The Rings

January 21.

Here’s the story of why this day is memorable.

During Memorial Day weekend, 2004, I had my first email conversation with Ken, Kenneth, Kenny, “Clique” Thomaston.  We had our first date about a week later.  He came to my house in McCalla with his guitar and a variety of liquid dinners, because our church was in the middle of a 10-day fast. This made for an interesting first date, but also very meaningful.

Note: In my 42 years, I know I’ve been called to fast three times. I can’t explain it. It’s not possible if you just decide to fast on your own, and God is not in it, because it does not work.  I’ve tried. The times I have fasted and went completely without food was absolutely a spiritual awakening for me.

To fully rely on God to sustain you, while seeking Him during a heightened state of prayer, is an experience that will change you forever.

The first time Clique and I actually met in person was during a small prayer service at our church. Members would sign up for a time of prayer and when I arrived for my group, he just happened to be there, and one of the pastors asked him to open up the meeting in prayer.

The first time I ever heard him speak was a time when he was talking to the Lord.

A friend of ours had been trying to introduce us, but I had explained to her that I was only dating my First Love, Jesus, in order to heal from my divorce and grow in my new salvation. As we walked out of the prayer room, I think Clique and I awkwardly introduced ourselves, and a few weeks later he came to check me out in the small group class I attended.  As one of the class greeters, I would email people who had visited, and of course I his as an excuse to start a conversation.

His email was returned undelivered. Ha ha! I called our mutual friend to say he gave a fake email – at church – and obviously wasn’t interested. He contacted me pretty quickly after that.

Fast forward at Enterprise warp speed….three months later, on August 28, 2004, he proposed to me.

It was a fairytale setting at the beach after his best friend’s wedding. That night, as the waves provided a background song and the moon provided the light, he sang to me as he played his guitar.  He then got down on one knee, prayed and asked my Heavenly Father for permission to marry me…and I said yes. The ring was engraved with Psalm 37:4.

Please know the key to having the desires of your heart, is to delight in the Lord. This verse doesn’t say we get whatever our heart desires, for the Bible says the heart is deceitful above all things, who can know it? The Lord can. He can align our desires with His when we are delighting in our relationship with Him, by communication from prayer and His Word.

Sadly, there is now a plot twist.

This next part of the story is a painful, but I am all for being transparent enough to share that falling in love isn’t all hearts and flowers. Love is actually 1 Corinthians 13.

I once heard someone suggest that you recite that passage using both your name, and your spouse’s (or love interest), in place of the word love. Are we patient, kind, keeping no records of wrongs (that means no list of past mistakes we throw out in arguments)?

Love isn’t jealous, it does not brag or act arrogant. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.  Love never fails.

What is the most important definition of love?  God is Love… 1 John 4:8

What was our plot twist? We actually had a terrible fight just hours before that beach engagement scene, and I was surprised we recovered from it and he actually went through with the surprise.

After we returned to Birmingham the nest day – I gave back the ring.

After all that beauty, the prayer, the song, the sand that I saved from where his knee was on the beach (I still have it, by the way, shown below) – I just could not get married.

We were a Hallmark movie. Maybe even close to a Lifetime movie.

In my defense, I had the most traumatic, horrible, pit-dwelling divorce in 2002. I swore I would never marry again.  Melody was only 9 months old when the papers were filed, and even swore I would never have children again…never allowing another man to have any part of me.

So, at age 28, I begged and pleaded with my OB/GYN to have my tubes tied.  She made me wait, but eventually allowed the surgery in 2003. I was taking both physical and emotional measures to protect myself from ever experiencing that type of pain from loving someone. I would never trust anyone again.

Imagine my shock, when after only three months of knowing me, a handsome, precious man of God decided to marry me and become a father to two little girls. Was he crazy?  I mean, I was quite a looker back then, but marriage?

He said God told him I would be his wife, and I explained that I had not gotten the same memo, and that I wished God should tell us both.

From August 29, 2004 through early December, we got back together and broke up again several times. It was excruciating for both of us, and I know Clique was especially hurt. I kept changing my mind, and after Christmas Day, we decided it was over.

I was still in turmoil though, trying to understand why God brought this person into my life. Was this His love and mercy offering me a second chance? What about all the sweet ways we met, seemingly ordained, but I just couldn’t believe in happiness again.

What about all the Bible verses about divorce, and not remarrying, and regardless if I was told my divorce was justified, the Bible still says God hates divorce. Paul wrote to remarry made me an adulterer (okay, much more to that passage, but I can’t go into that here).

Trust. How could I believe Clique wouldn’t leave me one day? How could I risk opening that door of my soul that was sealed with deadbolts, chains, alarms, duct tape and a blanket shoved under the bottom?

Fast.

Pray.

Block out all distractions and fall on your knees at the throne.

It’s hard to describe how God speaks to us sometimes, but I knew this is what I was supposed to do. I would not contact Clique at all until I heard from the Lord. One way or the other – I needed an answer. Like Jacob wrestling with the Lord, and Gideon laying out his fleece over and over, I needed the Lord to settle this and I would not stop asking Him until I knew for sure.

My fast began on January 1, 2005. It was for 21 days. I don’t even remember how I came to know that number, and the longest fast I had ever done was 10 days. To most people, this sounds impossible. But, with God all things are possible. Although our bodies probably cannot survive without water, we can actually survive without food. I did drink milk and juice, and there were times I was so tempted to eat, but that was when I would pray and study to be sustained by God’s Word. For it say, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.”

Matthew 17

When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.” And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” 

And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. 

But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

It’s too hard to get into the theology of fasting in this post. I just know what I have experienced through it personally. I do believe that in times of desperation and failing faith, when we are crawling, and reaching out for the hem of His robe, we have to make sacrifices of the flesh in order to focus on the Spirit.

I was desperate.

I wish I could remember the exact date, but sometime in that last week of the fast…I knew the answer. Of all places, I was sitting at the Vestavia Chuck E. Cheese with Morgan and Melody, and I just knew. For God to break through the noise and chaos of that place, and settle over me a sense of peace, was a miracle in itself.

Without a doubt, I would marry Kenneth Edward “Clique” Thomaston.  However, I needed a plan though of how to tell him, and ask that he come back to me.

I knew I could not go back to Clique seeking reconciliation of our engagement because I had hurt him so many times. He probably wouldn’t believe me. What would convince him I was serious this time?

I bought him a ring, too.

As a symbol of my decision, peace and commitment to marry him, I bought his wedding band. It had a braided design for the Ecclesiastes verse that describes how two are better than one, but a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

With the Lord, he and I could trust that this marriage would not easily be broken. But, it had to be the three of us, a triple-braided cord, with God binding together two already broken, divorced people, whom He had decided to restore and knit together.

The verse engraved inside his ring?

1 Corinthians 13:13.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

With this ring, he was getting Morgan Faith, Melody Hope, and Love.

Then, I decided to drive to Georgia and talk to his dad and stepmom (she’s actually what I would call an extra mom, because there’s no step about her). Mike and Dianna Thomaston were married for almost 25 years before he passed away in September. Both lost their previous spouses to death, and God blended their families together through what I hear was a lot of trial and error – and prayer.

Who better than to advise me on what to do, especially Dianna, who lived with a famous “Thomaston.” This family, both men and women, have a certain way about them…a little loud and intimidating, perhaps even hard-headed? But, full of love.

It was almost like I was going through the motions of asking for permission to marry him with the Godly counsel. We had been through so much and I needed some prayer backup before going to him with the ring.

This photo above was one I took on that drive, with his new ring, along with mine, until I could see him again.

This period of my life was one of the sweetest with the Lord, and I often long for every year, every season, to be just as close and intimate. There is no denying His power, wonder, grace, provision, and forgiveness.

On June 4, 2005, I became Keysha Thomaston.

The rings…on the plane to Costa Rica.

Honeymoon and pottery from Costa Rica, 2005. 

Today is January 21, 2018, and it occurred to me this morning, as I kissed my husband goodbye for one of his trade shows, that it was on this date, in 2005, that the Lord told me he was the one.

I glanced down at my hand and was reminded of the drama this one ring caused in the beginning. But, God knew what He was doing. Without that period of prayer and fasting, away from the whirlwind romance, I could not have met with Him on the level needed before I trusted someone else with not just my heart, but my whole life, plus children.

Clique did not need the same lessons from the Lord, but I had to let go of the past and be completely healed from things I had tucked away, that would have brought uncertainty to the altar. The clarity of that time is so obvious now, but in the midst of a trial we do not always see clearly. And, that’s where faith comes in. 

It has been 13 years. Don’t ask us when the good and bad years were. As I reflect on the bliss, dreams and photos from that first year, never would I have imagined how many times the Lord would have to wrap us up in that rope, just to keep the braid from unraveling. Maybe He used a padlock once or twice.

I don’t understand how marriages can survive without the Lord. Just like in the fiery furnace of Daniel, when a fourth man was seen walking among the flames, likened to the image of God, without that third strand, two pieces of thread don’t stay twisted together. And, anyone who has ever braided hair just said, “amen.”

I am so grateful I can sit here today, in our house, knowing we have made it this far. No, the enemy will not stop his attack on any marriage, on anything that tries to further God’s kingdom, but I rest on the promise that He will never leave us, or forsake us, and He will keep the braid tight, when we lose our grip to hold it in place.

This is a collection of photos where I can see that ring that I presented to him 13 years ago this week. I went through today finding as many as I could, discovering sweet ones, comforting or funny ones, and of course, a few with a Diet Sunkist and a guitar.

Thank you…Jim, Angela, Rod, Linda, Steve, Donna, Bill, Dayna, Bruce, Robbie, James, Kim, Dianna, Teresa, Rod, Randy, Jeanette, Lo, Michelle, Harlan, Amelia, Leighann, Andy, the Wootens, the Hardmans, the Ramseys, the Norri, the Shirleys, the Blakes, the Dardens, the Jarvi, the Ruhas, the Farleys, Rachael, Lulu, Jessie, Courtney, MawMaw, Pawpaw, Mom, Dad, Fred, Tonya, Paige, Geri, Jen, Allison, Erica, Kim, Edwina, Tracy, Kim (there’s several), Monica, Stephanie, the old Amsouth/Regions crew, the old Beretta crew, ACS crew, and all the people I’ve failed to list who invested in us, prayed, encouraged and helped us start this journey.

In memory of Jeremy Clay Simpson, Michael Edward Thomaston and Ann Thomaston Norris.

Copyright © 2018 Keysha Thomaston®. All Rights Reserved.