On This Day

“Joshalyn never said yes to marrying Reagan when he proposed,” were the first words out of our officiant’s mouth. I could feel the confusion sweep over the crowd that had just been seated from watching my dad lead me down the long, green carpeted aisle. I would have face palmed if it didn’t mean disturbing the royal purple flower crown that surrounded my Afro. Instead, I gave my wedding guests a dry look and raised my eyebrows at the officiant. “What did I say?” I prompted him. He gave a wide smile. “She said of course,” he assured everyone.

He was right.

On Friday, April 22, 2016, I sat in the parking lot of the same church we were married in. I’d just gotten off of work, and my friends said they wanted to get together and worship. We’d made plenty of sweet memories in the First Christian Church of Huntsville sanctuary. I interned there during my undergraduate years and passed the baton to my close friend Janay after I graduated. She and our friend Sydney were now on their way for worship night, or so I thought. I called Reagan on my way there to let him know I’d just gotten off work. Our conversation was short; he said he was with a friend and needed to hang up. I felt a yank in my heart. I was moving to Montana for the summer in just a few weeks, and he had finals coming up. We’d talked about getting engaged not long before and come to terms with the reality that life was just full. If we could get engaged sooner rather than later, that’d be great, but if we had to wait, we would (that ballot didn’t have my vote). I knew from our calendars that there would be no other weekend besides this one. I had plans tonight, and so did he, so I let it go.

I pulled into the empty parking lot and waited a few minutes for Janay and Sydney to arrive. Maybe they parked on the other side of the church…? I pulled out the plastic bag of goldfish I hadn’t eaten at work and got on Facebook. I scrolled and scrolled and came across a video someone shared of a Family Feud episode. I clicked on it and popped a few goldfish in my mouth. I watched as a contestant who professed to be a lawyer looked from Steve Harvey to the audience and stated, “Despite being the son of a Baptist minister who always told me that a praying knee and a dancing foot don’t go together, I can get down.” I started to laugh as the audience encouraged his antics. “Gimme some hip-hop,” he said. A beat dropped, and he moved to the center of the stage with confidence. Then, he started dancing, and I started laughing. Harder. Then harder. Then harder. I threw more goldfish into my mouth and kept laughing until tears started gathering in the corners of my eyes. I looked around the parking lot and still didn’t see my friends, so I figured I’d watch the video on repeat. Twenty minutes and an aching-from-laughter stomach later, I decided to call Sydney. Janay answered. “Hey, where are you guys?” I asked. She waited a moment before speaking. “We’re on our way.” “Oh, okay. See you in a bit.” We hung up, and she texted me just a minute later. “Go inside the church.” That was fast. I got out of my car and thought of a witty way to tease them for being late and driving to the church so fast. I pulled the narthex door open and did a double take as I glanced through the window beside the doors that led to the sanctuary. I stepped onto the green carpet and watched as Reagan sat behind the piano playing our song. I immediately burst into laughter as the realization settled in.

Everyone lied to you. There’s no worship night.

You’re about to get engaged.

Reagan was here the entire time you were repeatedly watching that Family Feud lawyer twerk on stage.

And congrats, you have the breath of a five-year-old. 

I placed my goldfish and purse down on a small table and rushed down the aisle toward Reagan. I was nearly halfway to him before I realized he’d created a path with our pictures on them. “Oh!” I ran back down the aisle and picked up each picture. Mountain adventures in Montana. The first picture we’d taken as a couple (again, outside of First Christian Church). A FaceTime screenshot in our year of dating long distance. I gathered them all and scurried up the miniature staircase to sit beside Reagan on the piano bench. He stopped playing, and we started laughing. I wanted to explain what I’d been doing in the parking lot that entire time but decided to save it for later. I watched as he scooted himself from beside me, lowered himself to one knee, and pulled out a red ring box.

“Will you marry me?” He asked.

“Of course.”

The next few months were spent planning, planning, and planning. We worked hard to keep our wedding budget under control, which meant being strategic and conscientious. One of my favorite things about our wedding was that we were genuinely surrounded by people we loved. I had a close friend sing during the ceremony and two talented baking friends make our cake pop wedding cake. Our invitations and programs were all designed by people in our circle, and a group of Reagan’s kind, generous, hard-working friends kept their eye out on the food during the reception. I remember feeling anxious and overwhelmed that my wedding day didn’t look like the ones from a television show, or even the one it could’ve been as I sat across from a wedding venue owner with wide eyes from the starting price of a wedding there.

Then, I looked around and saw children running around barefoot and dancing to the music. They were the kids of a missionary family I’d gone to Europe with. They’d lived on wide, open Kansas land before moving to the urban city of Budapest, Hungary, and were used to running freely and flailing around together. Their infant sister wobbled up to me as I sat behind the bride and groom table and shot her index finger through the air with a point. “Hey!” I exclaimed as I extended my arms out to her. She was so young when we were in Europe that I wasn’t sure if she’d remember me. “Hey!” I said again as she ran toward me with a smile. I attached her to my hip and looked around for her parents. I found them at the back of the room and carried her toward them. The thought of what I looked like carrying an excited child against my bleach-white wedding dress brought a smile to my face. I decided to forget the formality and expectations. This was my life. Barefoot dancing. Joyful shouting. Pointing my index finger in amazement at the beauty in front of me. That was Joshalyn Jones, and a large part of it was Joshalyn McHargue.

Our wedding guests made their way outside for the send off around 7:45PM. Reagan and I are old souls and truthfully wanted to call it an early night. We dashed through the tunnel of excitement as our family and friends [violently] threw birdseed at us. I gave my Afro a shake and nudged closer to Reagan. I climbed into his truck and rolled down the window to wave goodbye to my bridesmaids. They waved back dramatically and sent me away laughing. “There’s birdseed everywhere!” I exclaimed. We drove the few minutes to our apartment and walked through the living room to our back patio to hang our heads over the balcony and shake the birdseed out of our hair. It worked for Reagan, but alas, my Afro had become a livable bird nest. Reagan went inside to grab a bowl from a dish set we’d JUST been gifted. I sat on the floor in my wedding dress as he picked through my Afro and dropped the seeds inside. And so began our life as McHargue.

Two years later, we are still working hard to keep our budget under control, enjoying being surrounded by the people we love, and choosing to love each other in simple, comical ways. Everyone who told me that marriage gets better every year was right. It gets better every second, minute, day, and hour, too. We love this life we live together, and the journey that brought us to it. If you’d ask me to do it all over again, I’d respond the same way I responded to my steady, patient, loving, and supportive Reagan McHargue.

Of course.

Christ as my Anchor

Joshalyn McHargue

Grace for Grace

John 1:16 (KJV) And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 

“Katrina, I baptize you in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Goosebumps surged along Katrina’s skin as the gulf swallowed her. She closed her eyes and imagined Jesus being laid to rest; then, three days later, being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. The tomb was probably silent enough to hear His heart begin to beat again, just as hers beat now. She opened her eyes, and for a moment, time froze. Her hair floated freely around her face, and tiny bubbles danced around her. A strong impression dove into the water and surrounded her. What was it? Closing her eyes and imagining the Savior’s feet touching the tomb floor, she knew. This was grace. Purifying, unearned, undeserved grace. I receive it.

I laughed the first time someone told me I should write a book. My name on the cover of a book that someone could actually purchase? Yeah, right.

Still, the thought grew on me, and I began to ask myself, “Why not?” I certainly had ideas, and I was willing to put in the work to bring them to life. There was no good reason for me to not take on this project except for fear, and I wasn’t about to play that game, so I opened a fresh Word document and began typing away. The thoughts that danced around in my mind spilled onto and filled page after page, and so began Grace for Grace.

Grace for Grace is a historical fiction novel set in the slave trade era. It begins with seventeen-year-old Katrina’s decision to stay in Togo, Africa after a three-month excursion from England. The novel is written in memory of my late mentor and friend, Katrina (Katie) Schwartz, who died from aggressive systemic mastocytosis in October 2017. Though I was in contact with Katie during her two years of treatment, the severity of the final days of her life did not allow for an official goodbye. Anyone who has ever lost a loved one knows how difficult that can be. Grace for Grace is my goodbye to my friend Katie.

In the novel, Katrina delivers and raises an African girl named Grace. Over the course of eighteen years, Katrina trains Grace in the ways of God so that the Togolese could someday become a Christ-abiding people group under her leadership. Her discipleship is cut short when she is forced to leave Africa due to an anticipated slave trade invasion. Katrina’s unexplained departure triggers an invasion of doubt in Grace’s soul as she begins to question everything Katrina taught her about the goodness of God.

The novel follows Grace as she endures the invasion, capture, and enslavement of her people. There will be no loss she will not experience, and no question she will not ask as she wrestles with the beauty of the gospel in the ugliness of what she faces.

Writing Grace for Grace has already been a remarkable experience for me. I’ve had so much fun getting to know the characters and wrestling with how they would respond to each other and their circumstances. It has also been humbling and sobering. Public school curriculum is the extent of my knowledge about slave trade in Africa, so there’s a ton of additional research required to accurately depict the reality of it; and both the research and reality are heartbreaking. Still, Jesus is bigger, and His light shines bright in dark places. This is the truth I hope for Grace to discover.

I look forward to keeping you updated on the development of this heartfelt piece. It truly is an outpouring of my heart and a project I believe will serve as a blessing for me and others. Follow me on social media and visit the Treasured Thoughts tab to keep connected with Grace for Grace and other projects I am working on!

Christ as my Anchor

Joshalyn McHargue

A Response to Redeeming Love

I just finished rereading Francine Rivers’s Redeeming Love. It’s a historical fiction based on the Old Testament book of Hosea, which tells of a prophet and his prostitute wife, Gomer. Not necessarily your Friday night rom-com. Hosea’s faithfulness to his wavering wife is used to represent God’s commitment to His nation Israel, and the same […]

Expectations

Original Post Date: April 3, 2017 I was reading through a journaling app I downloaded in 2013 and came across the following entry: “I always find myself running in circles, constantly chasing after something that will make and keep me happy. I look for it in people, work, and possessions, just to be disappointed time […]