The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58:11
Happy Friday! It feels good to be back. I apologize for my brief time away. I will spend the day trying to catch up with everyone.
Over the last five to six weeks I’ve been working very long days at work, usually going in at 7 in the morning and rarely leaving before 9:30 in the evening. Plus, I’m a student, I’m active in my community and church, and I’m a grandmother who loves being involved. So, I’ve been busy. If you don’t know, I’m a City Planning Director of a small town in north Florida. A little over a year ago we submitted an application to the American Planning Association (APA) for a Community Planning Assistance Team (CPAT) to visit our city and provide a plan to improve economic development. Our city has been plagued by negative publicity related to abuses which may have taken place years ago in a reform school that has now closed. Unfortunately, our city has felt the pain of job losses, and citizens moving away. Now, it seems we have a bad reputation, which makes it hard to attract new businesses and visitors.
I felt God’s blessings when our application was selected. I remember dancing around the City Manager’s office with excitement when I learned the news. To me this has been a big deal, so I began immediately planning to take advantage of this opportunity. After entering into a contract, the team leader and program director visited our city last April. The visit went well and my excitement escalated.
At the end of January, I was notified that the team would be arriving February 25th, and would stay through March 2nd. With not much time to plan, a staff of four (one employee on vacation and another at training for over a week), along with working with another agency, we had to move quickly.
I don’t know if you have ever experienced this type of event, but it hinges on public participation. One of the suggestions the team leader made early on was to host a community-wide, public function that would bring people out to participate in feedback. I met with my colleague and we decided to use a model similar to one used in Durham, North Caroline. Our city, county and community would get married. After the name “Marry Marianna” was approved by both agencies, the real work began.
I want you to know that things like this don’t fall into place. I can honestly say that my colleague and I are very strong in our faith, and we both tried to select others who felt the same. The funny thing is, we didn’t have to try hard because all along God brought the right people into our lives. A close family friend joined efforts with a very sweet lady, who I now call my friend, to manage the entertainment. They took care of everything free of charge and were a joy with which to work. I never gave much thought to what they were doing, because I completely trusted them. All the entertainment was provided free of charge and was inclusive. I had a surprise at the event, when I saw my father was part of the crew!
Along our journey to complete this nuptial, we worked hard, but I found many people stepped up to help without much effort on our part. Wedding cake, drinks, money and many more items along with time were donated.
During the planning of Marry Marianna, I was also very busy setting up and confirming meetings with what would be more than 150 stakeholders, and writing three newspaper articles a week. That was time-consuming, so I relied heavily on my assistant to take care of details such as ordering supplies for the team and organizing what would become a week-long community event. My colleague and I were also very busy with public speaking engagements, which placed a heavier load on my other staff with our day-to-day routine work. Two weeks before the event these two ladies, along with my colleague and her staff walked door-to-door throughout the city handing out flyers and putting up posters.
Towards the end of the week I began panicking a little. At first it was supplies. Then, Friday morning we realized that we didn’t have enough volunteers. At the last-minute we called a teacher and a church leader. God once again took care of everything. We would have more help than I could imagine. The food seemed to multiply. In fact, someone later commented about the wedding cupcakes multiplying. This reminded me of how Jesus fed 5000 with five barley loaves and two fish in John 6. Not only did the food multiply, everyone would have more than enough.
Last weekend my staff and I worked all weekend trying to ensure all would be a success. My efforts were complicated by new mapping software and the need for maps for the team. Saturday afternoon I was finally able to produce something the team could use. On Sunday morning after church, my husband and I dropped off welcome baskets to leave in the hotel rooms, and I rested the remainder of the day.
Do you ever feel completely ready? I didn’t, but felt no concern at all about the fact that it was raining Monday morning, when I picked up the team in the biggest vehicle I’ve ever driven. In fact, several people sent me messages about the weather, and I responded by texting out Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” audio recording. I remember telling God that morning “you know what I need and I know others have needs; I trust you”.
I couldn’t take the team on a tour and be at the event site to make sure everything ran smoothly, so one lady on my staff was the “go to” person in charge that day, another was in charge of children’s events, my colleague’s staff was in charge of food, and a sweet lady from another department was in charge of vendors. She had been working hard all month lining up more than 35 vendors. My assistant, colleague and myself provided the tour and team orientation.
After lunch about the time we were going to head over to the event, I received a text from my husband that said “angels watch over you; they blow the rain away with their wings; I love you”. Ahhh! How beautiful is that! He later told me that he was about 15 miles away and the sky was dark everywhere, except for a circle over where we were. The skies were completely clear and more than 1500 people showed up to get married. There were no hiccups at all. Everything was perfect. Surveys were provided to citizens to encourage team feedback prior to receiving free food tickets. The team received more than 500 surveys with helpful information. According to Hillary Clinton “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child”, but I can honestly say that it takes a community to have a wedding. The wedding was perfect in my eyes and at the end of the night we were able to donate food.
The rest of the week seems like a blur of coordinating meals, meetings and assisting without interfering. The stakeholder meetings were well attended. The team spoke to more than 100 people. The first public meeting was low in attendance, but still successful. Last night’s final event was well attended and very successful. Everything seemed to happen in a whirlwind wind. Last night we took photos and said tearful goodbyes to our friends on the team. You never know who God is bringing into your life.
After a month of running on empty, my staff and I were tired. We had the silly giggles several times. I found myself dizzy on a few occasions and short-tempered. I think this can be expected when we are tired. It’s important to take care of our bodies. I am reminded today of a story in I Kings about Elijah.
“And Elijah was afraid and arose and ran for his life, and he came to Beersheba which belongs to Judah, and he left his servant there. But he himself traveled a day’s journey into the wilderness, and he came and sat down under a juniper tree and asked [God] that he might die. He said, ‘It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.’ He lay down and slept under the juniper tree, and behold, an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked, and by his head there was a bread cake baked on hot coal, and a pitcher of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. Then the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up, and eat, for the journey is too long for you [without adequate sustenance].’ So he got up and ate and drank, and with the strength of that food he traveled forty days and nights to Horeb (Sinai), the mountain of God.” 1 KINGS 19:3-8 AMP
So, today while I’m resting in the quietness of my home, I realize that I’m still growing as a Christian. I had more faith than I’ve ever had, but when I was worn down, I needed to have more. The truth is I haven’t named out people, because there are far too many to name. I would surely leave off important names. There are many details that I didn’t add. Yet, every person was special and helped so much. There are people who helped that I probably don’t even know about. In the final days of this event, I needed rest.
Today, I hope you will be inspired to trust God, spread God’s love and help others. God bless you.