Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Little Girl's Life

The family situation has been somewhat rocky and uncertain for several years now, particularly since that unforgettable phone call when my brother broke the news that his girlfriend was having a baby. Now, seven years later, I have a stunningly beautiful and bright niece whom I often wish I could see most now living so far away from Dallas/Fort Worth. As with most circumstances as this, things have not gone particularly well for my brother. He has not yet received any kind of custody rights for Isabelle, and although he has somewhat tried to consistently pay his part of child support, he is pretty dependent on his ex-girlfriend as to how often he gets to see his daughter. Recent news and events have led to a huge decision for my brother to make, and really for the entire family involved. His ex-girlfriend also has a daughter with another ex-boyfriend, Isabelle's 3-year-old half-sister. He spoke with my dad recently, informing him that he had made the decision to go to court and receive full custody of his daughter. We have all seen evidence for years now of the manner in which she raises her daughters, and I would not be crossing a line here to say that it definitely falls into the category of unacceptable. We were not surprised in the least when he told my dad of his decision. But now, apart from him and his daughter, my brother is now faced with a very real, very sobering question: what is going to happen with Isabelle? Even if it is a long shot, my brother COULD make some drastic changes in his life in order to prepare himself and a home for raising Isabelle himself. There are so many questions running through his head right now, he is rather overwhelmed with what is at stake. This other man is not responsible for Isabelle--not that he doesn't care for her, but she is not his. Apart from my brother's ex-girlfriend, we are Isabelle's family, and my brother now has a responsibility. Clearly, if the courts agree that she is an unfit mother, then something must be done with Isabelle. So, what will that be? The question is still open-ended at this point...

What is my role in all of this? Not just as a concerned aunt, but as one committed to the mandates set forth in the Word of God, what is my role as one speaking truth to my family? While talking to my brother on the phone last night, I found myself running through these questions and realizing that I don't know the answers to them at this point. This is one of those moments when you realize the weight of such circumstances, and the Lord presents you with the truth of His Word--especially in regard to anxiety and faithful intercession. The principles, admonishments, commands, and encouragement are set forth in Scripture, but how does this look practically? What is my responsibility, and how will my speaking the truth of the Gospel to my niece, to my brother, to my entire family look from 800 miles away?

I rest only in His perfect peace and in knowing that nothing is impossible apart from Him.

You keep watching the rain come
Pretty princess, broken crown~
And your dreams have all burned out~
But don't you know that they
brought you
here somehow~ all you need to know
You're home, where secrets are told~
See a new world unfolding~
Where hearts are one, the pain's
And your finally
you need to know you're home~
So take your coat off and stay
What made you cry can make you
smile again~
You can hold your head up high~
Cause don't you know that you
oh, girl you were born to fly
When you realize.......
You're home~ where secrets are told~
See a new world unfolding~
Where hearts are one, the pain's
And your finally belonging~
And you need to know you're

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Christians should be the most content, most satisfied people in the world - right? As we look upon and walk in this fallen world, the slavery and entangling of sin is evident. The Lord has mercifully chosen us before the foundation of the world as His children, and in that, we are free from the sting of death and slavery to sin. So...why do we not consistently live as those are truly without want, as those who find their only and ultimate satisfaction in the Lord Jesus Christ? If this is the true happiness, then why am I not so content on a daily basis?

Well, it could be because I look to the things of God rather than to the Provider Himself who has given such gifts. Maybe it's because I strive to achieve perfection--in the various areas of school, work, and structured schedule--masked by claiming that I just want to be a good steward. Maybe it's because I look in the mirror at a young woman who just never quite measures up, while writing in my journal--and in words of encouragement to others--that we were meticulously created in His image and according to His sovereign plan. These confessions have been on my heart for several days, and rather than continuing to dwell on them to seemingly no end, I sat in my bed a couple of nights ago before turning the light out and wrote out these things. I spend so much time each day reading for my classes, and realized that I spend minimal time reading devotionally. This includes meditating on the Word for non-academic purposes and reading something from a strong, yet humble author who articulates the truths of God both beautifully and precisely. So rather than cram in the last few pages of a book for class, I opened to the first page of Dr. John Piper's God is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself. Below are the quotes I've taken from the pages, as well as the Scripture references which pertain to such a life-giving, thirst-quenching, soul-satisfying truth.

  • "If the enjoyment of God Himself is not the final and best gift of love, then God is not the greatest treasure, His self-giving is not the highest mercy, the Gospel is not the good news that sinners may enjoy their Maker, Christ did not suffer to bring us to God, and our soul must look beyond Him for satisfaction. . . if His love for us is at bottom His making much of us, who is really being praised? We are willing to be God-centered, it seems, as long as God is man-centered. We are willing to boast in the cross as long as the cross is a witness to our worth. Who then is our pride and joy?" p.12-13
  • "How do we understand the Gospel and the love of God? Have we shifted with the world from God's love as the gift of Himself to God's love as the gift of a mirror in which we like what we see?" p.15
  • Psalm 70:4 - May all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You! May those who love Your salvation say evermore, "God is great!"
  • 2 Corinthians 4:4-6 - In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Think on these things.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"I can be nothing but that grace adorns me."

Yesterday was rather rough. The majority of the day was just fine, nothing particularly bad or stressful to set the stage for the rest of the evening. However, it quickly snowballed into an evening I could have done without. Many who know me, particularly those who have known me since my adolescence (which at times still feels like it was two days ago) know that I am one to carry much more on my shoulders than I should, or than is necessary. When it comes to certain people, I will let guilt trips set in, and as a my boyfriend put it nicely last night, I sometimes have "punching bag" written across my forehead. Some of those people know that I've let myself be in such a position with my family in particular, but also with certain other individuals who may have crossed my path and some point. Here recently, there is an individual who has started communicating with me in such a way; regardless of the ways I have tried reaching out to her, she is quite unpredictable when it comes to being either warm and friendly or distant and cold. A few subtle, passing comments were tossed my way at different times yesterday, words laced with an underlying hint of bitterness and self-centeredness. After having these tossed at me a couple of times, I finally just broke down. Rather than boldly confronting her right then and there, I caved and took the brunt of her words. It was raining last night, and to help my mood all the more, I unknowingly stepped in a present my puppy had left in the front yard. So there I was, sitting in the bathroom after all of this, crying and wiping the mess off of my shoes. Not only had she pushed me to the point of being upset, but I had failed in confronting her with my concerns. My boyfriend happened to be over with another friend of ours, and he came into the bathroom to see what was wrong. After hearing me blubber through my frustrations, he very lovingly rebuked me. Yes, it was wrong for her treat me in such a way, but I had also failed to respond to her in the way I should have and knew I should have. It reminded me of all the times I carried unnecessary weight from certain individuals in my family, and rather than standing up for what is good and true, I retreated to my bedroom. To an extent, there was probably little I could have done in my youth, but I still never at least did what I could. So some of those familiar tears and frustrations with myself came flooding back during all of this last night.


Of all the instances that could have turned a difficult night into one of encouragement, there were two which the Lord pretty obviously set in place. For one thing, my boyfriend was very honest and gracious in his words, but also harsh when he was telling me the truth of the situation. And let's be really candid here--I need brutal honesty sometimes, and last night in the bathroom was one of those times. It was one of those key moments in which the Lord showed me a measure of His grace when He didn't have to. He didn't have to bless my life, bring me encouragement during times when my own sinful responses are exposed, but He did. And He does so everyday--oh, how often I miss it and go about without a thankful heart.

Even before the breakdown, I was blessed with a rather unexpected surprise.
My dear friend Gretchen suddenly stopped by my apartment on her way to the grocery store. She came by with the most thoughtful gift I could have imagined--a copy of Valley of Vision. Not only had she bought herself a copy, but she intentionally purchased one for me with the hopes that we could read through some of the prayers and petitions therein together. I really almost started crying, and in fact, had the setting been a little different (standing in the entryway of my apartment with the dogs trying to knock us over), I probably would have responded much more emotionally than I did. I am overwhelmed by the grace given through friends sometimes. What made the gift funny was that I had just been thinking of buying the book yesterday as well, and I DID just minutes before Gretchen. I had even looked for her when I initially went into the bookstore, but forgot that she was working in the back. So when she showed up at my doorstep with something so meaningful, I was almost speechless at the goodness of the Lord shown through such dear kindred spirits. As I was going to sleep last night, after the priceless gift, after the harsh comments I was dealt, after having to endure the surprise on my shoe, after crying all over myself, after hearing the words of truth from my boyfriend, I put my head down on the pillow and was thankful. I asked the Lord's forgiveness for the ways in which I had sinned, the thoughts that were reactionary rather than edifying, and I was thankful. He is good and His mercy endures forever. How easy it is to sing or speak these, yet how unfathomable they really are.

Give me a deeper trust,
that I may lose myself to find myself in Thee, the ground of my rest, the spring
of my being. Give me a deeper knowledge of Thyself as saviour, master, lord, and
king. Give me deeper power in private prayer, more sweetness in Thy Word, more
steadfast grip on its truth. Give me deeper holiness in speech, thought, action,
and let me not seek moral virtue apart from Thee.
Plough deep in me, great
Lord, heavenly husbandman, that my being may be a tilled field, the roots of
grace spreading far and wide, until Thou alone art seen in me, Thy beauty golden
like summer harvest, Thy fruitfulness as autumn plenty.
I have no master but
Thee, no law but Thy will, no delight but Thyself, no wealth but that Thou
givest, no good but that Thou blessest, no peace but that Thou bestowest. I am
nothing but that Thou makest me. I have nothing but that I receive from Thee. I
can be nothing but that grace adorns me.
~from Valley of Vision,
"The Deeps"~

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Confession: Pretty in Pink

I had a random chat with a friend at work last week about "guilty pleasures." Don't get creeped out; we were simply talking about TV shows that we just can't help but tune into when they come on. I must say, though, that even beyond shows that I can't pass up, there is another "guilty pleasure" that I am bravely disclosing to you today. Take a relaxed Saturday afternoon, no work and no school--just you and the laundry, or whatever it may be that you are catching up on around the house. On such a day, I cannot pass up the "classic" 80s movie. Yes, that is my confession--I am drawn to teeny bopper 80s movies. This by far supercedes current TV shows I watch (mind you, I only watch a handful). Ever since I was a little girl, I've loved 80s movies, particularly those starring THE 80s sweetheart, Molly Ringwald. Hated "The Breakfast Club", but loved "Pretty in Pink" and "Sixteen Candles," although most of my friends hadn't even heard of such flicks until I introduced them. (Such introductions I am not necessarily proud of--"Hey Mom, J- invited me over to watch 'Dirty Dancing,' can I go?" I never could understand why their parents said No! Yeah, I don't pride myself in such things.)


Keep in mind that I was still in diapers when these movies came out, but I have still been drawn to them about as far back as I remember. What dramatic little dreamer wouldn't love a good 80s flick full of drama? And if you've never watched such a movie, trust me--DRAMA. As fun as it is for me to sit on my couch on a Saturday such as this, I can't help but think of something while I'm watching Molly Ringwald weep over the rich kid she's both in love with and devastated by, ripping up a friends' prom dress to make her own polka-dotted...thing (odd dress, watch the movie). Do you know what it is I am thinking of while watching such a movie, one that I've loved for years? The real thing is so much better! I look at my own love story and those of my dear friends, and can't help but see the cheapness of the Lifetime Channel love stories (yes, I have cable). When I am putting my head down to rest at night, or writing in my journal, there is so much more to that love which is a GIFT from the Lord than a silly 80s flick could ever capture. It's not drama I am consumed with, but real and true love. And it doesn't consume me in a way that would move me to make a pink thing called a dress to try and prove myself to some guy at the senior prom. (Hopefully you get my point with that last statement.) Praise the Lord for His grace because I can look back and see some pretty ridiculous stunts I either did do or could've done when I was in high school (no, I am not going to disclose some of those stunts on this kind of platform. If you know me, you know the silliness). But, no, He is good and He is faithful to those who wait patiently for Him. My love story is not defined by "feelings" and butterflies and trying to prove myself to someone in order to win their affections. No, the one the Lord has authored for my life is defined by patience, bearing one another's burdens, speaking truth to one another even when it stings, looking into the eyes of one the Lord is obviously ordained as an instrument in my life. How much better that is than the weepy, Molly Ringwald-starring sob stories...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

this undeserved mercy

but go on and take My picture,
go on and make Me up
I’ll still be your Defender,
you’ll be My missing son
and I’ll send out an army
just to bring you back to Me
because regardless of your brother’s lies
you will be set free
I am My beloved's
and My beloved’s mine
so you bring all your history
and I’ll bring the bread and wine
and we’ll have us a party
where all the drinks are on Me
then as surely as the rising sun
you will be set free
~derek webb, from the album She Must and Shall Go Free~