God allowed him to live. Two days before our wedding, Jon came home from the hospital, a PICC line still in his arm.

The next 48 hours, we raced to get everything ready for the wedding we weren’t sure would ever happen. Somehow, the reception room at the church was decorated, a friend made us a beautiful red velvet cake, and one by one the details fell into place.

165079_165677986810846_100001059362771_370100_3972675_n
December 31, 2010

December 31st was sticky and humid.

Jon was weak from his ongoing healthy issues. Rumor had it he slept on the sofa in the pastor’s office until time for the ceremony.

Guests started to arrive.

And then … the music started and our beautiful girls made their way down the aisle.

I felt no nerves. Only the most amazing sense of joy that I have ever known.

We said our vows, and our guests laughed with us as we pledged to love in sickness and in health.

The pastor asked those in the audience to come surround us and offer up prayers on our behalf. My dad, an uncle, a family friend … each of them offered up a prayer and my soul swelled with indescribable peace.

As we walked out of the sanctuary, somehow an unplanned receiving line formed so that Jon and I were hugged and blessed over and over as our guests walked to the small reception.

And that night, as we drove to our New Orleans honeymoon, fireworks lit the night sky … and I thanked the good Lord for a trio of New Year’s Eves that had brought me to a new life He had planned for me before I ever took my first breath.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

New Year’s Eve … a time to celebrate what is ending and what is yet to be. Every year I’m grateful to God for what He has done in my past and what He has planned for my future. No more fear because (as cliche’ as it might be), I know I may not know exactly what my future holds, but I certainly know the One who does know and who holds my future.

“Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.  Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced…”  ~ 1 Chronicles 16:11-12

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  ~ Jeremiah 29:11

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You can read more about our wedding story and Jon’s illness at the following link:

The Wedding that Almost Didn’t Happen

 

 

Advertisements

GiGi: Just One of My Many Names

I don’t remember the first time I was called GiGi, but according to my mother it first started when my baby brother was learning to talk.

When I was two or three years old, I generally referred to myself as “Paigie.”  As my brother learned to talk, he began call out to me, “Gi! Gi!”

Mom said I would put my hands on my hips and say in a very agitated sort of way, “My name no Gi! My name Paige-GI!”

My mother thought it was a cute nickname, but I hated it. No matter how hard she tried to convince me, I refused to be okay with having GiGi as a nickname.

Eventually, no one called me GiGi anymore.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The first time I met Jon’s girls, he introduced me as “Mrs. Paige.”  We ate lunch together in a crowded Chik-Fil-A restaurant. Maddie, the oldest, wearing a mismatched outfit complete with a baseball cap pulled to the side, talked a mile a minute. Megan, the younger one, wore a dress and a glittery headband, clung to her Daddy’s arm. I couldn’t tell if it was from insecurity or fear.

As we sat down to eat our lunches, Maddie asked her dad if she could go get some condiments for her sandwich and fries. He gave permission. She left the table. Then five steps later, she turned around and came back to the table, flashed the most brilliant smile I’ve ever seen, and then asked if she could get anyone else something while she was up.

Afterward, when I commented on Maddie’s sweet consideration of others, Jon confessed to me, “Well, I have to admit she completely stunned me! The girl has been listening to my lectures on manners after all!

Megan, who sat cuddled up to Jon, occasionally smiled shyly at me, but mostly she was quiet, allowing her father and older sister to do all the talking.

That was in October. I wouldn’t see his girls again until the last day of 2009.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was the New Year’s Eve I had no plans. Always before, I had somewhere to go, something to do, a person to be with … but not in 2009.  It looked like I would be spending the day completely alone.

Jon found out about my lack of plans as we talked late into the night on December 30th.  “Are you sure you have no where to go? Maybe your parents …

“No,” I replied. “They have gone to visit with my grandmother for a couple of days. They will come in late tomorrow evening, but I know they will be too tired from traveling to want to entertain me. It’s okay … I’ll just watch a movie or read a book.”

Well, I don’t like the idea of you being alone on New Year’s Eve,” Jon stated. “You could come hang out with me and my girls … but I would have to okay it with them since they we planned a few special things to celebrate. They are already in bed, so I’ll ask in the morning and give you a call to let you know if they approve.

The next morning, Jon called me bright and early, just as he had promised. “Maddie definitely wants you to come, but Megan isn’t so sure. She would like to talk to you about it first, if that’s okay.

The next thing I know, this small voice came on the phone. “Mrs. Paige, my daddy said you don’t have anywhere to go today. Is that true?

“Yes, it is.”

Oh. So dad is right.”  There was a small pause. Then Megan continued, “Well, Daddy says it would be a nice thing if we invited you. But I’m worried that if you come, then I will be left out.

“Oh, Megan … I don’t want to take you away from your Daddy. Maybe it is better if I don’t come visit today after all, especially if it is going to make you feel anxious. Maybe you and your dad talk about it some more? It’s okay if you decide to say no.”

I quietly hung up the phone, figuring perhaps Jon would call me back in a few minutes, after he had talked more with Megan. I felt like he would confirm what I assumed was going to be the result of that discussion, that his girls needed him more than I needed a place to go so it would be better for everyone if I didn’t join them for New Year’s Eve.

And I was right … well, right about the phone ringing. Everything else I had gotten wrong.

The person calling me back turn out to be Megan.

Mrs. Paige,” she said. “I have decided that I want you to come visit us today. If I were all alone on New Year’s Eve, I would want someone to invite me to visit. Besides, my daddy promised that I will definitely not be left out.

“Megan, I promise you that too.”

Later that day, I showed up to Jon’s with my craft box in tow. The girls and I made a few fun crafts together, bonding over paint and hot glue guns.  Later on, we went out for dinner, going to a Mexican restaurant that had a huge buffalo head hanging on the wall.  As we walked passed the buffalo, Megan held tightly to my hand.

I had no idea that exactly one year to the day I would become Mrs. Jon Hamilton.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Shortly after Jon and I were married, I asked him if his girls could call me by another name,

“Mrs. Paige just sounds too formal,” I said.

“Okay … what do you suggest?” Jon asked.

“Maybe we could let the girls decide what to call me,” I said.

But a week passed by and neither girl could come up with an idea that suited everyone. Finally, Jon asked, “Did you have a nickname growing up?”

“Not really,” I replied. “Though my brother tried to give me a nickname. My mother said it made angry every time he called me it, so eventually no one called me that name anymore.”

Both Megan and Maddie perked up. “What was the nickname?” one of them asked, eager to hear what sort of name would make me mad.

And so I told them the story … and then said, “But you know, being called GiGi wouldn’t make me feel angry now. In fact, I’d like it very much.”

So that’s how I came to be known as GiGi … and not just to Jon’s beautiful girls, but also to our foster children.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’ve gone by many names in my life.  Paige and GiGi are just two. I’m called Mom, Aunt Paige, and Mrs. Hamilton. There are people who even call me by my first name, Angela. And I answer to them all.

However, if you call me something like Margaret or Allison or Bob, I am not going to respond. You see, I have many names, but those names do not belong to me.

Source: http://bibleresources.org/names-of-jesus/
Source: http://bibleresources.org/names-of-jesus/

Sometimes people say that it doesn’t matter what name you call God, for there are many ways to call upon Him.

That’s only partly true.

God does have many names.  He is called Jehovah, Yahweh, Adonai, and the Bread of Life. He is known as the Wonderful Counselor and the Prince of Peace. He is the Great I Am. King of Kings. Lord of Lords. Jesus Christ.

But you can’t just call God by any name …for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hallowed be Thy name. ~Matthew 6:9