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Hanna Family

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Guest Writer: Shameika Hanna

(The following was “stolen” [but I know I have her permission] from a dear friend who works very hard in the Lord’s church on Grand Bahama. The events chronicled occurred this very weekend. I just thought blog readers should see it. It’s a little window to the big (and largely lost) idea of commitment in marriage. I’m posting  today just as she wrote it two days ago. I’m not sure how she found the time to write on this same day, but I’m glad she did. If you could see all of her journey since 2005, you’d see a maturing in Christ that has blessed over and over again. You’d say with me “He is just so good!” I’m going to add also, that it was very appropriate that she wore white in this ceremony. She is pure in Him in every way.)
On March 9, 2005 I married the love of my life. There was no doubt in my mind about this decision, although there was a price to be paid. We would forfeit a wedding and begin a life of lasting love outside of the knowledge of our friends and loved ones. Two faithful witnesses in a honeymoon suite in Oklahoma City would take in the hour as a sound Gospel Preacher helped us perform our nuptials and we would be man and wife. Those witnesses, and the friend in the city where we would honeymoon over Spring Break, would be the only ones who knew and we would hold a secret for nearly four months about the most important news in our lives from our families back in the Bahamas. Those days were hard. The loving congregation where I worshipped in college had a reception one evening when they heard the news, but Tavaro would not be present. Eventually we told our parents, most of whom now are deceased, followed by the rest of our families and there was a bitter-sweetness about the exchange. 1) Relief that our small world knew we belonged to each other and 2) a sense of loss as they realized they were not part of that special and once-in-a-lifetime day.
In the most unfathomable fashion imaginable this weekend, Saturday December 9, 2023, which amounts to 18 years 9 months later, we relived a version of that lost day. A surprise wedding.
For three months (or more) Tavaro Hanna hid, planned, imagined, conducted meetings, made purchases, prepared invitations, formulated a program and meticulously wrote a cover story to make me a cake-topper bride wearing a dress I had never seen, shoes I had never worn, and bridal jewelry that was unknown. He had flawless makeup applied by a skillful artist under the guise of a “series of photoshoots” and in an elegant low-bun hairstyle, I walked into our marital home to put on what I expected to be an outfit in Christmas colors for this family event.
To my surprise, our children didn’t come to meet me outside and our car was not in its place. The house was still and the friend who picked me up was ready to call the man who was decked out in a full suit, standing in the church building where he grew up before his family, my family and our church family waiting for me. Our bed was covered in full wedding garb and he called. She recorded as he revealed the fullness of the expected photoshoot and his best man reiterated that there would certainly be photos but not of the nature I was expecting. I could hear the smile in his voice as he said, take your time. We will wait. I was a bride.
Emotions started to overwhelm me and the beautiful lady waiting reminded me to collect my thoughts, not ruin my makeup and call her when I got to the point of needing assistance in getting dressed. I was chauffeured to meet my groom in a beautiful car, in full shock, and unable to allow my heart to catch up with my head. Along this short drive, I was reminded not to ruin the carefully crafted makeup.
In the previous two weeks Tavaro had asked me to write my vows and said he would too, and the night before our surprise wedding, he had planned dinner as an escape for a few short hours from our busy but blessed lives where we exchanged those vows in a quiet place. I was content having been with him and had the opportunity to pour out my soul in deeply thought-out expressions. Those vows reappearing on this wedding day from his handsome suit jacket pocket to be handed to me for a reading before all the people in our world was far from something I could have expected.
As we pulled-up to the church building, the parking lot was full but the yard was empty. Everyone was truly inside waiting in full knowledge of that to which I was oblivious.
The first face to catch my eyes brought tears. A member of our small congregation who was living on a cay teaching, made the sacrifice and journey to be there for me, with us, showing the kind of love that brings tears as I try to share this. When I entered the building, photos of our loved ones who had gone on were posted and the scene was breathtaking. Our five children were ready in coordinating colors as ‘blue angels,’ and my mother, the only remaining parent between us, was dressed to the nines as the mother-of-the bride. Me.
We took the walk down the aisle to the classical song I love most, Pachebel’s Cannon D and the tears were too much for me to retain clear sight of the beauty around me. My father was missing this moment. Mother took me half-way down the aisle to meet my groom. He was everything I could have imagined and much more as he stood down the aisle with the most confident and joyous smile I had ever seen.
After the entrance of the wedding party: matron of honour- my high school, life-friend and sister in Christ, his brother/closest friend and loving cousin, the best man and our five children the ushers-dear sisters in our congregation pulled out the white carpet for me. The bride.
He met Mother and me halfway down the aisle and held me for a moment. The emotions kept me under their power more than before as we made the last half of the march to marriage. To remarriage. To recommitment.
The container of my heart burst when I saw my father’s sisters. One flown in from Nassau with her daughter then my sister, my only sister, flown in from Miami. We had spent an hour earlier on our weekly sibling synergy phonecall and I thought she was in Miami. I stopped, held each of them, and could barely breathe in the beauty that engulfed me in the scene and in the faces who were there to support us in this way.
While Tavaro’s cousin sang, we signed a legal document of Wedding Vow Renewals with our witnesses as part of a short, deep, heart-gripping ceremony which included our children, members of the congregation he is the preacher for, officiated by the preacher who loved him even as a toddling boy and always thinks of him in kind affection.
There were prayers, tears, and so many well wishers that I am still crying today.
My husband’s sister Rhonda Hanna-Neely is more than that. She is a mother to him and a support to me. She sacrifices to give our children her best by my side each day as a handmaiden of sorts, but with the love of a second mother rather than the effort of a hired-hand. She is also a, Secret Wedding Planner!
When the ceremony ended (makeup somehow still intact) he kissed the bride. Me. We stood before our families and left first to wait at the door and hugged each soul who took the time to come, to share in this joy that has changed my life forever.
The kind of love that goes this far, to do this much and give its all is what I lived this Christmas season. The vows we exchanged were not merely in anticipation of a life together, but in confirmation of a life lived for 18 years in true harmony and godly unity preparing for a lifetime more.
It was not yet ended; there was more. We went outside the church building to a full traditional reception with a wedding cake, head table, host, DJ and beautiful seating for guests. We danced together and he smiled lovingly at me all night long
.
My. Heart. Is. Full.
If you were there, thank you. If you prepared any small thing, in any way, thank you. For the gifts, thank you. If your heart wanted to be present, thank you. For the messages after the wedding, thank you. For caring about our family, thank you. For keeping this secret, thank you, for reading this story, thank you. Thank you.

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Praying the Psalms in Missouri and in the Bahamas

This last month in Digging Deep has been an exercise in deep prayer rooted in scripture. I hope you have benefitted from it. It did my heart a lot of good this past weekend to travel to a relatively remote area of Missouri and meet some representatives of a little pod of diggers who are meeting together weekly for three hours each Tuesday and spending that time in the Words of the Holy Spirit.  You cannot look at the message ion the Holy Spirit for three hours with other believers without becoming more like the Spirit…more holy.

Sometimes we have a tendency to underestimate our connectedness with diggers all over the country (and some in other parts of the world, as well.) I think I would have never heard about these eight women who have grown together and are now introducing neighbors and friends to their study and to the Lord’s church. I am praying for them today. I want to be more like some of those women who came to talk to me last Saturday. I love them and will treasure their encouragement to me for a long time to come. I want to be around the throne with them.

As we begin the study for the month of May, I want to share this photo from one sister who lives in the Bahamas. Shameika Hanna is studying along this year, as she has for several years. A busy mom of five, she amazes me with regular evangelistic studies with women who need the Lord on the island of Grand Bahama, in-depth memorization and conceptualization of Scripture in her home with her children, and preparation and delivery of lessons to women of God. (You can hear her at this year’s Polishing the Pulpit in August; https://polishingthepulpit.com/.

Here’s her Psalm one prayer. It’s the prayer of a thirty-something mom on Grand Bahama. I’ve prayed this psalm recently as a sixty-something grandmother in Alabama. One of the things I love about praying the psalms is that, no matter your age or station, these psalms are incredibly relevant and practical.

Finish strong in your comfort prayers and let’s move forward to some comfort in the “grace space” described in the book of Romans. This part of the study has been extremely beneficial to me already!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Polishing the Pulpit: A Church Bringing over Half its Members!

It’s been our honor to have the Hanna family from the Eight Mile Rock church in Grand Bahama in our cabin/home this weekend.  A special blessing was the presentation Brother Tavaro gave us on Thursday evening at our Family Bible Time about their work to build a church at Eight Mile Rock. They are creative in their methods of letting people know this church is there and they are sound in their teaching. They are determined this church they are building at Eight Mile Rock will be the church Jesus built on THE rock (Matthew 16).

I was encouraged as they described the seventeen people that are now part of this growing church. But I was especially amazed that ten of those seventeen are busy saving their funds and booking their flights to come to Polishing the Pulpit (www.polishingthepulpit.com). PTP is one month away. It is, in my judgment, the most encouraging event in our brotherhood. I can give personal witness over and over to women whose lives have been permanently changed for eternal good because of PTP attendance. I know families that have come back together when influenced by the gospel as it was proclaimed from this Spirit-filled gathering. The Spirit does fill our cups there through the teaching of that precious Word He breathed into the apostles and preserved for us in our Bibles. And at PTP, that teaching happens intensely, many times each day, and the Word is shared in so many venues that it is possible in any given hour of any day to find a room in which a topic that you very much need for spiritual growth is being discussed. It’s like a personal delivery of good news for every person there! 

I know you can tell I hope you can go. Your life will never be the same. But I also wanted to point out that the Eight Mile Rock church will never be the same. I could be unaware of others, but this church is the only one I know about whose PTP attendance rate is over 50%. Over 50%! Imagine your congregation: What if over half of the people in your congregation could be suddenly renewed and recharged spiritually to work and study, evangelize and focus heavenward? What if every parent in that group of over 50% came home with one great tool to keep her children faithful? What if your congregation’s leaders learned how to better spread zeal while staying true to the blessed gospel? All the “what-ifs” here are mind-blowing. They are church-growing!

You may be thinking, “Well, that’s easy for Eight Mile Rock. They’re so teeny.” Let me just say that “easy” is not the descriptive word for this effort. They are traveling by boat or plane (or both) from a country outside the US. They are using their vacations and they had to start long ago to save up enough funding for this trip. Their pilgrimage takes focus and fortitude. I hope you are blessed by knowing about them and I hope someone is encouraged to go ahead and come to PTP for the very first of many years of making PTP a yearly goal. A trip to the Bahamas would be fun. But this spiritual trip from the Bahamas is maximally encouraging to me. 

It makes me sad for so many Christians who are within an easy driving distance of Sevierville, Tennessee, where PTP happens each August, who have never given much thought to traveling to East Tennessee to get this powerful shot of spiritual immunity against the destructive work Satan is doing all around us; to get the power boost of encouragement, zeal and faith without which you will never leave Polishing the Pulpit. 

Come on. There’s still time to register. Go look over the schedule and make a decision to experience inevitable spiritual growth. Bring your children!  It’s a big start on the important preparation for the second coming of our Lord. That’s important in any Christian’s book!

Register here: https://polishingthepulpit.com/register

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Providence in Birth Order: The Hanna Family

In the last century, a popular theory emerged about personality and birth order. Developed by Alfred Adler, it just posited that birth order directly impacts personality. More recently, child and family therapist, Meri Wallace, authored a book called Birth Order Blues, in which she agreed with Adler and elaborated on his findings. 

There are other researchers who do not agree, but it seems to me that, at the very least, we’d have to all agree that parents change and mature between births of their babies, and so the parents of the youngest child in a family are different from the people they were five, ten or even fifteen years ago when the first child was born. They know more about what’s really important as more children come along. They know more about effective discipline. (Experience is a great teacher.) They have less and less time and propensity for selfish pursuits (and for the previously-born children). They should be more mature, introspective and wise. My daughter, who recently gave birth to her third child, says to me, whenever a doctor tells her something that’s elementary, or when a grandmother at the supermarket is critical of her discipline, “This is not my first rodeo.”  I firmly believe that the best-prepared parent is the one who’s riding in a repeat “rodeo”. 

It stands to reason that, environmentally, kids in the same families will not always be affected in the same ways by their common parents. I write about Providence a lot and I believe that God’s providing for His own families, His obedient parenting sons and daughters, even in the birth order of their children. 

Take my brand new friend, Honour Able Hanna, who was born last week in Grand Bahama. His dad and mother, Tavaro and Shameika, who work with the church there are among our dearest family members in the Lord. When we first knew them, about ten years ago, they were on a very different trajectory through life than the one they’ve purposefully mapped out during those intervening years. I love talking to Shameika about the conscious decisions that took her from being an all-in career mom (having been brought up to be just that) with aspirations of power in the business world to where she is today: having the full realization of the relative unimportance of money and prestige when compared with the blessings that come with being all-in for Christ. I’ve never personally seen anyone make the transitions so swiftly and completely as Shameika has done. In the meantime, her husband Tavaro has completed preaching school in the U.S. and they have together returned to their native island to reach as many as they can for the cause that directs them heavenward. Genesis was their firstborn. Her name was purposeful and prophetic. She was the Genesis of a spiritual parenting journey through which they were vowing to leave a legacy for the Lord through their children. Thus, Legacy, their second daughter, was soon born and it was not too long after her birth that the little family set their sights on coming to preaching school. This is Genesis:Genesis At the time they came over, the mantra or family purpose statement  using their children’s names was “ The Genesis of a godly Legacy.”

While they were in preaching school, baby #3 was born. Her name is Providence, and we watched God provide a path for the family to leave secular work and be full-time in evangelism, starting a congregation and bringing multiple souls to Him. The purpose statement was then “The Genesis of a godly Legacy by God’s Providence”.

Faithful Leigh was next and the family sub-title grew: “The Genesis of a Faithful godly Legacy.”

Finally these four perfect little girls welcomed a brother,  Honour Able to the family last week. Honour is beautiful! Fresh from heaven, he fills what Shameika says, for now, is the last empty spot in her heart—a heart that’s full of a desire to glorify Him. She says the final family word is “An Honour Able Genesis of a Faithful godly Legacy, by God’s Providence.”

Now, back to birth order. God is amazing sometimes in what He is working through parents who are set on honoring Him. In this particular family, four sweet daughters have been learning to be meek and quiet spirits (I Peter 3:1-6), little women of wisdom (Proverbs 31), and little girls who are constantly looking to faithful older women as examples of familial love and service. I remember it was at the birth of Genesis that the genesis really happened. Two parents made a firm decision to do everything within their power to get that little soul to heaven. They made big financial and time sacrifices to get on a path from which they have never looked back. Four little girls followed the Genesis and each came into a stronger and more focused home.  It was the little future elder and preacher, though, that God saved for last. He’s putting Him in a home that is already fully committed, trained and back in the field. He will get to see some things in his early, most formative years, that Genesis, the oldest,  for instance, did not get to see in hers—a preacher’s family in full-force evangelism, a mom and dad who have learned by experience to be amazing one-on-one evangelists, a father who has ten years of nurturing and discipline experience under his belt, a mother who has been forced to drop some things that she thought were priorities before the births of her girls and move some important things to the top of the list, a family who has been having Family Bible Time for ten years….In short, while they were all born into a home of faith and dedication, he has been born into a home that’s been through one of the greatest apprenticeships: the tutor has been experience. So Honour, by His great mercy, has the same parents as the four beautiful girls. But Honour has different parents, too. Honour’s parents are in their thirties; not their twenties. Honour’s Daddy is a preacher; not a businessman. Honour’s mother is a keeper at home extraordinaire and she already has ten years of home-schooling behind her. It’s the same family, but it’s not the same family. God has given this little boy six in-house nurturers, while Genesis had only two. He has six diaper-changers. But, more importantly, he has six people who are going to pray for him every day; four sisters who will be helping him learn his memory verses and remember to take His Bible to class. He will have a smaller portion of one-on-one time with parents, but the huge benefit of close quarters and constant conversation. (I mean really constant.)   He will have six storybook readers! God has given this future preacher a father (a tutor) who is a preacher. He has given him a mission field at the door of the little house. He has given him a  time and place when He will be watching parents react with prowess and protectiveness to a sin-saturated culture. It will not be the same culture at all into which Providence, the middle child, was born. 

Adler posited that birth order molds personality. I posit that, for His people, God providentially and strategically blesses through birth order. I think Romans 8:28 applies as mothers deliver babies. Surely a part of “all things” are those pregnancies, chromosomes, laborings, deliveries, nights up with babies, preacher school choices, people with whom parents interact and from whom they learn and grow. His providence is amazing and, when we view the eventualities of our lives through the lens of His glory, we find constant wonder and awe at the way He works through our families. 

Lastly, I love that Providence is the middle child in this family. Half-way through the birthing order—between the Genesis and the Honour was a full recognition of the wonderful way God was executing His plan though the Hanna family. That’s the way it works. If we have a beginning—a desire to build, through our homes, a legacy for our Father—He, brings us to a place in which much glory and honor (Kabad) can be returned to Him. 

It won’t be too many years before a different birthing order will be happening in the Hanna family. I pray that each child will be born into Christ and in due time, each arrow will fly with precision and providence toward eternity around the throne of the great and providential heavenly Father we serve. 

He’s great in the “working-together” of birth and birth order. But He’s greater in the “working-together” of the new birth that’s by water and blood (John 3). He’s great in family providence. But he’s greater in His provision for us all in the family that will assemble when we cross over to that great family reunion! 

And we know that all things work together for good for those who love Him and are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28). 

I’m glad our Father is a purposeful Provider!