The Brilliance released a new album in the beginning of 2017 called, All Is Not Lost. Now, the month of April is quickly coming to a close and believe me when I say that I am still listening to that album on repeat.
One of the songs that stood out of all the rest to me was “Holy, Holy”. Everything about that song is beautiful, and a little haunting too.
This last spring break, my boyfriend and I did a cover to “Holy, Holy”. It was really late at night when we started to record and so I was very tired. Not only that, but I always seem to get nervous when I sing into a studio microphone. To me, singing in front of people is easer than trying to record.
But praise God that I have such a patient boyfriend who calmly let me record however many times it took to record this.
When he sent me the final audio, I kept it to myself and only shared it with my immediate family.
That was until the day I was with a girl named Maddie. Maddie came to my room and we started to talk. One topic lead to another then out of nowhere, I was impressed to share the cover David and I made over break.
As soon as the song was over, I looked up and saw tears fill her eyes. And one by one, a tear drop trickled down her sweet face.
I was then convinced that God needed me to share this cover with others.
I pray that this cover is not just a cover, but instead something that will help you refocus your eyes to the Holy One.
Above is a very short and sweet clip of my boyfriend and I singing a cover at Coolidge Park in Tennessee. It was a cool night with a very light and gentle breeze. The park was empty and the lights were shining. I could not imagine any other way that night could have been more perfect. But then David wrapped me in his arms and we began to sing some some of our favorite songs.
This song we sang, See the Love, is all about this special longing. A longing to learn to see the love in the midst of headlines of violence and terror.
Lyrics to See the Love, by The Brilliance:
We go to war again
We know so much more than them
Before we hear what they have to say
And we start to hate again
Callin’ them names again
We give our peace away
Day by day
Hope fades away and then
That there is pain within
We cannot medicate
Learn to feel
Learn to begin again
Open our eyes again
To see our brother’s pain
I hope they see it
‘Cause I wanna see it
I hope we believe it
I wanna see
I wanna see the love
All around you
All around you
I wanna know
I wanna know that love
Is all around you
It’s all around”
I wanted to do something finer. Grander. Something unforgettable for David’s birthday. Something I have not done in the past. Meaning throwing a surprise birthday party, sticking candles into an oven baked pan of mac and cheese, and adding to his coffee addiction was out of the picture.
I asked myself what (affordable) gift could I give? What could I do to make this year absolutely memorable. What adventure might I plan to make his finishing “teen” birthday stand out from all the rest?
While pondering on these questions for a week or so, I began to brainstorm. David was having this excessive obsession with Golden Retrievers. Fascinated by them, David would constantly send videos to me of Golden Retrievers doing silly, yet adorable doggy things. I ended up falling in love with these golden furry blessings myself. That was when it clicked.
I should somehow surprise David with a Golden Retriever for a day! David and I both have dogs back at home, and it kills us not being able to see them for such a long time. And the thought of being with a doggy just felt new, refreshing, and exciting.
After emailing three semi-local golden retriever breeders, I was not happy when I didn’t receive any responses the next morning. But it was not long till I began to have hope again.
The Saturday before his birthday, my sister and I were waiting in front of a friend’s house for lunch. A car drove past us and as I turned my head I saw the most stunning Golden Retriever. I squealed for joy in the sight of it. But even better, the car with the doggy pulled into the driveway where my sister and I were going to have lunch. My heart dropped and I immediately knew my sister was thinking the same thing I was. The lady who drove in was a relative of our friend. My sister said positively, “Joni, that’s Catherine. She will totally let you borrow her dog for a day. You should offer to pay, but most likely she will let you borrow her dog for free.”
“Oh how the Lord is so good”, I said to myself in that moment.
I attempted to walk in the house looking casual, but I was unable to contain my excitement when the doggy, Chipper, came up to me.
My friend, Allison, was so kind to offer to ask her cousin, the owner, for me. And to my great surprise, she happily said yes. And I promised the owner that I will treat Chipper like it is his birthday, and not my boyfriends.
The day came when David and I were celebrating his birthday. As I saw him approaching the car I could tell he was really nervous because he had no clue what was gonna happen. But I could also tell that he was excited because he trusted me that I would put together something enjoyable. When he got in the car, I quickly handed him his unwrapped birthday gift. It contained of one disposable camera, a mini empty 4×6 photo album, and a long hand written card with a close up shot of a bulldog (His 2nd favorite dog).
He was confused, which was understandable. But his confusion quickly turned into fear when I blindfolded him and told him he could not take it off till we arrived to our destination.
When we arrived to the house, I told David to stay in the car as I went in to get Chipper.
I learned how to instruct the dog to sit, lay down, stay, turn around, and shake. After my 5 minute debrief of everything I needed to know about Chipper, it was time to take him out and show David the golden surprise.
I walked Chipper outside near the car and told David to keep his eyes closed and get out of the car. I felt bad because I knew he was really dizzy and confused. After he finally was able to stand up, I slowly let Chipper close to him. David first began to feel a light and fluffy touch of fur at the tip of his fingers, then a big wet tongue that brushed against his arm again and again, and then finally a heavy push of two paws that pushed David back a few steps. He opened his eyes and in that moment my heart was full and I knew that this was all so worth it. It was such a beautiful sight watching David’s face open with utter surprise and delight! Chipper in no time came to liking David. I totally thought I scored when I saw Davids eyes water. But then now I think of it, it could have been because he kept his eyes closed for like 20 minutes and then opened them to a fully bright sunny day. After all of the whats?! oh my gosh! and I can’t believe this, we were able to calm down and take our first picture together on the disposable camera.
The rest of the evening plan was to take Chipper out to downtown. Walk him around Chattanooga, get Clumpies Ice Cream, and end the night at The Daily Ration, a dog friendly restaurant. Which also happens to be our favorite place restaurant.
I do not think I can count how many times David and I were stopped by strangers telling us how this is the happiest dog they have ever seen. Unlike most dogs walking on the bridge, Chipper was actually smiling from whisker to whisker.
Here are a few more developed photos from our adventure.
As our date was coming to a close, we sadly returned Chipper to his rightful owners. It was harder than we thought to say goodbye, but we held on to the camera knowing that we had these memories to hold on to. Luckily, the owners offered for us to take Chipper out whenever we wanted, leaving David overjoyed by the thought that this will not be the last goodbye.
While the whole evening was outstandingly incredible, the best thing was not yet said until later that night. Before David and I had to say goodnight and go back our rooms, he said, “Thank you so much, today was seriously the best birthday ever.”
I love David so much, and am willing to do all that I can to make him feel happy, loved and cherished for. One thing I learned from this whole adventure was this:
Truly, the best gifts to give can not be wrapped.
If someone you love is having a birthday soon, I challenge you to step outside your comfort zone and give them a gift that they will never forget. It does not have to be big, or highly expensive. You just gotta give them your time. Be with that person. Do something y’all have never done before. And do not be afraid if others will think of you as crazy. People thought I was crazy. They just didn’t know the person I knew the way I did.
Do something that will show the person how much you love them. Because that is the greatest gift anyone can receive.
Every day, I feel pressured to always be in the know about what my “friends” are up to. Not only what they are up to, but more specifically who they are with, where they are, and what they are eating, doing, and wearing. Through the pictures I see on Instagram and videos played on Snapchat, I compare my life with the life others are portraying. Then I ask myself, am I having as much fun in life as they are?
According to the pictures people share, I have to be in a group of 10 + fashionable people to walk the streets of Downtown with to be considered “cool” and “involved”.
I have to show that I go to the best eateries in town, and take quality photos of my food.
I have to show pictures of my boyfriend and I together with a deep and heart felt caption to prove to my followers that I am still in a healthy, loving relationship.
I have to carefully edit using the right filter so it can accurately match with my aesthetically pleasing Instagram feed.
I have to post just enough on snapchat, but not too much so people would get annoyed.
I have to share that I am vastly involved in school, church, and community to show that I do care about other people and their wellbeing.
I have to show my adventurous side by going on hikes, attending concerts, and just doing things out of the ordinary to get more likes. More views. And ultimately, more followers.
This was all until two months. Two months ago was when I finally told myself, “Joni, you do not need this anymore. Take yourself off of social media and focus on the things that truly matter in life. Your relationship with God. Your relationship with David and others. And yourself.”
Boy was it difficult to fully disconnect myself from social media. Four months ago, I deactivated my Twitter and Snapchat. Two months ago, I deactivated my Facebook and Instagram. (Deactivated because I have many memories on the platforms that I do not want to delete)
During my first two weeks of being social media free, there were times when I would walk to classes with my hands physically shaking. Shaking because they were so used to holding and scrolling through senseless information on my phone. That was when I knew I was addicted and figured this was a struggle that may be tougher to overcome than I thought.
I began to search for new hobbies to take on. And I found so many things that interested me. Three months ago, I began to teach myself how to do calligraphy. I always found it to be such a beautiful art form. It was much harder than I thought, but after a while, I got the hang of it!
Next, I saw myself learning how to knit. I became so addicted to it that in the first two days, I was able to knit a huge thick circle scarf, a headband for my roommate, a headband for my boyfriend and a headband for myself.
I was also able to have more time to read books. Not only books for enjoyment, but spiritual books that entertains and inspires. So far, I’ve read “Love Does” by Bob Goff, “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller and “Uninvited” by Lysa TerKeurst.
When I miss a friend, I do not stalk them on Instagram to comment “I miss you” on an old post. Instead I pick up my phone, dial their number and talk with my friend. Maybe even get their address, and send them a small gift. This is more precious than anything else.
Most importantly, I was able to truly and full-heartedly focus on my relationship with David. No more scrolling through Instagram during times were together. No more do we interrupt our date by taking time to take pictures of our food until it gets cold. No more do we repeat things on purpose just so I can record it for Snapchat. No longer do I post Instagram photos with captions that always end in saying “I love you”.
Now I verbally, and privately tell David the feelings I have for him. Face to face and heart to heart. It’s honest and true. It’s love. No post could ever mount that.
What I am concluding here is that Social Media, whether you know it or not, is controlling your life. I encourage you today to deactivate your accounts. Start off with a short month, even tag a friend along.
Treat yourself. Discover new things. Learn a new hobby. Pick up that book. And fully engage yourself in relationships that matter.
Trust me, you will feel F R E E. And you will have your life back.
Being in love is so beautiful. Living life isn’t boring. I have a partner to enjoy my life with.
This Christmas, I will be celebrating my fourth year being with my Christmas Love. He is the best Christmas gift anyone could ask for, and I wouldn’t change him for the world. God has been writing the absolute best love story for me. As He continues to write, I will maintain my trust in God no matter what. God is so good, and so it my Christmas Love. I am forever grateful for where I am, and who I am with.