Lacey’s Birthday Present from Jesus
It’s been a long time coming but I think it’s finally time to tell Laynie’s fan club about the next miracle that God has provided for her mama.
His name is Tyler.
No, he doesn’t have a Facebook so you don’t get to cyber stalk him! (Much to Lolly’s dismay)
Let me take the story back a few months so you can understand the whole picture…
Most of you know, I work for Children’s Hospital Foundation and my primary job is to build and retain relationships with various local and national partners to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. One of the groups I work with is Credit Unions for Kids. TFCU is one of our major CUFK contributors and holds a fundraising campaign for us each April. For the last two years I have been invited to speak at their coordinator meeting each March to share Laynie’s story and help encourage their fundraising efforts. Guess who the only male in the room of 30+ volunteers at this year’s meeting was? Yup, Tyler.
(Except I was still anti-men and anti-dating at this point so though I did think he was a fun dude, I didn’t think much past that.)
So I shared my sweet Laynie’s story with the group, bragged on the awesome work of Children’s Hospital Foundation, wrapped up the meeting, and that was that.
Fast-forward a month to the TFCU Miracle Car show and guess who was volunteering? Yup, Tyler. I was there to help our CMN Champion Child pick her favorite car and take pictures. We spoke briefly, but again, didn’t think much of it.
Meanwhile, my sister (Kip) was on me about not becoming a cat lady (no offense to cat ladies) and wanting me to jump on the wagon and start dating again (it had been a year and a half since Brad left). When Kip was in Romania on The World Race, she wrote a list of all the qualities she wished for in a husband. She prayed over the list for the next 5-6 months on the race and low and behold, she found a keeper when she got home! (Side note: So happy she didn’t meet him in some foreign country! California is far enough!)
So…in April of this year, I wrote a husband list. Crazy at it is, two days later, out of the blue, a coworker totally set me up on a blind date out of nowhere. Alright, Lord. I hear ya! We went to dinner and a play. Super nice guy, such a gentleman.
But I never heard from him after that night. Nope. Nothing.
You better believe the enemy was all over me with that one, feeding me lies that I’m not worthy of a good man, that I have too much baggage, blah, blah, blah.
It took me a bit to get a grip on the lies and to overcome my fear of putting myself back out there to (possibly) be hurt again. But, with prayer and Kip’s encouragement, I created a Christian Mingle profile and jumped right in. Only got one date out of that deal and it was BLEK! I had pretty much decided that it wasn’t my time to date.
Then, I ran into a guy I knew through the grapevine and we started “talking” (as they say these days) and went on a date. He was a super nice guy, good looking, funny.
But I had red flags almost immediately. He didn’t love Jesus. And that wasn’t something I ever wanted to settle for, ever again. Never again.
I was convicted about my “husband list”. The number one thing on my list was that my guy would love Jesus. I would get convicted all the time. Listening to worship, telling my mom about him, or reading the bible. I mean, you know it’s from Jesus when reading the Old Testament convicts you, you know what I’m saying?!
So, I was on the phone with the guy one night and I just had to tell him. I told him “I’m really sorry. I think you’re cute, you’re so sweet, I know we would have a great time for awhile, but I love Jesus and need someone who loves and serves the Lord. I can’t live through all I’ve been through and not be with someone who loves Jesus as much (or more) than I do. I’ve already been married to that person and I see how it turns out. I’m really sorry, but we just can’t talk any more.”
Oh it was a difficult conversation! I hung up the phone and cried and prayed and worshipped the Lord. I played the song “While I’m Waiting” by John Waller. (One of my favs for quite some time now). If you don’t know it, it says, “I will love you while I’m waiting. I will serve you while I’m waiting. I will worship while I’m waiting…” Pretty much my exact prayer that night (and the last few months before then). Love that song.
About that same time I started attending a new singles group in Edmond. We started Andy Stanley’s “Guardrails” series. It is all about setting boundaries to protect your heart from unnecessary pain. Again, I hear ya Lord! The timing was impeccable.
The group turned out to be a huge Godsend, I’ve made friends with some of the most amazing, Godly women who hold me accountable and encourage me. Thank you Jesus!
A few weeks later, the day before my birthday, I get a random text message from my cousin, Lindsay. Something about a guy she works with that is fun, cute, tall, and she thinks we would be perfect for each other. She wanted to let me know that she was going to talk to him about me.
I said, “Wait. Does he love Jesus?” (I wasn’t about to put myself through more heartache!)
She said, “Lacey, he’s you in male form. Seriously…Wait, you probably know him. He’s the CMN coordinator at my branch (TFCU). His name is Tyler.”
“Um, YEAH I DO! He loves Jesus?! Alright then, do your thang cuz!”
Meanwhile, she tells him, “Hey I think you should meet my cousin. She’s fun, you’d really like her.”
He was hesitant at first because he’s also divorced and had bad dating experiences after and just didn’t want to put himself through that again.
Until she said, “You know her. She works for CMN. It’s Lacey Payne.”
His response, “THAT’S your cousin? Yes, I would really like to know her.”
Side note: He later told me that he admired my heart before he even knew me because of hearing me tell Laynie’s story. So when Lindsay said that I was her cousin, he knew I was someone he wanted to get to know.
God is so good, isn’t He?! I am continuously amazed that my angel baby’s life still impacts my life in such a profound way! She has been the catalyst for everything good in my life. Thank you Lord for your miracles! You make beautiful things!
Linds talked me in to coming to a line dance class with her and a bunch of people from work the next night so Tyler and I could hang out. Line dancing on my birthday?! With my number one cuz? And a cute boy that loves Jesus? I’m THERE!
The rest is history.
Seriously, in a span of just a few days we had some of the most meaningful and heartfelt conversations I’ve ever had. He loves the Lord, he loves worship music, and has a servant’s heart. He loves kids (you should see him with the lovelies, it’s genuine and amazing.) His testimony is so powerful. I am amazed at who he is and all he has overcome in his life.
I fell for him pretty fast. So fast that once my head stopped spinning I woke up at 5am one morning just yearning for wisdom and guidance from the Lord. Was this real? Could I have finally found the person that I prayed for so many nights? Did he really fit the requirements of my list or was it too good to be true? Was I just yearning for it so badly that I was being crazy? I kept expecting something bad to happen because, unfortunately, that has been my life for the last few years. I learned what it meant to love and depend on Jesus when my world was crashing down around me and to have someone to love and depend on Jesus with me in a new season of joy is something that took getting used to (and to be honest, sometimes it still does).
That morning I really wanted to hear truth so I opened my Elevation Church app to find a message from Pastor Steven Furtick. I randomly chose to listen to the first message in his “Expectation Gap” series. He spoke about Mary and Martha and expectations. He said, “You can’t let your expectations of how you think something should happen keep you from experiencing what God wants you to experience.”
WOW. That hit home with me. Then the crazy part that smacked me right in the head…
Steven went on to mention a poem that so beautifully illustrates this point. He proceeds to read “Welcome to Holland” by Emily Perl Kingsley. (If you don’t remember the story about Laynie and this poem, you should read the original blog post written during my pregnancy. Also remember this was the poem we put on the back of her memorial card at her Celebration of Life. It’s very special to me to say the least.)
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability. When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make wonderful plans – the Coliseum, the Michelangelo David, the gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. All very exciting. After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go.
Several hours later the plan lands. The flight attendant comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland ."
"Holland ?" you say. "What do you mean Holland ? I signed up for Italy . All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy ." But there has been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place. So you must go out and buy new guidebooks and you must learn a whole new language. And, you will meet a whole new group of people you would have never met.It's just a different place. It's slower paced than Italy , less flashy than Italy . But after you've been there awhile and you catch your breath, you look around and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say…"Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned." But if you spend the rest of your life mourning the fact you didn't get to Italy , you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.
SERIOUSLY, I had to pause the message to catch my breath and blow my nose which was pouring snot as I sobbed to the Lord. If there was ONE THING He could have said to me to let me know that I was being crazy and that I absolutely deserve this gift and need receive it instead of wait for something bad to happen, THIS WAS IT. I hear you Jesus! Thank you, Lord! Thank you for loving me and fighting for me even when I didn’t see it. You do know the plans you have for me and I trust you and I thank you!
From that moment on I stopped resisting love and have been all in. It didn’t take long for the family to love him too. It’s like he’s been with us forever. Like we’ve never missed a beat.
So you can guess what’s going to happen next…
Yup. I’m gonna marry this crazy, gorgeous, God-fearing, hilarious, selfless, loving, wonderful man!
Some days I still can’t believe my luck, or how the story unfolded over the last few months, but I know that with the Lord as my number one and Tyler as my number two, I’m in for an amazing adventure.
Here’s to the next chapter in my story. So blessed that the Author of Life is writing it for me. (And that He has a little bald-headed angel up there helping him work out the details!)