A Simple Man


His name was Don. I remember it because it sounded like John (my son’s name, Gian, is pronounced the same way). So when the hairdresser at Sports Clips called out his name, Gian started to get up thinking it was his turn. Don shot him a quick glare and called out to her.

“You said Don, right?” The old fellow’s voice was agitated. He waited for her response before expending the energy to stand.

“Yes, Don,” replied the young woman, “right this way.” She lead him to her station for his haircut and that was the last of my interactions with the man. Our time spent together: just over 1 hour, waiting for haircuts. Time spent talking to each other: 15-20 minutes tops. And yet, I will never forget him and the story he shared with me.

I brought Gian in to get his haircut—he HATES getting his haircut. He wants it left long and I like it short. This particular time, I was getting my way because it was 5 or so weeks before my wedding date. I thought if his hair was cut short, it would be grown in perfectly in time for the wedding.

Getting married as a mom is WAY different than when you get married before you have children.  I was concerned about making sure everyone else was ready; so thankfully there wasn’t much time to stress about myself. (Although I stressed a little about getting the wrinkles out of my wedding dress; thankfully my friend’s steamer took care of that. J) I had to pick out clothes for my boys and my fiancé. I needed to make sure everybody had shoes that fit and that they were all “well groomed” before the big day. Lol! My parents were out of town so we had transportation to arrange. Truthfully, the biggest challenge was finding the right bra to wear!

Overall, we kept the day very simple—a beach wedding with a few family members. Our focus wasn’t on our limousines, videographers, bridal party, or flower arrangements (all of which we didn’t have). Our focus was on us—just Kim and I—and our love for each other. Throughout our time together we recognized God’s hand in creating our relationship. At times, I was in awe at how His work in us was seamlessly woven. Therefore it was important to us to have our marriage blessed with a God-centered ceremony. We selected Ephesians 4:2-3 to be our wedding sermon’s themed verse: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” It turned out to be the most precious day of my life. It was absolutely breath-takingly beautiful in every possible way. And yet, it was simple—so very simple.

So, what does the grumpy old man, Don, have to do with my wedding story? Well, here’s what happened with him…

When we arrived at Sports Clips, I put Gian’s name on the waiting list to get his haircut. We sat down at two of the only available seats in the place. Ugh, I knew the wait was going to be long. Gian kept himself occupied on his phone and so did I for about a half hour. Each time another patron was called up for his haircut, the man sitting next to me would groan. His grunting was a bit bothersome. I started to wonder if the grumbles were because he was mad at the wait time or if they were because he was in pain. Since he was wearing a shoulder sling and was constantly fidgeting with the strap, it definitely could’ve been the latter.

So after one of the huffs, I asked him, “Are you okay?”

He looked at me as if to say, You really don’t want to know.

But he answered, “Yes. I’ve just been waiting here forever. I mean I have to be next! I think the guy they just called came in after me!”

“Well, I know we came in after you. If they call my son’s name before yours, we’ll know something is definitely not right and I’ll make sure that they take care of you first.”

He seemed satisfied with my answer. I figured since I broke the ice with that reply, I might as well make small talk. Regardless of the fact that he didn’t seem like the talkative kind, I figured we had nothing better to do, so why not?

I asked about his shoulder and inquired about his treatment. As it turns out, he broke it. “This is what I get for trying to do the right thing,” he stated and tacked on one of his grunts of disgust.

Wow, how do I respond to that? This was NOT a happy man. I started to feel sorry for him. I didn’t want to be my usual smiley sunshiney and flowery self with him. I felt that he would’ve shut me down quickly had I played the optimist. So instead, I just nodded and listened as he told me about his injury.

A few weeks prior to our meeting, he was driving along and there was a stalled out car blocking traffic at an intersection. My new friend, eighty-something-year-old tough-as-nails, Don, pulled off to the side of the median and helped the car’s driver by pushing his car out of the intersection and off the road. In doing so, the car moved fast out from under him. Don got tripped up and fell onto the pavement. The man whose car it was wanted to call for help, but instead, stubborn old Don said he was fine and he waved the guy off. The guy was concerned as Don laid for a moment on the side of the road in pain.

“Leave me alone!” yelled Don as he sat up and basically dragged himself back to his vehicle.

He drove himself to the hospital with a broken shoulder and he’s been in a sling ever since. He has a friend who checks on him to see if he ever needs any help, but of course he turns down any assistance. He can do it all by himself. He doesn’t need anybody or anything…another grunt. And then, out of nowhere, I noticed a softening to his face. He remembered something.

“You know, cutting a watermelon is really hard to do with one arm!” He even smiled a little as he stared off into space.

“I bet!” I responded. He was obviously proud of his ability to get the job done despite his injury, but the smile was for another reason…it was for her.

“I remember one time, my wife and I were traveling out west…” He went on to tell me about a time when he and his “bride” were out in the middle of nowhere—in the desert—and their car broke down. They were thirsty and miserable. They started trekking it down the road in hopes of finding a nearby gas station.

On their tired journey, his wife said, “You know what would be SOOOOO good right now?”

“What?” he asked, knowing just about anything that was cold and refreshing would do the trick.

“WATERMELON!! Wouldn’t that be sooo good?” she replied, getting excited at the thought of it.

Don knew better than to share in her enthusiasm. I mean after all, they were in the desert!! At this point, they’d be lucky to find a gas station and some sun-heated water from a hose.

After a bit more walking, to their great surprise, they did just that–they found a gas station! Hooray! They weren’t going to die out in the desert. And guess what else they found? Mmhmm, that’s right! In front of the gas station door there was a giant cooler filled with ice and in that cooler there were whole WATERMELONS!

Don couldn’t believe his eyes. His bride was beyond excited. They purchased a watermelon (and some motor oil) and instead of walking back the whole way, they decided to stop for a moment on the side of the road to enjoy their good fortune. But wouldn’t you know it, they had nothing to cut their watermelon with! His wife’s excitement was deflating fast; so Don took the watermelon from her and bashed it open on a rock. He said he was able to pry the thing apart and together they sat there on the side of the road and scooped watermelon out of each half with their hands. They ate it and got messy and sticky, but it was the BEST watermelon that he had ever eaten in his entire life!

“I bet,” I replied again. This time, I couldn’t help my wide-eyed sunshiney smile. My heart beamed at the idea of a much younger Don and his love with their hands full of fruit. But before I could ask for more details, the smile faded from his face and he snapped back to the present day.

“She’s been gone for 8 years now. Cancer took her from me. It took a lot of people from me.” He rattled off the list of all the family members that were stolen from him too soon along with each of their cancer diagnoses. Then the hairdresser called out his name and that was it. I’ve never seen him since then.

I’m certain he has no idea how blessed me that day. He blessed me with his story about a memory that was so precious—a day that was absolutely breath-takingly beautiful in every way. He reminded me that not just for marriage, but for life in general, the most important things are not a wedding reception, or haircuts, or even finding the right bra! The most important things are the simplest things, like spending time with the ones we love…and eating watermelon. 🙂



Match Made in Heaven (Part 2)


“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17) In my last blog, I wrote about how God fulfilled my prayers for a soulmate. Many naysayers may wonder, How does she know that he is the one? and How can she be so sure that it was a ‘match made in heaven’? After all, they met online! A while ago, I wrote about looking for and recognizing the signs from God. If you haven’t read that one yet, here it is… Anyway, throughout my relationship with Kim, from the very beginning, there has been a series of “Godwinks” that I choose to believe were God’s way of giving each of us confirmation that we were the ones made for each other.

It was this very day last year, the Sunday before January 25th, that I was doing my weekly food shopping at the supermarket. I was wheeling my cart down the frozen foods section. I vividly remember hearing the song, “Haven’t Met You Yet” by Michael Buble playing faintly over the sound system. The lyrics were so appropriate for where I was in my life at the time. “Wherever you are, whenever it’s right; You’ll come out of nowhere and into my life; and I know that we can be so amazing, and baby your love is gonna change me; and now I can see every possibility…” The words stopped me in my tracks. I closed my eyes right there in Publix and prayed, “God, I’m so ready for you to make this happen.” I was alone for 3 years and waiting on God to answer my prayer. Two weeks prior, after feeling like it was time, I created my first online dating site profile. I went on one date a week later. We met at a restaurant and it was obvious there was no attraction between us. He had been at this online dating thing for a while. He told me of the horrors of online dating which made me question this route to finding my match. Could this really be what God wants for me? However, my date also gave me the name of a different dating website. He suggested I try that one. So, I did. I posted a profile on a second site and hoped for the best.

The evening after hearing Michael Buble in the supermarket, I checked out the second dating site. If you’ve never been “lucky enough” to experience online dating, it is really a strange process. You search for people that fit into your criteria of what you are looking for in a mate. You could get as picky as you want, but I generally kept to the basics—age (between 40 and 50 years old), height (taller than me 5’10” or higher), spirituality (as long as it didn’t say none, I could work with it), and location (I hate to drive so I selected “within 25 miles”). Then you peruse through the profiles of people that fit into your criteria. And that night, I came across the photo of my love. He had the sweetest smile and his eyes had a child-like enthusiasm to them. His profile write up wasn’t the best (Lol! Sorry, Kim ;-), but that smile and those eyes just warmed my heart. I was too chicken to send him a message. I wasn’t sure what was worse, not receiving a response or finding out that he wasn’t attracted to my photo (yes, online dating is killer to the self-esteem), so instead I “favorited” his photo by clicking on a star. My first favorite. I knew that he would get a message from the site saying that he was favorited. I left it up to him to decide if he wanted to send me a message. On my profile write-up, I mentioned that I was a morning person and that I was looking for someone who was the same.

The next morning, Kim’s alarm went off as it usually does between 4:30 and 5:30am. He saw that I “favorited” him and wrote me a message thinking, I wonder how much of a “morning person” she really is? My alarm goes off at 5:03am (hey, that 3 minutes makes a big difference! Lol!). By 7:30am on January 25th, we had been communicating via messages back and forth non-stop (outside of getting ready for work and driving to work) for 2 hours. Every night for those first few days, our phone calls lasted 3-4 hours. We were so similar—it was like talking to a male version of myself and apparently our attraction to each other was mutual. In one of his messages he wrote, “I am very flattered that you picked me as a favorite. You are very beautiful and I would have thought out of my league.” We fell in love with each other quickly and admitted it to one another a week after our first date.

So, what else were the signs in those first few months that we were a match made in heaven? We’re obviously both morning people and he’s very tall J. We’re both from NY and we’re Yankees fans (but we both dislike the cold and snow). We’re both technically Episcopalian and now attend a Methodist church together. We love to travel. (I feared meeting someone who would be content not seeing anywhere but here. Thanks to his time in the Air Force, Kim has been to far more places than I and only wants to see more! AND he doesn’t mind always being the driver so I never have to drive. Yay! My perfect traveling buddy!) We’ve both been through divorce. Ironically for two Floridians, but we both enjoy hiking and mountains over the beach. We love to eat and try new restaurants. We are less than 1 year apart in age. (I’m older by 7 months, but WAY wiser.) Since we grew up during the same time period and in the same state, we almost always get each other’s references about TV shows, music lyrics, movie quotes, and pop culture. We have both always wanted to go on a mission trip. We’re both cat lovers.

On our first date while we were in the car on the way home, “Haven’t Met You Yet” played on the radio. On our 1st Valentine’s Day together, after knowing each other for less than a month, we bought each other the same card. We went horseback riding in the Spring. Out of 40 horses to choose from, with different names like Linus and Spartan, they selected our horses for us. Mine was named Chief and his was named Blaze–quite the coincidence for the fireman and his future wife. Together we’ve witnessed more rainbows (a sign of God’s promises) in this year than I’ve seen in the past several years combined.

But probably the coolest of the “meant to be” moments happened just recently with our engagement. In November, I was in the mall with my teenage son. Of course he wanted to shop without his mom, so we parted ways for a bit. Unbeknownst to anyone, I went into one of the mall’s seven jewelry stores to look at engagement rings. The saleslady asked me if I’d like to try anything on. (I was looking at the engagement rings.) I told her that my boyfriend and I were talking about getting married and he asked if I liked any shape of ring over the others. I told her that I told him I liked radiant and emerald cut diamonds, but that I had never tried one on. So she went into the case and pulled out an emerald cut diamond engagement ring. It was my size so I put it on. It was absolutely beautiful. She took out another ring that was a slightly different cut and encouraged me to try it on. I told her that it wasn’t necessary. The ring I had on was exactly what I wanted. She gave me her business card and wrote the ring details on the back. She said, “Here, give this to your boyfriend.” I couldn’t do that! I took the card to be nice, but never gave it to Kim. I never even told him that I went to the store. He knew that I liked emerald cuts—whatever he got for me would be perfect. A month and a half later, you can imagine my shock and excitement on Christmas Eve when he proposed to me. He opened up the box and the ring inside was the ring that I wanted! I later learned that when Kim went to the mall to buy my ring, he went into the nearest of the seven jewelry stores to where he parked. It was the same store that I went into. He showed me the business card of the saleswoman that helped him. It was the same lady that helped me. She showed him several rings, but he said only one ring stood out to him—the same exact ring that I had tried on a couple of weeks prior to his going to the store. Talk about a God-incidence!


Amazingly enough, we’ve lived 7 miles away from each other for the past 13 years. A friend from my church and Bible study group lives across the street from him. A co-worker of mine is good friends with one of his co-workers. We often wish we could watch a side-by-side movie of our lives to see if, or how often, we have crossed paths. We shopped at the same supermarket. We use the same pharmacy to fill our prescriptions. His neighborhood is next to a park where my sons played sports. I attended the Blue Angels air shows and practices while he was working on the air field. And he did, in fact, look at the stars and wonder if the woman he was hoping for was out there, doing the same.

God knew that we would meet and when it happened, it would be life changing for both of us. It had to be at just the right time in both of our lives. So if you are like I was, waiting and waiting and waiting for God to make changes in your life, have faith. Keep praying. Be patient. He has a plan. Trust me—trust Him; it’s worth it. God’s timing is absolutely perfect.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)

Match Made in Heaven (Part 1)


On Christmas Eve, I got engaged to the love of my life. When people hear that you’ve gotten engaged, one of the questions that is asked (after “Did you set a date for your wedding?”) is, “So how did you meet?” Every time the question is posed, my fiancé and I give each other a little smirk. If our minds spoke their thoughts, they’d probably say, Do we have to admit to it? We wish it was a different way. Hopefully they don’t ask which site. This is so embarrassing. But, rather than coming up with a fantastical story, we admit through mumbled breaths, “Online.” Yes, we met through an internet dating website.

While I know that this isn’t the most romantic set up for meeting your future spouse, I’d like to tell you a little back story about how this beautiful relationship came into being.

In 2012, my marriage of 15 years was headed toward divorce. For the first year following our split, I had a difficult time. I was stressed beyond the max. I was returning to full-time work after being a stay-at-home mom for 13 years. I turned 40. I was losing hair at an alarming rate, gaining weight, and feeling just awful. All the while, I was putting on the smiley face to let everybody see my optimism for the future, while behind the scenes I was a mess. I immersed myself in my spirituality. I spent a lot of time praying, reading and studying the Bible, and building on my relationship with God.

In the years that followed, I wondered if I’d ever fall in love again. Despite my deepest hopes, I seriously doubted it. I wrote a Bible Study for people who were going through divorce. One of the chapters was about starting new relationships. At that point in my life, I was talking a good game, but I wasn’t practicing what I preached in the book. I wasn’t praying for a mate. By the beginning of 2014, I decided I was ready to meet someone. But this time, I didn’t want just anyone; I wanted God’s pick for me. I prayed for him every single day. I prayed that God would allow us to meet soon. I was getting lonely. Even my children were asking me when I was going to find myself a boyfriend! As much as I wanted to find a companion, I didn’t want to do anything that was outside of what God wanted for me. So I just prayed and waited.

In April of 2015, I read a book called The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. In the book, the author talks about praying circles around our hopes and dreams. This book had me write down exactly what I was praying for—the love of my life. As embarrassing as it is to share this with you, I need you to see all that I was hoping for…



Love of my life *Soulmate*: God filled, Spirit driven, optimistic, honorable, loving, trustworthy, intelligent, attractive/tall, respectful, funny, devoted, faithful, kind, generous, friendly, caring, motivated, loves me and I love him, “smitten with each other,” “two peas in a pod,” “friends and lovers,” “partners in crime,” “made for each other”



While this was not the only thing I prayed for, this was at the forefront of my daily prayers. The strange thing is, no matter how much I prayed and hoped and thought about it, I kept feeling like it wasn’t time yet. A few friends asked if I’d like to get set up, I said, “Sure!” I hoped this was God’s way of putting His choice in my path, but for one reason or another, the set-ups never worked out. I was never introduced to any of them. By the Fall of 2015, my kids decided that I had a make-believe boyfriend named Bill. After a weekend at their dad’s they’d ask, “So, did you hang out with ‘Bill’ this weekend?” I repeatedly told them that I wished I had, but “Bill” just never showed up.

I even backed off on my prayer list… My prayers changed, “Lord, it’s okay if he’s not funny. I can love someone who isn’t funny…Dear God, I don’t need him to be motivated. I can love a couch potato…Father, who needs an attractive man anyway? I’ll take one that’s a little goofy looking. That’s fine.” In the end, I pretty much crossed everything off the list. I decided I would stop asking for so much and just pray for him to have two things: I wanted him to be tall and I wanted him to believe in God and that was it. Surely God’s pick for me would have at least that?

By December of 2015, I was so tired of being single. I was desperately lonely. It had been three years since I had been kissed, had my hand held, or even received a hug from someone other than a friend or family member. I longed for a companion. I wanted someone to go to the movies with, someone to share my dreams with, someone to have an adventure with, someone to love and I yearned to be loved in return. My mother called me out on it—it was two days before New Year’s Eve. We were having a heated discussion about my wanting my parents to move near me. (That’s a story for another blog post!) But at one point in our conversation she looked at me with sad eyes and said, “ToniAnn, I can see that you are miserable.” I sobbed and sobbed. I was inconsolable. It hit me like a ton of bricks. She was right. The loneliness had taken over my heart, robbed me of my joy, and I was just so very sad. I got to the point of crying out to God, “Please, Lord! Where is he?!” I would look at the stars and wonder if he was looking at the stars too—maybe he was even pleading for me.

After New Year’s I continued my prayers, but out of nowhere, there seemed to be a change in God’s response. During my prayers instead of feeling like my love was nowhere to be found, I got the distinct notion that it was time! The next day, I prayed again and again I felt like God was nudging me, “It’s time!” So, I acted on it. That day I set up my first profile on a dating website. Two weeks later, I met Kim. On January 29th of 2016, I had my last “first kiss.”


So, if you are like I was at this time last year—painfully alone and waiting for your “one”—pray, have hope, and be patient. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalms 30:5b, KJV)

I look back at the list that I wrote so long ago. Kim fulfills every single thing that I prayed for—every one of my heart’s desires. He truly is my match made in heaven. Of course, however, by the time I met him, he only needed to check off two boxes: 1) His faith—Yes, he believes in God. 2) His height—I think God got so tired of my prayers on this that he responded in a big way with this one! “So how’s 6’6”, ToniAnn? Is that tall enough for you?” Why yes, Lord. Yes, it is. Thank you very much! 🙂

How Can You Have Faith?


After yesterday’s terrorist attack in France, a dear friend from high school, Jeff Pearlman, sent me a Facebook message:
How do you maintain your faith when so much bad happens? Just curious–nothing to read into.
Jeff recently wrote a piece on his blog (http://www.jeffpearlman.com/blog/) called Death and Paris. I read that first, and then I responded with this…
Hello, my friend. I had to drink a cup of coffee before sitting down to write a response to you this morning. I’m afraid you’re not going to like my answer though….I just do. My belief in God is so rock solid that it is like a check box on a scantron form. Do you believe in God/Jesus/Holy Spirit? Yes or No? I fill in the “Yes” bubble. The fact that bad things happen in this world have no affect on my faith. Just like if my whole body was burned in a fire, I wouldn’t have to think about whether or not to bubble in “White” as the color of my skin. It just is.
Everybody wants somebody to blame. Some blame Muslims, because hey, let’s group in an entire religion of millions of people and make them pay for the sadistic acts of a handful of them. This method doesn’t float with me. I recently learned that I am the great-granddaughter of a Nazi! Great-grandpa disowned his son (my grandfather) because he decided to join the US Army so that he could fight with the Americans against the Germans in WWII. If the “blame the Muslims” theory is right, then I guess I’d be equally guilty as the Nazis for the holocaust just because I have a German ancestor that I never even met. Not!
Then there are those who blame Christians and Jews because they are so pushy with their doctrine and everything about “them” is conceited and arrogant. Even you yourself said “I can’t stomach people trusting ancient religious texts over logic and scientific fact.” (Ouch, by the way!) You and I both know there is as much scientific/historical fact to prove the veracity of those religious texts as there isn’t. No one way is better than the other. You choose to believe that it is illogical and I choose to believe that it is completely logical. So once again, I, as a Christian, should take the blame for the heinous acts of these sick individuals just because I don’t believe what they believe? I don’t think so.
…and then there’s God. Let’s blame Him since He’s the “cause” of all this. People are killing other people because of Him so how can He not take the blame? Also, He is the Almighty Creator so He has the power to stop this in an instant, so isn’t that a good reason to point the finger at Him as well? The challenge in defending God to someone who does not have faith is that it is extremely difficult to prove why bad things happen in a fallen world when the person(s) I am trying to explain it to are person(s) who don’t even believe that He exists! So how could they possibly understand why I, as a Christian, do not blame my Father for the evil that exists in the world? BUT, I guess that is a bit of a cop out and it allows me to avoid your question. (Ahhhh, peace from Pearlman. Lol!) BUT, I’m not going to leave it at that. In order to answer your question though, I’m going to have to make some presumptions.
I will presume that the person(s) that I am talking to has a bit of faith…that they believe that God exists and that’s it. They don’t have to be a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim, just a believer in God (someone who trusts in one of those ancient religious texts that you can’t stomach). IF said person(s) have that belief and that belief alone, then they would also acknowledge that God is the Creator. He created plants, animals, the world, people, etc. That being said, just as in the above examples, why should a parent be blamed for the heinous choices of His children? He is no more to blame for their choices than I am for my great-grandfather’s choice to be a Nazi. Yes, He created the people who are committing the atrocities, but He is not the one doing it.
I know what you are going to say, but if He’s “God” then He could stop it from happening…and He doesn’t. So why would you choose to believe in a Creator like that?
I cannot speak for anyone but myself. I don’t claim to have all the answers—I definitely do not! I do not tell anyone that they should or shouldn’t believe in God and I don’t hate, loathe, or even dislike people who don’t agree with what I believe. My belief is that GOD IS LOVE and I wholeheartedly believe that love is the common bond among all of His creation. (Just last week I created a blog and I plan to write about this stuff. Yikes! God help me. My head hurts already just responding to you!) As difficult as it may be to have faith and see His love in a time such as this; it is there. There are those who choose to focus on and believe in the anger, hate, revenge, blame, and resentment, but I choose love. Love is in the response of those who aided the people injured in the terrorist attacks. Love is in the outpouring of affection and messages and prayers and posts and pictures by those of us who live thousands of miles away. Love is in the hearts and actions of the people in Paris and in all of France who are at this moment holding their families tighter and forgiving past hurts and recognizing that our time here is limited. Love is in acknowledging the commonalities among us as humans rather than focusing on the dividers of ethnicity, religion, politics, and race.
And in the end, if love is to win, then we have to believe in it.