Our 48 Days of Engagement

I must apologize for not updating you before the wedding, but if I’ve ever called my life a roller coaster (And I have, many times…) this past month it has been intensified more than ever, although in a very good way. Planning a wedding in 48 days is perhaps the most insane thing I’ve ever done, but I don’t regret it in the least.

I worked really hard on our wedding website and if you didn’t get to check it out, there are several great stories and pictures of Johnny and I together throughout our dating life and engagement. For example:

 Our story has morphed into so many things over the past couple of years. From a love at first sight story to a “I don’t think she’s into me”, it has been a mystery how we ended up right here.

Although we weren’t engaged for very long, we did our best to enjoy every moment and for me, it made the entire thing much more special. However, planning a wedding in less than two months is NOT for the faint of heart, it’s not for everyone and I don’t recommend it unless both you and your future spouse are completely 200% on board and are okay with tons of last minute changes.

We absolutely couldn’t have pulled off this feat without the help of our dear friends and family and I am grateful for each one of them. Above all, for God getting us this far. There is no way we could have the wonderful marriage that we do without His grace and direction in our lives.

“Funny how sometimes, you just find things.” -Tracy McConnel (HIMYM)

Since as long as I can remember, I wanted to be married before I turned 22. However, I never could have imagined the brilliant love story that God had in mind for me. Just before Thanksgiving of 2016, my (at the time) boyfriend and I were on a red-eye flight from LAX to RDU to spend a holiday with my family. As we posed for our traditional airport family photo, Johnny surprised me with a question that would forever change my life – fully supported by my entire family.

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I remember waking up from a nap shortly after (trying to get back in the right time zone) and just staring at my hand in shock. I was engaged to my best friend!

From that moment on, everything seems like a blur. From the hundreds of best wishes and congratulations on social media, to starting watching Gilmore Girls with my family, each moment of those 48 days was so precious.

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Our engagement was a strange time for me, but I learned a great deal about trusting God in the details of life and that great communication makes everything easier.

 

Some details came easier; Anthony officiating the wedding, our wedding party, and color scheme. Others were more challenging; getting our families on board with the date, our budget and getting my family to California. However, The Knot wedding checklist saved so many details for me that I would have easily overlooked. (Thank God for technology, amen.) In all the details, the pre-martial counseling and financial strains, Johnny and I fought to preserve our relationship with God and friendship with each other, and that’s what has brought us here today.

Almost two months after our wedding day, I’m still not entirely sure what happened to our arch, a lot of our wedding footage was lost, and we’re on a new adventure of finding more stable full-time jobs, we’ve finally finished Gilmore Girls, we still haven’t gotten a copy of our marriage certificate back, and we’re happily learning what it means to be married and live together. The little slip-ups at the wedding don’t really matter anymore, I still have about 100 programs because we accidentally printed way too many and we’re just now hanging up pictures in our place together.

To me, 48 days was plenty of time to plan a wedding, but a marriage is something we’ll be working on for the rest of our lives.

If I had any advice for the future brides out there, I would say this;

  • Don’t forget to be friends. There’s a lot of planning to do, but your friendship has to come first.
  • Check details and keep checking them – especially to people you don’t know. (3 people looked over our original programs and no one spotted that it said “Wedding date” instead of the actual date of our wedding until they were printed.
  • GET A COPY OF YOUR MARRIAGE LICENSE BEFORE TURNING IT IN – No one told us this, but probably because everyone assumed we’d know that. We didn’t. It’s supposed to only take about 45 days, but in the words of Ted Mosby, I’d do anything to get those extra 45 days. I honestly have no idea which name to put on job applications anymore.
  • Get advice and help from tons of people.
  • At the end of the day, make your decisions and enjoy your special day, but more importantly the rest of your lives!

In all gratitude,
Tori Lynn Cortez

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Day 365

That’s right! It’s been an entire year since I moved to Antelope Valley. I couldn’t have begun to imagine what this adventure would hold for me. A year ago with tears in my eyes, I said goodbye to the wonderful Long Beach I had grown so fond of over the two years I lived there. As I drove up into the mountains and past the fault lines, I dreamed of a glorious year full of new challenges and victories.

My sunshine and rainbows were quickly shaken by a car accident on the 9th of January last year, leading to a whole string of trials I never would have imagined facing. Dealing with my own sin has been no walk in the park either. Let me tell you something, when you start a year with the ambition to understand what God’s grace really means, you’re asking for a lot.

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,

In the midst of what I believe has been one of the craziest years of my life, God brought me a lot of joy in 2016 – joy that I could not have deserved and far beyond what I could have imagined. Over Thanksgiving, my best friend, the love of my life, the man God has been so gracious as to even put in my life asked me to marry him. Talk about immeasurably more.

So here I am, sitting in the very room that I stumbled into a year ago with what little fit into the back of my RAV4, writing out seat assignments for my wedding next week and starting the process of moving out of my last sisters household. I will be sure to share more of the details as to how I got this far later on, but if there’s anything I learned from 2016, it would be that God’s grace is something far beyond what I could ever study or learn about. God’s grace is that I’m here, that no matter how many times I’ve completely blown it this year, He has provided at every turn. From brining the man of my dreams into my life to helping me fix the Wi-Fi, God has answered innumerable prayers this year. Sure, it’s easy to sit around and think about the ones that weren’t answered, the people that turned their backs on God and me, the dreams that weren’t quite there yet this year, but why should I do that? Of what honor is it to God to pine after the things that didn’t happen this year? It would be like a teenager getting mad at their parents for buying them a car but not an iPhone.

Although I didn’t start out 2016 wanting an auto-immune disease to slowly deteriorate my body, to watch Alzheimer’s to deteriorate my grandmother, or to total the first car I’ve had in years, I’ve let God down more than I can even imagine, and He’s been so good to me. I could sit and think about the days worth of hours I poured out into various women’s lives, only to see them decide to keep their backs turned on God, or I could rejoice in the wonderful women God has brought into our ministry.

All I can suggest is that when you look back at your past, whether 2016 or all the way back to your childhood, remember that regrets aren’t going to help you grow.

Proverbs 24:16 for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.

(For one more week)

-Tori Lynn Wallace

And to God forever be the glory.

The Steps It Takes

Greetings! I must apologize to anyone who frequents this page, I have been rather inactive lately and I hope to put that to an end with this post. To be honest, my struggle with Rheumatoid Arthritis has been debilitating in many personal areas of my life and writing is one of the largest ones that has suffered. Thankfully, the swelling in my fingers is currently down enormously and I hope that it stays that way for a while.

2 Peter 1:10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble,

I truly hope to live out this scripture over the remainder of the year and my life. To be completely honest, I have failed in many ways, most especially in the last couple of weeks. I have been negligent of my health and too prideful to speak up about it, to the point that my knees had swollen three times their normal size last week, keeping me from being able to perform daily activities. While I’m on the medical path of finding a solution, I’m hoping to pair some natural remedies with my routine.

Sadly, for me, that means the dreaded dieting.

I have avoided diets like the plague my entire life. I love to eat and I love to eat  whatever I want to eat when I want to eat it. I haven’t been big on sugar in a long time, but I love meat and dairy. The moment I googled “Anti-Inflammatory Diet” is a moment that I have come to regret many times the past two weeks. The gist is that I can’t eat sugars, dairy, red meat, “Nightshade Vegetables” (Potatoes, peppers, etc), or grains. My absolute favorite foods include all of these things I’m supposed to stay away from, so cooking has been a nightmare. I have eaten more raw vegetables and salmon than I ever want to see again in my life. However, the swelling has gone down significantly as well as my pain levels. I can’t say for sure how much is the diet and how much is the new medicine I just added last week, but I certainly hope it’s helping.

This week, I’m adding chicken, shrimp, chickpeas and cooked vegetables to my diet in hopes that it will be more bearable once I get the hang of things. Please pray for me as I continue this journey, and if you’ve ever done an anti-inflammatory diet, I would LOVE any input that I can get! (I just attempted my first run at shrimp curry and it tastes AMAZING, but this is still one of the only dishes I’ve learned)

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In any case, I’m taking the steps that it takes to get better and I hope to help others along the way!

To God be the glory,
Tori Lynn.

Weak Knees and Feeble Arms

Hebrews 12:12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.

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With my incredible boyfriend who has helped and encouraged me to “stand firm” in many ways at the GLC banquet this year!

This year has been an incredible adventure so far, but something almost caught me short. This past May I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis; an auto-immune disease that attacks the joints of the body. As someone who has always enjoyed physical activity, this has been a very humbling time. My first couple of weeks with the symptoms consisted of many tearful prayers, being unable to do simple tasks such as opening a door or a water bottle, and severe pain every time I tried to walk. After the official diagnosis, I was able to start some medication that helped ease the pain a little, but the fatigue caused by the medicine became discouraging. Since May, I’ve pushed through things that I used to enjoy thoroughly, I’ve found my discomfort at the front of my mind and anxiety about the medicine’s side effects multiplying. As someone who only took Children’s Advil until recently, this has been very humbling. I have to often fight my pride to ask for help standing up many times a day, I’ve learned the value of rest between activities and I’m just starting to alter my diet to increase my health.

This passage in Hebrews has been my theme scripture for dealing with my various physical challenges. The author had just finished speaking about how all hardship is discipline and how it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. And then he says to strengthen our feeble arms and weak knees. I’ve always seen this passage as an encouragement to overlook our shortcomings, but it has grown to have a much deeper meaning for me. In my sin, I could wallow around in discouragement about how painful everything is, or I could take the necessary steps towards managing my pain and trust God. For me, strengthening my feeble hands and weak knees often means being willing to ask for help. I am so grateful for my ministry and especially my boyfriend Johnny for being super considerate of me this whole time. I’ve had to learn how to share my faith powerfully at high-energy times and take breaks when I need them (which gives me a great time to do follow-ups!)

Psalm 28:7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

Hearing the stories of powerful women like April Baker, who is co-leading the mission team to Dubai, UAE with her husband has inspired me. Despite her heart issues, God has brought her to an incredible place. In times like this, it is so clear that my strength does not come from me, but from God. I have to learn the same kind of faith, to take the necessary steps to build more energy, trust God through this challenge, and remember that I’m nowhere near alone in fighting against my health for God’s Kingdom.

1 Peter 5:9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Having people around me to pray with me and encourage me through this have helped me see God’s incredible grace even more in my life. I don’t deserve to be where I am. I don’t deserve this Kingdom, this ministry, this family. I don’t deserve God’s love and I don’t deserve how he uses my weaknesses to show me his strength.

2 Corinthians 12:10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Regardless of how weak I feel at times, God has certainly used this challenge to show me his strength and I am amazed.

To God be the glory,
Tori Lynn.

 

“You’re Gonna Sing the Words Wrong…”

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Riptide by Vance joy struck me in a way that few songs do the very first moment I heard it. I think it took me almost two months to actually find out who the song was written by, but one line in particular haunted me for a very long time:

“I love you when you’re singing this song and I’ve got a lump in my throat cause you’re gonna sing the words wrong.”

Funny story: I actually started writing this post over a year ago, but I was so wrapped up in the emotions surrounding it that I couldn’t finish it. After a while, the fate that awaits many of my wonderful ideas came about and I forgot about it. That is, until now.

This song rings the anthem of insecurity for me. I’ve read Vance Joy’s interviews on the way he wrote it, and as fascinating as all of that is, it struck a personal note with me. Perhaps it was the descriptive honesty that brought me to such a reaction, but after all, I’ve been that way with songs for as long as I can remember.

That particular line resonated with my deep fear of no one ever fully understanding me.

My battle with insecurity is a grueling one that predates my awareness of its existence. When I was a child, I wrote in codes and spoke in stories because I had determined that no one could possibly understand what I really wanted to say. My little habits led to much more complicated problems as I grew older. Although I learned how to communicate fairly well, expressing emotions was not my strong point.

This past Spring I took up the challenge to read a book called “Secure in Heart” with the intention of beginning to recover from my battle with insecurity. As a friend of mine would always say “Insecurity is direct pride against God,” and I was tired of questioning the way that God made me. If you read through the scriptures, the Bible is full of incredible men that God chose, but they battled insecurity; Moses, Gideon, and Peter come to mind. However, these fears caused them problems later on in their walk, and it is clear from scriptures that insecurity is not a God-given feeling.

2 Peter 1:7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

In efforts to put everything on the table, I extensively went through all of my fears and insecurities (both past and present) and searched for scriptures to counter my emotions. As you can imagine, this was a messy process that resulted in digging up many things I had forgotten about. However, I’ve found it to be worth it. Finding the source of my insecurity (as painful as that was) allowed me to see God’s provision for true security.

Insecurities (or false securities) come when we decide that God’s provision is not enough and that we must measure up to an imaginary requirement; not being good enough, loneliness, fear of failure, fear of abandonment, lack of trust, ect.

As a leader, my insecurities are magnified by my responsibilities and the charge to be an example to those around me. This year I’ve battled with depression, been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, been in a painful car accident, seen women turn their backs on God and in turn get angry with me, and it’s only June. On the other side of things, I’ve seen and experienced many wonderful things in God’s grace as well. Yet, I’ve come closer to God through my challenges than I have my victories and through my weaknesses I’m truly beginning to understand what Paul meant in this passage:

2 Corinthians 12:10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

However, as leaders our security must not come from success, as many of us will fall and fail to reach certain goals. The only way to truly overcome your battle with insecurity is to truly find your security in God. Sure, there are wonderful people in my life that help me and teach me and have become very dear to me, but not one of those people can give me true security. Sure, God has given me intelligence and talents and has shown me success in this life, but I have also come across many weaknesses and failures. People are there for you sometimes, but it is inevitable that they let us down and we tend to do the same for them. I’ve learned that it’s unfair to expect people to do and say the right thing all the time, your expectations could be the very thing that makes it difficult to have good relationships. The only one who can truly never fail you always has your back, but trusting in God is no excuse to push people away. Let people fail you, let them hurt you, let yourself hurt others, it’s going to happen and you’re going to grow. If you expect people to take God’s role in your life, it will not only ruin your relationship with them, but also with Him. Instead of fighting to fill the insecurities in my heart with my own strength and comfort from others, I’ve been learning to accept what this passage really means:

Psalm 18:35 You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great.

It would take much too long and way too many words to share my entire journey to true security in God, but I found my direct answer to this fear in particular here:

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

The insecurity that Riptide exposed in my heart is that the people I desire to share my life with will not fully understand the “Song” of my heart. As hard as it is to admit it, this is a fact. No one in your life will fully understand you (including yourself) the way that your Creator does, and He has the perfect song for each of us. A “Riptide” (the actual name would be a rip current) is one of the movements of the ocean that would pull you out to sea if you got caught in it. The only way to escape a rip before it runs out is to swim sideways and get out of it, if you try to swim against it, you’ll run out of energy and most likely get nowhere in the process, eventually drowning. Insecurity, much like a rip current can pull you off your feet and into the ocean spiritually. Don’t try to fight your insecurities with false securities, instead get out and find your true security in God.

While my battle with insecurity is far from over, I’m glad to say that I’m not giving up any time soon.

To God be the Glory,
Tori Lynn.

Honestly

  
Writing is hard. 

I don’t mean the physical act of writing things down, but living of lifestyle of recording your thoughts in one particular place. 

Since I began the journey of full-time ministry and attending the incredible ministry school ICCM, I’ve found myself less and less devoted to my writing. Yes, I still have a life and hobbies, but it’s been difficult to really portray what I’m learning and going through in this way. 

Life is growth. 

I really believe my life has changed this spring, and for the better in many ways. I’m learning to deal with things I’ve shoved under rugs for years, I’m seeing character flaws that I used to be proud of, and I have a great purpose, to seek and save the lost. 

Leaving my full-time job in Long Beach and moving to Antelope Valley in January felt like a huge stretch at the time, but I had no idea what was really coming. Thus far I’ve experienced heart breaks, I’ve seen women walk away from God, I’ve prayed for them in tears, but I’ve also seen incredible miracles.

 

Baptism of Jessica Reyes

 
Baptism of Malonie Penn
 

There is nothing quite as amazing as watching God change young women’s lives.  These most two recent baptisms in our ministry at Antelope Valley College have brought my heart unimaginable joy. As tiring and painful as ministry can be at times, there is nothing more rewarding. Finally, I get to see one of my all-time favorite scriptures lived out in my own life:

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭3:3‬ ‭ “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

These women have truly become dear to my heart. This is just the beginning. I may not be spending as much time writing physical letters on blogs or by hand, but I’d rather spend my time pouring out my words to human hearts, in hopes that some might be saved. 

Yes, I will continue to write, but this is the purpose of my heart. I want to most importantly live a life worth writing about for my God. 

To God be the glory,

Tori Lynn W. 

A Costly Left Turn

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Goodness, what a weekend.

Yes, in case you were wondering, that is a hospital bracelet. This is the weekend of our church’s annual Winter Workshop, a sort of leadership conference where people come in from all over the world and the nation. I woke up Friday morning very excited about the long drive from Antelope Valley to start this off. Minutes later, the front of my RAV4 was scattered across the intersection and the impact kept running through my head.

Many prayers and tears later, I had to laugh a little bit. I don’t pretend to understand what God allows vs what He causes to train us, but I definitely can learn a lot from this.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:17-18‬

The shattered pieces of my car suddenly seemed like much less than a catastrophe and much more like a wake up call.  I have developed the terrible habit of depending on my own strength instead of praying as much or as deeply as I should be.  After loads of anxiety about not having insurance and reflecting on everything, even the gigantic mountains we drove past felt like nothing.

God is greater.

One simple crash could seem like a lot if I focused on what I could see, but as the conference went on the crash seemed to shrink into the background.  Even as I limped around the conference center we were meeting in, the more stories I heard from around the world, the smaller my little bruises (and yes, that’s all I came away with) felt.

The fellowship was sweet and the lessons were fire, at the end of it all I’m just grateful that I stuck it out.

Yet, at the same time I had to handle some pretty big truths:

#1: Never EVER drive without insurance.  Trust me, it’s really not worth it.  You will truly save nothing at the end of the day.

#2: Don’t be afraid to take left turns, but know that things happen.  Sometimes you think you see everything, sometimes you can’t tell.

#3: God is in control and sometimes you have to take hits, but He still takes care of you in the end if you follow Him.

#4: Pray. Pray often, pray deeply, pray without ceasing, pray alone, pray with others.  It is certainly not going to do much good alone if you do not live your life for God, but it is most certainly necessary and is definitely powerful.

The accident itself was quick, I simply thought I was taking a left turn and going on my way as normal. I didn’t see anything until the headlights smashed into the side of my car. It felt as though time stopped for a moment while Biscuit spun into a pole on the other side of the street.  As I fumbled with my keys to pull them out of the ignition, everything inside of me felt shaken except for one. My faith. I was alive, for some reason the other car had hit me at the exact spot that didn’t cause any serious injury.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”‭‭ Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬

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As I left little Biscuit at the impound, I didn’t feel upset, angry or even that disappointed.  Sure, there’s a lot of muddy waters I’ve got to sort through right now, but I’m alive and there are still people to study the Bible with and I still have lessons to learn.  In the end, I know that I’ve really got nothing to worry about.  Although I feel utterly swamped, I am certain that  (Romans 8:28) everything is going to work out.

To God be the Glory.

Tori Lynn W.